This week at the movies, we’ve got a band of brothers (Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg and Taylor Kitsch), an unconventional couple (Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson), and a mythical strongman (The Legend of Hercules, starring Kellan Lutz and Gaia Weiss). What do the critics have to say?
War movies often traffic in epic, grandiose heroics, but Lone Survivor tells a more intimate story — that of dedicated soldiers at work. Critics say that perspective is refreshing, and the result is a film that’s visceral, immediate, and suspenseful — even if it’s a little short on character development. Based on a true story, the film chronicles an ill-fated mission by a group of Navy SEALs to track down a high-value Taliban target through a mountainous region in Afghanistan — a mission that turns deadly after the soldiers decide against firing on a group of civilians. The pundits say this well-crafted war film may not say much about the broader context of modern warfare, but such objectivity makes for an intense, ultimately thought-provoking experience. (Click through this week’s 24 Frames for a gallery of stars in uniform, and watch our video interview with Wahlberg and the other stars of Lone Survivor.)
With Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, Spike Jonze established himself as one of Hollywood’s most original filmmakers. And critics say he’s outdone himself with Her, taking a bizarre premise and turning it into a film that’s unique, funny, and deeply moving. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a lovelorn writer who falls in love with OS1, his computer’s highly intelligent operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). What follows is one of the strangest love stories in recent cinema. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Her is a one-of-a-kind experience: sometimes hilarious, sometimes somber, often thoughtful, and, finally, deeply resonant.
It appears the folks behind The Legend of Hercules are concerned that the film is less than mighty, since it wasn’t screened for critics prior to its release. Kellan Lutz stars as the fabled hero, who must overcome exile, enslavement, and scary monsters before claiming the throne atop Mount Olympus. Time to guess the Tomatometer! (And check out this week’s total recall, in which we count down director Renny Harlin’s best-reviewed films.)
The Rocket, a coming-of-age-drama about a resourceful boy determined to prove his worth to his family, is at 100 percent.
In Bloom, a drama about two teenage best friends growing up in post-Soviet Georgia, is at 90 percent.
The Banshee Chapter, a thriller about a journalist who discovers a secret government research program involving human subjects, is at 91 percent.
Divorce Corp., a documentary about the financial and emotional tolls caused by dissolving marriages, is at 80 percent.
If You Build It, a documentary about a group of high school students who work on an innovative year-long building project, is at 67 percent.
Loves Her Gun, a drama about a woman who flees New York after becoming the victim of street violence, is at 60 percent.
Return to Nuke ‘Em High, the latest in Troma’s absurdist B-movie franchise, is at 50 percent.
Cold Comes The Night, starring Bryan Cranston and Alice Eve in a thriller about a criminal who takes a hotel owner hostage in order to recover his stolen loot, is at 48 percent.
The Truth About Emanuel, starring Kaya Scodelario and Jessica Biel in a drama about a teenager who makes a startling discovery while babysitting for her neighbor, is at 41 percent.
Raze, starring Zoe Bell and Rachel Nichols in an action thriller about a fighting competition in a women’s prison, is at 44 percent.
Free Ride, a drama starring Anna Paquin as a woman caught up in the drug trade, is at 20 percent.
Finally, props to Garner Montgomery for coming the closest to guessing Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones‘ 42 percent Tomatometer.