This week at the movies, we’ve got a legendary villainess (Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning) and some silly cowpokes (A Million Ways to Die in the West, starring Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron). What do the critics have to say?
In the past few years, audiences have been treated to a tough-as-nails Snow White, an emotionally complex Snow Queen, and, ahem, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Maleficent offers a more sympathetic take on the evil fairy queen from Sleeping Beauty, but critics say that an outstanding performance from Angelina Jolie and some striking visuals can’t redeem the movie’s slack narrative and uncertain tone. Maleficent (Jolie), a powerful fairy, is betrayed by a childhood friend, who becomes a king; in turn, she places a curse upon his daughter. As the child grows up, however, Maleficent reconsiders her feelings, even as the king plots her destruction. The pundits say Maleficent deserves credit for putting a feminist spin on an old tale, but the movie can’t quite live up to its thoughtful premise — or Jolie’s inspired work in the title role. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Jolie’s best-reviewed movies, as well as our video interviews with Jolie and other members of the cast.)
Some comedies fail because they’re short on gags. On the other end of the spectrum, critics say the problem with A Million Ways to Die in the West is that it has too many — writer/director/star Seth MacFarlane packs so many jokes into this Western spoof that the most inventive comic moments are often elbowed aside by scatological smuttiness. MacFarlane stars as Albert, a cowardly rancher in a wild west town who falls for Anna (Charlize Theron), who’s handy with a gun. However, Anna is married to a wanted outlaw, and soon Albert is in his crosshairs. The pundits say A Million Ways to Die in the West has an appealing cast and some really big laughs, but overall, it’s a few notches below its obvious inspiration — Mel Brooks‘ Blazing Saddles. (Flip through our gallery of memorable Western comedies.)
We Are the Best!, a dramedy about three Swedish teenagers who start a punk band, is Certified Fresh at 100 percent.
Manoel de Oliveira‘s Gebo And The Shadow, a drama about an elderly couple still reeling from the long absense of their son, is at 100 percent.
Lucky Them, starring Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church in a dramedy about a music writer looking for a forgotten musician who also happens to be her ex, is at 92 percent.
Elena, a documentary about the disappearance of an aspiring Brazilian actress, is at 86 percent.
The Hornet’s Nest, a documentary about a group of American soldiers in Afghanistan undertaking a series of missions in hostile territory, is at 86 percent.
Korengal, a documentary that follows up on the soldiers featured in Restrepo, is at 80 percent.
Night Moves, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning in a drama about a group of radical environmentalists plotting an attack, is at 76 percent (check out co-star Peter Sarsgaard’s Five Favorite Films.)
Filth, starring James McAvoy and Jamie Bell in a dramedy about a crooked cop who tries to solve a murder while undermining his colleagues, is at 73 percent.
The Grand Seduction, starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch in a comedy about a remote community’s attempts to convince a doctor to movie to town, is at 63 percent.
The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, a documentary portrait of a notorious jewel thief, is at 63 percent.
Age of the Uprising, starring Mads Mikkelsen in a period drama about a merchant who vows revenge after being humiliated by a nobleman, is at 44 percent.