This week at the movies, we’ve got a guard with insecurity (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James); pampered pooches (Hotel for Dogs, starring Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin); a crazed killer (My Bloody Valentine 3D, starring Jensen Ackles and Jaime King); Brooklyn’s finest (Notorious, starring Jamal Woolard and Angela Bassett); and wartime heroics (Defiance, starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber). What do the critics have to say?
Everybody loves a good dumb comedy — as long as it provides ample laughs. However, the critics say Paul Blart: Mall Cop is good for a couple of lowbrow yucks, but it isn’t exactly a model of disciplined storytelling. Kevin James likeably plays the title character, a portly, self-important (and sidearm-free) crime fighter in a suburban New Jersey mall who must utilize every shred of his training when a hostage situation arises. The pundits say Paul Blart contains some funny slapstick pratfalls, but its thin premise doesn’t generate a headlong comic intensity, and a number of gags simply fall flat. At 29 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to go shopping somewhere else.
Kevin James, in a dramatic moment from Chopping Mall 2.
Marley and Me, Bolt, Wendy and Lucy, Beverly Hills Chihuahua… dog people must feel like they’re in cinematic heaven these days. Hotel for Dogs is the latest pooch-centric flick to hit multiplexes, but critics say its appeal will be limited to little kids and die-hard canine lovers. The film stars Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin as a pair of orphans who are so in love with man’s best friends that they convert an abandoned hotel into a four-star doggie resort, providing posh accommodations for as many strays as they can find. Look, few will go to Hotel for Dogs expecting hyper-realism, but the pundits say this occasionally funny slice of whimsy is predictable and contrived, and the four-legged heroes repeatedly outshine their human counterparts. At 48 percent on the Tomatometer, Hotel for Dogs may not be worth a stay.
“This is one more reason why we need a bailout.”
If you’re the type of filmgoer that really, really enjoys blood and guts, My Bloody Valentine 3D is here to overload your senses. Critics say this extremely grisly slasher flick, which with a sick sense of humor and three-dimensions-worth of wild kills, might just be a gorehound’s nirvana. A loose remake of the 1981 title of the same name, Valentine stars Jensen Ackles as Tom, a coal miner whose mistake costs the lives of some co-workers; now, a decade later, someone donning a miner’s mask and wielding a pickaxe is running amok in town, and Tom looks to be a target. The pundits say this is an expertly crafted, pretension-free genre piece that’s technologically advanced and features plenty of wicked scares. At 83 percent on the Tomatometer, this is one Bloody good time.
“I can’t believe it! That guy didn’t even signal!”
The Notorious B.I.G. was one of rap’s most compelling figures, with the remarkable ability to spin tales of his wayward past with devastating emotional vulnerability and insight. However, the critics say Notorious, George Tillman Jr.’s biopic of the late hip hop great, succumbs to the kind of clichés that Biggie studiously avoided on his records. First-timer Jamal Woolard stars as the man who would be B.I.G., a small-time Brooklyn hustler who became a huge star before his death in a shooting before his 25th birthday. The critics say Woolard is excellent, capturing the nuances of the character with assurance, but the rest of the film isn’t up to its central performance, clicking off the details of Biggie’s life without the complexity or depth of his rhymes. At 57 percent on the Tomatometer, Notorious isn’t quite “Juicy” enough.
“What a drag… Oh well, let’s see if Pizza Hut is open.”
Defiance recounts an undeniably important historical tale: that of a group of Eastern European Jews who fought the Nazis in World War II. And although the critics say the film is well-crafted, they also find it lacking in emotional impact. Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell star as brothers who, on the run from the Germans, establish a community of refugees deep in the Belarusian forest; as food becomes scarce and disease runs rampant, the brothers decide to mount an offensive against the Nazis. The pundits say this is a respectful telling of a fascinating story, but the trouble is, it’s overly solemn and clichéd. Defiance currently stands at 54 percent on the Tomatometer. (Check out our interview with director Ed Zwick here)
“So anyway, my agent told me to hold out for $20 million before agreeing to Billy Elliot 2: Feet Afire.”
Also opening this week in limited release:
The German import Cherry Blossoms, the story of an elderly couple making a final journey to Japan, is at 100 percent.
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, a documentary in which famed philosopher Slavoj Zizek pontificates on the appeal of the movies, is at 100 percent.
Chandni Chowk to China, a Bollywood martial arts musical comedy, is at 10 percent.
Recent Daniel Craig Movies: