This week at the movies, we’ve got a legendary racehorse (Secretariat, starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich), an unconventional family unit (Life as We Know It, starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel), and some unhappy birthdays (My Soul to Take, starring Max Thieriot and John Magaro). What do the critics have to say?
Ah, the inspirational sports movie: it’s a subgenre we never seem to tire of, no matter what the athletic pursuit or how conventional the script. And critics say Secretariat, a biopic (horsey-pic?) of the 1973 Triple Crown winner, is a pretty solid wager, with strong performances and thrilling race sequences largely offsetting the fact that little of the story will come as a surprise – even if you don’t have a sports almanac on your shelf. Diane Lane stars as the inheritor of a stable and, with the help of a skilled trainer (John Malkovich), literally bets the farm that the movie’s titular Thoroughbred will win the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. No points for guessing the outcome, though the pundits say Secretariat is rousing, effectively-acted family fare, and further proof that standard material can be overcome by a sense of panache. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Malkovich’s complete filmography.)
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage, right? Not in Life as We Know It, a romantic comedy about an unlikely family unit that critics say otherwise adheres slavishly to formula. Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel star as friends of a couple that dies in a car crash, and are forced to care for the dead couple’s baby — despite their mutual acrimony. Will the two of them come together to raise the child — and find love in the process? No spoilers will be revealed here, but suffice to say the pundits find the whole thing to be remarkably predictable – though they also note that the cast does its best to inject some energy into the proceedings.
Rather than praying for good reviews, the folks behind My Soul to Take decided to keep critics away prior to the film’s release. Directed by horror maestro Wes Craven, the movie tells the story of a serial killer who returns after a 16-year absence to wreak havoc on a small rural community. Kids: brush your teeth, say your prayers, and guess that Tomatometer!
Also opening this week in limited release:
Inside Job, a documentary about the causes of our current economic crisis, is at 90 percent.
Red White & Blue, a horror film about a young woman with a dangerous man in her past, is at 88 percent.
Budrus, a doc about a nonviolent movement to save a Palestinian village, is Certified Fresh at 80 percent.
I Spit On Your Grave, a remake of the controversial 1978 revenge horror flick, is at 33 percent.
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, a black comedy about a woman’s murderous obsession with her daughter’s marriage prospects, is at 25 percent.