This week at the movies, we’ve got a kidnapping plot (Taken 2, starring Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen), a reanimated pooch (Frankenweenie, with voice work from Charlie Tahan and Winona Ryder), and a cappella all-stars (Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow). What do the critics have to say?
Why would anyone mess with Liam Neeson’s family again, given the brutal swath he cut in the first Taken? That’s a great question, say critics, who find Taken 2 to be largely bereft of the kinetic thrills — and surprises — that made the original a hit. Neeson is back as retired CIA agent Bryan Mills, who must use every skill in his arsenal when his ex-wife and daughter are kidnapped in Istanbul by vengeance-driven family members of the folks who abducted Mills’ daughter last time. The pundits say Taken 2 is essentially a rehash of its predecessor, but without the logic, coherence, and excitement required to keep it fresh. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames, in which we present a gallery of rough-and-tumble old guys.)
Tim Burton has always had a taste for the macabre, and a love for outsiders. Critics say those fixations dovetail nicely in Frankenweenie, an energetic stop-motion horror movie spoof with lovingly crafted visuals and a heartfelt, oddball story. Young Victor is a lonely middle schooler who spends his days working on bizarre science projects in the company of his faithful dog Sparky. When Sparky is fatally wounded, Victor is able to bring him back to life; in doing so, however, he unwittingly unleashes a plague of monsters on his normally placid hometown. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Frankenweenie may not be Burton’s best, its twisted sensibility and sweetness harkens back to the director’s earlier classics. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Burton’s best-reviewed films.)
At first glance, Pitch Perfect sounds like little more than a big-screen Glee. However, critics say this tale of a college a cappella competition has panache and goofy good humor that make it stand out from the pack. Anna Kendrick stars as a new kid on campus who goes looking for a new clique and finds one in the form of the school’s a cappella ensemble. Can our heroine’s hip taste in tunes shake up the group’s staid arrangements — and make it a contender at the big singing competition? The pundits say Pitch Perfect‘s plot is awfully tired, but the performances — particularly the scene-stealing Rebel Wilson — are excellent, and the musical numbers are toe-tapping as well. (Find out Kendrick’s Five Favorite Films here.)
Matthew Lillard‘s Fat Kid Rules the World, a dark comedy about a depressed high schooler who forms a bond with the street musician who saves his life, is at 100 percent.
Sister, a drama about a resourceful boy who gets into trouble while trying to support himself and his older sister, is at 100 percent.
Wuthering Heights, director Andrea Arnold‘s gritty reimagining of the Emily Bronte classic, is Certified Fresh at 80 percent.
Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, a doc about the state of our nation’s medical system, is at 67 percent.
La Rafle, starring Jean Reno and Melanie Laurent in a period drama about family life in Vichy France, is at 61 percent.
Decoding Deepak, a doc about Deepak Chopra‘s public and private life, is at 60 percent.
V/H/S, a horror film about a group of criminals who make a gruesome discovery while attempting to retrieve a mysterious videotape, is at 57 percent.
The Paperboy, starring Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey in a drama about an investigative reporter looking to prove that a death-row inmate was framed for murder, is at 50 percent.
Bel Borba Aqui, a documentary about a Brazilian artist who creates works out of a wide variety of materials, is at 50 percent.
Butter, starring Jennifer Garner and Olivia Wilde in a comedy about a woman who faces stiff competition in a butter carving championship, is at 38 percent.
The Oranges, starring Leighton Meester and Hugh Laurie in a dark comedy about a young woman who has an affair with her parents’ married neighbor, is at 27 percent.
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, starring Marcia Gay Harden and Ellen Burstyn in a dramedy about a troubled teenager trying to find his identity, is at 14 percent.
Winnie, starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard in a biopic of Winnie Mandela, is at zero percent.