Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: American Sniper Hits the Target, Paddington Is Certified Fresh

Plus, Blackhat does not compute, and The Wedding Ringer is short on laughs.

by | January 15, 2015 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a fallen soldier (American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller), a marmalade-loving bear (Paddington, starring Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins), an ex-con hacker (Blackhat, starring Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis), and a best man for hire (The Wedding Ringer, starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad). What do the critics have to say?

American Sniper

72%

As a director, Clint Eastwood is one of cinema’s greatest chroniclers of troubled tough guys. Critics say American Sniper is a tense, kinetic drama that has much to say about the emotional toll of war — even if it fudges some of the facts about its real-life subject. Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper who achieved near-legendary status for his fearlessness and shooting accuracy. But when he left the service, Kyle’s place in the world became less certain. The pundits say American Sniper avoids some of the more controversial aspects of Kyle’s life, but it’s still a bracing, tense, powerfully acted portrait of a supremely talented soldier at war with himself.

Paddington

97%

The bear from darkest Peru is one of the brightest lights of the young movie year. Critics say Paddington is the best kind of family film — it’s funny, thoughtful, deeply heartfelt, and filled with strong characters. After stowing away on a boat, the titular bear arrives in London and is discovered by the Brown family, who bring him into their home. Paddington is a stranger in a strange land, but he does his best to adjust to city life; unfortunately, he also draws the attention of a devious taxidermist. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Paddington maintains the cheer and whimsy of Michael Bond’s books, while teaching children a gentle lesson in tolerance. (Check out star Hugh Bonneville’s Five Favorite Films, as well as our interviews with the cast and crew.)

Blackhat

32%

It’s tough to make computing look cool on the big screen. Critics say even a talented director like Michael Mann can only add so much to something like Blackhat, a cyberthriller that’s long on visual razzle-dazzle but short on tension and believability. Chris Hemsworth stars as Nick Hathaway, a brilliant hacker who’s serving prison time. However, when U.S. intelligence agents team up with the Chinese government to investigate a devastating act of cyberterrorism, they spring Hathaway from the joint to help solve the case. The pundits say Blackhat squanders its timely premise on a silly plotting and dialogue, though it does have a sense of visual panache.

The Wedding Ringer

29%

Kevin Hart is one of the funniest men on the planet, but critics say his comic exuberance can’t save The Wedding Ringer, a thoroughly so-so bromance with a few good gags but a whole lot of dead spots. Hart stars as Jimmy, who provides an unusual service: he serves as the best man for socially awkward, soon-to-be-wedded guys. While giving Doug (Josh Gad) instructions on how to act cool, Jimmy stars to actually like the big galoot. The pundits say Hart tries his best, but the pace is slack and too many of the jokes are of the gross-out variety. (Check out our interviews with Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, and Kaley Cuoco.)

What’s Hot On TV:

Critics say Togetherness (Certified Fresh at 94 percent) is a delightful surprise that interweaves day-to-day life with moving, dramatic characters who have an affinity for deprecating, squirmy humor.

The critics say Man Seeking Woman (92 percent) is easy to fall for, taking a ridiculously funny approach to a common theme with amusingly surreality and enjoyable oddness.

The pundits say Girls (Certified Fresh at 86 percent) is familiar after four seasons, but its convoluted-yet-comical depiction of young women dealing with the real world still manages to impress.

Also opening this week in limited release:

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