This week at the movies, we’ve got a would-be harlot (Easy A, starring Emma Stone and Stanley Tucci); some Beantown bank robbers (The Town, starring Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm); wandering wolves (Alpha and Omega, with voice work by Justin Long and Hayden Panettiere); and a satanic elevator (Devil, starring Chris Messina and Geoffrey Arend). What do the critics have to say?
Like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You before it, Easy A takes a classic tale – in this case, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter — and gives it a contemporary teenage spin. Critics say Easy A benefits greatly from the presence of Emma Stone, who helps to elevate this John Hughes-esque comedy with her natural comic instincts. Stone stars as Olive, who, unlike poor Hester Prynne, becomes a minor celebrity in her school when tales of her (alleged) promiscuity get around; she subsequently tries to use the scuttlebutt to her advantage, but finds herself in the midst of a tangled web. The pundits say Easy A is funny and smart, and Stone emerges as a talent to watch.
As an actor, Ben Affleck’s career has had its ups and downs. In the director’s chair, on the other hand, he’s all aces: his debut was the Certified Fresh Gone Baby Gone, and critics say he’s got another winner with the visceral noirish crime drama The Town. Affleck stars as one of a group of old pals-cum-bank robbers; in the midst of a heist, he finds himself romantically drawn to a hostage and starts to think about going straight. But can he escape his past? The pundits say the Certified Fresh The Town is proof (if any were needed) that Affleck is a strong director, and he gets memorable performances out of Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, and others in a strong crime procedural.(Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Affleck’s best-reviewed films.)
As How to Train Your Dragon and Toy Story recently reminded us, even in this age of CGI and 3D, the best special effects are always great characters and strong storytelling. Unfortunately, critics say those attributes are largely missing from Alpha and Omega, a generic action adventure with so-so 3D visuals. A pair of young wolves (voiced by Justin Long and Hayden Panettiere) find themselves relocated by forest officials, and must make their way back to their homeland in order to stop a war with another pack of wolves. Will they find romance along the way? The pundits say Alpha and Omega may please some of the little ones, but it’s not a terribly memorable film — the animation is rudimentary, the gags are pandering, and the characters are bland.
It appears the folks behind Devil were terrified of critical damnation, since their film wasn’t screened prior to its release. The plot: a group of people trapped in an elevator quickly realize that B.O. is the least of their concerns, since El Diablo is among them. Hey, everybody: take a timeout from listening to Slayer and guess that Tomatometer!
Also opening this week in limited release:
And finally, mad props to Amrit S., Chico Movie Examiner, The Reaper, and Sean A. for guessing Resident Evil: Afterlife‘s 21 percent Tomatometer.