This week at the movies, we’ve got hip-hop legends (Straight Outta Compton, starring O’shea Jackson, Jr. and Corey Hawkins) and Cold War super spies (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer). What do the critics have to say?


Straight Outta Compton (2015) 89%

N.W.A.’s revolutionary blend of provocative lyrics, sophisticated production, and self-mythology continues to reverberate across the pop culture landscape.  Critics say Straight Outta Compton is an energetic document of the distinct personalities (and social conditions) that made the group hip-hop royalty — without succumbing to hagiography. The film primarily focuses on wordsmith Ice Cube (Cube’s real-life son O’shea Jackson, Jr.), studio genius Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and hustler-cum-rapper Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), as they rise from Compton celebrities to controversial chart toppers before suffering at the hands of the music biz and personal acrimony. The pundits say Straight Outta Compton doesn’t stray too far from biopic conventions, but the performances, the settings, and (especially) the music are powerful enough to delight old fans and newcomers alike.


The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) 68%

The world isn’t exactly hurting for stylish retro spy flicks (or remakes of old TV shows, for that matter), but critics say you could do a lot worse than The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a breezy, picturesque tale of intrigue with an attractive cast and a charming sense of humor. Two agents — American Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Soviet Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) — team up to stop a mysterious criminal organization that threatens both nations.  They get an assist from Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), an East German mechanic who has an inside track on how to infiltrate the gang. The pundits say The Man From U.N.C.L.E. isn’t in the same league as the Mission: Impossible movies, but director Guy Ritchie keeps things moving at a brisk pace, and the period clothes, sets, and vehicles provide plenty of vintage eye candy.


What’s Hot on TV

True Detective: Season 2 (2015) 62%

In True Detective‘s second season, memorable moments and intriguing characters bump up against an inconsistent tone and an overabundance of plot threads.


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Strike Back‘s final season promises a big finish fueled by compelling characters and sensational video game-style action.


Difficult People: Season 1 (2015) 88%

Difficult People makes the unlikable likable with mean-spirited, unhappy characters who still can’t help but amuse.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Meru (2015) , a documentary about an attempt to scale one of India’s most treacherous peaks, is at 92 percent.
  • Tom at the Farm (2013) , a thriller about a young man whose presence at his deceased boyfriend’s funeral elicits strong emotions from the dead man’s brother, is Certified Fresh at 80 percent.
  • Noah Baumbach‘s  Mistress America (2015) , starring Greta Gerwig in a comedy about a  college freshman whose soon-to-be stepsister leads her on a series of adventures, is at 79 percent.
  • Fort Tilden (2014) , a comedy about two self-absorbed Brooklynites who take an ill-fated trip to the beach, is at 79 percent.
  • People, Places, Things (2015) , starring Jemaine Clement and Regina Hall in a comedy about a man navigating both single parenthood and the big-city dating scene, is at 77 percent.
  • Fort Tilden (2014) , a comedy about two self-absorbed Brooklynites who take an ill-fated trip to the beach, is at 77 percent.
  • Prince (2015) , a drama about a troubled teenager who falls in with a local criminal in order to attract the attention of his dream girl, is at 63 percent.
  • The Boy (2015) , starring David Morse and Rainn Wilson in a dark drama about a nine-year-old with a disturbing propensity for violent acts, is at 50 percent.
  • Final Girl (2015) , starring Abigail Breslin in a thriller about a young woman who turns the table on a group of boys who try to hunt her for sport, is at 43 percent.
  • Amnesiac (2014) , starring Kate Bosworth and Wes Bentley in a psychological thriller about a man who awakes from an auto accident with memory loss and a suspicion that the woman claiming to be his wife isn’t who she says she is, is at 40 percent.
  • Big Sky (2015) , starring Bella Thorne and Kyra Sedgwick in a thriller about an agoraphobic teenager who must overcome her fears in order to survive an attack by violent thieves, is at 40 percent.
  • One & Two (2015) , starring Kiernan Shipka and Elizabeth Reaser in a drama about a pair of siblings who use their supernatural abilities to escape their repressive home life, is at 40 percent.
  • Return to Sender (2015) , starring Rosamund Pike and Nick Nolte in a thriller about a woman seeking revenge after surviving a brutal assault, is at 11 percent.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a quartet of superheroes (Fantastic Four, starring Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan); runaway livestock (the stop-motion animated feature Shaun the Sheep); a veteran rocker (Ricki and the Flash, starring Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer); and a creepy acquaintance (The Gift, starring Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall). What do the critics have to say?


Fantastic Four (2015) 9%

Pity the poor Fantastic Four. Marvel’s original superhero team has never been particularly well served on the big screen, and critics say that trend continues with Fantastic Four, a jumbled attempt to reboot the franchise that boasts talented actors stranded in an oddly morose, badly paced misfire. It’s yet another origin story: Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and his pals figure out how to teleport to another dimension, but after an ill-fated trip they all end up with superpowers — and make an enemy of the evil Dr. Doom. The pundits say that Fantastic Four has a few interesting ideas that are quickly pushed aside in favor of overripe dialogue, endless exposition, and so-so special effects.


Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015) 99%

The cheeky Brits over at Aardman Animations — the folks who brought you Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run — are masters of the witty, whimsical stop-motion comedy. However, critics say they may have topped themselves with Shaun the Sheep, an astonishing achievement that blends Chaplinesque silent-movie  slapstick with a surfeit of hilarious visual gags. Shaun the Sheep encourages the rest of his flock to take a day off, which eventually leads to the disappearance of their owner into the big city. The sheep attempt to recover the farmer, and hilarity ensues. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Shaun the Sheep is truly inspired in its comic lunacy, and while some of the jokes might fly over the heads of the youngest viewers, it’s sure to enchant the whole family.


Ricki and the Flash (2015) 65%

Meryl Streep classes up everything she touches, so it’s a little surprising to see her play a down-and-dirty rocker in Ricki and the Flash. But critics say the film has a few more tricks up its sleeve — despite its shopworn premise, Ricki and the Flash offers enough great acting and toe tapping tunes to be a little more than just the same old song. Streep stars as a singer who ditched her family to chase musical stardom. But with her estranged daughter in the midst of a personal crisis, Ricki heads home in an attempt to heal old wounds. The pundits say Ricki and the Flash isn’t earth-shaking, but it’s energetic and raggedy enough to make its formulaic elements feel fresh.


The Gift (2015) 91%

If you’ve seen Warrior or The Great Gatsby, you know Joel Edgerton has a commanding screen presence. And critics say that if the chilling, intelligent thriller The Gift is any indication, he’s got a promising future behind the camera as well. Well-to-do Simon (Jason Bateman) has a seemingly chance encounter with Gordo (Edgerton), an old high school classmate. But Gordo starts showing up everywhere Simon goes, and leaving odd gifts at his house; is there something in their pasts that prompted such behavior? The pundits say The Gift is a deeply unnerving psychological drama that sustains its tension from beginning to end.


What’s Hot On TV:

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Strike Back‘s final season promises a big finish fueled by compelling characters and sensational video game-style action.


Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (2015) 93%

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp offers more of the the goofy hijinks that fans of the cult classic crave, but outsiders might not be quite as enamored.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Two Step (2014) , a noirish thriller about a down-on-his-luck man who gets ensnared by a con artist, is at 100 percent.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F (2015)the latest installment of the venerable anime franchise, is at 100 percent.
  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) , starring Bel Powley and Kristen Wiig in a coming-of-age drama about a promising young artist with a growing drug problem and a host of family issues, is at 92 percent.
  • Call Me Lucky (2015) , a documentary portrait of standup comic-turned-activist Barry Crimmins, is at 80 percent.
  • The Falling (2014) , a drama about a mysterious fainting epidemic at an all-girls boarding school in Britain, is at 80 percent.
  • Cop Car (2015) , starring Kevin Bacon and Shea Whigham in a thriller about a pair of teenagers who face dire consequences after taking a police car for a joyride, is at 78 percent.
  • Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet (2014) , an omnibus animated film that dramatizes the poems from the bestselling spiritual text, is at 67 percent.
  • Sneakerheadz (2015) , a documentary about obsessive athletic shoe collectors, is at 60 percent.
  • Dark Places (2015) , starring Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult in a thriller about a woman still suffering deep emotional scars from the murder of her family years before, is at 33 percent.
  • The Runner (2015) , starring Nicolas Cage and Connie Nielsen in a drama about a politician whose attempts to deal witht the BP oil spill are stymied by scandal, is at 31 percent.

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