Our weekly roundup offers a brief look at this week's new film releases. For a full selection of reviews for these and many more films, visit Metacritic Movies. [Updated 3/19 6:25p]
Run away from this week's wide releases
Unless you are in the tween set -- or a wimpy kid at heart -- this week's wide releases offer little reason to go to the cineplex this weekend. It's a different story for this week's crop of smaller films, however. Here's how the new releases stack up:
|The Bounty Hunter||WIDE||PG-13||Action/Comedy||25||1,4,21||n/a|
|Diary of a Wimpy Kid||WIDE||PG||Family/Comedy||56||12,9,2||n/a|
|The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo||LIMITED||NR||Foreign/Mystery||74||18,5,0||n/a|
|Compare to the "best" wide releases from recent weeks:|
|Alice in Wonderland||3/5||PG||Fantasy||53||18,16,4||5.2|
|The Bounty Hunter||25|
|He's Just Not That Into You||47|
|Marley & Me||53|
A bounty hunter (Gerard Butler) is hired to track down a bail-jumper (Jennifer Aniston) who just happens to be his ex-wife in this action-comedy directed by Andy Tennant (Hitch 58).
What the critics like: Not very much. The Arizona Republic called it "perfectly enjoyable" in a positive review, but didn't back up that conclusion with any concrete details about why it was so.
What they don't like: The film is formulaic and downright unfunny. Entertainment Weekly also calls the story "as contrived as they come," while Variety adds that it's "dire" and indulgently overlong. And those were some of the better reviews. When Roger Ebert asks, "Why, oh, why, was this movie necessary?", we know we are in dangerous territory.
This live-action, family-friendly comedy about a year in the life of cartoon-drawing middle-schooler Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is based on the best-selling illustrated novel series by Jeff Kinney. It's one of only a handful of PG-rated releases so far in 2010, and it appears to be the best of the bunch.
What the critics like: The film can be funny, and even witty and intelligent in places, and has a sweetness to it. It also does a good job capturing the details of middle school life. In a very positive review, Roger Ebert writes, "It isn't as good as 'A Christmas Story,' as few movies are, but it deserves a place in the same sentence." The young actors are also drawing praise from some critics.
What they don't like: It relies too heavily at times on gross-out humor. Director Thor Freudenthal doesn't do the source material any favors; the Philadelphia Inquirer calls his direction "workmanlike" and "uninspired," and other reviewers also single Freudenthal out (although some critics think he has improved since Hotel for Dogs 51). The St. Louis Post-Dispatch finds the film too "cartoonish," while other critics call "Wimpy" formless and too episodic, or even "mean-spirited" (Arizona Republic). The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips feels that the film version pales in comparison to Kinney's original creation.
Based on the first book in late novelist Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millenium Trilogy, this Swedish-language adaptation (which screens with English subtitles) has been a hit in Europe. The thriller involves a business executive who hires a convicted journalist and a young computer hacker to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his niece 40 years earlier.
What the critics like: It's dark and moody, and most critics are finding it to be a solid, compelling thriller with intriguing characters. The lead actors deliver strong performances and work well together; Noomi Rapace, in particular, is being singled out for her work in the film.
What they don't like: "Dragon Tattoo" is too dark and too brutally, grotesquely violent for some reviewers, although critics disagree about whether it is exploitative or the violence (which is frequently sexual in nature) is necessary for the story. The film also telegraphs its ending too far in advance, is a bit on the long side, and is not always believable.
|Fantastic Mr. Fox||83|
|Margot at the Wedding||66|
|The Squid and the Whale||82|
|The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou||62|
The latest dramedy from writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale 82) stars Ben Stiller in low-key mode (to an extent) as a 40-something slacker at a crossroads in his life. After losing his job, he agrees to housesit for his younger brother, where he falls for his brother's personal assistant (Greta Gerwig). LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy provides the score. The film screens in Los Angeles and New York this weekend, and opens nationwide next Friday.
What the critics like: "Greenberg" is witty, intelligent, and sharply observational. Many critics, like the New Yorker's David Denby, admire the fact that the material could have gone wrong in so many ways (the title character is mean-spirited, self-absorbed, and fairly hard to like, for starters), yet Baumbach makes it work. Most reviewers are also heaping praise upon Stiller and Gerwig. "Greenberg" also works as a great L.A. movie, with the city itself playing a major role.
What they don't like: There's not much in the way of plot, and the film is probably not for everyone.
Repo Men 31
We cannot stress this point enough: "Repo Men" has absolutely nothing to do with Alex Cox's 1984 cult classic Repo Man 75. Instead, this futuristic thriller stars Jude Law as Remy, a repo man charged with taking back artificial body parts when their owners cannot pay their bills. But when Remy receives an artificial heart that he cannot afford, another repo man (Forest Whitaker) pursues him.
What the critics like: The cast is good. The film shows welcome glimpses of humor and intelligence, although that doesn't last for long.
What they don't like: It's too violent, gory, violent, mean-spirited, and violent. And too violent. It's also a bit of a jumbled mess. Several critics feel that the story rips off the equally-bad bizarre rock musical Repo! The Genetic Opera 32; it also seems to borrow heavily from sequences in other well-known movies.
The Runaways 65
|The Yellow Handkerchief||64|
|The Twilight Saga: New Moon||44|
Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning star in a biopic about the all-girl 1970s teen rock band that launched the career of Joan Jett. It's the feature film directorial debut for music video director Floria Sigismondi.
What the critics like: The music, of course, is good, and Stewart, Fanning, and Michael Shannon (as the band's manager) deliver strong performances, with Fanning -- in the most prominent role -- drawing the most praise. The film does a good job of capturing the period.
What they don't like: It's rather conventional and mediocre, and the weak story means that the film suffers when the performance sequences end.
Next week in Metacritic
Opening wide next Friday, March 26th, are the time-travel comedy Hot Tub Time Machine and the 3-D animated fantasy How to Train Your Dragon. Here are the trailers: