The good news: a slew of new releases await you this week on video shelves! The bad news: woefully few of them are Fresh. That said, you’ve got your pick of twisted horror (Saw IV), harmless star-driven comedy (The Game Plan, Sydney White), French period romance (Moliere), and more. Choose wisely!


Saw IV

Tomatometer: 20%

Jigsaw is back — not for the first time, not for the last time — in the fourth installment of the Saw franchise, helmed by series vet Darren Lynn Bousman. Once again, the metaphor-loving killer pits his victims against themselves in the most meticulously-crafted death traps in movie history, but this time around there’s a twist: Jigsaw died in Saw III. Que incroyable! Gore-hounds will delight in the unrated DVD edition and bonus features like deleted scenes, Bousman’s audio commentary, and his behind-the-scenes video diary.

 


The Game Plan

Tomatometer: 27%

There was a time when The People’s Champion could inspire awe with an arch of the eyebrow; now, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson commands multiplexes with family fare like this Disney comedy, about a pro football player whose bachelor existence is threatened by the arrival of a daughter he never knew he had.

 

Sydney White

Tomatometer: 39%

For more in the vein of lukewarm family-friendly fare this week, look no further than Sydney White, starring former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes. A retelling of the classic Snow White story, the college-set rom-com failed to impress most critics, due largely to Joe Nussbaum’s by-the-numbers direction and a predictable plot heavy on Snow White citations. Watch this if you crave 2 hours of lightweight movie watching, or take a leap and check out…

 

Moliere


Tomatometer: 69%

It’s French, it’s a period piece, it’s a romantic drama based on the life of a great artist. But Moliere, starring Romain Duris and Ludivine Sagnier, is also one of only a few of the week’s new releases that has garnered the praise of critics. Following his fortuitous release from prison thanks to the mercy of the rich Monsieur Jourdain, 17th century playwright Moliere comes to live in Jourdain’s house to teach him about the stage, so Jourdain can impress a lady while keeping it secret from his beautiful wife…whom Moliere begins to fall in love with.

The Hunting Party


Tomatometer: 52%

Hunting war criminals seems an arduous enough task for military types, but for fame-hungry reporters (and filmmakers like Morgan Spurlock, whose upcoming doc chronicles his search for Osama bin Laden) it’s a career-defining challenge. In writer-director Richard Shepard’s black comedy, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, and Jesse Eisenberg head to Sarajevo to find a man called The Fox, based on the real-life story of a group of journalists who tried to find and apprehend Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic.

Blonde Ambition


Tomatometer: N/A

Audiences beware: Jessica Simpson is now a “movie star,” as evidenced by her first true starring vehicle. Produced by dad Joe Simpson, and featuring a slew of cameos and appearances by the likes of Rachael Leigh Cook, Luke Wilson, Penelope Ann Miller, Andy Dick, and (sigh) Penny Marshall, Blonde Ambition represents everything that is wrong with the movies — namely, that castmembers like the luminous, capable actress Rachael Leigh Cook are relegated to supporting roles while Simpson bounces her way around the screen as a small-town girl who falls in love with the mailroom boy (Wilson) while climbing unwittingly up the corporate ladder.

‘Til next week, happy renting!

This week at the moves, we’ve got America’s favorite family in their long-awaited big-screen debut (The Simpsons Movie); a tale of two chefs (No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart); a rumble in the jungle (Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale), a kidnapping mystery (I Know Who Killed Me, starring Lindsay Lohan); and wacky golf gags (Who’s Your Caddy? Starring Lil Wayne and Big Boi). What do the critics have to say?

The wait is finally over: The Simpsons have migrated from the confines of television to the silver (or is that yellow?) screen. The result? Well, maybe not the “best…. movie… ever,” but pundits say it’s still pretty exxxxx-cellent. Homer, responsible for an eco-disaster, piles Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie into the car and leaves Springfield for Alaska (you were expecting Capital City?). Ah, but who cares about the plot? The critics say The Simpsons Movie is essentially an extra-long episode of the show, but one that contains plenty of the S-M-R-T jokes, killer slapstick, and poignancy that fans have come to expect. At 84 percent on the Tomatometer, The Simpsons Movie is Certified Fresh. Release the hounds.


Mmmmm, Flaming Homer!


No Reservations joins a list of movies (Eat Drink Man Woman, Like Water for Chocolate, Sideways) about the intersection between the taste buds and the heartstrings; unfortunately, the pundits say this one is bland, under-nourishing, and a bunch of other food metaphors. Catherine Zeta-Jones stares as Kate, a master chef who is at first threatened, then inspired, by the presence of rising culinary star Nick (Aaron Eckhart) in the kitchen of an upscale New York restaurant. Critics say No Reservations is appealingly presented, but its combination of predictability and melancholy make it hard to swallow. At 38 percent on the Tomatometer, critics have some Reservations about this one.


“I told you not to do a Zorro sequel!”


When it comes to making movies about the struggle between man and nature, German director Werner Herzog is one of the greats, with such masterpieces as Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, and Grizzly Man to his credit. Add Rescue Dawn to that list. Rescue Dawn stars Christian Bale as Dieter Dengler, a Navy pilot who, after crash-landing in the jungles of Laos, must escape imprisonment and navigate the treacherous depths of the jungle. Critics say Dawn is the closest that Herzog has made to an inspiring popcorn flick, albeit one that challenges viewers’ expectations and doesn’t shortchange the horror or despair of the situation. At 89 percent on the Tomatometer, this is one emotional Rescue. (Check out RT’s take here.)


Crowd surfing on two broken legs is not recommended.


Two of this week’s wide releases contain mysteries unlikely to be solved before they hit theaters. The makers of I Know Who Killed Me aren’t letting critics in on their little secret. Nor will we learn the identity of your caddy, as Who’s Your Caddy? was also withheld from scribes. Killed features troubled starlet Lindsay Lohan as a college student who escapes abduction and torture. Caddy stars Big Boi and Lil Wayne in a film that features the most golf course antics this side of Dorf. Kids, tee up and Guess those Tomatometers!


“No seriously, I really would like to know who will be caddying for you.”


Also opening this week in limited release: Punk’s Not Dead, a zippy doc about punk rock from the beginning to its place in Hot Topic, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; No End in Sight, which chronicles the missteps in the Iraq war, is at 95 percent (check out RT’s interview with director Charles Ferguson here); The Devil Came on Horseback, a harrowing look at genocide in Darfur, is at 94 percent; The Camden 28, a doc about resistance to the Vietnam War, is at 92 percent; Moliere, a biopic of the great satirist, is at 87 percent; This is England, a skinhead coming-of-age story, is at 87 percent; The Sugar Curtain, a doc about an elegiac trip to Cuba, is at 86 percent; and Arctic Tale, a nature film featuring polar bears and walruses, is at 53 percent.


“I love it when you call me Big Papa.”

Recent Catherine Zeta-Jones Movies:
———————————————
26% — The Legend of Zorro (2005)
55% — Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
61% — The Terminal (2004)
71% — Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
46% — Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

Recent Werner Herzog Movies:
————————————–
66% — The Wild Blue Yonder: A Science Fiction Fantasy (2006)
94% — The White Diamond (2005)
94% — Wheel of Time (2005)
93% — Grizzly Man (2005)
53% — Invincible (2002)

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