Charlize Theron launched a career turning heads in 1996’s Two Days in the Valley as one of the quirky neo-noir’s femme fatales. The big breakthrough for the South African actress came but a year later, playing the satanic bait in The Devil’s Advocate. Thanks, Keanu! Theron suddenly became inescapable, working with some big name directors (Woody Allen, John Frankenheimer, Robert Redford) on their worst movies (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Reindeer Games, The Legend of Bagger Vance). Then 2003 brought her international recognition (The Italian Job) and a significant Oscar win (Monster). Ever since, she’s fluctuated between catnip for fanboys (AEon Flux, Hancock, Prometheus) and dramatic art (North Country and the Jason Reitman collaborations Young Adult and Tully), and sometimes she’s found that rarefied sweet spot in-between (Mad Max: Fury Road).
Recently, she launched another potential action franchise with The Old Guard, and continued apace in another (F9). And now we’re ranking all Charlize Theron movies by Tomatometer! —Alex Vo
Critics Consensus:The Old Guard is occasionally restricted by genre conventions, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood brings a sophisticated vision to the superhero genre - and some knockout action sequences led by Charlize Theron.
Synopsis: A group of mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ablity to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret, and... [More]
Critics Consensus: Despite its somewhat dour approach, Young Adult is a funny and ultimately powerful no-holds-barred examination of prolonged adolescence, thanks largely to a convincing performance by Charlize Theron.
Synopsis: Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a successful writer of teen literature who returns to her hometown with a dual mission:... [More]
Critics Consensus: Ridley Scott's ambitious quasi-prequel to Alien may not answer all of its big questions, but it's redeemed by its haunting visual grandeur and compelling performances -- particularly Michael Fassbender as a fastidious android.
Synopsis: The discovery of a clue to mankind's origins on Earth leads a team of explorers to the darkest parts of... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Road's commitment to Cormac McCarthy's dark vision may prove too unyielding for some, but the film benefits from hauntingly powerful performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi McPhee.
Synopsis: America is a grim, gray shadow of itself after a catastrophe. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though some of Paul Haggis's themes are heavy-handed, In the Valley of Elah is otherwise an engrossing murder mystery and antiwar statement, featuring a mesmerizing performance from Tommy Lee Jones.
Synopsis: A police detective (Charlize Theron) helps a retired Army sergeant (Tommy Lee Jones) search for his son, a soldier who... [More]
Critics Consensus: Despite the talent involved in The Legend of Bagger Vance, performances are hindered by an inadequate screenplay full of flat characters and bad dialogue. Also, not much happens, and some critics are offended by how the film glosses over issues of racism.
Synopsis: During the Great Depression, Georgia socialite Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron) announces a publicity-garnering high-stakes match at her struggling family golf... [More]
Critics Consensus:Gringo rounds up a bafflingly overqualified cast for a misfire of a comedy that's fatally undermined by its messy plot, poorly conceived characters, and obvious debts to better films.
Synopsis: Mild-mannered U.S. businessman Harold Soyinka finds himself at the mercy of backstabbing colleagues, local drug lords and a black ops... [More]
The adventure is one of the hardest kinds of movie to define, but like certain other genres: “You know it when you see it.” Adventures are grand, exciting, and often epic tales, usually focused on people on a mission, whose purposes include fame, fortune, and glory. The best adventure movies can run on the thrill of exploration and discovery, treading deep into jungles, stalking across arid deserts, or sailing across open oceans. The casts of characters feature rambunctious pirates, lordly counts, mercenaries and bounty hunters, big whales, and even bigger apes. And adventure movies can invite their other genre buddies along for the ride, too, including fantasy and science-fiction.
Now we’re embarking on our own journey, plundering gem after gem for a guide to what we’re calling the essential adventure movies if you love the genre. Listing these best adventure movies in chronological order, we begin a century in the past, when the adventure genre was defined by the swashbucklers of Captain Blood and The Three Musketeers. At the same time, the fantastical elements introduced in King Kong and Wizard of Oz marked adventure movies as the spot to introduce the latest in dazzling special effects.
After World War II, the adventure genre entered its prestige era, with historical epics like Lawrence of Arabia and The Man Who Would Be King, and tales of derring-do in The African Queen and The Great Escape. Here it should be said there is a certain Western-centric viewpoint that cannot be denied as inherent to many adventure movies, one that ‘others’ different countries and cultures. And hopefully what elevates these movies above that are their swaggering sense of playful optimism and lighthearted fun.
That’s certainly evident in Raiders of the Lost Ark, whose retro serial action and intrigue established the adventure formula for a new generation, which marched on through Indiana Jones’ sequels, Romancing the Stone, National Treasure, and The Mummy. During the same ’80s Indy decade, the adventure genre opened itself back up to sci-fi and fantasy, along with spotlighting younger protagonists, leading to The Goonies, The NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth, and more.
Around the turn of the century, the adventure movie successfully aided the resurrection of other genres that common Hollywood wisdom had deemed box office poison: swashbucklers (The Mask of Zorro), high fantasy (The Lord of the Rings), and even the pirate movie (Pirates of the Caribbean), which had been sent to Davy Jones’ Locker after Cutthroat Island sank Carolco Pictures.
And since 2012’s Life of Pi, there’s been another adventure resurgence with The Jungle Book and more Kong and Jumanji movies.
Now, continue on and discover the 60 best adventure movies to watch now! —Alex Vo
Critics Consensus: Perfectly cast, smartly written, and beautifully filmed, The African Queen remains thrilling, funny, and effortlessly absorbing even after more than half a century's worth of adventure movies borrowing liberally from its creative DNA.
Synopsis: After religious spinster's (Katharine Hepburn) missionary brother is killed in WWI Africa, dissolute steamer captain (Humphrey Bogart) offers her safe... [More]
Critics Consensus: The epic of all epics, Lawrence of Arabia cements director David Lean's status in the filmmaking pantheon with nearly four hours of grand scope, brilliant performances, and beautiful cinematography.
Synopsis: Due to his knowledge of the native Bedouin tribes, British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is sent to Arabia to... [More]
Critics Consensus: It may be too "dark" for some, but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains an ingenious adventure spectacle that showcases one of Hollywood's finest filmmaking teams in vintage form.
Synopsis: The second of the Lucas/Spielberg Indiana Jones epics is set a year or so before the events in Raiders of... [More]
Critics Consensus: A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.
Synopsis: A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a... [More]
Critics Consensus: Lighter and more comedic than its predecessor, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade returns the series to the brisk serial adventure of Raiders, while adding a dynamite double act between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.
Synopsis: An art collector appeals to Jones to embark on a search for the Holy Grail. He learns that another archaeologist... [More]
Critics Consensus: This glossy edition of White Fang shaves off the rough-hewn edges that made Jack London's epic story so distinct, but gorgeous photography and heartfelt performances make this an appealing adventure.
Synopsis: This adaptation of Jack London's wilderness tale focuses on young Jack Conroy (Ethan Hawke), who has arrived in Alaska to... [More]
Critics Consensus:Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book may not hew as closely to the book as its title suggests, but it still offers an entertaining live-action take on a story best known in animated form.
Synopsis: When his father is killed by a jungle tiger, Mowgli (Jason Scott Lee) is orphaned and grows up in the... [More]
Critics Consensus: Featuring state-of-the-art special effects, terrific performances, and a majestic sense of spectacle, Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong is a potent epic that's faithful to the spirit of the 1933 original.
Synopsis: Peter Jackson's expansive remake of the 1933 classic follows director Carl Denham (Jack Black) and his crew on a journey... [More]
Critics Consensus: A faithful interpretation that captures the spirit of whimsy, action, and off-kilter humor of Neil Gaiman, Stardust juggles multiple genres and tones to create a fantastical experience.
Synopsis: To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm... [More]
Critics Consensus: Offering exhilarating eye candy, solid acting, and a fast-paced story, Kong: Skull Island earns its spot in the movie monster's mythos without ever matching up to the classic original.
Synopsis: Scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. Cut off from everything they... [More]
Critics Consensus:A Wrinkle in Time is visually gorgeous, big-hearted, and occasionally quite moving; unfortunately, it's also wildly ambitious to a fault, and often less than the sum of its classic parts.
Synopsis: Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry, for five years, ever... [More]
(Photo by Well GO USA/ courtesy Everett Collection)
20 Movies To Watch If You Loved Train to Busan
If you’re looking for more movies like Train to Busan, the South Korean zombie classic that sunk its teeth into savvy filmgoers and hasn’t let go since its 2016 release, why not first punch your ticket for something in the shared universe? Check out Seoul Station, an animated prequel to Busan, directed by the same guy, Yeon Sang-ho. He was primarily an animation director before Busan (that was his live-action debut), and he followed that up with 2018’s Psychokinesis, his take on the superhero genre which also had a father-and-daughter relationship driving the plot. Yeon will be back in 2020 with Peninsula, another story set in the world of Train to Busan.
For more from South Korean, consider checking out Rampant, a period piece action epic about – true to history, we’re sure – a zombie outbreak. Deranged and The Wailing are also about illness and outbreak in contemporary SK. (For more quality choices from the region, see our list of 30 Certified Fresh South Korean movies.)
If you’re really into the whole train setting, seek out Snowpiercer, directed by Parasite‘s Bong Joon-ho, The Cassandra Crossing, about a biological weapon that may have been set loose in the caboose, and Howl, wherein a passenger train and its riders have to deal with an outbreak…of werewolves.
Zombie godfather George A. Romero spent his career exploring the different stages of undead chaos: from infection, to pandemic, to normalization. His last great film, Land of the Dead, explored the latter, depicting society that had tenuously adapted to a new, dark way of living. Carriers, The Road, and The Crazies (a remake of a Romero movie) are further entertaining, credible looks at society-destroying diseases in America.
Of course, if you consider yourself a Train to Busan fan, you might also think of yourself an adventurous movie-watcher, ready for pandemic and outbreak movies beyond the borders of America. To that, we’ve assembled suggestions from the UK (28 Weeks Later, Children of Men, The Girl With All The Gifts), Japan (I Am a Hero), France (Ravenous, The Night Eats the World), Germany (Rammbock: Berlin Undead), and Spain ([REC]). —Alex Vo
Critics Consensus:The Road's commitment to Cormac McCarthy's dark vision may prove too unyielding for some, but the film benefits from hauntingly powerful performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi McPhee.
Synopsis: America is a grim, gray shadow of itself after a catastrophe. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi... [More]
Critics Consensus: George A. Romero's latest entry in his much-vaunted Dead series is not as fresh as his genre-inventing original, Night of the Living Dead. But Land of the Dead does deliver on the gore and zombies-feasting-on-flesh action.
Synopsis: In a world where zombies form the majority of the population, the remaining humans build a feudal society away from... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Girl with All the Gifts grapples with thought-provoking questions without skimping on the scares -- and finds a few fresh wrinkles in the well-worn zombie horror genre along the way.
Synopsis: In the future, a strange fungus has changed nearly everyone into a thoughtless, flesh-eating monster. When a scientist and a... [More]
Critics Consensus: Plunging viewers into the nightmarish hellscape of an apartment complex under siege, [Rec] proves that found footage can still be used as an effective delivery mechanism for sparse, economic horror.
Synopsis: A reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman record the horrifying outbreak of a disease that turns humans into vicious cannibals.... [More]
Charlize Theron‘s returns to theaters in this week’s Tully, which finds the Oscar-winning star reuniting with Young Adult director Jason Reitman for another character-driven dramedy. In honor of Tully‘s arrival, we decided there could be no better time to take a fond look back at some of Ms. Theron’s brightest critical highlights — and give you the opportunity to devise your own ranking in the bargain. It’s time for Total Recall!
Use the up and down arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!
This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and many of us will be celebrating the contributions and sacrifices our mothers have made to help us become who we are. But not all moms are created equal, and that’s especially true in cinema, because we know some real crappy movie moms out there — 24 to be exact — and they deserve no flowers, chocolates, or fancy dinners.
Netflix and Amazon Prime have added a handful of decent titles to their libraries this week, but most people will probably be more interested to know that the most recent chapter in the MCU and the sequel to the hit horror film The Conjuring are both available to purchase via streaming this week. Read on for all the selections.
Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. lead an all-star cast in this Marvel extravaganza, which pits Captain America against Iron Man when the government seeks to track every superhero with a registry and the two Avengers find themselves on opposite sides of the debate.
This ABC drama based on fairy tales takes place in a fictional town where Snow White, Peter Pan, and other familiar characters have lost their memories due to a curse and have been transported to the real world.
This week’s Ketchup covers a sort of slow news cycle, post Academy Awards. The stories that did break include a few potential blockbusters for Sony Pictures, including a movie version of the video game The Last of Us, and a “gritty” reboot of Zorro. There’s also a T. Rex movie, giant insects, and a possible remake of West Side Story.
This Week’s Top Story
HIT VIDEO GAME THE LAST OF US TO BE THE FIRST OF A POSSIBLE FRANCHISE
Two weeks after a Variety story about Sony’s need for more movie franchises, this week saw the studio announce a few such projects. The highest profile of those might be the planned live action adaptation of the 2013 Playstation 3 exclusive video game The Last of Us. The game was set in a post-apocalyptic America infested by zombies, cannibals, and lots of other people wanting to do harm to the two lead characters. One actress who is probably too old for the lead role, but has to be mentioned anyway, is Ellen Page, who last year was involved in a minor online kerfuffle about The Last of Us (which was quickly made nice, in advance of Page’s own video game Beyond: Two Souls). The Last of Us sold 4.1 million units in its first three weeks, making it the fastest selling Playstation 3 title, and the game won over 200 “Game of the Year” awards. The Last of Us, the movie, will be produced by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures (Evil Dead, The Possession).
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 STEVEN SPIELBERG MIGHT RETURN TO THE SHARKS… WITH A WEST SIDE STORY REMAKE?
First off, it should be noted that this particular story is starting with pretty much no actual ink-on-paper “in talks” support. The story here is just that director extraordinaire Steven Spielberg has expressed “interest” in working with 20th Century Fox on a remake of the classic 1961 musical West Side Story. Usually, when the merit of a potential remake is discussed, the original movie’s “quality” has to be a huge factor, but with West Side Story, it’s a bit different. Regardless of how “good” the movie is, there’s little excusing that, as a movie about two rival gangs, West Side Story is as creaky and dated as movies can possibly be to modern eyes. Of course, if you remove the elements that make West Side Story so dated… is it still West Side Story, or just a “21st century gangs” remake of Romeo & Juliet? The answer might be somewhere in between, perhaps by keeping a few of the songs (like “America” and “Tonight”), and ditching the dancing switchblade-wielding gang members? Such will be the challenge for the eventual writer of the West Side Story remake, who hasn’t been hired yet. Steven Spielberg is still on the hunt for his first post-Lincoln project, after previous possibilities like American Sniper and Interstellar went to other directors, and Robopocalypse got shelved. Two remaining possibilities are Dalton Trumbo’s 50-years-in-the-making Montezuma, and the Moses epic Gods and Kings.
#2 INDIE DIRECTOR TOM MCCARTHY TO GO VERY BIG WITH DINOSAUR MOVIE TOMMYSAURUS REX
One side effect of the director choices made by Marvel Studios, and the resulting successes of such films, is that studios sometimes seem more likely these days to take chances with prestige directors that might not seem like immediately obvious choices otherwise. One such director who has been hovering on the fringes for several years, giving us such films as The Station Agent, The Visitor, and Win Win, is Tom McCarthy. This week, we learned that McCarthy is finally ready to go “big” with his movies, with a move to Universal Pictures for a surprising project. McCarthy is in talks with Universal Pictures to cowrite a screenplay adaptation based upon the Doug TenNapel graphic novel Tommysaurus Rex, with an eye to direct. First published in 2004, Tommysaurus Rex tells the story of a bullied young boy who discovers and befriends a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a local cave. The premise sounds a bit like The Iron Giant, with a dinosaur, but… that movie was also 15 years ago, and animated.
#3 JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE TO PRODUCE REMAKE OF THE IDOLMAKER
As a modern studio, MGM has been mostly about remaking old movies in their comprehensive library of titles for quite some time now. The recent remakes of RoboCop, Red Dawn, Fame, Carrie, The Pink Panther, and The Taking of Pelham 123 were all MGM, as are the upcoming remakes of Ben-Hur and Poltergeist. One planned remake is not as famous as some of those, but is just the type of nearly forgotten film that might be most prime for a remake. That film is 1980’s The Idolmaker, based upon the life of 1950s rock promoter Bob Marcucci, who discovered such teen idols as Frankie Avalon and Fabian. The remake is being co-produced by Justin Timberlake, who may star, and this week, we learned that the director might be Craig Brewer, who is now in talks with MGM. Brewer is coming off the 2011 remake of Footloose, and previously also directed Black Snake Moan and Hustle & Flow. The Idolmaker is now the second music industry biopic that Justin Timberlake is producing, along with the Neil Bogart biopic Spinning Gold.
#4 IDRIS ELBA TO STALK THE MAN CUB AS SHERE KHAN IN THE JUNGLE BOOK
In the dueling movies stand off with Warner Bros. over the idea of a new live action version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Walt Disney Pictures made a crucial first step this week. Idris Elba, who worked with Disney as Heimdall in the two Thor movies, is in final talks to provide the voice of the tiger Shere Khan for director Jon Favreau (Iron Man). Shere Khan (and the rest of the animal cast) will be brought to life by the VFX team led by Rob Legato (Hugo, Titanic). Of course, one has to wonder if this idea of a “live action” Jungle Book with a CGI tiger wasn’t at least a little bit inspired by the dazzling tiger visuals in 2012’s Life of Pi. Warner Bros is currently looking for a director for their Jungle Book movie after the recent departure of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros).
#5 JUDE LAW JOINS MELISSA MCCARTHY IN THE SPY COMEDY SUSAN COOPER
In the last ten years or so, whenever people find inspiration to start speculating about new James Bond possibilities, Jude Law frequently comes to mind in such discussions. There’s just something about Jude Law that says “British spy.” We might finally see it happen with the news this week that Jude Law is in talks with 20th Century Fox to costar in Susan Cooper. The spy comedy will be the third project for the team of Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig, after previously working together on Bridesmaids and last year’s The Heat. Jason Statham will also costar in Susan Cooper, which 20th Century Fox has already scheduled for May 22, 2015.
#6 THE WOLVERINE DIRECTOR JAMES MANGOLD TO ADAPT THE DEEP BLUE GOOD-BY
One of the long-in-development projects at 20th Century Fox is an adaptation of the 1964 John D. MacDonald novel The Deep Blue Good-By, which launched a series of 21 novels about the “salvage consultant” Travis McGee, who specializes in helping re-aquire valuables which are no longer in their possession. Leonardo DiCaprio was at one time attached to the project (he’s not anymore), and previous potential directors have included Oliver Stone and Paul Greengrass. This week, writer/director James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine) started negotiating to take on the project. If Mangold can figure the character out, Travis McGee has a chance at becoming a future big screen favorite, as one can trace elements of the character in such later figures as Jim Rockford, Han Solo, and “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski. James Mangold is also currently working on the script for another Wolverine movie.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN DIRECTOR JOINS JAKE GYLLENHAAL IN THE BOXING MOVIE SOUTHPAW
Late last year, Jake Gyllenhaal started talks to star in the long-in-development boxing movie Southpaw. This week, we learned that the movie will be directed by Antoine Fuqua, who is almost always credited as the director of Training Day. Although that is true, it sort of bypasses all of the Rotten movies on Fuqua’s Tomatometer, which include The Replacement Killers, Bait, Tears of the Sun, King Arthur, Shooter, Brooklyn’s Finest, and last year’s Olympus Has Fallen. Southpaw was written by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, and will be produced and distributed by The Weinstein Company. Sutter has also said the script was inspired by the life of rapper Eminem, who at one time was attached to star, before Jake Gyllenhaal.
#2 THE ATTACK OF THE GIANT HORNY PRAYING MANTISES IN GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE
The movement at Sony Pictures this week to find potential blockbuster franchises leads us now to our final two Rotten Ideas. First up is an adaptation of the recent YA novel by Andrew Smith called Grasshopper Jungle. There are elements of the premise that are promising, but we haven’t come to the Rotten part yet. Grasshopper Jungleis described as “a coming-of-age yarn revolving around a teenager in Iowa trying to come to grips with his own sexual feelings as he and his cohorts cause a deadly genetically engineered plague that unleashes an army of 6-foot-tall praying mantises with an insatiable appetite for fighting, food, and fornicating.” The same article compares it to Stand By Me and Attack the Block… with giant insects. Anyway, the bad news is that the screenwriter that Sony has hired to work on Grasshopper Jungle is Scott Rosenberg. On one hand, he has High Fidelity and Beautiful Girls to his credit, but his RT Tomatometer also includes Con Air, Disturbing Behavior, Gone in 60 Seconds, Impostor, and Kangaroo Jack, which featured Stand By Me star Jerry O’Connell having wacky adventures with a kangaroo.
#1 ARE YOU READY FOR THE “GRITTY” REBOOT OF… ZORRO?
Not every classic character needs a “gritty” modern remake. Some characters just smack of their time and place, and should be allowed to stay in that place, and age gracefully. The two relatively recent Zorro movies with Antonio Banderas were not perfect, obviously, but the 1998 movie was fun and fresh, updating the character without changing what makes Zorro Zorro. Anyway, one of the new potential franchise reboots that Sony Pictures is considering is a new reboot of Zorro that would instill the colonial Californian with “gritty realism.” The screenwriter hired for the project is Chris Boal, a fencer, playwright and brother of Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker). Boal’s take reportedly takes out the “swashbuckler” and focuses on “a deadly combination of action and lethal fighting systems that combined swords, daggers, grappling, and bare knuckles” and “a new backstory, gritty realism, and emotional core.” Does the world really want a Zorro who doesn’t use his sword to etch out the letter “Z”, crack some jokes, defend the peasants, defeat evil politicians, or get the girl?
It’s a new week of releases on home video, and we here at Rotten Tomatoes regret to inform you that the selection of new releases is again rather dismal. With that in mind, we bring you an abbreviated list highlighting the two brand new releases and a handful of reissues we think some of you might find appealing. Leading off the pack is the latest Cormac McCarthy novel to find its way to the big screen, as well as the latest Nicholas Sparks novel to do the same; we’ll let you guess which of those is Certified Fresh and which is Rotten. Then, we’ve got a couple of classic westerns, an internet sensation that won an emmy, a comedy from some of NBC’s newest stars, and one of Stanley Kubrick’s early masterpieces. Read on for the full list!
The novels of Cormac McCarthy have recently become prime Hollywood fodder, particularly after the Coen brothers’ adaptation of No Country for Old Men took home four of the biggest awards of the 2007 Academy Awards. Following on the heels of No Country‘s success, The Road, a post-apocalyptic drama about a father and son wandering the American landscape and struggling to survive. Directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition) and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road managed to earn a Certified Fresh 75% Tomatometer from critics, despite a handful criticisms that the film was altogether too bleak. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Channing Tatum has acted a few notable movies, but unlike his Dear John co-star Amanda Seyfried, he has yet to find his breakout role. Unfortunately for both, Dear John failed to be a positive career milestone for either, and for Seyfried in particular, it’s the lowest Tomatometer-rated film she’s done. Even with the directorial heft of Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat) and the acting chops of recent Best Actor nominee Richard Jenkins, this adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name about a US soldier who finds the strength to persevere in the letters he receives from his girlfriend back home failed to impress critics. Citing its overly clichéd plot, reviewers only saw fit to award Dear John with a 29% Tomatometer. Still, it’s available on DVD and Blu-Ray this week for Sparks fans and those looking for a simple tearjerker.
If you’re a fan of Joss Whedon, you’re probably already familiar with this little web-mini-series-that-could. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog began as a way for “Whedon and Friends” to circumvent the Hollywood writer’s strike of 2008 and produce something inexpensive but interesting, and it wound up winning a series of awards, including a Primtime Emmy. Broadway vet Neil Patrick Harris hams it up as Dr. Horrible himself, an aspiring supervillain who’s in love with a girl he met at the laundromat, and Nathan Fillion (from Whedon’s own Firefly series) shows up as Dr. Horrible’s superhero nemesis, Captain Hammer. But if you’ve already watched or downloaded the entire 42-minute program, why get the DVD? Try these extras on for size: an audio commentary with Whedon, Harris, Fillion and the other creators; a musical commentary featuring its cast and crew singing songs about each other and the writer’s strike; a making-of featurette; and 10 fanmade videos created as applications to the Evil League of Evil. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Few movies can rally the troops like 1960’s Spartacus. A high pedigree production, the film wouldn’t exist were it not for the star power and drive of Kirk Douglas who, up to that point, hadn’t had as massive a platform as this for his ideas or his talents. Stanley Kubrick directs and the great Dalton Trumbo, just out of his period from the days of the Blacklist (he was one of the original Hollywood ten), loads this epic struggle of liberty and servitude with things the censors couldn’t figure out how to argue. See the scene with newly enslaved lover-boy Tony Curtis in which Curtis oils down Sir Lawrence Oliver (the heavy) and is asked, “Slave. Do you like snails or do you like cockles.” (Imagine hand gestures for that one and the message comes pretty clear.) This 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray comes with a manifesto’s length of extras: interviews with heavy-hitter stars Jean Simmons and Peter Ustinov (always has a lot to offer), behind-the-scenes footage, vintage newsreels, costume art (HOT!), production stills (scandalous!), poster art, and Saul Bass storyboards. In the end, though, the extras are just icing for the film’s epic results. This writer’s never met a man who doesn’t tear up at the announcement: “I am Spartacus.” (I get chills even typing it.)
If you’ve been watching the recent NBC lineup of hit shows, which includes 30 Rock and The Office, then you’re already familiar with many of the actors involved with Mystery Team, a comedy about three high school friends who once ran a kid detective agency and who attempt to solve a double homicide to recapture the glory of their youth. Mystery Team was brought to the screen by the members of Derrick Comedy, a sketch comedy group that amassed a large following via online channels. Some of the cast members you might recognize in this are Donald Glover (of NBC’s Community), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), and Ellie Kemper (The Office), as well as other NBC sitcom regulars. Fans of Derrick Comedy will likely get a kick out of the movie, and it’ll be available this week.
A contemporary of Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci left his own stamp on the “Spaghetti Western” with 1966’s Django, which arrived just on the heels of Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. Starring Franco Nero as the titular antihero, Django focuses on a wandering gunslinger (Nero) with a grudge who aligns himself with a gang of Mexican revolutionaries against the colonel who murdered his wife. At the time of its release, it was considered one of the most violent films ever made, and countries like Sweden simply banned it. However, the film was so popular that it spawned a reported 100 unofficial sequels, none of which have much to do with Corbucci’s film. In addition, Django has inspired countless references over the decades in several mediums, the most recent of which might be Japanese cult director Takashi Miike’s 2007 film Sukiyaki Western Django, which borrows a lot from the original. This week, Django is available in Blu-Ray for the first time, and it comes with some intriguing extras, like cast interviews and a 1968 documentary about Spaghetti Westerns.
Though Westerns were quite popular during cinema’s Silent Film era, when sound entered the picture (no pun intended), Westerns fell by the wayside, relegated to B-movie status. Then, in 1939, the stars aligned just right, and veteran director John Ford paired up with a young John Wayne for his first Western with sound, the first proper Western since the silent era, and the first of many successful Ford-Wayne collaborations to come. Stagecoach was a success even back in its day; it’s still considered by many to be the greatest of its genre, and even those who disagree still count it among the most influential films ever made. Not only did it set the bar for Westerns as we now know them, it also launched the career of John Wayne and paved the way of some of Ford’s other masterpieces. This week, Criterion has adopted Stagecoach into its collection, adding a TON of impressive special features like Bucking Broadway, a Ford silent feature; a 1968 interview with Ford; a video homage to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt; a 1949 radio dramatization of Stagecoach featuring the original cast; and more! You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Written by Ryan Fujitani and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo
If, like us, you began the New Year with the thought that it’s only five years ’til we get to ride hoverboards, the decade ahead would seem to be full of amazing technology and stuff. But if movies are to be believed, there’ll be a lot more to worry about in the next 10 years than the matter of “Where the hell are our flying cars, anyway?” It starts with alien contact and a viral outbreak. Then there are nuclear wars, economic collapses, killer tsuanmis, fascist takeovers, unhinged replicants and giant lizards to look forward to. If the movies are right, the future’s so bright you’d better wear those 3-D glasses as protective shades.
2010 — Alien Contact!
According to 2010: The Year We Make Contact, this is the year we travel to the moons of Jupiter, reboot HAL-9000 and get flashed by alien lightning. This 1984 film did correctly predict that Beijing would host the 2008 Olympics so we should assume the rest of the vision will play out in the next 11 months! But much more tangible aliens are already on Earth, living in South Africa and due to be evicted from their District 9 slum on the specific date of August 9. Another bad decision made in 2010? Putting Jason Vorhees into cryogenic suspension until it can be decided what should be done with him. WTF? He’s a demented serial killer, people! Thus, the hideous events of Jason X in 2455.
2011— We’re Fluxed!
Future-feature Aeon Flux brings the cheery news that next year 99% of the world’s population dies in a viral outbreak. As you’ll soon see, though, considering what’s coming after that it seems like something of a merciful outcome. But the 1% who do survive get to hang with mysterious assassin Charlize Theron, decked out in figure-hugging black leather — reason to live right there.
2012 — Apocalypse Now!
Roland Emmerich’s spectacular disaster mega-mix 2012 declares that space-neutrino-hoodoo-voodoo will cause the Earth to be first rocked by massive earthquakes, then subsumed by massive tsunamis and finally swallowed by gaping plot holes. But according to I Am Legend, by 2012 Will Smith will be the only human left alive in New York City, with most of humanity killed or mutated by bad CGI. Either way, the outlook’s grim. And sometime in this tumultuous year, the US economy will also collapse, leading to so many criminals that private prisons will have to stick inmates into the remade Death Race to secure funds.
2013 — Escape LA — and Substance D!
In The Postman, we’ve been all but wiped out by one of those pesky Road-style non-specific apocalypses. Happily, though, Kevin Costner provides hope in 2013 by donning a dead mailman’s outfit and delivering letters. Couldn’t he just have hooked us back up to Twitter? This is also the year the US president’s daughter turns traitor, giving America’s super-weapon to a Peruvian freedom fighter holed up in what’s left of Los Angeles. Thankfully, Snake Plissken’s ready to enter this hellhole so he can Escape From LA. But, if A Scanner Darkly is to be believed, Snake’s probably so totally high on Substance D he thinks he’s signing up for a trip to Disneyland. Hopefully, across the pond, the Brits have a good supply of the drug, too, because this is the year the Norsefire fascists purge the United Kingdom of undesirables — a crackdown that’ll lead to V’s vendetta some 14 years later. Whew!
2014 — Nikkei Bye-Bye!
Japan’s economy suffers such a blow in Moon Child that citizens have to move to mainland China to survive. There, a gang of kids turn to crime. And hang with a vampire teen. So it’s City Of Let The Right One I Ching! Oddly, mainstream western feature filmmakers have avoided 2014 like the (vampire-mutant-creating) plague, which left it to Robin Sloane to make this awesomely believable “future fiction” about 2014 for the Museum Of Media History.
2015 — Hoverboards!
A relative benign 12 months, this one. Obviously, we humans recover quite quickly from previous apocalypses because, according to Back To The Future Part II, the cool thing to do is ride your hoverboard to the movies and see the awesome new Max Spielberg flick Jaws 19 at the Holomax. So far Max’s biggest credit is as an assistant on The Rage: Carrie 2. Get cracking, young Spielberg! Also this year, according to The Sixth Day, you’ll be able to get your sick pet cloned — or get an animatronic version at Re-Pet. Downside: when you get home, you might find you’ve been cloned and that the company wants the original you dead!
2016 — Heartbreak!
In Ghostbusters II, our favorite spirit wrangler Peter Venkman has a TV talk show, on which a guest declares that Valentine’s Day, 2016, is when the world ends. As Bill Murray puts it: “Bummer.” Not so romantic but possibly preferable to sitting through the Valentine’s Day in cinemas this February.
2017 — Run For Your Lives!
According to Surrogates, crime and fear is a thing of the past because humans live in isolation, interacting with each other via good-looking robot versions of themselves. Hang on, isn’t that Facebook? Spooky. And if The Running Man is right, this is also the year a police state is declared and we’re all pacified by a reality show in which criminals fight for literal survival. Damn, can’t the Jersey Shore producers take note of this for next season and rename it Death To Snooki? According to Barb Wire, this is also the year of the “Second Civil War”, in which a hero will rise in the form of a half-naked Pamela Anderson. So it’s not all doom and gloom for some.
2018 — Mankind vs Machines!
So sayeth Terminator Salvation, this is the year that John Connor and the human resistance destroy Skynet Central. But, when they’re taking a break from blasting hell out of the machines and wondering whether they ought to trust the shifting accent of that Marcus fellow, at least they can distract themselves by tuning into the hell-on-wheels entertainment that is the original Rollerball!
2019 — Androids Dream of Electric Sheep!
In Daybreakers, a plague sweeps the Earth, turning most of the human population into vampires. Thing is, the blood supplies are dwindling, which makes you wonder why they don’t just tap the endless supply of hot haemoglobin-filled human clones being harvested for their organs over at The Island. Complicating matters for hungry bloodsuckers is that by this year our robot replacements, now called Replicants in Blade Runner, will be indistinguishable from us. On the upside — flying cars! Things are dicey over in New Tokyo, too. Despite rising from the ashes of nuclear Armageddon, the mega-megalopolis depicted in Akira is under threat from anarchists, terrorists, criminals and the ever-expanding superpowers of a gang kid named Tetsuo. At least they don’t have to worry about Godzilla. Oh, hang on…
2020 — Reptiles And The Red Planet!
Aaaaggggh! It’s Godzilla: Final Wars and the big lizard and his monster pals, along with aliens and earthly superhero types, are attacking, well, everyone and everything! Not surprisingly, sane people like Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins take a Mission To Mars to escape the threat. And not a moment too soon because, in addition to Godzilla, Reign of Fire says the world will by 2020 be ruled by fire-breathing dragons and our only hope is a hero who looks a lot like a greased-up John Connor.
Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel The Road is coming to the screen courtesy of John Hillcoat (The Proposition), with Viggo Mortensen starring as the father charged with protecting his son in a hostile wasteland.
To mark the upcoming release, Icon and Rotten Tomatoes are giving away 15 double passes to see the film.
To win, tell us in 25 words or less what your favourite ‘road’ movie is, and why. Send your answers, along with your mailing address, to: The Road Giveaway.
Entries close Sunday, January 24. Winners will be notified by mail. Please note that the contest is open to Australian residents only.
This week at the movies, we’ve got martial arts mayhem (Ninja Assassin, starring Rain and Naomie Harris); family-friendly hi jinks (Old Dogs, starring John Travolta and Robin Williams); and a post-apocalyptic trek (The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron). What do the critics have to say?
What we want from a movie called Ninja Assassin is simple: amazing stunts and killer fight scenes. That isn’t too much to ask, is it? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, say critics, who feel that Ninja Assassin‘s thrills aren’t just cheap – they’re low-grade. South Korean pop star Rain is Raizo, an efficient assassin who’s betrayed by his clan, and teams up with an international cop named Mika (Naomie Harris) to bring them down. The pundits say the plot and characters are forgettable, but the big problem is that director James McTeigue edits the fight scenes down to the bone, so it’s often difficult to tell what’s happening.
Slapstick is one of the hardest of comedic techniques to pull off, and when it fails, it can be brutal. Such is the issue with Old Dogs, critics say; the talented cast is game, but everyone’s trying so hard to generate laughs where there are none to be found that things go south in a hurry. John Travolta and Robin Williams star as a pair of old buddies who find themselves doing the unthinkable – caring for a set of twins just as a big business deal is about to happen. Life lessons and pratfalls ensue. The pundits say Old Dogs is predictable, overly broad, and tonally inconsistent to the point of tedium. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down Travolta’s best-reviewed films.)
Once No Country for Old Men won Best Picture, it was only a matter of time before Cormac McCarthy’s other works would be adapted for the screen. And critics say that The Road, though unrelentingly grim and literal-minded, is still a very good movie version of McCarthy’s prose. Viggo Mortensen stars as a man who’s struggling for survival as he and his son trek across a post-apocalyptic American wasteland, populated only with cannibals and the desperate. The pundits say this is by no means a good time at the movies, but it’s beautifully shot, often moving, and features a fine performance from Mortensen.
Also opening this week in limited release:
The Swiss import Home, starring Isabelle Huppert in a drama about a family that’s profoundly disturbed when a highway is built near its property, is at 94 percent.