We skipped RT on DVD last week because there wasn’t much to talk about; unfortunately, this week is only marginally better, with an epic action flop, a bit of a clunker from Jason Reitman, and another found footage horror movie. After that, we’ve got a handful of smaller releases, some of which are actually worth checking out. Read on for details:

The Legend of Hercules

5%

The first of two movies this year about the Greek demigod, The Legend of Hercules established a pretty low bar for Dwayne Johnson to overcome. Kellan Lutz stars as the titular hero, son of Zeus and the mortal Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee), who is betrayed by his stepfather, the King (Scott Adkins), and sold into slavery in Egypt. Presumed dead, Hercules secures himself a gladiator battle back in Greece, hoping to reunite with his lover (Gaia Weiss) and exact vengeance upon the King. Critics found very little to like here, calling the film a failure on almost every level, from its poor visuals and lackluster storytelling to its wooden acting and stale action sequences. Renny Harlin has directed his share of stinkers in the past, but at 3% on the Tomatometer, The Legend of Hercules is pretty bad, even by his standards.

Labor Day

35%

Beginning with his 2005 directorial debut, Thank You For Smoking, Jason Reitman was on a pretty impressive hot streak, so it was something of a shock when Labor Day elicited little more than a half-hearted sigh from critics. Based on the eponymous novel by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day stars Kate Winslet as divorced single mother Adele Wheeler, who takes her teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) shopping one Labor Day weekend and runs into a mysterious injured man named Frank (Josh Brolin). Adele allows Frank to come home with them, and though he soon reveals he’s an escaped convict, he succeeds in winning them over. Winslet and Brolin are quite capable actors, of course, and they make the most of the material, but most critics found the tone so earnestly melodramatic that it rendered the film’s more calculated moments largely powerless. At 33%, this isn’t just Jason Reitman’s lowest-rated film, it’s the only Rotten film he’s directed, period.

Devil’s Due

18%

If you thought the found footage format had been pretty much exhausted by horror filmmakers, you thought wrong. In Devil’s Due, the latest of the genre, young couple Zach and Samantha McCall (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) decide to document every step of their surprise pregnancy. Sam begins to behave erratically and Zach notices shadowy characters hanging around the house. Will things go full Rosemary’s Baby, or is it all just a harmless Candid Camera gag? Critics were quick to call out Devil’s Due on its derivative elements, taking care to note that the film draws from better predecessors but fails to do anything fresh with the ingredients. At 18% on the Tomatometer, it’s kind of a half-baked creepshow that relies on a mish-mash of familiar horror tropes.

Also available this week:

  • These Birds Walk (100%), a documentary about the fates of street children in Pakistan.

  • Certified Fresh Chilean importGloria (99%), about an aging divorcee whose budding relationship with a younger man prompts her to confront her past.

  • The Selfish Giant (97%), a Certified Fresh adaptation of the Oscar Wilde story about the relationship between two restless teenagers in northern England who steal and sell scrap metal.

  • Escape from Tomorrow (56%), about a recently unemployed man who descends into a surreal nightmare while vacationing in Disneyland with his family.

  • The Best Offer (55%), starring Geoffrey Rush and Jim Sturgess in a romantic drama about an introverted antiques dealer who comes out of his shell when he’s asked to restore the works belonging to an equally reclusive woman.

  • Gimme Shelter (22%), starring Vanessa Hudgens and James Earl Jones in a based-on-true-events story about a pregnant homeless teen who regains her footing with the support she finds at a shelter.

  • And lastly, from the Criterion Collection, Dino Risi’s 1962 road trip comedy Il sorpasso is available in a new DVD/Blu-ray combo.

In Theaters This Week:

Labor Day

35%

Rating: PG-13, for thematic material, brief violence and sexuality.

Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet fall in doomed love – and make a delicious-looking peach pie – in this soapy romance/thriller/coming-of-age drama as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy. Brolin plays a convicted killer who escapes from prison and takes Winslet’s depressed divorcee character and her son hostage in their New Hampshire home. For starters, Jason Reitman’s film is unintentionally hilarious. But it also has some mature material for young viewers, including flashbacks to the murder that landed Brolin’s character in prison as well as the traumatic events that destroyed Winslet’s character’s marriage and turned her into a shaky shell of her former self. I’d avoid it with kids. Actually, I’d avoid it all around if I were you.

New On DVD:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

71%

Rating: PG, for mild rude humor.

There’s nothing even remotely scary or inappropriate in this animated 3-D sequel to the 2009 hit, which made $243 million worldwide. This time, the once-peaceful island of Swallow Falls has been taken over by marauding hybrid creatures known as Foodimals. While the original film had fun with disaster-movie conventions, this one plays with monster-movie motifs, with its Shrimpamzees and Tacodiles. It’s big and loud and messy but contains nothing inappropriate – unless you’re offended by the idea of flatulence humor. (Your kids certainly aren’t.) Some of the bad food puns will make you groan, though.

Last Vegas

46%

Rating: PG-13, for sexual content and language.

I highly doubt that your kids will want to see this raunchy comedy about four 70-year-old lifelong friends (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline) who get together in Las Vegas for a bachelor party. But if your kids happen to be in the room when you rent it or watch it, Last Vegas is probably suitable for tweens and up. Of course, there are some Viagra jokes, but there’s also a subplot about sanctioned extramarital activities. The guys judge a bikini contest by the pool and enjoy a wild night of carousing at a nightclub. And Kline’s character lets loose with one loud, well-timed F-bomb. Surprisingly, the movie itself is funnier and not nearly as painful as it looks, mainly because the four stars provide such great presence and chemistry.

This week at the movies, we’ve got three single bros (That Awkward Moment, starring Zac Efron and Michael B. Jordan) and a family-oriented fugitive (Labor Day, starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet). What do the critics have to say?

That Awkward Moment

22%

If you’ve had your fill of movies featuring young women griping about their relationship woes, you’re in luck: That Awkward Moment is a movie featuring dudes griping about their relationship woes. Unfortunately, critics say that’s about all that distinguishes this romantic comedy, which saddles its talented young cast with a predictable plot and a shortage of witty lines. It’s the story of three friends (Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller) who make a pact to stay single — that is, until each of them find themselves grappling with potential relationships. The pundits say That Awkward Moment attempts to make a statement about modern love, but it’s fatally short on both insight and believability. (And be sure to check out Miles Teller’s Five Favorite Films here.)

Labor Day

35%

Even the most preposterous scenario can be redeemed by a strong cast and a carefully sustained tone. Sadly, despite the best efforts of its leads, Labor Day fails to rise above its contrived premise. Josh Brolin stars as Frank, a convicted killer who escapes from prison and takes Adele (Kate Winslet), a depressed single mother, hostage in her own home. Over a long weekend, Adele falls for Frank, who takes up a position as the man of the house. The pundits say that Labor Day remains watchable because of Brolin and Winslet, but the material is ultimately too implausible to work as a whole. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Brolin’s best-reviewed films.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • 12 O’clock Boys, a documentary about a group of teenage dirt bikers in Baltimore, is at 95 percent.

  • Tim’s Vermeer, a documentary by Teller about a Texas inventor researching the process behind the great Dutch painter’s works, is Certified Fresh at 94 percent.

  • Charlie Victor Romeo, a documentary about airline pilots dealing with in-flight emergencies, is at 85 percent.

  • Love Is In The Air, starring Ludivine Sagnier in a romantic dramedy about a pair of exes seated next to each other on a trans-Atlantic flight, is at 83 percent.

  • At Middleton, starring Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga in a romantic comedy about two parents of prospective college students who bond on a campus tour, is at 56 percent.

  • The Wait, starring Chloë Sevigny and Jena Malone in a drama about a pair of sisters who hope to resurrect their recently deceased mother, is at 29 percent.

  • May I Kill U?, a black comedy about a mild-mannered bike cop who becomes a vigilante after a head injury, is at 15 percent.

  • Brightest Star, a drama about a young man who attempts to change himself in order to win the girl of his dreams, is at 14 percent.

  • Best Night Ever, a comedy from Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer about a group of bachelorettes’ wild Vegas excursion, is at zero percent.

Finally, props to Chris Frost for coming the closest to guessing I, Frankenstein‘s six percent Tomatometer.

Josh Brolin

From Hollywood scion to treasure-hunting screen teen to Oscar-nominated star, Josh Brolin has had one heck of a journey during his acting career — and with several big films on deck for wide release in 2014, it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Given that his appearance opposite Kate Winslet in Jason Reitman’s Labor Day is going wide this weekend, we thought now would be the perfect time to applaud some of the brighter critical highlights in Mr. Brolin’s filmography. Goonies never say die, but they do get Total Recall!


76%

10. The Goonies

One of the defining cult classics of the 1980s, The Goonies united a cast of young stars (including Corey Feldman, Sean Astin, and Ke Huy Quan), a slightly older trio (Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, and Brolin), three seasoned character actors (Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano, and Robert Davi), and a heavily made-up former football player (John Matuszak) in the fantastical, Spielberg-inspired tale of a group of kids who go hunting for some legendary pirate treasure in a last-ditch effort to save their families’ homes from a smarmy developer (Curtis Hanson). A fairly big hit in 1985, it’s gone on to enjoy near-mythic status among grown-up kids of the 1980s, and for very good reason: As Ryan Cracknell wrote for Movie Views, “Whether it’s an organ that threatens death if the wrong note is played, a wishing well that talks back to you or a pirate ship, the surface of The Goonies is all about a child’s innocence and faith in the unlikely.”


68%

9. Men in Black III

It wasn’t exactly a sequel that many people were clamoring for after its relatively underwhelming predecessor, but Men in Black III was pretty much a foregone conclusion once Columbia Pictures finished counting the $441 million generated by Men in Black II. Fortunately — and surprisingly — the series’ third installment turned out to be a creative rebound, using a time-travel twist to send Agent J (Will Smith) back to 1969 in an effort to save Agent K (Brolin, perfectly cast as a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones) from being killed by the nefarious Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement). “Brolin’s performance is funny, masterful, confident, and more than a little unsettling,” marveled Ty Burr in his review for the Boston Globe. “If one human being can sample another, that’s what’s going on here.”


74%

8. In the Valley of Elah

Writer-director Paul Haggis followed up his Oscar-winning Crash with another sober take on a thorny issue: In the Valley of Elah, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon in the fact-based story of parents desperately trying to uncover the circumstances leading to the death of their son (Jonathan Tucker), a soldier who survived Iraq only to fall victim to a grisly murder. Thwarted by military officials and a disinterested sheriff (Brolin), Jones relies on his own military training — and some help from a compassionate detective (Charlize Theron) — to bring his son’s killers to justice. “It’s a testament to Elah‘s stoicism that the heartbreak at how dishonesty undoes decades of dignity pierces without ever patronizing,” wrote Nick Rogers for Suite101. “It’s an unforgettable, angry film that understands several simple thank-yous can trump eruptive, emotive speeches.”


76%

7. The Dead Girl

Writer-director Karen Moncrieff earned richly deserved raves for this eminently creepy ensemble drama, starring Brittany Murphy as a murder victim whose lifeless body sends multiple lives spiraling into chaos and heartbreak. Appearing in a supporting role during the movie’s fifth and final segment, Brolin wasn’t given the same amount of screen time he’d be afforded in subsequent films, but for fans of his work, The Dead Girl served as a reminder that he still knew how to pick a decent script. “Those who pass on The Dead Girl are missing something,” warned the Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald. “Moncrieff has assembled a remarkable (and mostly female) cast, and there are moments in this film that are as powerful as anything currently in theaters.”


76%

6. Planet Terror

How often does a guy have the chance to play an unscrupulous doctor caught in the midst of a genetically engineered psycho outbreak while his wife plots to run off with Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas? Maybe once in a lifetime, if you’re Josh Brolin and you end up starring in Planet Terror, the Robert Rodriguez half of 2007’s Grindhouse, which found Rodriguez working alongside Quentin Tarantino to deliver smut-starved filmgoers a few hours of trashy thrills. “While this is the Grindhouse film that suffers most from being presented solo, it’s still the most fun,” mused Empire’s Nick de Semlyen. “Watch with beer in hand and tongue in cheek for optimal effect.”


80%

5. American Gangster

Part of the banner year that also found him starring in No Country for Old Men, In the Valley of Elah, and Planet Terror, Ridley Scott’s American Gangster put Brolin in the middle of an impeccably assembled cast that included Denzel Washington (as titular gangster Frank Lucas) and Russell Crowe (as Richie Roberts, the detective whose dogged pursuit of Lucas was unnecessarily complicated by his crooked partner, played by Brolin). With such heavy hitters involved — and a real-life story serving as the inspiration for their on-screen antics — many critics expected more than they got with Gangster, but it was still a sizeable hit at the box office, and for some scribes, Scott’s take on Lucas’ tale was no less powerful for its familiarity. “Scott’s not interested in fireworks,” argued Amy Nicholson for I.E. Weekly, “but small implosions of the soul and ego.”


87%

4. Flirting with Disaster

It probably isn’t the first movie that comes to mind when people think of Josh Brolin’s acting career, but give David O. Russell’s Flirting with Disaster this much: It’s the film that gave us the indelible sight of Brolin licking Patricia Arquette’s armpit. Starring Ben Stiller as a man desperate to meet his birth parents and Brolin as a — long story — bisexual ATF agent who ends up wrapped up in Stiller’s quest, Disaster cemented Russell’s early reputation as a guy with a gift for expertly oddball comedies; as Roger Ebert observed, “There are conventions in this sort of story, and Russell seems to violate most of them. He allows the peculiarities of his characters to lead them away from the plot line and into perplexities of their own.”


93%

3. Milk

Every hero needs a villain — and although Brolin has displayed a willingness to play evil on more than one occasion, he might have thought twice about taking the part of Dan White, the unbalanced San Francisco city supervisor who assassinated Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn) in the horrific 1978 incident that brought Milk’s groundbreaking political career to a heartbreaking end. How do you imbue a guy like White — who went on to make headlines by invoking the infamous “Twinkie defense” during his murder trial — with real humanity? It was Penn who walked away with the Best Actor Oscar, but Brolin picked up a Best Supporting Actor nomination — and his work helped inspire Tom Long of the Detroit News to write, “Progress is slow, but Harvey Milk was one of the first to set the wheels in motion. He more than deserves a movie this good.”


93%

2. No Country for Old Men

Brolin worked steadily during the 1990s, but for the most part, it was a pretty grim period for his filmography, critically speaking — even when he worked with big-name directors (as he did for Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda) or scored roles in high-profile projects (such as The Mod Squad and Hollow Man), the stars didn’t quite align. That all changed with No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a poor rancher (Brolin) who stumbles across a pile of ill-gotten cash and finds himself in the crosshairs of a psychotic bounty hunter (Javier Bardem). Not exactly the feel-good movie of the year, but No Country hit with a wallop, revitalizing Brolin’s career and reaping a wave of critical hosannas from writers like Time Out’s Geoff Andrew, who enthused, “A masterly tale of the good, the deranged and the doomed that inflects the raw violence of the west with a wry acknowledgement of the demise of codes of honour, this is frighteningly intelligent and imaginative.”


95%

1. True Grit

If you’re going to remake a movie as well-known (and critically beloved) as John Wayne’s True Grit, you’ll need a few things to make it work, including tons of chutzpah and a whole bunch of talent on the set. Fortunately for filmgoers, the 2010 version of the movie not only satisfied all of the above requirements — with the Coen brothers behind the cameras and an outstanding cast that included Brolin, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and (making her unforgettable debut) Hailee Steinfeld — but it brought something new to the table in the bargain, focusing on the story as told in Charles Portis’ novel rather than trying to out-Duke the Duke. The result was as charmingly idiosyncratic as you’d expect from the Coens, with Bridges and Damon affecting entertainingly outrageous frontier accents in their characters’ pursuit of the scumbag (Brolin) who murdered the father of a feisty young girl (Steinfeld), and picked up an impressive 10 Oscar nominations. While it didn’t win any, it did earn plenty of accolades from critics like Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, who wrote, “Some people are expressing amazement that Joel and Ethan Coen would set out to make a classic western in the first place, and then that they’d accomplish it. All I can say is that those folks haven’t been paying attention.”


In case you were wondering, here are Brolin’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. The Goonies — 91%

2. Milk — 89%

3. American Gangster — 87%

4. No Country for Old Men — 86%

5. True Grit — 85%

6. Planet Terror — 78%

7. In the Valley of Elah — 77%

8. Men in Black III — 71%

9. Flirting With Disaster — 69%

10. Bed of Roses — 68%


Take a look through Brolin’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Labor Day.

Finally, here’s Brolin in a totally rad scene from Thrashin’: