(Photo by Marvel Studios / Disney, 20th Century Fox, Miramax, TriStar)
For their bravery, wit, general badassery, and unbroken spirit in the face of enormous challenges (be they gender discrimination or acid-hissing aliens), we pay tribute to 87 Fearless Movie Women Who Inspire Us.
How did we arrive at our top 87? With the help of a fearless panel of women critics made up of some of the best writers in the industry, including a few on the Rotten Tomatoes staff. Starting with a long list of candidates, they whittled down the list to an initial set of 72 amazingly heroic characters and ordered them, crowning the most fearless woman movie hero in the process. Want to know more about the ladies who voted? We included their bios at the end! Then, in addition to their contributions, which make up the bulk of the list, we also added a handful of more recent entries chosen by the RT staff.
The final list (you can watch every movie in a special FandangoNOW collection) gives compelling insight into which heroes have resonated through the years, women whose big-screen impact remains even as the times change. We have the usual suspects along with plenty of surprises (Working Girl, your day has come!), and the only way to discover them all is reading on for the 87 fearless women movie heroes — and groups of heroes — who inspire us!
#1One of the appeals of science-fiction is the luxury to comment on modern issues and social mores, or even eschew them completely. Take a look at the diverse space crews in Star Trek, Sunshine, or Alien, where people are hired based on nothing but competence, and none have proven their competence under extreme pressure as well as Ellen Ripley. She’s tough, pragmatic, and cunning in Alien. Journey with Ripley into Aliens and we get to see her in a new light: mothering and nurturing with hints of deep empathy (Sigourney Weaver was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this performance), which only makes the Xenomorph-stomping side of her even more badass.
#2And on the other side of the Sigourney spectrum, Weaver here plays Katharine, a particular kind of woman who’s nasty to the competition: other women. The object of her scorn is her secretary, Tess McGill (played by Melanie Griffith), who has her great ideas stolen by Katharine. The plucky Tess in turn pretends to be her boss’s colleague, and proceeds to shake things up in this corporate Cinderella story. Who doesn’t dream of one day suddenly arriving in a higher echelon of society? Of course, it’s what you do once you get there that’s important, and the glowing and tenacious Tess makes the most of it.
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel)
#3Hard-drinking, ass-kicking Valkyrie makes no apologies for her choices and draws solid boundaries. Sure, she’s flawed, but that’s what makes her successes so sweet. That she’s played by Tessa Thompson doubles the fun.
(Photo by Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
#4Letitia Wright proved that a sister doesn’t have to sit in the shadow of her sibling simply because he’s king. Her Shuri has the smarts and the sass to cut her own path, making her technical genius essential not only to the Kingdom of Wakanda, but also the Avengers’ recent efforts to take down the tyrant Thanos.
#5Don’t ask us to choose a favorite among Hidden Figures’ Space Race heroines: Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson. The Oscar-nominated drama tells the story of a real-life team of female African-American mathematicians crucial to NASA’s early space program.
#6As Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron blazed a trail for enslaved post-apocalyptic cult wives in skimpy clothing – literally. With an assist from Max (Tom Hardy), soldier Furiosa set the road on fire to rescue her charges from madman Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), leader of the Citadel.
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd)
#7Daisy Ridley gave girls everywhere – and full-grown women, in truth – a fresh new hero to adore when she debuted in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Of humble origins, scrappy Rey overcomes her circumstances living as an orphan in a harsh environment to become an essential component in the Resistance. It helps, of course, that The Force is with her.
#8Despite her superpowers and privileged background, Gal Gadot as Diana – princess of Themyscira and the Amazons, daughter of Queen Hippolyta and King of the Gods Zeus – retains her humility and a genuine care for humanity. She’s also the most rock solid member of DC’s boys club of Justice League superheroes.
#9Come on…she’s Princess Leia. She leads the Rebel Alliance. She saves the galaxy again and again (with a little help from Luke, and Han, and Chewy). She eventually becomes a revered general, but from the very start – when she first confronts Darth Vader at the beginning of Episode IV – A New Hope – she shows a defiant, fiery nature that never dims. In her defining film role, Carrie Fisher brings impeccable comic timing to this cosmic princess.
#10Before she was Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence was Ree, the role that made her a star and earned her the first of four Oscar nominations. A no-nonsense teenager, Ree dares to brave the dangers lurking within the Ozark Mountains to track down her drug-dealing father and protect her siblings and their home. With each quietly treacherous encounter, she shows depth and instincts beyond her years, and a willingness to fight for what matters.
#11You can’t have any fear when you’re going up against Hannibal Lecter – or at least you can’t show it. He’ll sniff it out from a mile away. But what’s exciting about Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the young FBI cadet is the way she works through her fear, harnessing that nervous energy alongside her powerful intellect and dogged determination. Clarice Starling is a hero for every little girl who thought she wasn’t good enough.
#12Julia Roberts won a best-actress Oscar for her charismatic portrayal of this larger-than-life, real-life figure. Erin Brockovich is repeatedly underestimated because of the flashy way she dresses and the brash way she carries herself. But as a single mom who becomes an unlikely environmental advocate, she’s a steely fighter. What she lacks in book smarts, she more than makes up for with heart. Steven Soderbergh’s film is an inspiring underdog story.
#13Jane Craig is the toughest, sharpest, most prepared woman in the newsroom at all times, but she isn’t afraid to cry to let it all out when the pressure gets too great. Writer-director James L. Brooks created this feminist heroine, this workplace goddess, but Holly Hunter brilliantly brings her to life. She’s just so vibrant. Even when she’s sitting still (which isn’t often), you can feel her thinking. And while two men compete for her attention, no man could ever define her.
#14It would be easy to underestimate Marge Gunderson. Sure, she’s in a position of power as the Brainerd, Minnesota, police chief. But with her folksy manner – and the fact that she’s so pregnant, she’s about to burst – she’s not exactly the most intimidating figure. But in the hands of the brilliant Frances McDormand, she’s consistently the smartest and most fearless person in the room, and she remains one of the Coen brothers’ most enduring characters. You betcha.
#16Things Bridget Jones is prone to: accidents, fantasizing about sexy coworkers, worrying about her weight, and running mad into the snow wearing tiger-print underwear. All totally relatable things, so it’s no surprise she’s the highest-ranked romcom heroine on this list. It also doesn’t hurt that, at their best, Bridget’s movies are what romantic comedies aspire to: They’re fun, cute, and just when it feels like everything’s about to fall apart, there’s the exhilarating little twist at the end that leaves watchers feel like they’re floating on air.
#17It’s true that Cher is a little oblivious to the world at large, but she’s just so earnest and she tries so hard. She discovers a passion for doing good after successfully matchmaking a pair of teachers, and after a series of difficult lessons learned, she makes an honest effort to escape her privileged bubble and become a better person. Like we all should.
#18Thelma and Louise, best friends who stick by each other no matter what. And when their girls’ getaway weekend quickly turns from frivolous to frightening, they find even deeper levels of loyalty to each other. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon have an effortless chemistry with each other, and Ridley Scott’s intimate and thrilling film never judges these women for the decisions they make — or for the lengths to which they’ll go in the name of freedom.
#19Enduring racism, misogyny, and emotional, physical, and sexual violence, Celie (Whoopi Goldberg in her film debut) transcends her traumatic life in the rural South, finding friends, strength, and her own voice.
#20As a transgender waitress, Marina constantly endures cruelty and confusion from the ignorant people around her. When the one man who loves her for who she truly is dies unexpectedly, she finds herself in the midst of an even more emotional, personal fight. Transgender actress Daniela Vega initially was hired as a consultant on Sebastian Lelio’s film; instead, she became its star, and A Fantastic Woman deservedly won this year’s foreign-language Oscar.
#21Sarah Connor makes many want to be a better mother – or at least get to the gym and work on our triceps. The once-timid waitress crafts herself into a force of nature, a fearsome and visceral manifestation of pure maternal instinct. Played most memorably by Linda Hamilton in the first two Terminator movies, Sarah may seem unhinged, but she’s got laser-like focus when it comes to protecting her son, John, from the many threats coming his way.
#22The return of blaxploitation queen, Pam Grier! What’s not to love? Especially in Quentin Tarantino’s killer love letter to South Bay Los Angeles. As Jackie Brown, Grier exudes classic cool with a tough exterior.
#23Jessica Chastain has made a career of playing quick-witted characters with nerves of steel. Nowhere is this truer than in her starring role in Kathryn Bigelow’s thrilling depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Maya is obsessively focused in her pursuit of the al Qaeda leader. She’s a confident woman who has to be extra prepared to survive in a man’s world. But when the mission is over and she finally allows some emotion to shine through, it’s cathartic for us all.
#24She’s the smartest kid in the class, regardless of the subject. The hardest worker, too. And she’s proud of those qualities, making her an excellent role model for girls out there with an interest in math and science. But Hermione isn’t all about the books. Over the eight Harry Potter films, in Emma Watson’s increasingly confident hands, Hermione reveals her resourcefulness, loyalty, and grace. She’s a great student but an even better friend.
#25Howard Hawks’ celebrated screwball comedy benefited from a not-so-small change to the stage play it was based on: In the original The Front Page, Hildy Johnson was a male. But thanks to Rosalind Russell’s lively performance, as well as a few script changes she personally insisted upon, the character blossomed into an early icon of the independent working woman who’s not only just as effective at her job as her male counterparts, but also equally adept with a witty comeback.
#26Elastigirl takes on all the trials of motherhood: She’s got hyper kids, a bored husband, and has to witness certain parts of her body unperkify. Elastigirl also just happens to be a superhero, with the fate of the world resting on her shoulders.
#27Fans of the short-lived but beloved Fox sci-fi series Firefly were already familiar with Gina Torres‘ badassery as Zoe Washburne in Serenity. A veteran of the Unification War and second in command of the ship, Zoe is a strong and loyal ally who rarely pulls punches, whether she’s stating a controversial opinion or engaged in a literal fistfight. With her free spirit and deadly skills, it’s no wonder she became a fan favorite.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)
#28Dolly Parton is a national treasure, and 9 to 5 allows her to light up the screen with her sparkling, charismatic personality. But while Doralee may seem like a sweet Southern gal, she’s got a stiff backbone and a sharp tongue, and she isn’t afraid to use them when she’s crossed. When she finally stands up to her sexist bully of a boss alongside co-workers Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, it’s nothing short of a revolution – one that remains sadly relevant today.
(Photo by Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)
#29The story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is one that deserves to be told, and it’s Geena Davis‘ Dottie Hinson who grounds this fictional account. She’s a talented local player who becomes the star of the Rockford Peaches, and it’s her quick thinking that brings publicity to the sport. When her decision to play in the World Series leads to a spectacular finish, she also demonstrates a very human vulnerability, making her a strong but relatable heroine.
(Photo by Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection)
#30Jane Austen’s classic heroine Elizabeth Bennet jumps off the page in the 2005 film starring Keira Knightley, who gives audiences an intelligent, down-to-Earth, sometimes literally dirty, but uncompromisingly steadfast leading lady.
#31Never underestimate a sorority girl. They are organized and they know how to get what the want. In the case of Elle Woods, she goes after her law school goals with a smile on her face, a spring in her step, and an impeccably coordinated wardrobe. Reese Witherspoon is impossibly adorable in the role, with a potent combination of smarts and heart to shut down the naysayers who are foolish enough to judge her simply by her looks.
(Photo by Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)
#32Talk brashly and carry a big sword. As Tom Cruise’s character unravels a complex time travel sci-fi story, a constant in his fluctuating world is Rita Vrataski aka the killer Angel of Verdun. But Emily Blunt gives life to Rita beyond burgeoning love interest. She takes the lead and makes the movie just as much her’s.
#33When Nick Fury sent that mysterious intergalactic text message right before disappearing into dust at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, eager fans knew what was in store. As played by Brie Larson, Captain Marvel is one of the most powerful superheroes in the MCU — if not THE most powerful — and she’s in such high demand that she spends most of her time battling evil on other planets. She shows up when it counts, though, and she can rock a mowhawk like nobody’s business.
#35Played first in film by the groundbreaking star of the Star Trek TV series, Nichelle Nichols, the role was passed on to Zoe Saldana in the 2009 reboot film. Uhura, the USS Enterprise chief communications officer, was a critical crew member throughout the franchise in both TV and film.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)
#36Who can stand up to Hugh Jackman’s fierce Wolverine without flinching? His cloned daughter X-23. Dafne Keen imbued the preteen mutant, a.k.a. “Laura,” with a volatile mix of anger, despondency, obstinance, and hope – that we would very much like to see more of.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)
#37She’s Buffy. She slays vampires while juggling cheerleading and the SATs. But while Kristy Swanson gives the character a satricial bent, it’s the legendary TV adaptation that gives this character a lasting legacy. But the movie ain’t a bad place to start.
(Photo by Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)
All Jessica Chastain Movies Ranked
How many times now have we seen the fanfare of an “And Introducing…” in the credits of a movie, only to never hear of that person ever again? If you can’t think of any examples, that’s exactly the point.
But not so for Jessica Chastain. She would not fall casualty to this Madden cover curse of star billing, after her “And Introducing…” leading debut of 2008’s Jolene. The movie only got 48%, so it didn’t set the world on fire, but Chastain came back two years later with Stolen…which got 0%. Improbably, this only set the stage for a wild 5-movie Certified Fresh streak that would launch her career, featuring Coriolanus, The Tree of Life, The Help, The Debt, and Take Shelter.
Almost hard to believe Chastain has only been active on-screen for just over a decade, but she’s capitalized on her early Certified Fresh windfall. The Help got her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nom, and the next year she upgraded to competing in the Best Actress field for Zero Dark Thirty, which would go on to win Best Picture. Interstellar and The Martian made her synonymous with deep space hijinks (as if Tree of Life didn’t already), while Miss Sloane and Molly’s Game exhibits her style of high-level intensity.
And now Chastain is in the sequel to the highest-grossing horror movie ever, It Chapter Two, as grown-up Bev. As she’s chased on-screen by all manner of murder clowns and transformative terrors, we’re ranking all Jessica Chastain’s best movies (and her worst — hi, Dark Phoenix!) by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus:Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.
Synopsis: In Earth's future, a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand (Michael... [More]
Critics Consensus:Crimson Peak offers an engaging -- albeit somewhat slight -- diversion driven by a delightfully creepy atmosphere and director Guillermo del Toro's brilliant knack for unforgettable visuals.
Synopsis: After marrying the charming and seductive Sir Thomas Sharpe, young Edith (Mia Wasikowska) finds herself swept away to his remote... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though it fails to fully engage with its racial themes, The Help rises on the strength of its cast -- particularly Viola Davis, whose performance is powerful enough to carry the film on its own.
Synopsis: In 1960s Mississippi, Southern society girl Skeeter (Emma Stone) returns from college with dreams of being a writer. She turns... [More]
Critics Consensus: Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny, The Martian offers a faithful adaptation of the bestselling book that brings out the best in leading man Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott.
Synopsis: When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce... [More]
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
All Chris Pratt Movies Ranked
Chris Pratt’s ascendancy from bum living in a van down by the river Hawaiian shoreline to Star-Lord is one of those Hollywood fairy tales come true that gives hope to aspiring actors everywhere. But even when Pratt did break into the movies, his early filmography was mostly littered with secondary roles in comedies like Bride Wars, Jennifer’s Body, and Take Me Home Tonight. But Pratt is one to take things on the chin — literally, as he did in Wanted.
It was his role as Andy in NBC’s Parks and Recreation that gave him stability and steady visibility. The stars aligned for a legendary 2014 where he helped make two of the unlikeliest movies connect with audiences and critics: a space opera featuring talking trees and raccoons, and an emotionally affecting movie about sentient toy blocks. Pratt’s involvment with Marvel, LEGO, and then later the Jurassic franchise means he has your childhood pop culture and nostalgia under lock, and his role in Pixar’s Onward has the potential to become a sentimental favorite for a new generation. But enough prattlin’: Here’s all of Chris’ movies ranked by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: It has an undeniably sweet charm, and Vince Vaughn is eminently likable in the lead role, but The Delivery Man suffers in comparison to Starbuck, the hit Canadian comedy that inspired it.
Synopsis: Amiable slacker David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) drives a delivery truck for his family's company and is content with a life... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Magnificent Seven never really lives up to the superlative in its title -- or the classics from which it draws inspiration -- but remains a moderately diverting action thriller on its own merits.
Synopsis: Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek. With... [More]
Critics Consensus:Wanted is stylish, energetic popcorn fare with witty performances from Angelina Jolie (playing an expert assassin), James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman that help to distract from its absurdly over-the-top plot.
Synopsis: Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is an office worker whose life is going nowhere. After his estranged father is murdered, he... [More]
Critics Consensus:Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's action-packed plot, dazzling visuals, and irreverent humor add up to a sequel that's almost as fun -- if not quite as thrillingly fresh -- as its predecessor.
Synopsis: Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries... [More]
Critics Consensus:Avengers: Infinity War ably juggles a dizzying array of MCU heroes in the fight against their gravest threat yet, and the result is a thrilling, emotionally resonant blockbuster that (mostly) realizes its gargantuan ambitions.
Synopsis: Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the rest of the Avengers unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet --... [More]
Critics Consensus: It may suffer in comparison to Pixar's classics, but Onward makes effective use of the studio's formula -- and stands on its own merits as a funny, heartwarming, dazzlingly animated adventure.
Synopsis: Teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley embark on a magical quest to spend one more day with their late father.... [More]
As we celebrate America’s 241st birthday, this special 24 Frames gallery highlights Fresh and Certified Fresh patriotic movies for our long weekend of good food, family, and fireworks!
This week in streaming, we’ve got a couple of Oscar winners (Zero Dark Thirty, Les Misérables), a few Certified Fresh imports from France (including Rust and Bone and The Big Picture), and a thoughtful documentary (Bestiaire). In addition, you can catch up on Japanese master Akira Kurosawa’s films, as the Criterion Collection are making all of his films in their lineup available for free this weekend. Read on to find out what’s available to watch right now.
Jessica Chastain stars as a young CIA operative who relentlessly pursues leads into the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, which eventually result in a raid on the terrorist mastermind’s secret compound in Pakistan.
Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, an ex-con turned factory owner who takes care of his ex-employee Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and her daughter while avoiding the ruthless Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe).
Lastly, in celebration of the late Akira Kurosawa’s birthday, the Criterion Collection is making all of the iconic Japanese director’s films available to watch for free on Hulu until midnight on Sunday night. It’s the perfect chance to catch up on any you may have missed, including his masterpiece Seven Samurai!
Three of this week’s new releases on home video were recognized by the Academy with Oscar nominations this year, so that’s already a pretty good start. The other three selections include two comedies that earned mixed reactions and one French import featuring some impressive performances, and those are followed by a number of notable rereleases. See below for the full list!
After the success of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, it was impossible not to approach his interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit with high anticipation. When Jackson announced that The Hobbit — a single volume much shorter than the LOTR saga — would also be stretched into a trilogy, however, some fans expressed a bit of concern, and Jackson’s use of the higher frame rate was also met with mixed reactions. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey chronicles the first portion of the tale of young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is swept up in a journey alongside thirteen dwarves to recapture their kingdom, which has been usurped by a fearsome dragon named Smaug. With Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen, reprising his role from the Rings series) in tow, their quest leads them into perilous encounters with all sorts of creatures, including Gollum (Andy Serkis), whose fate is intimately tied to Bilbo’s. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was an “event movie,” if ever there was one, and while most critics found it both visually spectacular and evident of Jackson’s earnest affection, some also found that its pace was too deliberate and that it ultimately failed to meet the same standard for majesty and wonder that was set so high in Jackson’s previous trilogy. At 65% on the Tomatometer, this is probably still a trip worth taking.
Kathryn Bigelow took home a few Oscars for 2008’s The Hurt Locker, and she’s always had a knack for action flicks (“The FBI’s going to pay me to learn to surf?”), so it’s not entirely surprising that her gritty action/procedural about the search for Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, garnered five Oscar nods (including Best Picture and Best Actress) of its own. The story follows fledgling CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain) over the course of her entire career — which is dedicated to the capture of Osama bin Laden — as she collects intelligence, pursues leads, participates in classified interrogations, and ultimately oversees the mission to raid bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. There was some controversy over the kinds of access that Bigelow and writer Mark Boal (who also wrote The Hurt Locker) were allegedly given to classified records, as well as some grumbling over whether or not the film condoned torture, but the vast majority of critics simply saw a gripping, intelligently crafted film with an eye for detail. Certified Fresh at 93%, it was one of last year’s highest rated wide releases, so if you’re looking for a solid thriller, this one comes highly recommended.
Victor Hugo’s classic novel of redemption has been adapted several times before on both stage and screen, so it’s tempting to ask, “Is this a story worth revisiting again?” Most critics say yes, as did the Academy when it honored the film with eight Oscar nominations (it won three of them). Anyone who’s taken high school English will be familiar with the tale: Ex-convict Frenchman Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison in 1815 at the end of a 19-year sentence, and after benefiting from an act of kindness by a local bishop, he vows to live an honest life. Thus begins a sprawling historical narrative that follows several characters in Valjean’s life and culminates in the June Rebellion of France in 1832. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), Les Misérables received some attention for its actors singing live on set (some better than others), and though its story was familiar, its accomplished cast (including Best Supporting Actress winner Anne Hathaway) helped to elevate the film.
Judd Apatow’s been wearing his Producer hat more often lately, but he decided to jump back behind the camera again for This Is 40, the “sort-of sequel to Knocked Up,” as its poster so proudly proclaims. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Apatow’s wife) reprise their roles from that previous film as upper-middle-class married couple Pete and Debbie, who both celebrate their 40th birthdays. In the week between Debbie’s actual birthday and Pete’s party, audiences bear witness to the conversations, the arguments, the intimate moments, the public meltdowns, and everything in between that the couple experience with each other and their children (played by Maude and Iris Apatow, they of Judd and Leslie’s loins). Unfortunately, there were a lot of critics who just didn’t find This Is 40 to be a winning effort; while many conceded the film successfully made light of some hard truths, most also felt the story was unfocused and muddled, and that it appealed to too specific an audience.
We last heard from French filmmaker Jacques Audiard back in 2010, when his acclaimed film A Prophet was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Though his latest effort, Rust and Bone, failed to make it onto the Oscar list this year, it’s received a number of accolades, particularly for its acting. The film stars Matthias Schoenaerts as unemployed single father and aspiring kickboxer Alain, who moves to Antibes to live with his sister and look for work. After securing a job as a bouncer at a night club, Alain meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a whale trainer at the local marine park who forms a close relationship with Alain when she suffers a tragic accident that results in the amputation of her lower legs. A handful of critics felt Rust and Bone‘s third act could have been a little stronger, but most agreed that both Schoenaerts and Cotillard put in powerful performances here, and that Audiard’s script succeeds in being sensitive without veering into melodrama. Certified Fresh at 81%, it’s an unconventional love story that may move you if you give it a chance.
Much to the chagrin of its producers, Bachelorette was just about to start shooting when Bridesmaids hit theaters back in 2011, thereby snatching up the “female answer to The Hangover” crown. When it finally opened back in September of last year, however, its makers decided to take a chance and release it on Video On Demand a month ahead of time. The story centers around a group of friends who reunite when one of them (Rebel Wilson) announces she’s getting married. What ensues is a series of mishaps as the bridesmaids (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher) accidentally ruin the wedding dress and attempt to fix the situation, all after having insulted the bride and ingested copious amounts of booze and drugs. Critics were relatively split on Bachelorette; some thought it was funny and well-written by Leslye Headland (who also directed), but others felt the film’s leads were a bit too unlikeable to fully earn the sentimental ending. It might be a risk at 55%, but the cast — which includes Adam Scott, James Marsden, and Ann Dowd — may win you over.
The HBO original film The Girl, which explores Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship with Tippi Hedren.
The 1981 cult favorite sex comedy Porky’s (30%) on Blu-ray.
We at Rotten Tomatoes freely admit we’re not the world’s greatest Oscar prognosticators. Still, we did a bit better than usual this year; while there were some surprises (Sound Editing was a tie?!) and a few winners that aren’t all that surprising in retrospect, most of our predictions came true at the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Read on to see how our forecast squared with the final results!
Momentum has been building for Argo in the past few weeks; it took home best picture honors at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Critics’ Choice Awards (and not to toot our own horns, but it won the Golden Tomato Award for Best Wide Release as well). Argo hits several sweet spots that the Academy voters find irresistible: it’s inspirational, but loaded with historical gravitas; it was both a mainstream hit and a critical favorite; and, perhaps most importantly for voters, it’s a celebration of the power of movies and the people who make them. Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook have enjoyed some dark horse cache, but we think Argo will be the first film since Driving Miss Daisy to win Best Picture without garnering a Best Director nod.
This was the toughest category for RT editors to whittle down. At opposite ends of the age bracket, Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhané Wallis each gave remarkable performances, and Riva in particular could muster some votes. Even more likely is Naomi Watts, whose physically grueling work in The Impossible has also generated buzz. Early on, it looked like Jessica Chastain had this category all sewn up, as critics societies around the country were heaping praise on her. However, in the last couple months, all the Oscar mojo has seemingly shifted toward Jennifer Lawrence; with a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice, and a SAG award under her belt, we think Lawrence will walk away with the Oscar as well.
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Each of the nominees has an Oscar to his credit, so there aren’t any unjustly ignored sentimental favorites to choose from. Christoph Waltz won the BAFTA and the Golden Globe, but it seems unlikely he’ll win just a few short years after his breakout role in Inglourious Basterds. Robert DeNiro has a strong chance, especially since his work in Silver Linings Playbook helped to erase memories of the great actor’s string of mediocre films. However, we think Tommy Lee Jones – who was already honored by the Screen Actors Guild –will ultimately claim the Oscar.
INCORRECT – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained. We shouldn’t have discounted Waltz’s previous award season victories.
Anne Hathaway has enjoyed almost universal Oscar buzz since before Les Misérables even hit theaters, and her wins at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs confirm her status as the front-runner here. It’s possible, though unlikely, that either Helen Hunt or Jacki Weaver will steal this category; if Weaver wins, it could be an early sign that Silver Linings Playbook will have a huge night.
Since Ben Affleck was inexplicably snubbed in this category, we think Steven Spielberg will take home the hardware as a consolation prize.
INCORRECT – Ang Lee, Life of Pi. It just wasn’t Lincoln‘s night, and the Academy was obviously more enamored with Life of Pi overall. It’s still a mystery why Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated in this category.
The Usual Suspects, Fargo, Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Juno… The screenplay awards are the place where the Academy honors innovative stuff that’s a little too wild and wooly for Best Picture. Quentin Tarantino’s consolation prize for Pulp Fiction losing to Forrest Gump was a Best Original Screenplay trophy, and he’ll pick up another one for Django Unchained this year.
Following up on the last entry, we must make note of the fact that because there are two screenplay awards, it makes sense that one goes to something a little left of center, and the other goes to whatever won Best Picture. So chalk up Argo for the Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).
This was another contentious award for RT editors. In a year of particularly strong choices, we think it’s down to a three-way race between Searching for Sugar Man, The Invisible War, and The Gatekeepers, with the feel-good vibes of Sugar Man carrying the day over its more somber, issue-oriented peers.
Another tough call. We think the competition is ultimately between Brave and Wreck-It Ralph. However, because graying Academy voters can’t tell Call of Duty from The Call of the Wild, we’re gonna go with the little redhead. (It must be noted that RT editor-in-chief Matt Atchity insists Frankenweenie will win, loudly telling the rest of the staff, “You’re all wrong.” Sure thing, chief.)
John Williams is one of the most nominated figures in Academy history, and hasn’t won in a long time. We think he’ll win Oscar number six, but Mychael Danna’s eclectic score for Life of Pi could surprise some people.
INCORRECT – Life of Pi. We had a feeling Mychael Danna could steal this one, especially since John Williams has so many Oscars to his name already.
This looks like a tossup between Anna Karenina and Les Misérables. We decided to go with the period piece based on a classic novel. And when we realized we were being forced to choose between two period pieces based on classic novels, we picked Anna Karenina, because Leo Tolstoy had cooler facial hair than Victor Hugo.
INCORRECT – Lincoln. We got this one completely wrong. Probably should have considered the painstakingly recreated period detail of Civil War-era Washington.
The controversy over Zero Dark Thirty‘s politics have hurt its Oscar chances in a number of categories. Still, few questioned the film’s technical brilliance, and we think it’s here that Zero Dark Thirty will take home the hardware.
HALF CORRECT – Ties are rare in Oscar history, but not unprecedented. Zero Dark Thirty split the honor with Skyfall.
INCORRECT – Les Misérables. We were so focused on the pointy ears we neglected to take note of the grit and grime that accumulated on the faces of the actors portraying 19th Century Gauls.
Best Short Film – Live Action: Curfew
An idiosyncratic dramedy about a depressed writer tasked with babysitting his precocious niece, Curfew has racked up a bunch of festival awards, and we think it will add an Oscar to its haul.
Best Short Film – Animated: Paperman
Paperman is the wistful tale of an office drone who goes to great lengths to reconnect with a beautiful woman he glimpsed on the subway. It’s sweet, it’s beautifully animated, and it had the benefit of being the opening act for Wreck-It Ralph in theaters.
Best Documentary Short: Open Heart
This is a particularly solemn year for documentary shorts. We think Open Heart, the tale of eight Rwandan children traveling to Sudan for heart surgery, will earn both tears and votes from Academy members.
INCORRECT – Inocente, the story of a homeless girl who dreams of becoming an artist, took home the Oscar.
The 85th Academy Awards are scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 24th in Los Angeles, and if you’re looking for the winners, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be updating this article with each of the Oscar winners as they are announced, so if you don’t have easy access to the telecast, be sure to check back here!
Three films entered wide release shoving holiday holdovers to the side while major Oscar nominees cashed in on the added attention. Leading the way was the Osama bin Laden manhunt pic Zero Dark Thirty which captured the number one spot in its first weekend of wide release following a strong run in limited play. The spoof comedy A Haunted House pulled off an upset by opening in second place ahead of the all-star crime drama Gangster Squad which was in a thousand more theaters. Overall, the marketplace was vibrant inching ahead of the same frame from the last two years which was impressive since those had the added boost of being the MLK holiday weekend. The top four films are all R-rated and five of the top seven movies have running times of two-and-a-half to three hours.
Fighting off controversy and a major Oscar snub, Sony’s awards hopeful Zero Dark Thirty surged to the top with an estimated $24M weekend easily leading the field of movie options. The Kathryn Bigelow-directed hit averaged a solid $8,172 from 2,937 locations after expanding from 60 sites last week. The total stands at $29.5M.
After winning a number of best picture awards from critics groups in the northeast, Zero nabbed five Academy Award nominations on Thursday including Best Picture, but not Director which was widely expected to be a lock. In addition, many U.S. Senators have publicly complained about how the film implies that illegal torture methods by the CIA helped in leading to the capture and killing of the terrorist mastermind. The controversy may have sparked curiosity among adult moviegoers and helped to drive in extra traffic. How it will affect Oscar voters in the weeks to come is anyone’s guess.
Zero has earned rave reviews from critics and an encouraging A- CinemaScore grade from moviegoers polled on Friday. The R-rated film inched up only 3% on Saturday from Friday. Adult men made up the core crowd as males accounted for 59% of the audience while 62% was over 30. An opening this strong targeted at this audience when major football playoffs are going on both on Saturday and Sunday is especially impressive. The road ahead will not be easy as Hollywood has decided to squeeze five action films into the next three weeks hoping all will connect with ticket buyers.
Open Road scored a big hit with its spoof comedy A Haunted House which surged higher than expected with an opening weekend of $18.8M, according to estimates. Averaging a sturdy $8,712 from 2,160 theaters in the U.S. (it did not open in Canada), the R-rated laugher is a parody of recent found-footage horror hits like the Paranormal Activity series and connected with its target audience of older teens and young adults. In fact this audience was utterly ignored by Hollywood in December and has been responding this month with House and last weekend’s top film Texas Chainsaw 3D both overperforming on opening weekend. House stars and was co-written by Marlon Wayans who has had success in the spoof genre throughout his career. The CinemaScore was a disappointing B-.
Settling for third place was the all-star crime drama Gangster Squad with an estimated $16.7M from 3,103 theaters for a moderate $5,385 average. The Warner Bros release had the most theaters and starpower of any of the weekend’s three wide openers but attracted the least amount of business. Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Emma Stone star in the R-rated pic set in 1949 and the cast worked hard in recent weeks by splitting up and appearing on talk shows in New York and Los Angeles.
But reviews were generally negative impacting a film that skews to an older adult audience. Studio research showed that 58% of the crowd was under 35 while males and females were evenly split. The CinemaScore was a decent B+ grade but sales dipped 8% on Saturday from Friday. The other new films enjoyed increases on Saturday.
Best Picture nominee Django Unchained dropped 45% to an estimated $11.1M in its third weekend of release raising its total to a sturdy $125.4M. That makes it Quentin Tarantino’s highest grossing film ever surpassing the $120.5M of his last effort, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds which was also a nominee for Best Picture. Django is also on track to surpass The King’s Speech to become the top-grossing title ever for The Weinstein Co. Also in the race for the big prize, Universal’s hot musical Les Misérables declined by a lower amount, 37%, and collected an estimated $10.1M for a cume to date of $119.2M. A similar $115.1M has been taken in abroad for a global tally of $234.3M.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey took a bigger tumble falling 48% to an estimated $9.1M for a cume to date of $278.1M for Warner Bros. The global tally rose to $886.1M with China still to open, tentatively in late February. 12 Oscar nominations juiced the grosses for awards frontrunner Lincoln which climbed up 17% from last weekend without any significant expansion. An estimated $6.3M weekend was enough to send the presidential pic over the $150M mark to a total to date of $152.6M with much more to come. As a director, Lincoln is Spielberg’s 12th blockbuster to break the $150M domestic mark and he has become the only one ever to score such hits over five consecutive decades.
With all the new films carrying R ratings, Fox’s PG-rated comedy Parental Guidance remained the only major choice for families slipping only 37% to an estimated $6.1M and $60.7M to date. Texas Chainsaw 3D, the new year’s first chart-topper, took a freefall tumbling from first place all the way down to ninth with an estimated $5.2M for a terrible 76% nosedive in the sophomore frame. The Lionsgate release has banked $30.8M in ten days.
Cashing in on Oscar nominations, Silver Linings Playbook enjoyed an impressive 38% bump in sales from last weekend with an estimated $5M weekend. The acclaimed dramedy averaged a solid $6,173 from 810 locations adding just 65 theaters from last weekend. The Weinstein Co. has been unbelievably patient in its roll-out of the Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence hit and will now go fully nationwide on Friday in its tenth weekend of release expanding to 2,500+ theaters for the long MLK holiday session.
By being the last of the major Oscar contenders to go nationwide, it hopes to capitalize on the heat of its theatrical release and score better votes during the time when Academy members are actually casting ballots for winners. It hopes others will have peaked and become old news by then. Aside from frontrunner Lincoln, only two other movies scored broad support with nominations in the five key categories of picture, director, editing, screenplay, and acting – Life of Pi and Playbook. But only Playbook has the wizardry of Harvey Weinstein behind it.
Tied for tenth place according to estimates was Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher with an estimated $5M, off 46%, for a $72.8M cume for Paramount.
Older films scoring Oscar nominations for Best Picture enjoyed new interest from moviegoers. Nominated for 11 awards, Life of Pi kept on chugging away towards the century club with another $2.7M, according to estimates, for a low 5% dip. The Fox hit has grossed $94.8M domestically. Worldwide surged to $452.2M with the half-billion barrier ready to come down next week.
Warner Bros. expanded its October awards darling Argo after nabbing seven Oscar nominations by doubling its run from 302 to 621 theaters. The weekend gross saw a 57% bump to an estimated $1.2M giving the Ben Affleck film $111.6M to date.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $112.4M which was up 6% from last year when Contraband opened at number one with $24.3M; and up 4% from 2011 when The Green Hornet debuted in the top spot with $33.5M.
This week’s Ketchup actually represents a full three weeks since the last true Weekly Ketchup was published on December 21, 2012. Even so, most of these stories actually did happen in the last seven days, because the period before and after Christmas and New Year’s is a time when Hollywood is basically a ghost town as far as movie development goes. Included in the mix are stories involving Tina Fey, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brad Pitt, and directors Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and Robert Rodriguez.
This Week’s Top Story
THIS YEAR’S OSCAR NOMINATIONS RESULT IN DIRECTORIAL SNUBS AND AT LEAST ONE AGE-RELATED CONTROVERSY
Every year, the Academy Award nominations make the news. Besides the actual awards themselves, it’s one of the few times in a year when movies make major headlines based (ostensibly) on their actual “quality,” and not just, say, box office and celebrity cachet (though those are also factors as well). Let’s get some crucial linkage out of the way right here, which takes you to RT’s list of nominations. Also, over at Deadline, you can see the nominations by movie, and by studio. And now, to the controversies. In the director category, there is the whole matter of two names being omitted from the field of five: Ben Affleck (Argo) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty). Curiously, both films in question involved true stories about CIA agents and their activities in Islamic nations. The other big story involved the Sundance surprise hit Beasts of the Southern Wild, and specifically, that film’s star Quvenzhané Wallis, who was only 8 when the movie was filmed, and who is now a Best Actress nominee for her first role. The controversy there is basically about whether child actors should receive the same sort of honors that adult actors receive, often after decades of work before ever receiving their first nomination (and many never do). Seth McFarlane will host the 85th Academy Awards on ABC on Sunday, February 24th, 2013. There will be jokes.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S NEXT WILL BE SPIELBERG CAST OFF INTERSTELLAR
If the result of Steven Spielberg having too many films in development is this story, maybe he should develop even more: To follow up The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan has selected the science fiction film Interstellar, which was formerly one of Spielberg’s future post-Lincoln projects. Inspired by the work of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, Interstellar involves “a group of explorers traveling through a wormhole, where they encounter time travel and alternate dimensions.” Nolan will be rewriting his brother Jonathan Nolan’s original script to incorporate his own story idea. Interstellar is based at Paramount Pictures, but since Nolan has a long relationship with Warner Bros, that studio will also be coming aboard to co-produce and likely co-distribute the film. Going back to Steven Spielberg very briefly, he also made the news this week because filming of his science fiction movie Robopocalypse (starring Anne Hathaway and Chris Hemsworth) has been delayed for a while so that additional work on the script can be done. Blame budget concerns and all that.
#2 BRAD PITT TO MAKE SURE THAT PONTIUS PILATE WASHED HIS HANDS (AND SEALED HIS FATE)
Brad Pitt is circling the lead role as Pontius Pilate in the eponymous historical epic that Warner Bros is currently developing. The Deadline story describes Pontius Pilate as “one of history’s most vilified figures,” but exactly how the Bible describes Pilate’s role is apparently up for debate and interpretation. Pontius Pilate was, of course, the Roman Prefect for the Roman province of Judaea from 26-36 A.D., the duties of which included deciding what to do with a local rabbi named Jesus. Pontius Pilate will be based upon a screenplay by screenwriter Vera Blasi, who wrote the 2000 film Woman on Top, and cowrote Tortilla Soup and the upcoming Douglas McArthur movie Emperor. In addition to the title character, Jesus, and a whole bunch of angry Jerusalem citizens, Blasi’s script also includes appearances by the emperors Tiberius and Caligula, and John the Baptist, Salome, and Mary Magdalene.
#3 JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT AND JOSH BROLIN JOIN THE PREQUEL SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
Director Robert Rodriguez has been filming the prequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For against green screens in Austin since October, but it was only this past week that some of the bigger casting news has emerged. First, there was the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, hot off both The Dark Knight Rises and Looper, has signed on to play a “cocky gambler” named Johnny. The next day, it was revealed that Josh Brolin will be playing the lead role of Dwight, which was previously played in the first Sin City by Clive Owen. Christopher Meloni from Law & Order: SVU and True Blood will also be playing a “disreputable cop.” These three actors join an ensemble cast which already included returning cast Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jamie King, and Mickey Rourke, and new additions Jamie Chung and Dennis Haysbert (of 24 and those insurance commercials). Dimension Films will release Sin City: A Dame to Kill For on October 4, 2013.
#4 THE STAR OF THE GODZILLA REBOOT MAY KICK-ASS
Just a few weeks after all of the press for Guillermo Del Toro’s giant monster event film Pacific Rim, the period since Christmas has now seen a lot of press highlighting the studio’s reboot of Godzilla. Two of the three main Godzilla stories can be interpreted as “Fresh,” but let’s start with the bad news. The gist is that Legendary Pictures has filed suit to remove three producers from the reboot, and to also stop a potential restraining order filed by those producers against the production. This is probably of most interest to people who are, you know, interested in… entertainment legal news. There’s a fanbase for everything, one has to presume. Of more potential interest to people reading this column for clues about what the movie may actually be like, Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Walking Dead) has signed on to do a “final rewrite” of the Godzilla script. Even more significantly, the casting of the lead role in Godzilla has gone from a short list (which included Henry Cavill, Caleb Landry Jones, and Scott McNairy) to being narrowed down to Aaron Johnson, star of Kick-Ass. Of course, what we don’t know is what exactly that role involves, but one has to guess if Aaron Johnson signs on, he will probably spend a lot of time staring up at a green screen, shouting something like “Gojira! Gojira!” Matthew Broderick, Hank Azaria, and Maria Pitillo won’t be in this one when Warner Bros releases it on May 16, 2014.
#5 TINA FEY’S BOSSYPANTS WILL NOT HAVE A HAND UP THEM, BUT SHE MAY BE IN THE MUPPETS SEQUEL
Tina Fey is in late negotiations with Walt Disney Pictures to take the female lead role in the sequel to the 2011 relaunch of The Muppets. If Fey signs on, she will be reuniting with Ricky Gervais, with whom she costarred in The Invention of Lying. The Muppets sequel (which still lacks an official title) will be a caper across Europe, with Ty Burrell from Modern Family playing an Interpol agent. Christoph Waltz was formerly expected to be playing that agent, but it turns out that he might still have a cameo role, and if he does, it will involve dancing with Miss Piggy. So, there you go. There’s a very good chance that Disney will be releasing the Muppets sequel in less than a year as part of the Christmas 2013 holiday movie season.
#6 WES ANDERSON CASTS ENOUGH ACTORS TO ACTUALLY FILL UP AN ESTABLISHMENT CALLED GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Thankfully, this story didn’t have to be reported completely piecemeal, or Wes Anderson’s next film Grand Budapest Hotel might have taken up a month of Fridays. The director (Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore), who isn’t new to working with large, celebrity-filled ensemble casts, is kicking it up a notch in this next film, set at a hotel in the Hungarian capital back in the 1920s. Ralph Fiennes will play the hotel concierge, and the other lead role will be played by Hanna star Saoirse Ronan. For the rest of the cast, we might as well just go alphabetical: F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Bob Balaban (revealed by the actor on Facebook), Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, and Jude Law will represent the first half of the alphabet. Then there’s Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Owen Wilson to represent the second half. Anderson has worked with a lot of these actors before, but it’s possibly more fun for you (and less work for me), if this writer just lets you, dear readers, figure out which ones played whom in what.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 FILE UNDER SEQUELS FEW WERE EXPECTING OR DEMANDING: THE HEBREW HAMMER VS HITLER
First off, this writer should note that back at Sundance in 2003, he was quick to jump on the bandwagon for an indie comedy called The Hebrew Hammer. At the time, it seemed like it might just be the next movie to explode in popularity after a strong Park City debut (that used to be “a thing”). Instead, The Hebrew Hammer made its debut as a Comedy Central premiere 11 months later, with only an obligatory limited release in theaters soon after. As a very quick primer, the comedic conceit behind The Hebrew Hammer was that it was a spoof of blaxploitation movies filtered through Jewish culture, with Adam Goldberg playing the lead character. The result was a lot like Undercover Brother, but with Andy Dick as the evil son of Santa Claus. Anyway, it’s now ten years later, and a sequel is coming together which be called The Hebrew Hammer Versus Hitler. The joke this time around will involve the Hebrew Hammer traveling back in time to take on the Third Reich, and along the way through history, he teams up with another famous Jew, Jesus Christ. It’s not yet known if this sequel will get a better theatrical release than the original film. The first movie got a “Rotten” RT Tomatometer rating of 52%, which is why this is one of the column’s “Rotten Ideas” this week.
#2 R.I.P. SNAKES ON A PLANE DIRECTOR DAVID R. ELLIS
Whatever the critics might think of a movie (or in this case, several movies), it’s still sad when we hear about a filmmaker being taken from us prematurely. And so, this column unfortunately has to announce (for those who missed it at the time) that David R. Ellis, the director of such films as Snakes on a Plane, Shark Night 3D, and The Final Destinationdied on January 7, while preparing to film the anime adaptation Kite in South Africa. Samuel L. Jackson was to have starred in that movie, the production of which is now probably scrapped. No cause of death is yet known. David R. Ellis was 60.
#1 BEING THE FIRST NEW #1 MOVIE OF 2013 EARNS TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D A SEQUEL (OR MAYBE NOT)
Opening up against a very strong field of late 2012 movies (including lots of Oscar contenders), Texas Chainsaw 3D did well enough to open at #1 in its first weekend with over $24 million in domestic box office. This quickly led to online news that Millennium Films was already developing a sequel to the film. Normally, that would be both the beginning and the end of the story (because, really, what else more is there to say about a story like this?). However, the surprise that came later in the week was that there is still some dispute about whether or not a sequel has indeed be greenlit, due to a disagreement about who has the right to make such a decision. Regardless, none of the writing in that link actually says there won’t be a Texas Chainsaw 3D sequel, either, which leaves us at square one. There will probably be more chainsaws, in Texas, in the future, in 3D.
Gangster Squad has a lot of promise: it’s a true crime tale with a star-studded cast bathed in the dark shadows of film noir. Unfortunately, critics say the film is largely a case of style over substance, and beneath its stylish veneer lies a shopworn script and an excessive amount of violence. It’s the late 1940s, and Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the Los Angeles underworld with help from a cadre of crooked cops. That is, until straight-arrow lawmen John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) assemble a clandestine crew of LAPD officers to take Cohen down. The pundits say Gangster Squad looks terrific, and its actors inhabit their roles well, but its script apes older gangland classics without bringing much new to the table. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Gosling’s best-reviewed films, as well as our video interviews with the cast.)
The story of the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden was so dramatic — and so fraught with political import — that it required a great filmmaker to bring it to the screen. Critics say Kathryn Bigelow, who won a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, is up to the task, and Zero Dark Thirty is a pulse-quickening thriller that presents the nuts and bolts of the operation with complexity and smarts. Jessica Chastain stars as Maya, a young CIA operative who relentlessly pursues leads into the whereabouts of the terrorist mastermind, which eventually result in a raid on bin Laden’s secret compound in Pakistan. The pundits say the Certified FreshZero Dark Thirty is an urgent piece of moviemaking, one that captures not only the milieu of driven professionals but also the national mood after the traumatic effects of 9/11.(Check out our interviews with stars Chastain and Jason Clarke.)
January is often a dumping ground for mediocre movies, and the lack of pre-release screenings for A Haunted House indicates that it’s probably pretty bad. A Haunted House is a cameo-laden parody of found footage horror films like Paranormal Activity. Once again, it’s time to guess the Tomatometer! (And take a look through our gallery of memorable 3D horror movies.)
Horrid Henry: The Movie, a kiddie flick about a mischievous rascal whose failure to submit his homework leads to a series of wacky events, is at 10 percent.
Finally, props to George Patchell for coming the closest to guessing Texas Chainsaw 3D‘s 21 percent Tomatometer.>
Two of the nicest people in real life star in a movie about the not-so-nice realities of government operations in Zero Dark Thirty. Jessica Chastain plays Maya, the driving force behind the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, and Jason Clarke plays Dan Stanton, an interrogator for the CIA. Here, Grae Drake does some interrogating of her own, although it ends much differently for them than it did for Osama.
Sometimes a relatively generic story can be redeemed by a confident central performance. Case in point: Jack Reacher, which critics say is a solid crime thriller that greatly benefits from Tom Cruise’s movie star charisma. Cruise stars as the title character, a former Army M.P. who’s called in to investigate a mass shooting, and soon discovers that he’s up against a dangerous foe. The pundits say Jack Reacher doesn’t lack for clichés, it’s a competent and tense piece of work, and Cruise is cool and compelling. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames for a pictorial overview of Cruise’s career.)
Judd Apatow‘s films frequently balance laughs and pathos with a deft hand, and while critics say This Is 40 is uneven, it’s thought-provoking and occasionally hilarious. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles from Knocked Up, playing an affluent married couple dealing with the stresses of parenthood, financial insecurity, familial relations, and hard-to-break habits. The pundits say This Is 40 is overlong and sometimes aimless, but it’s buoyed by a terrific cast, a perceptive script, and some very funny moments.
Barbra Streisand is so rarely in films these days that her starring role in The Guilt Trip should be cause for excitement. Unfortunately, the critics say that while she and Seth Rogen share an easy chemistry, it’s largely wasted in a formulaic plot. Rogen stars as an inventor who plans to drive cross-country to pitch his newest product. He invites his overbearing mom along in an attempt to fix her up with an old boyfriend in San Francisco. The pundits say The Guilt Trip is undeniably sweet, and the leads are in fine form, but there are absolutely no surprises to be found in the script.
If those whimsical acrobats from Cirque Du Soleil aren’t making a tour stop in your town, Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away is a decent overview; critics say this 3D extravaganza offers thrilling evidence of the troupe’s skills, even if it doesn’t quite match the experience of seeing them live. Producer James Cameron and director Andrew Adamson utilize a minimal narrative — a girl visits a circus and is transported into Cirque Du Soleil’s dreamworld — as an excuse to create a best-of package of the company’s various stage shows. The pundits say Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away features plenty of eye-popping imagery, but it may not win over those who don’t already love the group.
With Monsters University hitting theaters next year, now is as good a time as any to revisit the world of Monsters, Inc. which is getting the rerelease treatment this week in glorious 3D. This tale of a pair of monsters who can’t seem to frighten one tenacious little girl is one of Pixar’s classics; like most of the studio’s output, it’s Certified Fresh.