Anthony Hopkins was such a fixture on the Oscars circuit during the ’90s that it was a shock to learn his nomination at this Academy Awards is his first in 20 years. After winning Best Actor for Silence of the Lambs in 1992, and getting nominated every two years after that for The Remains of the Day, Nixon, and then Amistad, the knighted actor would have to wait two decades before The Two Popes would put him officially back in the running for Oscar gold.
Of course, the awards are just one aspect of a legendary career that is now spanning into its seventh decade, one that started with a major role in 1968’s The Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. A Bridge Too Far, Magic, and The Elephant Man would be among Hopkins’ highlights in the years that followed, opening into an epic run in the ’90s, beginning with immortalizing Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Besides his Oscar-nominated hits, other films of the decade include Howards End, Legend of the Fall, The Mask of Zorro, and Meet Joe Black, guaranteeing Hopkins was inescapable no matter what movies you were into.
Hopkins returned to the Dr. Lecter for Hannibal and Red Dragon. And his most memorable roles in recent years play into his effortless gravitas, like a famed director in Hitchcock, Methuselah in Noah, Odin in the Thor trilogy, and one-half of The Two Popes, for which he was nominated for his latest acting Oscar. Lately, there was Elyse, and The Father, which drew some of the strongest reviews of his career. Now, we’re taking a look back and ranking Anthony Hopkins movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Cacophonous, thinly plotted, and boasting state-of-the-art special effects, The Last Knight is pretty much what you'd expect from the fifth installment of the Transformers franchise.
Synopsis: Humans are at war with the Transformers, and Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving the future lies buried... [More]
Critics Consensus: Don't let the title -- or the talented cast -- fool you: The Virtuoso falls far shy of even base level competency in its attempts to wring fresh excitement from a threadbare assassin thriller setup.
Synopsis: Danger, deception, and murder descend upon a sleepy country town when a professional assassin (Anson Mount) accepts a new assignment... [More]
Critics Consensus: While it's still hard to argue with its impeccable cast or the fun they often seem to be having, Red 2 replaces much of the goofy fun of its predecessor with empty, over-the-top bombast.
Synopsis: Former CIA black-ops agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and his old partner, Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), are caught in the... [More]
Critics Consensus: Despite best intentions from director Emilio Estevez and his ensemble cast, they succumb to a script filled with pointless subplots and awkward moments working too hard to parallel contemporary times.
Synopsis: In 1968 the lives of a retired doorman (Anthony Hopkins), hotel manager (William H. Macy), lounge singer (Demi Moore), busboy... [More]
Critics Consensus: Featuring a swoon-worthy star turn by Brad Pitt, Legends of the Fall's painterly photography and epic sweep often compensate for its lack of narrative momentum and glut of melodramatic twists.
Synopsis: In early 20th-century Montana, Col. William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) lives in the wilderness with his sons, Tristan (Brad Pitt), Alfred... [More]
Critics Consensus:Chaplin boasts a terrific performance from Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role, but it isn't enough to overcome a formulaic biopic that pales in comparison to its subject's classic films.
Synopsis: Re-creation of the life of comic genius Charlie Chaplin, from his humble beginnings in south London through his early days... [More]
Critics Consensus: Overblown in the best sense of the word, Francis Ford Coppola's vision of Bram Stoker's Dracula rescues the character from decades of campy interpretations -- and features some terrific performances to boot.
Synopsis: Adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel. Gary Oldman plays Dracula whose lonely soul is determined to reunite with his... [More]
Critics Consensus: Sharper and wittier than your average period piece, The Lion in Winter is a tale of palace intrigue bolstered by fantastic performances from Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, and Anthony Hopkins in his big-screen debut.
Synopsis: It's Christmas 1183, and King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) is planning to announce his successor to the throne. The jockeying... [More]
Critics Consensus: David Lynch's relatively straight second feature finds an admirable synthesis of compassion and restraint in treating its subject, and features outstanding performances by John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.
Synopsis: Dr. Frederic Treves (Anthony Hopkins) discovers Joseph (John) Merrick (John Hurt) in a sideshow. Born with a congenital disorder, Merrick... [More]
Critics Consensus: Director Jonathan Demme's smart, taut thriller teeters on the edge between psychological study and all-out horror, and benefits greatly from stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.
Synopsis: Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice... [More]
Critics Consensus: Thanks to brilliant performances from Debra Winger and especially Anthony Hopkins, Shadowlands is a deeply moving portrait of British scholar C.S. Lewis's romance with American poet Joy Gresham.
Synopsis: C. S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins), the renowned author of "The Chronicles of Narnia" series, is a bachelor and Oxford University... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Dresser brilliantly showcases two of the most gifted actors of their generation within a thoughtful, well-executed production offering intelligent commentary on the human condition.
Synopsis: In a touring Shakespearean theatre company, backstage hand Norman is devoted to the brilliant but tyrannical head of the company,... [More]
Get your hot patty of 1950s Americana this Friday with The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as the entrepreneur who transformed McDonald’s from a San Bernardino local joint into the global food megalith during the baby boomer decade. Founder inspires this week’s completely cool, multi-purpose gallery: true stories (all Fresh!) enlightening our values, fears, and triumphs of the ’50s.
This week on home video, we’ve got four new releases that are Certified Fresh, including one multiple Oscar-winner, one animated adventure, a music doc, and an indie drama about alcoholism. On top of that, there’s also the relatively well-received biopic about Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho and a quirky Sean Penn-powered road trip drama. Lastly, we have a feature adaptation of the famed Cirque du Soleil troupe’s performances, as well as a handful of notable reissues. See below for the full list!
Yann Martel’s 2001 novel Life of Pi was a worldwide success, so it’s not surprising that development of a film adaptation began as early as 2003. Many considered the book “unfilmable,” however, so we didn’t get the movie until Ang Lee took up the helm (after several others dropped out) and felt technology was up to snuff to tell the story. The fantasy adventure revolves around Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma), an Indian teen whose parents own a struggling zoo and decide to sell all their animals to a buyer in Canada, where the family will settle. En route to Winnipeg, their freighter encounters a massive storm that wrecks the ship and leaves Pi stranded alone on a lifeboat with a few animals, including a fearsome Bengal tiger. Like its source novel, Life of Pi was met with both critical and commercial success, and was nominated for eleven Academy Awards; it won four Oscars, including Best Director for Ang Lee. Certified Fresh at 88%, it’s a trasportive, beautifully shot, technically impressive film, even if its underlying message may not resonate with everyone.
Another film based on a book (or series of books, rather, authored by William Joyce), Rise of the Guardians reimagines mythical childhood figures like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost as warrior-like protectors of the world’s children — in addition to their regular duties delivering presents and hiding Easter eggs, that is. Voiced by Chris Pine, Jack Frost is a bit of a mischief maker, starting snowball fights and conjuring blizzards, until he’s recruited by the existing guardians to help defeat Pitch (Jude Law), a dark spirit intent on taking over the world. In the process, Jack discovers both his true worth as a guardian and the secrets of his past life. Though critics felt the story itself could have been a little more focused, they also liked the clever premise of the film, as well as its lush animation and brisk pacing. Certified Fresh at 74%, Rise of the Guardians is a fresh take on some familiar characters that most will be able to appreciate.
Screenwriter Sacha Gervasi’s directorial debut, 2007’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil, earned heaps of praise, so hopes were high for his film about Alfred Hitchcock, especially considering Anthony Hopkins would be filling in the role of the great director and Helen Mirren would be playing his wife and collaborative partner, Alma Reville. Hitchcock specifically chronicles the director’s efforts to finance and produce Psycho and the tumultuous relationship that resulted between him and Reville during the making of the film. Although critics would have liked to see a bit more subtlety and insight, most found the film stylishly directed and worth watching, even if only for the inspired performances from Hopkins and Mirren. At 63% on the Tomatometer, Hitchcock isn’t the be all and end all of biopics on The Master of Suspense, but it’s a well-acted glimpse into his life and old Hollywood.
Last year, musician Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) purchased a vintage Neve 8028 mixing console from Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, where he had taken part in recording the seminal Nirvana album Nevermind in 1991. The purchase inspired him to direct a documentary recounting the history of the influential studio, which oversaw the recording of several rock legends and musical icons ranging from Neil Young, Elton John, and Grateful Dead to Barry Manilow, Weezer, Metallica, and many more before it closed in 2011. Peppered with interviews and performances by many of those artists, Sound City weaves together the complete story of the studio and culminates in the purchase that inspired the film in the first place. The film, which opened in limited release just a month ago, has so far earned a 100% Tomatometer, with critics calling it an affectionately crafted passion project that’s thrilling, nostalgic, and a must-see for music fans.
Cirque du Soleil has been an expanding Las Vegas mainstay for several years now, but they’ve been a touring troupe for even longer, their television specials have won awards, and they’ve adapted their shows into films before. This latest venture, Worlds Away, is unique in that it also offers a 3D perspective for the first time, and what’s more? It’s James Cameron-approved 3D. Though it is, in fact, just another showcase for the talents of its performers, there is a narrative framing device: a young woman named Mia (Erica Linz) visits the local circus and falls into a dreamlike world with an aerialist; in order for the two to reunite, they must traverse the various tents of the circus and navigate through their performances. Critics were fairly split here; while some thought the film incoherently plotted and most conceded it was inferior to its live equivalent, others felt it was still beautiful to look at and entertaining enough. At 46%, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away won’t compare to the real thing, but it’s not too bad if you can’t make it to one of the live shows.
Aaron Paul has already built up a considerable fanbase from his role in Breaking Bad, but while Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s star is slowly rising, she hadn’t quite landed the starring role that showcases her talents properly… until Smashed came along. In this low key indie, Paul and Winstead play Charlie and Kate, a young married couple who both decide to come to terms with their alcoholism. When Kate, an elementary schoolteacher, vomits in the middle of class, then drunkenly succumbs to smoking crack later that same night, she consequently joins group therapy and resolves to change her life. Critics roundly applauded Winstead’s performance, as well as director James Ponsoldt’s sensitive direction and the film’s melodrama-free script, en route to a Certified Fresh 84% on the Tomatometer. Costarring Nick Offerman, Octavia Spencer, and Mary Kay Place, Smashed failed to generate much heat at the box office, but here’s hoping it leads to more substantial roles for Winstead.
At first glance, This Must Be the Place might seem simply like the latest in a long line of quirky indie comedy-dramas: Sean Penn, looking like a cross between Bono and Edward Scissorhands, is aging former rock star Cheyenne, who travels home to New York from Ireland in order to reconcile with his estranged father as he lies on his deathbed. Though his father dies before he arrives, Cheyenne soon discovers that he was an Auschwitz survivor whose lifelong mission was to track down the man who abused him there; Cheyenne takes up his father’s quest and sets out across the US to find his father’s persecutor. It’s a strange tale, to be sure, but critics mostly found it surprisingly touching, buoyed by Penn’s oddly charismatic performance. At 68%, This Must Be the Place might be a little too off-kilter for some, but if you give it a chance, it might surprise you.
Also available this week:
A 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release of Disney’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit (98%), with a collection of extras ported over from previous releases and an in-depth commentary track.
Two choices from the Criterion Collection: The original 1958 The Blob (69%), now on Blu-ray; and Fritz Lang’s Ministry of Fear on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Ron Howard’s 1988 fantasy flick Willow (46%) on Blu-ray.
It’s Oscar weekend – your last chance to see all the nominees before the winners are announced. Fortunately, you can watch Academy Award-nominated movies like Argo, Life of Pi, and Anna Karenina from the comfort of your living room. And if you’re in the mood for something less glitzy, we’ve got some interesting choices for you as well, including a seminal sci-fi flick, a bunch of compelling documentaries, and some 1990s indie favorites. Read on to find out what’s available to watch right now.
In the midst of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, a group of militants take hostages at the U.S. embassy in Terhan. When six Americans escape and hole up elsewhere, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with a scheme to rescue them: pretend they’re filmmakers working on an epic sci-fi movie.
Ethan Hawke stars as a true crime writer who moves his family into a house where a family was mysteriously killed. While investigating the deaths, he discovers a cache of old super 8 movies, and discovers awful secrets that could threaten him and his family as well.
Arguably the most famous director in cinema history (and the auteur behind the recently crowned Greatest Movie of All Time), Alfred Hitchcock can’t be an easy subject for an on-screen biography. Beyond his larger-than-life persona, embodied by that famously corpulent silhouette, the man was also something of an enigma, an artist who preferred to devote his personality to thrilling audiences with the most popular entertainments of the day.
British-born director Sacha Gervasi has taken a shot at it with this week’s Hitchcock, which adapts — with some creative license — Stephen Rebello’s 1990 book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, while exploring the relationship between Hitch (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), as he fights to make the thriller that would prove one of his biggest and most influential hits.
Gervasi, known for his hugely entertaining 2007 metal documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, called in to chat about Hitchcock, the challenge of taking on a movie icon, working with Hopkins, and separating the man from the mythology.
Read on for that interview, but first, he talks here about his five favorite films.
Well I guess my first one has to be Withnail and I, the 1987 Bruce Robinson classic. You know, the plot is one that would get you laughed out of any Hollywood studio: Two unemployed actors go on a holiday, drinking, to one of their uncle’s cottages for the weekend; but it’s one of the most deeply rich, brilliant, tragicomic tales of male friendship. I actually remember seeing it when I was a kid, and walking out of the theater in London — and by the way, it did not do well at the time it was released; it was a tiny little film — but I remember thinking that I wanted to become a filmmaker after that.
Betty Blue (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1986; 77% Tomatometer)
The second one is that incredibly brilliant movie Betty Blue, which I love because it opens with that incredible lovemaking scene with Béatrice Dalle. There’s just something so vivid and luscious about it. It’s just so beautiful and sensual in every regard and I absolutely love the film. I saw it recently and it’s just as brilliant. And the incredible soundtrack, you know. It’s just as brilliant as when I first saw it. Withnail and I and Betty Blue were both in the same period; they were both seminal cinematic experiences for me.
The Sweet Smell of Success is, I think, one of the best — certainly one of the greatest New York films, for me — ever made. Alexander Mackendrick, great director. Unbelievable script. James Wong Howe, unbelievable camerawork. And Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster — to see those two going at it, and really, you know, the tragedy of corruption and how it infiltrates every aspect of peoples’ lives. There was something so deeply dark and cynical about it. But yeah, there’s this sort of tiny little germ of hope at the end of the film, as Susan walks off with the musician boyfriend that Hunsecker has tried to destroy, and you just feel like, you know, absolute power corrupts but not totally. Still, it has a vicious sting to it, that film. It really affected me.
Obviously Chinatown. Seeing Nicholson with his destroyed nose [laughs], as Polanski is slitting his nose by the reservoir and calling him “pussy cat,” and all that stuff; and him and Faye Dunaway, you know, it’s just extraordinary. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s one of the greatest screenplays ever written. I’m a huge Robert Towne fan, and a Polanski fan. And it was great on this movie — on Hitchcock — to work with John Huston’s son, Danny. He had some stories about his dad. [Laughs] That Noah Cross character [played by John Huston], I think is one of the darkest villains in cinematic history. Every little detail of that film, you know — whether it’s Gittes choosing the cheap bourbon at the beginning, rather than the expensive stuff; every single touch, I think, was masterful. It has such brilliance, and poise, and ultimately humanity to it. And again, it’s a story of power, of big city power and corruption and how power and privilege can destroy people and families. That’s a theme in Sweet Smell of Success as well.
The last one, for me, just in terms of comedy, is This is Spinal Tap. [Laughs] I mean, I love Spinal Tap. When I first saw it in 1984 I was the only person in the cinema at Swiss Cottage in London, and I didn’t know whether it was real or if it wasn’t. [Laughs] It was just so profoundly funny. I think it obviously inspired me personally, in a huge way. I would say that the movies that inspired Anvil! were a combination of Withnail and I and This is Spinal Tap. [Laughs]
That’s why Anvil! is so good, you see.
[Laughs] It really was those two movies I saw early on. I just love the pomposity and ridiculousness of being an artist and trying with absolutely no-one caring. [Laughs] There’s an inherent tragedy to it. It’s the same thing in Withnail and I, you know — the philosophical ridiculousness of it, of a thespian in crisis. No-one really cares. There’s something so deeply hard about being an artist, because most of the time no-one gives a sh-t. But there’s something very sort of tragic and uplifting and real about that. I think with Spinal Tap it also has the humor, you know — how these guys, who have grown up, are still basically children. That was something that I also responded to in Anvil! But you know, Spinal Tap — the original and best. There would have been no Anvil! without that film. The best part is having the two films play on double bills all over the world. [Laughs]
Did you ever meet those guys, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest?
Yeah, I did. I did, actually, and they were fantastic. They were very funny.
Now, did you know they were American actors when you first saw the movie? I didn’t.
I didn’t know it wasn’t real, but eventually I figured it out.
A lot of people were fooled, ’cause they made records and toured after that film.
Oh absolutely! Their second album, I believe, was called Break Like the Wind [laughs], which I think sums it up. And they had a video for a song called “Bitch School,” which I though was very funny.
They were genius.
They were genius. I just think it was ironic that I found the guys that were part of the reason that inspired movies like Spinal Tap — they were guys like Anvil. It was very similar, the Anvil story, to Spinal Tap — Anvil had songs like “Butterbutt Jerky” and “Whiteknuckle Shuffle.” You could never make it up. I remember being on the road with Anvil, as a roadie, in 1982, before Spinal Tap came out; so I was living that life, you know, as a young kid on the road with a rock band. So when [Spinal Tap] came out, it was like my holiday job was up there on screen.
So it’s no surprise that you thought Spinal Tap were real.
Exactly! I was the drum tech. I was the drum roadie for [Anvil’s] Robb Reiner. [Laughs] And again, the crazy magical connection between Anvil with Rob Reiner, obviously being the name of the director of Spinal Tap. So it’s like, it was just so meta. It was just very surreal. I’m still amazed to this day by that film.
Next, Gervasi talks about Hitchcock, how he approached the story of one of cinema’s most famous directors (and films), and working with Anthony Hopkins on the lead role.
Luke Goodsell: When you set out to do a movie like this, about one of the most famous — if not the most famous — directors of all time, what’s the most daunting aspect?
Sacha Gervasi: Well, I mean when you take on Hitchcock, at all — I mean, we were mostly telling the story of a relationship, but still, Hitchcock is the man — you know it’s gonna provoke some sort of controversy, because there were so many people talking about the book [Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho] and wanting it to be the film about the making of this movie [Psycho]. But that’s been done. That’s been done in the book, and Stephen Rebello himself was like, “I want a movie which is an entertainment for the audience.” So we made the conscious decision. I think we knew, though, that what we wanted to do — the intention of the film — was to pay tribute to not just this fiercely loyal and amazing wife [Alma Reville, played by Helen Mirren], but also this brilliant artist in her own right, who stood by his side throughout 54 years of marriage and this incredible career. I think for us, you know, it was really important to shine a light on that relationship and that incredible artist. And really show a little peek behind the curtain, of how hard it must be to live with a genius like Alfred Hitchcock and to deal with his crap — and playing a huge role. So for us I think it was a lovely thing to do — to take nothing away from Hitchcock, but also to acknowledge the unseen contributions that often are made to some of the great artists that we know.
LG: As he’s characterized here, Hitchcock often comes across as a big kid — he’s playing pranks, there’s the scene where he puts the corpse in Vera Miles’ dressing room…
SG: Right, yeah.
LG: I’m curious as to how you and Anthony Hopkins approached Hitchcock, to try and flesh him out — because he was a very impenetrable persona.
SG: Well, yeah, because he was so impenetrable he became so fascinating. I think what we really needed to do was to kind of explore what might have been in his psychology as he shot these movies, you know. So for us it was really a dramatic exploration, because there’s clearly a big fantasy element in the movie — as there should be in making a movie about Hitch; he was so enigmatic and fascinating that we couldn’t really do a documentary about that.
LG: It’s inescapable in the performance that we see Anthony Hopkins and his own rich history as an actor — it’s like a synthesis of their personae.
SG: Absolutely, and we wanted that intentionally to happen. We knew it was “Anthony Hopkins playing Alfred Hitchcock.” We [originally] had a prosthetic that completely covered him up, but there was no point when you have one of the greatest actors in the world and he’s got a big rubber mask on his face.
LG: There’s also, of course, the connection with the killer Ed Gein inspiring both Psycho‘s Norman Bates and, later, Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Did you and Anthony talk about that at all?
SG: Right, absolutely. I definitely think we discussed it on some level. I don’t remember it exactly but we definitely mentioned it.
LG: In your research for the film, was there something that surprised you about Hitchcock that you hadn’t known before?
SG: Yeah, the grocery bills.
SG: The amount he spent was extraordinary. When we went to the Academy and researched his life, we saw all his incredible grocery bills. We found out he was having the food flown in from France and England, and the wines — they had a vineyard in Northern California. I mean, they lived incredibly well — even though their house, at a certain level, was quite modest, the way they lived was quite lavish and extraordinary. You have to admire Hitchcock. He grew up the son of a green grocer, so very humble beginnings, and he reached a point in his life where he was famous and powerful and could do what he wanted, and he loved the finer things in life. So if you’re Alfred Hitchcock and you want to have your food flown in from Maxine’s of Paris, then goddammit you go ahead and do it. [Laughs] The wonderful indulgence of success.
LG: You mentioned working with Danny Huston before. Did he relate any grand tales of his dad? Did the family have any relationship with Hitchcock?
SG: I think they did. I mean, what Danny said to me the other day was growing up with John Huston, he was always aware of the difference between the man and the mythology — and I think that’s what we tried to do in this film, to say there is a difference between the two. Mythology is largely the projection of other people, of what they want someone to be and what they hope they are; and I think for us it was important to tell the story of a man — a contradictory, flawed, difficult human being. It’s not good or bad, you know. He was both. And I think that was the exciting part, to show the complexity of the man. To me that only deepens and enriches your interest in the work, because you’re watching these movies — these brilliant movies — over and over again going, “Who is this guy? What drove him?” And I think we explored that without ever being able to answer it, and that’s a good thing. It needs to be as mysterious as ever.
LG: Do you have a favorite Hitchcock film?
SG: Yeah, Rear Window — because it’s unintentionally his most personal.
LG: That explains the many Rear Window references in your film.
SG: Yeah, there are about 10 references to other Hitchcock films in there.
LG: Were you conscious of maybe putting too many in, or did you just want as many as you could?
SG: We just put stuff in for fun, you know. Again, it’s a fun movie for an audience and we made that decision — and we’re really proud of it. That was really what we wanted, because remember — Hitchcock made movies for the audience, so we tried to be as fun as possible.
Hitchcock opens in a limited release engagement this week ahead of its nationwide expansion.
On paper, Life of Pi shouldn’t work — it’s a 3D adaptation of a supposedly “unfilmable” magic realist novel. But critics say director Ang Lee’s film achieves the near impossible — it’s a phantasmagoric technical achievement that’s emotionally rewarding as well. Newcomer Suraj Sharma stars as a young man who survives a shipwreck only to be set adrift in a lifeboat — with a Bengal tiger. The pundits say the Certified FreshLife of Pie is so visually sumptuous, and newcomer Sharma is so strong, that occasional moments of so-so dialogue are easily forgiven. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Lee’s best-reviewed films.)
A sort of Avengers for the elementary school set, critics say Rise of the Guardians is stylish and briskly paced, but it’s only so-so in the storytelling department. When a nightmare king named Pitch attempts to spread darkness all over the world, it’s up to such unlikely heroes as Santa Claus, Jack Frost, and the Easter Bunny to save the children from misery and despair. The pundits say Rise of the Guardians should please small children with its whirl colorful action, and adults will find it to be a decent, if not groundbreaking, animated romp.
The original Red Dawn may have strained credibility, but at least there was a Communist Bloc to fear in 1984. Critics say a lack of topicality is only one of the problems with this new Red Dawn, which features some decent action sequences but gives a short shrift to character development and general logic. A foreign enemy has invaded a small town in Washington, and a group of teens that includes Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson wage guerilla warfare in order to save their community — and America itself. The pundits say Red Dawn makes precious little sense most of the time, and a solid cast of up-and-comers can do little with its generic dialogue. (Check out our 24 Frames gallery of the stars of Red Dawn.)
In the movies, characters fall in love all the time, but critics say they’re rarely as interesting as the folks in Silver Linings Playbook, a sharply written, terrifically acted film about fascinating people in dark situations. Bradley Cooper stars as a down-on-his-luck guy living with his parents after his release from a mental institution. He gets an unexpected boost when he meets a mysterious young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who seems to offer a solution to his troubles. The pundits say the Certified FreshSilver Linings Playbook represents another triumph for director David O. Russell, who makes difficult material work splendidly with help from strong performances and witty dialogue.