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

The Legend of Hercules


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

Labor Day


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

Devil’s Due


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

Also available this week:

  • These Birds Walk (100%), a documentary about the fates of street children in Pakistan.
  • Certified Fresh Chilean importGloria (99%), about an aging divorcee whose budding relationship with a younger man prompts her to confront her past.
  • The Selfish Giant (97%), a Certified Fresh adaptation of the Oscar Wilde story about the relationship between two restless teenagers in northern England who steal and sell scrap metal.
  • Escape from Tomorrow (56%), about a recently unemployed man who descends into a surreal nightmare while vacationing in Disneyland with his family.
  • The Best Offer (55%), starring Geoffrey Rush and Jim Sturgess in a romantic drama about an introverted antiques dealer who comes out of his shell when he’s asked to restore the works belonging to an equally reclusive woman.
  • Gimme Shelter (22%), starring Vanessa Hudgens and James Earl Jones in a based-on-true-events story about a pregnant homeless teen who regains her footing with the support she finds at a shelter.
  • And lastly, from the Criterion Collection, Dino Risi’s 1962 road trip comedy Il sorpasso is available in a new DVD/Blu-ray combo.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a super spy (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, starring Chris Pine and Keira Knightley), some burglarizing rodents (The Nut Job, with voice performances by Will Arnett and Katherine Heigl), mismatched cops (Ride Along, starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart), and a demonic baby (Devil’s Due, starring Allison Miller and Zach Gilford). What do the critics have to say?

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit


Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck have all taken their best shot; now it’s Chris Pine’s turn to play Jack Ryan, the talented CIA agent from Tom Clancy’s bestselling novels. And critics say he’s off to a good start, as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, while hardly the most original thriller on the market, is slick, exciting, and well-acted. Inspired to serve his country after 9/11, Jack Ryan joins the Marines. After being injured in Afghanistan, Ryan is recruited in the CIA, and soon he’s on the trail of a Russian terrorist plot. The pundits say Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, is a solid meat-and-potatoes thriller, one that’s skillfully crafted and pleasantly suspenseful. (Check out this week’s total recall, in which we count down director Kenneth Branagh’s best-reviewed films.)

The Nut Job


From Steamboat Willie to Ratatouille, there have been plenty of iconic animated rodents. Unfortunately, Surly the squirrel is unlikely to join that illustrious pantheon; critics say The Nut Job has some nice backgrounds but its plot is threadbare and its star is less than charming. Surly (voiced by Will Arnett) has devised a plan to rob a nut store and make off with enough food to last through the winter. Can Surly learn a valuable lesson about greed — and become a hero in the process? The pundits say The Nut Job is overly reliant on physical humor, and its characters are surprisingly sour, though there are some moments of visual invention.

Ride Along


At first glance, scowling, no-nonsense Ice Cube and hustling, motormouthed Kevin Hart would seem to be an ideal comedic pairing. Unfortunately, critics say they’re underutilized in Ride Along, a thinly plotted, utterly generic cop-buddy action comedy. Hard-nosed detective James (Ice Cube) is less than pleased that his sister is dating a slacker like Ben (Hart). When Ben is accepted to the police force, he hopes to win James’ respect by joining him on the beat. The pundits say Ride Along offers up a few laughs, but mostly it coasts along on cop movie cliches. Click through this week’s 24 Frames for a gallery of movie cops.)

Devil’s Due


Sooner or later, the found-footage horror subgenre was bound to get its own Rosemary’s Baby. But while critics say Devil’s Due is moderately well crafted, they also note that it’s more dependent on jump-scares than on more imaginative chills. Samantha (Allison Miller) and Zach (Zach Gilford) are preparing to welcome their first child together when Samantha’s behavior begins to take on a sinister tone; could it be that she’s been impregnated by a malevolent spirit? The pundits say Devil’s Due features decent performances, but its plot becomes increasingly absurd as it goes along.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Big Bad Wolves, a revenge thriller about a cop who tries to extract a confession from the man he believes to be the killer of a young girl, is at 79 percent.
  • Hirokazu Koreeda‘s Like Father, Like Son, a drama about two families dealing with the discovery that their six-year-old sons were switched at birth, is at 79 percent.
  • Maidentrip, a documentary about a 14-year-old’s attempt to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe, is at 78 percent.
  • G.B.F., a comedy about a guy who’s got a group of popular girls battling for the right to call him their gay best friend, is at 77 percent.
  • Generation War, a drama about five German friends dealing with the moral complications of life during the Third Reich, is at 45 percent.
  • Summer in February, starring Dominic Cooper and Dan Stevens in a period drama about two close friends in love with the same woman, is at 41 percent.
  • Jamesy Boy, starring Ving Rhames and Mary-Louise Parker in a drama about a young convict who attempts to turn his life around, is at 13 percent.

Finally, props to Garner Montgomery for coming the closest to guessing The Legend of Hercules‘ five percent Tomatometer. That’s two in a row for Mr. Montgomery.

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