This week, we’ve got one Oscar winner, a comedy misfire, a supernatural stinker, and an acclaimed Netflix original series to top the list. Then, we’ve also got a bunch of documentaries worth a look, and two war films, one of which is a new Criterion Collection release. Read on for details:



Her

94%

Spike Jonze’s debut film, 1999’s Being John Malkovich, earned him a Best Director nomination at the Academy Awards, but it was last year’s Her that finally netted him a trophy, specifically for Best Original Screenplay. In Jonze’s fourth film, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely writer in the midst of a divorce who begins developing an intimate relationship with a computerized artificial intelligence (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Despite its premise, which could have easily played out in campy fashion, Her was yet another critical success for Jonze, earning a Certified Fresh 94% on the Tomatometer. Critics felt the film was sweet, smart, and a surprisingly relevant commentary on the state of modern relationships, and it went on to receive five Oscar nominations in total, including Best Picture.



I, Frankenstein

5%

If nothing else, I, Frankenstein at least had two things going for it: Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy. Both actors have proven in previous films that they’re quite capable, after all. What I, Frankenstein didn’t have going for it, unfortunately, was pretty much everything else. Based on a graphic novel, the film picks up essentially where the original Mary Shelley novel ends, as Frankenstein’s monster (Eckhart) is recruited by a society of gargoyles to fight demons — led by an evil prince masquerading as a rich businessman (Nighy) — who secretly roam the Earth. Aaron Eckhart does his best Paul Bettany impression here, but if critics thought Legion and Priest were bad, it was only because they hadn’t yet laid eyes on Stuart Beattie’s dull, derivative, cacophonous mess of a film. It did have one or two pretty cool posters, though.



That Awkward Moment

22%

In light of Zac Efron’s recent triumph at the box office with Neighbors, let’s look back on a film from earlier this year that didn’t do so well. Here, Efron plays one of a trio of buddies — alongside Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller — who all spend the duration of the film working through relationship problems. Mikey (Jordan) tries to resolve issues with his wife (Jessica Lucas), Daniel (Teller) begins dating his female wingman (Mackenzie Davis), and Jason (Efron) gets involved with a one night stand. Critics weren’t particularly kind to That Awkward Moment, whose cast they found charming but whose script they found predictable and flat. The film wants to upend traditional rom-com scenarios, but it just ends up falling into the same patterns.



Orange is the New Black – Season One

Who could have guessed five years ago that Netflix would become a major player in television programming? They brought back Arrested Development (we know it wasn’t quite the same, but still), won Emmys with House of Cards, and are getting ready to drop five seasons of Marvel-related programming. With all that said, one of its acclaimed successes is the comedy Orange is the New Black, which premiered last year to a Certified Fresh 89% on the Tomatometer. Taylor Schilling stars as Piper Chapman, an NYC woman who’s sentenced to 15 months in jail for a drug-related crime she committed a decade before and ends up reuniting with the ex-girlfriend for whom she committed that crime. Season one of the series hits store shelves this month, for anyone who doesn’t have a Netflix subscription, and Schilling has already earned a Golden Globe nomination for her work here, so it might be worth checking out if you’re into some darker, character-driven comedy.

Also available this week:

  • God Loves Uganda (100%), a documentary detailing the involvement of American Evangelical Christians in anti-homosexual policy in Uganda.
  • After tiller (94%), a Certified Fresh documentary about the few remaining doctors in the US willing to perform late-term abortions and their patients.
  • Michel Gondry’s Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky (90%), which is exactly what it sounds like: an animated interpretation of a conversation between the director and Noam Chomsky.
  • Generation Iron (80%), a documentary examining the competitors in contemporary professional bodybuilding.
  • Stalingrad (48%), a WWII action film following a number of Russian soldiers holding fort against the Germans in a strategic building.
  • Season four of Eastbound and Down (100%), HBO’s comedy starring Danny McBride, is available.
  • And of course, a selection from the Criterion Collection: Stuart Cooper’s 1975 film Overlord (92%), which seamlessly utilizes newsreel footage to help tell the story of a British private from basic training to D-Day.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a frantic search (Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal) and an international dance-off (Battle of the Year, starring Josh Holloway and Laz Alonso). What do the critics have to say?



Prisoners

81%

A dark, grim police procedural, Prisoners isn’t exactly feel-good cinema. However, critics say it’s a suspenseful, gripping thriller, thanks to an outstanding ensemble cast and a mystery that remains ambiguous to the end. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is the father of a six-year-old girl who goes missing, along with her best friend. A suspect is arrested, but released for lack of evidence; fearing the worst for his child, Dover decides to take the law into his own hands. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Prisoners is haunting, tense, and disturbing, with a weighty sense of moral complexity. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down co-star Jake Gyllenhaal’s best-reviewed movies



Battle of the Year

6%

Nobody goes to a dance movie expecting high art, but critics say Battle of the Year is flimsy even by the standards of the genre, spending too much time on its hackneyed story and not enough on the dancefloor. With an international dance competition only months away, a down-on-his-luck basketball coach (Josh Holloway) is recruited to coax a squad of 12 street dancers into fighting shape. Will this ragtag band of breakers bring home the title — and will their coach find a measure of personal redemption in the process? The pundits say Battle of the Year delivers a few slick dance moves, but its plot is hopelessly hokey and the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Wizard of Oz: An IMAX 3D Experience, starring Judy Garland in a timeless classic about a girl who isn’t in Kansas anymore, is Certified Fresh at 99 percent.
  • Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in a drama about a divorced woman who meets a man who seems perfect until she finds out a little more about him, is Certified Fresh at 93 percent.
  • After Tiller, a documentary that profiles doctors that perform late-term abortions, is at 85 percent.
  • Generation Iron, a doc about the world of professional bodybuilders, is at 80 percent.
  • The Short Game, a doc about the highly competitive world of junior golf, is at 78 percent.
  • C.O.G., a dramedy based on a David Sedaris story about a man who ditches his modern devices and works as an apple picker in Oregon, is at 74 percent.
  • Haute Cuisine, a comedy about a little-known provincial chef who becomes the French president’s personal cook, is at 71 percent.
  • Thanks For Sharing, starring Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow in a dramedy about the lives of an interconnected group of recovering sex addicts, is at 57 percent.
  • Ip Man: The Final Fight, an action drama about the legendary martial arts master in the twilight of his life, is at 58 percent.
  • A Single Shot, starring Sam Rockwell and Jeffrey Wright in a thriller about a hunter who inadvertently kills a woman and tries to cover it up, is at 52 percent.
  • Men at Lunch, a documentary about the famous photograph Lunch atop a Skyscraper, is at 50 percent.
  • Newlyweeds, a comedy about a young couple that smokes an awful lot of marijuana, is at 44 percent.
  • My Lucky Star, starring Zhang Ziyi in a spy spoof about a cartoonist who gets involved in a plot to obtain a valuable diamond, is at 44 percent.
  • Zaytoun, starring Stephen Dorff in a drama about an Israeli pilot who travels with a Palestinian orphan to see the kid’s family’s hometown, is at 39 percent.
  • Weekender, a dramedy about a pair of friends who organize warehouse raves in the early 1990s, is at nine percent.
  • The Colony, starring Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton in a sci-fi thriller set in a post-apocalyptic ice age, is at six percent.
  • Jewtopia, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jamie-Lynn Sigler in a romantic comedy about a guy who pretends to be Jewish in order to win the heart of a rabbi’s daughter, is at zero percent.

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