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:



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


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


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 teenage warriors (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) and a prolific sperm donor (Delivery Man, starring Vince Vaughn and Cobie Smulders). What do the critics have to say?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


Catching fire is right — critics say the second installment of The Hunger Games is bigger and better than its predecessor in virtually every way, from the outstanding performances from its committed cast to its impeccable set design to a palpable sense of dread and urgency that imbues the material with more gravitas than your average blockbuster franchise. After winning the Hunger Games in part one, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have become wildly popular figures for the nation’s beleaguered underclass. Fearing that revolution is nigh, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) contrives a plan: the two young champions will have to compete against an all-star lineup of past Hunger Games victors. The pundits say the Certified Fresh The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is energetic, thoughtful, and tense, and at its center is Lawrence, whose commanding performance solidifies her status as one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars. (Watch our video interviews with the stars of Catching Fire; click through our gallery of movies based on young adult novels; and read this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Sutherland’s best-reviewed movies.)

Delivery Man


Vince Vaughn has made a career out of playing charming, mischievous bros, and critics say he’s in fine form in Delivery Man. Unfortunately, they also note that the rest of the film is a bit uneven, as its wacky premise and sentimental execution result in an uneasy mix. Vaughn stars as a committed slacker whose life spins out of control when he discovers that as a result of decades-old sperm donations, he’s the father of more than 500 children. Does our hero have what it takes to man up and be a father figure to his biological offspring? The pundits say Delivery Man is sweet and affable, but it’s only occasionally as funny and heart-tugging as it’s trying to be. (Check out our video interview with Vaughn here.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

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