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 turbulent flight (Non-Stop, starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore) and the greatest story ever told (Son of God, starring Diogo Morgado and Greg Hicks). What do the critics have to say?



Non-Stop

62%

Having proven his tough-guy bona fides on the streets of Paris (Taken), in the desert (The A-Team), across the wolf-infested tundra (The Grey), and on the sea (Battleship), Liam Neeson brings his unflappable demeanor (and his unforgiving fists) to the skies in Non-Stop. Critics say the result is reasonably entertaining but utterly preposterous, with a few good fight scenes and a couple groan-worthy plot twists. On a flight from New York to London, federal air marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) receives a text informing him that a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited into a secure bank account. The pundits say Non-Stop benefits immeasurably from Neeson’s hard-bitten presence, but its implausible plot proves distracting over the long haul. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Neeson’s best-reviewed films.)



Son Of God

21%

The life of Jesus has inspired filmmakers since the dawn of cinema, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new ways of telling even the most familiar of stories. Unfortunately, critics say Son of God is well-meaning but dramatically inert, a film that recounts the major events of the Gospels without delving more deeply into Jesus’ message. Son of God is an abridged version of the History Channel’s 10-hour miniseries The Bible starring Diogo Morgado as the King of Kings; you probably know the broad outlines of the story by now. The pundits say Son of God‘s greatest hits approach fails to generate much heat or passion.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Oscar-nominated animated feature Ernest & Célestine, about the friendship between a mouse and a bear, is at 100 percent.
  • The Lunchbox, starring Irfan Khan in a romantic dramedy about an unwitting penpal relationship between a neglected housewife and a lonely widower, is at 96 percent.
  • Two Lives, starring Liv Ullmann in a drama about a woman whose past comes to light with the fall of the Berlin Wall, is at 86 percent.
  • Fatal Assistance, a documentary about the troubled relief effort in the wake of the 2009 Haiti earthquake, is at 71 percent.
  • Stalingrad, an IMAX 3D epic about the brutal World War II battle, is at 48 percent.
  • Almost Human, a sci-fi horror flick about a man who returns to earth after being abducted by aliens, is at 42 percent.
  • Odd Thomas, starring Anton Yelchin and Willem Dafoe in a supernatural thriller about a small town resident with the ability to see ghosts, is at 29 percent.
  • HairBrained, starring Brendan Fraser and Parker Posey in a comedy about the friendship between a precocious teen and a fortysomething slacker at a small liberal arts college, is at 22 percent.
  • The Bag Man, starring John Cusack and Robert De Niro in a thriller about a crook hired to make a delivery to a powerful crime lord, is at 9 percent.
  • Chlorine, starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Kyra Sedgwick in a dramedy about a banker who scams a tennis pro in an upscale suburb, is at zero percent.

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