Another superhero movie, some Oscar bait, and the last film from a master animator highlight this week’s openings.
The box office winner will be Thor: The Dark World (54), another step toward the day when all our entertainment will be supplied by Marvel (they just announced four, count ’em four, new series will be launched on Netflix). I liked the first movie, and I’ll see anything with Natalie Portman, but I can’t drum up any enthusiasm for this. It’s a rental for me. Steve Persall: “Poor Thor. Dude can’t even hold center stage in his own movie. He’s the Asgardian god of stolen thunder, upstaged at each ab turn by Loki, malarkey and Odin’s eyepatch.”
The Oscar bait is The Book Thief (52), adapted from a popular young adult movie, and set in Nazi Germany, with Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. Jordan Hoffman: “An embarrassing gut-punch of unfiltered schmaltz, but its sympathy for the devil-style humanism is well-meaning.”
Hayao Miyazaki has announced emphatically that The Wind Rises (84) is his last film. It has engendered some controversy, and Disney has released it under its Touchstone arm, because the movie is about the guy who developed the planes used by the Japanese that killed so many people (and it has a lot of smoking). Eric Kohn: “The grim subtext of The Wind Rises goes largely unacknowledged, leading to a gaping hole in this otherwise beautifully realized narrative that celebrates the power of curiosity as a motivating force.”
I wasn’t aware there was a burning need for yet another adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations (60), but here one is, with Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham and Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch. Justin Chang: “Working from a tightly compressed screenplay by David Nicholls, director Mike Newell strikes the beats of a deservedly oft-told tale with dour competence but little in the way of dramatic inspiration or visual flair.”
Also this week: The Armstrong Lie (66), about the disgraced bicyclist; Caucus (88), a doc about the 2012 Republican Iowa Caucus, which makes comic figures of people like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum; Go For Sisters (58), directed by John Sayles; and the stupid title of the week, Ass Backwards (37). Don’t they realize that’s not the right phrase? It should be Back Asswards.