The most exciting part of the latest installment in horror maestro Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson's slasher deconstruction series is the intro, which is how the original was able to grab audiences — by offing a familiar actress during the pre-title sequence, it meant that anything could happen. Grade: C-plus.
Robert Redford's first directorial effort since his 2007 anti-war polemic 'Lions for Lambs' is a striking Civil War courtroom drama about how the assassination of President Lincoln called into question the possible participation of Mary Surratt, the mother of a young man who befriended John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices. Robin Wright soars to dramatic heights in her restrained performance as Surratt. The effect is reminiscent of Jessica Lange's finest work. Grade: B-.
Plenty of contemporary animated features are trying so hard to be clever that they forget to be fundamentally enjoyable — and as for the emotional depth, we can appreciate Pixar's impressive track record without dismissing everything that doesn't live up to that standard. 'Rio' manages to be entertaining by working within an unlikely formula: making something that's fun for kids, in the style of movies that their parents would have watched when they were kids. Grade: B.
Hanna adeptly evades danger and doles out the requisite ass-kickings, but there's no sense of logic or reason to her motivations. She might as well be a robot. Director Joe Wright has gone astray here. Grade: C.
Director Cary Fukunaga vividly portrays Charlotte Bronte's classic novel's bleak social constraints and wistful natural surroundings. Moira Buffini's considerably compressed screenplay is fleet yet retains the dynamic poetry in Bronte's use of language and experience. Grade: B-plus.
Winner of the Grand Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Xavier Beauvois' impressively restrained humanist drama centers on eight French Trappist monks whose faith is tested when the remote Algerian monastery in which they reside is threatened by a group of ruthless Islamic fundamentalists. Grade: B.
Producer-turned-first-time-director Jim Kohlberg is unable to wrench much life or visual flair from this music-infused medical mystery, although it will elicit some tears from those sensitive to its emotional tugs. Grade: C.
Filmmaker Julian Schnabel’s glaring light seeks to expose the complex truth of the Palestinian situation and generally does so, despite having a less-than-compelling center in the undeniably beautiful Freida Pinto. Grade: B-.
From the pen of Danny McBride and under the command of 'Pineapple Express' director David Gordon Green, 'Your Highness' professes a love of the tacky swords-and-sorcery epics of the past but in reality is far more entranced by its smoke rings, penis jokes and its potty mouth. Grade: D-plus.
Tom McCarthy's latest tweaks expectations by blurring the genre lines, offering smartly observed humor and real-world economic and family dynamics beyond the cookie-cutter situation comedy mold. Grade: A-
The film adaptation of surfer Bethany Hamilton's life unabashedly embraces family values and religion over action heroics and simplistic 'Rocky' underdog poses, placing love and faith and hope up on the big screen and daring audiences to turn away. Grade: B-.
Stories about real people dealing with real situations are an endangered species in a contemporary American moviemaking landscape dominated by lowest-common-denominator teen-oriented fare and creativity-deficient sequels, remakes and the like. Writer/director Tom McCarthy is doing his best to fight against this development.
'Hop' leaves you with the sense of boredom that doesn’t even result in a slumbering escape; you only end up pondering how many other unpleasant situations you could have found yourself in that would have been preferable to the time spent trapped in this particular theater surrounded by families whose children are as bored as you are. Grade: D.
Director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell introduced us to the soap-operatic torture porn of the 'Saw' world, while producer Oren Peli gave birth to the 'Paranormal' phenomenon, so the combination of talents and visions promises to be, well, quite insidious, right? The short answer is hell yes. Grade: B.