Happy Friday the 13th everyone! Jason is putting on the hockey mask and black cats everywhere are doing wind sprints to make sure they won’t miss you when you walk past. Not sure how to beat all the bad luck? Try going to the movies (and leaving your umbrella at home)! Toads and goldfish aren’t allowed in theaters and there are no mirrors to break or cracks in the floor to step on. Plus, the horror, thriller, romantic comedy, and documentary films coming out this weekend should provide great distraction. But be sure to bring some salt with you. Just in case.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Friday the 13th without a horror flick. Our requisite scream-a-minute release is “The Cabin in the Woods,” from first time director Drew Goddard, best known for writing “Cloverfield.” The film is co-written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, creator of the genius known as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Let’s just say these guys have some experience with the horror genre. Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Chris Helmsworth, and Kristen Connolly star in this warped genre film that both reworks and honors its formulaic roots. Impressive special effects, a mostly solid cast, and zippy dialogue further elevate the smart twists on familiar horror motifs. Our review says, “the target audience is clearly horror geeks with a clear knowledge of the genre and its clichés. But if you are one of those people, then you’ll probably not enjoy a movie more this year. And even if you’re not (like ourselves), we’d wager you’ll still have a blast.” Rotten Tomatoes: 92% Metacritic: 73
Director team James Mather and Stephen St. Leger brings us “Lockout” this week, a prison break thriller set in a high-tech, futuristic space jail. That’s right: by 2079, we’ll be shooting deranged convicts into outer space along with all our garbage. Guy Pearce stars as former Federal Agent Snow, sent into the prison to recover the First Daughter (Maggie Grace) who had the unfortunate luck of visiting the very same day the cons break loose. Bummer. A faulty hero that often misses his mark combined with engaging, multi-dimensional villains help to redeem the otherwise tired action movie standards. Our review says, “‘Lockout’ has a persistent sense of humor that allows the attempt to poke fun at the fact that this cockamamie strategy is the work of a future administration, and that Snow isn’t exactly as much in the resourcefulness wheelhouse as, say, Snake Plissken.” RT: 32% MC: 48
Also hitting theaters this weekend is the Farrelly Brothers tribute to their comic idols, “The Three Stooges.” The film’s main comedic conceit is the displacement of the original vaudeville act in a modern setting, but the Farrellys try much too hard to incorporate that modernity into material that otherwise regurgitates already-famous Stooge sketches: appearances by the cast of “Jersey Shore” and jokes about the Kardashians unsurprisingly fall flat. And Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos – starring as the famous trio – lack all the natural chemistry, aptitude for slapstick, and, good-natured stupidity of the brothers they portray. Our review concedes, “the new Stooges don’t have a modicum of natural charm that the Farrellys can draw on” so that, “Sasso, Hayes and Diamantopoulos are three talented but incompatible comedians playing dress-up while aping the mannerisms of dead guys that became famous for their original schtick.” RT: 53% MC: 55
“L!fe Happens” to three early twentysomething female roommates when one of them gets a little surprise bun in the oven. Expected complications ensue, including a suppressed social life for the new mommy (Krysten Ritter, who also co-wrote the screenplay) and rising tensions between the girls as the reality of raising a child sets in. Yet the film never quite finds footing in either these issues or the romantic escapades inevitably peppering the story, drawing broad strokes across the lot of its plotlines. Kate Bosworth and Rachel Bilson star as Ritter’s roommates and Jason Biggs, Kristen Johnston, and Justin Kirk appear in supporting roles. Our review of the Kat Coiro-directed romantic comedy admits that while the film “does seem unusually attuned to the struggles of being a young mother without the responsibilities of family,” it’s “simply too overstuffed to work” and ultimately comes in as a “fourth-rate sitcom of a movie.” And yes – that exclamation point in the title where the “i” should be is intentional. Like P!nk. RT: 42% MC: 41
This week’s story of a stranger doing a strange job in a strange land is “Here,” directed by Braden King. Ben Foster stars as an American cartographer who teams up with a local photographer (Lubna Azabal) and embarks on a road trip through Armenia to map out much of the country’s terrain. The scenery is beautifully showcased, and conveys much of the characters’ inherent isolation, even before we’re meant to be aware of it. However, the bond between the characters themselves, as well as their relationships with the land they traverse, are weakly plotted. Our review says, “as a relationship movie it lacks charm and feels forced, while as a road-movie it seems to want very little to do with the environment, other than to show its characters alone in the big world. This, combined with a punishingly-slow pace and the film’s lack of substance, is enervating at the end of the day.” RT: 83% MC: 63
Mark Meatto’s documentary “How to Grow a Band” follows musician Chris Thile and his progressive bluegrass band, Punch Brothers, on their world tour. Thile is unarguably the front man, and claims the majority of the film’s running time with both his personal history and present day footage of the band. The story generally remains at Punch Brothers’ surface level, failing to delve into the particularly interesting moments of tension between its members by clinging to its “upwards and onwards” underdog story instead. This road-style movie pleasingly concludes with the group’s best performance yet, staged at Lincoln Center, but the musicians’ journey to New York still remains partially obscured. Our review says the film “feels a bit slight due to its adherence to general documentary formula (interviews/archival footage, verite for good measure, call it a day) and its tendency to ignore moments of inner disarray in favor of telling the story of the little band that could. It’s still a pretty entertaining watch, though, and a good argument for the band if you’ve never heard them before.” RT: 67% MC: 57
Pablo Larrain’s (“Tony Manero“) second effort, “Post Mortem,” which opened on Wednesday, settles itself immediately in the Communist youth movement and the military junta of 1970s Chile (the director’s native country). Rather than providing a backdrop for character development, the political situations direct star Alfred Castro through the film. Images of destroyed homes and disfigured corpses create an indisputable bleakness, but awkwardly humorous moments offset the darkness every so often. Our review says, “it’s not a forgettable movie by any means, but there’s also really not much to reflect on post-viewing. Sure, there’s the given things, such as the acting and the cinematography and so forth, and those wanting to learn more about the political history of Chile due to the subject matter goes without saying, but nothing else in the film warrants an after-thought.” RT: 89% MC: 72