What to Watch (or Avoid) in Theaters This Weekend

"If It Hadn't Been for Those Kids": Red Dawn, Rebooted

All apocalyptic stories are about wish fulfillment to some extent. But Red Dawn, opening today, is the purest jolt of wish-fulfillment I've seen in ages, about the fall of America and the rise of some plucky kids who Suck It Up and Do What Must Be Done. This is an action movie so ridiculous, it barely qualifies as having a narrative, just a river of melted cheese. It's like going rafting in the Nacho Kingdom. More »

The final Twilight movie is like a porn film with action figures

I realized it about a quarter of the way into Breaking Dawn, Part 2, the fifth and final movie in the Twilight movie saga. I was watching a porn flick. I don't mean that people were getting it on in improbable ways with even more improbable amounts of stamina. I mean the stilted dialogue whose entire purpose is to introduce long, wordless sequences of carnal indulgence. The wooden acting that we are not supposed to care about because we're just in this for the money shots. But what, exactly, is the release we're waiting for? The climax, if you will? More »

Skyfall unquestionably belongs to Dame Judi Dench

The new James Bond movie doesn't have any cars that turn into submarines, or people being thrown out of airplanes without a parachute and surviving. There's hardly any really huge widescreen action. No lasers or jetpacks at all. More »

Life of Pi could be the year's second most gorgeous fantasy movie

Ang Lee has adapted Yann Martel's celebrated-but-unfilmable novel Life of Pi.... and the result is pretty darn good. It might be the second most visually astonishing fantasy movie of the year, after The Hobbit. More »

Wreck-It Ralph is the best video game movie since Last Starfighter

The history of video game movies is a pretty inglorious one, with a higher proportion of awfulness than almost any other genre, except maybe Rapture movies. There's been Tron, there's been Last Starfighter, and maybe one or two others. But given how much great storytelling there is in games, it's weird that Hollywood has been so weak in harnessing that potential. More »

The Man With The Iron Fists isn't bad if you imagine Russell Crowe wandered on set and decided to be in a movie

Yes, we now live in a world in which Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe is making entrances to musical strains of "Ooh baby, I like it raw," eviscerating henchmen with a clockwork pistol/knife/chainsaw and undulating his mug like Kermit the Frog does when he's upset. This is definitely something that happened. More »

Your kids will probably be better people if you take them to see Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians isn't the best kids' movie of the year. It might or might not be in the top five. But it's a really neat, uplifting film that actually radiates sincerity about its messages of imagination and heroism. And that sincerity counts for a lot: Your kids will probably grow up to be slightly nicer people if they watch this film. More »

Holy Motors: These French people are crazy!

The acclaimed French art movie Holy Motors has been out in the United States for a few weeks, but it just expanded wide - including coming to San Francisco. And it's every bit as bizarre and jarring as you've probably heard. This pomo "fantasy action" film is beautiful and baffling - and sort of does for acting what Inception did for dreams. More »

Citadel is the smart indie horror movie you've been waiting for

Good news - someone is finally making smart, indie horror again. The new movie Citadel doesn't need torture porn, celebrities, buckets of blood, or jump scares to give you chills - it's just good anxiety-driven horror. After being attacked by a bunch of 14-year-olds and beaten with a hammer, writer/director Ciaran Foy channeled his struggles with anxiety disorder into this movie. And it really paid off. More »

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Is Like an Acid Trip with Jean-Claude Van Damme Dressed as a Wizard

So here are a few things I like in a movie: People being smashed over the head with plumbing equipment, mind control, Jean-Claude Van Damme, clone-related conspiracies, and really gross brain drilling scenes. And yet somehow, despite including all these crucial ingredients for cinematic satisfaction, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (out now on VOD) failed to achieve awesomeness. More »

Is Cloud Atlas an unholy mess or a brilliant masterpiece? Yes.

In Cloud Atlas, opening today, six different stories in different time periods are woven together to create a thrilling composite story about liberation and revelation. Fittingly, how you wind up feeling about Cloud Atlas depends very much on your vantage point: the individual pieces, when you pull them out separately, are sometimes quite dismal. But when you pull back and look at the movie as a whole, it's dazzling, and ultimately pretty satisfying. More »

Argo is a fantastic movie about a time when we all thought science fiction could set us free

Ben Affleck's nearly perfect new movie Argo plays with contrasts quite a lot. Again and again, the fake space opera film that the CIA is creating in Affleck's film is juxtaposed with depressing real-life events, like the Iranian hostage crisis and America's Carter-era malaise. Affleck takes the then-brand new myth of Star Wars and puts it alongside the slowly tarnishing myth of American invulnerability. More »

Tongue-eating parasites and internet journalism are your worst nightmares in The Bay

The Bay was produced by the same people who made Sinister, and so I suppose it makes sense that both films are horror stories inspired by viral pictures on the web. While Sinister's scary Mr. Boogie was based on a picture pulled from Flickr, the Big Bad in The Bay is modeled on a famous photo of a real-life parasite that survives by eating the tongues of fish. More »