A great week for new releases, with Terrence Malick's latest divisive work and Ken Loach's Jury Prize winner joined by a biopic, an acclaimed comedy, and Brandon Cronenberg's futuristic, celebrity-obsessed satire. Many of these films are dividing critics (to varying degrees), but with such a wide range of genre and style, there's something for everybody this week.
Coming in with a mix of high praise and curious disappointment is "To The Wonder" (B-, 59 grades), the quickest follow-up of Malick's career.
"It's masterful work, if not at times beguiling, and serves to remind that Malick is one of the true greats of the American cinema."
"Even a poor Malick film remains a far more enticing and rewarding experience than the majority of inept theatrical releases we'll be subjected to this year -- it's just a shame it's such a relative disappointment."
Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford portray Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color-barrier in "42" (B, 8 critics).
"Hegeland's script spends the right amount of time exploring Robinson's inner self. He wasn't just a skilled athlete; he was a keen strategist, a smart man's player... The flaw in the script is that too often the characters talk in platitudes, and not like real people."
"What seems like a high fidelity to history is actually an acknowledgement and deep respect, the kind most modern filmmakers and viewers would likely find alien."
"The Angel's Share" (B-, 12 grades) arrives from Cannes nearly a year after winning the Jury Prize, although not all critics are impressed.
"'The Angel's Share' sometimes plays surprisingly boutique for a Ken Loach movie, but beyond the cheeky, jovial mass-appeal jokes about what kilts can do to the nether regions of those who don't normally wear them, there remains Loach's signature attention to the inequities of British social structures."
"The stakes are considerable and the milieu is rather grim throughout 'Share.' Yet, it is an enormously satisfying, perfectly titled film. A 'feel good movie' does not adequately describe it. 'Feel giddy' comes closer."
Brandon Cronenberg follows in the footsteps of his father David ("Videodrome", "A History of Violence") and delivers a biting, bloody satire in "Antiviral" (B-, 32 critics).
"As a first film, 'Antiviral' is pretty freaking amazing. It is very rare that a first film is produced with such high production value and accented with quality supporting actors like Malcolm McDowell."
"'Antiviral' is oddly lacking in urgency, for a movie about dying people and the corporate raiders looking to exploit them, but it's rarely tedious, because Cronenberg keeps coming up with clever new details of 'Antiviral''s milieu."
But perhaps the most acclaimed release is the lowest profile of the lot: Todd Berger's "It's A Disaster" (A-, 10 critics).
"With the premise clicking into full gear, though, the film loosens up, and Berger's sharp comic ear shines. In the end, it doesn't matter that the film's more serious moments, mercifully brief, feel heavy, even precious. The jokes land, and they land hard."
"The film not only spoofs disaster films but lovingly catches the zeitgeist of our current suburban social attitudes and mores. The director and some of the actors belong to a comedy group called the Vacationeers, which undoubtedly helped to make the comic ensemble play so efficiently."