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In Theaters: Find Yourself 'Beloved' Of 'Cosmopolis' & 'ParaNorman' Or Get An 'Awakening' With 'The Expendables 2'

The Playlist By Emma Bernstein | The Playlist August 17, 2012 at 4:37PM

Hi there! It’s a regular Halloween in August as this weekend’s new releases do much to call back the spirits of the past. These films continue franchises, hearken familiar genre themes, adapt previously published material, or just feature ghosts in plain sight. Less spooky than mirthful, these movies are more about paying due (or getting paid) than paying off a debt with blood and gore. Still, a scare or two may not be far away. Get ready…
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In Theaters, EXP 2, Paranorman, Cosmopolis

Hi there! It’s a regular Halloween in August as this weekend’s new releases do much to call back the spirits of the past. These films continue franchises, hearken familiar genre themes, adapt previously published material, or just feature ghosts in plain sight. Less spooky than mirthful, these movies are more about paying due (or getting paid) than paying off a debt with blood and gore. Still, a scare or two may not be far away. Get ready…

The Expendables 2” marks the triumphant return of its predecessor’s substandard, well, everything, a reexamination championed by the horribly laughable tagline “Back for War.” Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone, also a credited writer!) and his band of mad mercenaries receive a new assignment from their employer (Bruce Willis) and find themselves facing an even more lethal enemy: Jean-Claude Van Damme armed with plutonium and stellar roundhouse kicks. Luckily, the troupe of professional killing machines has a few new fearsome friends in tow, and lots of firepower (thanks CGI technicians!). Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Liam Hemsworth, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Scott Adkins, Nan Yu, and Chuck Norris co-star. Our review calls the Simon West-helmed flick “serviceably directed, horribly written and barely acted at all except for a standout performance by (of all people) Jean-Claude Van Damme,” but admits, “this sequel more or less rights the wrongs of its predecessor and sets the stage for a franchise that could be the best sort of totally unnecessary, and yet inexplicably enduring fan-fiction fun.” Metacritic: 53 Rotten Tomatoes: 60%

ParaNorman

A ragtag group of kids saves their haunted town from its 200-year-old resident specter in the 3D stop-motion animated movie “ParaNorman,” directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler. Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) can communicate with the spirit world, a talent that wins him the concern of his family and the ire of the middle school bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). But when he finds comradeship in another social outcast – the chubby, awkward Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) – Norman puts his mystical gift to use, tracking down an irate ghost bent on unleashing Halloween-style horrors on the locals. Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Elaine Stritch, and John Goodman also lend their voice talents. Our review commends “the film's visual prowess and the genuine emotional content,” and says, “it's not only the best and brightest surprise of this long and dreary summer, but it's easily one of the best movies of the year, a complex and multifaceted blast.” MC: 70 RT: 81%

Cosmopolis,” written and directed by David Cronenberg and adapted from the novel by Don DeLillo, follows one man’s struggle to escape the binds of his own deteriorating mind and the crumbling city around him. Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is a financial wunderkind who’s made a fortune on a series of risky bets. Yet, when money matters no longer seem perilous enough, the death-obsessed billionaire decides to wager his own life, venturing out into the streets despite repeated warnings from his security team. As the day unfolds, and details of the hazardous conditions are revealed, Packer’s reality becomes blurred, his own fate undetermined despite sage advice from a multitude of advisors. Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Kevin Durand, Jay Baruchel, and Sarah Gadon make up the supporting cast. Our review calls the film “an exceptional adaptation and a remarkable work unto itself,” and says, “everything matters in Cronenberg’s ‘Cosmopolis,’ but not everything is necessarily the same as DeLillo’s book. And that makes the film, as a series of discussions about inter-related money-minded contradictions, insanely rich and maddeningly complex.” MC: 62 RT: 65%

Jennifer Garner Joel Edgerton The Odd Life Of Timothy Green
Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton literally grow a child in Peter Hedges' "The Odd Life To Timothy Green." The film follows a couple, who after being unable to conceive a child, bury their wishes in the backyard only for some kid to grow out of the ground, come into their lives, and change them forever. It sounds about as hokey as Disney drama like this could be, but perhaps the supporting cast that includes Rosemarie DeWitt, Dianne Wiest, Ron Livingston and Common will provide some reason to watch this, even if critics have little to recommend. MC: 48 RT: 41%

If you want to get your song on, "Sparkle" might fit the bill. The remake of the 1976 movie features Cee-Lo Green, the late Whitney Houston, "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Derek Luke, Mike Epps and Omari Hardwick in the tale of a Supremes-like Motown group on the rise in the 1950s. Does it all work? Most critical types don't think so, but that won't stop Houston diehards from buying a ticket. MC: 54 RT: 55%

The Awakening Dominic Hall Rebecca Hall Dominic West
Nick Murphy’s “The Awakening” is a modern chiller built on the backs of traditional horror films, a simultaneously eerie shriek-fest and thought-provoking thriller that provides a showcase for proven thespians and talented new actors alike. Author Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) spends her time touring WWI-torn Britain, debunking mentalists, mediums, and ghost stories and dispersing rational explanations in their places. However, a lonesome holiday spent in a boys’ boarding school gets her rethinking her stance on the paranormal. Jimmy McNulty – er, Dominic WestImelda Staunton, and Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark from “Game of Thrones” – holler at HBO this round, for reals) co-star. Our review admits that the film “has more than its share of flaws, but it also gets its balance of tones right, proving spooky, involving and occasionally resonant, while still managing to bring something new to a well-worn tale, and providing a terrific lead part for one of the most promising actresses of her generation.” MC: 56 RT: 67%

Man and machine join forces in the near-futuristic world of “Robot & Frank,” from first-time feature director Jake Schreier and writer Christopher D. Ford. Aging cat burglar Frank (Frank Langella) has grown senile, spending too many nights robbing his own house and too many days visiting the cobweb cloaked library (Reading?! Horrors) and its attractive manager (Susan Sarandon). His wife is markedly absent, so his adult children (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) remedy the problematic situation by getting him a robot (voiced by Peter Saarsgard and remarkably performed by Rachael Ma). Though Robot is designed to act as a live-in nurse, Frank isn’t ready to give up his autonomy or his burgling, and teaches the machine to be his thieving assistant instead. Our review calls the alt-buddy-comedy “high-concept” but “low-key,” and says, “while the premise certainly makes it stand out from the sea of dysfunctional family dramas, a cute idea alone doesn’t quite cut it. In the end it’s just not funny enough to be completely entertaining and the sentiment feels tacked on.” MC: 65 RT: 87%

Beloved

The Christophe Honoré-directed “Beloved” relates the lives and loves, the passions and the miseries of a mother and daughter who – blessedly – express their supercharged emotional states through song. Madeline (Ludivine Sagnier) grew up amidst Paris’ freewheeling '60s counterculture, followed her heart to Prague, and had a daughter with a Czech doctor, Jaromil (Rasha Bukvik). In the present, Madeline (now Catherine Deneuve) is married to a different man (Michel Delpech), but still nurses feelings for Jaromil (now Miloš Forman); her baby is a grown woman (Chiara Mastroianni) who also pines after someone unfit for her, someone equally as un-gettable – a gay American veterinarian (Paul Schneider). If this all seems inane, well, just wait until it’s in lyrical form and set to music. Our review calls the film “tone-deaf, smug, precious and flat,” and “a recycled exploration of themes and techniques the director has used before inside the bloated casing of a movie with a 145-minute running time.” MC: 51 RT: 62%

This article is related to: The Expendables 2, ParaNorman, Cosmopolis, The Awakening, Robot And Frank, Beloved


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