By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! February 6, 2014 at 4:15PM
A wicked brew of mind-melting psychological thrillers opens this weekend, and both films also happen to be the strongest works of their directors' careers. "Kill List" director Ben Wheatley's B&W feature "A Field in England" busts cinematic convention in the form of a wild, unsettling quasi-horror picture, while Denis Villeneuve's equally creepy "Enemy" is a masterful exercise in taut dread that even Hitchcock would have admired.
Also in theaters arrive the much-ballyhooed (and delayed) "The Monuments Men," gaining mixed reactions from critics, which many feared after the film edged out of the Oscar race in December. The weekend's surprising treat is "The Lego Movie," which we feared would be yet another bland, been-there-seen-that intellectual property rehash. Across the board, reviews are unanimously strong. Even Time's Richard Corliss calls the film "the coolest movie in ages" (see his review below). Trailers after the jump.
Is Ben Wheatley's fitfully fucked-up "A Field in England," opening Friday in select cities, the trippiest historical horror film ever made? Before the film unspools into a stroboscopic acid trip, we're thrusted into the skirmishes of a rogue brood of soldiers in the 17th century English countryside who, across enemy lines, decide to bury the hatchet for the common goal of finding a pub. While schlepping through the marshes, they encounter much more than that -- including a patch of psychotropic mushrooms, whose side effects seem to take over the entire film.
If "Black Swan" were remade and recast with Jake Gyllenhaal as a lonely professor in the place of psycho ballerina Natalie Portman, it might look something like "Enemy," Canadian helmer Denis Villeneuve's ("Prisoners") anxiety-drenched doppelganger thriller from Jose Saramago's novel "The Double." At a curt 90 minutes, this disorienting mindbender never loosens its grip as we follow -- or try to follow -- Gyllenhaal's disturbed Adam on a sinuous journey to find his dead ringer, an extra he spots in a rented movie. A la Hitch, blondes abound in this psychosexual thriller offering more clues than answers. Pretentious? Sure, but never overtly self-serious. It's terrific, murky fun, now available exclusively on DirecTV before a March theatrical release via A24.
Voiced by such "Parks and Recreation" stars as Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman and Alison Brie, and also starring Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks and Morgan Freeman among many others, the computer-animated/stop-motion hybrid "The Lego Movie" follows Emmet (Pratt), an ordinary Lego figurine mistaken for the Special, a master builder who can save the universe. The film looks to be a kid-pleaser, with enough wit to satisfy parents as well.
Also heading into wide release is George Clooney's WWII-set "The Monuments Men" which, despite its stellar cast, falls flat in its fact-based portrait of an American military task force sent to Germany to seize great works of art from Nazi thieves. Did this adventure caper need more time in the oven, despite the post-holiday pushback? It's a pity that "Monuments Men," adapted from Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter's book, has but a shadow of the greatness of Clooney's earlier directorial efforts "The Ides of March" and "Good Night, and Good Luck," a masterpiece.
A Field in England Dir. Ben Wheatley, UK | Drafthouse Films | Cast: Julian Barratt, Peter Ferdinando, Richard Glover, Ryan Pope, Reece Shearsmith | 88% Fresh | Time Out: "This is a film built on sensation, misdirection and randomness. The result can be maddeningly obtuse, but it's also breathtakingly lovely and genuinely unsettling."
Enemy Dir. Denis Villeneuve, Canada & Spain | A24 | Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini, Sarah Gadon | 89% Fresh | The Hollywood Reporter: "As hauntingly strange as it is inconclusive and frustrating, Enemy, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Incendies), is one of the more head-scratching additions to the doppelganger genre. Yet it will certainly have its fans." | Our TOH! review
The Lego Movie Dirs. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, USA | Warner Bros. | Voice Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman | 98% Fresh | TIME: "Take the kids to 'The LEGO Movie' -- the funniest, cleverest, most exhaustingly exhilarating animated feature in ages -- then leave them to play with their toys and see it again for your own wicked amusement."
The Monuments Men Dir. George Clooney, USA | Fox | Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett | 33% Fresh | Slant: "George Clooney's film boils a big, messy maelstrom of theft and uncertainty down to a digestible, faintly appetizing mush." | Our TOH! review