An eclectic bag of well-reviewed films hit theaters this weekend. Best reviews go to Greg Camalier's Sundance doc on "Muscle Shoals," the legendary Alabama town where, during the 1960s and '70s, such music titans as the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and Paul Simon would make the pilgrimage to alter the sound of soul and rock n' roll. The music recorded there was extraordinary.
Also musically themed, "Metallica: Through the Never" blends reality and fiction, starring rising star Dane DeHaan as a young gopher at a live Metallica concert. Critics are positive on what the NYTines calls "total metal immersion," and THR says is "pure sense-swamping spectacle."
Jim Mickle's "We Are What We Are," a midnight hit at Sundance, is a well-written and superbly cast smart horror flick that marks the emergence of a strong director with a taste for the macabre.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's romantic comedy and satire "Don Jon" is receiving modestly upbeat reviews. Its parallel between porn fantasies and the romantic fantasies spun by Hollywood is a bit "on the nose" for some (Variety), but the casting of Gordon-Levitt and Johansson, both giving their best Jersey accents, is generally winning over critics.
Finally, the "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" sequel is sitting with average reviews.
Muscle Shoals Dir. Greg "Freddy" Camalier, USA | Magnolia Pictures | Cast: Aretha Franklin, Bono, Mick Jagger, Gregg Allman, Alicia Keys | 100% Fresh | The Dissolve: "'Muscle Shoals’ story has needed telling, and Camalier packs
that telling with memorable stories and music—though the film sometimes
substitutes admiration for investigation, paving over conflicts and moving on
to the next amazing piece of music to get recorded in town."
Metallica: Through the Never Dir. Nimrod Antal, USA | Picturehouse Entertainment | Cast: Dane DeHaan, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo | 94% Fresh | Hollywood Reporter: "However mindless and heartless it may be, Through the Never succeeds as pure sense-swamping spectacle. It is a blow-out banquet for Metallica fans, and a blockbuster rock-and-rollercoaster ride for any heavy metal tourists curious to see this music played at major-league level." | Our TOH! interview with Dane DeHaan
We Are What We Are Dir. Jim Mickle, Canada | Entertainment One | Cast: Ambyr Childers, Bill Sage, Julia Garner, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell | 86% Fresh | Village Voice: "It isn't until the ending, which turns the squirm amplifier up to 11 and exceeded even my horrific expectations, that we finally see the story's potential realized." | Our TOH! interview with Jim Mickle
Don Jon Dir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, USA | Relativity Media | Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson | 75% Fresh | Variety: "Gordon-Levitt’s script can be a bit on-the-nose at times,
but that’s an indulgence easily forgiven in a debut feature, and this ensemble
winningly sells the movie’s tricky tonal mix." | Our TOH! roundup of Joseph Gordon-Levitt interviews
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 Dir. Cody Cameron, USA | Columbia Pictures | Cast: Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Will Forte | 55% Rotten | New Orleans Times-Picayune: "It aims to entertain, to offer a few tame chuckles for parents and children to enjoy in a purely Saturday-morning way. And it accomplishes that."