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This Weekend: Plenty to Choose From with 'Dallas Buyers Club', 'Broken Circle Breakdown,' 'Ender's Game' and 'About Time'

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood October 31, 2013 at 2:54PM

A plenitude of films hit theaters this weekend. Best reviewed is Jean-Marc Vallee's "Dallas Buyers Club," starring an emaciated Matthew McConughey as real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodruff, who in the early '90s set up an under-the-table pharmacy in Texas supplying unapproved meds for HIV. McConaughey has stirred up Oscar talk for his performance, as has Jared Leto, in a supporting turn as Woodruff's cross-dressing partner in crime.
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Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club"
Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club"

A plenitude of films hit theaters this weekend. Best reviewed is Jean-Marc Vallee's "Dallas Buyers Club," starring an emaciated Matthew McConughey as real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodruff, who in the early '90s set up an under-the-table pharmacy in Texas supplying unapproved meds for HIV. McConaughey has stirred up Oscar talk for his performance, as has Jared Leto, in a supporting turn as Woodruff's cross-dressing partner in crime.

Belgium's Oscar entry "The Broken Circle Breakdown" (NY November 1, LA November 8) is a sexy and poignant love story about a freewheeling bluegrass musician and a tattoo artist who start a family and confront radically different world views as they fight to save their daughter from cancer. The crowdpleaser is a strong awards contender. 

Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in "About Time"
Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in "About Time"

Orson Scott Card sci-fi adaptation "Ender's Game" has flown in with modestly positive reviews, with critics praising director Gavin Hood for delivering a solid futuristic YA entry. The film's impressive cast includes Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield in the title role, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis and Hailee Steinfeld.

Working Title's go-to writer Richard Curtis's third directing outing "About Time" is a romantic comedy, time travel movie and family drama all in one, starring Bill Nighy and up-and-comer Domhnall Gleeson as a father and son who time travel, and Rachel McAdams as the object of Gleeson's affections. Curtis ("Love Actually") celebrates family and "the treasuring of the banal ordinary days," he says. 

"Last Vegas," a sort of geriatric "Hangover" starring Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Michael Douglas, has mediocre reviews. TOH's John Anderson calls it a "hellish vision." It seems the top-notch cast can't quite save the stale and pandering premise.

But in terms of critical derision, no film can touch "Diana," the Princess Diana biopic starring Naomi Watts. It suffered from terrible reviews out of the gate, and things haven't improved: The film is 9% Rotten on the Tomatometer.

Dallas Buyers Club Dir. Jean-Marc Vallee, USA | Focus Features | Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Griffin Dunne | 91% FreshVillage Voice: "What's remarkable about Dallas Buyers Club is its lack of sentimentality. The movie, like its star, is all angles and elbows, earning its emotion through sheer pragmatism." | Our TOH! video interview with Matthew McConaughey

The Broken Circle Breakdown Dir. Felix Van Groeningen, Belgium | Tribeca Film | Cast: Veerie Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh | 78% FreshSlant: "The film owes more than a debt to the unwieldy narrative schematics of Felix Van Groeningen's fellow Scandinavian auteur Susanne Bier."

Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield in "Ender's Game."
Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield in "Ender's Game."

Ender's Game Dir. Gavin Hood, USA | Summit | Cast; Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, Sam Sheperd, Ben Kingsley | 69% FreshTime Out London: "It falters once the actual war begins: Ben Kingsley shows up as a Maori warrior with the weirdest imaginable accent, the final battle is uninvolving, and there’s an unconvincing upbeat coda. Ender’s Game ends up being fitfully engaging and endearingly odd." | Our TOH! interview with director Gavin Hood

About Time Dir. Richard Curtis, UK | Universal | Cast: Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Nighy | 66% FreshThe Hollywood Reporter: "There are just enough laugh-out-loud moments here to excuse the lurches into shameless, tear-jerking sentimentality." | Our TOH! video interview with director Richard Curtis

Last Vegas Dir. Jon Turteltaub, USA | CBS Films | Cast: Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Kirk Douglas | 43% RottenVariety: "A smattering of funny gags and the nostalgia value of the cast -- none of whom, curiously, have ever shared the screen before -- keeps the whole thing more watchable than it has any right to be." | Our TOH! review

Diana Dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel, UK | Entertainment One | Cast: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews | 9% RottenGuardian: "Poor Princess Diana. I hesitate to use the term "car crash cinema". But the awful truth is that, 16 years after that terrible day in 1997, she has died another awful death."

This article is related to: Reviews, Reviews, About Time, Ender's Game, Dallas Buyers Club, Diana


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.