This may be one of the rare summer weekends when critics make a difference. While the conventional wisdom has holdover "Despicable Me" 2" and dumb male entry "Grownups 2" dominating the weekend box office, critics have excoriated the Adam Sandler movie and are giving high marks to Guillermo del Toro's monsters vs. robots sci-fi spectacle "Pacific Rim," a highly original film amid a summer of trite sequels and bombastic reboots. Its $190 million budget might not yield a satisfying payoff, but early ticket sales yielded a better-than-expected Thursday night of $3.6 million. If it plays beyond the fanboys, word-of-mouth could save the day.
Also opening, in limited release, is Ryan Coogler's Sundance and Cannes hit "Fruitvale Station," which chronicles the last 24 hours in the life of Oscar Grant, a young Oakland man who was fatally shot by a BART police officer on New Year's Day, 2009. Though some critics dispute the favorable light in which Coogler casts Grant (a strong performance by Michael B. Jordan of "Friday NIght Lights"), the movie marks the discovery of a promising new filmmaker; it's a visceral, intensely moving experience with superb acting from Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz.
Also finally hitting theaters is Thomas Vinterberg's must-see Danish drama "The Hunt," starring the magnificent Mads Mikkelsen of "Hannibal" fame as a teacher wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a kindergarten student. He won the 2012 Palme d'Or for Best Actor.
Racking up favorable reviews is Sebastian Silva's psychedelic road movie, "Crystal Fairy," starring Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann, about drug-doing hipsters and hippies. Well-received at Sundance earlier this year, the film is out now in specialty theaters but IFC has also released it on VOD platforms.
"Grown-Ups 2," the sequel to the 2010 buddy film, reunites Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade. This is certainly a contender for worst-reviewed film of the summer thus far. Reception hasn't been good either for another sequel, the horror anthology "V/H/S/2," out in limited release. Watch trailers for this week's releases after the jump.
The Hunt Dir. Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark | Magnolia Pictures | Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Alexandra Rapaport | 92% Fresh | The Guardian: "It is forthright, powerful, composed and directed with clarity and overwhelming force, yet capable of great subtlety and nuance." | Our TOH! review and interview with Mikkelsen.
Fruitvale Station Dir. Ryan Coogler, USA | TWC | Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Chad Michael Murray | 91% Fresh | New York Magazine: "'Fruitvale Station' will rock your world — and, if the life of Oscar Grant means anything, compel you to work to change it." | Our TOH! review and interview with Coogler.
Crystal Fairy Dir. Sebastian Silva, Chile | IFC Films | Cast: Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffmann | 80% Fresh | Village Voice: "The film is often beautiful and appealingly light. Every clear-eyed insight into why pushy people insist on pushing is matched by loose ensemble humor and lyric reveries." | Our TOH! review.
Pacific Rim Dir. Guillermo del Toro, USA | Warner Bros. | Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day | 72% Fresh | Film.com: "It is one of the better dumbass sci-fi action movies to come down the pike in quite some time." | Our TOH! review, del Toro interview, Kikuchi story and roundup.
V/H/S/2 Dirs. Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard, USA | Magnet Releasing | 66% Fresh | The New York Times: "The horror anthology has a long tradition, going at least as far back as the British classic 'Dead of Night,' in 1945. The best offer surprise endings or a sense of humor. You won't receive much of either here. Just vertigo and maybe a wicked case of induced attention deficit disorder."
Grown-Ups 2 Dir. Dennis Dugan, USA | Columbia Pictures | Cast: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, Salma Hayek | 7% Fresh | The Playlist: "Basically, it’s a film made for brainless grunts who like to hang out all day making sub-literate jokes about boobs and gays while watching the game. No wonder the first movie was such a success."