What an eclectic bag this weekend brings. The two must-sees are in the indie-arthouse sector: Belgium's 2012 Oscar entry "Our Children," a devastating real-life story of a mother driven to murder, and James Ponsoldt's coming-of-age Sundance hit "The Spectacular Now," starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller.
Genre entries "Europa Report" and "2 Guns" are both sitting with decent reviews. The former, a sci-fi tale starring Sharlto Copley of "District 9" and "Elysium" fame, is being hailed as a satisfying found footage deep-space entry, if slightly lacking in originality; "2 Guns," starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, and helmed by Iceland's Baltasar Kormakur (Oscar entry "The Deep," "Contraband"), is pleasing the critics with its skilled, dynamic action and charismatic leads.
TOH! likes Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis' jaded Hollywood portrait "The Canyons," starring -- as everyone knows -- Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen, though we're in the minority on that one.
And "The Smurfs 2," which opened Wednesday, is universally reviled.
Our Children Dir. Joachim Lafosse, Belgium | DistriB Films | Cast: Emilie Dequenne, Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup | 93% Fresh | The Guardian: "Émilie Dequenne is the young actor who made a powerful debut in the Dardenne brothers' prize-winning film "Rosetta" in 1999, and what a superb performance she gives now in this inexpressibly painful drama." | Our TOH! review
The Spectacular Now Dir. James Ponsoldt, USA | A24 | Cast: Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Bob Odenkirk, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Andre Royo, Kyle Chandler | 92% Fresh | Variety: "Skillfully adapted from Tim Tharp's novel, evocatively lensed in the working-class neighborhoods of Athens, Ga., and tenderly acted by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, this bittersweet ode to the moment of childhood's end builds quietly to a pitch-perfect finale." | Our TOH! review
Europa Report Dir. Sebastian Cordero, USA | Magnet Releasing | Cast: Sharlto Copley, Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth Davidtz, Michael Nyqvist | 75% Fresh | Film.com: "Europa Report doesn’t entirely sell out to convention by the end, but the steps it takes to reach its noble conclusion reflect a lack of imagination and invention, especially for a film that initially seems to champion such qualities."
2 Guns Dir. Baltasar Kormakur, USA | Universal Pictures | Cast: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Edward James Olmos | 59% Rotten | Village Voice: "This is a here today, gone tomorrow trifle, albeit one with lots of gunplay. In midsummer, that may be enough, but it's still a shame that 2 Guns shoots so many blanks." | Our TOH! review and roundup
The Canyons Dir. Paul Schrader, USA | IFC Films | Cast: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen | 15% Rotten | Indiewire: "Instead of commenting on the vapidity of the film industry, Paul Schrader's miscast, poorly executed and utterly soulless drama is an example of the failing art form it seeks to indict. Though it has real ideas, Schrader and his team never manage to put them into action." | Our TOH! review and roundup
The Smurfs 2 Dir. Raja Gosnell, USA | Columbia Pictures | Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays | 14% Rotten | San Francisco Chronicle: "There's so much torture and suffering in this movie, it starts to feel like 'Zero Dark Smurfy.'"