The summer ends on a high note with one of the best-reviewed movie weekends of the season. Four films are sitting with an 80% Fresh or higher on the Tomatometer, and for good reason.
Destin Cretton's SXSW winner "Short Term 12," starring a breakout Brie Larson as a foster care worker with a troubled past, has been nabbing excellent reviews since its festival debut, and has some of the highest critical praise of the weekend. It's a must-see and could be part of the awards conversation at year's end.
It's tied with Edgar Wright's hugely entertaining apocalypse comedy "The World's End," starring Wright regulars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as well as Martin Freeman ("The Hobbit") and Rosamund Pike. Reviewers agree with us that the film surpasses the first two installments in Wright's loose trilogy, "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," in terms of wit and filmmaking confidence.
Horror-comedy "You're Next" can be added to this summer's few films featuring a female lead. Sharni Vinson gives a tough and funny performance as a young woman stuck in the secluded mansion of her in-laws while it's under siege by a group of animal-masked murderers. Let's just say her character's upbringing in a survivalist community comes in handy.
Joe Swanberg delivers his strongest film since "Hannah Takes the Stairs" with "Drinking Buddies," a bigger-budgeted and more polished entry from the mumblecore director. Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston all turn in top-notch performaces as two couples facing multiple attractions.
Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai's "The Grandmaster" has mixed reviews of its various iterations since its debut in China last January. While its biopic elements, focusing on Bruce Lee trainer Ip Man (Tony Leung), are clunky, it is still one of the most gorgeous examples of sheer filmmaking this year, with ravishing kung fu sequences set against jaw-dropping backgrounds, like a snowy train station in Northern China. Zhang Ziyi also stars, showing off her famous martial arts chops.
Ulrich Seidl's second installment in his "Paradise" trilogy, "Faith," is well-liked by critics. TOH! liked it too -- but only to a certain extent: It's "the work of a master. This just isn't his masterpiece."
The World's End Dir. Edgar Wright, UK | Focus Features | Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike | 95% Fresh | Time Out London: "This is a tighter, smarter film than either Shaun of the
Dead or Hot Fuzz, and buried beneath all the blue-goo aliens and terrible
punning is a heartfelt meditation on the perils and pleasures of nostalgia."
Short Term 12 Dir. Destin Cretton, USA | Cinedigm | Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr. | 95% Fresh | Indiewire: "Taking its time to let the world take shape, Short Term 12 builds to an involving series of mini-climaxes without tidying up every loose end." | Our TOH! interview with Brie Larson
You're Next Dir. Adam Wingard, USA | Lionsgate | Cast: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Nicholas Tucci, Barbara Crampton, Amy Seimetz | 90% Fresh | Variety: "You’re Next is fairly light on psychological and narrative complexity, but it’s still a good cut above the slasher norm, with a firm grasp on visceral action and the wisdom to place tongue slightly in cheek when things go further over the top."
Drinking Buddies Dir. Joe Swanberg, USA | Magnolia Pictures | Cast: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston | 80% Fresh | Slant: "Less precise and cohesive than much of Joe Swanberg's recent work, as its small, improvisational skeleton struggles to meet the demands of the more ambitious story it's trying to tell." | Our TOH! revew | Our TOH! interview with Joe Swanberg
Paradise: Faith Dir. Ulrich Seidl, Austria | Strand Releasing | Cast: Maria Hofstatter, Nabil Saleh, Natalya Baranova | 76% Fresh | The Guardian: "There are plenty of Seidl's signature grotesques, extended uncomfortable scenes and hardcore imagery owing something to Lucian Freud and Diane Arbus. But perhaps for the first time there is also a hint of ordinary human heartbreak." | Our TOH! review
The Grandmaster Dir. Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong | The Weinstein Company | Cast: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen | 63% Fresh | The Hollywood Reporter: "True to Wong’s style, The Grandmaster is infused with melancholy and a near-existentialist resignation to the uncertainties of fate." | Our TOH! review and roundup