10 - 6
Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman
As madly inventive as anything from Pixar yet geared toward the aging fright fan in all of us, ParaNorman is a godsend. It should be greeted with choirs and carnivals, not the cynical snubs of an Ice Age/Shrek/Madagascar brainwashed brood. This is smart, sophisticated storytelling, each little detail adding another layer of lovability to what is, already, a dread geek’s dream. The notion of boy vs. the undead drags up images both happy and horrifying and ParaNorman doesn’t shy away from either. This is not scary so much as unsettling, and the humor is gentle, not driven by already antiquated pop culture references and crude cracks at bodily functions. Everything centers around our undersized hero, his small circle of associations, and the immense burden placed on his delicate, dorky shoulders. Bill Gibron
Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Sean Bean
Once upon a time, fairy tales were used to transport children of all ages to kingdoms filled with beautiful princesses, mischievous children in need of lessons, valiant princes, scary witches and an assortment of colorful characters that they only could visualize in the confines of their imaginations. With the arrival of mass media (especially television and movies) our ideas of how fairy tale characters looked and acted became standardized. Children born during the last two decades probably think that most of their beloved characters weren’t created by the Grimm brothers or Charles Perrault, but that they in fact came from the minds and computers of the artists working for Disney or some other media conglomerate.
This commercialization of magic, led to an outburst of cynicism as seen in movies like the Shrek series, which makes a mission out of destroying the essence of fairy tales and imposing a system through which childhood becomes synonymous with flatulence jokes and intolerance. No wonder these kids turn into teenagers obsessed with celibate vampires on the verge of constant suicide, or become enthralled by mindless adventures in which destruction equals joy.
Upon first approaching Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror, it’s almost impossible not to believe it’ll be a rehash of the joyless spirit that’s plagued fairy tales recently, but after watching it, it’s absolutely refreshing to see that fairy tales can still be told without recurring to Tim Burton’s necrophiliac aesthetics, Dreamworks’ pop culture references, and more so, that they can still feel magical. Jose Solís Mayén
Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi
Crude and laugh out loud funny, Seth MacFarlane’s big screen directorial debut takes a completely lewd and ludicrous concept and endows it with a surprisingly sweet heart… and drugs. Mark Wahlberg plays John Bennett, a Bostonian ne’er do well who, as a child, wished his teddy bear would come to life. Suffice to say, the bear (voiced by MacFarlane), did. What ensues is a fun buddy picture in which one of the buddies just happens to be stuffed. Thanks to snappy dialogue and believable performances all around,Ted makes it easy to forget that the film’s namesake isn’t real, merely the product of CG and a motion capture suit. Audiences willing to suspend disbelief and uptight notions of safe, inoffensive humor will find themselves rewarded with authentic belly laughs and a good-natured treatise on true love and friendship. Lana Cooper
21 Jump Street
Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ellie Kemper, Rob Riggle, Ice Cube
21 Jump Street
Ridiculous and enjoyable in a way that lets you revel in the movie’s basic silliness. The threadbare plot—two mismatched cops going undercover as high school students to smoke out a drug ring—is secondary to the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, who are both self-effacing and brazen enough to be funny in all the right places. The success of the film relies on its underlying premise—our fundamental desire to recapture our lost youth. That premise is powerful enough in spite of all the movie’s cheery, crass comedy to make us root for these two inane characters. In some ways, comedies like 21 Jump Street help us make that awkward transition into our 30s. Tatum and Hill are tossed among the nubile and naive teenagers to realize just how callow and stupid they were in their teens and twenties. This 21 Jump Street lets you embrace your raucous inner teenager with abandon—your own inner Jeff Spicoli—which we all want to do at some point whether we care to admit it or not. Farisa Khalid
Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Willem Dafoe
Look, the only reason anyone should feel guilty about liking John Carter is because they bought into the media-fueled idea that it was a flop at the box office because it was a terrible movie. John Carter‘s failure was more due to a series of marketing fiascoes and Disney’s ill-advised decision to give first-time live action director Andrew Stanton (he also did Finding Nemo and Wall-E) essentially unchecked power than anything to do with the film itself. The movie was a rip-roaring, swashbuckling adventure about a taciturn, badass Civil War veteran (Taylor Kitsch) who magically gets transported to Mars and essentially becomes a superhero. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original story set the action hero template for the rest of the 20th century, and Stanton brought it to life in an entertaining throwback sort of way. He used his experience at Pixar to make sure the CGI was top-notch, especially in the lifelike animation of the six-limbed, green Tharks. Yes, the plot itself was full of convoluted nonsense involving magical quests and the war between three different civilizations, not to mention the secret fourth civilization guiding things from the shadows. But that sort of thing is par for the course in space opera, and John Carter delivered where it really counted: it was full of great action, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. Chris Conaton