Roundups on some of the more interesting titles opening this weekend have been updated through today: The Last Picture Show, 50/50, Margaret, Take Shelter and My Joy — see, too, Daniel Kasman's review — as well as another on the documentaries.
"Hillbilly horror is nothing new," writes Cheryl Eddy in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "Some might mark its heyday as the 1970s, a decade containing Deliverance (1972), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and I Spit On Your Grave (1978). Others might point to Herschell Gordon Lewis's immortal Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), probably cinema's most persuasive example of why Yankees road-tripping below the Mason-Dixon Line should never, for any reason, detour off the main highway…. But what if, asks Eli Craig's Tucker and Dale vs Evil, you were totally misjudging those sinister-seeming whiskey-tango yokels? What if, despite being a little unwashed and fond of sharp objects and power tools, they happened to be really nice guys? The film — about a couple of blue-collar dudes (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) hanging out at their mountain cabin who unwittingly terrify a group of vacationing college kids — finds a sense of humor in the tired genre. The result is blood-spattered comedy gold."
"The movie is a genial genre subversion looking to do for backwoods redneck thrillers… what Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost did for zombie films (Shaun of the Dead) and buddy cop thrillers (Hot Fuzz)," suggests Dennis Cozzalio. "But as Wright et al or a veteran parodist like Mel Brooks might have told them, rich tribute to a beloved, familiar cinematic type is more easily proposed than achieved no matter how clever is the premise, no matter how beloved is the source…. Craig and [writer Morgan] Jurgenson toy with the wide-screen frame, but they haven't yet learned how to create visual jokes with it the way Edgar Wright does, and the movie never finds a subject to lift it beyond parody, the way Shaun of the Dead became a hilariously spiked examination of a soulless British society in lockstep to routine and working desperately to deny the grim (and ever grimmer) realities of life and death."
Back on the other hand, Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle: "Referencing everything from Deliverance to The Evil Dead to Fargo and nailing its central conceit dead-on (literally!), this is one of those rare genre comedies that near-perfectly balances its blend of grue, guffaws, and gag reflexes." And back again: The AV Club's Noel Murray finds that the "jokes in Tucker & Dale are funny — just not funny enough to hear over and over." More from Robert Abele (Los Angeles Times), Ty Burr (Boston Globe, 3/4), David Fear (TONY, 1/5), Neil Genzlinger (New York Times), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Daniel Loria (L), Brian Miller (Voice), Nick Schager (Slant, 2.5/4), Jason Shawhan (Nashville Scene) and Alison Willmore (Movieline, 6/10). Noelene Clark talks with Tyler Labine for the LAT.
David Fear in Time Out New York on Mammuth: "It's become fashionable — and frankly, all too easy — to bash the once-great Gérard Depardieu, either for a decade's worth of phoned-in supporting parts or his constant displays of public boorishness. He's become a prolific but highly predictable actor in his autumn years — which makes Depardieu's turn in this sensationally unsanitary comedy feel like such a pure rush. It's both a coup of reactive acting and a complete throwback to the feral restlessness of his early work with directors like Bertrand Blier, in movies like Going Places (1974); his character could be an older version of that film's nihilistic punk after he'd lived through a few decades of defeat."
But for Melissa Anderson, writing in the Voice, Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern's feature is merely "a yokel-roasting road adventure that, much like Depardieu's other recently released vehicle, My Afternoons with Margueritte, asks little more of the actor than to play a lumbering naïf," and in Slant, Bill Weber suggests it be "be jettisoned for the inevitable John Travolta remake."
"An odd-couple pairing of low-key, self-effacing musician and hack, obnoxiously effusive method actor, Surrogate Valentine is something of a buddy-road-trip movie as well as a sliver of a romance," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. "But nothing's too emphatic in Dave Boyle's film, whose tone mirrors the relaxed vibe of its star, singer-songwriter Goh Nakamura, here playing a version of himself…. Almost self-consciously unprepossessing, Surrogate Valentine isn't a movie that's easy to dislike, but it's also one that's difficult to fully embrace, a thin outline of a film in need of some considerable fleshing out." More from David DeWitt (New York Times), Michelle Orange (Voice) and Gabe Toro (Playlist, A-).
"For years, bland and pretty actresses have been playing panicked singles with lovable flaws in mainstream romantic comedies that are rarely very romantic and are almost never actually comedic," writes New York's Logan Hill. "Meanwhile, the supremely game Anna Faris has been debasing herself with one self-immolatingly hilarious turn after another, from Scary Movie to Smiley Face and The House Bunny. She's made her name by never playing a real romantic lead, by never chasing after that hot guy with the excusable flaw, by never settling for a cute pratfall when she can projectile-spew vomit or pass out, mid-coitus, with Seth Rogen. Still, it seemed inevitable that she'd finally bring all that ditzy anarchy into a rom-com and blow the old formula wide open — and though she finally gets that straight conventional leading role in What's Your Number?, it's so dull that it may be the only film that could leave you wishing for another Scary Movie sequel."
The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris notes that What's Your Number? is "basically a Katherine Heigl movie by another name. (That's how barren the romantic-comic universe is: 'a Katherine Heigl movie' actually means something.)" More from Miriam Bale (Slant, 1.5/4), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 3/5), Stephen Holden (NYT), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 1.5/5), Kimber Myers (Playlist, D), Mary Pols (Time), Nathan Rabin (AV Club, C+), Anna Smith (Time Out London, 2/5) and Scott Tobias (NPR).
"Horror fans are by nature a forgiving lot, willing to overlook balsa-grade characterizations and visible zippers for a few decent jolts," blogs Andrew Wright at the Stranger. "When a scary movie fails to provide on that most basic level, however, the theater floor has rarely seemed so interesting. Released after riding the pine for nearly a year, the paranormal thriller Dream House is impeccably cast, handsomely mounted, and just as dead as dead can be. There are few hard and fast rules in the genre, but when the presence of two little undead girls can't raise even a single goosebump, warm up the hearse." More from Rob Humanick (Slant, 2.5/4) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 7.5/10).
"You can tell the makers of Bunraku were really excited about creating a cool, new movie world," writes Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe, "because that's all the movie is: 118 minutes of effects, art-direction, and genres. The story unites a gunslinger (Josh Hartnett) and a samurai (the androgynous Japanese pop star Gackt) for the purpose of killing a crime lord (Ron Perlman). So it's a Western, a swordsman movie, and gangster epic, and yet none of those things. I imagine the writer and director, Guy Moshe, wanted to try to see what happened if he pretended a bunch of different iconic styles and archetypal characters could be compressed into a single film. Not like this they can't."
More from Mark Holcomb (Voice), Nick Schager (Slant, 0.5/4), Andy Webster (NYT) and Alison Willmore (AV Club, C).
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