November 29th, 2013
04:52 PM ET
The new movie options are so plentiful at the box office this weekend, it might be hard to choose just one.
There's the family friendly tale "Frozen," the holiday musical "Black Nativity," a Sylvester Stallone-penned action epic ("Homefront") and a heartwarming story of a woman's enduring love for her son ("Philomena").
To help you figure out which film is most deserving of your money and your time, we've rounded up the critical consensus for all the new titles that have flooded the box office. Which movie are you planning on seeing?
"Frozen": Animated movies have been particularly spotty this year, but Disney's "Frozen" is leading the way this holiday weekend. The family film is a spin on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen," and features the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff. It may have an icy premise, but critics are on fire for its return to Disney's roots. IndieWire calls it "a singularly gorgeous movie" that "feels like classic Disney animation. If someone had announced 'Frozen' as the studio's follow-up to 'Beauty & the Beast,' no one would blink. It's that good."
The New York Post warns that the "action scenes (seemingly thrown in to attract boys) are uninvolving, and the comedy sidekick, a talking snowman named Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), can be annoying." But overall, "'Frozen' is a great big snowy pleasure with an emotionally gripping core, brilliant Broadway-style songs and a crafty plot."
"Oldboy": If you've already seen (and are a fan of) the South Korean original, you'd probably be fine with skipping Spike Lee's interpretation of the vengeance thriller. Although Josh Brolin is committed in his portrayal of a man who was sadistically imprisoned for 20 years without knowing why, and director Lee doesn't skimp on the vicious action. While The Hollywood Reporter believes "It would be unreasonable to expect Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' to deliver the disgusting thrill of Park Chan-wook's 2003 original, the story of a man seeking revenge after being imprisoned for many years ... proves durable."
Time magazine agrees that newcomers to "Oldboy" will be "startled" by "its story ingenuities and morbid revelations," but "connoisseurs of the source film (will be left) wondering why Hollywood couldn’t have left great enough alone."
"Homefront": Jason Statham stars in this action pick that was adapted from a Chuck Logan novel by Sylvester Stallone. The premise, which involves a former DEA agent (Statham) who relocates to small town Louisiana with his 10-year-old daughter, only to find himself entangled with an unimpressed meth dealer (James Franco), has all the ingredients of a fun, if empty, good time. Surprisingly, "Homefront" doesn't quite live up to its expectations.
"There are few if any pleasures in movies today as reliable as watching Statham lay waste to a succession of toothless in-breds and other unworthy suitors with a few swift punches and well-timed kicks — and 'Homefront' offers no such shortage," Variety says in its review. "But given the available elements here, the movie is a surprisingly joyless affair, lacking the grisly deadpan humor of Statham’s best vehicles or any real sense of peril."
San Francisco Chronicle warns that"in 'Homefront,' good and amusing and horrible are jumbled all together," although "there's never any impulse to stop watching. ... It takes a certain sense of humor to appreciate a movie like this. You have to savor the movie's extremeness and preposterousness without getting so removed that you fail to enjoy its genuine excitement and tension. You have to find it funny without particularly caring, one way or another, whether anyone intended the movie to be funny."
"Black Nativity": Actress and filmmaker Kasi Lemmons has adapted and directed Langston Hughes' stage production for the silver screen. Critics found the story predictable and hokey, but if you're in the mood for a re-telling of the Christmas story starring acting heavyweights and accompanied by an incredible soundtrack, this syrupy tale might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
"The film, like the play, has a captivating gospel flavor that easily raises the roof beams," says the Chicago Sun Times. There’s nothing in 'Black Nativity' that is not predictable; you know the ending. With that in mind, it’s the journey that matters. And (director Kasi) Lemmons and her cast, aided by some great music, have created an interlude sure to lift the spirit during the holiday season."
Yet to Entertainment Weekly, "Kasi Lemmons' 'Black Nativity' is a lot like a glazed holiday ham: sticky, sweet, and all too easy to mess up. ... While (Jennifer) Hudson's and costar Mary J. Blige's soulful, stirring musical numbers are absolute dynamite, the rest of the film's story is larded with enough soap opera twists and heavy-handed schmaltz that you'll feel like you're being bludgeoned with a hymnal."
"Philomena": Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in this drama about an Irish Catholic woman searching for the son that was taken from her when she was an unwed teen, and as a pair they uphold the film to critical acclaim.
USA Today calls "Philomena" "compelling, poignant and gently funny," with "only a few plot holes (that) keep the film from greatness."
At it's best, says Rolling Stone, "the film exposes a church that likes to sweep scandal under the rug and hypocritical institutions on both sides of the Atlantic that help it happen." And "it's Dench, showing how faith and hell-raising can reside in the same woman, who makes 'Philomena' moving and memorable."
"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom": Idris Elba is racking up loads of acclaim for his portrayal of iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela in a new biopic, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." Directed by Justin Chadwick, the film tries to hew closely to Mandela's expansive autobiography of the same name, and unfortunately is unimaginative as it squeezes in the usual biopic beats.
Time Out New York calls Chadwick's attempt to present Mandela's full life on screen "admirable," but notes that "there's much missing from this overview, which travels in an unilluminating straight line from the subject’s circumcision at 16 to his election as president of South Africa at 75. As a primer, it’s respectable; as cinema, it feels like a biblical gospel, always gearing up for the next big speech or moment, yet shackled by the greatness of its subject."
Yet with Elba as its centerpiece and Naomie Harris as the supporting star, critics say "Mandela" is still worth its cost of admission.
"The performances of Elba and Harris — who plays his wife Winnie, a volatile firebrand whose simmering anger can erupt at any moment — give a crucial human dimension to this streamlined, panoramic, would-be epic," the New York Times says in its review. "Elba conveys the agony as well as the nobility of Mr. Mandela's quest for South African racial inequality."
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