New movies this week
The gist: A story based on the career of White House employee Eugene Allen, following the Civil Rights Movement through the experiences of a butler who served eight different presidents. Director Lee Daniels is gunning for Oscars big time here. PG-13
The cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, John Cusack, James Marsden, Robin Williams and Minka Kelly.
The buzz: There's a lot of ground to cover in only two hours, but Daniels gives it his all. "Even with all contrivances and obvious point-making and familiar historical signposting, Daniels' The Butler is always engaging, often entertaining and certainly never dull," The Hollywood Reporter says.
The gist: Ashton Kutcher makes his own Oscar bid in a failed effort to paint Apple CEO Steve Jobs as an innovative perfectionist eventually beloved by mindless hordes convinced that touchscreens and compressed music files somehow make saints of people who deny paternity of their babies and fire employees on a whim. But boy, your iPhone sure is neat, ain't it? PG-13
The cast: Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons and Lesley Ann Warren.
The buzz: Perhaps focusing only on his time at Apple was the wrong move here. "We walk away knowing nothing about what made this revolutionary tick. He deserves a 360-degree portrait," Time Out New York says. "What you get is a mini recap of a pioneer's life — a biopic shuffle."
The gist: A documentary about Tilikum, the SeaWorld orca who puts the "killer" in killer whale. You thought it was just a turn of phrase? PG-13
The cast: John Hargrove, John Jett, Carol Ray, Jeffrey Ventre, Samantha Berg and Mark Simmons.
The buzz: You won't quite want to pet anything in Orlando again. "It not only delivers astonishing, suspenseful footage that makes it a legitimate thriller, but also serves up thoughtful meditations about using wild animals for our own entertainment," the San Francisco Chronicle says.
The gist: In case the first one just wasn't violent enough, we now have a city full of thugs and a supervillain bent on killing the hero. It doesn't seem like so much fun now, even if the bad guy is McLovin. R
The cast: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, John Leguizamo and Donald Faison.
The buzz: The entire exercise is kind of a miss, neither fun nor exciting. "The whole movie could be considered a questionable attempt at appealing to 14-year-old boys, as the delightful irony of the first Kick-Ass was apparently exhausted before the sequel was made," the San Jose Mercury News says.
The gist: A young businessman is forced to commit corporate espionage on his rival, then learns he is only being used by the CEO of his company for the corporation's nefarious purposes. As if that whole storyline is somehow a revelation about the state of American business culture. PG-13
The cast: Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Lucas Till and Embeth Davidtz.
The buzz: Techno-thrillers are hard to pull off, and this one can't do it. "Its twists are either predictable or improbable, and its double-crosses are so inert they're more like crosses-and-a-half," TheWrap.com says.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
The gist: A girl learns she's actually the descendant of a line of demon hunters in Hollywood's latest attempt to create a franchise out of a series of largely unreadable young adult fiction. They're going to want to do this four more times, so decide if you want to make that investment.
The cast: Lily Collins, Robert Maillet, Kevin Durand, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Godfrey Gao.
The buzz: Think long and hard about that time commitment. They're not even offering critics' previews for this one, so just imagine how bad the rest could be.
— Joshua Gillin firstname.lastname@example.org