Herewith, a brief round-up of this weekend's opening flicks, and the conventional wisdom surrounding them. In descending order of rottentomatoes.com awesomeness.
Midnight in Paris
The Story: A family travels to Paris for a business trip, and one member, a young man traveling with his fiancé, experiences a dreamlike trip to the City's celebrated past.
The Skinny: Woody Allen's latest film features the typical all-star casting he's known for, including Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody and Michael Sheen, and, for much of it, the romantic '20s era Paris as a backdrop. Woody has had a tendency lo these past two decades to churn out rushed, half-finished films, but this one seems more fully realized. Dreamlike and mischievous, Carrie Rickey writes the film is "warm and effortless," and "embraceable."
Full Review: Midnight in Paris
Now Playing: Ritz Five
Complete the Experience: You won't find Hemmingway or Fitzgerald there, sadly, but for a 'Paris in the '20s' kind of vibe, you'll find great, old-world cocktails and fine French fare at Southwark.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
City of Life and Death
The Story: The true story of the fall of Nanking to the Japanese Imperial Army just prior to the outbreak of WWII and the tragic massacre that ensued.
The Skinny: Heartbreakingly poignant and based on some of the real victims and perpetrators of the Japanese occupation of China's capital city, Chaun Lu's historic drama is riveting stuff. Rather than just observe the brutal savagery of the Japanese invaders (who ended up massacring more than 300,000 people), Lu instead attempts something far more meaningful: showing the devastation from both sides of the conflict. As a result, it's impossible to dismiss entirely the Japanese perspective, even as they're performing savagely cruel crimes against humanity. Harrowing but entirely necessary.
Full Review: City of Life and Death
Now Playing: Ritz at the Bourse
Complete the Experience: Fortunately, China was eventually rid of their Japanese oppressors, and free to spread further Chinese culture throughout the world, such as in Philly's own vibrant Chinatown.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
X-Men: First Class
The Story: In the midst of the 'Bay of Pigs' conflict in the early '60s, two powerful men put together a team of young mutants to combat an evil force.
The Skinny: To give the filmmakers credit, they did replace two highly decorated older British actors (Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart) with a couple of very well regarded younger ones (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender) but the breakneck speed and artlessness of the script, coupled with some extremely off-putting art direction (the Beast pretty much looks like an Andrew Lloyd Webber archetype) put this film solidly in the 'wait for it on cable' category for us, but not everyone agrees. Scott Ross at Popcorn Biz, for example, found it far more palatable, declaring it "fun adventure loaded with great heroes."
Full Review: X-Men: First Class
Now Playing: AMC Cherry Hill
Complete the Experience: The villain (played by Kevin Bacon) spends a fair amount of time in a fully cheesy looking submarine. For an opportunity to go down the hatch and see the real thing, visit the Becuna at the Independence Seaport Museum.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Screen Grabs: The films you should drop everything to see, and the ones you should avoid like the plague.
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