All six of this week's new films reviewed and rated
Time Out staff
Bad Words Director: Jason Bateman Stars: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Philip Baker Hall, Rohan Chand
Return to Juno (it’s been time enough) and we bet it won’t be Ellen Page or Diablo Cody’s zinger-laden script you’ll notice, but the shockingly good Jason Bateman. He’s the closest thing to a villain the movie has, yet his crime is a subtle one: an inability to grow up. For his feature directorial debut, Bateman plays right to his secret strengths as Guy, a bitter 40-year-old schemer who enters an esteemed national spelling bee by exploiting a loophole in the rules. Technically, Guy did drop out of junior high, and long before he sits down among the mystified preteen-brainiac competitors, you can tell he’s got a score to settle.
Bad Words soars in the bits of riotously offensive chit chat between Guy and a young Indian hopeful (Rohan Chand); it wobbles in plot developments involving the effortlessly starchy Allison Janney as the contest’s ‘queen bee’; and it splats in the I’m-secretly-hurting conclusion. (Screenwriter Andrew Dodge might have called this one Arrested Development, had the name not been taken.) But Bateman’s verbal dexterity remains a vicious thing. Joshua Rothkopf
Blended Director: Frank Coraci Stars: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey
Sixteen years on from the infectious, puppyish charm of The Wedding Singer, its two stars, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, are now in the mommies and daddies phase of their careers. But director Frank Coraci’s comic timing has left the building in the meantime. This time around, Sandler – essentially playing the same role, doofus with hidden and loveable depths – is a sports-obsessed widower doing a not-too-brilliant job of bringing up three girls. Barrymore is an uptight divorcee keeping her two sons on a tight leash. Have you worked out the rest of the plot yet? Exactly. And while there’s a disastrous first date to sow a seedlet of doubt, the rest is thuddingly formulaic.
The only wrinkle en-route to happy-ever-after is a joint family holiday to a South African resort which, magically, has an entire continent’s wildlife a short drive away. It’s staffed by cheerily doltish flunkeys and an always-smiling harmony group whose portrayal skirts a fine line between patronising and outright demeaning. Sandler and Barrymore twinkle now and again when they leave the clunking script behind, but most of the time this is unrelentingly hideous – even by Sandler’s standards. Trevor Johnston
The Fault In our Stars Director: Josh Boone Stars: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe
Far from the shameless emotional pummeling it might have been, this adaptation of John Green’s cherished young adult cancer drama finds a conduit to earned, understated tears – a tricky accomplishment given the material. The film’s linchpin is young Shailene Woodley (already the saviour of several iffy projects, including Divergent), an actor whose effortless way with real-girlness and soft, exhausted voice turns her oxygen-tank-rolling Hazel into a fully fleshed-out teenage creation. Even as her character meets and falls for upbeat charmer Gus (Ansel Elgort, Woodley’s Divergent costar) in a support group, there’s believable banter between them that redeems a long-telegraphed outcome known to anyone who’s ever waded into the salty pool of movies like Love Story.
The lion’s share of the credit should go to restrained director Josh Boone, showcasing his text-sending, vulnerable duo (elsewhere, he even manages to coach Laura Dern away from her smeary cry-face). But the original story, faithfully honoured, is bolder than its setup implies: A love of a shared novel leads the ailing couple to Amsterdam to meet its reclusive author (Willem Dafoe). It’s a welcome interlude where the condition of personal suffering is expanded to include bitterness, cynicism and even a political dimension. Though supported by Woodley’s subtle narration, The Fault in Our Stars is relentlessly outward. That’s part of the book’s inspiring touch, and even if some of the supporting cast comes off as merely functional onscreen, the core of the tragedy comes to life in a heartbreaking way. Joshua Rothkop
Legend of Oz: Dorothy’s Return Director: Will Finn, Dan St. Pierre Voices: James Belushi, Patrick Stewart, Lea Michele, Kelsey Grammer, Dan Aykroyd
Back in 1985, Walt Disney’s Return to Oz scarred a generation of kids by reinventing L. Frank Baum’s beloved fairy tale as a savage parable of pubescent psychosis. The makers of this new computer cartoon musical have opted for the opposite approach, rendering Baum’s sparky characters and lush, engaging fantasy world as blandly as possible. Years have passed in Oz, and a new threat – jingly-hatted Joker clone the Jester – has taken control. Desperate for backup, the Scarecrow and his pals turn to their saviour, Dorothy Gale, for guidance.
The voice cast here reads like a who’s who of scrapheap comedy talent – Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer – plus the expected handful of fruity Brit thesps, including Brian Blessed, and Patrick Stewart as a talking tree. The songs – one of which was penned by Bryan Adams, rock fans – are uniformly drippy and dire, and the episodic, follow-the-yellow-brick-road plot goes pretty much nowhere. Seriously undemanding toddlers might get a kick out of all the bright colours and creaky slapstick, but parents, you have been warned. Tom Huddleston
Horror movies set on planes tend to be pretty harrowing, so if you are a nervous flyer do yourself a favour and avoid this flick. Set on a ten-hour flight from LA to Japan, when the plane crosses the Pacific Ocean the passengers and crew aboard flight 7500 encounter what they think is turbulence but supernatural forces are at work. Directed by Takashi Shimizu, who gave us The Grudge, expect some white knuckle moments. Time Out staff
Pawn Director: David A. Armstrong Stars: Nikki Reed, Ray Liotta, Sean Faris, Forest Whitaker
A thrilling crime drama with lots of police, guns and shooting as what seems like a petty robbery on an all-night diner spirals out of control into a full-blown mafia hostage situation. You’re in for twists and turns as the plot develops.Time Out staff