It’s Labor Day Weekend, the unofficial end of the summer movie season. Much of the season’s grownup fare is still in theaters, plus there are four new films that are worthy of your attention this weekend, too.
The New Stuff:
A suicide truck bombing in a busy London market leads to a spectacular trial—and ugly revelations about government complicity and surveillance. Briskly paced and smartly directed by John Crowley (Boy A), this political thriller is propelled by its ripped-from-the-headlines premise and undeniable chemistry between stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall (will someone please cast these two as John Steed and Emma Peel in an Avengers remake?). Jim Broadbent, his big blue eyes magnified to “Precious Memories” scale by a pair of Coke bottle glasses, is great fun as a possibly compromised attorney. FULL REVIEW
Not to be confused with Sam Peckinpah’s 1972 shoot-em-up starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw, this action flick has Ethan Hawke as a retired race car driver who steals a sweet Shelby Cobra Mustang (along with its owner, played by Selena Gomez) in the course of trying to save his wife from a cruel criminal. Said bad guy is the main grownup movie lover’s lure here: He’s played by the always-interesting Jon Voight.
One Direction: This is Us
Remember when your parents rolled their eyes when they had to accompany you to a matinee of “A Hard Day’s Night?” Of course, their dirty little secret was they were kind of curious to see what these Beatles guys were all about. The British boy band One Direction will never be another Fab Four, but they are the hottest thing on the planet right now, so if your kids or grandkids need a grownup companion for this concert/documentary flick, feel free to volunteer for 90 minutes of harmless pop with a group of kids who, in the end, turn out to be pretty much the kind of boys you’d like your daughter to bring home.
Some directors get a lifetime pass from their fans no matter what, and one of them is Brian De Palma. After all, what’s a misfire like Redacted or The Bonfire of the Vanities when the same guy can rock your movie world with things like Carrie, Scarface, and The Untouchables? Passion falls somewhere between those two extremes, which is to say it’s endlessly stylish and inventive—no filmmaker uses the camera as an extension of his own unique vision better than Da Palma—but the story of two ambitious women (Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace) facing off in the corporate jungle doesn’t quite click.
On this week’s Movies for Grownups YouTube show, find out what’s new in Theaters, on DVD, and on Video on Demand—plus learn how you could win a free copy of Helen Mirren’s Prime Suspect: The Complete Series
20 Feet From Stardom
A stand-up-and-cheer documentary about the backup singers who make music’s biggest stars sound their best.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Lovers don’t get a lot more star-crossed than those played here by doomed small-time crooks Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). But director David Lowery has created a visually poetic yarn that recalls 1970s movie visionaries like Terrence Malick and Arthur Penn.
One of the great truisms about grownup movie lovers, at least of the female persuasion, is that they’re nuts for all things Jane Austen. Here, Keri Russell plays a modern woman who, in search of her own personal Mr. Darcy, visits a Jane Austen theme park.
If you’re an actress, get yourself directed by Woody Allen: Here he casts Cate Blanchett as a latter-day Blanche DuBois, depending on the kindness of strangers in San Francisco. Smart, tragic, and funny, it’s Woody and Cate at their best. FULL REVIEW
The Frozen Ground
John Cusack is scary good as the calculating killer of young women and Nicolas Cage is touchingly vulnerable as the detective trying to stop the maniac before he strikes again. Filmed in and around a grungy-looking Anchorage, Alaska, the film will not be featured on the local Chamber of Commerce website. FULL REVIEW
Ashton Kutcher has some genuine moments as Steve Jobs, but this biopic never seems to get the core of Apple’s founder.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The title might have worked better as Forest Whitaker Is the Butler, or maybe Oprah Winfrey Is the Wife of the Butler. No matter; audiences are flocking to see Whitaker as White House butler Cecil Gaines, Robin Williams as President Eisenhower and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. FULL REVIEW
A by-the-numbers plot ultimately foils this would-be thriller, but there’s still some fun to be had in watching Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford (in a skull-baring buzz cut!) go mano a mano as big business rivals.
This bighearted drama traces the story of a Savannah, Georgia duck hunter (Jim Caviezel) and his lifelong friendship with a freed slave (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The terrific supporting cast includes Sam Shepard, Hal Holbrook and The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford, but the real star is the lavishly photographed Savannah marsh wilderness, sprawling and lovely as the story itself.
James Cromwell (Babe, L.A. Confidential) gives the performance of a lifetime as an 87-year-old man who builds a small house for his ailing wife (a radiant Genevieve Bujold) with his own two hands. That is, until local bureaucrats start butting in. FULL REVIEW
The Way, Way Back
It’s a coming-of-age comedy starring Liam James as a confused 14-year-old kid, but he’s surrounded by one of the great grownup casts of the year: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell.
World War Z
Brad Pitt stars in a classy, nerve-jangling thriller about a virus that’s turning the world’s population into an army of flesh-eating fiends. In concept and execution, the most grownup horror flick of the summer.
The World’s End
Reuniting after 20 years, five friends expect to get good and plastered on an epic pub crawl. What they don’t expect is to find the town populated by sinister robots. Writer/Director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg are responsible for the razor-sharp comedies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz; The World’s End likewise finds a way to be both smart and raucous.