THE WORLD'S END. I think I expected this long-awaited conclusion to the so-called Cornetto Trilogy to alter the cinematic landscape of the summer. While I wasn't disappointed in it, the film didn't blow my mind, either.
Troubled, perpetual adolescent Gary King (Simon Pegg) cons his boyhood friends into some unfinished business back in their hometown. Some 20 years ago, they attempted a legendary (probably ill-advised) pub crawl. They never made it to the finish line (the titular pub), and Gary never moved beyond the emotional high point of that debauched evening. The intervening decades have left him mired in nostalgia and addiction, while his chums, all bearing some physical and emotional scars from their association, have moved forward into adulthood.
Despite nearly universal reluctance, the group reunites to take a shot at revisiting old times. Things are uneasy from the start, Gary having used some pretty base deceptions to accomplish his goal. But when a bathroom altercation with a surly teen reveals a sinister secret lurking just below the increasingly urbane superficiality of their hometown, the evening gets really complicated. Gary and company spend the night fighting for their lives, the future of human civilization hanging in the balance.
Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (the two previous Cornetto entries) Pegg and director Edgar Wright share writing credit. And like those movies, The World's End is defined by a slow-burn of an opening act. More so than ever, Pegg and Wright ask us to wait for the rapid-fire jokes and action that we know are coming. They spend the first 40 minutes or so fleshing out the men, who are entering middle age with varying degrees of grace, success and self-awareness. This script is the most intricately crafted, emotionally subtle and mature work Pegg and Wright have done together.
Once the aforementioned bar brawl gets going, it's off to the races. Wright's visual style is even more clearly defined than in their earlier work, and longtime collaborator Nick Frost does the best acting of his career. The World's End drew me in completely, but it took a while. Unlike Shaun and Fuzz, both of which set the hook almost immediately, The World's End rewards patience. I expect it will keep getting better with multiple viewings. R. 109m.
BLUE JASMINE. Woody Allen, who will apparently make a movie about any idea that crosses his mind, could be the most frustrating auteur in movie history. Undeniably talented, with a keen ear for language and a singular viewpoint, he's made some of the most memorable comedies in American cinema (Annie Hall). He's also made some pointless, almost unwatchable throwaways (Scoop, To Rome With Love). Blue Jasmine may be second-tier Allen, but it has more in common with his great work than the bottom-rung stuff.
The movie opens with Jasmine, born Jeannette (Cate Blanchett), arriving in San Francisco from New York via first-class flight. Her elderly seatmate can't get a word in, then can't wait to escape. Jasmine is damaged goods. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about her increasingly troubled, now ended marriage to a slick financial tycoon (Alec Baldwin). We also learn that the dissolution of their union led to something of a breakdown, and that Jasmine is moving to the West Coast to be nearer her sister (Sally Hawkins), with whom she has a severely strained relationship. The bulk of the narrative is about the two women entering and falling out of relationships, with Jasmine all the while attempting to establish an identity. Previously, her efforts toward a sense of self were founded on angling for a successful husband, throwing exquisite dinner parties and jetting to St. Tropez.
Blue Jasmine explores some dark psychic territory, and does so with a clear eye and remarkable self-assuredness. The actors give fine, authentic performances, particularly Blanchett. This is the sort of movie only an experienced veteran could generate, and it is noteworthy, though Allen's catalog is so extensive, so intermittently formidable, that it feels a little like an also-ran. PG13. 98m.
YOU'RE NEXT. To call this the most pleasant surprise of the weekend would be a little strange. This thing is a grisly, scary, nasty bit of business and most certainly not for all tastes. But it is also imaginative, original and a lot of fun.
A wealthy couple gathers their grown children around them for a long weekend at their summer home. As soon as everyone gathers for dinner, they are set upon by killers in cartoon animal masks. The violence starts early with nothing to stop it, until Erin (Sharni Vinson), the girlfriend of one of the sons, proves herself a more formidable adversary than anyone would expect.
As I've said time and again, the range of horror movies I enjoy is pretty narrow. But You're Next surprised and excited me without cheap manipulation or misanthropy. The care and design of Adam Wingard's directing is remarkable, and the script by Simon Barrett leavens the terror with a healthy sense of humor. You're Next was a much better and more enjoyable movie than I was expecting. R. 96m.
—John J. Bennett
BLACKFISH. Documentary about a killer whale who's killed trainers and the dangers of keeping the animals in captivity. Free Willy it ain't. PG13. 83m.
CLOSED CIRCUIT. Exes Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall are embroiled in cover-ups and conspiracies in an anti-terrorist/legal thriller. R. 96m.
GETAWAY. Speedster Ethan Hawke is pressed into service by mysterious Euro-villain John Voigt, who kidnaps his wife. Disney princess Selena Gomez rides shotgun. PG13. 94m.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US. Directioners, rejoice. All others, run. PG. 92m.
2 GUNS. Lighter fare from heavyweights Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, who entertain as undercover odd-couple. R. 109m.
DESPICABLE ME 2. Gru (Steve Carell), the girls and the minions are back saving the world in this fun animated sequel. PG. 98m.
ELYSIUM. Matt Damon turns workman's comp into revolution in this effective dystopian sci-fi with Jodie Foster as his sharp-suited foe. R. 110 m
JOBS. Ashton Kutcher looks all smart with glasses in this bio of the Apple icon. PG13. 127m.
KICK-ASS 2. Teen superheroes and villains clash again. Just not as kick-ass as Kick-Ass. R. 103m.
LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER. Moving Civil Rights-era tale with Forest Whitaker as a White House butler through the decades. PG13. 132m.
MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES. Attractive, young "shadowhunters" battle demons in an even scarier New York that's invisible to mere humans. PG13. 130m.
PLANES. Like Cars, but not. Really, not. PG. 92m.
WE'RE THE MILLERS. Implausible drug smuggling comedy wastes the usually funny Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Anniston. R. 110m.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. In Disney/Pixar's prequel to 2001's Monsters, Inc., Mike the spherical Cyclops (Billy Crystal) and Sulley the fuzzy teal beast (John Goodman) go to college. G. 110m.
STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. Kirk and Spock are back to battle Benedict Cumberbatch and his cheekbones. PG13. 132m.
WORLD WAR Z. The global zombie outbreak forgot about one thing: Brad freakin' Pitt. PG13. 116m.
—Jennifer Fumiko Cahill