Friday Flicks: Will You Be Stoked by Stoker?

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this weekend.

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Ahn Young-joon / AP

Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, left, and South Korean director Park Chan-wook wave for photographers during a press conference to promote their latest film "Stoker" in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.


Tagline: Innocence ends.

In Park Chan-wook’s Stoker, Mia Wasikowska plays India Stoker, a moody young woman whose father is killed in an automobile accident. Her mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) is understandably lonely, and invites brother-in-law Charlie (Matthew Goode) to stay. By turns charming and mysterious, Charlie may well have ulterior motives, India suspects; yet she finds herself drawn toward him even though her instincts tell her otherwise.

Just like Uncle Charlie, the debut English-language feature from the Korean auteur of Oldboy is charming the critics. “Park directs the film with a precision and control that are astonishing. There doesn’t seem to be a single frame that he hasn’t carefully considered or included without necessity,” raves Empire in a five-star review. “A splendidly demented gumbo of Hitchcock thriller, American Gothic fairy tale and a contemporary kink all Park’s own,” notes Variety. “Prepare to hate yourself for loving it,” concludes Time Out New York. But Time Out‘s London edition is the rare dissenting voice, concluding that Stoker “is a drab, mannered horror-melodrama, potentially interesting in execution but relentlessly tedious in outcome.”

LIST: 20 Movies We’re Looking Forward to in 2013


Tagline: You’ll never see it coming.

Cold War-era suspense thrillers don’t seem to go out of fashion and the makers of Phantom will be hoping that remains the case. Ed Harris plays the Soviet submarine captain Demi who, after leaving his daughter and wife, gets rushed into a classified mission where he’s just not haunted by his past but must avoid starting a global nuclear war. We wouldn’t want to assume too much about Demi, but we’re guessing he’s had better months.

Also along for the ride is David Duchovny’s rogue KGB agent, Bruni, and William Fichtner as Demi’s second-in-command, Alex. The press notes promise “a riveting deep-sea adventure about extraordinary men facing impossible choices.” But then again, they would, wouldn’t they?

But riveting doesn’t seem to be a word many critics are associating with Phantom. Instead, the Village Voice asks, “What is up with combinations of Ed Harris, water, and unbelievably hokey endings?” Variety points out that “if the intent was to lure American audiences into identification with the enemy, the result is neither sufficiently humanizing nor, more crucially, illuminating.” But Time Out New York puts its head above water to conclude that “it’s mano a mano in a tin can … Phantom is literate, tense and, thankfully, modest.”

Q&A: David Duchovny

Jack the Giant Slayer

Tagline: Something giant is coming.

A British-centric cast (Nicholas Hoult, Eddie Marsan, Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner) dominate director Bryan Singer’s first major movie since 2008’s Valkyrie. But Jack the Giant Slayer isn’t concerned with a relatively recent war such as World War II but an ancient one suddenly reignited when a farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway to a race of giants. Hoult takes the lead as the eponymous Jack, who must fight for a kingdom, its people, and the love of a princess.

If you think it sounds like good old-fashioned hokum, then you’re in luck because most of the reviews concur. “Simply in terms of efficient storytelling, clear logistics and consistent viewer engagement, Jack is markedly superior to the recent Hobbit”, points out the Hollywood Reporter. The Village Voice makes a comparison to an even older movie, noting that “Singer evokes another era of fantasy filmmaking when the illusions before our eyes were created in an artist’s studio rather than a computer lab. It’s more Jason and the Argonauts than Shia and the Transformers.” But Variety is considerably less impressed, beginning its review with the withering putdown, “Fee-fi-fo-fum, this fairy-tale retread is pretty dumb.”

TIME: An Interview with Nicholas Hoult

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: One of the better weeks at the theater in recent memory. Both Stoker and Jack the Giant Slayer seem like worthy choices although Phantom may end up sinking without trace.

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