See This, Skip That: From After Earth to Before Midnight, Your Weekend Movie Plan
PEOPLE's critics share what to see and what to skip at the movies this weekend
Before Midnight and Kings of Summer are wonderfully entertaining, but PEOPLE writers suggest waiting till Armageddon to see After Earth.
Here’s what to see and what to skip at the movie theater this weekend.
• After Earth
Gosh, the last thing my dad bought me was dinner.
But then, my father isn t one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, who, with the snap of his fingers, can purchase his little darling a vanity movie project. That would be Jaden Smith s dad, Will, who thought up After Earth all by himself (mistake No. 1), then handed the film to M. Night Shyamalan to co-write and direct (mistake No. 2).
I would say that mistake No. 3 was letting Jaden star, but most of the movie s problems aren t actually his fault. This was a mess from jump.
Smith the elder plays Ranger Gen. Cypher Raige, who takes his son, Kitai (Smith the younger), on a routine mission to a nearby planet. Only their craft encounters an asteroid storm and crashes on the hostile planet Earth, killing everyone aboard but them. (After all, why muddy the proceedings with people not named Smith?)
What follows is Jaden running through forests, play-acting in front of green screens and showing off his best parkour, all on a mission to retrieve the ship’s beacon, some 100 kilometers away, while dad sits in the spaceship with two broken legs, directing the boy via fancy linkup like a man playing a video game.
Gen. Raige (I m never not going to giggle at that) also makes time to educate us, dropping some serious Smithentology about fear being a false construct made up of stories about future events that have not and may never happen, that we let blah, blah, blah, something, something. Sorry, I kind of lost him there. (I m only an entry-level Smithentologist.)
The dialogue is as wooden as the acting, and the plot is just silly. Truly, the only thing the film has going for it are some occasionally cool special effects.
– Alynda Wheat
Run and See This
• Before Midnight
Sure, this is just a movie about two people in a fragile state of love walking around a picturesque European locale, you know, talking. There are no robots, no heists, no CGI (unless they painted on Ethan Hawke’s ’90s-era goatee in post-production.) Indeed, you may have even seen these very same people do this sort of thing before – in 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset. But none of that makes Before Midnight any less of an event or revelation.
This time out, we meet Jesse and Celine, now parents of twins, on the final day of a summer retreat on a Greek island. On the exterior, their lives seem as placid as their current landscape, but inside each of them, a storm brews. He s tormented by living a continent away from the son he had with his ex-wife, while she’s in career limbo at a time when she s become increasingly defined not by her own choices but by the part she plays in her partner s novels.
Hawke and Julie Delpy (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Richard Linklater) have never been better; it s hard to imagine acting more nuanced or responsive. When their once dormant resentments blow up Vesuvius-like in a hotel room dustup, it s so real you feel like you re eavesdropping on one of the most intimate and vital moments of two of your oldest friends. You end up rooting for them to not only pull through it, but also for this team to get back together and revisit these characters again in another movie.
– Oliver Jones
And Then See This
• The Kings of Summer
Remember how you wanted to ditch your parents and go live in a fort when you were seven? Summer s teenage boys actually do it. Even though they re too old to harbor such fantasies and too young to properly carry them out, the movie is just right in so many ways.
Heartbreaker-in-training Nick Robinson stars as snarky Joe Toy, sick of living with surly dad Frank (the hilariously deadpan Offerman). It s his idea to build the house. Soon, buddies Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and Biaggio (The Middle s blessedly offbeat Moises Arias) are in, while their parents hunt for them. (Offerman s real-life wife, Mullally, and Marc Evan Jackson are note-perfect as Patrick s overbearing folks.)
Granted, the idea verges on the ridiculous, the boys ripping off spare parts to cobble together a scrap-metal manse. But the film s execution is funny and charming, nailing the joy and confusion of being a teenage boy, with just the right dose of the sentimental to make it live in your heart a little longer.
– Alynda Wheat