"Pacific Rim" $384.4m

A critical digest of the week’s latest U.S. theatrical releases. Where applicable, links to longer reviews have been provided.

Pacific Rim
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Of all the doom-laden fantasies the studios have rolled out this summer, “Pacific Rim” is the one pushing itself most aggressively as guilt-free entertainment, offering up an apocalyptic spectacle in a spirit of unpretentious, unapologetic fun. Which it will be, at least for those who measure fun primarily in terms of noise, chaos and bombast, or who can find continual novelty in the sight of giant monsters and robots doing battle for the better part of two hours. Viewers with less of an appetite for nonstop destruction should brace themselves for the squarest, clunkiest and certainly loudest movie of director Guillermo del Toro’s career, a crushed-metal orgy that plays like an extended 3D episode of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” on very expensive acid.
— Justin Chang
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Grown Ups 2
Distributor:
Sony
The first scene in “Grown Ups 2” depicts a deer urinating directly onto Adam Sandler’s face. The penultimate scene (spoiler alert) depicts the very same deer apparently castrating Taylor Lautner. These bookends are not only the film’s highlights, they also represent the closest it comes to establishing any sort of narrative throughline. Among the slackest, laziest, least movie-like movies released by a major studio in the last decade, “Grown Ups 2” is perhaps the closest Hollywood has yet come to making “Ow! My Balls!” seem like a plausible future project. It is all but guaranteed a strong opening weekend.
— Andrew Barker
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Fruitvale Station
Distributor: The Weinstein Co.
Original title: “Fruitvale”
A well-intentioned attempt to put a human face on the tragic headlines surrounding Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old California resident fatally shot by a San Francisco transit police officer on New Year’s Day, 2009, writer-director Ryan Coogler’s confident debut feature, “Fruitvale Station,” gets significant mileage from Michael B. Jordan’s star turn. Yet even if every word of Coogler’s account of the last day in Grant’s life held up under close scrutiny, the film would still ring false in its relentlessly positive portrayal of its subject. Best viewed as an ode to victim’s rights, “Fruitvale” forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing.
— Geoff Berkshire
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The Hunt
Distributor:
Magnolia Pictures
Absorbing if not particularly innovative, “The Hunt” sees helmer Thomas Vinterberg returning to the Cannes competition with another child-abuse-themed pic, 12 years after “The Celebration.” While that earlier film’s reputation as the director’s best remains unchallenged, his latest, which explores the disturbing ripple effects of a false sexual-abuse accusation, will fit snugly into the recent run of solid Danish dramas that have done well at fests and in arthouses worldwide. As an added marketing bonus, Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”) is effectively cast against type in the lead.
— Boyd van Hoeij
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Crystal Fairy
Distributor:
IFC Films
Original title: “Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012″
A selfish man-child’s Chilean quest to drink mescaline extracted from a San Pedro cactus turns into a more conventional sort of trip in “Crystal Fairy,” writer-director Sebastian Silva’s emphatically goofy but ultimately sentimental coming-of-age comedy. Engaging perfs by Michael Cera in the lead and Gaby Hoffmann as a hippie chick along for the ride exclusively elevate a pic that promotes the pleasures of altered consciousness, but proves insufficiently psychedelic itself. Commercial prospects appear even more marginal than those for the average drug farce, as counterculture auds will be left jonesing for a stronger dose.
— Rob Nelson
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Killing Season
Distributor:
Millennium Entertainment
The sight of Robert De Niro and John Travolta sharing the screen for the first time reps the one and only selling point of “Killing Season,” a cartoonishly violent drama routinely helmed by Mark Steven Johnson (“Daredevil”). The actors play troubled vets of the Balkan wars — De Niro a U.S. colonel, Travolta a member of the infamous Serbian Scorpions — who find that a literal and metaphorical spilling of guts is just the thing to exorcise their war demons. Millennium Entertainment will hedge its bets for this gory, arrow-in-cheek actioner with a simultaneous theatrical and VOD release Stateside on July 12.
— Alissa Simon
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Pawn Shop Chronicles
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
What would you get if you pawned “Pawn Shop Chronicles”? Probably no more than a used VHS copy of “Pulp Fiction,” the pic that director Wayne Kramer and screenwriter Adam Minarovich’s triptych of comic-violent tall tales slavishly lusts after, right down to its cast of indie stalwarts and former A-listers hoping for a career second wind. Certainly a more energetic affair than Kramer’s last outing, the dreary “Crash” knockoff “Crossing Over,” if nowhere near as authentically lurid and gonzo as his 2006 Paul Walker thriller “Running Scared,” the pic’s three tales of Southern discomfort consist mostly of bad things happening to dumb people, with heavy doses of misogyny and torture and minimal pleasure, save for a couple of bright performances that fitfully enliven the dross. Day-and-date Anchor Bay title will disappear quickly from its perfunctory 15-city theatrical release, but should ride its name cast to healthier VOD biz.
— Scott Foundas
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Still Mine
Distributor:
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Original title: “Still”
You can’t build a house without breaking a few laws; that’s the message of “Still Mine,” in which an elderly New Brunswick man runs afoul of the Royal District Planning Commission while constructing a cottage for his ailing wife. Based on the true story of Craig Morrison, writer-director Michael McGowan’s gently anti-government “get off my lawn” yarn should appeal to the platinum generation and Tea Party types alike, boasting a pair of loving, lived-in performances by James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold. With well-targeted handling, the film could eke out a modest theatrical life before settling into comfortable retirement in ancillary.
— Peter Debruge
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The Hot Flashes
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Five women pushing 50 and older form a basketball team to promote breast-cancer awareness in “The Hot Flashes,” drawing groans and grimaces from their small-minded Texas community. A few cringes may also be directed at the five appealing actresses cast to play this sorry sisterhood, not because there’s anything so undignified about the subject of growing older, but because Susan Seidelman’s strained and soapy empowerment comedy gives them so little to do. Despite a Brooke Shields-led ensemble of thesps you’d like to see more of (just not here), this already-on-VOD airball seems unlikely to score much attention from its older target demo in limited theatrical venues.
— Justin Chang
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The Shine of Day
Venue:
Anthology Film Archives, New York
An unfamiliar circus-artist uncle turns up on the doorstep of an Austrian actor in “The Shine of Day,” another gentle and meandering docu-fiction from Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel (“La Pivellina”). Again shooting loosely on 16mm, the filmmakers follow busy real-life theater thesp Philipp Hochmair as he tries to find room between rehearsals and performances in Vienna and Hamburg to get to know his dad’s black-sheep brother, Walter (Walter Saabel, “La Pivellina”). Seemingly semi-improvised pic is a minor but often very charming work that’ll shine at sprocket operas and in ancillary.
— Boyd van Hoeij
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V/H/S/2
Distributor:
Magnolia Pictures
Original title:
“S-VHS”
Less turns out to be much more for “V/H/S/2,” a sequel to last year’s uneven indie horror omnibus “V/H/S”; this one is shorter and has fewer segments, but also earns a much higher batting average. In fact, there’s nary a dud among the four main tales (not including the titled bookends), which each whip elements of terror, macabre humor and the fantastical into a giddy frenzy. This rip-roaring good time for genre fans should easily build on the first edition’s modest success in all formats (and more territories), with further franchise extension a no-brainer.
— Dennis Harvey
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Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Distributor:
Reliance Entertainment
Indian Olympic running legend Milkha Singh — otherwise known as the Flying Sikh — gets the lavish biopic treatment in “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” a rousing and handsomely crafted sports drama that’s on sure footing when it sticks to the track, but falls short of its ambitions to turn Singh’s life into a metaphor for fraught Indo-Pakistani relations in the years following the 1947 Partition. Boasting an appealing lead performance by director-turned-actor Farhan Akhtar and sturdy direction by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (who explored similar themes of personal and national identity in his 2006 “Rang de basanti”), this global July 12 release should post solid returns for producer Viacom 18, if somewhat less than portended by the pic’s high degree of advance hype.
— Scott Foundas
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Terms and Conditions May Apply
Distributor:
Variance Films
Documaker Cullen Hoback efficiently amps audience paranoia about the purposeful erosion of privacy in the digital age in “Terms and Conditions Apply,” a briskly cautionary and slickly packaged docu that could score some bookings in brick-and-mortar venues before wide dispersal on smallscreen platforms. Deftly balancing twin goals of informing and entertaining, the pic matter-of-factly details the various ways that marketers, multinational corporations, police departments and government-run intelligence-gathering organizations obtain and exploit info that people freely (and, more often than not, heedlessly) share and showcase via cell phones, websites and social media.
— Joe Leydon
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