“The Butler” and other new movies opening this week

August 16, 2013

In this week’s new movies, critics review two films based on true stories, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” starring Forest Whitaker and “Jobs” starring Ashton Kutcher. Director Jem Cohen’s “Museum Hours” leads the pack with four stars.

★★ “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (PG-13) “What the film never settles on is a point of view: Is the subservience that makes Cecil a success as a butler (“You hear nothing; you see nothing; you only serve,” he’s told early on at the White House) something to be admired or decried?” – John Anderson

★1/2 “Jobs” (PG-13) “Kutcher does a couple of things well, aping Jobs’s guarded, tight-lipped smile and familiar, half-hunching, half-bouncing gait, even if at times they seem more like ill-fitting mannerisms than expressions of Jobs’s driven personality. But there’s a void inside the man that Kutcher never manages to fill. The problem is not with the actor but with the film itself.” – Michael O’Sullivan

★★ “Kick-Ass 2” (R) “…with so much going for it, ‘Kick-Ass 2’ can’t quite sustain its own contradictions: As a post-Tarantino commentary on screen violence, it tries to neutralize its moments of brutality — along with dashes of racism and homophobia — by putting quotes around them. But the sadistic carnage is also clearly the movie’s chief selling point.” – Ann Hornaday

★1/2 “I Give It a Year” (R) “As the movie tries to find comedy in mean-spiritedness, it also relies heavily on oversharing as a source of laughs. Mazer has plenty of experience with awkward humor given that he co-wrote episodes of ‘Da Ali G Show,’ as well as ‘Borat’ and ‘Bruno.’ But so many of the characters in “I Give It a Year” seem to have misplaced their filters that the different variations on the same joke become tiresome.” – Stephanie Merry

★★★ “In a World” (R) “Christopher Guest-like anthro-comedy would be entertaining enough, but Bell also expertly skewers sexism, Hollywood shallowness, anti-Hollywood snobbiness and that thing that so many young women are doing now where they talk like Minnie Mouse on helium and end every sentence with a question mark?” – Ann Hornaday

★★★★ “Museum Hours” (Unrated) “Like any collection of works of art, ‘Museum Hours’ can be enjoyed on a multitude of levels: as a chance to see the Kunsthistorische’s riches; as yet another travelogue of Vienna (joining a film tradition that spans ‘The Third Man’ and ‘Before Sunrise’); as an un­or­tho­dox love story; as a slice of rootless, cosmopolitan life; as an experiment in rigorously un-coercive cinema.” – Ann Hornaday

★★1/2 “Terms and Conditions May Apply” (Unrated) “There’s a palpable tone of hopelessness — or at best impotent outrage — to ‘Terms and Conditions May Apply,’ a documentary about the abuse of digital privacy that meets the world’s collective shrug about the rights we daily sign away with a sense that the horse may already be well out of that barn.” – Michael O’Sullivan

★★ “Paranoia” (PG-13) “‘Paranoia’ succumbs to formula. There’s tension to be wrung from the premise, but Luketic is content to telegraph his movie’s juiciest twists, concentrating instead on applying a sleek visual sheen usually reserved for shampoo commercials.” – Sean O’Connell

Macy L. Freeman is an editorial aide for the Weekend/Going Out Guide section at The Washington Post.
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Fritz Hahn | August 16, 2013