updated 09/27/2013 AT 12:00 PM ET
•originally published 09/27/2013 AT 4:00 PM ET
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines – and race to Rush, Ron Howard’s Formula 1 thriller. But PEOPLE’s critic suggests you steer clear of Baggage Claim. Here’s a guide to weekend movies:
It’s going to be a heavy fall, packed with prestige films about slavery, AIDS, prison and poverty, so I’m going to suggest that we all have a little fun first. Following one of the greatest rivalries in Formula 1 history, Rush is a high-adrenaline blast that catches director Ron Howard at the top of his game.
The film – set in the ’70s, when F1 was far deadlier – pits Chris Hemsworth, as British playboy James Hunt, vying for racing glory against Inglourious Basterds’ Daniel Brühl, playing automotive perfectionist Niki Lauda. The drivers are both wealthy young men casting off their backgrounds to risk death behind the wheel, pushing each other to be the best. Both actors deliver magnetic performances, with Hemsworth turning on the charm (and dropping his drawers!) as Hunt, while Brühl brings incredible focus and intensity to Lauda.
Rush’s most kinetic moments, though, are on the track, and for those we have to thank Howard and his cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire). The filmmakers put us in the drivers’ seats and in their heads, shooting on some of the same tracks driven by Lauda and Hunt. The resulting scenes are exhilarating, a delicate balance of the thrill of driving mixed with the ever-present danger.
By the way, if you like Rush – and I’m sure you will – then check out Senna. The 2010 documentary about Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna and his rivalry with Alain Prost served as inspiration for Howard, and justifiably so. It’s an incredible piece of storytelling, and you can see its influence throughout Rush. Really, you can’t go wrong with either film. And given what an onslaught of serious material is coming in a few weeks, I’d get to theaters this weekend. Just don’t speed.
Why are people still working to give rom-coms a bad name? Trust me, they don’t need the help.
This embarrassing escapade stars Paula Patton as flight attendant Montana Moore, whose little sister (Lauren London) is getting married. Horrified at the thought of showing up to her sister’s wedding without a man of her own, Montana violates a handful of FAA restrictions to flag her exes’s holiday travel plans and hitch rides on their flights. It’s degrading, silly, and you know exactly how it will end – if for no other reason than Baggage Claim is precisely the same film as the 2011 Anna Faris comedy What’s Your Number?
To be fair, the book on which What’s Your Number? is based came out after the Baggage Claim novel, but both films share the same singleton panic, some of the same exes, and the same potential cute-neighbor love interest. The only difference is that Number had a funnier script and a more believable lead actress. But whether you saw the earlier film or not, I’d suggest you jump this Claim.
But Check These Out
As if Joseph Gordon-Levitt needed more hyphens, he’s now actor-writer-director Gordon-Levitt, thanks to this solidly funny rom-com satire. The 50/50 actor plays Jon Martello, a good Catholic who keeps his apartment tidy, attends mass with his family every Sunday and has a raging porn addiction. By raging I mean that he prefers it to sex with flesh-and-blood women, even one as hot as his new girlfriend, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson).
But Jon is no Shame, as the film plays this particular sex addiction mostly for laughs, even as it points at huge underlying intimacy issues. No, Jon would rather flash jiggle shots than aim for deep thoughts, but when the actors are this likable and the jokes are this funny, that’s okay. If anything, with its focus on sex, gym rats and thick Joisey accents, Don Jon will remind you of even shallower material: Jersey Shore. I’m not saying Gordon-Levitt owes Mike The Situation Sorrentino money for appropriating his likeness, but he should consider sending the guy flowers.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
If The Princess Bride taught us anything – and my word, people, what didn’t it teach us?! – it’s that there’s a difference between mostly dead and all dead. Flint Lockwood’s (Bill Hader) food replicating machine was mostly dead at the end of the first Meatballs. At least, it was no longer in danger of destroying the world with spaghetti tornadoes and massive pancakes. But it wasn’t all dead.
Meatballs 2 follows Flint, Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) and the rest of the crew back to the evacuated Swallow Falls to find the replicator and destroy it for good. Only when they get there they discover a Land of the Lost filled with food/animal hybrids, or foodimals. If, like me, you spend far too much time online looking for pictures of cute, then the foodimals will wreck you. They’re adorable! From buttery mosquitoast to juicy watermelophants to – actually, let me stop. I don’t want to spoil them for you.
But like the squirmy kids around me, you’ll discover that Cloudy offers far more to see than to feel. The plot is wan, with Flint going to work for his childhood hero, processed food king Chester V (Will Forte). The voice actors are fine and fun, but the 3D visuals steal all the thunder. Swallow Falls looks amazing, bursting with color and creativity. So take the kids, but don’t be surprised if you enjoy it a touch more than they do.