It should come as no surprise that every character in a movie with a title like this is either rotten to the core, or a liar, or a schemer, or the bearer of seriously damaging secrets. What is surprising is that these characters never feel like real people, despite a series of twists that should, in theory, reveal hidden, unexpected facets of their personalities and despite being played by big-name stars including Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones. They’re all still conniving, only with varying alliances and targets. At the center of these dizzying double crosses is Wahlberg as Billy Taggart, a former New York police detective who got kicked off the force after a questionable shooting. Seven years later, Billy is barely getting by as a Brooklyn private eye. Then one day, the mayor (Crowe), who’d always been on Billy’s side, hires Billy to investigate whether his wife (Zeta-Jones) is having an affair. He’s up for re-election in a week and doesn’t want to lose to a young, well-financed challenger (Barry Pepper) over revelations that he’s being cuckolded. But Billy’s digging leads to further revelations involving the mayor’s rival, the rival’s campaign manager (Kyle Chandler), the police commissioner (Jeffrey Wright) and some wealthy, well-connected land developers. Everything is simultaneously too complicated and overly spelled out. Director Allen Hughes’ film is a forgettable piece of pulp. (R, 108 minutes)
– Christy Lemire, Associated Press
The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie you didn’t even realize you wanted to see. This is the action superstar’s first leading role in a decade, having left acting to serve as the governor of California and whatnot, and while it may not have occurred to you to miss him during that time, it’s still surprisingly good to see him on the big screen again. He is not exactly pushing himself here. Korean director Kim Jee-woon’s American filmmaking debut turns out to be an extremely Schwarzeneggerish Schwarzenegger film, full of big, violent set pieces and broad comedy. He may look a little creaky (and facially freaky) these days, but Arnold proves he’s still game for the mayhem as he fires off rounds and tosses off one-liners, and the movie at least has the decency to acknowledge that it knows that you know that he’s old. The script also feels a bit old — ‘‘The Last Stand’’ is essentially an amped-up version of ‘‘Rio Bravo,’’ with some ‘‘Jackass’’-style hijinks courtesy of Johnny Knoxville himself. A Mexican drug kingpin (Eduardo Noriega) daringly escapes federal custody and heads for a quiet Arizona border town where Schwarzenegger, as the sheriff, rounds up a posse of misfits to stop him. But Kim keeps things moving briskly and the members of the strong supporting cast (Peter Stormare, Luis Guzman, Forest Whitaker) don’t seem to mind that they’re playing flimsy types. Everyone’s just here for a mindless good time. (R, 107 minutes)
— Wire reports
"Mama" breaks a lot of horror movie rules, right off the proverbial bat.
It gives us a long back-story opening, and brings up much more back story as the tale progresses.
It over-explains. It reveals its supernatural menace, not just in glimpses, but full on, and early on. There’s never any doubt that this might be all in somebody’s head.
But "Mama" is a reminder that the best chills don’t involve chainsaws, blood and guts. Horror is a product of empathy — in this case, fearing for the safety of small children and the reluctant twenty-something rock musician (Jessica Chastain) stuck with caring for them.
A prologue tells us of a tragedy. A distraught father (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) flees financial scandal by shooting people, grabbing his children and fleeing into the snowy mountains of Virginia. They crash, he drags the innocent little girls to a remote cabin, and just as he is about to finish his horror something happens to him.
Cut to five years later, and searchers finally find the girls. They’re feral, non-verbal, skittering around on all fours like rats. Their artist Uncle Lucas (also Coster-Waldau) is ready to take them in. His bass-playing girlfriend, Annabel (Chastain) is not.
Horror is all about the short-circuit that the screen’s technical manipulations — music, editing — cause in our brain, so this isn’t high art. But "Mama" is easily the most moving, most chilling ghost story since "Insidious," an emotional tale efficiently, and affectingly told. (PG-13, 100 minutes)
— Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service