Silver Screen: The Score Card, January 13, 2011 Edition

Silver Screen: The Score Card, January 13, 2011 Edition
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Silver Screen: Hereafter *
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Silver Screen: Takers *1/2
Silver Screen: 127 Hours ****
Silver Screen: Black Swan ****
Silver Screen: Case Thirty-nine *
Silver Screen: Charlie Saint Cloud **
Silver Screen: Despicable Me **1/2
Silver Screen: Devil ***
Silver Screen: Dinner for Schmucks *1/2
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Silver Screen: Easy A ***1/2
Silver Screen: Eat Pray Love ***
Silver Screen: Get Him to the Greek ***
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Silver Screen: Grown Ups *
Silver Screen: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I ***
Silver Screen: How Do You Know ***
Silver Screen: Inception ****1/2
Silver Screen: Jackass 3D **1/2
Silver Screen: Jonah Hex *
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Silver Screen: Knight and Day *1/2
Silver Screen: Let Me In ***
Silver Screen: Life as We Know It *1/2
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Silver Screen: My Soul to Take 3D 1/2*
Silver Screen: Paranormal Activity II ***1/2
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Silver Screen: Sex and the City II 1/2*
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Silver Screen: Splice ****
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Silver Screen: The Expendables **1/2
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Silver Screen: The Social Network ****1/2
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Silver Screen: The Score Card, January 13, 2011 Edition
Bryan Miller

> Opening this week (Friday unless otherwise noted).

< Leaving Carbondale this Friday.

For more film reviews and capsules, see the Nightlife section of


by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.

Black Swan (R, ****): Darren Aronofsky's feverish retelling of Swan Lake is another stylistic triumph for the director, and a cerebral stunt that's also backed up by a solid story and defiantly toes (and screams across) the line of melodrama without quite tipping into it. Natalie Portman is excellent as the ambitious but frail, sheltered ballerina Nina, who is daunted by the psychological strain of both creating art and navigating the hazards of her industry. Repressed by her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), pushed to the edge by her manipulative director (Vincent Cassel), and threatened by her seductive potential replacement (Mila Kunis), Nina finds that losing yourself into art can be not unlike just plain losing yourself. It's a trippy flick, and Aronofsky exploits the grotesquerie lying behind the images that are so beautiful from afar. Always intense, occasionally frightening, it's one of the season's most bombastic and provocative films.

The Fighter (R, ****): It's Christian Bale, ostensibly the supporting player, who dominates David O. Russell's true-life boxing tale. But that's apropos, as the crux of the drama is little brother and future title contender Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) struggling to escape his fallen pugilist sibling's shadow. He's held back by bad habits and affection for his self-motivated family members (not just his brother but his domineering mother, played by Melissa Leo, and a gaggle of ghastly sisters). His new girlfriend (Amy Adams) presses him to strike on his own for one last shot at greatness in the ring. Russell cut his teeth as a maker of interesting, oddball films (from the hilarious Flirting with Disaster to the increasingly weird and wonderful I Heart Huckabees and Three Kings), but here he proves he can work with a straight story, too, and proves that an inspirational sports movie can come by its inspiring swells of bravado honestly. Bale is electric, and the rest of the ensemble shines around him.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (PG-13, ***): After more than a decade of Harry Potter hype, it's hard to conjure up much enthusiasm for the seventh and penultimate installment of the film adaptations, especially considering ninety percent of the action in the book takes place in the last hundred pages. After an exciting escape-and-battle sequence, Harry, Ron, and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson) wander about in the woods staring glumly at a magic locket, which is just one of the talismans they must destroy to vanquish the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The novel had no real middle point, so the first part of the bisected finale just ends, giving the movie the aimlessness and shapelessness of the first Lord of the Rings movie. Despite director David Yates being the most deft of the Potter directors (aside from perhaps the too-stylish Alfonso Cuaró n), this is the dullest installment since the lackluster first movie.

How Do You Know (PG-13, ***): The once great, now good James L. Brooks's latest romantic dramedy is unbalanced and unfocused, but it's still pretty ingratiating. Reese Witherspoon fills out the film's most interesting character, Lisa, a former Olympic athlete facing the beginning of the end of her playing career. Romantically adrift as well as professionally so, she's torn between a rich but vapid, carousing baseball star (Owen Wilson) and a wrongly indicted company man (Paul Rudd). Brooks's love triangle is too unbalanced to garner even an ounce of dramatic tension, but the interactions between the three stars are lively. Interestingly, it's the movie's most aimless moments that often prove to be its best, providing flashes of wit and insight when not moving along a plot that's mostly going nowhere. Also featuring Jack Nicholson, who makes fairly little impression in his small handful of scenes.

< The Social Network (PG-13, ****1/2): David Fincher knocks the zeitgeist in this wry, often darkly compelling tale of the inception of Facebook. An off-his-ass good Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of perhaps the biggest hotspot on the internet. Here we see him as a student at Harvard, confounded by his inability to connect with the student body at large, particularly the appealing student body of actress Rooney Mara. He invents Facebook as a campus-wide phenomenon and, assisted by his best friend (Andrew Garfield) and eventually the creator of Napster (Justin Timberlake), takes it global, but loses something along the way-- or perhaps fails to ever attain it. The script by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men) is razor sharp, and Fincher matches it with breathtaking imagery and a round of performances mostly unmatched so far this year. The movie, like the book it's based on, seems to play a little loose with the facts, but when it falters in accuracy it excels in artfulness.

The Tourist (PG-13, **): Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp costar in this limp attempt at light entertainment from Oscar-winning German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Jolie is the wayward girlfriend of a crooked accountant on the lam from Scotland Yard as well as the gangsters he ripped off, and to help reunite herself with her Prince Scamming (and his money) she picks out a random jerk (Depp) from Wisconsin to serve as a patsy to feed to her pursuers. Depp's charmingly clumsy math teacher becomes infatuated with the mystery woman and follows her at his own peril, leading them to a series of adventures that aren't nearly as much fun as von Donnersmarck seems to think they are. The movie packs a few nice surprises, but they come too late, and the most interesting ideas in the film are sublimated in an attempt to service a twistier-than-necessary plot. The two stars evince too little chemistry to warm up this lackluster, lukewarm bit of throwaway entertainment.

True Grit (PG-13, ****1/2): It's not surprising that the Coen brothers' take on Charles Portis's novel, previously filmed as a classic John Wayne vehicle, is both distinctive and exceptional, but it is startling how the brothers can impress even when expectations are set high. We should be able to surmise what the dark-humored auteurs would do with proven source material, a bevy of fantastic actors, and master cinematographer Roger Deakins, yet somehow the movie still bowls you over. Jeff Bridges does wonders with the mantle of Rooster Cogburn, a cantankerous lawman for hire who begrudgingly teams up with an eccentric Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) to help a steely teenaged girl (Hailee Steinfeld) find the assassin (Josh Brolin) who killer father. It's not an ironic commentary on the western as archetype, metaphor, or cinema history. It's a western-- rugged, beautiful, and spiked with morbid mirth. Bridges somehow manages to keep getting better, and Steinfeld is exceptional in her feature-film debut.

Also in or Coming to Local Theaters

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (PG): Michael Apted takes over the franchise based on C.S. Lewis's classic fantasy series, turned into computer-effects soup by Hollywood. The Pevensie children return to Narnia where they reunite with the Christ lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) to sail on a magical ship toward the edge of the world.

> The Dilemma (PG-13): A happily married salesman (Vince Vaughn) discovers that the wife of his best friend and business partner (Kevin James) is cheating on him, bringing up the titual quandary of to tell or not to tell. Directed by Ron Howard and costarring Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, and Channing Tatum.

> The Green Hornet (PG-13): Gleefully stylish indie director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) tries his hand at a big-budget superhero movie, or at least a comedic riff on one. Seth Rogen stars as the title do-gooder, who is actually a rich schlub who mostly pays his right-hand man Cato (Jay Chou) to do all of the ass-kicking. Featuring Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, and Tom Wilkinson. In 2D and 3D versions.

Gulliver's Travels (PG): In this modernized, further Disneyfied version of Jonathan Swift's classic satire, our hero (Jack Black) is a modern-day journalist who gets transported to a land of tiny people while en route to the Bermuda Triangle, then reinvents the strange new world in his own slacker imagine. Sorry, Johnny Swift. Featuring Emily Blunt, Billy Connolly, and Jason Segel.

> The King's Speech (R): When King George VI unexpectedly rises to the throne during World War II in Great Britain, he must employ an unconventional speech therapist to help him learn the oratorical skills needed to inspire his nation. Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Little Fockers (PG-13): This is the third installment of a series that started as a middle-of-the-road trifle and became an icon of pandering, tasteless but banal schlock with the financially successful sequels. Be warned. Once more, nervous son-in-law Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) must prove his worth to his gaggle of parents (including Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbra Streisand) as a husband and father. Featuring Owen Wilson, Jessica Alba, Teri Polo, and Harvey Keitel.

Season of the Witch (PG-13): Long-shelved action-horror flick starring Nicolas Cage as a Crusader waylaid on his way back from the war by a small town harboring demonic secrets and a woman who may be responsible for the Black Plague. Featuring Ron Perlman.

Tangled (PG): Yet another fairytale recycled through the Disney-o-Matic machine. This time it's the long-haired captive in the castle tower (voiced by Mandy Moore) being rescued by a Prince Charming (Zachary Levi) from boredom and a nitpicky mother. Featuring the voices of Paul F. Tompkins, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Perlman, and Brad Garrett. In 2D only.

Tron: Legacy (PG-13): In this update to/reboot of the schlocky 1980s videogame-centric action movie that helped launch computer-generated imagery, the inventor of a game (Jeff Bridges, playing both himself and a younger version of himself thanks to some real-life computer magic) is swallowed by his own creation, prompting his son (Garrett Hedlund) to enter the digital fray in order to save him. Also featuring the lovely Oliva Wilde, the British Michael Sheen, and Daft Punk (?). In 3D and 2D versions.

Yogi Bear (PG): Disastrous-looking computer-animated big-screen outing of Jellystone Park's most notorious resident, a pic-a-nic-basket-loving bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) and his pal Boo-Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake), as they concoct zany schemes to steal food despite amiable opposition from Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh of TV's Ed). Also featuring Anna Faris and T.J. Miller.