Silver Screen: The Score Card, January 12, 2011 Edition
> Opening this week (Friday unless otherwise noted).
< Leaving Carbondale this Friday.
by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (R, *): Overlong, indulgent, and ultimately dull adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s popular mystery novel that intertwines two primary stories, one about a disgraced journalist (Daniel Craig) trying to solve a decades-old disappearance, the other in which his inscrutable, punked-out research assistant (Rooney Mara) attempts to detach herself from her dangerous past. Screenwriter Steven Zaillian is unwilling to cut any significant subplots, so the result is a cursory pass over every element of a tangent-heavy plot that never comes into focus. Only Mara's exceptional performance as the intriguing Lisbeth Salander, along with some unsurprisingly nifty visual touches from director David Fincher, keeps the movie from being a total snooze.
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (PG-13, ****): Director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) makes his first foray into live action with the improbable third sequel to Tom Cruise's mediocre action franchise. In a pleasant surprise, this one turns out to be the best of the bunch, thanks not to the standard-issue plot-- generic madman threatens nuclear disaster, disavowed team of superspies must conduct secret mission to stop him-- but Bird's sharp execution. His kinetic camerawork is perfect for the big setpieces, which send star Cruise propelling through the air by fireballs and dangling off the world's tallest building, but Bird also brings a light touch and adds humor the series has long missed. An ace supporting cast, including Jeremy Renner as a suspiciously deadly bureaucrat and Simon Pegg as a motormothed techie, help make this one of 2011’s most enjoyable popcorn flicks.
< New Year’s Eve (PG-13, *): This celebrity-choked ensemble piece is as soulless and coldly calculated a cash grab as exists, and even worse, it's so saccharine and cloying that it makes you feel like a bully for hating it so much. The lazily conceived ensemble comedy intertwines a dozen or so one-note, predictable stories around the central conceit that New Year's Eve is a magical and nostalgic night for everyone, which just isn't the case. (At least Valentine's Day, for which New Year's Eve is a sort of pseudo-sequel, had more fertile territory to mine.) Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, Robert DeNiro, Jessica Biel, Halle Berry, Seth Meyers, Sarah Jessica Parker, and another baker's dozen of celebrities round out the cast, none of whom remain unscathed, but since nobody's on screen for more than ten minutes, it's quick if not painless for each individual. The same can't be said for the experience of being in the audience.
< The Sitter (R, ***1/2): Jonah Hill stars as a slacker who reluctantly agrees to babysit three neighbor kids-- a neurotic (Max Records), a celebrity-obsessed tween (Landry Bender), and a felonious foster kid (Kevin Hernandez)-- then makes the very Elisabeth Shue-like mistake of deciding to take them into the city. Crazy episodic adventures ensue as they are pursued by a drug dealer (Sam Rockwell) and a host of bizarre characters. Director David Gordon Green brings his unique sensibilities to the project and lends the standard-issue plot an air of freshness. It's a bit like seeing someone do a paint-by-numbers portrait with a wild array of mismatched colors. But Green can't totally transcend the mundane material, or balance crass gags with the nice, quieter character moments, so the film winds up fun but forgettable.
< Tower Heist (PG-13, ***): Despite being almost too on-the-nose with its topical service-class-versus-crooked-one-percenter plot, the latest from director Brett Ratner has its roots distinctly in the 1980s action comedy. That works out perfectly for underused costar Eddie Murphy, who was one of the kings of the genre. He plays a street hustler recruited by the manager (Ben Stiller) of a luxury highrise to help the staff rob a wealthy penthouse resident who defrauded their pension fund. Fun turns from supporting players Michael Peñ a and Matthew Broderick, plus solid work from star Ben Stiller and villain Alan Alda, help keep the movie moving when it isn’t a showcase for Murphy, but the heist plot is weak and the script isn’t joke-dense enough to skate by on comedy alone. It’s passable big-studio entertainment, mostly forgettable except for Murphy’s welcome return to form.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I (PG-13, *1/2): The penultimate installment of the Twilight series proves to be a huge improvement over the first three offerings. It’s every bit as bad, but at least here the plot goes so vampire-batshit crazy that it occasionally achieves the dubious rank of campy fun. Bella (Kristen Stewart), at long last, at the ripe old age of eighteen, gets married to her vampire high-school boyfriend. They have sex, now that it’s morally okay in the eyes of vampire Jesus, and she gets pregnant with a demon baby that threatens to destroy her from the inside out and spark a war between the vampires and werewolves. Featuring Robert Pattinson performing a C-section with his mouth and costar Taylor Lautner proposing marriage to an infant child. Still awful and self-indulgent, but here at least kind of hilariously so.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
The Adventures of Tintin (PG): Steven Spielberg directs this computer-animated adaptation of Hergé ’s popular comic-book series about a boy adventurer who here teams up with a boozy sailor to search for lost treasure. Featuring the voices of Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, and Simon Pegg. In 2D and 3D.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked (G): Yet another sequel to the computer-animation/live action blended kiddie comedy. In this one, the chipmunks and their chipmunk girlfriends get into misadventures on a cruise and wind up castaways on an island. Featuring Jason Lee and David Cross, and the voices of Justin Long and Christina Applegate. This is going to keep happening.
> Beauty and the Beast 3D (G): Rerelease of Disney's popular animated spin on the musical tale of a man cursed to live as a monster and the woman who sees beyond his affliction. Retrofitted for 3D, so the beastliness comes right out at you.
> Contraband (R): Mark Wahlberg stars as a reformed tough guy forced out of retirement to make one last score in order to save his kidnapped wife (Kate Beckinsale). So, basically, every action movie ever. Featuring Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, and J.K. Simmons.
The Darkest Hour (PG-13): Massive sci-fi flop about an invasion of aliens that manifest themselves through particles of light and attack Russia. The ephemeral invaders are fought off by visiting Americans played by Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella, and Olivia Thirlby. In 2D and 3D.
The Devil Inside (R): Faux-documentary horror flick in which the daughter of a woman allegedly possessed by a demon investigates murders related to a failed exorcism years ago and sets about trying again. Starring Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth.
> Joyful Noise (R): Two members of a church choir (Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah) battle it out to help their group win a national contest. Featuring Kris Kristofferson and Courtney B. Vance.
The Muppets (PG): Jason Segel writes and stars in the latest big-screen adventure for Jim Henson's deeply felt felt creations. Segel and his lady pal (Amy Adams) must help Kermit and the rest of the crew reunite to put on a show and save their old theater from destruction at the hands of an oil tycoon (Chris Cooper). Featuring appearances from a bevy of celebrities, including Zach Galifianakis, Donald Glover, Sarah Silverman, Emily Blunt, and N.P.H.
My Week with Marilyn (R): Michelle Williams stars as icon Marilyn Monroe in this probably not-true story based on a book written by a side player who claims to have had a fling with Monroe during a film shoot. Costarring Eddie Redmayne along with Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier and Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (PG-13): Sequel to Guy Ritchie's popular action-movie riff on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective, which refashions the brilliant investigator as a dashing, cerebral superman (Robert Downey Jr.) complete with wisecracking sidekick (Jude Law) and a sexy dame (Rachel McAdams). This time around they must foil the plan of nemesis Moriarty (Jared Harris) to thrust Europe into world war.
War Horse (PG-13): Steven Spielberg directs this war epic in which the stories of several soldiers fighting in the trenches in World War I are linked by a horse. Starring Jeremy Irvine and Tom Hiddleston.
We Bought a Zoo (PG): Cameron Crowe returns after a years-long hiatus to direct this film about a family struck by tragedy who rebound by purchasing and managing a struggling zoo. Starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, and Thomas Haden Church.
Young Adult (R): Juno writer-director team Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman reunite for this dark comedy about a troubled teen-lit author (Charlize Theron) who comes back to her hometown and gets caught in an awkward love triangle with a now-married former boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) and an old friend (Patton Oswalt).