Silver Screen: The Score Card, January 19, 2012 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.
< 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.
War Horse (PG-13, **): Steven Spielberg is without a doubt a master technician able to create astonishing images and incredible textures with film, but as a storyteller he's given over to the maudlin and the teleological. That's the case with this occasionally great but mostly misguided World War I tale that uses the perspective of its title character, a horse sold into battle, to link together an anthology about the far-reaching effects of the conflict. The grimmer stories ring far truer than the hopeful fantasies, and while the narrative asides are illuminating, the frame story rings utterly hollow. Jeremy Irvine stars as the young farmboy who raises the horse and loses his own innocence in the war, but the real standouts are Tom Hiddleston as a pensive soldier in the cavalry and Niels Arestrup as an aging civilian trying to help his orphaned granddaughter survive the war.
We Bought a Zoo (PG-13, ****): The plot of this film doesn't summarize easily-- a widowed father (Matt Damon), struggling to help his family find their footing, purchases a ramshackle zoo and attempts to reopen it as a way of reconnecting with his young daughter (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and teenage son (Colin Ford). Damon gives a fantastic, immensely sympathetic performance, and director Cameron Crowe lets the drama hinge mostly on smaller moments and character interactions. The supporting cast shines as well, including costar Scarlett Johansson as the head zookeeper and Thomas Haden Church as Damon's pragmatic but supportive brother. Crowe's latest is a wonderful feel-good movie that occasionally slips into sentimentality but totally earns it.
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 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.
> Don II (NR): Bollywood film about an Asian mafia boss who attempts to take over the European crime world.
> Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (PG-13): Director Stephen Daldry (The Reader, The Hours, Billy Elliot) leads a terrific cast (Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Max von Sydow) in a film about a young boy trying to come to terms with the loss of his father after the September 11 atrocities.
> Haywire (R): Another promising genre-exercise for director Steven Soderbergh, who here puts his cerebral spin on the action flick. Real-life cage fighter Gina Carano stars as an assassin betrayed by her handlers who must fight for her life. Costarring Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Channing Tatum.
Hugo (PG): Martin Scorsese’s kid-friendly 3D film follows orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who keeps the clocks running in a train station while trying to reconnect with his deceased father by building an automaton. Featuring Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, and Chloë Moretz. In 2D only.
> The Iron Lady (PG-13): Biopic about the late Margaret Thatcher, starring Meryl Streep as the female British equivalent of Ronald Reagan.
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 by 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.
> Red Tails (R): George Lucas produced this action-heavy war tale about the exploits of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a segregated unit of African American pilots who distinguished themselves during World War II. Starring Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Method Man, and Bryan Cranston.
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.
> Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (R): Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson helms this adaptation of John le Carré ’s classic novel about a Cold War-era spy (Gary Oldman) who comes out of retirement to hunt down a mole. Featuring Colin Firth, John Hurt, and Tom Hardy.
> Underworld: Awakening (R): Further proving that America just cannot get enough of vampires fighting werewolves, producer Len Wiseman cranks out yet another installment in this action-centric series starring his real-life wife, Kate Beckinsale, as the savior of the vampire race, who here are threatened with extermination not from the Lycans but the humans from whom they hide. In 2D and 3D.
< 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).