Silver Screen: The Score Card, March 29, 2012 Edition

Silver Screen: The Score Card, March 29, 2012 Edition
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Silver Screen: Confidence Man: The Hugh DeNeal Story Is Stranger than Fiction
Silver Screen: Hereafter *
Silver Screen: Machete **
Silver Screen: Saw VII 3D Zero Stars
Silver Screen: Takers *1/2
Silver Screen: 127 Hours ****
Silver Screen: 21 Jump Street ***
Silver Screen: A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas ***
Silver Screen: Bad Teacher ***
Silver Screen: Battle: Los Angeles **
Big Muddy Film Festival 33
Silver Screen: Black Swan ****
Silver Screen: Blue Valentine ****
Silver Screen: Breaking Dawn Part I *1/2
Silver Screen: Bridesmaids ****
Silver Screen: Captain America **
Silver Screen: Cars II *1/2
Silver Screen: Case Thirty-nine *
Silver Screen: Cedar Rapids ****
Silver Screen: Charlie Saint Cloud **
Silver Screen: Chronicle ****
Silver Screen: Contagion ****1/2
Silver Screen: Contraband *
Silver Screen: Cowboys & Aliens ***
Silver Screen: Crazy, Stupid, Love **
Silver Screen: Despicable Me **1/2
Silver Screen: Devil ***
Silver Screen: Dinner for Schmucks *1/2
Silver Screen: Director Rusty Nails Presents... Dead On: The Life and Cinema of George A. Romero
Silver Screen: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark **
Silver Screen: Dream House *1/2
Silver Screen: Drive ****1/2
Silver Screen: Drive Angry 3D **1/2
Silver Screen: Due Date ***1/2
Silver Screen: Easy A ***1/2
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Silver Screen: Fast Five **1/2
Silver Screen: Fifty/Fifty ****
Silver Screen: Final Destination V **
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Silver Screen: Fright Night ***
Silver Screen: Get Him to the Greek ***
Silver Screen: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 1/2*
Silver Screen: Going the Distance ***
Silver Screen: Gone **1/2
Silver Screen: Green Lantern *1/2
Silver Screen: Grown Ups *
Silver Screen: Hall Pass *1/2
Silver Screen: Hanna ****
Silver Screen: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II ****
Silver Screen: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I ***
Silver Screen: Haywire ***1/2
Silver Screen: Horrible Bosses **1/2
Silver Screen: How Do You Know ***
Silver Screen: I Am Number Four *
Silver Screen: In Time **1/2
Silver Screen: Inception ****1/2
Silver Screen: Insidious ***1/2
Silver Screen: J. Edgar **
Silver Screen: Jack and Jill 1/2*
Silver Screen: Jackass 3D **1/2
Silver Screen: Jonah Hex *
Silver Screen: Josh Hyde’s Postcards and Love Letters
Silver Screen: Just Go with It *
Silver Screen: Killer Elite **
Silver Screen: Killer Elite **
Silver Screen: Knight and Day *1/2
Silver Screen: Kung Fu Panda II ***
Silver Screen: Larry Crowne *1/2
Silver Screen: Let Me In ***
Silver Screen: Life as We Know It *1/2
Silver Screen: Limitless ***
Silver Screen: Megamind ***1/2
Silver Screen: Midnight in Paris ****
Silver Screen: Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol ****
Silver Screen: Moneyball ***1/2
Silver Screen: My Soul to Take 3D 1/2*
Silver Screen: New Year’s Eve *
Silver Screen: No Strings Attached ***
Silver Screen: One Day **
Silver Screen: Our Idiot Brother ***
Silver Screen: Paranormal Activity II ***1/2
Silver Screen: Paranormal Activity III ***1/2
Silver Screen: Paul ***1/2
Silver Screen: Piranha 3D ***1/2
Silver Screen: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides *1/2
Silver Screen: Predators ***
Silver Screen: Priest 1/2*
Silver Screen: Project X 1/2*
Silver Screen: Real Steel *
Silver Screen: Red ***
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Silver Screen: Rise of the Planet of the Apes ****
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Silver Screen: Sex and the City II 1/2*
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Silver Screen: Shark Night 3D 1/2* -- Apollo 18 **
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Silver Screen: Something Borrowed *
Silver Screen: Source Code ****1/2
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Silver Screen: The Adjustment Bureau *1/2
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Silver Screen: The Dilemma *1/2
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Silver Screen: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo *
Silver Screen: The Green Hornet **1/2
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Silver Screen: The Ides of March ****
Silver Screen: The Karate Kid ***
Silver Screen: The Karate Kid ***
Silver Screen: The King's Speech ****
Silver Screen: The Last Airbender *
Silver Screen: The Last Exorcism ***
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Silver Screen: The Score Card, October 27, 2011 Edition
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Silver Screen: The Score Card, October 7, 2010 Edition
Silver Screen: The Score Card, September 01, 2011 Edition
Silver Screen: The Score Card, September 15, 2011 Edition
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Silver Screen: The Scorecard July 01, 2020 Edition
Silver Screen: The Scorecard July 15, 2010 Edition
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Silver Screen: The Scorecard July 29, 2010 Edition
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Silver Screen: The Scorecard June 17, 2010 Edition
Silver Screen: The Scorecard June 24, 2010 Edition
Silver Screen: The Sitter ***1/2
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Silver Screen: The Sorcerer's Apprentice **
Silver Screen: The Thing **1/2
Silver Screen: The Tourist **
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Silver Screen: The Tree of Life *****
Silver Screen: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse *1/2
Silver Screen: The Vow **
Silver Screen: The Woman in Black **
Silver Screen: Thirty Minutes or Less ***1/2
Silver Screen: Thor ***
Silver Screen: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ***1/2
Silver Screen: Tower Heist ***
Silver Screen: Toy Story III ****
Silver Screen: Transformers: Dark of the Moon *1/2
Silver Screen: True Grit ****1/2
Silver Screen: Unknown ***
Silver Screen: Unstoppable **
Silver Screen: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ****
Silver Screen: Wanderlust ***1/2
Silver Screen: War Horse **
Silver Screen: Water for Elephants ***
Silver Screen: We Bought a Zoo ****
Silver Screen: X-Men: First Class ***
Silver Screen: Your Highness ***1/2
Silver Screen: Zookeeper *


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Silver Screen: The Score Card, March 29, 2012 Edition
Bryan Miller

 

by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.

< The Artist (PG-13, ****): It’s the movie everyone feels obligated to see! Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius’s silent film about silent film is gimmicky but also smartly executed. Jean Dujardin is spectacular as George Valentin, a silent-film actor whose career collapses after the popularization of talkies. It’s also a romance and a crowd pleaser, complete with a plucky gal on the make (Bé ré nice Bejo) and a cute canine sidekick. The whole movie is brilliantly summed up in a single, surrealistic scene in which George is first able to hear sound but unable to speak himself; it’s such a good scene the rest of the film barely needs to exist, which makes it a bit of a chore at times. Still, it’s a unique concept, well-articulated and nicely acted if perhaps a little self-congratulatory for the movie industry types. Costarring John Goodman and James Cromwell.

The Descendants (R, ****1/2): George Clooney leads a phenomenal ensemble cast in this deeply affecting dramedy about a land baron (Clooney) struggling to maintain his family's historic legacy at the same time his wife, lingering in a coma, nears death. Clooney's ace businessman must reconnect with his estranged children (Amara Miller and the exceptional Shailene Woodley) and find a way to cope with a loss that stubbornly continues to unfold even as it seems to end. Yet despite the morose plot, director Alexander Payne's latest film is a deft blend of humor and sadness that finds sympathy with all of its characters, no matter how dubious they seem. A script dense with stirring and revelatory character interactions unfolds at a meditative pace, highlighted with great performances all around. This is a rare treat, a beautiful-looking studio film featuring standout performances from big stars that truly resonates. One of 2011’s best.

The Hunger Games (PG-13, ***): Director Gary Ross’s adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s wildly popular young adult novel is exceedingly competent but never better than pretty good, mostly thanks to its slavish devotion to the source material. The story’s protagonist, a flinty Appalachian hunter named Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), living in a dystopian future, is forced to participate in a brutal battle to the death with twenty-three other students to be televised for the amusement of the wealthy citizens of the Capitol. Yet in the film’s (that is, the studio’s) eagerness to adhere as closely as possible to the book to avoid pissing off the fanbase/core market, it fails to fully actualize a visual spectacle and is rather a blunt, direct translation. Lawrence does nice work, supported by a strong cast that includes Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, and Donald Sutherland. It’s tough to make a movie about class warfare and child murder bland and inoffensive, yet here it is.

< Project X (R, 1/2*): Repugnant teen-party comedy that plays like Tucker Max rewriting Superbad for Spike TV, this blatant cash grab seizes on as many trends as possible (faux found footage, YouTube stars) in telling a familiar story: some kids throw a massive party while their parents are gone, and it spins out of control. The characters range from dull (lead actor Thomas Mann) to astonishingly unlikable (Oliver Cooper as obnoxious best pal and coconspirator Costa), the small handful of jokes actually attempted fall flat, and the movie’s lurid obsession with underage girls remains thoroughly creepy throughout. Only the final throes of the chaotic party pack any punch, but it’s nowhere near worth sitting through the painful setup. One of the most vile and stupid films in some time.

Safe House (R, ***): Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds square off against one another in this thriller in which a low-level CIA agent (Reynolds) becomes entangled with a notorious traitor (Washington) who allows himself to be captured in order to evade mercenaries. Reynolds’s uncertain rookie must keep Washington’s calculating killer alive but still in custody, requiring an uneasy alliance. The battle of wits is the real fun here, with both actors bringing plenty to their respective roles. But once the action breaks out of the claustrophobic title location the tension lets up and Safe House becomes just another action flick, albeit a decent one. Featuring Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, and Sam Shepard.

21 Jump Street (R, ***): Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in this bizarre remake of the not-all-that-popular late-1980s drama about cops going undercover as high-school students to stop youth crimes. It's less a straight retread, however, than a parody of the kind of movie that an actual 21 Jump Street remake would be-- that is to say, it's a pop-culture mashup thoroughly drenched in irony. It's moderately funny, too, thanks largely to the two leads, especially Tatum, who gets most of the big laughs as a clueless ex-jock forced to ingratiate himself with the nerds and losers he spurned during his school days. A bloody and outlandish finale only amps up the weirdness in a movie that's both consistently odd and relentlessly conventional.

< The Vow (PG-13, **): It's tough to believe Nicholas Sparks didn't pen this cloying, cliché -riddled romantic weepie about a couple separated by tragic circumstances. After a car accident robs her of the last several years of her memory, a free-spirited artist (Rachel McAdams) struggles to rekindle her relationship with her husband (Channing Tatum) despite interference from her cartoonishly villainous, WASPy parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange). The basic premise is a decent one, but the committee-written script steadfastly avoids originality and subtlety at every turn in favor of melodrama and pathos, making this grind of a chick flick something you'll be eager to forget.

Wanderlust (R, ***1/2): Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star as displaced Manhattanites who cast off in search for a new way of living and wind up on a hippie commune founded by aging acid freak Alan Alda and led by goofball guru Justin Theroux. They try to make a new life for themselves but discover that dropping out comes with its own perils. The film, directed and cowritten by David Wain with his regular collaborator Ken Marino, never really answers the significant questions it poses, but it's consistently hilarious, packed with great lines and powered by fantastic performances from Theroux, Alda, Rudd, Marino, and supporting players Joe Lo Truglio and Kathryn Hahn. It's an ace ensemble working off a great script on a production helmed by a guy who seems incapable of being unfunny-- Wain's previous films include the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer, the vastly underrated anthology film The Ten, and the more conventional but hilarious Role Models.

Also in or Coming to Local Theaters

Doctor Seuss's The Lorax (PG): Computer-animated adaptation of Doctor Seuss's environmentalist fable in which the titular creature (voiced by Danny Elfman) must save the beauty of the natural world from the greedy Once-ler (Ed Helms). Featuring the voices of Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, and Betty White, among others. In 2D and 3D.

> Jeff Who Lives at Home (R): Fairly star-studded cast (Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, and, yes, Rae Dawn Chong) in a film about the title character (Segel) who has an adventurous day trying to discover if his brother’s wife is cheating. Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus).

John Carter (PG-13): Sci-fi actioneer based on Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’s lesser-known character, a Civil War veteran who is mysteriously transported to Mars where he must do battle. Starring Taylor Kitsch alongside Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Bryan Cranston, Dominic West, and Mark Strong. In 2D and 3D

> Mirror Mirror (PG): The first of the year’s two live-action Snow White movies is a more kid-friendly take starring Julia Roberts as the queen who fears Lily Collins might turn out to be the fairest of them all. Featuring Armie Hammer and Nathan Lane.

The Secret World of Arrietty (Kari-gurashi no Arietti) (G): Animated adaptation of Mary Norton’s kids’ book about a family of four-inch-tall people who live in the crevices of a normal-sized human’s home. Featuring the voices of Amy Poehler, Saoirse Ronan, Will Arnett, and Carol Burnett.

This Means War (R): Type-A cutie Reese Witherspoon is romanced by a pair of embattled CIA agents (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) who will use all the tools at their disposal to win her affection. Featuring Chelsea Handler, directed by McG.

A Thousand Words (PG-13): Eddie Murphy stars as a fast-talking agent who discovers he is cursed and can only speak one-thousand more words before he dies. Costarring Kerry Washington.

Tyler Perry's Good Deeds (PG-13): In Tyler Perry's latest Tyler Perryfest, writer/producer/director/actor/caterer/key grip Perry stars as a high-powered businessman who learns redemptive lessons about family and stuff when he falls for a struggling single mom (Thandie Newton). Featuring Gabrielle Union and Phylicia Rashad.

> Wrath of the Titans 3D (PG-13): Sequel to the remake of the fantasy classic about a half-man, half-God tasked with battling exotic beasts and immortal beings. Even star Sam Worthington publicly acknowledged the remake was disappointing, so this one is being pitched as a very expensive apology. Bad sign.