Quality holiday fare, but a step down for Alexander Payne
George Clooney stars in “The Descendants..”
- “The Descendants”
★★★ (out of four)
2011, Dir. Alexander Payne, U.S., R
“The Descendants” is rated R for language.
- New films
‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’
Director: David Fincher.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara.
The plot: A journalist is aided in his search for a woman who
has been missing for 40 years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer
Genre: Drama, thriller.
Director: Brad Bird.
Starring: Tom Cruise.
The plot: The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in the
bombing of Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new teaqm to go
- Film roundup
★★★★ (out of four)
This is about as old-fashioned as old-fashioned family films
get, telling the relatively simple story of a young boy in 1930s
Paris struggling to find his natural place in the world around him
— not quite what you would expect from the man who gave us the pen
scene in “Casino.” But armed with a mastery of filmmaking technique
and a keen sense of character development, Scorsese proves once and
for all that he truly is capable of anything. “Hugo” shows us a
different side of the filmmaker — a charming, whimsical, thoroughly
magically side that permeates through the entire picture and makes
“Hugo” the one film from his repertoire that is guaranteed to leave
you with the warm fuzzies.
“The Muppets” marks the troupe’s first big-screen outing in 12
years (following the ill-conceived “Muppets from Space”), and takes
a refreshingly postmodern look at the franchise, tackling head-on
the perceived irrelevance of the Muppets in contemporary society.
As the movie opens we are introduced to Walter, a puppet “born” to
human parents in the late ’70s, when Muppet fever was sweeping the
nation. Water and his human brother, Gary (Jason Segel, who also
co-wrote the screenplay), are somewhat isolated in their
’50-inspired Smalltown, USA existence, and remain diehard Muppet
fans through the decades even as the rest of the country forgets
“THE TWILIGHT SAGA — BREAKING DAWN: PART 1”
Let me start off with the positive: “Breaking Dawn: Part 1” is
not as terrible as I assumed it would be. I’ve never seen a
“Twilight” movie before (just as I’ve never punched myself in the
throat, or intentionally smashed by hand with a hammer, mainly
because I’ve an instinct for self-preservation), but the 15-minute
snippets I’ve seen here and there on television have led me to the
unmistakable conclusion that these films are, hyperbole aside, some
of the worst movies ever made. Completely devoid of anything even
remotely resembling competent acting, effective screenwriting or
impressive production values, they are, in a word, worthless.
Actually, “worthless” is too kind a word — “harmful” seems more
I’ve always subscribed to Roger Ebert’s philosophy that it isn’t
what a film is about that’s important, but how it is about it. To
demonstrate: “Piranha 3D” could easily have been a complete failure
— indistinguishable from the string of lifeless, torturously
boring, bargain-basement, direct-to-DVD titles that line the walls
at Blockbuster. Yet by embracing its genre history, by totally
abandoning any pretense of seriousness, and by delivering exactly
what viewers expect (and in great quantities), the film rises above
its station as a cheap exploitation picture.
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 7:47 am
I had promised reviews of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “The
Sitter” this week, but those plans were altered by the fact that my
online source for such matters had listed an incorrect wide release
date for the former, and the nation’s critics and moviegoing public
have convinced me that I should skip the latter. So we are left
with “The Descendants,” now playing in general release after
generating incredible word of mouth during its run on the art-house
circuit. I found it to be consistently engaging yet slightly
disappointing given the buzz, but your mileage may vary.
Next week for sure: “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” and
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” which has piqued my interest
after receiving favorable early reviews from others who, like me,
found the first installment lacking. After that, I’m confident I’ll
have my face melted off by the awe-inspiring filmmaking prowess of
David Fincher and his “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” So stay
Friday, December 16, 2011 7:47 am.