As many of you know, I do not listen to radio and despise commercial TV. Instead I go to the movies and see about 200 films a year. If you don’t go that often, here’s a thumbnail sketch of some of the films out now.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. (R). Final film of this terrific trilogy, see the other two first (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire). I loved this body of work. The lead role, Lisbeth Salander, is the best female lead written in the last decade. All three get a strong recommend.
Conviction. (R). Loved Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. This is not Million Dollar Baby. It’s so formulaic it comes across like Twenty Dollar Baby. Based on a true story about unlikeable people. So what? Pass.
Inception. (R). Ten years to write this complex head-scratcher and it shows. You’ll love it or hate it, there is no in-between. If you go, pay attention. Inception is a compilation of juggled dream sequences told from multiple points of view. Casablanca it is not. Well made but a very different film and difficult to follow. DiCaprio not bad. Recommend.
Salt. PG-13). Watch this nonsense about an over-the-top female super-agent and then go watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. No contest. Lisbeth Salander by a TKO. This forgettable effort features Angelina Jolie posing and posturing. And ten thousand explosions. One of them apparently blew up the story. Pass.
The Other Guys. (PG-13). Funny buddy picture pairing Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. Far better than expected. Worth a discount ticket for mindless fun and entertainment. These two make an excellent team. Recommend.
Eat, Pray, Love. (PG-13). If I had to watch this again I’d confess to things I didn’t even do. Julia Roberts’ agent should be slapped. Repeatedly. And she should be sent to her room without her makeup. Julia knows better than this. And so should we. This film is so bad it’s fun to ridicule. If you’re ever told you have 24 hours to live, watch this 12 times. It’ll seem like 50 years. Pass.
Paranormal Activity 2 (R). Want value for your entertainment dollar? Here your sawbuck buys two hours watching a living room through four security cameras. This cheap piece of junk justifies itself with three big scares. Excruciatingly slow and predictable, PA2’s formulaic terror expectation buildup drags on forever for just for a few jolts. Don’t pay to see this. Get bombed, turn out the lights, and watch it in a dark room on cable. With a pillow. Pass.
Hereafter. (PG-13). Clint Eastwood tackles the concept of death. The result: snoreville. Droll effort despite a brilliant opening scene, one of the best of the year. But when a film crests in synch with a tsunami wave five minutes in, it’s never a good sign. Clint has spoiled us with a series of brilliantly made films. This is not one of them. It’s so-so at best. Pass.
Red. (PG-13). Sometimes the band is better off not getting back together. Nice premise (old superagents called out of retirement). Choppily executed, weak script, all-star team of actors in bad roles that never mesh. Even good popcorn can’t save this; it’s celluloid road kill. Pass.
The Social Network. (PG-13). Brilliant performance by Jesse Eisenberg lifts this film from good to excellent. Justin Timberlake is solid in a key supporting role. A half-hour too long but Eisenberg carries it. Recommend.
The Town. (R). Ben Affleck remains one of my favorite Hollywood enigmas. This movie, set in Boston and directed by Affleck, is better than his pal Matt Damon’s Hereafter. But World War III because a few neighborhood thugs try to rob Fenway Park? C’mon, Ben! Is that the best you’ve got? Good by Affleckian standards. Worth watching on cable or dollar theater.
Secretariat. (PG). Worth the price of admission just to see John Malkovich’s brilliant portrayal of horse trainer Lucien Lauren. This Disney film forgot a few facts and is a patronizing homage to Penny Chenery (Secretariat’s owner) but had to be because Penny controlled story rights and demanded script approval. Diane Lane wonderful, Malkovich brilliant, excellent ensemble and a nice, happy story about a four-legged American hero. Strong recommend for all ages.
Nowhere Boy. (R). This is one of the few films in the past several years I’ve seen twice. This low-budget British indy is about John Lennon’s turbulent teen years. The cast is excellent; the film is well-scripted and edited for steady pacing. Extra kudos to Ann-Marie Duff, who gives an outstanding performance as Julia, John’s troubled mother. Perhaps I’m jaded because I remain a Lennon fan and have done the Liverpool trek, but this unheralded little film is well worth seeing.
Easy A. (PG-13). This high school comedy is a wonderful surprise with a brisk pace and a steady stream of big laughs. Emma Stone commands the screen in a breakout performance. An unexpected treat cleverly made. Well worth seeing.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. (PG-13). If you love Michael Douglas, he’s in it. If you love Shia LaBeouf, he’s in it. If you love Carey Mulligan, she’s in it. If you love them working together, you are dumber than the average bear. This film never works for many reasons and should be watched on cable only if Seinfeld reruns aren’t an option. Mulligan is miscast and proves it; the formulaic execution of a milquetoast story and predictable plot is sloppy at best. Skip it.
Never Let Me Go. (R). Director Mark Romanek directs this super little sleeper of a film. One of my favorites of the year, British actresses Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan pair brilliantly in this tight, thought-provoking English ensemble story. If you commit to the story, the characters will pull you in. Once they do, you’re all in it together. One of my top five films of 2010. As bad as Mulligan was miscast in Wall Street, she’s perfectly cast in this one — her role is similar to last year’s Oscar nominated performance for An Education. Knightley’s work is solid; she is a perfect foil. If you like indy films, find the time to see this one. It’s excellent. Strong recommend.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. (R). Woody Allen has written 64 films. This is one of them. If you pay to see this mess you should be slapped. Hard. By yourself. Repeatedly. Everything about this is a colossal cluster except that it was filmed in London, so the scenery is pleasant. Fortunately, it ended. Avoid at all costs.
Out of space. See you at the popcorn stand!
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