Jan 9 2012

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Jan 2 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, John Hurt, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch
Rated: R for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language

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Nov 21 2011

Immortals

Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Henry Cavil, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Frieda Pinto
Rated: R for sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality

“300” has a lot to answer for. Since the success of the film based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, we are seeing more and more flicks set in classical/mythological Greece and its surroundings — flicks which don’t bother with realism, logic, respect for history (or mythology!), or quality in any aspect beyond the comic-book-inspired tableau. “Immortals” is the latest of these, and follows right smack in the footsteps of its entertainment-oriented forbears.

Theseus (Henry Cavil) is a mortal, the bastard son of an outcast peasant. His village is destroyed by the evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who is determined to find a mythical bow and use it to release the Titans, creatures of unimaginable power who were caged by the gods and sealed beneath a mountain. Theseus winds up working with a virgin oracle (Frieda Pinto) and a thief (Stephen Dorff) to stop the mad king and save the world.

“Immortals” feels like it was rewritten several times, and not all scenes were brought up-to-date with the changes. The bow is a central part of the plot at first, but is barely used and eventually just dropped entirely. The filmmaker’s grasp of classical mythology is tenuous at best. Not only do the gods in this universe have a law that none of them may interfere in the affairs of mortals, but Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) is apparently the son of Zeus (Luke Evans) — who looks about 35.

But really, all of that is irrelevant. This is not a film driven by plot or myth or character. This is a film whose story exists entirely as a setup for the glorious action sequences and tableaus. Overwrought choral music, lasciviously-detailed slow-motion gore, and improbable architecture are everywhere, and the people are all either perfectly clean and well-groomed, or dirty in that artistic way that’s as unrealistic as being clean. We know pretty much instantly that Theseus and the Oracle are destined to get together because they’re both young and attractive, but there’s no chemistry between them. Of course, complaining about lack of chemistry or quality acting in a film like this is like complaining that a lizard doesn’t sing opera well.

This is a movie designed to make you gasp in amazement and gush later about how awesome everything looked. Watch as Zeus cuts a titan in half with a length of chain! Gasp as you see its intestines and other organs in a perfect cut-away view as it hangs in the air in slow-motion! Drool as the Oracle shucks her red dress and offers herself to Theseus! Cheer as Theseus makes a ridiculous speech to motivate the terrified Greeks to defend a wall!

If you’re looking for a quality movie about ancient Greek mythology, this is not the film for you. If you thought last year’s “Clash of the Titans” was epic, though, do not miss “Immortals.”


Nov 15 2011

J. Edgar

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Judy Dench, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts
Rated: R for brief strong language

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Nov 1 2011

In Time

Written and Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy
Rated: PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and partial nudity, and strong language

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Oct 24 2011

The Three Musketeers

Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Matthew Macfadyen, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Logan Lerman, Christoph Waltz
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of adventure action violence

It seems to be a requirement for Hollywood to make a film based on “The Three Musketeers” at least once every twenty years, preferably saturated with whatever is currently in vogue. So, back in 1993 we had Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, and Oliver Platt as the titular friends, and the whole thing was very bright and shiny and silly. Now we have Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans, and Ray Stevenson, and there’s lots of slow-mo martial artsy awesomeness, some snark about governmental budget cuts, and steampunk airships.

Yes. There are steampunk airships in the new “The Three Musketeers.” I don’t know why. There’s nothing in the story that calls for them, but steampunk is in, and presumably the filmmakers felt they had to bring something new to the centuries-old story. Maybe they were hoping for a way to capitalize on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” vibe you get from having ships firing cannons at each other, even if they’re suspended under giant hot-air balloons. Whatever the reasoning, it’s sufficiently ridiculous and awesome to make it forgivable.

The story is a familiar one (young hothead goes to the big city to become a musketeer, finds them disbanded, falls in with the three famous ex-musketeers, winds up trying to prevent a huge war by stealing back a necklace belonging to the French queen) and all the high points are hit in the script, including D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) managing to incur duels with each of his heroes in the same day. There’s a bit of quick wit, lots of thoroughly enjoyable swordfighting, and in general a sense of affable silliness.

“The Three Musketeers” does a lot of things right. It hits the perfect tone, having fun and not taking itself too seriously. The cinematography is solid, with plenty of gorgeous costumes and lush Bavarian countryside to enjoy. There’s a touch of camp here and there (with Christoph Walz as the villainous Cardinal Richelieu and Orlando Bloom as the just-as-slimy Duke of Buckinham, it’s hard to avoid), and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.

The flaws are the usual. The script is a bit predictable at times, even if you don’t know the story already. Buckingham’s hair is so ridiculously styled that it’s hard to find him menacing. The fight choreography and random bits of slow-motion aren’t always timed well together.

But you don’t go into a movie about the musketeers expecting great art. All it takes to succeed with these characters, as far as I am concerned, is decent production values, actors with a bit of pizzazz, and lots of exciting action. “The Three Musketeers” succeeds on all fronts. If you’re looking for some light entertainment and your expectations aren’t too high, you’ll almost certainly have a good time. If, on the other hand, you can’t stand movies that know they’re silly and embrace the lunacy, stay away.


Oct 18 2011

Ides of March

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Oct 11 2011

Real Steel


Directed by: Shawn Levy
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangelie Lilly, Kevin Durand
Rated: PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language

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Oct 3 2011

Killer Elite

Directed by: Gary McKendry
Starring: Jason Statham, Robert DeNiro, Clive Owen
Rated: R for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

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Sep 27 2011

Moneyball

Directed by: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Robin Wright, Stephen Bishop
Rated: PG-13 for some strong language

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