Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quick Movie Reviews

Trying to decide what movie to go see this week? Here are some possible titles (that we have not yet reviewed). 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Fantastic adaptation of John Le Carre’s great novel about the Cold War of 1973 and the British Secret Intelligence Service, aka MI6, code-named The Circus. A flawless cast of knowns and unknowns make this intellectual thriller exciting and compelling.

Tops in the cast are Gary Oldman as George Smiley; Colin Firth (Bill Haydon), Ciaran Hinds (Roy Bland), David Thewlis (Percy Alleline), and John Hurt as Control. Shining in her role was Kathy Burke as Connie Sachs. David Dencik (Tody Esterhase) and Tom Hardy as Tricky Ricky Tarr.
It opens with Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux embarking on a dangerous mission in Hungary, one that ends badly and results in the ouster of Control and George Smiley. But a mole (double agent) is suspected in the Circus, and Smiley was secretly rehired to find him or her. Then there’s Karla, a mysterious Russian spy. The title is demonstrated as those in the Circus are labelled by the nicknames, figuratively and literally, as their photos are taped to chess pieces.
For those looking for bloody crashes and other fireworks, they may be disappointed. For those looking for a complex puzzle with plenty of suspense and nail-biting, this film is for you. I read the book long ago and only retained the atmosphere of the story. The film brought that to life and much more. Oldman is perfect as Smiley, a quiet, introspective man who is as mysterious as his prey.
I highly recommend this one.
Four Reels (out of four)

Mission Impossible   Ghost Protocol
So you do want explosions???  In another sequel to the popular series starring Tom Cruise, the star reclaims his place as a plausible action star/IMF operative. You’ve already seen clips of some of the more daring stunts, chief among them a stroll on the outside of the tallest office building in the world, in Dubai.

Yes, it’s heart-stopping. The film is what it is ... and a very good “what it is” indeed. Full of action, suspense, excitement and funny lines to break the tension. Cruise is buff and capable, even though he’s been disavowed (remember that line in the TV series about being disavowed?) and must clear his name on his own. Well, almost on his own. He picks up a ragtag bunch of IMF fugitives to assist him. No wait, I can’t even begin to describe the plot a week after seeing it. What I do remember are the endless clever and explosive sequences. It’s a wild ride … predictable but fun. I didn’t see the IMAX version, but can only imagine how much more explosive that is!
Three Reels (out of four)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
If you loved the first one, you’ll love this one as well. I’m surprised I remember anything about the first one; minutes after seeing it two years ago, I stepped outside and ended up upended on the icy sidewalk, breaking my leg! But I digress!
I made it home safely from this one, so I remember it much more clearly. Every loves Robert Downey Jr., and this is just one reason why. He’s cute, funny, charming and in total command of his material. His pairing with Jude Law as Watson is inspired. I realize that some critics were less than thrilled with this, pining for an authentic handling of a Sherlock Holmes tale (as in boring). But this is not Shakespeare. It is fun. I will agree with critic Roger Ebert on one thing: I too enjoyed it (even) more than the first. Holmes is once again battling his nemesis, criminal mastermind Prof. James Moriarty (Jared Harris). But first, he must cope with Watson’s impending wedding. In all cases, the game is afoot. And a fun and lively game it is. One of my husband’s favorite bits however, was quite a small one (I loved it too), as Holmes experiments with creating costumes that can render him invisible in a room. Very funny stuff.
Forget the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Just enjoy the ride that is 21st century Sherlock Holmes!
Three and a half reels (out of four)

We Bought a Zoo
Based on a true story (as written by Benjamin Mee in his autobiographical account in England), this tale of a widowed father (Benjamin Mee portrayed by Matt Damon) who, to find a way to deal with his grief, quits his job, uproots his son (Colin Ford) and (adorable) daughter (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), buys a house in the country (outside of L.A.) that just happens to have a forlorn fixer-upper zoo. 
He also inherits a team of zoo-keepers, led by Angus MacFadyen and Scarlett Johansson’s characters. Thomas Haden Church plays Mee’s practical brother. Of course, it also stars a bevy of animals, including a monkey, a tiger and a very large bear.
While the movie is imperfect, never quite achieving the level it strives for, there are pluses. Damon is so likable and believable, he is a joy to watch. His relationship with his young daughter no doubt flows directly from his relationships with his real-life daughters. The sweet, shy connection between Matt and Scarlett’s characters is handled well. And overall, the movie has a joyful tone. I found myself smiling a lot and rooting for the cash-strapped group to succeed in reopening the zoo, despite a lot of obstacles. We also want the family to overcome their unbearable grief so that they can take up living again.
The movie, at 2 1/2 hours, is 1/2 hour too long. In spite of all that, it is a nice family film and I did enjoy it. So, fear not, it is PG, and except for some sad moments involving animals, is suitable for all ages.
Technically, I’d give it a B-, but that’s not possible, so I’m giving it:
Three Reels (out of four)

more to come....

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