Movie Reviews – January 2012

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The Adventures of Tintin
Paramount
In Theaters: 12.21.11
In June 2011, J.J. Abrams was praised for his heartfelt tribute to Steven Spielberg’s earlier works with the sci-fi adventure Super 8, but rather than remaining stagnant and allowing the next generation of filmmakers to move forward without him, the mastermind behind E.T. and Jaws has teamed up with Peter Jackson and his ground-breaking Weta digital effects team to breathe new life into Belgian artist Hergé’s comic book franchise. Spielberg employs never-before-seen motion capture technology and garners the talents of Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig and the motion capture king himself, Andy Serkis, to set forth a film that embodies the same thrilling excitement captured in Spielberg’s Indiana Jones series. The adventure begins immediately when an inquisitive journalist, Tintin (Bell), purchases a model pirate ship that’s also being hunted by a mysterious baron (Craig) due to the fact that the ship contains a clue to the whereabouts of a treasure that’s been missing for over 300 years. With one unfortunate altercation after another, Tintin soon finds himself on a high-speed, uncontrollable quest that reaches land, sea and air. He is aided by his furry friend, Snowy, and adult-beverage aficionado, Captain Haddock (Serkis). Spielberg has changed the game for the future of motion-capture filmmaking. His characters’ movements and features are more realistic than any of Robert Zemeckis’ previous projects and open the door to endless possibilities for pending productions. Witnessing one of the greatest directors of all time reach into his pocket of well crafted tricks to deliver a balanced comedic adventure for a new generation is exciting to say the least, but knowing this is only the beginning of a new era is even more exhilarating. –Jimmy Martin

The Artist
The Weinstein Company
In Theaters: 01.13
In a time when large production studios cringe at the utterance of “black and white,” it’s a true testament to writer/director Michel Hazanavicius’ creation when The Weinstein brothers stick around after the word “silent” is added to the mix. While the storyline of an actor’s rise and fall in Hollywood may not be the most original concept to reach the silver screen, the execution in Hazanavicius’ The Artist certainly is. Stocked to the brim with insider film references only dedicated movie buffs will appreciate (not that outsiders can’t enjoy the film as well), Hazanavicius casts Jean Dujardin in the lead as George Valentin, a pompous and stubborn silent-film-era superstar who refuses to accept the fact that talkies are taking over the industry, which ultimately leads to his professional demise. However, as George’s career crumbles, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a small-time aspiring actress, finds her calling with the new technological advancements and skyrockets into fame, yet never stops thinking about the short-lived on-set flirtation she shared with her fallen co-star. Hazanavicius crafts this silent film about silent films with a fitting amount of exaggeration in the performances and direction that precisely simulates and exuberates the classical tone found in early-1900s cinema. Surrounded by Ludovic Bource’s magnificent score that not only assists the story but tells it as well, Dujardin and Bejo enchant viewers with their puppy-love chemistry and contagious smiles that’ll follow you all the way home. –Jimmy Martin

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Sony
In Theaters: 12.21.11
For anyone who has read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy or has screened the adapted Swedish films, it was clear that the list of directors capable of Americanizing the darkened tale of a tortured soul for a new audience would be short, but there was no debate on whether David Fincher could make the cut. The dreary vision from the man behind Fight Club and Seven certainly fit the description of the series. Unfortunately, Fincher has neglected to deliver an innovative variation and just lets the wheels spin on their own accord while making amateurish mistakes that ruin the revelation behind the ultimate mystery of the film. Just as journalist Mikael Blomkvist’s (Daniel Craig) career deteriorates due to an unjust investigation for libel, he’s hired by Swedish industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to look into the disappearance of his niece that occurred over 50 years ago on his family’s private island. On the other side of the country, skilled computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is forced to deal with her petrifying social worker, who blackmails the angered loner into non-consensual sexual acts. However, there are severe repercussions for his behavior. Once Blomkvist learns of Salander’s expertise, the two join forces to uncover the truth behind the Vanger family’s secrets. Fincher opens his film with an artsy James Bond-like intro, complete with figures enveloped in an oil substance, contorting into various poses, offering audiences a glimpse into a brutal environment that only partially arrives afterward. Mara offers an exceptional portrayal of a traumatized yet powerful woman, but Craig could easily be replaced by a number of other working actors. However, Fincher’s uncalculated casting of side characters spoils what could have been a spectacular unveiling and leaves viewers frustrated. –Jimmy Martin

The Muppets
Disney
In Theaters: 11.23.11
There have been two individuals who changed the world of child entertainment forever in the past 80 years. In the 1930s, Walt Disney presented us with a mouse draped in nothing but a pair of pants and clogs, and, 25 years later, Jim Henson introduced us to a talking amphibian named Kermit the Frog who would become the most recognizable protagonist in the Muppet franchise. Now it’s been over five decades, and the legacies of both icons have been paired together as Disney presents the latest revitalization to the Muppet series. When it’s discovered that an oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) wishes to demolish the once-prosperous Muppet Studios in Los Angeles, a small-town couple (Jason Segel, Amy Adams) and their tagalong Muppet buddy, Walter, set out to uncover the whereabouts of Kermit and persuade him to get the gang back together for one last fundraiser, but, the mission proves to be difficult since the world has completely lost interest in the Muppets’ wild antics. Essentially, the film is a revised version of The Blues Brothers. The majority of the soundtrack is comprised of brilliantly written musical numbers crafted by Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie, and fans of the HBO cult hit will certainly find delight in the jovial lyrics. From the copious amount of celebrity cameos to the self-awareness of the script (co-written by Segel), director James Bobin has created a praiseworthy film and has surrounded himself with a cast and crew of genuine admirers of Henson’s creations. Bobin has developed a production that’ll evoke the joy and excitement that adults experienced as children and introduce youngsters to a world of never-before-seen felt-filled laughs. –Jimmy Martin

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 12.16.11
Diving fist first into his next mystery, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) returns as the sharpest detective to stumble drunkenly down London’s streets camouflaged in a plethora of costumes, aided by his exasperated yet loyal sidekick, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law). Leading the second chapter of RDJ’s Holmes is returning director Guy Ritchie, who has clearly examined and corrected the misfires from the first endeavor and has amplified the clever mischief fans have admired the filmmaker for in his earlier projects like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. This time around, Holmes has met a much greater intellectual threat to the world in the form of Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), who plans to single-handedly bring destruction to Western civilization with a massive war. Only the inimitable wit and collaboration of Holmes and Watson can prevent this maniacal operation. Ritchie captures a much more pure bond between his two leads as the progression of maturity attempts to sever their life long friendship, but the call to action magnetically forces it back in an instant. The Holmes/Moriarty connection is reflective of the respectful distaste Batman and The Joker have for one another. As the two face off in multiple civilized settings incapable of slaughtering the other, the catastrophic tension builds to what can only be an exceptional grand finale. While Ritchie does neglect the talents of newcomer to the franchise Noomi Rapace, he and his team can be commended on their elegant battle sequences, captured with rich imagery, still photography and slow-motion effects that paint a beautiful screen of wild devastation. This is certainly a sequel that outshines the original on every level. –Jimmy Martin