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Movie Review: Holiday Movie Round-Up

Spielberg's ‘Adventures of Tintin’ leads the pack including ‘The Artist,’ ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ ‘Carnage’ and ‘War Horse’ all hitting the big screen this holiday.

The Artist, one of the very best pictures of the year, debuted at the Philadelphia Film Festival in October. It is both shot in black and white and silent. Yes, that's right, silent.

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius and set in the waning days of silent film in the 1920s, The Artist is a lovingly shot, beautifully realized love letter to cinema history.

The leads — Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo — are both French, as is the director, but most of the supporting cast is recognizable Americans, such as James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and John Goodman, who is pitch-perfect as a studio boss. But the best performance in the movie is by... a dog.

The Silver Screen Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Roll Credits: The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman and James Cromwell. Rated PG-13; 1 hour, 40 mins.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The American movie adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo could have amounted to nothing but a darker, nearly-three-hour episode of Law and Order: SVU, but David Fincher's film is much better than that. It's a very impressive bit of storytelling and style that only steps wrongly in its final third.

Set in Sweden – although everyone speaks English – Dragon Tattoo at first focuses on Mikhail (Daniel Craig), a disgraced journalist who is hired by the patriarch of a wealthy family (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the 40-year-old murder of his niece. In doing so, Mikhail enlists the aid of Lisbeth (Rooney Mara), a young, tattooed and pierced and mysterious young woman who is also a genius computer hacker.

Lisbeth is just a marvelous character, and the uncompromising way Mara plays her is by far the film's best quality.

I've neither read any of the Larsson books nor seen any of the Swedish versions of the movies, but I'm told the movie is generally faithful and, even more bravely, doesn't much tone things down. This is a pretty violent, uncompromising picture, and Steven Zaillian's screenplay never sells that out.

There are only two places where the movie really goes wrong. There's a ridiculous scene, set in a basement, which is essentially an homage to Roger Ebert's  Fallacy of the Talking Killer, even going so far as to put the actor who currently plays James Bond in the Death Machine That Doesn't Work.

And the third act has about two too many endings, pivoting from the very interesting murder mystery plot to the not-nearly-as-intriguing corporate feud subplot.

Still, if you can stomach the violence – much of it sexual – Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a tremendously well-made film that is highly recommended.

The Silver Screen Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Roll Credits: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer. Rated R; 1 hour, 58 mins.

Carnage

An adaptation of Yasmina Reza's highly acclaimed play "God of Carnage," Carnage is a deeply comfortable yet very funny film, featuring a quartet of standout performances.

Directed by Roman Polanski, the film concerns a pair of wealthy New York couples who meet in an apartment to discuss the recent schoolyard assault of one of the couples' sons by the other.

The entire 79-minute film is set in a single apartment as John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster square off with Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet. Over the course of the film the tension rises and dissipates, the alliances shift and there is yelling, tears and even vomiting.

I was impressed by the film, especially by the performances by all four actors, and I laughed and shifted uncomfortably at various times. But there was something about the film that barely stayed with me. I saw it weeks ago and have barely thought of it since.

The Silver Screen Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Roll Credits: Carnage, directed by Roman Polanski and starring John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. Rated R; 1 hour, 19 mins.

War Horse

J.J. Abrams' Super 8, which came out this past summer, was very clearly intended as an extended tribute to Steven Spielberg's work, filled with homages to drama, themes and imagery familiar from E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and other early Spielberg work.

The new film War Horse, even more than Super 8, feels like a conscious homage to Spielberg tropes of the past. The difference is, this time it's Spielberg who's the director, and therefore stealing from himself.

An adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel, which stopped off as an acclaimed Broadway play before coming to the screen, War Horse is a return by Spielberg to one of the things he's always done best: sweeping historical drama.

Set before and during World War I, the film at first first focuses on a farming family in the English countryside. The father (Peter Mullan) is a poor war veteran trying to succeed as a farmer while battling an evil landlord (David Thewlis). Meanwhile his teenaged son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) quickly forms a bond with an undersized horse named Joey, who the family has brought to pull the plow.

When the war breaks out the horse is sold to the army, and most of the rest of the film follows him, doing wonders and greatly impressing everyone who meets him. How it ends shouldn't come as much surprise.

The film has five or six really memorable moments, most of which are scattered towards the beginning and end, but aside from that, it's a bit of a slog (the film is 146 minutes.) The relationship between the boy and his horse is far and away the film's most compelling element, but I found it a lot harder to care about most of the other characters.

But about those great moments: most of them, as well as the film's other major themes and elements – have been done previously, and better, by Spielberg. The relationship between the boy and horse, touching as it is, is right out of E.T., with Joey standing in for the titular alien.

There's a great scene in which a British soldier and his German counterpart momentarily put their differences aside to rescue the horse ... but "Saving Private Ryan," of course, did the exact same thing better with Jeremy Davies and the German soldier.

The battle sequences are competently and at times beautifully shot, but again... they're nothing compared to what Spielberg pulled off in Saving Private Ryan.

And of course there's a young man reconnecting with his distant, imperfect father – a theme present in virtually all of the director's work.

The music and cinematography – by frequent Spielberg collaborators John Williams and Janusz Kamiński – is first-rate as always. And it's sort of refreshing to see a film made about a war that has historically been ignored by Hollywood. I can't even remember the last time there was a major World War I movie.

The Silver Screen Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Roll Credits: War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan and Emily Watson. Rated PG-13; 2 hour, 26 mins.

The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin, the other half of Spielberg's Human Touch/Lucky Town-like December parlay, is a highly impressive technical and visual achievement that unfortunately has very little to offer in the plot and character departments.

The film is adapted from a 1940s' Belgian comic book series, created by the late artist known as Herge, that is immensely popular in Europe and all-but-unknown in the U.S. Directed by Spielberg with a producer roster that includes Peter Jackson, Tintin is presented in motion-capture animation as well as 3D, both firsts for Spielberg.

Tintin looks fantastic from beginning to end, especially in a few action sequences. It also probably sports the year's second-most impressive 3D presentation, after . But where Martin Scorsese's film told a fascinating story along with its great look, Adventures of Tintin has a plot that's utterly uninteresting – it feels not unlike a rejected storyline for a fourth sequel.

Not to be confused with Rin Tin Tin – although there is a dog – Adventures of Tintin concerns Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell), a boy-wonder reporter who lives on his own and has a job despite looking like he's about 12 years old.

Along with his ever-present dog Snowy, Tintin buys a model of a 17th century ship, which leads to his being dragged into all sorts of intrigue. Most of it involves a captain named Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis, but drawn to look a lot like Leonard Nimoy) trying to get his ship back.

There are a few standout sequences, including a chase through an African city, sea adventures and even a plane crash. But it's all in service of both characters and a plot that I didn't care about in the slightest. There's very little driving the plot forward, and what was just wasn't very interesting at all.

I love Spielberg, and I fully expect his Abraham Lincoln movie a year from now will be much better than either War Horse or Tintin. But if there are sequels, I hope the director chooses better representations of the source material.

The Silver Screen Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Roll Credits: The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring (voices of) Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and Daniel Craig. Rated PG; 1 hour, 47 mins.

felicia eze September 26, 2012 at 01:17 PM
http://www.unn.edu.ng that is UNN yeas i am there

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