Christmas Capsule Reviews

In celebration of Christmas Hollywood has released a ton of interesting movies, far too many for me to see, much less review in depth.  So I’m going to do at least one capsule review blog, and possibly another one next week.  To make up for it I’ll also review some of the DVD’s I’ve watched, which I usually don’t do.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

This is a disappointingly tepid version of Stieg Larsson’s dark crime novel, from the usually edgy David Fincher.  I was almost rabid to see this because the subject matter seemed to be in Fincher’s wheelhouse.  The film has its moments but basically he whiffed.  Besides some ill-advised changes to the original story, Fincher’s main problem is that he and star Rooney Mara fail to capture Lisbeth’s rage.  See the Swedish version and wait for Fincher’s sequels.  He has a lower bar to clear there.

Rio

Rio is a by the numbers computer animated feature.  There are a few touching moments especially if you are a pet owner, and Jesse Eisenberg delivers a good vocal performance.  Otherwise, the gags only rise to mildly amusing and the plot is stunning in its unoriginality.

My Week with Marilyn

There is a lot wrong with this movie.  The plot is somewhat muddled.  All that talk about Olivier’s traditional acting training versus Marilyn’s method is too insiderish for general audiences.  This is supposedly based on a true memoir but you wonder how true it is or if it’s just some guy claiming he had an affair with Marilyn Monroe.  The film is redeemed, however, by two great performances.  One is Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier.  It’s not an exact copy but he captures Olivier’s dignity and prickliness.  Michelle Williams does give us an exact replica of Marilyn Monroe right down to the songs.  Marilyn was mixed up and neurotic but she also enjoyed her fame and the attention that went with it so there was a calculating edge to her.  Williams inhabits all aspects of Marilyn’s psyche.  It is amazing to watch.

Miracle on 34th Street

The DVD I bought featured a colorized version of the film, which is a black sin against the art of cinema.  I cast that disc aside and went for the second disc that had the film in its original black and white format.  This is a perfect modern Christmas story, with some sentiment, although it’s not as syrupy as It’s a Wonderful Life, and touches of humor.  It is tied together with the bow of Edmund Gwenn’s performance as Kris Kringle.  He radiates goodwill and the spirit of Christmas.  You just want to sit down with him for a few hours and have him sort out your life and you’re jealous of little Natalie Wood because she gets so much face time with Santa.  There have been other versions of this story but they’ve all flopped, probably because they didn’t have Edmund Gwenn.

War Horse

War Horse is an epic weepie from Steven Spielberg that follows the picaresque adventures of a horse from its birth in Devon, England to its trials as a cavalry horse in World War I, when the machine gun put an end to cavalry charges.  Along the way the horse wins the hearts of the various Germans, Englishmen and Frenchmen he encounters.  Nobody does this sort of thing better than Spielberg, and yes it is terribly manipulative, but it is also a beautiful film and well worth seeing if you are in the mood for it.

Bridesmaids

Saturday Night Live Alumnus Kristen Wiig wrote and produced this at turns raunchy and touching comedy about a down on her luck thirty-something dealing with the stress of being her best friend’s maid of honor.  It proves difficult when another friend, with more resources threatens their relationship.  It’s a little too long and the raunchy elements don’t always sit well with the emotional parts, but this is very entertaining.

The Adventures of Tintin is Steven Spielberg’s animated adaptation of Herge’s comic book creation.  These are tremendously popular all over the world and Spielberg does them justice, producing a fast paced thrill ride that never lets up.  Tintin, voiced by Jamie Bell is an engaging character and the animation is amazing.  Hopefully there will be more of these.

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