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A Look at the Christmas Movies

18 Dec 2011

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THE HOLIDAY MOVIES

Ti’s the season to be at the movies!  The studios come up with their blockbusters as well as their Oscar hopefuls. There should be no shortage of films to see or choice of genres. But beware of the Christmas duds that will surely take a bite out of your festive spirit.

Here are the films that are or will open and what to see or avoid.

THE BEST OF THE LOT:

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4: GHOST PROTOCOL (USA 2011) ****
Directed by Brad Bird

As blockbusters and action flicks go, this is the best of the lot. Tom Cruise returns as IMF agent Ethan Hunt and Cruise proves that he ahs what it takes to be a star! The film is action packed from start to finish with a clever plot and humour added in between. This one, you have to see in IMAX for the segment when Hunt scales the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (USA 2011) ****
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Performance capture works perfectly for this Belgium comic book adaptation of world favourite TinTin.  Though lacking in emotions, the film more than makes up for it by sheer dazzling action, mystery and adventure. TinTin fans should not be disappointed! This film was voted Best Animated Feature by the Toronto Film Critics Association.

CARNAGE (Germany/Poland/France 2011) *****
Directed by Roman Polanski

For those who savour a wicked Christmas, exiled director wonder Roman Polanski delivers with a drama about two sets of parents (Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christophe Waltz, Kate Winslet) who get together to discuss the problem of their sons fighting in the public park.  It all starts all polite and congenial but turns to ‘all hell breaks loose’ nastiness.  Lots of laugh out loud moments and choice quotes!  My personal favourite!

THE ARTIST (France 2011) ***1/2
Directed by Michael Hazanavicius

THE darling of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, THE ARTIST is a mostly silent black and white film centering on fading silent star George Valentin (George Dujardin) while focusing on the rise of actress Peppy Miller (director’s wife Berenice Bejo,).  The film is much better than it sounds and is more comedy than drama.  The trained dog Uggie steals the entire movie and has to be seen to be believed.  This is the best feel-good movie of the season.

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (UK 2011) ****
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY based on the 1974 John Le Carre novel, could be described as a no-nonsense spy film, the way a spy thriller should be. No glamorized James Bond type sensationalisation here, but what actual spies (Le Carre was an agent) go through with all its daily monotony, danger and grubbiness.  The film begins with George Smiley (Gary Oldman) a middle-aged, intelligence expert currently forced out of retirement.  He is recalled to hunt down a Soviet mole in what is termed the "Circus", the highest echelon of the British Secret Service headed by Control (John Hurt).  The action continues though the plot is baffling at times.  Still, this is a cool film that made a hit at the U.K. box-office.

WAR HORSE (USA 2011) ****
Directed by Steven Spielberg

A bit sappy, but one has to give credit to Spielberg for bringing his project of love to the screen.  The story centers on the adventures of a Devon horse that is sold to the military and ends up behind enemy lines before finally united once again by his original trainer.  The cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is stunning as the difficult horse shot scenes.  The film is shot entirely in English with French and German accents.

The Others:

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (USA 2011) ***
Directed by Mike Mitchell

Be forewarned that this is strictly kids fare.  Director Mitchell from SHREK FOREVER has a go at the chipmunks and makes a good go at it.  The best of the Chipmunks movie has the favorite characters shipwrecked on a tropical island.  It is search party time with Alvin looking for Dave (Jason Lee) and vice versa.  The film had kids dancing in their seats so the film is not all that bad as critics say.

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (USA 2011) ***
Directed by Stephen Daldry

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is more of an art than commercial film, based on the recent 2005 novel by well renowned New York writer John Updike.  The film deals with many questions involving loss especially in the case of the 9/11 attacks but provides fewer answers in the process.  But the film brilliantly deals with how human beings, in this case a boy and his family deals with the death of a close family member.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO (USA 2011)
Directed by David Fincher
I have not seen this one yet but word has it that it is a solid remake of the original Swedish film.  Supposedly more violent and faithful to the novel.

WE BOUGHT A ZOO (USA 2011) **
Directed by Cameron Crowe

Well intentioned film by director Crowe (JERRY MAGUIRE) fails due to deliver due to its over stretched ending and general sloppiness in story telling.  Recently widowed father (Matt Damon) buys a zoo and opens it against all odds.  Based on a true story but beware of the film’s sappiness.

TOTALLY AVOID:

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (USA 2011) *
Directed by Guy Ritchie

This bastardized version of Sherlock Holmes fails miserably in all departments.  A sloppy script, incoherent plot, stylized directing and do-what-you-please acting make this film the Christmas dud.  For those who want lots of pyrotechnic blow ups, action, comedy and even mystery, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE is the one to see, not SHERLOCK HOLMES.  For those who have raved over this Sherlock Holmes film, go see Mission Impossible and then lets talk!

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