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2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

THE-GIRL-WITH-THE-DRAGON-TATTOO-2DIRECTOR: David Fincher

CAST: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff, Geraldine James, Yorick van Wageningen

REVIEW:

I’ll just get this out of the way right upfront. I have never seen the 2009 Swedish film adaptation of late author and journalist Stieg Larsson’s crime novel, which featured a much-praised performance by Noomi Rapace in the title role (nor have I read the book), so this review will not include any comparisons between the two versions, merely evaluate this one on its own merits. Continue reading

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie

CAST:

Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams

REVIEW:

Following on the heels of 2009’s cinematic reboot of the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, Guy Ritchie reteamed with stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law for A Game of Shadows, which is a very close relation to its predecessor.  Those who enjoyed the first installment should be entertained by the second, while those who were unimpressed are unlikely to have their opinion changed here, except perhaps by the choice of villain. Continue reading

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

DIRECTOR: Tomas Alfredson

CAST:

Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik, Simon McBurney, Svetlana Khodchenkova

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL MENTION ASPECTS OF THE FILM’S PLOT

George Smiley, the protagonist of John Le Carre’s dense, slow-paced spy novels, could be described as the anti-Bond.  Physically unimpressive, meek, quiet, bookish Continue reading

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon

CAST:

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Sarah Clarke, Gil Birmingham, Michael Sheen

REVIEW:

As Warner Bros. Did with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Summit Entertainment has split the final chapter of its young adult phenomenon the Twilight “saga” into two films. It’s easy to be cynical about both decisions as blatant maximizing of profits, especially in Twilight’s case, as while Deathly Hallows‘ density justified unfolding it over two films, it’s debatable whether any Twilight entry, including Breaking Dawn, really has enough that actually happens to warrant being stretched out over two movies. Regardless, Oscar-nominated director Bill Condon has done a respectable job with what he was given, helming a faithful but not obsessively word-for-word adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel, but as with every other Twilight entry, the content makes a mixed bag. Continue reading

J. Edgar (2011)

DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood

CAST:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts

REVIEW:

During his forty-eight-year reign as director of the FBI, John Edgar Hoover was regarded by many as the most powerful man in America.  Continue reading

50/50 (2011)

50 50DIRECTOR: Jonathan Levine

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Philip Baker Hall, Matt Frewer

REVIEW:

Movies about characters with cancer are a dime a dozen, but what gives 50/50 a little distinction is its approach.  At least for the majority of its running time, this is not a tearjerker; in fact, as unlikely as this might sound, it’s in full comedy-drama mode.  Inspired by the real-life experiences of screenwriter and producer Will Reiser, who wrote the script after his own battle with cancer, 50/50 manages—for the most part—to find an effective tricky balance in a middle ground between disrespectfully flippant and overly sappy.  The result is far from perfect, but Reiser’s sense of humor about his ordeal makes for a refreshingly irreverent take on a difficult subject that’s far more watchable—and still occasionally touching without being overbearing about it—than some Lifetime melodramatic weepfest. Continue reading

Warrior (2011)

 WC9V4530.tifDIRECTOR: Gavin O’Connor

CAST: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL REVEAL ASPECTS OF THE FILM’S PLOT

I don’t know much about MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting, but that doesn’t matter here, because Warrior is less about the sport itself and more about the fractured family drama that plays out both in and outside the ring. MMA is the vehicle used to convey this story, but not the core of it, and even for those both unfamiliar with and not particularly interested in MMA fighting (including myself), Warrior is an engaging and sometimes powerful drama about universal themes of regrets, resentment, and forgiveness. Continue reading

The Help (2011)

helpDIRECTOR: Tate Taylor

CAST: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek

REVIEW:

Perhaps the greatest value of The Help, like other films such as 12 Years a Slave or Selmais in reminding those too young to have first-hand experience of just how oppressive large sections of the United States were to their African-American inhabitants only a few short decades ago.  This is not some vague ancient history; people who grew up in the environment depicted onscreen are still alive today.  While The Help is not as hard-hitting as the films mentioned above—nor, to be fair, is that really its intention, and at times it outright aims for “feel good”—and is somewhat weakened by a tendency to paint with broad strokes and deal in black-and-white (no pun intended), it’s still a worthy time capsule that is sometimes inspiring, sometimes moving, and sometimes illuminating.   Continue reading

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston

CAST:

Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Sebastian Stan, Neal McDonough, Richard Armitage, Samuel L. Jackson

REVIEW:

Captain America is an adequate, serviceable comic book superhero origin movie that doesn’t merit any scorn but also doesn’t generate overwhelming enthusiasm.  Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

DIRECTOR: David Yates

CAST:

Daniel Racliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright, Tom Felton, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Helen McCrory, Jim Broadbent, John Hurt, Warwick Davis, Ciaran Hinds, Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson, Miriam Margoyles

REVIEW:

All things must come to an end.  After ten years and eight movies, one of the most successful fantasy series ever committed to page or screen has reached a solid and satisfying conclusion with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Continue reading

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