June 2024



The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


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


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


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


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


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



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

My Week With Marilyn (2011)

DIRECTOR: Simon Curtis

CAST: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Zoe Wanamaker, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Dougray Scott, Julia Ormond, Derek Jacobi


My Week With Marilyn is based on the memoir of Colin Clark, a production assistant on set of 1957’s The Prince and the Showgirl.  It wasn’t until the 1990s that Clark, who passed away in 2002, published his account of his brief period of time spent with Marilyn Monroe.  Adrian Hodges’ screenplay is a mostly faithful adaptation of Clark’s reminiscences and provides a window into both the making of a film, and his observations of a beloved but troubled starlet. Continue reading

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon


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


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


Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts


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


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 mawkish.  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



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


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


Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Sebastian Stan, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke


Captain America is an adequate, serviceable comic book superhero origin movie that doesn’t merit any scorn but also doesn’t generate overwhelming enthusiasm.  Tying in with Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Thor, it’s the last of the Marvel comics movies introducing each of the individual Avengers who will be united onscreen in 2012’s The Avengers, and it’s debatable whether the Cap’n would have seen the screen otherwise.  Despite his long-running existence in the comics (since 1941), Captain America is no longer considered among the top tier of comic book superheroes.  Part of the problem is probably also that audiences and reviewers are suffering comic book superhero fatigue; with so many superhero origin stories hitting the screens, it’s hard to make them all stand out, and the fact that they all inevitably follow the same basic formula makes it start to seem generic after so many times.  I enjoyed the film, but was mildly underwhelmed.  The self-consciously titled The First Avenger isn’t a terrible movie, but it lacks the certain spark that set Iron Man above the pack. Continue reading