Capsule Reviews (November ’11- December ’11)

Jack & Jill

If you know star Adam Sandler’s work then you know what you’re in for with this film. It’s loud, it’s gross, and it’s over the top. This time Sandler plays twins, one that’s basically Sandler as himself- Jack, and the other (Sandler in horrid drag) his brash and socially awakward sister, JIll. This film has everything: unmotivated poop/fart jokes, animal “humor”, insane stunts, borderline religious intolerance, and a ridiculous love story involving Al Pacino (who’s SECOND billed in this mess). It’s a mess in all possible ways. It does have a positive message, if you can stomach the movie long enough to get there, of loving your family but it’s all so overblown (as you’d expect) that it’s hard to see. Here’s the thing: Do you like Sandler? Then you’ll probably enjoy this experience. If not, run for the hills! D-

Muppets

While I’ve always loved the Muppets, I’ve always found them to be surreal and joyous magic, I’m not entirely certain this movie did what the producers wanted it to do- reignite Muppet mania. Jason Segal basically brought this to the screen by sheer force of will and it succeeds in so very many ways. But, I’m just not sure if there’s enough in it to bring in NEW fans. If you have Muppet nostalgia though, it will make you, like it did me, very happy. Music, comedy, celebrity cameos, and I think every Muppet there is (with the notable exception of the “polarizing” character of Bean Bunny) bring Muppet-magic back to the screen. But a somewhat weak story, and a focus on non-Muppets and the new character, Walter, could leave a lot of people out of the Muppet-love. B

Tower Heist

If you’re afraid of heights DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE! The entire climax is a dizzying nightmare of building dangling . Heist is not a great movie. I’m not sure if it’s due to the supposed behind-the-scenes drama (It was originally called Trump Heist and was explicitly about robbing Trump Tower, not as it is now just Trump adjacent) or just a weak script. Stars Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, and Téa Leoni  try really hard but only villain Alan Alda manages to scrape out a performance that’s anything other than astoundingly average. Which is a great tagline for this movie: Tower Heist- Astoundingly Average! C

New Year’s Eve

This spiritual sequel to 2010’s Valentine’s Day  is simultaeneously boring, stupid, outlandish and unbelievable. I won’t spoil the…let’s call it a twist…but in a movie with this many stars it’s shocking how utterly dull it is. Early in the movie it’s also clear that in order to get some of the Time’s Square footage they had to shoot New Year’s Eve 2011 as the year is clearly visible below the ball, on signage, and on the hats and glasses of the crowd. This does change to 2012 as the movie goes on but this glaring continuity error is indicitive of how little everyone involved cared about this. Also, and this just bugged me, in what universe is Zac Efron the brother of Sarah Jessica Parker? Their 22 year age difference makes that relationship strain the bounds of credibility. D

We Bought a Zoo

This adorable family tale tells you everyhting you need to know about it in the title: in search of a fresh start after losing his wife, a man and his 2 kids buy a zoo. The rest of the film is the renovations to the zoo and their relationships. This movie is the first movie in which I’ve enjoyed a performance by Scarlet Johansson, and Super 8‘s Elle Fanning is superb. But, the real revalation here is 7-year-old Maggie Elizabeth Jones. She’s fabulous. I predict enormous things from this girl in the future.  A completley heartwarming story from start to finish, I can’t recomend this enough. A

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I’ll admit, I haven’t read the books yet. I knew enough about the story to not be completely shocked by what I was seeing but not enough to know what was going to happen. The beginning of the film is a split story of a disgraced writer (Daniel Craig) being asked to solve a 40-year-old mystery of a missing girl, and a damaged security company researcher (Rooney Mara- the titular tattooed girl) trying to keep her life together after her…social worker?…has a stroke. What follows when the stories intertwine is a twisty, enthralling, violent, and gripping tale that shows the worst possible side of humanity. The rest of the series (Sony plans the next one for 2013) continues to follows Mara’s Lisbeth while (as I understand it) Craig’s character largely disappears which is fine by me as, Mara’s portrayal is engrossing, powerful and so full on as to be alarming. Be warned that this movie is not for the faint of heart- it’s SHOCKINGLY violent and graphic- but if you can handle it you’ll find an interesting mystery that surrounds one of the most complex and interesting characters I’ve encountered. A

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

To properly understand this film you need to understand the evolution of this series. The first film, from 1996, was (to me at least) a mess of over-complex plotting, and gadgets for gadgets-sake. While that’s the staple of this genre it was so convoluted that it was nearly impossible to follow along and determine why the crazy action was happening. With 2000’s Mission Impossible II  they went artsy with director John Woo and they made a, well not a masterpiece, well done tightly plotted and kind of gorgeous action film. 2006’s Mission Impossible III was a straight forward action ride. Unlike the previous 2 it was a fun film  that wasn’t over-complicated nor was it so insanely artsy. Which brings us to Ghost Protocol which follows the style of the previous film while taking just enough of the first two to be interesting. It’s exciting with a somewhat complex plot that’s beautifully done. As with most action films the plot is just a hanger to attach multiple action sequences to, and this movie falls apart a little there in that it feels like there isn’t enough of a hanger to justify ALL the (overlong?) action sequences. And there’s very little time between action sequences. It’s a breakneck pace. Hell, there’s only one expository scene in which the plot is explained (and maybe only a handful of other dialogue scenes), which to me made it murky at best (it got better, but it was a tad bit….dizzying), in the middle of multiple scenes of intense action (See caveat about Tower Heist for this one too, the scene in Dubai is NOT for acrophobes). According to co-star Simon Pegg, this film was shot over 7 months around the world and it shows. It’s GORGEOUS, especially in IMAX (first-time live action director Brad Bird (of Pixar’s The Incredibles reportedly insisted shooting this movie on IMAX cameras and the result shows), and the locations add so much texture to the film. I do fear that they will try to do one more of these though, Cruise looked amazing  but it may be time to retire Ethan Hunt’s climbing goggles and give him a nice healthy desk job. B+

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