Saturday, December 17, 2011

Half a Dozen Movies

Either in the week or two before I started this post, or in the weeks after I started it but before I published it, I took in more than a handful of movies, either on the big screen or the small.

First, I saw Sherlock Holmes: The Game of Shadows, both on its opening weekend on my own, and over the Christmas holiday with my Dad. I enjoyed it both times, and Dad enjoyed it with me—partly thanks (I am sure) to a bottomless bag of popcorn that accompanied us to the show. Robert Downey Jr. (Holmes), Jude Law (Watson), Jared Harris (Moriarty), and others reprise their roles from the next-most-recent Sherlock Holmes movie, keeping the pace of impish humor, sexual innuendo, and ludicrously intense action sequences at or above the previous outing's. In spite of a good deal of non-canonical combat scenes, the new film (co-written by sometime actor Kieran Mulroney, brother of the well-known Dermot) makes enough of an effort to score points with Holmes purists to include the joint Holmes-Moriarty plunge over Reichenbach Falls in the story, though the results in the film are both less ambiguous and less final.

Joining the ensemble is Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress best known for her title role in the Swedish film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—a film that I saw on video as soon as I finished reading the book. I haven't yet seen the American version, however. Since I have a book review of the source novel on the wheel, I won't say much about this film right now, except to note that: (1) It is actually two of six parts of a Swedish TV miniseries covering the entire Millennium trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson; and (2) that it's a very dark, edgy tale about a journalist solving a missing persons case, catching a serial killer, and unmasking a white-collar gangster, with the aid of a borderline-anorexic, tattooed-and-pierced hacker girl with a touch of Asperger's syndrome and a history of exacting a terrible revenge upon Men Who Hate Women (here capitalized because it was the original title of both the book and the telefilm). And a deep breath...

Another movie I saw on video, after putting it off for a long time and for no reason that I can precisely recall, was the Hugo and Bradbury Award-winning 2010 hit Inception. Again, what of substance can I add to the massive volume of reviews of this movie? It's almost pointless for me to express my opinion. Simply in terms of relating my experience, I would say the movie captivated me with its intricate structure and thrilled me with its mythopoeic power. I watched it two nights in a row, and for the better part of a week my mind was filled with its vibrant imagery, with the lingering emotional impact of several of its plot lines, and with a perverse relish in the ambiguity of its final shot. I enjoyed the ensemble cast so much that I expect the actors will be forever linked in my mind, while at the same time I perceived that Leonardo DiCaprio still has some leading-man juice to burn.

Back to the big screen, I used a free pass to see Tower Heist, a movie for which I did not have very high hopes, and thus one I was glad not to have to pay for. A crime caper starring aging comedians Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and Matthew Broderick, the agelessly attractive Tea Leoni, and Judd Hirsch and Alan Alda of the already choice vintage, it needs have no more said of it than that it was much, much better than I expected, though still not particularly good.

Then there was The Muppets, whose cast hardly needs to be introduced, except to note that I still catch myself repeating Chris Cooper's villainous tagline ("Maniacal laughter!") and giggling over the whole "Let's travel by map!" sequence. A family-friendly musical not afraid to parody itself, it also stars Jason Segel and Amy Adams as a flesh-and-blood pair of romantic leads whose presence in the movie lends itself admirably to the creation of spoof trailers—many of which, no doubt, will show up on the DVD—but really does not seem vital to the plot, in retrospect. You have to give them props, though, for being willing to look like complete fools.

And finally, the climax of my 2011 movie-going proved to be the Peter Jackson produced, Steven Spielberg directed adaptation of the iconic Belgian comic, The Adventures of Tintin. This is one of those boundary-pushing films of the type that is shot with live actors in motion-capture gear, then painted over with computer animation. And it really takes that type of film a huge step forward. I spotted this even before seeing an encore presentation of The Polar Express on my parents' cable over Christmas vacation. The characters in this new movie, particularly Tintin himself, have a lifelike liveliness, particularly in the eyes, which were once widely considered an insurmountable obstacle to making realistic, computer-animated human characters come to life. Gone is the vacant-eyed-automaton look that used to make one's flesh crawl the more realistic the rest of the character looked. Except perhaps for a few awkward hand gestures, digital actors now seem almost ready to replace the real thing—only, what would the tabloids do without the likes of Tom Cruise?

No comments: