TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

When we think of spies, we think of Bond and Bourne. And tension in spy movies is created by car chases, gunfights and the like. You won't find any of that in TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY. All the tension and drama comes from the pursuit of a mole in MI6. George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is charged with finding out who the mole is. It's a clever game for clever people. These are not daring men of action (or they don't appear to be until maybe the end of the movie). These are analysts and soldiers of the Cold War. Moving chess pieces and testing loyalties is what their spy craft is made of. The script by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan uses situations and perceived threats to create drama. It's also a first rate whodunnit. Who is that mole inside the top echelon of MI6? I won't give it away, but the movie allows you to put the pieces together along with Smiley and doesn't give too much away. Oldman is fabulous as the quiet but knowing Smiley, a man who is dangerous to his enemies, but has a blind spot (again, no fair me telling you). His Oscar nomination is well earned. TTSS makes you think and pay attention and does it without boring you. A movie that's thought provoking and not boring. That's a puzzle that Hollywood solves all too rarely. — Alan Yudman

CHRONICLE

Incredible Hulk, meet Carrie. Unfettered rage is at the heart of this
clever film that mines the supernatural to illustrate how, on the one
hand, with great power comes great responsibility, and on the other,
how awesome it would be to kick the living shit out of all the people
who have insulted and abused us. The filmmakers make no attempt to
explain the phenomenon that gives three high school friends
telekinetic powers; that's just the device that sets the plot in
motion. But this trio of talented unknowns do a good job of handling
the initial thrill attending their newfound abilities and how that
thrill shades into something much darker as it consumes one of them
with tragic results. I was with this movie almost all the way to the
end because it so nicely balances F/X trickery with ideas and
character. Then, the last 10 minutes or so of this very short film
kind of turn it into SPIDER-MAN — still in the service of the story,
but a bit too acrobatic to jibe with what's come before. Nevertheless,
highly recommended. — Jeff Schultz

SMASH

The most exciting new series since MAD MEN. And that this should have
gotten a green light from a broadcast network is an accomplishment in
itself. The script is sophisticated, the direction clever and tight,
the playing exquisite. From the first song with its simple piano
accompaniment to the fuller-blown baseball-themed workshop number —
with its flash-forwards to how that number will look once it's
finished — we know we're in the hands of Broadway elite. No Idol-
style power ballads (despite the presence of Katharine McPhee — more
on her in a moment) or rock-inspired RENT-like insipidity. These
numbers are the real thing, and not only can you see how an entire
production will develop before our eyes in the course of the season,
but there's also word that the final product will, in fact, have a
home on the Great White Way. The plot, veteran trouper vs. wide-eyed
newcomer, is as old as backstage musicals themselves. And hooray for
that! A cast that includes a deliciously tough Angelica Huston, Debra
Messing (in a part she was born to play) and real-life stage star
Megan Hilty makes this Destination TV. And McPhee is a revelation: her
gradual transformation into Marilyn Monroe, on whom the musical-within-
the-show is based, will be a reason to look forward to Mondays. —
Jeff Schultz

THE WOMAN IN BLACK

Old-fashioned, well-made, and a bit of a bore. Daniel Radcliffe
(deadly serious) looks just right as a Cratchit-like legal drone sent
to a godforsaken corner of England to settle a dead woman's estate.
Upon arriving he confronts hostile, frightened townspeople who want
him gone even before he visits the distant, isolated mansion where we
can see even before he walks inside that something terrible took
place. Whoever did the casting found some remarkable faces to dress up
the story, from Radcliffe's beyond-adorable little boy to the pale
punims of the suicidal village children, serially harming themselves
while under the spell that is the picture's central mystery. The movie
is slow, fussy, and not a bit scary — with a finale that you can
probably write in your head as it limps to a close. Solid support from
Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer as a bereaved husband and wife. But one
of the movie's ad lines (“Don't See It Alone!”) is good advice only
because if you do, there'll be no one to turn to and roll your eyes.
— Jeff Schultz

THE INNKEEPERS

Making a horror movie that relies almost exclusively on atmospherics
is tricky. After a point, the audience starts expecting some meat, be
it sundered bodies, chewing zombies, tortured pretty girls, the
obliteration of whole cities… whatever. This film mostly foregoes
fake blood and cheap scares, concentrating instead on its two quirky
leads as they work the front desk of a “haunted” hotel during its
final weekend in business. Luke, played by Pat Healy, at first seems
to be the one most committed to exploring the hotel's history of
otherworldly manifestations. But it is Claire, played by Sara Paxton,
who confronts the truth. Paxton is a B-movie staple who never manages
to impress; still, her (platonic) relationship with Healy is made
amusing by liberal doses of humor throughout. Healy — who has a
future role as Christian Gerhartsreiter, should Lifetime or some such
ever do a film on the “Clark Rockefeller” murder case — is nicely
offbeat. But this flick never really goes anywhere and the climax is a
yawn. — Jeff Schultz

MONEYBALL

A baseball movie with little baseball. Jonah Hill in a serious role. Lots of talk about player stats and contracts. On paper this movie should not work but thanks to an Oscar worth script and excellent performances by Brad Pitt and Hill, Moneyball is a grand slam that manages to build suspense with the fundamentals: a great story, script, and acting. Don't miss it.

Stormy Curry

JACK AND JILL

As with all Adam Sandler movies, if you accept the stupidity before watching, you will enjoy. Al Pacino is a riot playing…Al Pacino who falls in love with Sandler in drag. As for the plot…does it really matter? If you answered yes, skip it. If not, check your brain at the door and get ready to laugh for about 90 minutes.

Stormy Curry

THE GREY

If you're looking for the feel good movie of the year…keep on looking. The Grey is a story of survival, fighting to live, and deciding what to do with the hand life deals you. Play it out, fold, bluff? Liam Neeson plays a man haunted by tragedy and finds himself smack dab in the middle of hungry wolftown USA. A suspenseful thriller, a moving drama, and some deep themes drive this well made flick. Love watching a movie where I think to myself “why don't you do this dummy?”, they do it, and you see why that wouldn't have been such a good idea. Not for everyone, The Grey is as dark as they come but I enjoyed it.
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> Stormy Curry

THE ARTIST

Black and white… check. European pedigree… yup. Mostly silent with a retro vibe… most definitely. THE ARTIST fits all the requirements for an art film. And if it is an art film, it must be good, right? In this case, that’s sort of true. THE ARTIST is good, just not as great as the buzz would have you believe. It’s a little too cloying.. a little too calculating and a little too over the top “arty”. It’s like director Michael Hazanavicius took out a Mad Libs for how to get a lot of award nominations and simply filled in the blanks. But there are things to like about the movie.. that’s the acting. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo are wonderful. Especially Dujardin. He is expressive without words and plays it just right. Then there’s the dog. The dog starts out cute, but by the end of the movie I’d had enough. Disney animated dogs aren’t this annoyingly adorable. But that fits into the calculated feeling I got throughout the film. Good yes, but THE ARTIST is not the best movie of the year. — Alan Yudman

THE ARTIST

There’s a key audio gag at the very end of this “silent” homage to silent movies. The gag is not only a delightful surprise: it also with just two words answers a question that’s been nagging us throughout: exactly why did the star fail to make the transition to talkies? It’s a joke that advances the plot, even as it comes mere moments before the end titles. That kind of grace note defines The Artist’s elegance, its wit and its sweetness. Norma Desmond’s famous line, “We had faces then…”, is here updated, because the two leads, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, most surely have faces now — and the ability to slightly emphasize in period style to make up for lack of dialogue — but not so much as to turn it into parody. “Even” on a screen reduced to the frame size of its inspiration, you will fall once again in love with black-and-white cinematography; its virtual absence from moviemaking is like the destruction of an art form. With a budget of just $12 million, “The Artist” looks amazing, a fictional time capsule, including impressive crowd shots and recreations of 1930-era Los Angeles that look like newsreel footage filtered through an artist’s eye and with lapidary technical work. Plus, much of the reason the movie is so effective comes from the use of music throughout, perhaps the finest original score of the year (and not the kind of movie music you’re used to hearing.) Double-Plus: a great dog performance! — Jeff Schultz