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The Now Playing Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

By: Jeff Ford
By: Jeff Ford

There are a lot of new films coming out over the next few days, so I figured I might as well jump right into the mix.

Merry Christmas!  Is everybody done with their shopping?

There are a lot of new films coming out over the next few days, so I figured I might as well jump right into the mix.   Let us begin by examining a film that has been a subject of numerous discussions at work.  That film is…

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

David Fincher’s (Alien3) follow-up to his award winning film, “The Social Network”, is the retelling of Steig Larson’s bestselling novel.  It follows a journalist by the name of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig, “Saint-Ex“) in his search for a woman who has been missing for 40 years.  Along the way, he enlists the aid of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, “Dare“), a computer hacker with an enormous dragon tattoo on her back and also someone with a disturbing past.  Through the twists and turns of the plot, the two must learn to depend on each other as if their lives depended on it.

I am a big fan of the original trilogy of Swedish films, and am an owner of all three.  To me, the first is almost perfect.  To this end, I question what is to gain by the American update that will make me inclined to watch this version when I can simply throw in my blu-rays or even catch them on Netflix Instant Streaming?  If there is one director that can pull it off, however, it would be David Fincher. 

A director of music videos and commercials before catching his big break with “Seven” (let’s forgive him for Alien3), he has broken out with stellar outings, from “The Game” (my favorite of his) to “Fight Club” and the aforementioned “The Social Network”, just to name a few.  His visuals are usually breathtaking, and he has my full confidence in this latest film.  Here’s hoping for the best.  I’ll rate my interest in this as 4 full body tattoos of myself but taller out of 5.  “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is rated R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity and language.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL

Ethan Hunt is back in the fourth adventure based on the 1960’s television series.  Tom Cruise (Scientology Recruitment Videos) returns to find his IMF (Impossible Missions Force) team has been implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin.  His disavowed team (Jeremy Renner, “Monkey Love“, Simon Pegg, “The Parole Officer“, and Paula Patton, “Idlewild“) must go rouge and travel the world to find the true culprits.

It’s amazing to me how these films have changed to showcase the strengths of the particular directors.  Brian De Palma’s take was a more subdued thriller, focusing on the intricacies of the spy game.  John Woo stepped in the second for a more Eastern flavored action film.  J.J. Abrams made the franchise more like his television series “Alias,” including the flash forward styling that dominated many episodes.  So who do they grab for the fourth?  That would be Brad Bird.

Who is Brad Bird, one might ask?  He is a man that is mostly known for directing animated features, this film being his introduction to live action.  Don’t let that diminish his accomplishments.  Two of those animated films I count as some of my favorite films, regardless of genre.  Those would be the Warner Brothers film “The Iron Giant,” and Pixar’s “The Incredibles.”  Both films are fantastic at storytelling and creating characters that I actually care for.  Will his journey into live action be just as successful?  I’m crossing my fingers.  I’ll rate it as 4 self-destructing messages out of 5.  “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence.

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN

Director Steven Spielberg (1941) joins up with producer Peter Jackson (Meet the Feebles) in the 3D animated adventure based on the Belgian comic book.  Tintin (Jamie Bell, “Deathwatch”) is a young Belgian reporter who teams up with the eccentric Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis, “Heavenly Sword”) on a treasure hunt to find a ship lost many centuries ago.  Along the way, they will face many dangers as they are not the only ones in search of the mysterious vessel.

Watching the trailer, I am reminded of a similar Spielberg film, one involving a fedora wearing archeologist.  A young adventurer on a worldwide quest to find a relic of the past?  I think it’s just a coincidence.  Hopefully it will resemble the earlier Indiana Jones film and not the Crystal Skulls.  This is also the first of two Spielberg helmed films of the weekend and the coincidences don’t end there.  Lending their voices to the production are Simon Pegg (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).  As a side note, Edgar Wright, the writer and director of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, co-wrote this film.  I’ll rate this as 4 Rin Tin Tin: K9 Cops out of 5.  “The Adventures of Tintin” is rated PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking.

WE BOUGHT A ZOO

Director Cameron Crowe (Elizabethtown) returns after a 6 year hiatus to helm a film that, due to recent events, I’m giving the bad timing award.  More on that in a moment.  Here, Matt Damon (Geronimo: An American Legend) is a single dad who recently quit his job.  He packs up everything he has and moves to Southern California to a nice countryside fixer-upper.  There is only one catch.  Look at the title of the film to figure it out.  Scarlett Johansson (Home Alone 3) and Thomas Haden Church (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight) co-star.

Cameron Crowe brings his schmaltzy style to this, his seventh feature film.  It’s a style that has worked for him, but it may not be to everybody’s taste.  “Jerry Maguire” and “Elizabethtown” are a few prime examples.  I, for one, do like his previous films (I need to watch “Elizabethtown” again.  I don’t know if I like it as a film or I was too amazed at the fact I recognized most of the places they shot).  This film doesn’t appear to be any different. 

They only problem is it comes a few months after the incident in Ohio.  There was a man who ran a sort of nature preserve, similar to the one in the movie.  He went a little crazy and unleashed his 56 exotic animals into civilization.  The end result was many of them had to be put down as they were dangerous to the human population.  I see this trailer and all I can think about is that incident, hence the bad timing award.  I don’t know if I would have seen it in theaters anyway (or even DVD for that matter).  I’ll rate it as 2 turtle doves out of 5.  “We Bought a Zoo” is rated PG for language and some thematic elements.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN

Michelle Williams (Species) is Marilyn Monroe.  She arrives in London to shoot “The Prince and the Showgirl” for Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh, “High Season”), a prospect that Olivier does not appreciate, due to her acting ineptness and her high demands.  On set is a Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne, “Like Minds”), a young film student who is quite enamored by the blonde starlet.  Marilyn eventually invites Colin into her world of fame and her desires.

Michelle Williams has come a long way from TV’s “Dawson’s Creek.”  She has won many accolades for her portrayal of Norma Jean’s alter ego.  How the Golden Globes skipped over her is anybody’s guess (then again, the Golden Globes shut out “The Muppets” as well.  I thought that should have at least gotten a best song nod for “Man or Muppet”).  This one looks interesting but with so many other films coming out at the same time, it will probably get overlooked by me.  All in all, I’ll rate it as 3 “Some Like it Hot” out of 5.  “My Week with Marilyn” is rated R for some language.

THE DARKEST HOUR

It’s another alien invasion movie.  It’s not like we haven’t seen one of those in a while.  This one takes place in Russia instead of Los Angeles.  Here 5 young people have to battle an alien race that has attacked Earth via our power supply.  There’s lots of CG and people are disintegrating left and right.  It’s the perfect Christmas movie.

… I’m just going to skip giving my thoughts on this (hint…it won’t be favorable) as I still have War Horse to talk about.  I’ll just give it 1 “In Soviet Russia” joke out of 5.  “The Darkest Hour” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some language.

WAR HORSE

Steven Spielberg’s second entry into this “sparse” field is his Oscar bait, I’m guessing.   World War I has erupted in Europe.  When Albert Narracott’s (Jeremy Irvine, “Life Bites”) beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry, young Albert enlists in the British army in a quest to bring him home.  Meanwhile, Joey’s journey will find him shipped off to France and serving in both the British and German armies before ending up alone in No Man’s Land.  Will the horse ever make it back?

I refer to this as Oscar bait, because that is what the trailer does to me.  It’s based on an award winning children’s book.  It has Steven Spielberg returning to a war torn Europe (WWI this time) and a score by his stalwart composer, John Williams.  It tries to hit all the right notes in the trailer.  While I recognize this, it still doesn’t diminish its impact.  Maybe I’m just tired after writing all of these synopses in one sitting but I found myself going along with it.  Will I see it?  Maybe.  For now, I’ll give it a 3 Armistice Days out of 5.  “War Horse” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence.

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That will do it for this week, finally.  I don’t think there has been this many quality releases in one week in a while (here’s hoping “The Darkest Hour” wins the weekend).  So grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show.

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