Based of a top rating of four stars
Fantastic Mr. Fox 31⁄2 Stars
Wes Anderson’s stop action animation movie of Roald Dahl’s book is a scrumptious treat. George Clooney and Meryl Streep lead a talented cast voicing vibrant characters. A holiday outing worthy of the whole family.
The Blind Side 31⁄2 Stars Or 11⁄2 Stars
Two ratings (mine is less). Most audiences love this film about an African-American teen taken in by a feisty Southern woman (Sandra Bullock) and her family. The young man eventually is drafted by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. The “true” story — not truly told — is too manipulative for me. It’s cotton candy in the ghetto. Melted treats in your stocking — sweet and sticky.
Up In The Air 3 Stars
George Clooney is perhaps the most popular, engaging actor in movies today, whether playing a fox or a shark. In this smart comedy-drama, Clooney plays a shark who flies across the country coolly firing employees of downsizing companies.
One of Clooney’s Christmas gifts should be a gift certificate to kissing school. For a supposed romantic star, the man is a close-mouthed, unenthusiastic kisser. Come on, George, at least pretend.
“Up in the Air” has a clever script, but its big flaw is it tries to have it both ways. Near the end, the montage of fired victims extolling the concept of family is a sop. “Up in the Air” is a piece of coal in a pretty ribbon.
Avatar 3 Stars
Avatar is a 161-minute spectacular, sometimes strained look into a fabulous future. Celebrated director James Cameron makes a risky, huge budget ($320 million) effort to engage audiences in a film that is political. But a lot of people may not want to root for “tree huggers” against U.S. military/business. We’ll see. Cameron is saying a new green world is coming. Good luck, J.C. A huge package of CGI for the holidays.
The Lovely Bones 21⁄2 Stars
Director Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the immensely popular novel by Alice Sebold is uneven but formidable. Jackson’s scenes of heaven are lightweight, but his grasp of earthly terror is potent. Saoirse Ronan is very affecting as the young victim. Stanley Tucci deserves an Oscar nomination as the bland but horrifying murderer. Perhaps an unwanted holiday gift, and probably one you can’t regift.
Everybody’s Fine 21⁄2 Stars
Robert De Niro’s OK, but unchallenged, in this tour of a dysfunctional family and America. Nice fruitcake, but still fruitcake.
Invictus 2 Stars
Make no mistake, I’m a fan of director Clint Eastwood, but his latest effort is disheartening. (See full review on tonymacklin.net). “Invictus” has little action (unless rugby scrums apply), little character (only Morgan Freeman’s Mandela is a character with any dimension), and little conflict. This adds up to little entertainment. “Invictus” is like getting an old sweater for Christmas from Grampa Clint.
Sherlock Holmes 2 Stars
Please Madonna, take back your former husband director Guy Ritchie, so he’ll go back to making movies nobody sees like “Swept Away.” Ritchie’s ham-fisted direction of “Sherlock Holmes” is loud, obnoxious and crass. Robert Downey Jr. gives a campy, tongue-in-cheek performance of Holmes as action hero, but Ritchie makes him put his tongue through his cheek. Hellzapoppin for the holidays.
2012 11⁄2 Stars
For those who want blow-up dolls for Xmas.
The Road 1 Star
Director John Hillcoat’s movie of the provocative novel by Cormac McCarthy about post-apocalypse America doesn’t do any justice to the artful novel. Just because the topic is wretched shouldn’t mean the movie has to be wretched. But it is. Read the book over the holidays. Avoid the movie. Just this one. Go see the others.