Jiminy Christmas! What a week for movies! No time for jokes or my usual ultra-witty, high level banter. We’ve got to get to the goods and fast. This week Ethan Hunt does the impossible again, Lisbeth Salander gets inked, Spielberg pulls double duty, Matt Damon buys a zoo, and aliens invade Russia.
Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Reading Stieg Larsson’s “Millenium Trilogy” is a lot like eating cheesecake. The first bite is appealing, delicious and distinctive. By the middle of the slice, the excitement has worn off and now its just overly indulgent and mildly off-putting. By the end, you’re left wondering what attracted you to the cheesecake in the first place and you leave the last bits unfinished while feeling disappointed and a little queasy (my experience at least). So enjoy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because it’s all downhill from here.
But thoughts on the book series aside, the first installment was riveting and David Fincher’s adaptation looks, well, spectacular. Set in that hotbed of cultural intrigue and suspense, Sweden, Fincher (The Social Network-96%, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button-72%) seems to have captured Lisbeth Salander’s punk firebrand rogue-ishness with Rooney Mara, and Mikael Blomkvist’s arrogance and smarmy do-gooder persona is embodied by Daniel Craig. And it doesn’t appear Fincher has softened some of the book’s harder edges (a mild understatement) in an effort to make the flick more “safe” for audiences.
Some will surely pine for the original Swedish film (86%), but Americanizing stuff is the way to go (smiley face) and early reviews prove Fincher is almost always the right man for the job. The Rotten Watch for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is 92%. .
If you watch the trailer for War Horse and don’t come out of it A: with a few chills running up and down your spinal column and B: wanting a horse as a best friend, then your soul and heart are dead blackened lumps of coal and you might as well just give up. Hell, I might get my daughter a pony for Christmas just because horses now seem awesome to me.
Frankly Steven Spielberg could make a movie about a pet cockroach set against the backdrop of a nuclear holocaust and I’d probably want to get one of those as a pet too. But he took the easy way out (who doesn’t love a good horse story around the holidays) and adapted Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book (and recent Broadway production) into a possible Spielberg-ian epic using seldom discussed World War I as a backdrop for a story about a sappy kid (Jeremy Irvine) who just loves his horse dammit and wants it to come home.
So we’ll watch as the horse outruns bombs and bullets, while running right into sweeping battle scenes all while being used as an allegory about why war is bad, or why family and love are important, or some Hollywood hippie nonsense like that. Who cares right? Everyone loves horses! The Rotten Watch for 77%.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
No getting around it, and honesty is usually the best policy, so I’ve got to come clean. I messed up last week by just completely skipping this flick both the in the column and in the “coming next week” section. There’s a mildly convoluted reason for this, but it isn’t worth explaining. Let’s just say it slipped through the cracks (if the crack was the size equivalent of the Grand Canyon that allows mega huge Tom Cruise blockbusters to go unnoticed.) So my bad.
And now being late to the IMF party, making a prediction is a bit disingenuous considering roughly three million reviews are already up for what folks around here consider to be the best action film of the year. And it all confirms director Brad Bird’s moved from animated greatness (Ratatouille-96%, The Incredibles-97%) to action greatness.
The flick also serves as proof folks still enjoy watching Tom Cruise moving his diminutive frame (he’s 5’7”, 160!) around on screen doing action-y stuff like outrunning sandstorms and explosions, scaling buildings, getting in high speed chases and just generally lighting up the screen. Ethan Hunt always wins in my book. The Rotten Watch for Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is really non predicted 95%.
The Adventures of Tintin
Having already waxed “asskissingly” on Spielberg’s ability to tell huge stories with many moving parts, it’s probably also worth mentioning that dude somehow has two major studio releases happening the same week, both of which he directed. Has that ever happened before? Has anyone even come close? I’m seriously asking, after looking up other prolific dudes like Steven Soderbergh or Woody Allen it appears no one has done anything close to this. Even those guys space flicks out at least 4-5 months apart.
**Worth noting that Daniel Craig is in this thing too, making it a nice little week for the chap as well.
And not only is it another movie, but its completely different, using my personal Uncanny Valley: motion-capture (in 3D to boot), to adapt George Remi’s comicbook of the same name. The Adventures of Tintin, with almost sixty reviews already in, is another clear victory for Spielberg as he tackles a new medium in animation. And though I’m destined to leave the theater feeling more than a little queasy, rest assured, kids will pack the seats for this thing and more often than not walk away pleased. Hell, its Spielberg. The Rotten Watch for The Adventures of Tintin is 86%.
We Bought a Zoo
Greatness, for most people, has a shelf life. Cameron Crowe’s expiration date might be fast approaching. What worked so well in Crowe’s earlier movies was his ability to create flawed, yet lovable characters who we couldn’t help but root for. So when Lloyd Dobler hoisted a boombox over his head or Jerry Maguire ran through the airport, the viewer cheered pretty damned loud because they were sort-of regular dudes with very regular problems (love, commitment, independence, etc). And Crowe surrounded his leads with memorable support (the Rod Tidwell’s, Jeff Spicoli’s and Penny Lane’s of the world), the kind who resonated beyond the scope of the film.
But a weird oops (Vanilla Sky-40%) followed by a colossal oops (Elizabethtown-28%) have Crowe dancing around the margins of mediocrity (or possibly even worse). And We Bought a Zoo looks like just the kind of last ditch effort at touching heartstrings by manufacturing emotion rather than creating it organically. The trailer has all the hallmarks of a flick trying really damned hard to “connect” you to the characters with quasi-inspirational lines, sort of introspective dialogue, life lessons aplenty and even some running in the rain. And I think, based on the trailer and some early reviews, the film will straddle the middle, with Crowe furthering distancing himself from all the things that made his career near spotless, and pop-culturally relevant only a decade ago. The Rotten Watch for We Bought a Zoo is 51%. .
The Darkest Hour
Of everything coming out this week, I think this flick most embodies the real spirit of Christmas. After all, it’s about a race of aliens who come to Earth with the sole intention of sucking all the life and energy out of the planet with little regard to the feelings of the populace. Isn’t that what really happens around the holidays? If only the aliens were dressed as Santa and hailed from the planet Walmart. Then I think this thing would be right on the money.
Chris Gorak (Right at Your Door-67%) directs a movie that is either going to be completely awful or fairly awesome with really no room in between. I’m leaning toward the former in that it turns out to be just another alien, world domination flick (set in Moscow for some reason) that’s been covered about a billion times before. Some of the scenes look compelling and the “We can’t see the enemy” has a large scale Predator feel to it, but ultimately I think it falls flat and corny. But at least it embodies the Christmas spirit (everyone ends up dead!). The Rotten Watch for The Darkest Hour is 29%. .
Recapping last week:
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Predicted: 69% Actual: 61%)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Predicted: 20% Actual: 13%)
Another very strong week of predictions. Both movies were wins in my “within 10%” book although neither was a stretch. Anyone who thought Alvin and company would finish with more that one out of five critics liking it probably needs some sort of medical treatment. And Sherlock fell right into place as something enjoyable without being amazing. Good week all around.
We’ll take next week off for Jesus’s and Santa’s birthday and be back to ring in the New Year. Happy Holidays everyone and thanks for reading. It’s going to be a Rotten Week!