Who knew Zack Snyder could follow up Watchmen with such a dud? It's all surface and not much substance. I've read a reviewer or two try to salvage the film, but it just makes me laugh. Despite the special effects, I was bored and waiting impatiently for it to end. I really hope Snyder rebounds with the Superman reboot he's currently working on.
The Devil's Double
I liked Bradley Cooper in the Hangover films, but this is the one where he shows he can be a real lead in a movie. It's about a writer who can't finish a novel, and is a general failure in life, acquiring a new drug that is intended to harness much more of the brain's intellectual ability. He finishes the novel, watches it become a huge success, and goes on to prove his mettle in the financial field as well. Of course, it's all too good to be true, and we watch the fascinating unraveling in the second half. A good, tense script, and a nicely modulated performance from the lead.
I wasn't expecting much from this one, but was pleasantly surprised. Kenneth Branagh, known more for his turns in Shakespeare, directs a film that captures much of the Thor universe without getting too campy. Watching Thor finish off the Frost Giant monster by flying hammer-first through the creature's gaping maw brought back the thrills I used to get reading the comic. I wish there'd been another similarly staged battle later on in the movie, but maybe that's being saved for the Avengers spectacle, opening in May.
X-Men: First Class
Another great superhero turn, a revamping of the X-Men franchise. Smart, retro (it takes place in the 60s), and remarkably well-cast, this outing concerns the origins of Professor X and his initial band of mutants. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy provide the dualistic heart of the film. If they keep making X-films like this, the franchise could go on indefinitely. Nice to see January Jones, a Mad Men cast member, in the role of my favorite female mutant, Emma Frost.
A raucous comedy with SNL star Kristen Wiig (who hails from this area) as a woman bemoaning her single status as she prepares to serve as a bridesmaid in someone else's wedding. Some decent laughs as the humor went farther to the edge than a mostly female comedy usually dares to go. Still somewhat lightweight though, and it just reinforces the tired and false message that a woman is ultimately nothing without a man to give her babies.
Tree Of Life
Captain America: The First Avenger
Marvel's getting good at these. Well done adventure yarn, set in World War 2, about the origins of Steve Rogers, the eponymous hero. Joe Johnston, who directed the Rocketeer 20 years earlier, evokes the period nicely. The action hardly lets up, and it stoked my anticipation for the Avengers movie.
Brad Pitt again, this time as the general manager of the Oakland A's a decade ago, and how he instituted a numbers-based system for building a competitive baseball team. The system almost succeeded. Jonah Hill gives a nicely understated performance as the statistical wizard who helps Pitt's Billy Bean character build an unlikely playoff team.
Martin Scorsese's at it again, crafting a fine period piece with fantastic flourishes, about an orphan who lives in a Paris train station tending the clocks. He wants to somehow restart an animatronic doll that his father was working on, to find out its secrets. Along the way, Scorsese treats us to a cinematic history lesson regarding Georges Melies, the man who made some of the earliest films ever, over a century ago. It was a great holiday movie, with history, magic, and a big heart. Marty's getting up there in age, and I'll miss him when he's gone.