Friday, December 30, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 12/30/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on numbers 10 through 6 of my Top 10 films of the year.  (I'll be discussing numbers 5 through 1 next Friday).

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/123011-flieder-flicks-friday

Worst Films of 2011

I can't close out the year without a walk down memory lane of some of the painfuly terrible movies I've had the displeasure of sitting through.  And what qualities make a movie destined to a life of shame on this list?  For me, it's gratuitous violence, phoniness, and pointlessness.

Below are my least favorite, somewhat recognizable movies of the year, beginning with the worst of the worst.  (Note that, for the most part, I'm not including terrible movies from film festivals that nobody's heard of.  What fun is that?)

Worst (Somewhat Recognizable) Films of 2011:
  1. Hobo with a Shotgun
  2. The Thing
  3. The Rite
  4. Final Destination 5
  5. The Sitter
  6. The Rum Diary
  7. Real Steel
  8. Fast Five
  9. Seven Days in Utopia
  10. Happy Feet 2
  11. Something Borrowed
  12. I Am Number 4
  13. Sanctum
  14. The Zookeeper
  15. Larry Crowne
  16. Attack the Block
  17. Bag of Bones (A made for TV mini-series.  Does that still count?)
('Jack and Jill', take note:  You had some laughs, so I'm actually giving you a pass on the official list.  But just barely.  You're on watch, Adam Sandler.)


And how about those movies that boast a great cast, but turn out to be a waste of talent.  These aren't all terrible films, but just poor relative to the quality of the talent attached.  Below they are ranked starting from biggest disappointment:

Biggest Waste of Talent in 2011:
  1. Salvation Boulevard
  2. Larry Crowne
  3. Your Highness
  4. Paul
  5. Horrible Bosses
  6. Bad Teacher
  7. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
  8. Fright Night
  9. The Muppets
  10. New Year's Eve

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Performances of 2011

A great performance can make an otherwise unmemorable movie memorable.  And conversely, a movie is rarely great without at least one great performance.  Below are my favorites from 2011, ranked roughly in order beginning with my favorite.  You will notice that, just like with my Best Films of 2011 list, I don't subscribe to a fixed 10.  (Although many may wish that I did.)

Best Actor:
  1. Ewan McGregor - Beginners
  2. Woody Harrelson - Rampart
  3. Daniel Radcliffe - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  4. George Clooney - The Descendants
  5. Brad Pitt - Moneyball
  6. Thomas Horn - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  7. Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
  8. Ryan Gosling - The Ides of March
  9. Martin Sheen - The Way
  10. Steve Carell - Crazy, Stupid Love
  11. Owen Wilson - Midnight in Paris
  12. Brad Pitt - Tree of Life
  13. Brendan Gleeson - The Guard
  14. Michael Fassbender - Shame
  15. Michael Fassbender - A Dangerous Method
  16. Jean Dujardin - The Artist

Best Actress:
  1. Viola Davis - The Help
  2. Keira Knightley - A Dangerous Method
  3. Jessica Chastain - The Debt
  4. Kirsten Dunst - Melancholia
  5. Julianne Moore - Crazy, Stupid Love
  6. Emma Stone - The Help
  7. Emma Watson - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  8. Elizabeth Olsen - Marth Marcy May Marlene
  9. Tilda Swinton- We Need to Talk About Kevin
  10. Olivia Colman - Tyrannosaur
  11. Melanie Laurent - Beginners
  12. Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
  13. Charlize Theron - Young Adult

Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Alan Rickman - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  2. Ralph Fiennes - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  3. John Hawkes - Martha Marcy May Marlene
  4. Michael Gambon - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  5. Jeremy Irons - Margin Call
  6. Ryan Gosling - Crazy, Stupid Love
  7. James Nesbitt - The Way
  8. Philip Seymour Hoffman - Moneyball
  9. Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Ides of March
  10. Paul Giamatti - The Ides of March
  11. Matthew Lillard - The Descendants
  12. Albert Brooks - Drive
  13. Tom Hanks - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  14. John Hurt - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  15. Warwick Davis - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  16. Paul Bettany - Margin Call
  17. Bruce Greenwood - Meek's Cutoff
  18. Viggo Mortensen - A Dangerous Method
  19. Jonah Hill - Moneyball
  20. George Clooney - The Ides of March
  21. Bryan Cranston - Drive
  22. Patton Oswalt - Young Adult

Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Maggie Smith - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  2. Jessica Chastain - The Help
  3. Bryce Dallas Howard - The Help
  4. Octavia Spencer - The Help
  5. Jessica Chastain - Take Shelter
  6. Jessica Chastain - Tree of Life
  7. Emma Stone - Crazy, Stupid Love
  8. Helena Bonham Carter - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  9. Sandra Bullock - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  10. Judy Greer - The Descendants
  11. Berenice Bejo - The Artist
  12. Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
  13. Kate Winslet - Carnage

Best Actor/Actress Under 25:
  1. Thomas Horn - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  2. Daniel Radcliffe - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  3. Ezra Miller - We Need to Talk About Kevin
  4. Emma Stone - The Help / Crazy, Stupid Love
  5. Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
  6. Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
  7. Emma Watson - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  8. Rupert Grint - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  9. Elle Fanning - Super 8
  10. Chloe Grace Moretz - Hugo

Best Overall Year:
  1. Jessica Chastain (The Debt, The Help, Tree of Life, Take Shelter, Coriolanus)
  2. Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Shame, X-Men: First Class, Jane Eyre)
  3. Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March, Crazy Stupid Love, Drive)
  4. Brad Pitt (Moneyball, Tree of Life)
  5. George Clooney (The Descendants, The Ides of March)
  6. Paul Giamatti (The Ides of March, Win Win, Ironclad, Too Big to Fail, The Hangover Part II)
  7. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball, The Ides of March)
  8. John C. Reilly (Terri, Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Cedar Rapids)
  9. John Goodman (The Artist, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Red State)
  10. John Hurt (Harry Potter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Melancholia, Immortals)
  11. Emma Stone (The Help, Crazy, Stupid Love)
  12. Bradley Cooper (Limitless, The Hangover Part II)
  13. David Thewlis (Harry Potter, War Horse, The Lady, London Boulevard, Anonymous)

Best Ensemble:
  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  2. Margin Call
  3. Crazy, Stupid Love
  4. The Ides of March
  5. Meek's Cutoff
  6. The Help
  7. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
  8. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  9. The Hangover Part II
  10. Drive
  11. Bridesmaids

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Most Overrated and Most Underseen Films of 2011

Have you ever noticed that certain movies generate a lot of attention and critical praise, yet they really aren't that good?  They're not necessarily bad movies, but just overrated.  Well, here's my chance to call these out.

Most Overrated Films of 2011:
  1. War Horse
  2. Drive
  3. Tree of Life (Sure, I do realize this is on my honorable mention list, but it's also overrated.)
  4. Fast Five
  5. Hanna
  6. Albert Nobbs
  7. The Lady
  8. Hugo
  9. J. Edgar
  10. My Week with Marilyn
  11. The Iron Lady
  12. Warrior
  13. Arthur Christmas
  14. The Muppets


And what about those movies that no one saw or even heard of but were actually pretty decent?  These aren't the best films of the year, but each of them has moments of greatness and are perfect for those of you who like discovering films on DVD or VOD.

Most Underseen yet Decent Films of 2011:
  1. The Big Bang
  2. Red State
  3. Super
  4. Trust
  5. The Other Woman
  6. Beautiful Boy
  7. The Music Never Stopped
  8. Every Day
  9. The Devil's Double
  10. Grave Encounters
  11. Black Death
  12. Ironclad
  13. Good Neighbors
  14. The Perfect Host
  15. Wrecked
  16. I Melt with You
  17. London Boulevard
  18. The Future
  19. Passion Play
  20. In Her Skin
  21. Burning Palms

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011 by Genre

OK so how come movie critics always leave out all those movies that regular folks love?  Where are all the comedies?  How about action movies and blockbusters?  Sure, some of them are good too, yet most of them don't make my Best Films of 2011 list.  But they certainly warrant separate lists of honorable mention.  So here they are:


Best Comedies:
  1. Crazy, Stupid Love
  2. Midnight in Paris
  3. The Trip
  4. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
  5. The Hangover Part II
  6. Friends with Benefits
  7. Hall Pass
  8. Bridesmaids

Best High Concept Sci-Fi Action Films:
  1. Limitless
  2. In Time
  3. Source Code

Best Action Films (which interestingly enough almost all use the : followed by a trite pointless phrase rather than opting for just a sequel number):
  1. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
  2. X-Men: First Class
  3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  4. Battle: Los Angeles
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  6. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
  7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Horror Films:
  1. Scream 4
  2. Grave Encounters
  3. Paranormal Activity 3
  4. Insidious

Best Animated / Kids Films:
  1. Rio
  2. Mr. Popper's Penguins
  3. Puss in Boots
  4. Rango
  5. The Adventures of Tintin

Best Documentaries:
  1. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
  2. The Swell Season
  3. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  4. Exporting Raymond
  5. Being Elmo

And an honorable mention for
Good Indie Dramedies with Great Casts that Didn't Quite Reach Their Potential:
  1. Terri
  2. Win Win
  3. HappyThankYouMorePlease
  4. Our Idiot Brother
  5. A Little Help
  6. Cedar Rapids
  7. Everything Must Go

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Best Films of 2011

Here it is, loyal followers!  The list you've all been waiting for!  The culmination of a year of watching more movies than I should probably admit to.  (And yet I will.  By my count, I've seen around 270 films released this year, many of which I watched more than once.)  And while most of these movies are just OK, I've seen some really great ones and some really terrible ones.  Not surprisingly, the great (and terrible) lists amount to more than ten films.  So I don't understand why every critic publishes a Top 10.  What about number 11?  Is there really a big difference in quality between numbers 10 and 11?  This isn't an exact science and I'm confident that given another viewing of each film, everyone's number 11 would likely end up in their top 10, thus bumping one of the originals from the list.  So, instead of keeping with tradition, I include the number of films that I feel deserve to be on the list.  In this case, that number happens to be 33.

I should also point out a somewhat obvious statement.  This is MY best list.  And my taste may not match yours.  (In fact, it's quite likely.)  For me, first and foremost, it's important that it makes me feel something, and that I'm still thinking about it days, weeks, months, and even years later.  (This is why I occasionally tweak my grades after some time has passed.  It's hard to grade a film immediately after just one viewing.)  I look for great performances, great dialogue, and overall great filmmaking.  These films should hold up for repeat viewings, not feel too long, and be really, really captivating.  Ideally, they should also bring something original to the table and be influential to future filmmakers.  More often than not, the films that satisfy this criteria are heavier films.  Therefore, many of the top films on this list are heavy films.  If that's not your bag, then so be it.  But rest assured, other lists will follow this week including my picks for the best comedies, best action films, best performances, best ensembles, most overrated, most underseen, and, of course, the worst films of the year.  So keep checking back, let me know your thoughts, and feel free to suggest some interesting lists I should consider.

Anyhoo, without further ado, below are my favorite 33 films of 2011, ranked roughly in order, beginning with my favorite movie of the year: a little seen finale to an epic series about young wizards in magic school.  I look forward to your comments.
  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  2. Beginners
  3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  4. The Descendants
  5. The Way
  6. The Help
  7. Meek's Cutoff
  8. Crazy, Stupid Love
  9. Moneyball
  10. The Artist
  11. Martha Marcy May Marlene
  12. The Ides of March
  13. Rampart
  14. Margin Call
  15. Limitless
  16. Contagion
  17. Midnight in Paris
  18. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
  19. The Trip
  20. In Time
  21. Carnage
  22. Take Shelter
  23. A Dangerous Method
  24. We Need to Talk About Kevin
  25. Tyrannosaur
  26. The Swell Season
  27. The Guard
  28. One Day
  29. 50/50
  30. Scream 4
  31. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  32. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
  33. The Hangover Part II
And although I opted not to include them in my official list (and I may regret that upon subsequent viewings), I'd like to give honorable mentions to the following movies for innovation, pushing the boundaries, and a memorable viewing experience:

War Horse


Steven Spielberg directed this drama about a horse that experiences many challenges through several owners throughout Europe just prior to and during the first World War.  Can this horse rise to the occasions and save the day?  Hmm, what do you think??

I must say I don't really understand who the target audience is here.  For the first third, it seemed like a live action Disney film geared towards kids.  But once the war gets under way, it no longer seems appropriate for children.  So I suppose it's for adult lovers of all things equine?  Admittedly I don't really get any of the plethora of horse movies that have been made.  Personally, I prefer my protagonists to be adult humans.  Of course, I can appreciate that Spielberg knows how to make a technically good film.  The shots are nice to look at, the actors are all on the same page and give good performances (although no one particularly stands out, with the possible exception of David Thewlis and Benedict Cumberbatch, both of whom seem to pop up everywhere I look these days), and the orchestral score by John Williams is the best thing about it, appropriately sweeping and triumphant when warranted.   But the bottom line here is the film is cliched and dull.  And that's perhaps the worst film sin of all.  I'd be more generous if the running time were 100 minutes rather than the overindulgent two and a half hours.  At that length you better deliver something really compelling and not just 'Black Beauty' meets 'Forrest Gump'.  (Though my colleagues in the Broadcast Film Critics Association nominated it as one of the Best Pictures of 2011.  That perplexes me.)

Grade: C+

Friday, December 23, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 12/23/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', 'We Bought a Zoo', 'The Artist', and 'Midnight in Paris'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/122311-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Movies released this week are in green)

The Descendants                  Grade: A+ 

The Artist                            Grade: A

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas      Grade: A-

The Skin I Live In                Grade: B+

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol     Grade: B+

Melancholia                       Grade: B+

Shame                                 Grade: B+

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy         Grade: B+

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows      Grade: B+

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo       Grade: B+

Being Elmo                         Grade: B+

Young Adult                       Grade: B

We Bought a Zoo              Grade: B

Tower Heist                        Grade: B

My Week with Marilyn     Grade: B

J. Edgar                               Grade: B

Hugo                                   Grade: B-

New Year's Eve                  Grade: B-

Puss in Boots                      Grade: B-

The Muppets                      Grade: B-

The Adventures of Tintin      Grade: B-

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1      Grade: C

Immortals                           Grade: C

Jack and Jill                       Grade: D

Arthur Christmas             Grade: D

Happy Feet 2                    Grade: D

The Sitter                          Grade: D-

The Artist


Get ready for something original.  (And that's rare in Hollywood.)  This one's a silent picture in black & white.  It's an homage to the films of the 1920's, with minimal dialogue, only as needed, shown in full screen subtitles, and backed by a full orchestra.  This is the story of a successful silent era movie star who must deal with a changing work environment as 'talkies' become the rage.  It's 'Singin' in the Rain' meets 'Pleasantville'.  Sure it might be criticized as gimmicky by some, but for me it's refreshingly original and absolutely worth seeing.  And based on all the buzz, top ten lists, and awards nominations its received of late, it's safe to say that it's on a very short list of pictures likely to take home the top prize at the Oscars.  (Unless, of course, Alexander Payne's 'The Descendants' takes it instead.  Too close to call.)

Grade: A

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


The Cold War is on and British Intelligence is trying to find out who the 'mole' in their department is.  Gary Oldman heads an all star cast including John Hurt, Colin Firth, Mark Strong ('Sherlock Holmes'), Toby Jones (Truman Capote in 'Infamous'), Ciaran Hinds ('The Debt'), and Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC's Sherlock Holmes) in this 70's retro espionage thriller that's a remake of a TV miniseries from 1979 starring Sir Alec Guiness.  And the look and feel hasn't been updated in the least.  If you didn't know any better, you'd think this film was actually made in the 70's.  And that's a compliment.

On one hand, it's really refreshing to have a smart, thoughtful action-less film for a change that doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator.  (Frankly, this one's too highbrow to be successful in American theatrical release.  It would have been a better fit for the BBC.)  But on the other hand, I'm not sure I'm smart enough to follow a film like this.  Or, perhaps it's just unfollowable, at least in parts.  I guess we'll have to wait for other reviews to find out if that's the general consensus.  Regardless, I appreciate a challenge and a film made for adults with a very watchable cast, and this is it.  And I hope it's more of a box office success than I suspect so that we can get more films like this made.  So for those of you who fondly remember espionage films from the 70's like '3 Days of the Condor', check this one out.

Grade: B+

We Bought a Zoo


Director Cameron Crowe ('Almost Famous', 'Jerry Maguire', 'Singles', 'Say Anything') returns to the world of narrative filmmaking after a 6 year hiatus with a family dramedy based on a true story about a widower, played by Matt Damon, and his two kids who buy a new home and the zoo that comes with it.  So the title is quite literal.  Of course they know absolutely nothing about animals or zoos, but nevertheless shrug off the concerns of Damon's brother played by the always entertaining Thomas Hayden Church, and dive in with both feet.  Thankfully, a small devoted staff of knowledgeable employees, including one Scarlett Johanssen, are there to help them.

You pretty much know where this one is going at every moment, but Damon, Church, and Johanssen are always pretty watchable so it doesn't really matter.  And seven year old Maggie Elizabeth Jones is clearly Crowe's next Jonathan Lipnicki, if you remember that precocious kid from 'Jerry Maguire'.  Even 'Curb Your Enthusiasm's J.B. Smoove shines here, and without profanity too!  Of course, there aren't any surprises, and I have issues with the ultra-unreal idea of a girl like ScarJo working at this zoo 24/7 with no social life and no boyfriend.  (And Damon's single too.  Gee, I wonder where that plotline is going.)  But you still have a pretty good time with it and you go home happy even though nothing unexpected happened.  It's a lot like a day at the zoo, actually.

Grade: B

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin


Despite not being a big fan of animation, with names like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson attached to this one I couldn't help but be optimistic.  And I became even more excited once it began.  The animation is unbelievable.  They've truly reached the point where it's hard to distinguish from live action.  And the Indiana Jones-type adventure story about a search for scrolls that will lead to treasure is intriguing.  But unfortunately the movie is missing that 'je ne seis quoi' that makes Indiana Jones so special.  It just doesn't really have any memorable scenes or characters.  And even though it's only 107 minutes, it felt long with one lengthy action sequence after another.  Yet visually it's stunning, and that alone makes it worthwhile for families and even adults without kids to see on the big screen.  But just barely.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 US Version)


Unless you've been living under a rock, you're at least somewhat aware of this title.  Perhaps you read the book; the first of the wildly popular Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson.  Or maybe you saw the subtitled Swedish films, released in Europe in 2009 and in the US in 2010.  Or possibly you just heard about it, because of all the hype surrounding it ever since lauded film director David Fincher ('The Social Network', 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', 'Zodiac', 'The Game', 'Seven', 'Fight Club') became attached.  Well, I've now seen it and I'm having a hell of a time grading it for the very reason that so many people have so varying levels of familiarity with the material.  I just don't feel like one grade fits all for this one.  Personally, I haven't read the books, but I've seen the Swedish film twice, and I must say I really don't understand why this remake was even necessary.  Sure, I get that people don't like to read when they watch TV, but maybe they should try it sometime.  Because, while this version is good, and will undoubtedly enthrall audiences with no familiarity of the story, the Swedish version is better.  I just don't think Fincher nailed it, like he generally does.  It doesn't flow from scene to scene like the original.  And it's so similar, and the cast so closely resembles the existing version, I just found it difficult to keep from getting bored.  Frankly, it's just too soon for such a close remake.  (Kind of like when they remade 'Death at a Funeral' a mere three years after the original, both in English, and both with Peter Dinklage!  But I digress.)  Of course, if you haven't seen the original, and you do like disturbing material, and you really, really don't want to read subtitles, then by all means go see this movie.

Oh yeah, and if you do decide to see either version, a few words of warning:  They both have ultra-disturbing scenes of violence.  (Not gory, mind you, but graphic.)  And they're both over two hours and thirty minutes.  So make sure you've gone to the bathroom and snacked up ahead of time.

Grade if you've already seen the Swedish version:  B-
Grade if you haven't seen and refuse to see the Swedish version:  B+
Average Grade: B

Friday, December 16, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 12/16/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol', 'Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows', and 'Young Adult'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/121611-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Movies released this week are in green)

The Descendants                  Grade: A+ 

Moneyball                            Grade: A+

Martha Marcy May Marlene      Grade: A

The Ides of March               Grade: A

Margin Call                          Grade: A

Take Shelter                        Grade: A

In Time                                Grade: A-

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas      Grade: A-

The Skin I Live In                Grade: B+

Melancholia                       Grade: B+

Shame                                 Grade: B+

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol     Grade: B+

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows      Grade: B+

Being Elmo                         Grade: B+

Young Adult                       Grade: B

Tower Heist                        Grade: B

My Week with Marilyn     Grade: B

J. Edgar                               Grade: B

Hugo                                   Grade: B-

New Year's Eve                  Grade: B-

Puss in Boots                      Grade: B-

The Muppets                      Grade: B-

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1      Grade: C

Immortals                           Grade: C

Jack and Jill                       Grade: D

Arthur Christmas             Grade: D

Happy Feet 2                    Grade: D

The Sitter                          Grade: D-

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol


Action fans, rejoice!  This week's double shot of sequels to 'Sherlock Holmes' and 'Mission Impossible' are sure to get your adrenaline flowing.  But more so in the latter.  This fourth outing (15 years after the first) with Tom Cruise as secret agent Ethan Hunt is 133 minutes of large scale non-stop action sequences. Ordinarily that's my worst nightmare, but I must admit some of those sequences are pretty exhilarating, particularly on the IMAX.

This time out, Hunt's mission, should he choose to accept it, takes him around the world, including Russia, Dubai, and Mumbai.  The locations, visual effects, and sound are superb.  But, as usual for most films of this genre, it just drags on too long.  And while Tom Cruise commands the screen as always, I can't say the same for some of the supporting cast.  Newcomer Jeremy Renner is ok but he's not in Cruise's league.  (I don't look forward to the day that Cruise bows out of this franchise completely and Renner takes the baton.  And I'm equally uneasy about him taking over the Bourne series, and playing Hawkeye in 'The Avengers'.  Mark my words, we'll be Rennered out by the end of 2012.)  Yet, as in the last one, Simon Pegg adds some needed comic relief, and the new girl, Paula Patton, looks great, so I shouldn't complain.  But I will a little.  My main complaint is that there isn't a villain nearly as memorable as Philip Seymour Hoffman's antagonist in the last one.  So, for that reason alone, this one isn't as good.  Yet it's still a crowd pleaser and action fans will get their money's worth.

As an aside, it's interesting that the two major releases this week feature the two stars from the Swedish version of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' (Noomi Rapace in 'Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows' and Michael Nyqvist in this one).  They'll do battle with the American remake of 'Dragon Tattoo' on Wednesday.  It'll be interesting to see who wins.

Grade: A-

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as the legendary sleuth and his trusty sidekick, respectively.  Also back is Rachel McAdams as the femme fatale, Irene Adler.  And of course I can't leave out the man who reimagined this reboot, director Guy Ritchie, who kicks up the stylized action sequences to a whole new level (and unfortunately I don't mean that in a complimentary way.)  Additions to the cast include 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry as Holmes' brother, Mycroft, and Jared Harris as Holmes' notorious arch enemy, Professor Moriarty.

I must admit I'm a bit biased on this series because I've always been a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, in all his incarnations.  And I thought Ritchie's debut entry in 2009 was a true delight.  The casting was brilliant.  The style was a visual treat.  And the dark and mystical tone really worked for the essence of the original stories.  But unfortunately the sequel lacks a lot of what made the first one great.  This one is too action heavy.  It's too stylized.  There are way too many 'Holmes deduces the fight sequence in slow motion before the fight even begins' scenes.  And Harris isn't nearly as fun a villain as Mark Strong's Lord Blackwood was in the first.  And worst of all, the chemistry between all the characters isn't there nearly as much.  So that's disappointing.  Nevertheless, any Downey Jr./Law, Holmes/Watson movie, even a slightly disappointing one, is better than most films in theaters, so I still enjoyed it, and I still look forward to the third.  I'll just hope for a better game afoot.

Grade: B+

Young Adult


Charlize Theron stars as an unknown ghost writer of a popular book series for young adults.  But in many ways it is she who is the young adult.  She lives in downtown Minneapolis, drinks too much, and has no one to share her life with.  So when she receives news that her married ex, played by Patrick Wilson, just had a baby, she waxes nostalgic and decides to return to her hometown to try to reunite with him.

I have mixed feelings about the film.  My expectations were really high, as director Jason Reitman has had one of the best track records to date: 'Thank You for Smoking', 'Juno', and 'Up in the Air'.  And this one reunites Reitman with writer Diablo Cody who wrote 'Juno'.  So without knowing anything more, this was one of my most anticipated films of the year's end.  But as much as I liked it, it didn't live up to expectations.  On the plus side, Theron gives a pretty fearless performance as a pathetic prom queen who peaked in high school, and Patton Oswalt does a great job of adding some much needed comedy to this tragic dramedy as a crippled misfit from Theron's grade school days.  And there are definitely passages of great dialogue and a few moments of poignancy.  Yet, a lot of the film is cliched, so I don't think it reaches its potential as a must see film.

Grade: B

Being Elmo


This documentary is the inspirational story of a young boy from a working class family who dreamed of being a great puppeteer.  Kevin Clash grew up glued to the TV and fascinated by shows like Sesame Street.  He idolized Jim Henson and his crew and marveled at how they made their puppets so lifelike and so seamless.  With hard work, determination, and good luck he got to fulfill his dream and work with his idols.  His name is unfamiliar to us but his alter ego, Elmo, is one of the most popular muppets of all time.  This is his story.

Grade: B+

Friday, December 9, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 12/9/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'New Year's Eve', 'The Sitter', 'The Hangover Part II'', and 'The Help'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/subindex/entertainment/movies

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Movies released this week are in green)

The Descendants                  Grade: A+ 

Moneyball                            Grade: A+

Martha Marcy May Marlene      Grade: A

The Ides of March               Grade: A

Margin Call                          Grade: A

Take Shelter                        Grade: A

In Time                                Grade: A-

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas      Grade: A-

50/50                                   Grade: A-

The Skin I Live In                Grade: B+

Melancholia                       Grade: B+

Shame                                Grade: B+

Tower Heist                        Grade: B

My Week with Marilyn     Grade: B

J. Edgar                               Grade: B

Hugo                                   Grade: B-

New Year's Eve                  Grade: B-

Puss in Boots                      Grade: B-

The Muppets                      Grade: B-

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1      Grade: C

Immortals                           Grade: C

Jack and Jill                       Grade: D

Arthur Christmas             Grade: D

Happy Feet 2                    Grade: D

Real Steel                          Grade: D

The Rum Diary                  Grade: D

The Sitter                          Grade: D-

New Year's Eve


A huge ensemble cast of familiar faces span multiple storylines, many of which eventually intersect, all on New Year's Eve in New York City.  And if this poster and this concept look and sound familiar, it's because we've seen it before when it was called 'Valentine's Day', also directed by Garry Marshall and written by Katherine Fugate.  (Perhaps they should have called it 'Groundhog's Day' for its deja vu allure.)  Is there any doubt that 'Christmas Eve' is already under discussion for a December 2013 release?

Anyway, if you've seen 'Valentine's Day' then this movie is exactly what you expect: a lot of likeable personalities interacting in a lot of feel-good, safe, predictable storylines, some of which are more unbearably cliched than others.  (The Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer storylines are beyond trite, and I think my eyebrows may still be a bit elevated due to the number of times I had to roll my eyes.)  That notwithstanding, I must admit it's a smooth ride.  Even I, as jaded as I am, can still appreciate a feel-good, likeable, easy watch.  (And it's light years better than 'The Sitter', which I suffered through the night before.)  So, in the spirit of the holidays, and since I know women across the globe are going to enjoy the heck out of it, I'm going to be a smidge generous.  Happy New Year.

Grade: B-

The Sitter


Will somebody please kill me?  Please, I'm begging you.  I just can't take devoting another entire evening around a movie like this anymore.  At only 81 minutes it still felt like a lifetime!

Never have I seen an actor fall from grace as hard and fast as Jonah Hill since his superb performance in 'Moneyball'.  There he showed a gift for deadpan comic timing mixed with actual acting opposite heavyweight Brad Pitt.  Here, he's just back to the same old stupid, all-crass, no-class shenanigans of which we knew him from his earlier work.  He plays a spoiled brat coerced into babysitting three bigger, more annoying spoiled brats.  (And while I'm currently pondering the best child performances of the year, I assure you these three will not be in the running.)  Of course Hill ends up taking the kids on a road trip, in the off-limits borrowed car, in search of cocaine for his terrible girlfriend.  What could possibly go wrong, right?  It's predictable, cliche, unfunny, and just painful.  Oh, and let's not leave director David Gordon Green out of my rant.  Mr. Green's recent resume includes such other fine works as 'Your Highness', 'Eastbound and Down', and 'Pineapple Express'.  He is officially on my 'directors to avoid if at all possible' list.  My only question is, what is Sam Rockwell doing in this movie?  He's too good to be a part of this trash.  (See 'Moon' if you don't agree.)

Grade: D-