Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
Looking back on the best films of 2010
The economy sucks, and universal health care is still a dream, but in one crucial way, things were looking up in 2010: I had multiple 4-star movies to choose from in compiling my annual Top 10 list. (Unlike last year, when I only saw one movie I considered 4-star-worthy, and that was a cartoon.)
Of course, most of the movies I loved this year were small and independent, demonstrating once again the inverse relationship between gigantic Hollywood budgets and quality.
Royal prince vs. stammer in masterful 'King's Speech'
If a Who's Who of Splendid British Thespians digging into a juicy true story of Royals in conflict is not your cup of tea, best steer clear of The King's Speech. But if you're looking for a gorgeously mounted entertainment, a compelling history lesson, a wry comedy of manners, or just a jolly game of Name That Actor, prepare to gobble down this tasty and rewarding holiday treat about an accidental monarch thrust into the limelight, struggling to conquer a private affliction that makes his public life a nightmare.
Directed by Tom Hooper (his last film was the excellent soccer drama, The Damned United), from a witty script by David Seidler, The King's Speech concerns the royal English prince soon to be known to the world as George VI (and father of the current Queen Elizabeth). An unexpected heir to the throne, destined to lead his people through the ravages of World War II, all that stood between George and greatness was a crippling stammer that made it virtually impossible for him to speak in public.
Natalie Portman swims into dark waters in ‘Black Swan’
If Girl Interrupted bitchslapped The Turning Point, the aftermath would resemble something like Black Swan. This psychological thriller, set in the competitive world of the New York City Ballet is haunting and hypnotic yet graceful and raw in the way it unfolds, layer by fascinating layer, into a gripping tale that explores the lines between reality and perception. It’s one of the best films of the year and its star, Natalie Portman, delivers a career-defining role that could win her an Oscar. (The star and the film just nabbed Golden Globe noms.)
Portman plays Nina, a featured dancer—protective layer on the outside, completely frail on the inside—in a prominent ballet company. She’s worked hard over the years and her dreams of being moved into center spotlight finally become realized when the company’s alpha male director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) opts to re-imagine the classic “Swan Lake.”
Star power can't quite redeem twisty, but flawed 'Tourist'
You know the story: unsuspecting pigeon snookered in by a sexy stranger, only to be drawn into a deadly game by powers beyond his control. And that's pretty much the story we get through most of The Tourist, a Hollywood star vehicle that positions Johnny Depp, as an innocent abroad, and Angelina Jolie, as a glamorous mystery woman, against the gorgeous backdrop of Venice.
But it's all a matter of perspective in what turns out to be a surprisingly sneaky, cheeky adventure thriller from German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. In The Lives of Others, von Donnersmarck studied voyeurism in the tale of a lonely East German police captain who spends years spying on a bohemian playwright. The surveillance equipment is a lot more high-tech in The Tourist, as Interpol agents collaborate with Scotland Yard to keep tabs on the protagonists, but beyond the central plot is a larger story about who is watching and manipulating whom.
Picaresque 'Narnia: Dawn Treader' sails into adventure
It's not exactly a pirate movie. But there's enough shipboard action (roiling seas, burnished sunsets, athletic swordplay) to cheer any would-be seafarer, child, or child at heart, in the third of C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia adventures, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Be advised, an unfortunate amount of screen time is devoted to the brattiest of the film's youthful protagonists. Still, veteran director Michael Apted keeps the story pulsing along at a good clip, moral lessons are succinct and not too heavy-handed, and the magical elements are stylishly done.
This time out, the two eldest Pevensie siblings have grown up and joined their parents in the States, leaving Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley, now a poised young tween) back in wartime Britain in their aunt and uncle's home, at the mercy of their snotty cousin Eustace (Will Poulter). In this chapter, a painting is their portal back to Narnia, dragging the disbelieving Eustace along for the ride.
'Tamara Drewe' is a sly, funny, modern reboot of a Victorian classic
What happens when you cross Thomas Hardy with the modern (feminist) graphic novel? If you're lucky, the result will be something sharply observed and acerbically funny like “Tamara Drewe.” This serial graphic novel from veteran cartoonist Posy Simmonds ran in weekly installments in London's Guardian newspaper from 2005 to 2006. Set in Hardy country (the bucolic Dorset countryside), it's a sly reboot of Far From the Madding Crowd, with a luscious heroine pursued by three obsessed men from very different social strata.