Harmless, but predictable 'New Year's Eve' sings same old song
Picture this: Times Square, New York City, New Year's Eve. Crowds have been amassing all day to see the giant glitter ball hoisted up to the top of its pole, to drop down again at the stroke of midnight. But as the festivities begin, and the ball starts to go up—oh no!—it gets stuck halfway up the pole. Will it get to the top in time? Can the new year begin if the ball doesn't drop? These are among the many burning questions posed in the ensemble romantic comedy, New Year's Eve, but audiences may be asking themselves a different question: what are a bunch of nice Oscar winners (and nominees) doing in a movie like this?
The short answer is: collecting a paycheck. The ensemble romantic comedy Valentine's Day was a big enough hit back in 2010 that distributor Warner Brothers reunited director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate for this retread. It's not a sequel, there are no characters in common between the two movies, it's just the same formula transplanted from L.A. to New York, in which a vaguely interconnected group of folks try to realize their holiday expectations. Formulaic, too, is the quality of the storytelling. Well-meaning and eager to please, New Year's Day amounts to little more than a collection of sitcom gags, predictable romance, and inspirational speeches about love, hope, and second chances.
Santa's son saves holiday in sweet, funny 'Arthur Christmas'
From Aardman Studios, the deliciously nutty outfit behind the Wallace and Gromit movies, and Chicken Run, comes Arthur Christmas. This sweet, yet sly animated family comedy views the seasonal festivities from a particular insider's perspective—that of Arthur, Santa Claus' number-two son. Gauche, clumsy, and somewhat inept as he is, Arthur is nevertheless imbued with the most holiday spirit of anyone at the North Pole in this wry comedy of dynastic family dynamics. Directed by Sarah Smith, from an original screenplay she co-wrote with Peter Baynham, this tall tale supposes that Christmas Eve at the North Pole has become a high-tech enterprise.
Scorsese salutes early cinema in charming, if uneven 'Hugo'
If you love silent movies, you'll love Martin Scorsese's new family-friendly film, Hugo. And if you're a fan of the delightfully nutty, hand-made fantasy movies of early French film pioneer Georges Melies, you're in for a special treat. Scorsese's film is not only an homage to the great Melies, but to the turn-of-the-century spirit of clockwork, hands-on inventiveness that spawned him. Best of all, it's an opportunity to see a fabulous montage of vintage, hand-tinted Melies footage as God intended—on a great, big screen. And, boy, does it look great!
Unfortunately, the downside of Hugo is that it seems to take forever for the magic to kick in. It's based on the wonderful novel,
The 2012 Best Actress Oscar race begins with this miraculous performance by Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. We have yet to see Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, or Glenn Close in male drag in Albert Nobbs, but even those esteemed actresses will be hard-pressed to equal the alchemy with which the always intelligent and gutsy Williams transforms herself into that most dreamy, luscious, needy, and yet valiant of all Hollywood screen goddesses. Directed with grace and economy by TV veteran Simon Curtis, from a smart, touching script by Adrian Hodges, the film is adapted from the memoir,