Kingsport Times News Friday, October 24, 2014
Entertainment

Capsule reviews of new movie releases

November 17th, 2011 3:02 pm by Associated Press

"Arthur Christmas" — This pleasant holiday treat from Aardman, the British animation outfit behind "Chicken Run" and the "Wallace and Gromit" cartoons, has the old-fashioned spirit of Christmas at heart, spinning a snowflake-light tale with warmth, energy and goofy humor. The movie unveils the vast high-tech enterprise run by Santa to deliver all those presents as his big-hearted but bumbling younger son, Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy), races to deliver a single gift that fell through the cracks. The delightful, drolly funny voice cast includes Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen. Director Sarah Smith offers a fresh look at the Santa legend with a flawed Claus whose family is as dysfunctional as everyone else's. There are lulls and comic misfires that feel like stocking stuffers thrown in to pad the simple story to feature length, and the manic banter comes a bit too fast for viewers to digest it all. Still, the visual gags will carry youngsters along, while there are plenty of clever wisecracks to keep their parents occupied. PG for some mild rude humor. 97 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

___

"The Descendants" — Alexander Payne makes movies about men on the brink — of a nervous breakdown, of personal or professional ruin and, ultimately, maybe even some hard-earned peace. That's certainly true of George Clooney here. As real-estate lawyer Matt King, he finds everything in his life is in flux and on the verge of collapse simultaneously. This isn't any easier even though he lives in Hawaii, a place that's supposed to be paradise. Clooney being Clooney, though, makes every stage of his character's arc believable, from grief through anger and eventual acceptance, and he gives a performance that's so understated as to appear effortless. Matt's wife, Elizabeth, is lying in a hospital bed in a coma following a boating accident. Matt, who hasn't been the most available or hands-on father, must now take care of the couple's two daughters on his own: 17-year-old boarding school rebel Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old troublemaker Scottie (Amara Miller). Then Alexandra drops another bombshell on her father: Elizabeth was having an affair at the time of her accident. As if all this weren't enough to handle, Matt's enormous family has put him in charge of deciding what to do with the 25,000 acres of pristine land on Kauai that they've inherited from their royal Hawaiian ancestors. Payne's pacing is often so languid that we don't feel the sort of mounting tension that we should. But the story keeps us guessing as to where it will go, and it features some piercing moments of emotional truth. R for language including some sexual references. 115 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

___

"Happy Feet Two" — The dancing, singing penguins are as adorable as ever. Yet a couple of shrimplike krill almost steal the show in this animated sequel that sticks to the formula of the original while adding enough variety to give it a life of its own. It helps to have Brad Pitt and Matt Damon voicing the krill with great companionability as they join a vocal cast that includes returning stars Elijah Wood and Robin Williams. Wood's tap-dancing penguin now is a dad dealing with a misfit, runaway son embarrassed over his own lack of rhythm. Director and co-writer George Miller, who handled the same chores on the 2006 Academy Award-winning first film, keeps the focus on penguins in peril while adding an interesting nature-in-perspective angle with the side journey of those tiny krill trying to find their place in a world of bigger, hungrier things. The sequel delivers the key ingredients that made its predecessor such a hit: lovable characters, a rich blend of pop tunes employed in showstopping song-and-dance numbers and remarkable Antarctic landscapes whose bleak beauty pops off the screen even more than in the original, thanks to some of the finest use of 3-D animation since the digital age brought an extra dimension to the screen. PG for some rude humor and mild peril. 99 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

___

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" — "Laughable" probably isn't the word the filmmakers were aiming for, but there it is; laughter, at all the wrong places. The fourth movie in the freakishly popular girl-vamp-wolf love triangle series is so self-serious, it's hard not to cackle at it. The dialogue is, of course, ridiculous and the acting ranges from stiff to mopey. But moments that should be pulsating with tension are usually hilarious because the special effects are still just so distractingly cheesy. This latest installment has yet another new director: Bill Condon, a man capable of both panache ("Dreamgirls") and serious artistry ("Gods and Monsters"), little of which you'll see here. The first of two films adapted from the final book in Stephenie Meyer's series (with part two coming next year), this serves as a placeholder for the ultimate finale but is jam-packed with developments in its own right. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire beau, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), marry in a lavish, romantic outdoor ceremony. Bella's childhood best friend and the other man in the equation, werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), stops by as a gesture of goodwill. Finally, Bella and Edward can have sex, the thing she has wanted all along but he has been reluctant to do for fear that deflowering her will, you know, kill her. And he may have been right. He impregnates her on the honeymoon and the resulting hybrid spawn threatens to destroy her from inside. PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements. 117 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

comments powered by Disqus