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Capsule reviews: 'The Fighter,' 'The Tourist'

The Associated Press, Thursday, December 9, 2010, 9:29am (PST)

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" — C.S. Lewis began the third book in his Narnia series: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." Nothing in the three inspiration-less films adapted from Lewis' series ever rises to the wit of that simple line, though the latest comes closest to the spirit of the original — arguably the most fun of Lewis' seven Narnia tales. But spirit is something that has been consistently lacking throughout this film franchise, which has now gone through two studios (previously Disney, now Fox) and two directors (previously Andrew Adamson, now Michael Apted, with Adamson a producer). "Dawn Trader" finds two of the Pevensie clan, Lucy (Georgia Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes), sailing the Narnia seas with Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), and with their bratty and unfortunately named cousin, Eustace (Will Poulter), in tow. Lewis' Christian themes are worn more openly here than in the last installment. But the religious allegory (which will go over the heads of most young viewers, just as it did young readers) isn't what sinks the Narnia movies. It's a lack of imagination — not exactly a sin, but still lamentable. PG for some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action. 114 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"The Company Men" — Previous movies about the country's recent economic recession, such as "Up in the Air" and the documentary "Inside Job," have championed the regular folks who got shafted and heaped due scorn on the corporate moguls who benefited nonetheless. "The Company Men" asks us to feel some sympathy for the guys on top — the executives who've luxuriated in Porsches and private jets and $500 lunches, and are suffering the pain of having all those goodies taken away. It's a tough request from John Wells, the man behind "ER" and "The West Wing," here making his feature writing and directing debut. The strength of the all-star cast — Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones and Kevin Costner — makes "The Company Men" vaguely engaging, but even watching these veterans and heavyweights banter and bounce off each other can't convince us that the characters themselves are compelling. It's not that being privileged makes them boring; being two-dimensional does. Despite the massive life changes thrust upon the film's central figures, their arcs still feel predictable. "The Company Men" focuses on three men, specifically, hit by downsizing at a Boston-area manufacturing conglomerate. R for language and brief nudity. 113 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"The Fighter" — Mark Wahlberg produces and stars, David O. Russell directs, but supporting player Christian Bale owns this real-life tale about boxer Micky Ward, who rose from his blue-collar roots and overcame ugly family squabbles to earn a title shot in his mid-30s. Bales dominates the action, much as Heath Ledger's Joker took over "The Dark Knight" from its hero, Bale's Batman. The film itself is a strange stew, a raw, genuine portrait of working-class stiffs one moment, a shrill-bordering-on- caricatured comedy of family discord and vulgar people the next. Wahlberg as Ward, Melissa Leo as his mother and Amy Adams as his girlfriend are excellent. Yet Bale is truly extraordinary as Ward's older half-brother, Dicky Eklund, a flamboyant but self-destructive former boxer who trains his sibling to climb to heights he never reached himself as his life unraveled amid crack addiction. Gaunt, wiry, always moving, always talking, Bale casts aside the stoicism of so many of his roles and becomes a lovable wreck. As with Ledger's Joker, it's the stuff that Academy Awards wins are made of. R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality. Running time: 116 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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"The Tempest" — A pedigreed cast, led by the formidable Helen Mirren and including David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou and Alfred Molina, cannot save this misguided mess. It's just too weird. And it's a waste of one of Shakespeare's richest comedies, the play that's considered his last. You want to admire director Julie Taymor for taking such risks, for trying to do something different with a classic work. And in the wildly visual style that's become her trademark through stage productions like "The Lion King" and films like "Frida," "Across the Universe" and a previous Shakespeare adaptation, "Titus," she upends and reinvents the play on many levels. The sorcerer Prospero is now Prospera, whom Mirren plays with a growl and a refreshing lack of vanity; at 65, she goes makeup-free, an exciting display of her natural beauty. But while Mirren is always more than reliable — and she clearly knows her way around Shakespeare — the gender-bending of the lead role feels like a gimmick and provides no greater meaning to the text. Here, Prospera uses her mystical powers to force her enemies to shipwreck on the island where she's been in exile for years with her daughter, Miranda (Felicity Jones). Too often the visual effects look like something that would have seemed high-tech during the early days of MTV. PG-13 for some nudity, suggestive content and scary images. 110 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"The Tourist" — It's probably best to head into this with the mindset that you're going on an actual vacation yourself. If you're in the mood for mindless, escapist fun — dazzling scenery, elegant evenings, decadent hotel suites and expensive clothes — you'll be fine. There are all the obligatory chases and shootouts you'd expect in a romantic action caper, but you never get the sense that anyone's in real danger. There are twists, but they won't make you think too terribly hard, and in the end you will have devoted fewer than two hours of your life to a decent diversion. Watching Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie bounce off each other isn't torture. Pretty people went to Venice and made a pretty movie. Joining them won't be thoroughly satisfying, but it won't kill you, either. It's probably also best not to let the esteemed pedigree of the people behind the movie trick you into expecting something way more substantive or meaningful than you're going to get. "The Tourist" is the first Hollywood film from director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, whose debut, the excellent German film "The Lives of Others," won the foreign-language Oscar in 2007. It comes from a script that's credited to Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") and Julian Fellowes ("Gosford Park"). These acclaimed talents — Oscar winners, all — have given us something unabashedly light, frothy and ridiculous — almost knowingly preposterous PG-13 for violence and brief strong language. 105 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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