I’m pretty well caught up on new releases so I took a big fat vacation from movies and the computer this weekend. I’d planned to catch up with Mission Impossible and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but it’s going to be a slow week between now and New Years so I’ll get up to speed then.

That is literally all I have to kick off The Watercooler this week, but don’t let that stop you from chiming in with your own movie related adventures. Christmas is one of the bigger movie going days of the year and there’s a lot of new stuff floating around out there. Or maybe you were holed up with friends and family and you bellied up to some classic favorites. Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act…?

19 Responses to “Holiday Hangover”

  1. The week prior to Christmas typically included a slew of movie theatre visits and a DVD at home viewing of an essential film that will be opening in theatres on December 30. It also included a charity concert of Christmas songs from some distinguished Broadway alumni at the Symphony Space on Broadway and 91st Street.

    Lucille and I (and some of the kids) saw six films, five of those in movie theatres:

    A Separation **** 1/2 (Saturday) at home on plasma

    The Adventures of Tin Tin ** (Thursday night) Edgewater multiplex

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ** (Wednesday night) Edgewater multiplex

    War Horse **** 1/2 (Sunday night) Edgewater multiplex

    Margaret **** 1/2 (Friday night) Cinema Village

    Pina **** 1/2 (Saturday night) IFC Film Center

    Note: As always my four-and-a-half star ratings are ‘holding patterns’ to see what a really feel in a few days. A few might go up or down a half star pending further reflection. It is exceedingly difficult to attach a grade immediately.

    The Iranian A SEPARATION is a shattering drama of accidents destroying the family dynamics in a searing study of human failings and the guilt that can be sorted out on both sides of a destructive row. Another case where Iranian cinema has successfully achieved a universal resonance and is engineered with remarkable artistry. Electrifying performances by the entire cast. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO eventually seques into narrative convolutions, and despite David Fincher’s stylistics, it’s a film a dubious and unltimately forgettable context. THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN is bland and listless, and devoid of emotional connection with the animated characters. MARGARET may have some minor inconsistencies, but it is truly a brilliant and fascinating look at life in the city ands the turmoil that is caused when a female high school student witnesses a fatal accident. Anna Paquin is stupendous in the lead, and despite some studio interference, Kenneth Lonnergan’s work is too often arresting, with some unforgettable scenes. The documentary PINA is a magnificent. It’s an enthralling, ravishing work of avante garde cinema that takes the viewer to exhilarating heights never before experienced in it’s rapturous and provocative examination of a world famous dancer who passed on suddenly as the project was moving forward. Wenders took a new tact while staying the course, and the result is a spirit and suggestiveness that manifests itself into some of the extraordinary set pieces of time, space, movement ever filmed in the service of an art form. This is hands down the greatest use of 3D of all-time during the same year that Herzog and Scorsese expanded the form. So much of what I saw last night at a Christmas Eve showing at the IFC Film Center (yes I still got to spend the majority of the evening with my family! LOL!) is presently indescribable. I sent out an e mail to some of inner circle here proclaiming it as a five-star movie late Saturday night, but I have since relented to four-and-one-half. Still a top ten placement is practically a cinch. WAR HORSE, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and the Broadway stage play is as emotional a film as I’ve seen in years. I await the onslaught from the anti-Spielberg claque here at WitD and elsewhere in the blogosphere where I know some will be snubbing their noses, but it’s a clear case where the American master purposely played for sentiment in a story that practically demands it, and he pulls it off with some sumptuous visual artistry, buffo battles scenes and the intimacy that this story encourages. There are some stylistic homages here, and John Williams has surprisingly contributed one of his most affecting scores against all odds. This is one of 2011’s best films, and I applaud Steven for wearing his heart on his sleeve. It suited this material to a tee. I will be penning a full review on the film this week for the site. In a week where I saw three other excellent films (MARGARET, A SEPARATION and PINA) yet insist on going with a photo of Spielberg’s film, well I think that speaks for itself.

  2. We revisited all the Thin Man movies on TCM this week.

    And saw Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows in the theater.

    That’s it for me.

  3. I too saw Sherlock Holmes: Gamey Shadows, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first one. My only negatives are that the plot is once again preposterous and Noomi Rapace really isn’t utilized much, but otherwise this was a damn good time. Jude Law and RDjr expand upon their enjoyable chemistry, Jared Harris is an exceptional Moriarty, Stephen Fry steals virtually all his scenes, and Guy Ritchie proves he is the Jedi master of speed ramped/slo-mo action shots (leaving the pedestrian Zach Snyder in his dust once again).

    Recommended!

  4. I saw Ghost Protocol a few days ago. Basically it’s MI: III made by someone wth more filmic personality. The plot is meaningless, but the set pieces are terrific, and Hitchcock would’ve been proud of that long Dubai seequence. Also one of Tom Cruise’s best performances, I’vee always found Ethan Hunt to be a somewhat uncomfortable fit for the star, but he figures it out here. The team dynamic is also more satisying here than usual. An extremely entertaining action picutre.

    Also saw the Jim Carrey/Robert Zemeckis Christmas Carol for the first time. Just about loved this one, and I’m not typically fond of Zemeckis’s animation experiments. It’s a refreshingly chilly take on the story (you wouldn’t know from most most adaptations that the source material is dryly, mordantly funny) and Carrey is fantastic.

  5. I’ve heard that the new Sherlock is better than the first one so plan to see it.

    I caught up with old films — Zodiac, Bourne Ultimatum, and a new one — Margin Call, which was oddly interesting. I’ve never seen Kevin Spacey quite like this.

    Am anxious to see Pina and Margaret — and, despite Sam’s urging, narrowly missed the final local screening of Tomboy.

  6. @Pierre: SH2 is being savaged by many critics, so let me reiterate that the plot is preposterous and the whole element of Holmes being able to mentally deduce/predict a long series of actions in a fight sequence is once again beaten into the ground here. That said, I had fun and I laughed harder and more often at the comedy here than in MI4 (although the MI4 action scenes are better to be sure).

  7. My family and I used to go to movies on Christmas when I was younger (like, before I could even talk), so I decided this year that, even if I went by myself, I would see something in theaters. I went to go see WAR HORSE. Couldn’t tell you how it was, though. It was sold out everywhere I went.

  8. I saw War Horse today and I enjoyed it, as did the packed house I saw it with, if the tears and applause were any indication.

    I also saw The Artist, and I can’t really understand how this is ending up on anyone’s Top Ten, let alone the top spot. I nearly walked out of the theater when Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo score started playing. The ending was alright, but wow…I just don’t get the appeal of this trite feature-length cliche.

  9. That’s quite a lineup Sam, and we’re totally on the same page with Separation, War Horse, Margaret and Pina. I liked Tintin for what it was better than you, but that’s not one I’m going to come to blows over. I too wish it had been better.

    Alison, the Christmas morning scene in the first Thin Man makes it a beloved holiday favorite around LiC this time of year. Ugh… there’s just now way this rumored remake is going to be any good.

    As an RDJ fan, what’d you think of Sherlock?

    Joel, how would you compare Sherlock 2 to the first one? I fell asleep during #1 and walked out though I’ll allow it may have had more to do with me being tired than the movie itself.

    Pierre. Yet another solid review for Margin Call. I really have no excuse not to catch up with this one. I’m not sure I’ve heard a bad thing about it. H

    How did Zodiac hold up? I’ve been thinking of watching it to wash the taste of Dragon Tattoo out of my mouth.

    Chuck on MI4 “The plot is meaningless, but the set pieces are terrific, and Hitchcock would’ve been proud of that long Dubai seequence. Also one of Tom Cruise’s best performances” SOLD! That’s pretty much all I want/need it to be.

    Interesting too that you liked Christmas Carol. It’s not the first time I’ve heard good things about it. I’ve steered clear of it, but maybe I should have another look.

    Free, Christmas morning is one of my favorite times to go to the movies and apparently it has become everyone else’s favorite too. Did you try earlier in the morning or later in the evening to go? I’d be shocked if like the 10am shows had been sold out since most people are still doing the Holiday thing at that time.

    having said that, I didn’t make it to the theater Sunday morning as planned so I don’t know.

    haha “trite feature length cliche” I still liked The Artist, but the irony for me is that it’s not any more clever than the OSS 117 movies those guys made (which is to say really not very, but fun for about 15 minutes until the novelty wears off), but it’s being elevated to greatness because it’s riffing off of a more culturally credible genre than spy pictures. Easy lay critics can enjoy it while feeling like they’re doing cultural heavy lifting because it’s a fake silent film. I just hope Oscar doesn’t make the same mistake, but they’re prone to that sort of behavior. Easy movies that make them feel smart.

  10. How did Zodiac hold up?

    Since this was the 1st time I’d seen it, I have nothing to compare it to. I was captivated by it, was struck by Graysmith’s obsession, Ruffalo’s cop, and RDJ’s reporter. Atmospherics were great.

    Margin Call avoids cliches and preachiness for the most part and doesn’t take the cheap way out — meaning there aren’t any despicable characters the audience can pile onto for blame.

  11. Joel, I’m unhappy to hear about The Artist. I plan to see it in the next few days.

    Happy about War Horse. People seem to like it even though I still have my doubts. I managed to catch up with a couple of films over the last few days.

    The Ides of March – loved it but I can’t possibly see such a political film getting an Oscar. Even a couple of noms will be a lot. It is a pretty rough portrayal of reality. Still, one of my favorites of the year :-)

    Midnight in Paris – my favorite film of the year so far :-) The plot is original and fresh, Allen is a very crafty director and yet he lets the actors to do their thing, love the long shots, the lack of narrator is also a plus and the whole cast is terrific. Gotta love Michael Sheen – he is so different for every role, one can hardly recognize it is him playing.

    That’s all from me this week. :-)

  12. Three cheers for Midnight in Paris!! It is also one of my favorite movies of the year and I keep saying if awards are going to go to a “lighter” film this year, I pick MiP over Artist, or Moneyball or Descendants.

    STILL haven’t seen Ides of March. I know, I suck.

    The key I think to The Artist is going in with no expectations. People really loved it at Cannes because they didn’t know anything about it. Subsequent festival audiences met it under similar circumstances and that’s where buzz started to grow. By the time it’s making it to most theaters, it’s all over Top 10 lists and being trumpeted as an Oscar favorite. I don’t think it belongs in the awards conversation, but it’s still an interesting and well done pic in my book.

  13. @PiroHunter: You may like The Artist a lot. A whole lot, if virtually all other opinion is any indication. I was left cold by it, and offended by the use of the Vertigo score. I honestly don’t see what the fuss was about it. I can see some of the things people are praising, but for the most part I felt it is absurdly overrated. It did inspire me to revisit Vertigo this evening, so I’ll give it that.

    @Craig: Sherlock 2 is better than Sherlock 1, in the way that some sequels improve over the original simply by not being encumbered with introducing an audience to their cast/setting/world. It’s not perfect, but it was good popcorn and more entertaining than I expected. I think RDjr and Jude Law fans will find a lot to be pleased with.

  14. People were frustrated with Zodiac when it first came out because it basically denies you all the pleasures of a serial killer mystery thriller, but if you want that, than just watch Seven. This is not that movie. It’s more about mood and about this looming sense that there is really no truth and that good does not always triumph over evil. It was as much about the 1970s as it was about the Zodiac killer, really.

  15. Having lived in California for so long, Craig, I knew the ending of Zodiac wouldn’t be an aha moment — and the obsession part (Graysmith character) and other things made up for that. I just thought it was really well made.

  16. You’ll get no argument from me on that score. It’s obliqueness and lack of resolution were two of the things that make it great in my book.

  17. Craig, I’m going to second joel’s description: preposterous plot and Holmes’s mental deducing/predicting of a long series of actions in a fight sequence is beaten into the ground but the two guys have such great chemistry as Holmes and Watson, and they’re really hilarious together. I particularly like Jude Law as Watson – it’s a great fit for him.

  18. How would you compare it to the first one?

    I do enjoy Downey and Law, but I think I’d prefer to see them in something a little more substantial. Downey especially seems to be milking the blockbusters a little too much lately. He generally does it well, but he’s capable of so much more.

  19. I liked both movies, but maybe this one a little better. It was a lot of fun. Stephen Frye is hilarious in it.

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