Monday, November 29, 2010


Review: Tangled
4.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

I'd often wondered why Disney, a studio that's pretty much cornered the market on fairy-tale princesses, never took a stab at adapting “Rapunzel,” a Brothers Grimm fable with all the happily-ever-after ingredients of “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Cinderella.” Turns out Disney was saving the tale of the long-haired tower-dweller to serve as the basis for its 50th animated feature. It's hard to imagine the wait being more worth it. Retooled and retitled to appeal to a broader, more contemporary audience, “Rapunzel” finally arrives as “Tangled,” a classic crowd-pleaser that's spiked with attitude and beautifully marries old-school and new-school animation. An end-to-end delight, it's my favorite animated film of 2010.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
2.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Did my appreciation for the Harry Potter saga's ever-darkening maturity just turn around and slap me in the face? Watching last year's gorgeous game-changer “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” I marveled at the sheer lack of “Sorcerer's Stone”-style childishness, fully convinced that director David Yates was poised to lead me down a grown-up path I could finally follow. But with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,” the first half of the last chapter of the lengthy wizard opus, Yates, who's been around since “Order of the Phoenix,” jumps to extremes and abandons all sense of joy, excitement, cohesion and, worst of all, pacing. It's as if he and the series' screenwriter, Steve Kloves, grew determined to twist this penultimate installment into some sort of brooding, arty, European think piece, which J.K. Rowling's material, however rich, simply can't support. Looking on while this 146-minute movie dragged its blistered feet, I realized the filmmakers I'd hailed for putting away childish things had in fact created a monster.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Review: Monsters
4.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

If you're looking for a balls-to-the-wall creature feature that blows millions of dollars on flashy effects, you can always buy a ticket to “Skyline.” But if you want to see a genre picture stealthily served up as an arthouse drama, or an indie that makes extraordinary use of its shoestring budget, you need look no further than “Monsters,” the feature debut of British CGI artist Gareth Edwards. A true multi-talent, Edwards wrote, directed and shot the film, which through his dexterous handling looks pristine and expensive. Not expensive, mind you, in a “Skyline” sort of way, but in a manner that reflects a force more powerful than big-studio backing: the creativity of a filmmaker eager and able to reach terrific ends with meager means. The irony alone is just delicious: a former CGI artist makes a monster movie that leaves CGI as an afterthought, and is instead defined by handsome photography and the art of not showing. Just when you thought “Cloverfield” was the “Blair Witch” of sci-fi, “Monsters” proves it was just another blockbuster.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Movie Review: Fair Game
4 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Valerie Plame, the CIA agent who was wrongfully outed in 2003 after her husband ruffled the government's feathers with a probing New York Times editorial, is about the least interesting thing in “Fair Game,” a political thriller adapted from Plame's memoir that positions her as the central character. As played by Naomi Watts, in an irritatingly overacted performance, Plame is seen as a backstabbed do-gooder who's blank and boilerplate. Her efforts to balance espionage and domesticity are intriguing (as they always are in the movies), but she has little inner life save a supposed impenetrable patriotism. What takes precedent is everything that's swirling around her – a tornado of post-9/11, wartime wheelings and dealings whose jagged debris still gets under the skin today. As Plame's husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), observes in the movie, what was done to Plame wasn't so much an offense against her and her family, but part of a myriad of governmental offenses against the American public. That's what makes the movie so engrossing – not the struggle of one, but the retrospective fury of many.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
3 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Since the Swedish-made adaptations of Stieg Larsson's “Millenium” books have largely succeeded in dodging the typical franchise tropes, those who've been following the trilogy should have known it wouldn't go out with a blockbuster-style bang. But did it have to go out with such a whimper? High off the enticing introductions and fierce attitude of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and the sustained vigor and raised stakes of “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” viewers walking into returning director Daniel Alfredson's “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest” are in for a major buzzkill. Like its predecessors, this third and final chapter of the saga of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is never short on intelligence; however, it's long on tedium and pace-slowing chatter, and it makes the grave mistake of consistently tucking away its greatest commodity.