Movies in Theaters on Friday, December 16, 2011
The holidays get a warm-up weekend with the further bromantic adventures of Holmes & Watson, the latest Oscar-grabber from the exiled Roman Polanski, a tribute to the one producer in Hollywood who always knew how to stretch a dollar and an early IMAX release for the latest impossible mission of Ethan Hunt and company. Which will you grace with your attendance?
The new Mission: Impossible movie gets an IMAX release five days before it hits "normal" theaters. M:i is a curious franchise; as this is the fourth film in a series that's spanned over 15 years, it's certainly not very prolific, nor has it ever had an installment that could truly be considered great. However, like the Alien series before it, it's had the good fortune of being able to basically reinvent itself with every single chapter thanks to having a different director call the shots on each one. Brian De Palma's 1996 original had terrific action and the director's trademark playful camerawork but was criticized for having a too-complex plot; John Woo's ultra-stylish sequel (2000) was subsequently all flash and no story. J.J. Abrams' Mission: Impossible III surprised everyone by being the most solid entry in both script and spectacle, but it lacked a sense of awe and wonder -- it's like Abrams forgot the "Impossible" part of the title. Now that star Tom Cruise has hit middle age (and is in need of a hit) and Abrams is too busy with keeping Star Trek alive, where do we go from here? Bring in Brad Bird, the director of The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, for his live-action feature film debut, and Jeremy Renner, poised to take over the franchise if the pushing-50 Cruise decides to throw in the towel after this one. We can't wait to see the results.
Guy Ritchie's retro-steampunk take on Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant sleuth and the clue-filled world he inhabits surprised pretty much everyone a couple of years ago when it ended up being a huge hit -- and of course Warner Bros., that most exclusive club-like of the major studios, immediately greenlit a sequel for its new golden boy director. The best asset of the original Sherlock Holmes was the spot-on chemistry between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, both perfectly cast as the Holmes and Watson for 21st-century audiences; their playfully antagonistic relationship helped smooth over some of Ritchie's indulgences, like the overuse of sudden frame speed changes that he's been inexplicably wallowing in since his 1998 debut, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Downey Jr. and Law will certainly see things through once again, though what might make A Game of Shadows better than its predecessor is this time the duo is joined by equally strong supporting players, including original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace as their pickpocket ally and Jared Harris as Holmes' classic nemesis, Professor Moriarty. It's elementary -- and beyond!
Roman Polanski must be pretty irked that last year's The Ghost Writer went largely ignored by both critics and audiences, 'cause he hasn't been this quick with a follow-up project since the '70s. Carnage looks like it's set to be another multiple Oscar contender, something Polanski hasn't delivered since 2002's The Pianist, but we expect not even brilliant exiled child rapists can deliver a super-winner every single time. Carnage is something of a chamber piece as it follows two couples (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster/Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) whose cordial get-together after their respective sons get into a fight at school self-destructs into an evening of bizarre and childish behavior; if either Foster or Winslet reveals that she's pregnant with Satan's spawn at any point, you'll know Polanski is remembering the good ol' days before he got caught with his pants down. This runs a down and dirty 79 minutes, but expect every single second to be filled with A-list acting that's worth every cent of the admission ticket.
He made movies fast, cheap and cool‚ and we can't believe it's taken this long for someone to make a documentary about him. Corman's World gives homage to one of the most prolific, smartest and -- perhaps most importantly -- cost-conscious movie producers in the history of the medium. Corman wasn't just the guy behind such lovable B-movies as Attack of the Crab Monsters and Creature From the Haunted Sea; he was also the mentor to many young film directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Curtis Hanson and John Sayles and helped launch the careers of Jack Nicholson, William Shatner, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire and Robert De Niro. Many of the people listed here make appearances in this documentary, as do filmmakers who have been inspired by Corman's work ethic such as Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth and Paul W.S. Anderson. It is, indeed, Corman's World -- and we all watch movies in it.