Picks and Pans Main: Movies
Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams | R |
The Fighter? As in, there’s only one? Not on your life. This yarn about Massachusetts boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) is stuffed with brawlers looking to throw down. Start with Micky’s brother Dicky (the astonishing Bale), a has-been boxer who has every intention of training his kid brother to win a title-right after he gets high. Then there’s momager Alice (Melissa Leo), a ferociously self-serving broad with seven daughters as quick with their fists as their brothers. But fiercest of all is Micky’s girlfriend Charlene, played by Adams as if it were her mission in life to reinvent the term badass. They all want Micky to win, but their constant drama just drags a brother down, even if it keeps the audience entranced and howling with laughter. If there’s a quibble it’s that Micky is so quiet he gets lost in all the boisterous jostling. Maybe Wahlberg’s costars simply make more of their delightfully colorful roles than he does-after all, we know he can play a Boston-vicinity tough guy in his sleep. Or maybe, as the film’s executive producer, he just knows when to step back and let a first-rate supporting cast do the work.
Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde | PG |
Tron: Legacy is the most arresting bit of tech trickery since Avatar, and it’s always a pleasure to spend time with Bridges. Sadly, now I’ve used up all my compliments, because the movie is so dazzled by its neon visuals and so reliant on fans’ love of the ’82 cult original, it forgets to tell a satisfying story. Bridges returns as gaming genius Kevin Flynn, trapped for two decades in his own digital domain and shocked to see his son Sam (Hedlund) lured in after him. The pair, with Wilde in tow as a naive cyberbabe-in-the-woods, try to outrace evil overlord Clu (a younger, creepily digitized Bridges) to a portal to escape to the outside world. There’s an odd resonance in Kevin’s scenes with Clu, but not enough emotional heft to patch a threadbare plot. Ultimately Tron: Legacy has killer looks, but it doesn’t touch.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes | PG |
REVIEWED BY J.D. HEYMAN
For children, C.S. Lewis’ series about a fantasy world of talking animals is pure magic, not a lesson in Christian theology. Adults watching the third big-screen Narnia adaptation-lushly realized by director Michael Apted-will get that Aslan the lion is an awful lot like a certain carpenter from Bethlehem. Kids will just be swept away with three English moppets on a quest for … well, truth, light and goodness. Dawn Treader lacks a decent baddie; instead characters fight evil in the form of anxiety-producing green mist. That, and a slimy sea monster, may be too much for little ones. But an engaging cast led by the dewy-eyed Henley, talking mouse Reepicheep, a melancholy dragon and regal Aslan himself (voiced by Liam Neeson), make this a voyage worth taking.
Helen Mirren, David Strathairn, Alfred Molina | PG-13 |
Rarely is such talent assembled for so richly embarrassing a project. It’s heartbreaking to watch Mirren as the gender-reversed Prospera, muddling her way through director Julie Taymor’s inept Shakespeare adaptation. (It’s not Taymor’s month: Her Broadway musical Spider-Man has had epic preopening troubles.) Once ruler of Milan and now a banished sorceress, Prospera shipwrecks her enemies, then toys with them like puppets. The actors do their best, but Molina and Russell Brand’s scenes with Djimon Hounsou (as obsequious slave Caliban) are cringe-inducing, while Strathairn is wasted. The only lasting impression is of the cheesy late-’80s-MTV special effects that turn a classic into camp in under two hours. Oh well-I guess every decade needs its Flash Gordon.
The Company Men
Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Rosemarie DeWitt | R |
We’re supposed to weep for laid-off salesman Bobby (Affleck). Maybe tears will fall after he sells his Porsche and McMansion and gets a job working construction. But Company Men feels late to the downsizing conversation, offering entitled characters who don’t even have it as bad as folks we know.