Amy Adams and Matthew Goode have the charm necessary to float a romantic comedy like "Leap Year," and this is a story that needs their buoyancy. A sort of conspiracy forms between the audience and the screen: We know what has to happen, and the movie knows what has to happen, and the point is to keep us amused. "Leap Year" did better than that: It made me care. It did that by not being too obvious about what it was obviously trying to do.
"It's Complicated" is perfectly plausible if you are only willing to believe that Meryl Streep sells a whole lot of muffins. She plays a bakery and restaurant owner who lives in a sprawling hacienda on a bluff overlooking the Pacific in Santa Barbara, set on grounds approached by a sweeping circular drive. I've been to Oprah's place, which is only a little nicer. Life is sweet, although she hires an architect to give her a new kitchen. Her current one tragically has only two ovens.
My problem may be that I know Fellini's "8 1/2" too well. Your problem may be that you don't know it well enough. Both of us may be asking, who exactly was "Nine" made for? This is a big-scale version of the 1982 Broadway production, which won the Tony as best musical. It's likely that most who saw it had either seen the Fellini or made that their business.
Since Moses brought the tablets down from the mountain, lists have come in 10s - not that we couldn't have done with several more commandments. Who says a year has 10 best films, anyway? Nobody but readers, editors and most other movie critics. There was hell to pay last year when I published my list of 20 best. You'd have thought I belched at a funeral. So on this list I have devoutly limited myself to exactly 10 films. On each of two lists.
Years pass and tastes change, at least a little. In choosing their top films of the past decade, Associated Press movie critics David Germain and Christy Lemire stuck closely to their favorites from each year.
Ryan Bingham is the Organization Man for the 2000s. He never comes to the office. Technically, he doesn't have an office; he has an address where his employer has an office. His life is devoted to visiting other people's offices and firing them. "Up in the Air" takes the trust people once had in their jobs and pulls out the rug. It is a film for this time.
The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes, the more I liked "Sherlock Holmes." Yet another classic hero has been fed into the f/x mill, emerging as a modern superman. Guy Ritchie's film is filled with sensational sights, over-the-top characters and a desperate struggle atop Tower Bridge, which is still under construction. It's likely to be enjoyed by today's action fans. But block bookings are not likely from the Baker Street Irregulars.
Watching "Avatar," I felt sort of the same as when I saw "Star Wars" in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron's film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his "Titanic" was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.
What possible reason was there for anyone to make "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" Or should I say "remake," because this movie has been made over and over again, and oh, so much better. Feuding couple from Manhattan forced to flee town, find themselves Fish Out of Water in Strange New World, meet Colorful Characters, survive Slapstick Adventures, end up Together at the End. The only part of that formula that still works is The End.
Morgan Freeman has been linked to one biopic of Nelson Mandela or another for at least 10 years. Strange that the only one to be made centers on the South African rugby team. The posters for Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" feature Matt Damon in the foreground, with Freeman looming behind him in shadowy nobility. I can imagine marketing meetings during which it was lamented that few Americans care much about Mandela and Matt Damon appeals to a younger demographic.
The opening scenes of Disney's "Princess and the Frog" are like a cool shower after a long and sweaty day. This is what classic animation was like! No 3-D! No glasses! No extra ticket charge! No frantic frenzies of meaningless action! And ... good gravy! A story! Characters! A plot! It's set in a particular time and place! And it uses (calm me down here) lovingly hand-drawn animation that proceeds at a human pace, instead of racing with odd smoothness. I'm just gonna stand here and let it pour over me.
A man in his 60s after the death of his wife is a leaky ship without a bailer. Frank Goode has everything above deck shipshape, but he's sinking. The garden is his pride and joy. Everything inside is mopped, scrubbed, polished, dusted, arranged and alphabetized. He buys big steaks and a new electric grill to cook them on. He selects a wine with the advice of a clueless stock boy. He reclines in his lawn chair on his manicured lawn and awaits the arrival of his four children.
"Brothers" is the new film by Jim Sheridan, a director who has a sure hand with stories about families ("In America," "In the Name of the Father," "The Boxer"). This one is about a family twisted from its natural form when the father leaves for service in Afghanistan just after his brother comes home from prison. The good brother goes into harm's way while the bad brother is shielded by his own misbehavior.
Some artists have a way of riveting your vision with the certitude of what they do. This has nothing to do with subject or style. It's inexplicable. Andy Warhol and Grandma Moses. The spareness of Bergman and the Fellini circus. Wes Anderson is like that. There's nothing consistent about his recent work but its ability to make me go ZOOINNG! What else do "The Darjeeling Limited" and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" have in common?
"Old Dogs" is stupefyingly dimwitted. What were John Travolta and Robin Williams THINKING of? Apparently, their agents weren't perceptive enough to smell the screenplay in its advanced state of decomposition, but wasn't there a loyal young intern in the office to catch them at the elevator and whisper, "You've paid too many dues to get involved with such crap at this stage in your careers."