The Artist

The Weinstein Company

Rated PG-13 for a crude gesture and a disturbing image.

Fading Star Falls for Emerging Ingénue in B&W Homage to Silent Era

It is 1927, and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the height of a flourishing career as a matinee idol. But that is also the year marking the introduction of talkies, an innovation that would soon signal the demise of the Silent Era.

Unfortunately, George is too pampered and insulated to appreciate the fact that sound is about to overhaul the movie industry, so he is caught by surprise when his services as a leading man are no longer in demand. Then, between the sudden loss of income and the Stock Market Crash of 1929, he ends up losing not only all his money but his shallow wife (Penelope Ann Miller) to boot.

After moving from a sprawling mansion to a modest apartment, George lays off the longtime chauffeur (James Cromwell) he can no longer afford. At this point, the dejected has-been feels like his only friend in the world is the Jack Russell Terrier (Uggie) that continues to love him unconditionally.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Hollywood, the fortunes of an emerging ingénue cut a sharp contrast to those of the fading film star. Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) owes a debt of gratitude to George who, despite an ugly rumor circulating in the tabloids, had still cast her as his dance partner in one of his pictures when she was just another unknown aspiring actress.

Although sparks had flown between the two on the set back then, nothing had become of the mutual admiration. However, now with Peppy on top of the world, the question is whether she will forget about the down-on-his-luck icon who had once given her a big break.

So unfolds The Artist, a silent, black & white throwback, which unabashedly harks back to a bygone era. This cinematic masterpiece very eloquently endeavors to entertain while simultaneously chronicling a critical moment in the evolution of the art form. As such, it will undoubtedly prove to be a formidable force during awards season.

A silent love song that anyone who adores film can nonetheless hear, loud and clear!

Excellent (4 stars).

Running time: 100 minutes.

 

The Iron Lady

The Weinstein Company

Rated PG-13 for violent images and brief nudity.

Streep Delivers Oscar-Quality Performance Impersonating Brit PM

Over the course of her illustrious career, Meryl Streep has landed more Academy Award nominations (16 and counting) than any other thespian in history. Blessed not only with an enviable emotional range but also a knack for feigning foreign accents and regional dialects, the versatile actress has repeatedly demonstrated an uncanny ability to disappear into whatever role she’s been asked to play.

Such is again the case with The Iron Lady, a comprehensive biopic about Margaret Thatcher, who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990. The movie was directed by Phyllida Lloyd, who previously collaborated with Streep in 2008 for Mamma Mia!

Meryl will undoubtedly garner another well-deserved Oscar nomination for her spot-on impersonation of the imperious icon’s public persona, from the pursed lips to the steely demeanor to the haughty tone of voice. She further rose to the challenge of a demanding assignment, which also called for her to capture the character’s recent descent into dementia, a dotage that has ostensibly been marked by hallucinations and semi-lucid ramblings.

Unfortunately, Streep’s sterling performance here has been squandered in service of an overambitious screenplay by Abi Morgan, which attempts to bite off more than it could possibly chew in less than two hours. As a result, the film fails to do justice to the touchstones in Thatcher’s life and career, tending to tease rather than address the material in-depth.

Constructed as a series of flashbacks, it takes superficial looks at everything from her coming of age during World War II to her college days at Oxford to her marriage to Denis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent) to their starting a family to her developing a feminist consciousness to her entering politics. The bulk of the film’s focus is devoted to her tempestuous tenure at Number 10 Downing Street, a period marked by both domestic and international unrest courtesy of the Irish Republican Army and a war in the Falkland Islands, respectively.

Overall, this empathetic portrait paints the Prime Minister as a headstrong conservative as dedicated to her family as to her country. But by the film’s end, we really haven’t learned much memorably about Maggie beyond her enduring love for the devoted husband who predeceased her.

A potentially underwhelming production elevated singlehandedly by another tour de force turned in by the ever-astounding Meryl Streep.

Very Good (3 stars).

Running time: 105 minutes.

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

 

For movies opening January 13, 2012

 

Beauty And The Beast (G). 3D re-release of Disney’s animated 1991 adventure about a beautiful young woman (Paige O’Hara) imprisoned in a castle by a hideous monster (Robbie Benson) who turns out to be a prince. Voice cast includes Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach and Jo Anne Worley.

 

Contraband (R for violence, drug use and pervasive profanity). Mark Wahlberg stars in this remake of Reyjavik-Rotterdam, the 2008 crime caper about a reformed felon who agrees to pull one last heist (a million-dollar job in Panama) to help his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) pay off a debt owed to a ruthless mobster (Giovanni Ribisi). With Kate Beckinsale, J.K. Simmons and Ben Foster.

 

Don’t Go In The Woods (Unrated). Attrition-rate horror flick about a rock band that retreats with groupies into the forest to write some new songs only to end-up the target of a mallet-wielding maniac. Featuring Bo Boddie, Eric Bogosian, Kate O’Malley and Casey Smith.

 

Joyful Noise (PG-13 for profanity and a sexual reference). Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton co-star in this musical comedy, set in small-town Georgia, about a widow and single-mom who grudgingly join forces to help their church choir rehearse for a national gospel competition. With Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan, Kris Kristofferson and Courtney B. Vance.

 

Albatross (Unrated). Coming-of-age drama, set on the Isle of Man, about an aspiring writer (Jessica Brown Findlay) who takes a job as a maid at a seaside hotel where she proceeds to have an affair with her boss’ (Julia Ormond) husband (Sebastian Koch) while befriending the couple’s teenage daughter (Felicity Jones). With Peter Vaughan, Angus Barnett and Kenneth Collard.

 

The Divide (Unrated). Apocalyptic sci-fi thriller about nine tenants of an NYC high-rise attempt to survive a nuclear attack barricaded in their building’s basement bunker. Ensemble cast includes Rosanna Arquette, Courtney B. Vance and Milo Ventimiglia.

 

Loosies (PG-13 for violence, profanity and sexuality). Baby daddy dramedy set in NYC about a career pickpocket (Peter Facinelli) on the run from the bunko squad who finds himself forced to rethink his line of work after learning that a barfly (Jaimie Alexander) with whom he had a one-night stand is expecting his baby. With Michael Madsen, Joe Pantoliano and William Forsythe.

 

Man On A Mission (Unrated). Space Camp documentary chronicling computer game inventor Richard Garriott’s fulfilling a lifelong dream by purchasing a $30 million seat aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket launch.

 

Robinson In Ruins (Unrated). Eco documentary narrated by Vanessa Redgrave that takes you on a cinematic tour of abandoned castles and factories scattered across Southern England’s landscape in order to illustrate the toll that civilization has taken on the environment.

 

We Need To Talk About Kevin (R for violence, disturbing behavior, sexuality and profanity). Ezra Miller plays the troubled title character in the screen adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s sobering bestseller about a Columbine-like high school massacre. With Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Siobhan Fallon.

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