Prepare for blasphemy. I’m about to give one the most beloved/critically acclaimed/award-buzzed films of the year a lower score than a Tom Cruise movie, in this installment of Reviews in a Line or
Dir: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Denzel Washington
I tagged along to the theater with my dad to see this and knew next to nothing about it going in, except that a plane crash played a major part in the story. I was very surprised by it, having gone in expecting more of an action film rather than a character study of an addict. I can’t say I’d buy the film – I may not even watch it a second time – but I was impressed by Denzel’s performance and pleasantly surprised by the film overall.
The score: 3/5
Dir: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn and Tommy Lee Jones
I went into this expecting a bit of a slow-burning drama that would paint Lincoln in a very good light. It met those expectations and did a great job of humanizing the legendary President, as well as planting the focus firmly in a governmental process rather than your typical over-the-top Civil War battle scenes. I enjoyed it very much, though I think Tommy Lee Jones completely stole the show and I wouldn’t mind seeing an entire movie focused on his character. The score: 4/5
Les Miserables (2012)
Dir: Tom Hooper
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, etc.
I’m still on the fence about this film. I’ve never seen any of the stage incarnations of it, and I’ve never completely read the novel that serves as the source for both, so I went into this with absolutely no reference point. I liked some of the performances, namely Samantha Barks, Aaron Tviet and Isabelle Allen. I liked some of the musical numbers – “Look Down” and “Master of the House” are standouts. That being said, the film as a whole didn’t impress me as much as I expected with all of the critical acclaim. The “Let’s sing every single bit of dialogue” style got a little bit obnoxious eventually – and this is coming from a person who usually loves musicals. This aspect of the film left my sister and I in stitches, imagining our every day lives playing out in song – songs arguing about what we’d eat for dinner, whose turn it was to take the dog out, etc. Contrary to some reviews, I liked the fact that the vocals weren’t polished. I felt that it gave the characters a bit more of a realistic edge. Your average French prostitute or con man is not going have a perfect voice in real life. But with the film as a whole, I wasn’t wowed.
The score: 2.8/5
Jack Reacher (2012)
Dir: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, etc.
I enjoyed this one a whole lot more than I expected to. I didn’t find the casting of Tom Cruise problematic. I get that the fans of the novels want a loyal adaptation – I’ve been there! – but I think it’s unfair to dismiss the film over one casting decision. Despite his short stature, he pretty well suits the “tough guy” characters he seems to like playing, and he has a lot of screen presence here. And let’s face it: it’s a heck of a lot more entertaining to watch a short guy beat up four foes than it is to watch a guy who has the advantage of being a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than those foes. Channing Tatum or The Rock, two beefier actors, could have been cast… but would their performances really have been any better due to a few extra inches of legs and/or muscle circumference? Cruise also plays well against Rosamund Pike, and the “dirty cops and mob-like, corrupt businessmen” aspect of the story works despite its typicality. I’m kind of digging the recent influx of action/thriller films that have enough “shoot ’em up” quality for my dad to enjoy (we go to the theater together a lot) while also having enough of a plot to keep me happy.
The (somewhat generous, bolstered by the fact that I usually don’t enjoy action flicks as much) score: 4/5