David Fincher applies his customarily precise and icy style to the graphically violent and sexually depraved Swedish noir The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and gets a transformative, revelatory performance out of Rooney Mara, who burns up the screen with intrigue, sexual energy, and more attitude than you can shake a stick at.
The Sitter is mostly a waste of David Gordon Green’s talents but still delivers some deranged laughs courtesy of Jonah Hill’s impeccable comic timing and Sam Rockwell’s bizarre gay body-builder baddie.
Sherlock Holmes 2 is more of the same, so if you liked the first one (like me), you’ll likely enjoy this one (as I did); it’s nothing revolutionary, just a solid action programmer.
The Adventures of Tintin is a rip-roaring, can’t-catch-its-breath adventure that finds Steven Spielberg back (quite comfortably) in Indiana Jones mode and delivering the escapist thrills like a consummate pro (the edit-free chase through Morocco was brilliant).
The Artist is neither as good as its most ardent supporters claim it to be, nor as overrated as many of its detractors are conversely stating; simply put, it’s a nice little throwback to a simpler time and a true celebration of movies as a visual artform.
A Dangerous Method finds David Cronenberg going period for the first time in a while and tells the psychologically intriguing true story of Freud (Viggo Mortensen, sly as always) and Jung (Michael Fassbender, intense as always) and how the two men agreed and disagreed over their professions and personal lives; Keira Knightley is electrifying as the woman who challenges Jung’s beliefs.
War Horse is essentially Old Yeller with (fairly) epic WWI battle scenes and a horse instead of a dog, monumentally sentimental and over-the-top-Hollywood; the ravishing cinematography and the head-scratching horse logistics and stunts are the best aspects.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the most satisfying big-budget, pure action film of 2011, a triumphant live-action debut for director Brad Bird, and a further reminder that Tom Cruise (aka God) is the greatest movie star of the last 30 years.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a bold and powerful family drama that directly confronts the horrors of 9/11 head-on and contains a startling and highly effective debut performance from teenager Thomas Horn.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is probably the best spy film I’ve ever seen, so densely plotted and intricately assembled that even after two viewings I’m not 100% sure of all of the particulars; what I do know is that I can’t wait to see it again and that Gary Oldman was sublime.
Young Adult is as nasty and chilly as a dark comedy can get and features two of the best performances of the year (Charlize Theron as a monumental bitch and Patton Oswalt as a monumental sad-sack); we’re a long way from Juno territory (Cody is writer, Reitman the director), which is a good thing.
Shame is a riveting, epic exploration of sex and a fractured mind (Michael Fassbender in a towering performance as a man falling completely apart), with bravura direction from Steve McQueen, who is in full-on Kubrick mode here; this is a work of art -- pure cinema -- fully earning its NC-17 rating, and demanding the attention of any serious moviegoer.