‘prisoners,’ ‘wadjda’ And Other New Movies, Reviewed

On Movies: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ‘Don Jon’: Getting past that objectification thing

Photograph by: Paramount Pictures/GK Films , handout The year in movies will be remembered as a year of apocalypse: the colliding planets of Melancholia, the gathering (and perhaps imaginary) storm of Take Shelter, the vicious rebellion of monkeys in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the peaceful reunion at the other side of the river in The Tree of Life, plus various other assorted explosions, battles, and whatever Michael Bay might have been up to. But the best films were movies about something more lighthearted. They were movies about the movies: the glory of silent films and the imagination of the earliest filmmakers. The world wasn’t ending in 2012. It was just looking back. 1. The Artist: An enchanting and unusual film – a black-and-white silent movie – that will have you tap-dancing out of the theatre. French director Michel Hazanavicius borrows from several Hollywood legends and prototypes (including A Star Is Born, Singing in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard) for this ingenious fable about a silent star whose career fades with the advent of talkies and a young starlet who sees her celebrity explode at the same time. It’s a tribute to artful silent cinema, but it’s also a sweet love story that is wonderfully told in the faces (including that of a terrific Jack Russell terrier named Uggy) of its charming cast. 2. Hugo: Martin Scorsese redefines 3-D in this astonishing family film about a young orphan who lives in the clock tower of a Paris train station in 1930.

“I always was picturing Scarlett playing this part. . . . And she brought so much more to it than I even thought she would, but I was pretty confident that she would be great. I was a fan of her work from Lost in Translation and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Man Who Wasn’t There. And even her hosting Saturday Night Live – she’s great, and not every movie actor knows how to handle SNL. “So, I was always a fan, and I also think she’s perfect because she does occupy a sort of particular position in pop culture. She’s a very smart person, she’s a very talented artist, and yet a lot of what people talk about is her looks. And yes, she’s very good-looking, but there’s so much more to her than that . . . . “That was a big part of why she was keen to play this part and satirize that aspect of our culture.” Don Jon, which was originally titled Don Jon’s Addiction, also boasts a pivotal turn from Julianne Moore, playing a woman Gordon-Levitt’s character runs into at a community college night class.

Jay Stone’s Top 10 movies of 2011

Given gravitas by Christian imagery and a mood of millennial survivalist desperation, this pulp procedural joins a long line of films that sell themselves by way of the very depravity and malignant moral imagination they pretend to deplore. Ann Hornaday 1/2 Thanks for Sharing (R) Although Blumbergs script focuses on the fraught romance between Adam and Phoebe, it is, improbably, the relationship between Neil, whom most people would consider a creep, and Dede, a woman who might once have been called a nymphomaniac, that is the films sweetest pleasure. Their platonic friendship (yes, platonic!) is rendered with great humor, poignancy and dignity. Michael OSullivan (No rating) The Wizard of Oz 3D IMAX (PG) Seeing The Wizard of Oz on the big screen also offers an opportunity to consider the incredible special effects, considering the film was shot more than seven decades ago and long before computer-generated imagery. The black-and-white scenes of Dorothy battling against the wind as a twister approaches were especially transporting. Stephanie Merry 1/2 Wadjda (PG) Youre seeing a world on screen that, until now, has been largely hidden from the filmgoing world at large. Because in addition to being a terrific garden-variety coming-of-age film, Wadjda happens to be the first feature-length movie ever made in Saudi Arabia all the more notable in that its been made by a woman, about a young girl chafing against the religious and social strictures of a kingdom literally shrouded in sexual anxiety, misogyny and severe repression. Ann Hornaday 1/2 Salinger (PG-13) While much of the movie consists of variations on this same theme that Salinger was a brilliant, flawed man the film also delves into more salacious matters, including the role of Catcher in the shootings of Ronald Reagan, John Lennon and Rebecca Schaeffer (gunmen John Hinckley Jr., Mark David Chapman and Robert John Bardo were all fans of the novel). Stephanie Merry The Henchmans War (Unrated) Greene, a native Washingtonian with a handful of local directorial and co-producing credits on his resume, has an eye for urban grit and an ear for tough-guy dialogue. He makes excellent use of his shadowy locations, lending War the coveted visual grime that enhances such pulp-noir material. Sean OConnell 1/2 Battle of the Year (PG-13) Lee is attempting to keep a spotlight shining on b-boy culture, an aggressive style of street dancing that consists of body-contorting twists, flips, leaps, spins and poses set to hip-hop music. Lee showcased this next level of competitive breakdancing in his award-winning 2008 documentary Planet B-Boy , and a feature film building on that awareness makes complete sensejust not five years later, when the fad appears to have faded. Sean OConnell My Lucky Star (Unrated) Bringing Sophies comics to life, the movie interjects drawings and animated sequences. The camera spins excitedly, and the editing is brisk. Split-screen compositions evoke the 1960s, as do Sophies pop-art ensembles, which include a lilac wig with matching lipstick. This girlie romp is less about martial arts and espionage than stuffed animals and dress-up. Mark Jenkins 1/2 Good OlFreda (PG) Ryan White weaves in archival footage of girls fainting and images of old headlines. The soundtrack consists primarily of Beatles covers. While the tales of the bands spectacular rise create a genial mood, the film feels superficial. Kelly can be cagey, and when a voice offscreen asks if she ever dated any of the guys, she demurs, saying, Thats personal. Stephanie Merry 1/2 Ip Man: The Final Fight (PG-13) The showiest action sequence involves lion dancers who battle atop high wooden posts. The grittiest and final one sends Ip to save one of his former pupils, whos risked fighting for money inside the gangster-controlled Kowloon Walled City. To add to the drama, the showdown occurs during a typhoon. Mark Jenkins Generation Iron (PG-13) Generation Iron succeeds where other rote sports docs often struggle. Instead of clinging to cliches, Yudin wisely uses the inherent eccentricities of the bodybuilding community to help distance his film from convention.