Movie Clips

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Avatar (PG)

It’s 2154 and humanity’s technologically advanced military industrial complex is poised to plunder the mineral riches of a planet called Pandora. The only thing in their way is the dominant life form called the Na’vi. The humans take the time to develop a kind of remote control Na’vi doppelganger, or “Avatar”, which will walk among them and be controlled by a marine back on the ship. To reverse a clichĂ©, what you get is what you see. Flesh and falling objects alike behave as they should. In Avatar there’s no real suspension of disbelief necessary. It’s taken care of and it’s all in the details. And the 3-D actually works. It’s subtle. Foreground objects seem to be in front of the screen, background seems much farther away. So why, after an exhilarating three hours of beauty and awesomeness, visual perfection, really, do I feel so unmoved? It may simply be the lack of any character development, any real sense of jeopardy in the script. (MK)

The Book of Eli (14A)

In their first feature film in nearly a decade, directors Allen and Albert Hughes position Denzel Washington as a weary yet supernaturally kick-ass traveller in search of meaning in a post-nuclear winter world. Eli carries with him a very special, commemorative edition book. He happens upon a desert town with a semi-social structure run by somebody (Gary Oldman) who wants that book more than anything. Washington’s gruff, muscular performance and Oldman’s manic psychopath are the kinds of roles these actors can sleepwalk through. Which they do. What remains are endless sequences of throat-slicing, bone-breaking, bullet-hailing madness. (JS)

Dear John (PG)

The crew has stocked their story with a magnetic coupling in the form of Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried. As the maidenly Savannah, she clings to and drapes herself over John, a Special Forces soldier of few words and a hot temper. When 9/11 strikes, however, John’s sense of duty promises to keep them apart for an insufferable period. In an attempt to stay close, the two exchange countless handwritten letters. Add to that John’s father’s autism, Savannah’s dream of opening an equestrian camp for kids, John’s questionable past and a jealous rival and Dear John should be the most gag-worthy piece of folderol this side of Brendan Fraser. But the film and its makers face these contrivances head on, without irony and stick to their belief in the couple at hand. It’s a good move; Seyfried and Tatum lock in on each other and never let go. (JS)

Invictus (PG)

The story at heart is about bringing a troubled nation together through sport. The film’s opening scene sets this up compactly, as a motorcade carrying the just-freed Nelson Mandela passes by a group of dirt-poor black children and a team of posh white rugby players. So he conceives a pet project to send the country’s B-grade Springboks to a World Cup of rugby victory. There are a few bright spots. Morgan Freeman really is good as Mandela, and when director Clint Eastwood drops the sombreness and indulges in a joke, it’s usually quite funny. But the unintentional laughs far outnumber the intended ones. Even the actual rugby scenes leave something to be desired. Half of the time they’re shot kinetically, as if the camera is another ball being tossed around, and half in grotesque slow motion, full of thwacks and flying gobs of sweat. (MH)

>It’s Complicated (14A)

Meryl Streep plays Jane, a successful West Coast restaurant owner who is still coming to terms with her 10-year-old divorce from Jake (Alec Baldwin) and his subsequent remarriage to a much younger woman. The complications of the title arise when Jane and Jake begin an affair while attending their son’s college graduation in New York City. But Jane is also involved with the architect designing her dream kitchen (Steve Martin). Personal crises and hilarity ensue, while son-in-law Harley (John Krasinski) becomes an unwilling witness and wry observer. Yet, for all the delightful bad behaviour played out by the old and the undeniably cozy feelings the film is intended to leave you snuggling, I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of film Nancy Meyer’s extraordinary gifts as a writer and filmmaker could produce in time for Christmas 2012, if only she would take a break from comedies about wealthy white women. (EK)

Legion (PG)

One can just imagine God getting so frustrated with all of the mishaps and mayhem created by mankind that he decides to pack it all up and wipe the slate clean. Except that when you’re God, you send an army of angels to do your work. These angels get sent for one purpose only: to kick some butt. The Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) files his letter of resignation with the big guy to pursue other opportunities, namely standing up with humankind in an off-the-beaten-path old diner in New Mexico. There’s a pregnant woman there and her baby who has a special purpose — he’s humanity’s last hope. This is no Exorcist nor is it even Rambo. It’s an Underworld rip-off with nothing better to do with their time or yours. If you want to enjoy a long walk then do yourself a huge favour — avoid the road apples. And stay away from Legion. Half a star (SH)

The Lovely Bones (PG)

The Lovely Bones is told from the point of view of Susie Salmon, a teenage girl who has been brutally murdered. The main character knows everything that’s happening down on Earth all the time, but everyone else, her family and the police, struggle with half-truths and misunderstandings. She knows who the murderer is and they just can’t see it. As such, this is less a who-done-it than a he-done-it, and the novelty of that goes a long way. The performances in this film are exceptional. Stanley Tucci, as the “animal, faceless, infinite” monster next door, may never again be allowed near a junior high school. Susan Sarandon’s embodiment of the chain-smoking grandmother who swoops in to shoulder some of the family’s domestic and spiritual burden is fabulous. (MK)

The Princess and the Frog (G)

Drawn in gorgeous classical animation, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) is a typical Disney heroine. Spurning youthful idleness for two jobs, her dream is to someday open her own restaurant in her hometown of New Orleans. She has no time for Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), a shallow playboy bent on finding a rich wife. Then they both turn into frogs. Naturally, she has to overcome the evil voodoo of one Dr. Facilier (Keith David), learn to accept the love of the Prince and find someone to administer the magic-undo-in kiss. For all of Tiana’s talk of food and her wish for a kitchen of her own, there’s nothing in the film that suggests that cooking is her real passion. The same could be said for Prince Naveen and his musical urges. What I want out of Disney is emotional manipulation. Despite any antifeminist marriage-at-all-costs, forgive-your-abuser plotlines, I want to cry when the princess turns her beast into a prince. The Princess and the Frog, unfortunately, remains all business. (MS)

Sherlock Holmes (PG)

The relationship between Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson is a connection worthy of comparison to Jay and Silent Bob. It is a bromance for the ages. The chemistry between the two men felt natural and well balanced between machismo fronts of non-concern and genuine care and affection. Lord Blackwood, the villain played by Mark Strong, bears a striking resemblance to Stanley Tucci, and performed just as well as one would expect from the latter. Rachel McAdams was forgettable as Irene Adler and never quite seemed to fit into the London of Holmes’ time. All in all, this new Sherlock Holmes is deserving of the hype, and I look forward to the sequel that will build on this well-executed introduction to a modern Holmes and Watson. (LT)

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St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.