Oscar contender film reviews
Posted: Feb 16, 2012 5:53 PM ET
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2012 5:23 PM ET
Revisit movies in the running for the 2012 Academy Awards through reviews by CBC’s Eli Glasner.
War Horse and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Period epic War Horse and post-9/11 tale Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close both explore sombre historical events. Which film offers nuance and which drowns in sentimentality?
The Artist(The Weinstein Company)
A pitch-perfect ode to the era when silent films reigned supreme, The Artist is pleasure for film fans looking to rediscover simple charms of cinema. As the movie star George Valentin, French actor Jean Dujardin evokes the aura of an early Douglas Fairbanks. Fancy footwork and a charming cast help make up for a story that's rather slight.
Moneyball(Melinda Sue Gordon/Columbia Pictures)
In this atypical sports film, director Bennett Miller serves up a smart story about the two men who tried to change the way baseball is played. Brad Pitt works well as the beleaguered GM Billy Beane, but Jonah Hill steals the show as numbers nerd Peter Brand.
The Descendants(Fox Searchlight)
The Descendants is filled with moments when it feels wrong to laugh: a mother in a coma, an angry teenaged girl and a dad who barely copes. Yet performances by George Clooney, Judy Greer and Shailene Woodley — and a touch of the absurd — make for convincing comedy.
Midnight in Paris(Sony Pictures Classics)
Owen Wilson brings a West Coast flair to his bemused outsider role in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. But despite the film's lively Roaring Twenties scenes, the lack of warmth between Wilson and love interest Rachel McAdams undercuts the main romantic dilemma.
Hugo(Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures)
Hugo is a dark journey into the world of a orphaned boy who lives in a Paris train station. While the pace may be too slow for little ones, the film sparks affection for director Martin Scorsese's love letter to the dawn of cinema.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy(eOne Films)
Gary Oldman stars as George Smiley, an anti-James Bond, in the new revision of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The film is packed with strong performances, but its story — filled with subtle hints and winks — may leave many in the dark.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo(Columbia Pictures)
Director David Fincher takes on the literary phenomenon The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and his crime thriller is one of the year's most anticipated films.
The Iron Lady(Alliance Films)
A biopic about the former British PM, The Iron Lady is tarnished by a sappy, sentimental treatment that spends too much time with Margaret Thatcher at the end rather than on her impressive rise and divisive reign.
Funny, filthy and female. Mega producer Judd Apatow teams up with Saturday Night Live's Kristen Wiig for the new ensemble comedy Bridesmaids. While the story of a single gal on a downward spiral is familiar, a number of fresh faces — led by Wiig — will have comedy fans saying "I do."
Margin Call(JoJo Whilden/Roadside Attractions)
There's a wealth of fine faces in Margin Call, a new drama that takes place in an investment firm on the eve of 2008's financial collapse. Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany and particular Kevin Spacey help personify the economic chaos during a 24-hour period when the numbers stop adding up.
A Separation(Habib Madjidi/Sony Pictures Classics)
A Separation is a powerful film that presents an unflinching view of life in modern Iran. The award-winning movie from writer-director Asghar Farhadi introduces us to moving characters caught in the claustrophobic space between the state's rules and their own aspirations.
The Ides of MarchFrom left, George Clooney, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Ehle, and Talia Akiva, are shown in a scene from Ides of March. (Saeed Adyani/Columbia Pictures/Sony)
Inspired by his father's political experiences and the provocative films of the late '60s and '70s George Clooney has crafted a tension-filled drama with The Ides of the March. Ryan Gosling leads a superstar cast of actors in a cynical and familiar swipe at the state of the union.
Monsieur Lazhar(eOne films)
Oscar-nominated and widely acclaimed, the French-language drama Monsieur Lazhar is a lesson in the power of empathy. Quebec director Philippe Falardeau has created an artful film that explores grief, guilt and mourning through the natural performances of a cast of schoolchildren.
Kung Fu Panda 2(Paramount)
Po the Panda is back in the surprisingly artful follow-up Kung Fu Panda 2, a film that elevates 3D technology beyond mere gimmick. Jack Black returns as the voice of the oafish warrior, but the real star is the sharp storytelling.
Rango is director Gore Verbinski's attempt to make animated movies for a more mature audience. It's a stunningly original piece of work, but the sense of humour, the collection of non-sequiturs and references to other Westerns will zing over the head of most younger viewers.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2(Warner Bros. Pictures)
For the Potter generation, watching the films series became an almost-annual rite of passage. Now, nearly a decade since he first apparated into our imaginations, the young wizard casts his final spell. A rousing end to a surprisingly consistent series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 will satisfy fans and inevitably draw audience members deeper into J.K. Rowling's world.
Jane Eyre(Laurie Sparham//Alliance Films)
Underneath the bustles and bonnets, the best literature-inspired dramas explore essential human truths. Thankfully, this is the case with the refreshingly original Jane Eyre, thanks to a young director not afraid to take liberties with the Charlotte Bronte classic and his more than capable cast.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon(Paramount Pictures)
It's a trap to apply logic to Michael Bay's realm of BOOM and BANG. Think of Transformers: Dark of the Moon as the cotton candy of cinema: gaudy and bad for you, but difficult to resist.
Real Steel(Disney/Dreamworks II)
The boxing robots of Reel Steel are a knockout for 12-year-olds.
The Muppets(Andrew Macpherson/Disney)
The Muppets are back in their first big screen adventure in 12 years and there's still a lot of Muppet magic to spare. The characters that Jim Henson and his puppeteers created still know how to be tender, how to be smart and how to be wildly silly.
Eli Glasner's movie reviews are also available via his CBC Radio podcast.
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