With Christmas nearing, the holiday blockbusters are upon us and this week sees two big tentpole sequels ("Mission Impossible" and "Sherlock Holmes") make their way into theaters. They're not the only releases opening this packed weekend. See what's opening (and what's worth your money) by checking out the reviews published this week on Indiewire and the blog network.
"Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel"
Through their testimonies (in addition to those of the 80-year-old Corman himself), the movie delivers a compelling argument for appreciating the filmmaker as a major artist who's both largely responsible for many mainstream Hollywood cinema trends while somehow remaining superior to them.
A focus on the daily habits of meth addicts is the main strength of this otherwise murky work, which lacks focus but maintains a grim outlook that sets it apart from more popular takes on addiction and drug production. There's nothing slick or entertaining about the crumbling existence of Pomes' unsalvageable antiheroes.
Thankfully, "Carnage" avoids complete dismissal thanks to its cast. Foster lets loose with her most heated performance in ages, playing a shrill, fragile woman always on the verge of losing it. Reilly portrays the kind of amusing naif he does best. Winslet returns to the repressed frustration that won her acclaim in "Mildred Pierce."
Polanski has staged the movie so it never feels claustrophobic, even though it takes place in one Brooklyn, New York apartment and its adjacent hallway over the course of a long afternoon. But he has failed to capture the play’s ever-so-gradual buildup of tension.
The Playlist: C+
But it's also a film of very little ambition, a minor entry in the director's canon. Perhaps it was just the desire to shoot something fast and quick after his brush with justice, which is certainly understandable, but he has essentially taken a pre-existing script, cast four A-listers, locked them in a room, and shot it.
"Mission Impossible: Ghost Proticol"
Character development is not the movie’s strong suit. One simply has to accept that Tom Cruise is the leader of a team of deep-cover agents who’ve been cut loose from the government and have to survive on their own. Simon Pegg returns, from the last film, to provide welcome comedy relief as the unit’s high-tech specialist, while Paula Patton is the requisite female agent. They’re joined by Jeremy Renner as a man with a mysterious past who is quickly adopted as one of the team.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"
The production is still needlessly overlong and overblown, a far cry from your father’s (or even your cousin’s) conception of the master detective. But it’s certainly lively and has clever moments that involve Holmes’ keen powers of observation, and his ability to think his way out of sticky situations.
Guy Ritchie’s sequel to his 2009 hit Sherlock Holmes can’t bring the same surprise, but it is every bit as much fun, mirroring the formula that worked so well: a popcorn detective movie in Victorian clothes, with high-tech action and a splash of droll humor. This time the bromance is so prominent that when danger arrives on Watson’s wedding day, it’s Watson and Sherlock who go on the honeymoon.
The Playlist: B+
Ultimately, 'Game Of Shadows' is more complex than the first film, but it’s also a little less focused, and while the two qualities seem at odds with one another, the end result feels like a solid ‘70s or ‘80s movie where the filmmakers just aren’t in as much of a hurry, rather than a contemporary action-thriller that lacks steam or energy.