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Capsule reviews of 'Sherlock Holmes,' 'Mission: Impossible,' 'Dragon Tattoo,' other new films
"Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" ' Puns like these would be unforgivable coming from a human. From high-pitched rodents, they prompt calls for an exterminator. The third in the noxiously contemporary series of new Chipmunks films, "Chipwrecked" is full of the cheapest kind of pop culture references. Here is Alvin aping James Bond with a tail that's "shaken, not stirred," a suggestion to follow the Chipmunks on "Critter" and (gulp) a Charlie Sheen-ism of "winning." This latest Chipmunks film, directed by Mike Mitchell ("Shrek Forever After"), is aimed at a slightly younger demographic than the prior movies (it's rated G), and perhaps shallow references like these are enough to delight youngsters. But I doubt it. Do parents really want stale, cringe-worthy expressions like "Awkward!" instilled in another generation? The Chipmunks' father figure, Dave Seville (Jason Lee, looking vaguely hostagelike), takes his diminutive computer-generated friends on a vacation cruise en route to the Grammy-esque International Music Awards, where the Chipmunks and the Chipettes are an eagerly awaited pop sensation. But the antics of Alvin (Justin Long) throw them overboard and they wash up on a deserted island. David Cross and Jenny Slate do their best to help. G. 87 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
' Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer
"Carnage" ' In Hollywood terms, this is relatively tame violence-wise. A pet hamster may be in peril, a bunch of tulips get mauled and a cellphone gets abused, but that's pretty much it. There's more carnage in "Puss in Boots." But for sheer domestic savagery, this is the film for you. Based on the 2009 Tony Award-winning play "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza and directed by Roman Polanski, the film is a dark comedy that focuses on the collapse of good manners when two liberal, middle-class couples get together to discuss an altercation between their young sons. Starring a first-rate cast of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly, this may be uncomfortable stuff for yuppies to watch: A polite discussion of child-rearing approaches descends into racial slurs, drunken insults, the airing of dirty personal laundry and some barfing. To fans of the play, relax. Polanski and Reza, who share screenwriting credits, have added no flashbacks or car chases or explosions to what on stage has always been a four-character talk-fest ' sometimes a scream-fest ' that unspools in real time. In fact, the movie hews so closely to the play that it sometimes feels like a filmed play. R for language. 80 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
' Mark Kennedy, AP Drama Writer
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" ' To put it bluntly, this movie kicks butt. Director David Fincher orchestrates a stark but enthralling adaptation of the first novel in late author Stieg Larsson's trilogy. Its harsh emotional terrain could have wound up softened and sweetened, yet this was an ideal match of filmmaker and material. Fincher is one of the least sentimental directors in Hollywood. If anything, his "Dragon Tattoo" is even bleaker than the 2009 Swedish-language hit. Rooney Mara, who had a small role in Fincher's "The Social Network," gives a controlled detonation of a performance as traumatized victim-turned-avenger Lisbeth Salander. Mara's the breakout star of the year, a cold, detached waif in form, a fearsome, merciless zealot in spirit. How strange it is to say that the nice guy here is Daniel Craig ' who, of all the big-screen James Bonds, comes closest to the nasty, tortured soul Ian Fleming created. Mara and disgraced journalist Craig make an indomitable screen pair, he nominally leading their search into decades-old serial killings, she surging ahead, plowing through obstacles with flashes of phenomenal intellect and eruptions of physical fury. Larsson left behind two other novels loaded with more dark doings for the duo. We haven't seen the last of this tattooed girl. R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity and language. 158 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
' David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"Mission: Impossible ' Ghost Protocol" ' Luckily for Tom Cruise, this is one of his finest action flicks, just what he needs to restore his box-office bankability. For director Brad Bird, though, the fourth "Mission," rock solid as it is, ranks only as his second-best action movie, after the animated smash "The Incredibles." It's the best of the "Mission: Impossible" movies, Bird making a remarkable transition with his first live-action film after three animated ones, among them "Ratatouille." Bird applies the anything-can-happen limitlessness of cartoons and just goes for it, creating thrilling, dizzying, amazing action sequences. This time, Cruise and his team (Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg) are blamed for bombing the Kremlin, so they go rogue trying to clear their names and stop a madman (Michael Nyqvist) from starting a nuclear war. Cruise is pretty much doing the same-old, playing the stone-face who's not very interesting when standing still and talking. That work ethic of Cruise, though, shows in every one of the spectacular action moments. If you have the slightest fear of heights, grip the armrests tightly during Cruise's climb up the world's tallest building; even safe in your seat, an unnerving feeling of vertigo is bound to result as you stare down from the 130th floor. PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence. 132 minutes. Three stars out of four.
' David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" ' Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law bicker and banter and bob and weave with diminishing returns in this sequel to the 2009 smash hit "Sherlock Holmes." Director Guy Ritchie once again applies his revisionist approach to Arthur Conan Doyle's classic literary character, infusing the film with his trademark, hyperkinetic aesthetic and turning the renowned detective into a wisecracking butt-kicker. But what seemed clever and novel the first time around now feels stale and tired; a lot of that has to do with the bleak, gray color scheme, which smothers everything in a dreary, suffocating sameness and saps the film of any real tension or thrills. "Game of Shadows" finds Downey's Holmes facing off against brilliant supervillain Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who's cooked up a scheme to pit European nations against each other in hopes of benefiting from the demand for arms. Holmes must stop him with the help of his trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson (Law), who's newly married and not nearly so gung-ho about such wild adventures anymore. And it shows in the script as well as the performances; Law gets little to do beyond functioning as the skeptical straight man, and the chemistry just isn't there this time. Noomi Rapace tags along for some reason as a gypsy fortuneteller looking for her missing brother, but the formidable presence she displayed in the original Swedish "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels goes to waste. PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material. 129 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
' Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic