17 February 2012

This Means War

Tom Hardy, left, Reese Witherspoon, center, and Chris Pine are shown in a scene from "This Means War."
"This Means War" must have been an easy sell.

Reese Witherspoon, a romantic comedy veteran who also is an accomplished, award-winning actress, is at its center.

The two leads are rising stars: Chris Pine of "Star Trek" (2009) fame, and Tom Hardy, who appeared in the blockbuster "Inception," gave acclaimed performances in "Bronson" and "Warrior," and is set to be the villain in the next Batman movie, this summer's "The Dark Knight Rises."

The director, McG ("Charlie's Angels"), has had success with this kind of slickly made action-comedy.

And the premise, pure fantasy though it may be, bursts with potential.

10 February 2012

Safe House

Denzel Washington is shown in a scene from "Safe House."
You can watch "Safe House" and see the obvious influence of the "Bourne" movies on its many action scenes. You can see Denzel Washington synthesizing his various screen personas into what essentially is a greatest-hits performance. And even though characters talk about the hardships necessitated by a life spent in espionage, you can see a movie that doesn't really have anything meaningful to say.

It would be easy to think, "Been there, done that," and move on to the next disposable entertainment.

But almost in spite of itself, "Safe House" is an effective piece of genre filmmaking.

As Tobin Frost (one of those only-in-the-movies names), a CIA agent who turned traitor nine years earlier, Washington clearly is relishing the antihero role. He gets to be a bit of the bad guy, a bit of the do-gooder with a self-righteous streak. It's a role he could play in his sleep, but he still has fun with it. Frost has something a bunch of people will kill for, so with no other options, he turns himself in at the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town, South Africa.

From there, he's taken to a CIA safe house manned by young Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds, quietly becoming a versatile leading man), who's been desperate for something—anything—to happen there.

07 February 2012

The Woman in Black

Daniel Radcliffe is shown in a scene from "The Woman in Black."
"I think I'll work through the night."

Many stupid things have been said in movies, horror movies in particular. But "I think I'll work through the night" from "The Woman in Black" has got to be near the top of the list.

The speaker is Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a young attorney sent from London to a remote coastal village to settle the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow.

He already has spent some time at her home, the Eel Marsh House, a place where the locals, except the friendly, wealthy Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds), are afraid to go. He already has seen the mysterious, black-clothed woman on the grounds. He already has learned of the violent deaths that occurred there in the past. And he already has seen how spooky the house can be in the daytime.

So when Sam tells him when he must return to pick him up before high tide makes the one road to and from the place impassable, Arthur, with all this knowledge, knowing he will be stranded there until the next day, doesn't hesitate a beat before saying, "Oh no, it's fine. I think I'll work through the night."