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Thumbnails February 2011

by Tony Medley

The Way Back (8/10): ďInspiredĒ by a true story, in 1940 seven men escape from their Siberian gulag in the dead of winter, including Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, a laconic American, and Colin Farrell, a Russian criminal with silver teeth who kills with abandon, and attempt to walk to freedom in India, 10,000 miles away. Shot in Bulgaria, Morocco, and India, the cinematography of the magnificent landscapes of the high mountains and burning deserts they must traverse is epic.

The Company Men (8/10): An indictment of many avaricious captains of industry, Craig T. Nelson is a corporate tyrant who fires his employees to increase the companyís earnings so he can sell it at a huge profit to himself. Among those victimized are Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck, and Chris Cooper, all of whom give fine performances. But writer-director John Wells shows a schizophrenic morality by painting Nelsonís action as a cardinal sin, but Jones, who flagrantly cheats on his wife with Maria Bello, is presented as an admirable, caring hero. The best performance among the many is by RoseMarie DeWitt, who plays Affleckís commonsense wife.

No Strings Attached (6/10): Directed by Ivan Reitman from a script by Elizabeth Meriwether, this has an extremely low moral tone and includes lots of profane language and F bombs, but no nudity. This is clearly a film aimed at a young adult audience, for many of whom irresponsible sexual promiscuity is an everyday occurrence. They are probably encouraged to this life style by movies like this, so itís a vicious circle. Even so, another sparkling performance by Ashton Kutcher is aided by good performances by Natalie Portman in another appearance as a goofy woman, Kevin Kline as Kutcherís Hefneresque father, and Lake Bell as a girl clumsily infatuated with Kutcher in a performance that makes one yearn for more.

The Green Hornet (3/10): This is a movie for people who find thinking laborious and just want to turn off their minds and float downstream watching mindless violence with loud special effects. Seth Rogen plays The Green Hornet, the crime-fighting alter ego of Britt Reid, so you know right off the bat that he isnít the same insect from the radio or the comic books. Rogen plays Reid as an enthusiastic boob, certainly nothing like the actors who preceded him, who played Reid/Hornet more like intelligent, sophisticated Bruce Wayne/Batman and Lamont Cranston/The Shadow. Jay Chou as Kato is even further from the historical mold, being closer to Paul Lynde than he is to predecessors Bruce Lee in 1966 and Keye Luke in 1940. There are two good performances, however. Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscarģ for his stirring performance as a bad Nazi in Inglorious Basterds (2008), plays the villain, Chudnofsky. And Tom Wilkinson gives a fine, albeit short, performance as the Hornetís dad, James Reid.

The Dilemma (1/10): No comedy, this deals with a serious issue of problems in a marriage, but it does so in such an ignorant, clumsy, sophomoric way with a misogynistic point of view that it loses any value, either morally or in terms of entertainment. Directed by Ron Howard and written by Alan Loeb, the main point is that itís OK for a husband to withdraw sex from his wife and go to prostitutes instead, but woe betide his wife who loves him but is driven into the arms of another man by his actions. The ending is disgraceful. Despite a good performance by Winona Ryder, Iím surprised Howard could get any thinking actress to participate in a film with such a deplorable tone about women.