Espionage films are ultimately about loyalty. Who can you believe? Who might go turncoat? Is there a dagger beneath that cloak? "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" confronts the dilemma of trust in every scene.
"We Need to Talk About Kevin" is a horror movie for parents. Strip away the showy flashbacks -- cutting between several pasts and several points in the present -- and it's "We Need to talk About Damien." Because the only simple, satisfying way of explaining the monster at the heart of this nightmare is "He's the spawn of the Devil."
If "The Lady" is any indication, Luc Besson, the Paris-born filmmaker behind such testosterone-fueled thrillers as "Taken," "Transporter 2" and "The Fifth Element," is having a tough time getting in touch with his feminine side. Yes, there was his recent script for "Colombiana," but at least as portrayed by Zoe Saldana, that was one tough chick.
"A simple Life" (桃姐) resonates beyond the audience's fictional limitations. It succesfully taps into the harbored memories, and at times, makes the sentiment surface to remind us how we can all strive to be better to our family and loved ones.
Daniel Radcliffe acquits himself reasonably well in his first adult big-screen role, a man haunted by "The Woman in Black." He plays a young lawyer, a single father and widower with enough conviction to make this spooky period piece credible, though one might wish for a little more fear in the character and in his performance when confronted by the supernaturally sinister. I guess once you've faced down Lord Voldemort, you ain't afraid of no ghosts.
The Rape of Nanking, the 1937 rape and murder rampage by Japanese troops, comes so vividly to life in "The Flowers of War" that you wish the great Chinese director Zhang Yimou had a better movie to put in front of it. Japan, both officially and informally, has spent the intervening 74 years ignominiously denying that this mass slaughter of Chinese women and children in that city ever happened. A great historical film using it as a backdrop is overdue.
In 1956, not long after she married "Death of a Salesman" playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe made a movie with director and star Laurence Olivier at England's Pinewood Studios. The film, "The Prince and the Showgirl," came from Terence Rattigan's drawing-room comedy "The Sleeping Prince," which Olivier had performed on the London stage opposite his wife, Vivien Leigh.
Meryl Streep is so unfair to all other actresses. Her versatility, her subtle intuition, her absolute ability to embody other people is uncanny. In "The Iron Lady," her performance as Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative prime minister who changed the course of British society, is not simply spot-on surface impersonation, it is reincarnation. Thatcher's charismatic flair for Churchillian rhetoric, the devious blankness of her formal smile, her prim physical bearing -- Streep captures every nuance.
3D, phooey. IMAX, meh. Motion-capture, whatever. If you want real movie enchantment, forget the technical geegaws. "The Artist," a gleefully inventive, gloriously entertaining black-and-white silent, proves that less is more. It's a rocket to the moon fueled by unadulterated joy and pure imagination.
Just in time for the family-friendly holiday is Steven Spielberg's sweeping, historical epic "War Horse."