Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others”)
Written by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others”), Christopher McQuarrie (“Valkyrie”), Julian Fellowes (“The Young Victoria”)
Hollywood star power can’t get much more extravagant than Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. Set on a picturesque backdrop of Venice, Italy, “The Tourist,” a remake of the 2005 French film “Anthony Zimmer,” has breathtaking set pieces, but the superficial script – with all its generic twists – makes this romantic espionage thriller the perfect example of style over substance.
From German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who won an Academy Award for his gripping 2006 film “The Lives of Others,” “The Tourist” marks the first American feature of his career. It’s a decision von Donnersmarck might regret especially if he made more concessions than he’s used to just to sample the mainstream. It could pay off in the long run, but right now this should leave a bad taste in his mouth until the next opportunity comes up.
Depp plays Frank, a college math professor who is easily captivated by a woman he meets on a train. Although it seems like a chance encounter to Frank, Elise (Jolie) has underlying intentions. She needs Franks’s help to evade Scotland Yard (Paul Bettany is the lead detective) who is trailing Elise so she can lead them to her thieving lover Alexander (identifying Alexander is supposed to be part of the intrigue, but it’s fairly obvious to figure out who he is if you don’t get caught up in the far-fetched plot).
Despite its elegant look, “The Tourist” lacks any real intense moments where we actually think our attractive leads are in any danger. Sure, Jolie sashays as lovely as any actress, but without any character development or chemistry between her and Depp “The Tourist” is a wasted vacation.
Starring: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson
Directed by: Scott Stewart (debut)
Written by: Scott Stewart (debut)
Apocalyptic thrillers are a dime a dozen, but “Legion” is one of those rarities. It manages to take a sub-genre, which usually promises nail-biting action, and suck all the fun out of it. It’s one of those movies that a mainstream first-time director/writer like Scott Stewart will be embarrassed of 20 years from now if his or her career actually goes somewhere other than the predictable horror avenue.
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée (“C.R.A.Z.Y.”)
Written by: Julian Fellowes (“Vanity Fair”)
As a period piece, “The Young Victoria” is fairly generic when it comes to offering a history lesson, but credit must be given to Emily Blunt and her portrayal of Queen Victoria during the first years as ruler of England. As the young queen, Blunt plays the real-life character both mature and inexperienced. Add to that some top-notch costume design by two-time Oscar nominated (7-time nominee) Sandy Powell (“The Aviator,” “Shakespeare in Love”) and solid production design and “Victoria” is right at the edge of a recommendation.
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis
Directed by: Iain Softley (“The Skeleton Key”)
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire (“Robots”)
In terms of big-budget family adventures, “Inkheart,” based on the first part of a trilogy by German author Cornelia Funke, would be considered a footnote in the fantasy genre (Not to worry Harry Potter, you’re still more popular than ever). That, however, doesn’t mean all fantasy films that come in between the quests to Hogwarts have to be trivial and dull. In “Inkheart,” there are enough magical moments to warrant the attention of the entire family. Even someone who can’t identify all the storybook references will enjoy the fascinating characters. It’s this year’s answer to films like 2007’s “Stardust.”
In the film, Brendan Fraser (“Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D”) stars as Mortimer “Mo” Folchart, a “Silvertongue” who has the power to read a book and transport its characters into the real world. In doing so, however, each fictional character carried over from a piece of literature is replaced with someone near the reader.
Mo finds this out when he reads from a book called “Inkheart” and unknowingly sucks a diverse group of the novel’s characters from the book causing his wife to mysteriously disappear. The book’s characters who enter reality include a fire juggler named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) and Capricorn (Andy Serkis), the antagonist of the story who loves Earth and refuses to return to his narrative.
Instead, Capricorn would rather stay and force Mo to read to him and deliver riches from stories like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Capricorn’s current reader, who also possesses the same power as Mo, hasn’t quite perfected his craft. Since he has a stutter, the characters he brings from out of the books have defects. Most of them have text tattooed across their faces and bodies.
Although Mo refuses to read at first, Capricorn and his henchmen use his daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett) as collateral until he delivers what they want. All Mo wants is to find a copy of “Inkheart” so he can figure a way to bring back his wife. But since the book has been out of print for years, he must search for its author Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent) and get another rare copy before Capricorn finds out how to release some of the book’s most evil characters.
Reminiscent of last year’s “Bedtime Stories” but with an actual script that has some imagination, some of your favorite fictional characters are brought to life by director Iain Softley (“The Skeleton Key”). From the flying monkeys of “The Wizard of Oz” to the ticking crocodile from “Peter Pan” to Rapunzel and her head of long golden hair, “Inkheart” has wonderful visuals and a convincing cast that includes Oscar winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) as Meggie’s frantic aunt. While the story won’t become a classic like “The Princess Bride,” studios could always do a lot worse (and consistently do) when creating something clever enough for adults and entertaining enough for children.