THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (***1/2) Steven Spielberg's first animated feature - courtesy of Polar Express-style performance capture - is a boisterous and charming family adventure. Captures some of that Raiders of the Lost Ark magic that was sorely lacking in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Too bad the script doesn't have as many tricks up its sleeve as Spielberg seems game for.
WAR HORSE (****) More Spielberg and a nice return to form. A little corny, sure, but Spielberg's keen eye, spectacular cinematography by longtime collaborator Janusz Kaminski, and John Williams' epic score make this a solid entry in the Best Picture race. War Horse is a Spielberg war movie, and those are always worth seeing.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (***) Typical sequel - good, but not as good as the first. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law retain the bromantic charm of the original, but Guy Ritchie's visual tricks start to grate. The inclusion of villain Moriarty has promise, but that promise is only truly realized in the movie's last 20 minutes.
THE ARTIST (****) This year's frontrunner for Best Picture, and, let's face it, it's going to win. An affectionate nod to silent films of yesteryear. The actors and tone aim to please audiences, and the charm quotient is high. Grows a bit thematically repetitive by the end. The Artist is a cute novelty. I just refuse to concede that a silent film is the best picture of 2011.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO (***) Every once in a while there's a moment in We Bought A Zoo that reminds you why Cameron Crowe is such a gifted filmaker, and how much his voice has been missed on screen the past few years. The zoo storyline can be cloying, and the movie strives a little too hard for quirkiness. Matt Damon is fantastic though, and the bittersweet ending is touching.