Capsule reviews: 'Up in the Air' and others

AP News
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Posted: Dec 01, 2009 7:19 PM

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Brothers" _ Jim Sheridan's remake of the acclaimed 2004 Danish film "Brodre," has aspirations for "Deer Hunter" territory _ a minor-key examination of the cost blue-collar families pay for war. Where "Deer Hunter" was epic in its reach, "Brothers" never really leaves the front yard. While Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is held prisoner by the Taliban in Afghanistan, his wife (Natalie Portman), thinking he's dead, befriends Sam's brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal). When Sam returns, damaged from a traumatic experience, his rage boils over. It's a simple story and "Brodre" had a lyrical quality, a poetry lacking in Sheridan's sleeker, more sentimental film. "Brothers" can't preserve the intimacy of the original, and the loosened characters slide into cliche despite noble intentions. R for language and some disturbing violent content. 110 minutes. Two stars out of four.

_ Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"Everybody's Fine" _ For those weary of the cuddly Robert De Niro, the gentle uplift of his latest film probably isn't going to be tonic for the soul. Playing a retiree looking to reconnect with his adult children, De Niro does offer a master class of minimalist acting. If writer-director Kirk Jones ("Waking Ned Devine") had allowed his lead actor a bit more room to roam into the dark corners of his character, the movie's fast path toward late-life insight would have felt more earned. Still, De Niro's work possesses such a quiet power that Jones' well-crafted film disappoints only in the sense that it could have delivered more. With Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell as the grown children. PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language. 100 minutes. Three stars out of four.

_ Glenn Whipp, For The Associated Press

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"The Last Station" _ In Michael Hoffman's historically based film about Tolstoy's last days, the great Russian writer's legacy is seemingly up for grabs. On one side are the Tolstoyans (Paul Giamatti plays their leader), ardent followers of Tolstoy's late philosophies of poverty and renunciation. On the other is Tolstoy's wife, the Countess Sofya Tolstoy (Helen Mirren), who curses their "revolutionary nonsense" and is desperately trying to prevent Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) from giving away his estate. James McAvoy plays a visiting Tolstoyan, who _ like Tolstoy, himself _ begins to doubt its rigidity, especially after he meets the carefree Marsha (Kerry Condon). In this richly acted film, love and human flaws have a way of making a mockery of dogma and the deification of genius artists. In celebrating nature in all of its messy, vulgar glory, Hoffman's camera floats through the tall birch trees. R for a scene of sexuality and nudity. 110 minutes. Three stars out of four.

_ Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"Up in the Air" _ For two-thirds of the journey, George Clooney's traveling-man comedy flies even straighter and truer than director Jason Reitman's teen-pregnancy hit "Juno," delivering snappy screwball dialogue with deep touches of pathos. The film strays off course in the final act, veering from an insightful portrait of willful disconnection in our age of portability and turning kind of mushy, kind of vague, kind of conventional. Clooney plays his character _ a man who lives for his frequent-flyer life, traipsing the country firing people at downsizing companies _ to perfection, presenting a lovably over-confident road-trip warrior. He's matched with great travel companions in Vera Farmiga as his frequent-flyer soul mate and Anna Kendrick as a young colleague whose innovations could ground him for good. Reitman's production is first-class, but the movie ends up landing on familiar turf rather than the bold, exotic location where it seemed bound early on. R for language and some sexual content. 109 minutes. Three stars out of four.

_ David Germain, AP Movie Writer