Avatar: (out 4/22- Earth Day! Blergh) Well, it’s awfully pretty. And the special effects are amazing, yes, and the 3-D is phenomenal. And for some people (okay, apparently, based on the box office, for a lot of people) that’s enough, but that’s not what I go to the movies for; the fact of the matter is, the surplus of impressive visuals can’t make up for the boilerplate dialogue, murky political allegories, and general silliness of the entire enterprise. If his third act is any indication, James Cameron just wanted to make a big action movie, so I’m not sure why we needed all the goofy mumbo-jumbo that precedes it—it’s as if just crafting a well-made potboiler along the lines of T2 or Aliens isn’t enough for “the king of the world” anymore. That’s too bad; he remains a technically dazzling filmmaker, and he can still put an action sequence together like no one else, but Avatar tries too damn hard to do too damn much for too damn long.
The Lovely Bones: Hey guess what, Peter Jackson took a human tale of crushing loss and bludgeoned all the life out of it with his CGI toolbox. The performances are uneven, the writing is dull, and the pace is for shit, but hey, he got to play with his toys, and that's what's important, right?
The Young Victoria: An unexpectedly robust and energetic costume drama, blessed by a marvelous (and Oscar-snubbed) turn by Emily Blunt as the title character. These kind of pictures usually put me to sleep; this one's complex relationships and smart screenplay (by Gosford Park writer Julian Fellowes easily held my attention.
44 Inch Chest: Malcolm Venville's terse, theatrical drama has enough interesting dialogue and skilled actors (the cast includes Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, and Tom Wilkinson) to at least warrant a look. But it's got one of the oddest, most self-destructive third acts in recent movie history; it takes the air out of the movie and deflates the tense mood.
The Bill Cosby Show (Season 2): The long-awaited second season set of Bill Cosby's first eponymous sitcom, a 1969-1971 slice-of-life (all natural situations, no obnoxious laugh track) that was decades ahead of its time. Season two is more of the same, with some interesting guest appearances and funny, grounded comedy, with the immortal Cos front and center.
Crazy Heart: It goes on a good five minutes too long, but up until that unnecessary epilogue, this is one of last year's best films--a relaxed, well-paced little sleeper about a busted-out guy who finally gets his shit together. Bridges finally won his Oscar for this one, and deserved it. (As usual, Fox doesn't trust DVD review sites with advanced copies; I'll have a Blu-ray review soon.)