KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando reviews the latest holiday releases.
Related Story: Review: Holiday Roundup
HOST INTRO: If you are off this week and want some help sifting through the multitude of holiday releases that just opened in San Diego, then KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando has some tips.
MUSIC Mission Impossible Light the Fuse
You're done with the baking and the wrapping, and finally have time to relax. Your mission, if you choose to accept it is to find the best entertainment value for your hard earned dollars.
CLIP This operation is over before it even begins.
The most fun to be had in theaters right now is "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." Animation director Brad Bird has made a live action cartoon with the most breathtaking stunts of the year. What's great is that although the film defies reality, the stunts have a realistic edge. So when Tom Cruise makes an unbelievable jump he lands with painful body crunching hits.
CLIP SFX stunt hits
The film feeds an action junkie's need for death defying stunts but reminds us how dangerous it all really is so we feel the tension of the scene. "MI4" gets my vote for most improved franchise. Accept this mission.
CLIP Thanks... Pleasure... I'm Tintin by the way.
With "The Adventures of Tintin," director Steven Spielberg essentially delivers a cartoon version of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Based on the famed French comic, the film serves up some stunning 3-D animation action. But don't look into the characters' eyes or you'll enter the uncanny valley. That's the term coined for the discomfort of watching human replicas -- in this case animated ones -- that look and act almost but not exactly like real human beings. End result: fast-paced but hollow.
The antithesis of fast-paced is Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of John Le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."
CLIP There's going to be changes. We need to decide if we are going to be part of the past or part of the future.
American audiences may view this as very much a part of the past, a relic of the Cold War spy genre. But fans of LeCarre's novels may be see it as the refreshing anti-Bourne film they've been waiting for. Unlike the Bourne franchise, this film is all about paperwork, politics, clandestine meetings, and long steady shots of people talking. Plus there's an embarrassment of acting riches starting with Gary Oldman, John Hurt, and Colin Firth.
There's no talking -- or almost none -- in the French film "The Artist," a black and white near silent film about a actor who refuses to make the transition to sound in 1929. The film overflows with cinematic cleverness like this nightmare sequence in which the silent star suddenly finds everything around him making sounds.
CLIP The Artist SFX
Cleverness is also at the heart of "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey." The documentary highlights the ingenuity of Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash and his idol Jim Henson. Colleague Fran Brill sums up their magic.
CLIP It looks easy but it's very difficult to make a piece of fabric and a foam head react like a human being would.
Clash has a true gift for bringing Muppets like Elmo to life.
David Cronenberg tries but fails to breath life into a pair of famous figures in "A Dangerous Method." Viggo Mortensen plays Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender is Carl Jung.
CLIP I think of you more as Galileo and your opponents as those who condemned him while refusing to even put their eye to the telescope.
Cronenberg's clinical approach works best when it contrasts with more horrific material as in "Dead Ringers" or "A History of Violence." But here -- where there's a lot of analytical debate -- it's like cool on cool with the result being, well, chilly.
CLIP Immigrant Song
And finally, there's David Fincher's remake of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which could more accurately be called "The Man who Ends Up In Bed With the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" because it focuses more on its male star Daniel Craig. Fincher tries to do more by following the book more closely but ends up doing less, and delivering it with less of his signature dark style. Rooney Mara takes significant ownership of the character of Lisbeth Salander but doesn't surpass her Swedish original. This is another unnecessary Hollywood remake of a foreign art house success.
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For KPBS, I'm Beth Accomando.