The week’s full slate of new bargain-theater debuts includes early 2012 releases, an Oscar nominee and a holiday blockbuster. ---
The latter is one that I just plain whiffed on evaluating the first time around: Tom Cruise’s fourth go-round as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Animation director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) brought some remarkable action sequences to this adventure, including the already legendary scaling-of-the-skyscraper. The lack of a strong villain is still a problem, and the gee-whiz technology is not necessarily as amazing as the plot seems to assume. But it does deliver the goods.
George Clooney delivers with his performance in The Descendants as man dealing with the twin devastations of his wife’s catastrophic head injury, and the revelation that she had been having an affair. Director Alexander Payne nails the overcast tone of suburban Hawaii brilliantly, and most of the performances hit the mark. The only stumbles come when Payne seems so uncomfortable with the most emotional moments that he feels the need to crack jokes on top of them.
A trio of January releases also hit the dollar houses. Sam Worthington continues to be a hunk of limited range in the revenge/heist thriller Man on a Ledge. Director Steven Soderbergh also goes the thriller route in Haywire. And the historical war drama Red Tails gets way old-fashioned—sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse—in telling the story of African-American pilots fighting for their country and for respect in World War II.