2011 Oscar contenders mix with stuff guaranteed not to be among 2012s’s Oscar contenders—plus Liam Neeson in badass mode—lead this week’s new bargain-theater offerings. ---
Martin Scorsese’s Hugo captured several technical Oscars—including cinematography, visual effects and art direction—for his adaptation of Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel about a young orphan living in a Paris railway station, learning the connection between a strange mechanical man and the old gentleman (Ben Kingsley) who runs the station’s toy booth. The loving slice of film history charmed critics, and if you catch a 3-D show, you’ll be treated to a remarkable use of the technology. But it does seem to be trying a bit too hard to be magical—which the movies it’s celebrating achieved more effortlessly.
A more serious piece of history forms the centerpiece of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, following a horse from an English farm through service in World War I. As technically accomplished as it is as a piece of filmmaking—and with some terrific battlefield sequences—there are inevitable challenges when your central character is a horse. It’s neither as innocent as its kid-lit source material or powerful enough as drama.
Other new arrivals were ones your humble narrator didn’t have an opportunity to see: Liam Neeson as the leader of a group of plane-crash survivors trying to outwit a wolf pack in The Grey; Katherine Heigl as a financially strapped woman who takes a job as a bounty hunter in One for the Money; and the exorcism faux-doc horror film The Devil Inside.