Monday, December 13, 2010

“Movie scoreboard: 'Black Swan,' 'The Tourist,' 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' - Detroit Free Press” plus 1 more

“Movie scoreboard: 'Black Swan,' 'The Tourist,' 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' - Detroit Free Press” plus 1 more

Movie scoreboard: 'Black Swan,' 'The Tourist,' 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' - Detroit Free Press

Posted: 12 Dec 2010 08:09 AM PST

"Black Swan" * * *

Gorgeous and gloriously nutso, this psycho-sexual drama delights and disturbs in equal measure. Director Darren Aronofsky takes the same stripped-down fascination with the minutiae of preparation that he brought to his Oscar-nominated "The Wrestler" and applies it to the pursuit of a different kind of artistry: ballet. Natalie Portman gives it her all, physically and mentally, in a brave and demanding performance as Nina, a driven New York City ballerina who has zero life outside of dance and who's kept in a state of arrested development by her smothering mother. Mila Kunis plays a fellow dancer, a potential rival who frightens and attracts Nina. Rated R; sexual content, violent images, language, drug use. 1 hour, 50 minutes. By Christy Lemire, Associated Press.

"Burlesque" * *

Iowa waitress Ali (Christina Aguilera) heads to Los Angeles with a dream of performing. She gets a job serving drinks at a club called Burlesque, is enraptured by the girlie floor shows, and, one special night, is called upon to step into the star's shoes. Writer-director Steve Antin lays on the clichés with a trowel in this showbiz tale, which is packed with elements that were starting to smell iffy back in the Great Depression. But "Burlesque" behaves as if these hoary elements are as fresh as morning dew. No postmodern twists. No ironic commentary. Sixty-four-year-old Cher, playing the club's owner, gets to sing and looks pretty good, aside from overly puffy lips. Other characters, including an ego-driven club performer played by Huntington Woods native Kristen Bell, are straight out of central casting. Rated PG-13; sexual content, suggestive dance routines, partial nudity, language. 1 hour, 40 minutes. By Robert W. Butler, McClatchy Newspapers.

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" * * *

The third installment in the film series based on the spiritual children's novels by C.S. Lewis follows the two younger Pevensie siblings and their bratty cousin Eustace back to the magical land of Narnia. The three board the royal galleon Dawn Treader with King Caspian (swoony Ben Barnes) and are soon on an expedition to rescue missing lords and collect mystic swords. Along the way -- and at a breathless pace -- they face temptation, confront inner demons and experience a transformative rebirth. In the capable hands of director Michael Apted, the potentially syrupy allegory becomes razzle-dazzle entertainment while still gracefully conveying the religious dimensions of the story. Rated PG; frightening images, fantasy action. 1 hour, 55 minutes. By Colin Covert, Star Tribune (Minneapolis).

[Page 2 of 2]

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I" * * *

Alternately funny and touching, "Deathly Hallows" is the best film yet in the "Harry Potter" series. And the effects? They're so special you don't notice them. The digital elves are the most lifelike the movies have ever seen. The lead players (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) have grown into their roles, and the who's who of British character actors in supporting parts (including David Thewlis, Rhys Ifans and Helena Bonham Carter) shine as never before. The first third of the film is brisk and witty, the middle third gloomy, and the finale not so much a cliffhanger as a grim, inspiring tease, a masterly build-up to put "I can't wait for Part 2" on every Muggles' lips. Rated PG-13; intense action, violence, scary images. 2 hours, 19 minutes. By Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel.

"The Tourist" * *

Though director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck seems to lack the light touch this Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie thriller requires, it's not his fault it goes off the rails. The script piles the preposterous on top of the absurd and the film's thin charms dissipate, revealing the creaking movie-star contraption underneath. Jolie is a head-turning British bombshell who encounters frumpy American Depp on a train. Mobsters and cops pursue a character named Alexander Pearce, and Jolie seems somehow to be involved. Is she setting Depp up? We never care as much as we might. Both stars fail to convince us that they're anything other than pampered movie stars getting paid to do fake high jinks on location in Venice. Rated PG-13; violence, language. 1 hour, 43 minutes. By Roger Moore

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Disney's 'Tron' movie reverse-ages Jeff Bridges - San Francisco Gate

Posted: 07 Dec 2010 10:38 AM PST

(12-07) 12:08 PST LOS ANGELES, (AP) --

Hollywood has famously had better luck using makeup to make young actors look old — like Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind" — than making old actors look young. But the ability to manipulate images digitally could prove to be a fountain of youth for some.

In "Tron: Legacy," which opens Dec. 17, 61-year-old actor Jeff Bridges will play Kevin Flynn, at his natural age, and a computerized avatar called "Clu," who hasn't aged since around the time he was first created in the original "Tron" in 1982.

Clu bears Bridges' face, altered to make him about 35 years old, but it's grafted onto a younger actor's body.

While it may be eerie for audiences to see a new performance from a younger-looking Bridges, it was no less strange for the actor himself.

"It's bizarre. It's great news for me, because now it means I can play myself at any age," Bridges said.

There have been digitally created faces before, even on fully animated bodies. Think Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" or Dobby from "Harry Potter."

But no movie yet has done what The Walt Disney Co.'s "Tron: Legacy" attempts — putting an actor's rejuvenated face on a younger body, and in 3-D no less. Inevitably, the 61-year-old-turned-35-year-old face will be compared to Bridges when he was actually 35.

"With Jeff, we can go rent 'Against All Odds' or 'The Fabulous Baker Boys' or 'Starman,'" visual effects supervisor Eric Barba said. "All this makes it incredibly difficult."

The filmmakers did not want Bridges' Clu looking precisely as he did in 1982. The idea was that some time had elapsed, and Clu was meant to look like Bridges in "Against All Odds," which came out two years after the original "Tron."

"In our mythology, Clu was created after the events of the first film," director Joseph Kosinski said. "This is Clu 2."

Computers have already been used to roll back the years. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were made a couple decades younger in scenes from "X-Men: The Last Stand" from 2006.

Head alterations have happened, too. Helena Bonham Carter had an oversized cranium as the Red Queen in this year's "Alice in Wonderland," and the late Oliver Reed's face was put on a body double after he died during the shooting of "Gladiator," released in 2000.

But the triple-toe-loop of complexity in "Tron: Legacy" is a notch tougher than all that.

It also goes beyond the techniques that Barba and "Tron" animation supervisor Steve Preeg pioneered on Brad Pitt in the 2008 movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," for which they shared an Oscar for visual effects. Pitt was digitally remade to look older, but he was never re-engineered to appear as the younger actor who has been seen by countless millions on celluloid.

By contrast, "we know what Jeff looks like and how he acted," Barba said. "It just means that people's perceptions will vary across the board."

In "Tron: Legacy," Clu was created to help Bridges' character and the other program, Tron, build a perfect virtual world, but Clu turns evil with his own dark notions of building a virtual society.

To make Clu, filmmakers made a silicon mold of Bridges' face and painted it like real flesh. They took multiple photos, put them into a computer and gave him a "digital face lift" that took out wrinkles, tightened the skin and shrunk down his nose and ears.

He then performed a series of facial movements, such as raising his outer left eyebrow or lifting his cheek. Those were recorded by camera and computerized in 3-D.

Finally, when Bridges acted in scenes as Clu, he wore a helmet with four tiny cameras pointed at his face. Dozens of dots on his face acted as reference points for the computer.

"Sometimes I could be in my street clothes and just have this weird helmet on," Bridges said.

The captured expressions are replicated on his younger-looking self. Actor John Reardon mimicked Bridges in later takes and had his face swapped out later.

Making sure Bridges' computerized head matched up with Reardon's body took artistry as well as high-tech. Preeg said filmmakers took more time looking at 160 Clu shots than they did at all the other 1,400 shots in the movie.

And who knows? Their hard work could help other aging actors reprise roles they never had in the first place.

"I think this technology opens up really interesting opportunities for actors," Kosinski said.

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