"Princess and the Frog." Disney
gets refocused on what it does best in this fun musical that's much more than an equally opportunity gimmick.
While it doesn't have breakout sequences like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid,"
it does have an interesting heroine, some wonderful supporting characters, and a genuinely tear-inducing ending. It's great
to see that the mouse factory isn't relying entirely on the Pixar side of the business. Speaking of Pixar, it has been a terrific
year for family films. When the latest Pixar offering, "Up," isn't a lock for Best Animated Film, that's a good
sign. I'd argue that "Princess and the Frog," "Up," "Where the Wild Things Are," "Ponyo"
and especially "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" all are worthy of spots on the newly expanded to 10 Academy Awards Best Picture
"Sherlock Holmes." The makers of the latest Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle-inspired flick have turned the brainy hero into a two-fisted action hero. And that's not a bad thing, especially when he's played by the endlessly charming and watchable Robert Downey Jr. (who deserves a spot as one of Hollywood's finest, most consistant actors) and sidekicked with Jude Law as Dr. Watson. The plot isn't one for the ages--it seems to come from a mixture of equal parts "National Treasure" and Indiana Jones--and the female lead isn't as effectively written, director or acted as the lead boys, but that doesn't get in the way of the fun. Lots of violent action keeps this from being recommended for younger kids, but teens and up should have a blast. Even the Sherlock Holmes club members behind me at the screening (including my librarian) gave it a thumbs up.
The magic that Rob Marshall brought to the film version of "Chicago" is nowhere to be found in his muddy adaption
of the musical "Nine." I didn't see the show on stage, but I know that it's central gimmick was that blocked film
director Guido Contini was the only man in the show. The rest of the cast of characters was comprised of the women in his
life, including his mother, his wife, his mistress and his muse. In opening up the film, Marshall loses that focus. And the
Maury Yeston songs--the few that weren't cut--don't translate well into close-ups. The result is an unpleasant, unfocused,
dull film that doesn't help us understand or even care about the problems of this weasel. Daniel Day-Lewis seems to be working
hard, but to little effect. And the only stand-outs among the women are Marion Cotillard as the wronged wife and Stacy "Fergie"
Ferguson, who gives her song--and the movie--much needed uumph.