Wednesday movie roundup: No turkeys this Thanksgiving
After a month filled with bad movies ("Jack and Jill," "J. Edgar," "Breaking Dawn"), the film gods reward us with a Thanksgiving weekend in which all the new releases are great.
Let's start with "The Muppets," a fond and funny reboot of the franchise and the first time the felt-and-fur friends have been in a movie since 1999. The story revolves around puppet (and maybe future Muppet) Walter (performed by Peter Linz), who tags along with his human brother Gary (Jason Segel, who co-wrote) and Gary's long-waiting girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to L.A. to discover what's become of his Muppet heroes. Soon he's encouraging Kermit and pals to reunite for a big telethon to save the Muppet Theatre from a greedy oil baron (Chris Cooper). The tunes are lively, the humor is sharp without being snarky, and the Muppet personalities are as charming as ever. This may be a movie, though, that the grown-ups will enjoy more than the kids.
The same might be said of "Hugo," director Martin Scorsese's gee-whiz contraption of a movie. Adapting Brian Selznick's best-seller "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," the movie tells of an orphan (Asa Butterfield) living in the Paris train station in 1931, who encounters an old toymaker (Ben Kingsley) and his book-loving goddaughter (ChloÃ« Grace Moretz) and an adventure that revolves around a complex automaton and the lost works of silent film pioneer Georges Melies. Scorsese's love of movies gets full play here, as he honors the magic of film while adding some new tricks himself (including some of the best 3-D work you've ever seen).
"Arthur Christmas" is a more straight-forward holiday confection, a bright and funny computer-animated tale from Britain's Aardman Animation (the folks behind "Wallace and Gromit"). Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) is the klutzy son of Santa Claus (voiced by Jim Broadbent), who decides to take action when a girl doesn't get her Christmas present. It's destined to become a Christmas staple.
There's also a great movie just for the adults: "The Descendants," director Alexander Payne's touching and heartbreaking comedy-drama that provides George Clooney with perhaps the best role of his career. Clooney plays Matt King, a Honolulu lawyer whose life is turned upside-down when his wife is left in a coma after a powerboat accident. Matt must deal with his two daughters (Amara Miller and Shailene Woodley), and with the news that his wife was cheating on him. The performances are authentic and raw, and both Clooney and Woodley shine.