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Hollywood harks back to old genres for holiday releases 

Horsing around with The Artist, Tintin, and War Horse

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo charm in The Artist

The Weinstein Company

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo charm in The Artist

One of 2011's best films, The Artist (5 out of 5 stars, opens Dec. 23) offers a loving tribute to the best films of the 1920s. French director Michel Hazanavicius uses a pitch-perfect re-creation of black-and-white silent film to follow the career of George Valentin (the effortlessly charming Jean Dujardin), a swashbuckling silent film star who struggles to adjust to the introduction of talkies.

Gorgeous ingénue Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) rises with the popularity of talking pictures, while Valentin, refusing to compromise his artistic integrity by speaking, enters a downward spiral. Even in its most downbeat moments, Hazanavicius uses clever visual gags to convey The Artist's emotional core, while the story's metaphor for professions transformed by new technology proves enormously relevant in the Internet age.

click to enlarge PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Director Steven Spielberg opens two films during Christmas week, but unfortunately, they don't represent a new renaissance in his craft. The Adventures of Tintin (2 out of 5 stars, opens Dec. 21), a technically impressive but underwritten motion-capture animated film, adapts a popular European comic book that never caught on in the United States. Young ace reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) races bad guys to uncover the secret of lost pirate treasure with the assistance of his dog Snowy and a boozing sea captain (Andy Serkis).

Spielberg clearly enjoys another chance for Indiana Jones-style derring-do and delights in his newfound ability to put his virtual camera anywhere. But for all its cliffhangers, Tintin proves surprisingly dull, and the script doesn't deliver the laughs you'd expect from three of the cleverest Brits in show business (Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish).

click to enlarge DREAMWORKS

The live-action War Horse (3 out of 5 stars, opens Dec. 25) follows the travels of a thoroughbred horse named Joey, raised by Devon farm boy Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and sold to an English cavalry officer at the outset of World War II. War Horse doesn't anthropomorphize Joey in an obnoxious way, but makes the horse a vehicle for sharing stories about people at war on either side of No-Man's-Land.

When the film focuses on the military, from the spit-and-polish cavalry to a pair of German brothers who consider desertion, War Horse can be powerful and harrowing. When it shifts to farm life, such as the endless first half hour, it's clumsy, mawkish, and practically crushed under the weight of a suffocating John Williams score. The exploits of Albert and Joey, however heavy-handed, at least prove less boring than the adventures of Tintin and Snowy.

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Related Films

  • The Adventures of Tintin

    • **   
    • Rated PG - Action/Adventure, Animation, Family
    • Directed by Steven Spielberg
    • Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig and Simon Pegg
    • Opens Wed. Dec. 21 in area theaters
  • The Artist

    • Rated PG-13 - Romance
    • Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
    • Stars Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell and Missi Pyle
    • Opens Fri. Nov. 25 in area theaters
  • War Horse

    • **** 
    • Rated PG-13 - Drama
    • Directed by Steven Spielberg
    • Stars Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan and Niels Arestrup
    • Opens Sun. Dec. 25 in area theaters
The Adventures of Tintin
Rated PG · 101 min. · 2011
Staff Rating:
Official Site: www.Us.Movie.Tintin.com
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Hergé
Producer: Peter Jackson, Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook and Sebastian Roché
War Horse
Rated PG-13 · 146 min. · 2011
Staff Rating:
Official Site: www.warhorsemovie.com
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Lee Hall and Richard Curtis
Producer: Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy
Cast: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Kebbell
The Artist
Rated PG-13 · 100 min. · 2011
User Rating:
Official Site: theartistmovie.net
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius
Producer: Thomas Langmann
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle, John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller, Beau Nelson, Ben Kurland, Jean Dujardin and Stuart Pankin

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