New Year’s Eve

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New Year’s Eve

Run time 110 minutes
OK for children.

Robert De Niro and Halle Berry, among many others, star in “New Year’s Eve.”

These “cavalcade of stars” movies are generally a complete waste of time. This one, directed by Garry Marshall, is better than most, mainly because Marshall knows his way around a comedy, plus he gets good performances from some members of his cast, like Zac Efron, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, and Michelle Pfeiffer, who gives her Diane Keaton impersonation. In fact, had I not known better I would have thought that it was Diane, but the Diane of 20 years ago.

There’s no plot that I could determine, just a bunch of vignettes (eight in all) about people on New Year’s Eve tied together by Hilary Swank’s effort to get the big ball fixed so it could drop on time. There are lots of others in this but it would take up my entire allocation of words to list them.

There is a coming-of-age first, Abigail Breslin becoming a young woman and getting a romantic kiss. Then there are those who clearly were only on the set for a day or two, like Robert De Niro, who is terminal and in bed for most of his few scenes.

There is one dichotomy that really hit home. Swank gives a maudlin speech about never giving up and second chances, a big turn around for the woman who starred in the most disgraceful homage to giving up ever made, Million Dollar Baby (2004).

Despite that, the vignettes are relatively harmless and while generally uninvolving, it’s better than sitting through some other films that are out there right now.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Run time 130 minutes
OK for children.

Gary Oldman in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

John Le Carré, the author of the book, is the pseudonym for David Cornwell. As Cornwell, he wrote two fine, small British mysteries, Call for the Dead and Murder of Quality. They epitomize what is apparently a dying genre, but both are entertaining. Then he wrote The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It became a worldwide bestseller and a popular film starring Richard Burton (one of Burton’s few good films) as George Smiley, allowing Cornwell to quit his civil service job and become a fulltime novelist.

While Spy was a terrific thriller, unfortunately for me, his succeeding books have been long, convoluted, and uninteresting, albeit bestsellers.

This movie, for me, follows his novels very well, because it’s long, convoluted, and slow. Directed by Tomas Alfredson from a script by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan, Smiley (Gary Oldman), Le Carré’s longtime protagonist (actually making his first appearance in Call for the Dead) has retired but there’s a mole in the British spy organization and Smiley is called in privately by Control (John Hurt) to find him or her. For good measure, maybe to appeal to the critics, Alfredson also throws in a spot of anti-Americanism.

What results is an awful lot of talk. Smiley doesn’t smile much, nor does he talk much. What he does is think, I guess, and listen. The first half of the film is inordinately slow and confusing. Maybe that’s part of the charm, but I generally think it’s nice to know what’s going on, instead of spending more than half of the movie trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s one thing to have a mystery about whodunnit, but it’s quite another to have a mystery about whatthehellisgoingon for an hour and a half.

The plot really doesn’t pick up and become comprehensible until Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy) enters the film well beyond the halfway point. That’s when it becomes clearer and there are actually a couple of people to care about.

Smiley’s unemotional presence becomes somewhat grating, and the mole is so obvious from the very beginning that there is really not much reason to sit there for two more hours before s/he is revealed.

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