The City of Final Destination – 5

Five characters of five nationalities in a country estate in Uruguay, struggling over the legacy of a popular one-book author, sounds like the setting for intriguing interpersonal relationships, if not a postmodern Chekhovian roundelay. Unfortunately, only Charlotte Gainsbourg and Anthony Hopkins inhabited their roles in a convincing manner, and too often the acting resembled an early run-through of a tired, very tired, Merchant-Ivory script.  The other characters were one-dimensional, the plot was predictable, and the stakes seemed very low indeed.

Oceans – 5

Not much of a story – in fact, no story – just weak segues in Pierce Brosnan’s embarrasingly anthropomorphic and fey narration. There were plenty of “how-did-they-get-that?!” shots of whales, gannets, and stonefish, but without any common thread the “let’s-save-the-ocean” pitch came across as gratuitous.

Exit Through the Gift Shop – 6

I wish that the star, Thierry Guetta, had been more attractive and that he had been a better videographer, because the story of street art was inherently fascinating; I would have loved a movie all about Banksy, the nominal producer of this film (I have my doubts). As it was, Exit provided an inside, introductory look at one small niche of contemporary art, an agreeable way to pass a couple of rainy afternoon hours.

Shutter Island – 5

If Martin Scorsese is such a great director, why does he cast Leonardo DiCaprio in the psychologically complicated role of Teddy Daniels? Or Mark Ruffalo as his sidekick, for that matter? Perhaps this was an unfilmable story, relying as it does on a shocking twist at the end that works far better on the page. In any case, having read the book and knowing what we did, we both found the plot just too absurd to hold together.

The Secret in their Eyes – 8

A very fine movie with beautiful stars, humor and pathos, engaging plot and a wonderful feel for the exotic Argentine culture. By telling the story through the prosecutor-turned-novelist’s eyes, director Campanella could mix fact, imagination and speculation in a way that kept us guessing, and a little enchanted, too. The “secret” in their eyes was a love story that was never very secret but provided a satisfying, albeit complicated, ending to a movie so much truer than the Streep-Baldwin-Martin tangle.

The Messenger – 6.5

It was fun to watch Woody Harrelson for awhile, but his characterization couldn’t sustain the whole movie, and there really wasn’t much else. The story of two Army men assigned to inform next-of-kin of a death in Iraq, the film thought it was deeper than it was: Sgt. Will’s struggle to regain his humanity after his combat experience was the attempted narrative arc, but neither he nor his story moved me. The number of deaths they got to report in a short time and a small area, each with a dramatic response, was a poetic stretch that added to the hollowness of this story compared to Hurt Locker, Valley of Elah, and even StopLoss.