Lincoln – 7

More interesting as history lesson than movie (assuming, of course, that the history was reliable).

Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones were terrific, but they were the only ones with good lines and interesting personalities. The others were drawn from the Hollywood stockyard, and the scenes they played were devoid of subtlety. I felt I was back in the world of War Horse, rather than a world of real people. (Mark Twain, we know, would say it wasn’t a world of real people, it was Congress.) The story itself had two problems in my eyes. One, was it a movie about the 13th Amendment, or was it a movie about Lincoln? The two never meshed, particularly in the person of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose every appearance as Lincoln’s older son seemed an intrusion. Second, we were primed to root for the passage of the amendment, but it was hard to get emotionally involved when the only issue seemed to be, could the “good guys” bribe enough Congressmen in time for the vote. Still, the movie was filmed beautifully (except for blurring at the edges of the screen) and the consistently dark tone left you thinking you had just seen a black-and-white movie from, say, the ‘40s. Spielberg knows how to make movies, for sure; it’s just a shame that his esthetic is so commercial.

Skyfall – 7

The Sessions – 6.5

Chasing Mavericks – 6

Pure hokum, along the lines of a Disney after-school special – Spin & Marty, anyone? – but an enjoyably inoffensive gloss on the surfer culture I now find myself living amid. There’s no acting worth mentioning, and the women are window dressing, but the shots of the ocean, and the surfing, are worth sticking around for.

Seven Psychopaths – 7.7

The great Christopher Walken is enough to enjoy this murder-comedy, but there are plenty of other wonderful performances: Colin Farrell as the procrastinating screenwriter, Woody Harrelson as the dog-loving gangster kingpin, Tom Waits as…Tom Waits?, and Sam Rockwell as the lead psychopath. The setup is rather primitive – for a reason that only appears after the credits – but the tongue-in-cheek humor is always intelligent, as befits a Martin McDonagh screenplay. Rarely has killing seemed so lighthearted, or dognapping so funny.