Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Actors in Los Angeles may be used to getting up earlier than most mere mortals to make their set call times and hit the makeup chairs and wardrobe trailers. But Desperate Housewives star James Denton's wee-hours rise to announce this year's 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award nominations on Tuesday came with an extra special reward: not only did he get to reveal that his co-star Teri Hatcher was in the running in the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series category, Denton himself was a nominee as well, joining his cast mates in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
"It's a real honor to be nominated for best ensemble," the wide-awake Denton, who was called to West Hollywood's Pacific Design Center as a last minute fill-in for Dennis Franz (who was stuck up north in Montecito unable drive to waterlogged L.A. because the freeways were shut down), told Hollywood.com. "And I was REAL happy to get to call Teri's name."
The actor, who plays the plumber-with-a-secret Mike Delfino on the hit show said it was definitely worth getting up on his day off. "I've got a baby, so I'm at this time of day anyway. Well, maybe I got up a little earlier than normal. But it was no problem at all. I was happy to jump in and fill in for Dennis."
Denton was eager to share the news with his co-stars but planned on waiting until a more appropriate hour. "I'll probably call Teri and congratulate her--I'll give her a couple hours. We'll see each other later on today. It'll be really fun to talk about it. Everybody's so thrilled. We're really honored with the People's Choice Award, and the Golden Globes are next weekend and almost all the women are nominated, so we're just really happy that people found us."
"I've been around long enough to know we're really fortunate, and take it sort of with a grain of salt in a way, because you don't want to feel like 'Oh, suddenly we've all arrived and we're gonna be rich and famous.'" said Denton of the Housewives" breakthrough season. "It's more a matter of people appreciating what you're doing. It's fun to go to work when you know people are going to see it. Believe me, I've gone to work on TV shows where you knew nobody was going to see it. It's really been a fun ride in that respect."
Along with the ensemble nod, Hatcher was the only Housewife to snare a solo nomination, joining familiar SAG staples Patricia Heaton, Doris Roberts, Megan Mullally and Sarah Jessica Parker in the female comedy category. The ensemble will compete against the casts of Arrested Development, Everybody Loves Raymond, Sex and the City and Will & Grace.
No Peer Pressure
Denton teamed with Alexander actress Rosario Dawson to make the live announcements for nominations, which encompass actors in both film and television. The SAG Awards will be presented and televised live on TNT on Feb. 5 in what is traditionally a star-studded ceremony, as most actors enjoy receiving accolades from their fellow thespians. "As an actor if you're getting nominated you know it's coming from your peers as opposed to a critic," Dawson told Hollywood.com. "It's not just an awards show, or a popularity or critics' contest.
"It's really about people who understand the work that goes into acting, who are inspired by it to the point of wanting to do it themselves, and just recognizing that an active actor," Dawson explained. "I'm really looking forward to the awards ceremony themselves. It's supposed to be just a love-fest: film and TV actors get together and just hang around and have a good time."
Denton agreed that the SAG Awards have a particular resonance among performers. "The SAG Awards are cool because we know how it works. So many of the other voting boards are kind of nebulous, and you're not really sure who they are. But with the SAG Awards it's people you know and you've worked with. And you get your own ballot so you know exactly how the process works, so it feels a little more real. And it's always interesting to see what actors respond to, That's a lot of fun, because I think we, whether it's right or wrong, tend to respect each others opinions-maybe more so than other people because we have the same attitudes. So it's fun to see what they nominate and what they vote for."
There were some clear favorites among this year's acting nominees. Jamie Foxx led the pack, with nods in the film categories for male lead and the ensemble of Ray as well as supporting male in Collateral and as the male lead for the TV movie Redemption. Hilary Swank also fared well, collecting noms as the female lead and in the ensemble of the feature Million Dollar Baby along with a nod as the female lead in the HBO telepic Iron Jawed Angels. Members of the cast of Sideways were other clear actors' darlings, with film nominations for Paul Giamatti (male lead), Thomas Haden Church (supporting male), Virginia Madsen (supporting female) and the entire ensemble.
Among series TV performers, familiar faces ruled: Allison Janney, Ray Romano, Jennifer Garner, Sean Hayes, Edie Falco, Tony Shalhoub, Christine Lahti, Kiefer Sutherland, James Gandolfini, Hank Azaria, Anthony Lapaglia, Heaton, Roberts, Mullally and Parker are among the perennials in various categories. Two and a Half Men's Charlie Sheen scored his first-even nomination as male lead in a comedy, while Drea de Matteo also got a solo nod-for The Sopranos not Joey-after several seasons of ensemble nominations.
And nine-times-ensemble-nominated actor Jerry Orbach, the Law & Order veteran who died in December, received his first solo nomination as male actor in a drama series.
In addition to sharing their respect for one another's talents, SAG president Melissa Gilbert also congratulated the prominent actors-such as Sandra Bullock, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Famke Janssen and many others-who have stepped up and shown compassion and financial relief for the victims of the devastating tsunami in South Asia.
"The acting community has a long and distinguished history of aiding people in need, particularly in times of crisis, and I'm proud of the many actors who stepped forward this past week to be part of the relief effort," said Gilbert. "Our hearts and a prayers continue to be with those who have been affected."
In the tradition of giving and receiving, SAG has loaded up a celebrity gift basket jammed-packed with A-list goodies, many of which will be donated back for auction to benefit the SAG Foundation's community children's literacy and member assistance programs. To check out the SAG swag, visit www.sagawards.org/auction.
Here is the complete list of nominees:
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series for Television
Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives
Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond
Megan Mullaly, Will & Grace
Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City
Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Made for Television
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series for Television
Everyone Loves Raymond
Sex and The City
Will & Grace
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series for Television
Hank Azaria, Huff
James Gandolfini, The Sopranos
Anthony LaPaglia, Without A Trace
Jerry Orbach, Law & Order
Kiefer Sutherland, 24
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for Television
Drea de Matteo, The Sopranos
Edie Falco, The Sopranos
Jennifer Garner, Alias
Allison Janey, The West Wing
Christine Lahti, Jack & Bobby
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for Television
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Six Feet Under
The West Wing
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Glenn Close, Lion in Winter
Patrica Heaton, The Goodbye Girl
Keke Palmer, The Wool Cap
Hilary Swank, Iron Jawed Angels
Charlize Theron, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Jamie Foxx, Redemption
William H. Macy, The Wool Cap
Barry Pepper, The Dale Earnhardt Story
Geoffrey Rush, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Jon Voight, The Five People You Meet In Heaven
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Annette Bening, Being Julia
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Kate Winslet, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Leading Role
Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator
Jamie Foxx, Ray
Paul Giamatti, Sideways
Outstanding Performance for a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
Cloris Leachman, Spanglish
Laura Linney, Kinsey
Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Thomas Hayden Church, Sideways
Jamie Foxx, Collateral
Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
James Garner, The Notebook
Freddie Highmore, Finding Neverland
Outstanding Performance by a Cast of a Motion Picture
Million Dollar Baby