Capsule reviews of new releases

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 7 2011 6:20 p.m. MST

In this film image released by Focus Features, Gary Oldman is shown in a scene from "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."

Focus Features, Jack English, Associated Press

"New Year's Eve" — This is the second in a remarkably shallow series of holiday-themed, celebrity-stuffed confections, following "Valentine's Day." Garry Marshall again directs a script by Katherine Fugate that weaves together a dozen or so plotlines that crisscross a holiday prone to sentimentalizing. If there is some kind of world record for schmaltz, this may have set it. Included here are first kisses, midnight rendezvous, dying fathers, newborn babies, husbands at war and trapped strangers. It's narcotic mawkishness, with notes played on heartstrings like a 12-string guitar. Though it's pure, rosy fantasy on screen, this is cynical, paint-by-the-numbers entertainment, sold with a gaggle of stars spread across its movie poster like a telethon lineup. Among them: Hilary Swank as a producer of the Times Square ball drop, Jon Bon Jovi as a rock star, Katherine Heigl as a catering chef, Abigail Breslin as Sarah Jessica Parker's rebelling teenage daughter, Zac Efron as an ultra-confident courier, Jessica Biel as Seth Meyers' pregnant wife and Halle Berry as the nurse of a dying Robert De Niro. Maybe the really good stuff will come once they get to "Columbus Day," or maybe, just maybe, "Ash Wednesday." PG-13 for language, including some sexual references. 117 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" — Gary Oldman is in a tough spot here. As the ironically named George Smiley, he's an inherently reticent, veteran operative, given to revealing nothing personally or professionally. And yet, as the central figure in this adaptation of John le Carre's best-selling 1974 Cold War novel, he must serve as our conduit, our guide through a shadowy and increasingly dangerous world where no one is to be trusted and nothing is as it initially seems. Because he's Gary Oldman and he's such a chameleon, he finds a slyness beneath the stoic veneer, a frightening intelligence that makes him a surprisingly formidable force. Oldman leads an excellent cast, a veritable who's-who of top British actors working today, all of whom keep us guessing as to who the traitor might be among them. Tomas Alfredson, perhaps best known for directing the superb Swedish vampire thriller "Let the Right One In," has crafted a precisely detailed, well-acted mystery. But he's created a chilly mood that may be a bit too cold, a tension that may almost be too restrained. Smiley, who's been forced into retirement by Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, is rehired to uncover a mole among its ranks. Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds and David Dencik are the suspects. R for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language. 127 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Young Adult" — Gorgeous but damaged, conceited yet self-loathing, Charlize Theron dares you to like her, and the movie itself dares you to stick with an anti-heroine who makes no apologies for her deplorable behavior. It's an exciting thing to see, this willful rejection of tidy character arcs and happy endings, and it actually makes you wish "Young Adult" had been even further fleshed out and gone on a little longer. This is not something we say about a movie very often. In re-teaming with "Juno" director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody dials down the snark that marked the Oscar-winning script that made her a superstar in her own right. She's actually created the anti-Juno in a lot of ways while managing to retain much of the directness, the sharply drawn characters and the casual poignancy that are her signatures. Theron's teen-lit writer Mavis Gary is as verbal as Juno MacGuff was, but rather than finding the perfect, clever quip at all times, she usually manages to say the rudest, most inappropriate thing. This trait is on vivid, horrific display when she returns to her Minnesota small town to pry her high-school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson) away from his wife (Elizabeth Reaser) and newborn daughter. Patton Oswalt is excellent as Mavis' nerdy former classmate and the film's voice of reason. R for language and some sexual content. 94 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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