Jon, see what you started?

I almost didn't go to The Descendants because the previews made it look like a fluff movie. But it has real substance and it is so well done! Clooney makes good movies. And yes, it has his signature shot, a lingering close-up of the back of his head. grin

Rita, I couldn't agree more about War Horse. Great horse(s), bad movie. Everything from the bright yellow Norman Rockwell sky casting a hazy glow over the awful poverty of the Devon farmers (well, it's home, don't you see) to that annoying French girl with the impenetrable accent to...well, just plain bad movie-making.

One example only. A British cavalry unit prepares to attack a German camp set up in a clearing in the woods. A recon team reports the camp is lightly guarded and the Germans suspect nothing. So the attack begins, and we get a series of quick shots, switching from the mounted British yelling a battle cry and riding with their swords pointed straight ahead, to the Germans scrambling out of their tents and trying to make it into the woods before those thundering horses got there...back and forth between the two, building up tension for the moment the two collide -- but we're not shown that moment. Suddenly there are riders among the tents but there's no moment of impact, no first meeting of the two sides. I guess Spielberg couldn't get that initial collision to look effective, so he just skipped it.

Anyway, what the charging British don't know is the Germans have machine guns in the woods. Lots of them, lined up and ready to fire. It's not quite the Charge of the Light Brigade (swords against guns) because the movie cavalry didn't know they'd be facing guns (bad recon), but the result is the same. The camera pulls back to show the slaughter, a field littered with dead horses and dead British soldiers...all laid out in a perfect checkerboard pattern. Someone had to have measured the distances among the various clumps of corpses to get the placements that uniform. It is so stagey that what should be tragic becomes merely ludicrous. Phooey.

Bad news: The Iron Lady has not been getting very good reviews. Everyone is agreed that Streep is fantastic, but quite a few critics are saying the movie itself is crap. metacritic

Sorry to be so long-winded (no, I'm not), but I've got one more thing I want to mention.
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*********** The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo SPOILER *******************
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I've not read the Millennium trilogy, so the story was new to me. But I was able to spot the killer early on. Not because of the script, or the direction, or the acting, but because of the casting. Stellan Skarsgård is far too strong an actor to be wasted in such a minor role...unless he had a big scene coming up at the end. And did he ever! Presence justified.

Now I'm done.