'A Christmas Carol'
Rated PG for scary sequences and images. One and a half stars out of four.
"Disney's A Christmas Carol" is, by my count, the 5,093rd movie adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" – or, as I prefer to call it, "Dickens's A Christmas Carol."
Shot in 3-D, it's not in the Top 10, either, not even the top 5,000. Writer-director Robert Zemeckis has now made his third performance-capture animated film, on the heels of "The Polar Express" and "Beowulf," and it's about time he crawled out of the CGI playpen and got back with the adults.
Jim Carrey plays Scrooge as well as the triumvirate of Ghosts, and Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins, and Robin Wright Penn also appear – sort of.
At least their voices are recognizable. Their performances are not so much performance-captured as performance-frozen – more Madame Tussaud than Mr. Wizard. Zemeckis tries to juice things up by staging numerous chase scenes up and around London, but do we really need "A Christmas Carol: The Action Picture"?
'The Men Who Stare At Goats'
Rated R for language, some drug content, and brief nudity. Two stars out of four.
It probably sounded funny on paper, and yes, onscreen, there are a few moments of deadpan wackiness. But "The Men Who Stare at Goats," starring George Clooney, mostly comes across as a botched cross between "Dr. Strangelove" and "Three Kings" (which also starred Clooney, to much better effect).
It's loosely based on a nonfiction book by British journalist Jon Ronson about the US military's top-secret plan to create a battalion of psychic soldiers in the wake of Vietnam.
Jeff Bridges plays the Big Lebowski-ish ponytailed Bill Django, who founds the New Earth Army and counsels his cadre, among them Clooney's stone-faced Lyn Cassady, on the proper way to run invisibly through walls and kills goats by staring at them.
Kevin Spacey, as another of the New Earthers, lives up to his surname. Ewan McGregor plays the Ronson-like journalist, which mostly consists of double takes.
By bringing the story into Iraq, Grant Heslov courts tastelessness. Gooniness and Gitmo don't mix.