March 30, 2011

Original co-director Glen Keane set out to make Tangled (Disney) a painterly composition—literally, reaching for the richness of a Jean-Honoré Fragonard painting—that would look as much like hand-painted art as CGI. The final work, directed by Bolt partners Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, isn’t quite that sumptuous, but its visuals do have an impressive luminosity and texture, and that’s just the beginning of its fast-paced, funny charms…

Love him or hate him, Darren Aronofsky could never be accused of doing anything halfway. He commits to a concept and treats it with all the fevered intensity and technique he can conjure. Black Swan (Fox) turns up the gas on the backstage, domestic, and psychological melodrama surrounding a New York ballet company’s new production of Swan Lake, and succeeds brilliantly, thanks in part to Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning lead performance… 

Mad Men: Season Four (Lionsgate) finds Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his associates struggling to get their brand-new ad agency off the ground while its leaders flounder—none more so than Don, whose crumbled marriage stokes his worst instincts for women and drink. It’s a dark season, but also one of its best, with a jewel of a centerpiece in “The Suitcase,” an episode built around a revealing late-night tussle between Don and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) that brings stinging clarity to his elusive character… 

Fans of The Wire had trouble adjusting to the particular rhythms of creator David Simon’s follow-up, Treme (HBO); while both shows are suffused with the journalistic detail that’s long been a Simon hallmark, Treme’s more relaxed slice-of-life doesn’t have the same dramatic impact. But it’s still a rich, sweeping document of the city post-Hurricane Katrina, and the music is terrific… 

You would imagine a ripped-from-the-headlines drama about one of the most shameful recent scandals in American politics would attract a lot of attention. Yet Doug Liman’s Fair Game (Warner Bros.), a drama about ambassador Joseph Wilson and wife/CIA agent Valerie Plame’s battles with Scooter Libby and the Bush administration, received a sleepy reception despite a fine performance by Sean Penn, who plays Wilson as a man whose bull-headedness is both his greatest strength and fatal flaw…

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