Martin Scorsese directs this suspense thriller, reuniting with Leonardo DiCaprio for the fourth time. The result is a powerful ride that viewers rated a must-see 85 percent approval, but I must admit that, after seeing the trailers, I had my doubts. Having just gone through the painful experience of watching "The Lovely Bones" for Stanley Tucci's Oscar-nominated performance, I thought Scorsese had traveled down the CGI trail and was manufacturing a film that lacked his skill and style. While unrelenting CGI nonsense -- rainbows, waterfalls, wheat fields, gazebos, etc. -- populates all aspects of "Lovely Bones," the "Shutter Island" special-effects trailers feature crumbling bodies, transforming specters and other all-around wackiness. But you needn't fear: Scorsese's effort has some meat on its bones.
U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), traverse the watery span between mainland Massachusetts and foreboding Shutter Island, once a Civil War fortress. The structure now operates as a hospital for the criminally insane. Teddy is summoned to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer), a missing child killer, seemingly into thin air.
Scorsese pays homage to film noir, unraveling the mystery with ominous music, an impending hurricane (a la "Key Largo"), atmospheric settings and unsettling characters. Prison director Ben Kingsley and colleague Max von Sydow point to the existence of dark secrets; an unreliable narrator never allows viewers to predict the movie's direction; and DiCaprio's tortured soul is filled with personal demons, owing to his participation in the liberation of Dachau, the Nazi death camp, and the painful loss of his beloved wife (Michelle Williams) in a fire. Even with special effects, "Shutter Island" remains a Scorsese-stylized thriller that spares no effort to maximize suspense. Add DiCaprio's riveting performance, and you've entered must-see territory.
Comments included: "Actually, it makes you feel as if you're going crazy, too" ... "You never know what the reality is. That's what makes it great" (many) ... and "Moved slowly and with purpose, but that's a nice break from the normal frenzied pace of the average Hollywood film."
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THE INFORMANT: As Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) climbs the agribusiness ladder, he pauses to tell the FBI about a corporate price-fixing scheme. It seems Mark likes personal profits as much as the next guy. As an amateur undercover agent, however, he bumbles and confounds FBI professionals (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale). Considered a dandy parody of American business ethics by many critics and half the general public, the film was judged midrange bizarre by the remaining half. The resultant 47 percent approval signals caution. Viewers reacted: "Strange" (many) ... "It's a little different, especially the music" (many) ... "It's a fun kind of black humor, and it looks like real life, too" ... "Surprised to see a totally different Matt Damon" ... and "There is always another 'truth' behind the 'truth.' You just never know."
EVERYBODY'S FINE: Robert De Niro plays Frank, a lonely widower whose plan for a family reunion is sadly vetoed. So in an attempt to reconnect, he travels across the county to meet each of his children (Austin Lysy, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore and Sam Rockwell) individually. Lackluster and tedious, the movie hits too many sad notes. A 70 percent approval signals mediocre drama. Moviegoers said: "The story is a little depressing" (many) ... "Says a lot about warmth in the family" ... "Sad and depressing" ... and "More about a story about life's lessons than a happy Hollywood movie."
THE BOX: A struggling couple, Arthur and Norma (James Marsden and Cameron Diaz), receives a mysterious box with a red button on top. A disfigured Mr. Steward (Frank Langella) offers the opportunity to push the button and receive a cool million dollars. The catch is that someone unknown to them will die at the same moment. The couple does not perceive the inference that viewers can see clearly: There will be strings attached. It's set in 1976, and Arthur works for NASA. Could there be a connection? A 35 percent approval means nobody cares. Viewers explained the eeriness as: "Horrible" ... "I don't understand" ... "Terrible ending, a lot isn't explained" ... and "I couldn't wait for it to end."
CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT: Average schoolboy Darren (Chris Massoglia) runs away with a traveling freak show, and is instilled with half-vamp status by his mentor Crepsley (John C. Reilly). With grotesque action and morbid humor, the film employs A-list stars (Salma Hayek, Ken Watanabe, Willem Dafoe) hopping on the Harry Potter train, but scored only a lackluster 52 percent approval. Viewers reacted: "The way the movie ended shows that there will be a sequel. I hope that one will be a little better"... "It's a little funny at times" ... "Had a good story, special effects are nice"