Alcatraz - B+
Checking out a new J.J. Abrams series is always high on my list and so far only incredibly uneven Undercovers has been a complete bust. Alcatraz hasn't really delved too far into the mythology behind missing inmates (and a few workers) on the famous island prison who are reappearing in our time, but the hints and pieces of the mystery so far are quite intriguing. The characters are interesting (another strong female lead in an Abrams show) and the inmate-of-the-week premise, intersecting with flashbacks to 1960s life on the Rock, is working for the moment. I'll keep watching.
I'm not going to rate this one yet, only two episodes in, but I'm digging the "adult Glee" aspect. Katherine McPhee is a bigger star than she ever seemed on Idol and the songs are excellent. Original pieces for the show's Marilyn Monroe musical premise make me actually want to see said show (and if this series continues to be a ratings smash [sorry] I wouldn't be surprised to get one).
The Help - B
A little obvious and heavy-handed at times but a funny script and good performances (Viola Davis feels like a logical Oscar win) keep this film from being the typical Civil Rights drama. Emma Stone doesn't get to stretch as much as she's capable of as a forward-thinking young woman who wants to write about the lives of the black maids in her town.
Monsters - C-
This low-budget Cloverfield meets District 9 doesn't have the style and wow-factor of the first (the title "monsters" are rarely seen and not nearly as scary) or the sci-fi social commentary of the latter (not-so-vague allusions to illegal immigration and border barriers don't count). It didn't help that I was indifferent to characters.
Moneyball - A-
This could be the movie that becomes an obsession for me like The Social Network did last year. Great writing, an understated performance from Brad Pitt and an underdog story that really happened.
The Tree of Life - B
Artistically beautiful, but if you're looking for genuine plot and character development, you won't find it in this scattering of random memories, the kind of precious moments that stay in our heads but aren't necessarily significant. Terence Malick certainly captures your attention, but this is the kind of movie I'll never feel the need to watch a second time.