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movie reviews

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

5

Martin Freeman

Directed by: Peter Jackson

The first Hobbit was quite a success at the box office ($1 billion worldwide). But if we're being honest, we'd admit it was a little boring and a lot long, at 169 minutes. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a little less long and a little less boring. That's because after two hours of setup involving Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he hobbits along with the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), to win back the Dwarf Ki... | More »

Saving Mr. Banks

6

Emma Thompson

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

Don't gag. But this movie about how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) finally persuaded P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to let him make a movie of her Mary Poppins books is a tasty swig of holiday cheer. Ms. Travers (Pamela to a select few) was a piece of work. And Thompson is a spit-spot pleasure in the role, sharp-tongued and deadpan-hilarious. Mary Poppins, the flying nanny to the very British Banks family, could be stern. But for sass, Pamela has it all over her creation, played by an Oscar-winni... | More »

December 5, 2013

Out of the Furnace

5

Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson

Directed by: Scott Cooper

This is only Scott Cooper's second film as a director, but he already knows how to bring out lived-in authenticity in actors. His 2009 debut with Crazy Heart resulted in an Oscar win for Jeff Bridges. Out of the Furnace walks meaner streets than that country ramble. The film opens in 2008, with Obama calling for change and no one buying it in Braddock, Pennsylvania, where you work in the Carrie Furnace mill, if you're lucky enough to work at all. Remind you of The Deer Hunter much? ... | More »

November 27, 2013

Oldboy

3

Josh Brolin, Elisabeth Olsen

Directed by: Spike Lee

Josh Brolin is such a fine, intuitive actor that matching him up with Spike Lee, an uneven, untethered, not-afraid-to-fail director, to Americanize Park Chan-wook's 2003 Korean cult classic Oldboy exudes potential. On paper. What's onscreen feels squeezed, truncated and curiously embalmed. It's got no kick to it. Brolin gives his all and then some playing Joe Doucett, a workaholic ad exec who neglects his estranged wife and young daughter in pursuit of his next drink. After an ... | More »

Frozen

6

Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

In a year of weak animated features, Frozen – loosely based on "The Snow Queen" – takes the lead by default. There's not much flair in the story of princess sisters Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), divided by Elsa's uncontrollable ability to turn things, even Anna, to ice. But the animation is pretty, the songs are tuneful, and Josh Gad gets big laughs as Olaf, a snowman with a sun fetish. It's the holidays, people, work with it. | More »

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

5

Idris Elba, Naomie Harris

Directed by: Justin Chadwick

Movies about great people tend to be, well, not so great. If you're still enthused about the Oscar-winning Gandhi, my apologies. I'm not. There's that rush to get everything in so that the essentials of characterization that often lie on the fringes get neglected or totally ignored. But don't dump Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on the scrap heap just yet. Biopic blight definitely afflicts this respectful, near-canonizing look at the life of Nelson Mandela, elected President... | More »

November 21, 2013

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