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movie reviews

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

Philomena

6

Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Judi Dench, in fine, feisty form, plays Philomena Lee, a good Irish-Catholic out to find the bastard son the nuns at the Roscrea convent took from her half a century ago and sold to rich Americans while she slaved in the church laundry. The script is co-written by Steve Coogan, who plays Martin Sixsmith, the atheist Brit journalist who brought Philomena's search to light. Dench and Coogan lock horns with great humor, though director Stephen Frears (The Queen) never lets them get too warm... | More »

November 15, 2013
November 7, 2013

The Book Thief

6

Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse

Directed by: Brian Percival

If there can be such a thing as a sweet, reflective fable about death and the Holocaust, The Book Thief is it. Based on the bestseller by Markus Zusak, the film tells the story of Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse), a young girl left in the care of foster parents Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) and his strict laundress wife, Rosa (Emily Watson). It’s gentle Hans who teaches the illiterate Liesel how to read. Since the story is set in Nazi Germany, you can see what’s coming whe... | More »

The Armstrong Lie

6

Directed by: Alex Gibney

It's quite a spectacle, watching Lance Armstrong lie his ass off. And believing his own lies. Don't sociopaths do that? You be the judge. Documentarian Alex Gibney, who won an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, pedals there this time. But the result is scary, suspenseful and shockingly intense. In a sense, Gibney fell into The Armstrong Lie. He began filming in 2008, when the seven-time winner of the Tour de France and survivor of testicular cancer was prepping his return to competiti... | More »

Go for Sisters

6

Edward James Olmos, LisaGay Hamilton, Yolonda Ross

Directed by: John Sayles

Here's the thing about John Sayles. From his debut feature, 1980's Return of the Secaucus Seven, through the satire of The Brother From Another Planet, the labor troubles of Matewan, the baseball scandal of Eight Men Out, the political treachery of City of Hope, the painful intimacy of Passion Fish, the child's heart of The Secret of Roan Inish, the collision of past and present in Lone Star, and the scalding relevancy of Men With Guns – I could go on, as Sayles does cons... | More »

The Motel Life

6

Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch

Directed by: Alan and Gabriel Polsky

Life's a relentless ass-kick for the Flannigan brothers, Jerry Lee (Stephen Dorff) and younger sibling, Frank (Emile Hirsch). Dorff and Hirsch, by the way, are outstanding, engaged and enthralling. These lost boys saw their mother waste away from cancer, and the only memory of runaway dad is a gold-plated rifle he left behind. Frank's a recovering drunk. And Jerry Lee lost a leg hopping a train. Their life is a road trip of sleazebag motels. Yet Frank writes stories that imagine the... | More »

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