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Movies Reviews

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Review
Warner Bros.
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‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ Review

There comes a time when we must stop kidding ourselves. These 'Hobbit' films – with 'The Desolation of Smaug' representing the shank of the trilogy – are not real movies. These are exploitation films for Tolkien nuts, for enthusiasts of the original 'Lord of the Rings' movies and for audiences so hungry for high fantasy they'll gobble up whatever is served to them and ask for seconds.

As someone who has sympathy, but not empathy, for those who have such proclivities, I can get why someone might come away liking this picture. But that is more of an involuntary reaction to exposure to certain elements, not the summation of a film. Listen, there's a grey-bearded wizard who warns in low tones about a place that sounds like “Doggledoor.” And there's someone referred to as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror.” I love that geekorama stuff more than most. It's hilarious, and I'll probably refer to my cat as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror” for the next week. But this movie doesn't cohere – there's no forward momentum, no character development, no story happening. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fibber.

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American Hustle review
Sony Pictures
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‘American Hustle’ Review

There is so much hair in 'American Hustle.'

Christian Bale's disastrous comb-over/rug combo basically opens the film with a wordless monologue. Beneath that unnatural mop is the sharp mind of Irving Rosenfeld, a “from the feet up” con man making the leap from running legit (but boring) dry cleaning businesses to grifting down-on-their-luck rubes on bad bank loans. His operation starts taking off when he hooks up with Amy Adams, a natural businesswoman looking to reinvent herself. She does this with a name change, a phony British accent and, later in the film, by frizzing her hair out to preposterous proportions.

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Frozen Review
Disney
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‘Frozen’ Review

Sometimes great artistry comes from coloring inside the lines.

Walt Disney Animation's newest film, 'Frozen,' does precious little to push the boundaries of narrative storytelling. Indeed, it is a quite predictable – might I even suggest formulaic - culmination of elements. While picking over the bones of a half-remembered Hans Christian Andersen story, 'The Snow Queen,' Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck's film expands certain themes, disposes of some characters and, of course, modernizes a bit for contemporary audiences. However, miraculously, this doesn't feel like a Xerox of a Xerox impersonating a classic Disney film. There's precious little winking; hardly any of the 'Shrek'-effect. 'Frozen' has enough of the goods to play it straight and succeed on its own terms. It is a major entry in family-friendly entertainment, one that ought to reverberate for years with tie-in toys and stage productions.

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Oldboy review
FilmDistrict
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‘Oldboy’ Review

You'd think that a guy trapped in a hotel room for 20 years would find a better movie to be in once he got out, right?

'Oldboy,' Spike Lee's remake of the Park Chan-wook cult film from 2003, is a fairly rotten film, which is strange because it is very similar to the rather effective original. Sometimes, though, there's something gained in the translation.

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Hunger Games Catching Fire review
Lionsgate
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‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Review

When the closing credits rolled after the original 'The Hunger Games,' I thought to myself "eh, not bad." But I was in no rush to see the follow-up. When the closing credits rolled after Francis Lawrence's 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,' after I was able to collect myself, I was fully prepared to run out and get a mockingjay tattoo. Over my heart. With the phrase, "I will lay down my life for you, Katniss Everdeen, because you are the first and finest true hero of 21st century cinema."

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Delivery Man Review
DreamWorks
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‘Delivery Man’ Review

To be a heart-on-your-sleeve weepie in 2013, you've got to have some far-fetched gimmick. 'About Time' has time travel, 'Safe Haven' had ghosts and 'Delivery Man' has Vince Vaughn as an anonymous sperm donor hunted down by hundreds of his young-adult offspring. The mechanics of the plot are so ludicrous that audiences should be forgiven for shouting, “No, sorry, it wouldn't work that way!” back at the screen. But one has to give the movie credit for its sheer audacity. It refused to offer an explanation for its instigating illogic. Great character actor Damian Young gets the unenviable task of delivering the hook with the phrase “certain complications arose ...”

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Category: Movies Reviews
The Book Thief Review
20th Century Fox
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‘The Book Thief’ Review

Imagine, if you can, a film about World War II, and orphaned children, and looming death, and brutal Nazis, and the horrors of the Holocaust. Then imagine a narrator for that film. Then imagine the worst possible narrator* for that film – just the most wrong-headed, bizarre and frankly offensive narrator you can possibly picture. Keep that in mind. (And, if you’re not familiar with either the film’s source material or its IMDb page, don’t worry about any spoilers here, we’ll save them for the very end.)

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Category: Movies Reviews
Bad Grandpa review
Paramount Pictures
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‘Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa’ Review

If the sudden appearance of a surprisingly stretchy prosthetic penis trapped inside a soda machine at the hands of a horny old widower in Jeff Tremaine’s ‘Bad Grandpa’ doesn’t drive you out of the theater, you’ll likely do just fine with the latest entry from the ‘Jackass’ crew and their ever-shrinking bag of gross-out gags.

After all, Johnny Knoxville’s eponymous “bad grandpa” Irving Zisman starts humping the vending machine within the film’s first five minutes, making it crystal clear what sort of production we’re in for. 'Bad Grandpa' is the latest from the creative team behind ‘Jackass,’ taking one of their favorite character creations on the road for one of the most ill-fated and weirdly amusing road trips in recent cinematic memory.

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Category: Movies Reviews
Carrie review
Screen Gems
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‘Carrie’ Review

For a gal named Carrie White, she's sure got a lot of red on her.

Watching Kimberly Peirce's 'Carrie' is an odd experience. If you've seen Brian De Palma's version from 1976, this new version is - and there's really no point in denying this - like watching a cover band. There's a tweaked scene here and there (including a new, creepy-as-heck opening) plus the addition of cell phones and references to 'Dancing With The Stars.' This remake, more than most, really feels like hitting the same marks. It may be a peculiarity specific to 'Carrie,' because, let's face it, not a whole heck of a lot happens in this story. Considering most moviegoers' familiarity, there's plenty of room to stew and think, "Why is this considered such a classic?"

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Category: Movies Reviews
Runner Runner Review
20th Century Fox
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‘Runner Runner’ Review

“What can't Justin Timberlake do?” said the internet after the performer dominated 2013 with the release of two albums, a musical turn in Cannes favorite 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' and a handful of Jimmy Fallon late-night sketches that all went viral. 'Runner Runner' suggests there's really one thing: convince us he's anyone but Timberlake.

'Lincoln Lawyer' director Brad Furman directs the middling thriller, another gambling-infused escapade from 'Rounders' writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien that packs the integrity of their previous efforts without any spark. The writing duo can talk the poker talk, this time immersing their script in the seedy world of online betting. Their leading man can't keep up.

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Captain Phillips Trailer HD
Sony
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‘Captain Phillips’ Trailer Showcases Heart-Pumping New Footage Ahead of IMAX Release

Tom Hanks is sure to earn himself an Oscar nomination for his performance in director Paul Greengrass' 'Captain Phillips,' and the new trailer previews his riveting portrayal in this true-to-life tale of a captain facing Somali pirates.

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Captain Phillips review
Sony Pictures
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‘Captain Phillips’ Review

With piracy drama 'Captain Phillips,' Paul Greengrass ('Bloody Sunday,' 'United 93') has defended his ground as the go-to man for tragic, reality-based pressure-cooker films. The dude really knows how to get your palms sweaty, even when you kinda-sorta know how things are going to end up. Note to self: don't take your cargo ship through the Somali Basin if you don't have to.

Greengrass is also the director of the best two 'Bourne' movies ('Supremacy' and 'Ultimatum') and just as Matt Damon glided through those films as the steely, mixed-martial killing machine, Tom Hanks' center-seat performance here is a master class in keeping it cool.

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