DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Grant Park. 18A. 117 minutes.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a Dallas electrician and rodeo rider who contracted the AIDS virus in the mid-'80s and, on his own, found a workable treatment for himself and many other AIDS sufferers at a time the Food and Drug Administration was insisting on patients participating in protracted drug trials. Director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y.) keeps the story grounded by mapping a solid inspirational character arc for Woodroof, from exploiter to advocate. But McConaughey takes it to the next level, not just in the much-publicized 50-pound weight loss he took upon himself for the role, but in his deeper embrace of the character. *** 1/2
NEW IN TOWN
THE BOOK THIEF
Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park. PG. 128 minutes.
During the Second World War in Germany, a young girl (Sophie Nélisse) steals books and shares them with others, while her foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) secretly shelter a Jewish refugee in their home.
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 102 minutes.
A young princess (voiced by Kristen Bell) must rise to the occasion when her sorceress sister (Idina Menzel) accidentally puts their kingdom in a deep freeze in this Disney animated musical. The songs are more poppy than the enduring Broadway-like songbooks of Disney musicals past, a weakness compensated for with animation art that is particularly gorgeous. *** 1/2
HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION
Cinematheque. Subject to classification. 103 minutes.
Stanton, now 87 years old, is one of the great American character actors (Alien, Wild at Heart, Paris, Texas) and he gets a loving documentary portrait that includes the opportunity for him to sing some of his favourite songs.
Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 101 minutes.
A few surprises lurk in this standard action thriller about a retired undercover cop (Jason Statham) trying to rebuild his life in Louisiana with his young daughter: a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone? A meth kingpin bad guy is played by James Franco? Both Kate Bosworth and Winona Ryder as lowlife meth molls? Alas, unexpected casting and a script by the writer of Rocky don't necessarily translate into anything but a rote punch-up. **
OIL SANDS KARAOKE
Cinematheque. Subject to classification. 83 minutes.
This documentary offers a change-up from the usual environmental disaster doc, examining the lives of five Fort McMurray residents who work the oil sands by day and perform at a local karaoke bar by night. ***
Grant Park. 18A. 104 minutes.
A man (Josh Brolin) is mysteriously imprisoned for 20 years and then, just as inexplicably, released to investigate the mystery of his captivity. Spike Lee directs this remake of the 2003 Korean film by Chan-wook Park.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
Globe. R. 179 minutes.
This three-hour romantic drama from France, the Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, follows the romantic destiny of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a high school girl who falls deeply in love with passionate artist Emma (Léa Seydoux).
Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park. 14A. 98 minutes.
A political journalist (Steve Coogan) gets emotionally involved when he helps an older woman (Judi Dench) search for the son she forcibly gave up for adoption decades earlier.
SHORT TERM 12
Globe. 14A. 95 minutes
This drama examines the lives in a short-term foster-care facility in which the supervisor (Brie Larson) and her boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.) find their compassion runs smack against the harsh realities of the system in which they toil.
The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.
McGillivray, Towne. PG. 124 minutes.
A young man (Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his dad (Bill Nighy) he has the ability to pop back in time. The skill serves him well in courting a lovely American (Rachel McAdam), but proves more challenging when he must determine the right balance for his replay gift for the good of his nearest and dearest. Likewise, writer-director Richard Curtis movies (Love Actually, Pirate Radio), who typically defaults to a setting of cute 'n' cloying, determines a more satisfying balance between comedy and sentimentality and delivers pleasing romantic fantasy. ***
Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 92 minutes.
Jackass's Johnny Knoxville adopts the persona of 86-year-old Irving Zisman for this semi-scripted road trip/prank movie in which Zisman raises the ire of bystanders while on the road with his eight-year-old grandson. Strip the danger out of Borat and the injuries out of Jackass and you've got a bead on Bad Grandpa. ** 1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
McGillivray, St. Vital. 14A. 134 minutes.
Tom Hanks plays the titular captain whose vessel was overtaken by Somali pirates in 2009, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years. Director Paul Greengrass employs documentary realism to build tension, but it's Hanks who impresses most with a performance that portrays not just heroism but the emotional cost of heroism. ****
Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 105 minutes
This English-language remake of the Quebec comedy Starbuck stars Vince Vaughn as a hapless truck driver who discovers a deeper purpose in his life when he learns he fathered some 500 young adults through a mistaken distribution of his contributions to a sperm bank. What we have here is the makings of a charming time-to-grow-up-and-be-responsible-comedy. And that is exactly what Delivery Man manages to be. *** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. PG. 91 minutes.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play a couple of astronauts facing a crisis in outer space when their space shuttle is destroyed by exploded satellite debris and they find themselves marooned and alone 600 kilometres above the earth. Director Alfonso Cuaron constructs a sometimes awesome dramatic thriller that flows together so seamlessly, it seems like it wasn't even edited. When it comes to Hollywood narrative, it may be a game changer, and in that capacity, it deserved a more interesting protagonist. ****
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 146 minutes.
Teen tribute Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) inspires rebellion in the future dystopia of Panem, compelling the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to force her to compete in a rigged 75th edition of the battle-to-the-death. "Hunger" notwithstanding, this is an overflowing cornucopia of cinematic stuff: Romance, action, social commentary, nature gone mad, mystery, intrigue, and even fashion. And yet, as in the first instalment, there is the gnawing feeling of something lacking. ** 1/2
Polo Park. PG. 105 minutes.
A quartet of older guys (Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline and Michael Douglas) venture out to Las Vegas for a weekend bachelor party ... of the type that only warrants a PG rating. Despite the presence of four Oscar winners in the ensemble, this is an exceedingly rote comedy, enlivened here and there by Kline's eccentric sensibility and Freeman's redeeming cool. **
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 112 minutes.
Marvel Comics' God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) faces off against the malevolent elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who has devastating designs against Thor's home world, and his earthly love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). The handsome heroics are impressive, but let's face it: Hemsworth's hero is a bit dull compared to his entertainingly wicked brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). ***
12 YEARS A SLAVE
Globe, Grant Park, Polo Park. 14A. 134 minutes.
Director Steve McQueen adapted a harrowing memoir by Solomon Northrup (here played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in upstate New York, abducted and sold into slavery. The beauty of this movie is in how we identify with Northup and come to understand the awful effects his loss of liberty had not just on him, but on the moral relativists and outright sadists who ran the machinery of slavery. ***** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)