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RECOMMENDED

AMERICAN HUSTLE

McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 138 minutes.

Director David O. Russell follows up last year's unexpected hit Silver Linings Playbook with a movie deserving of any and all accolades, recycling two of that film's stars -- Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence -- paired with Christian Bale and Amy Adams of The Fighter. Russell's take on the Abscam affair offers riches of deception and danger with terrific performances by Cooper and Lawrence as genuinely horrible people. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

NEW IN TOWN

47 RONIN

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. PG. 119 minutes.

Keanu Reeves leads a band of vengeful samurai out for revenge against the supernatural forces who killed their master on behalf of a ruthless shogun.

GRUDGE MATCH

McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 113 minutes.

Want an example of a project that is less than the sum of its parts? Grudge Match pits facsimiles of Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta (Sylvester Stallone as "Razor" Sharp and Robert De Niro as "Kid" McDonnen) as near-elderly pugs who each accept the challenge to a three-decades-late rematch to settle old scores. It's a comedy, but if not for some droll work by supporting players Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin, you'd never know it. 'Ö'Ö

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Polo Park. 14A. 105 minutes.

Co-director Joel and Ethan Coen offer a bitter love letter to the early '60s folk scene of Greenwich Village with this portrait of a talented but unlucky troubadour (Oscar Isaac) facing a series of disasters on his dubious path to stardom. The musical magic of O Brother, Where Art Thou? meets the low-key calamity of A Serious Man and births a darkly comic fable on elusive fame. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

JUSTIN BIEBER'S BELIEVE

Polo Park. G. 92 minutes.

Given the current career slide of the former tween heartthrob, the title of this concert/backstage film has a touch of desperation.

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

Grant Park. 14A. 141 minutes.

At nearly two-and-a-half hours, this timely biopic of the late Nelson Mandela is itself a bit of a long haul, but Idris Elba is very good as the lawyer-turned-prisoner-turned South African saviour, and director Justin Chadwick includes just enough of Mandela's history to prevent the project from becoming pure hagiography. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 115 minutes.

James Thurber's humourous short story of a daydreamer is contemporized by director Ben Stiller, who also stars as Mitty, a lovelorn editor plunged into adventure with the goal of winning the heart of a co-worker (Kristen Wiig).

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital. 18A. 180 minutes.

Martin Scorsese draws a bold parallel between the underworld of Goodfellas and the supposedly straight world of high finance with this memoir of a depraved stockbroker (Leonardo DiCaprio). Instead of violent excess, the film goes with sexual excess, but it remains a concise macroscopic depiction of the over-arching greed that derailed the economy. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

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The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.

ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 119 minutes.

The sequel to the 2004 comedy hit which sees arrogant meat puppet Ron Burgundy heading for New York City to man a newfangled 24-hour cable news network, where his brand of stupid, narcissistic, self-indulgence catches on. Scenes of inspired stoner humour abound, but at the same time this is a pretty scathing satiric commentary on contemporary news organizations. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

FROZEN

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 in animation art that is particularly gorgeous. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 162 minutes.

In this second installment of Peter Jackson's latest J.R.R. Tolkein adaptation, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) attempts to aid a band of plucky dwarves in reclaiming their kingdom from the titular dragon. It dispenses with much of the painstaking geek exposition of the first film and brings on the action, with help from a couple of ass-kicking elves (Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom) but still hews too close to Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy in plot, theme and execution. 'Ö'Ö'Ö 1/2

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, 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 installment, there is the gnawing feeling of something lacking. 'Ö'Ö 1/2

NEBRASKA

Globe. PG. 115 minutes.

Director Alexander Payne returned to his home state for a plaintive tale of familial reconciliation. The film gives a plum role to Bruce Dern as a cantankerous, somewhat befuddled patriarch who forces his son (Will Forte) to accompany him on a quixotic campaign to collect a million-dollar prize offered by a mail-order company. With great performances by Dern and Forte, an insightful script and gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, this is one of the years's best. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

PHILOMENA

Grant 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. Philomena is a standard issue little-old-lady tour de force for Oscar winner Dench, but it's a delicious change of pace for snarky funnyman Steve Coogan. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

SAVING MR. BANKS

Globe, Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park. PG. 126 minutes.

Tom Hanks brings his considerable charm to the task reviving Walt Disney in this more-or-less factual account of how Disney sought the rights to Mary Poppins from reluctant Australian-born novelist P.L. Travers, played by an especially prickly Emma Thompson. As long as it's viewed as the burnishing of a Hollywood legend, as opposed to a factual treatment, this is an entertaining glimpse into a creative process, more medicinally astringent than sugar-sweet. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS

Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 88 minutes.

A 3D adventure in which computer-animated dinosaurs interact against live action landscapes. The BBC series gets a kid-friendly big-screen treatment, complete with cutesy story and dino-poop jokes. Aimed squarely at that dino-crazy demographic (7-12), it pumps a few IQ points into a kid film genre sorely in need of them. 'Ö'Ö'Ö (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 26, 2013 ??65526

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