AKA DOC POMUS
Cinematheque. PG. 100 minutes.
Crippled in his youth by polio, Jerome Felder, better known as Doc Pomus, wrote the lyrics to the song Save the Last Dance for Me in reference to his inability to dance with his wife at their wedding party. Tonally, that story is the emotional centrepiece of this entertaining biographical documentary by William Hechter and Peter Miller, which includes loads of archived and new testimonies from many of Pomus's contemporaries, including the late Lou Reed, Dr. John, Leiber and Stoller, Dion DeMucci and even Pomus himself, who died in 1991. Starts Jan 10. *** 1/2
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
Grant Park, Polo Park. 14A. 121 minutes.
Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of familial disintegration comes to the big screen with some serious acting talent, including Meryl Streep as destructive matriarch Violet Weston and Julia Roberts as her vengeful daughter, with additional support from Ewan McGregor, Julianne Nicholson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Cooper and Juliette Lewis.
Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park. 14A. 126 minutes.
A man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his handheld device, or rather the voice of his smartphone (supplied by Scarlett Johansson) in this off-centre romance from director Spike Jonze.
Grant Park, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 122 minutes.
Four members of Seal Team 10 find themselves outmanned and outgunned in the mountains of Afghanistan while on a mission to terminate a Taliban leader in this intense, fact-based war movie from director Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg and Taylor Kitsch.
WHEN JEWS WERE FUNNY
Cinematheque. Subject to classification. 90 minutes.
Director Alan Zweig (Vinyl; I Curmudgeon) probes two questions: Why were so many of the comedians of his youth Jewish? And why don't Jews still dominate comedy? Zweig looks for answers among elder heavyweights such as Shelley Berman, Shecky Greene and Norm Crosby and comparatively younger upstarts including Marc Maron, Elon Gold and Gilbert Gottfried.
The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.
McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, 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. ****
ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 119 minutes.
The sequel to the 2004 comedy hit 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. *** 1/2
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. PG. 119 minutes.
A Japanese legend with roots in reality, 47 Ronin tells the story of a group of samurai rendered masterless killers when their leader is assassinated, with Keanu Reeves as a demon-raised outcast named Kai. It can be a hoot, with some zippy battles staged by director Carl Rinsch, but it also feels like a somewhat botched attempt by Hollywood to bridge the cultural gap between the North American and overseas box offices. ** 1/2 (Reviewed by Rafer Guzman)
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. ***
St. Vital. 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 La Motta (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. * 1/2
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 162 minutes.
In this second instalment 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 a 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. *** 1/2
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
Polo Park, St. Vital. 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 one, there is the feeling of something lacking. ** 1/2
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Globe, 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. *** 1/2
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. ****
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. 14A. 84 minutes.
This spinoff of the Paranormal Activity franchise follows Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), a young man whose investigation into a black magic-related death leads to his own gradual possession, despite the best efforts of his friends to stop the process. ***
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 Judi Dench, but it's a delicious change of pace for snarky funnyman Steve Coogan. **** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
SAVING MR. BANKS
Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. 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. ***
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Grant Park, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 115 minutes.
In Ben Stiller's new film based on the 1939 James Thurber story, Stiller plays the daydreaming Mitty as a shy 40-something who isn't so much avoiding reality as using fantasy as an excuse for not seizing the day, for not asking out the woman (Kristen Wiig) at the office, for never travelling and experiencing the world. It's a charming, whimsical and ever-so-slight film, a bit of an overreach but pleasant enough, even when it falls short. *** 1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
Polo Park, St. Vital. 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. *** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Globe, 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. ****