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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. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

AMERICAN HUSTLE

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. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, 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'Ö1/2

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Grant Park, Polo Park. 14A. 121 minutes.

In the grand tradition of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill, playwright Tracy Letts introduces another dysfunctional American family in the Westons. Fire-breathing matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) holds savage court when her three daughters (Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicolson) show up to comfort their newly widowed, cancer-afflicted mom. Trimmed from its three-hour-and-20-minute stage incarnation, the downbeat drama retains its cathartic humour, but two hours of shrill tantrums and plate-smashing hysterics are overpowering. 'Ö'Ö'Ö (Reviewed by Kevin Prokosh)

47 RONIN

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. 'Ö'Ö1/2 (Reviewed by Rafer Guzman)

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 by animation that is particularly gorgeous. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

GRUDGE MATCH

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 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. 'Ö1/2

HER

Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park. 14A. 126 minutes.

Director-writer Spike Jonze has a different idea about what will happen when computers and robots develop consciousness. In this languidly enjoyable romantic drama, a lonely Joaquin Phoenix falls head over keyboard in love with his computer's empathetic operating system, featuring Scarlett Johansson as its Siri-with-sex-appeal voice. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö (Reviewed by Cary Darling)

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. Tolkien 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'Ö1/2

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. 'Ö'Ö1/2

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. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

LONE SURVIVOR

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. Befitting the American military experience in Afghanistan, it is a pretty chilling depiction of the horrors of combat in which even fighting men as exalted as SEALs can find themselves at a loss. 'Ö'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

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. '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 Judi 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

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

Tom Hanks brings his considerable charm to the task of 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

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. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2 (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. 'Ö'Ö'Ö (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

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 layers personal history -- and his own aching nostalgia for days when Jewish suffering yielded hilarity -- into interviews with comic expert witnesses such as Shelley Berman, Shecky Greene, Marc Maron, Howie Mandell and Gilbert Gottfried, with funny and disarming effect. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

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 overarching greed that derailed the economy. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2014 A13

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