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Ian McKellan as Gandalf

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Ian McKellan as Gandalf

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GRAVITY

Polo Park Imax (starting Friday, Jan 31), Towne. PG. 91 minutes.

Back for one week at Polo Park Imax comes director Alfonso Cuaron's sometimes awesome dramatic thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as a couple of astronauts whose space shuttle is destroyed by exploded satellite debris leaving them marooned and alone 600 kilometres above the earth. It flows together so seamlessly, it seems like it wasn't even edited. When it comes to Hollywood narrative, this may be a game changer. That said, it deserves a more interesting protagonist than Bullock's dour doc. ****

 

STARTING FRIDAY

BRIDE FOR RENT

Globe. PG. 111 minutes.

To get cash from his trust fund, Rocco (Xian Lim) agrees to marry the beautiful, destitute Rocky (Kim Chiu), who needs the money to prevent her family from becoming homeless. Released earlier this year, this Filipino film by Mae Cruz is already the third-highest-grossing Filipino romantic comedy of all time. In Tagalog with English subtitles.

 

LABOR DAY

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. PG. 111 minutes.

Director Jason Reitman adapted the Joyce Maynard novel about a convict (Josh Brolin) who forcefully enters the life of a depressed single mom (Kate Winslet) and her son (Gattlin Griffith).

 

NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORROR

Cinematheque. PG. 94 minutes.

F.W. Murnau's 1922 adaptation (or more accurately, ripoff) of Bram Stoker's Dracula is given a sparking new restoration in this release with a soundtrack featuring the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra's performance of Hans Erdmann's original 1922 score.

 

SPRING & ARNAUD

Cinematheque. Subject to classification. 67 minutes.

This doc tells the love story of Canadian artists Spring Hurlbut and Arnaud Maggs, discussing their work, their lives together and facing Maggs' failing health. Hurlbut will introduce the screening on Sunday, Feb, 2 at 7 p.m.

 

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT

McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital. 14A. 95 minutes.

In a show of solidarity you'd only find in a rom-com, Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) come to the support of their about-to-be divorced pal Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) by promising to stay single and unattached, a vow that inevitably comes back to bite them, especially when Jason falls for a winsome writer (Imogen Poots).

 

NOW PLAYING

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

 

AMERICAN HUSTLE

Globe, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. 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

St. Vital. 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

 

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Grant Park, McGillivray VIP. 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. *** (Reviewed by Kevin Prokosh)

 

DEVIL'S DUE

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. 14A. 89 minutes.

This found-footage variant of Rosemary's Baby follows a newlywed couple that finds themselves pregnant after a "lost night" during their honeymoon. As the pregnancy causes sinister changes in his wife's character, hubby suspects a demonic cult is observing awaiting their bundle of joy/doom. It's always dangerous when a cheap found-footage-type thriller invites comparison to a classic as it tends to highlight its own inadequacies such as mediocre performances, lackadaisical character development and tired genre tropes. *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. ***

 

GABRIELLE

Globe. PG. 104 minutes.

A young woman with a developmental disability attempts to assert her right to love in Quebec's unsuccessful entrant to the best foreign language film Oscar. Director Louise Archambault's film sets up the problems facing the developmentally disabled, especially regarding sexuality, but doesn't really resolve anything. But the movie offers a heartening central performance by Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, a non-professional actress who could probably teach some professional actors a thing or two about spontaneity. ***

 

HER

Grant 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. **** (Reviewed by Cary Darling)

 

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital. 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. *** 1/2

 

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

Polo Park. 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

 

I, FRANKENSTEIN

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 93 minutes.

In a dystopian world where demons and gargoyles battle for supremacy, Victor Frankenstein's creation Adam (Aaron Eckhart), the key to the secret of human immortality, finds himself caught in the middle. Regrettably, the tone of the piece is saturated with phoney-baloney gravitas, which tends to leach the fun out of it. Adam is not the only thing in this movie without a soul. * 1/2

 

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT

Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 106 minutes.

Tom Clancy's canny CIA hero is rebooted for a second time with Chris Pine taking on the role of a newly minted CIA recruit who uncovers a Russian plot to destroy the American economy. The first of the Ryan films not based on a Clancy novel, Shadow Recruit offers a more holistic reboot and turns out to be a wholly satisfactory, handsomely mounted affair, especially compared to the franchise fumble The Sum of All Fears. *** 1/2

 

LONE SURVIVOR

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. 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. *** 1/2

 

THE NUT JOB

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 110 minutes.

When his cache of acorns is destroyed, a squirrel and his friends contrive a plan to live through the winter by invading a nut store. This is a surprisingly simple, funny and often cute slapstick comedy, better than any animated film released in the doldrums of January has a right to be. *** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

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. **** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

RIDE ALONG

McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. 14A. 100 minutes

Kevin Hart stars as a security guard who accepts the challenge when the cop brother (Ice Cube) of his intended bride invites him to accompany him on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta. Even by the standards of the well-worn buddy-cop genre, this is a lazy movie, insulting the audience by letting us stay five steps ahead of the hack screenwriters. ** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

SAVING MR. BANKS

Grant 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. ***

 

12 YEARS A SLAVE

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)

 

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Grant Park, 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. ****

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2014 ??65526

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