News Column

Movie guide

December 3, 2013


Four stars: superior. Three stars: good. Two stars: average. One star: poor. D (drug use), L (language), N (nudity), S (sexual situations, references), V (violence). Ratings by Dann Gire, Daily Herald Film Critic, unless otherwise noted.


"About Time" -- Richard Curtis presents a romantic fantasy about a Brit (Domhnall Gleeson) who can travel back in time but doesn't tell his wife (Rachel McAdams). A wonderful message about spending your time wisely, despite the film's flaws. (R) L, S. 123 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Blue is the Warmest Color" -- Abdellatif Kechiche's long, sprawling, boldly immersive coming-of-age drama works magic in telling the story of a working-class girl (Adele Exarchopoulos) who falls for an art student (Lea Seydoux) at a lesbian nightclub. Reviewed by Ann Hornaday, Washington Post. (NC-17) L, N, S. 179 minutes. . . . .

"Captain Phillips" -- A superior fact-based thriller about the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. cargo ship by Somali pirates, who hold the captain (Tom Hanks delivering a nuanced, powerful performance) hostage. At least until the Navy's cavalry arrives. A rich, multilayered action movie from Paul "United 93" Greengrass, with four talented Somali actors. (R) D, V. 134 minutes. . . . .

"Dallas Buyers Club" -- Matthew McConaughey's risky, hardened- heart performance highlights this spunky, fact-based "man against the system" drama about a Texas bigot who gets AIDS in 1985 and forms a buying club to get the drugs he and other patients need. (R) D, L, N, S. 117 minutes. . . . .

"The Delivery Man" -- Suburban native Vince Vaughn gets to break out of his stereotypical motormouth as David, whose donations at a sperm bank years ago have produced 533 kids, 143 of whom are suing the clinic to discover Dad's identity. A flawed but sincere comedy remade from the French Canadian feature "Starbuck." (PG-13) D, L, S, V. 103 minutes. . . .

"Ender's Game" -- Rocky but visually potent science-fiction action film offering an ethics lesson about taking responsibility for military and personal actions. A boy (Asa Butterworth) is trained by a colonel (Harrison Ford) to defend the planet from invading aliens. (PG-13) L, V. 114 minutes. . . .

"Frozen" -- Walt Disney's animated 3-D fantasy is a tribute to sisterhood as Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) never gives up on her sister Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel), cursed with hands that turn everything into ice. Josh Gad plays Olaf, the comedy relief snowman. It's a musical, too! (PG) 85 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Gravity" -- Alfonso Cuaron directs a visually stunning work, a bold and daring survival thriller about two astronauts (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) dealing with the aftermath of a debris storm that wipes out their shuttle in space. How will they get back? (PG-13) L, V. 91 minutes. . . . .

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" -- Better than the original film. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and other past Games winners get drafted to face each other in the 75th tournament. Dramatically richer and technically higher quality. With Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone. (PG-13) V. 146 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Philomena" -- A true story, part serious drama, part jaunty road- buddy movie and part comedy, starring Judi Dench as a woman who joins with a reporter (co-writer Steve Coogan) to track down the son she gave up years ago. Reviewed by Jocelyn Novak, Associated Press. (PG-13) L, S. 98 minutes. . . . 1/2

"12 Years a Slave" -- Steve McQueen directs a leading contender for best picture of 2013, a hard-hitting, fact-based drama about a free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 Washington, D.C. A tough, brave movie. (R) N, S, V. 133 minutes. . . . .


"The Best Man Holiday" -- Sequel to Malcolm D. Lee's 1999 breakthrough comedy. Original cast members reassemble for a little bit bawdy, fitfully funny look at old friends and lovers sharing the holidays at a football star's mansion. With Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Terrence Howard and Morris Chestnut. (R) L, N, S. 122 minutes. . . 1/2

"Black Nativity" -- A child is born, a family healed and a sermon on forgiveness delivered without subtlety in a bold but clumsy attempt to bring Langston Hughes' popular musical to life on- screen. With Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett. Reviewed by Justin Chang, Variety. (PG) 92 minutes. . . 1/2

"The Book Thief" -- In Nazi Germany, a kindly man (Geoffrey Rush) teaches his illiterate adoptive daughter (Sophie Nelisse) to read. A Disneyfied view of the Nazis, buttressed by excellent art direction and costumes, but wounded by the absurdity of letting Death narrate the story. With Emily Watson in fine form as the mom. (PG-13) V. 125 minutes. . . 1/2

"Free Birds" -- Turkeys (voiced by Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson) go back in time to change the Thanksgiving Day bird from turkey to something else. Animated comedy with Amy Poehler. Reviewed by Stephanie Merry, Washington Post. (PG) 91 minutes. . . 1/2

"Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa" -- The 86-year-old Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) goes on a cross-country journey with his 8-year- old grandson in a hidden-camera road trip. Reviewed by Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post. (R) D, L, N, S. 82 minutes. . .

"Last Vegas" -- Erratic comedy about four childhood buds who hook up as senior citizens in Las Vegas to celebrate one getting married to a woman half his age. Mary Steenburgen steals this show from co- stars Robert De Niro, Kevin Klein, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas. (PG-13) L, S. 90 minutes. . . 1/2

"Oldboy" -- Spike Lee directs an ultraviolent remake of Park Chan- wook's even more ultraviolent Korean mystery about a man (here, Josh Brolin), imprisoned for 20 years in a windowless room. Released, he sets out to find out why, and who did it. A few shocks await viewers unfamiliar with the original. Still a passionless, curiously detached drama. With Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley. (R) L, N, S, V. 120 minutes. . . 1/2

"Thor: The Dark World" -- Visual effects overpower character, plot and sense in this quasi-sequel to "Thor" in which the God of Thunder (a bored Chris Hemsworth) springs naughty Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from an Asgardian pokey to stop a nasty Dark Elf (Christopher Eccleston) from using the Aether (whatever that is) to destroy the universe. Natalie Portman practically yawns her way through as Jane Foster. (PG-13) V. . .


"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" -- Chester and Flint must save the world again in this animated sequel, complete with "foodanimals" and sophomoric jokes. Reviewed by Sean O'Connell, Washington Post. (PG) 95 minutes. . 1/2

"Homefront" -- James Franco's Southern-fried villain Gator Bodine steals this show, riddled with cliches and action sequences so quick and blurry we can't make them out. Jason Statham's former DEA agent deals with Louisiana drug dealers threatening his daughter (Izabela Vidovic). (R) D, L, S, V. 110 minutes. . 1/2


"The Christmas Candle" -- When a candle blessed by an angel disappears, it means tough times for a new local minister (Hans Matheson). Based on Max Lucado's book. (PG) 100 minutes. Not screened for critics, and we all know what that means, don't we?

"Gori Tere Pyaar Mein" -- A shallow family black sheep gets his life shaken up by a firebrand political activist. A romantic comedy in Hindi. (NR) 150 minutes.

"Krrish 3" -- A science-fiction fantasy directed by Rakesh Roshan. In Hindi. (NR) 152 minutes.

"RamLeela" -- The story of Romeo and Juliet gets replayed between the feuding families of Ram and Leela. In Hindi. (NR) 155 minutes.

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