Film Guide - January 10, 2014

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TO Don - Scarlett&Jospeh . Jospeh Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson in 'Don Jon'.

Don Jon: A disarming film that starts as a raunch-fest but develops into an affecting story about the value of intimacy between two real people. **** WP

The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese maddeningly uneven indictment of the financial depredations that characterised the 1990s is centred on Jordan Belfort, a real-life swindler and penny-stock conman. **** WP

Baggage Claim: Flossy, glossy and uneven, this one hits all the right notes for a romcom, but it’s not exactly original. ** WP

Before Midnight: It’s almost a decade down the road and time to catch up with the gentle Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and the quixotic Celine (Julie Delpy) as we experience their life, loss and love with and for one another in a relationship at work. **** DdB

Blue Jasmine: Cate Blanchett give a stunning performance in Woody Allen’s latest film about the vagaries of rich people. **** DdB

Carrie: The talented cast cannot do much to top the original, so this feels rather uneccessar from a cinematic point of view, but from a sociological point of view the tale of the bullied adolescent hits home. *** WP

Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks in a taut, finely crafted, superbly acted maritime thriller directed by Paul Greengrass. ***** WP

Diana: Naomi Watts is a bit too old and short to totally pull this off perfectly, but this is a love story rather than a biopic. *** TO

Empire State: Liam Hemsworth and Dwayne Johnson fail to breathe life into this film about a heist that shook America. Although based on a true story, you feel as though you have seen this one before. ** MV

Ender’s Game: Gavin Hood directs the beloved sci-fi book, but misses out on the deep characterisations and serious moral issues that make the source material such a great read. Looks great though and Harrison Ford is a treat. *** TS

Enough Said: James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in a bitter-sweet, mature romcom with good support from Catherine Keener and Toni Collette. **** TS

Free Birds: Turkeys trying to dodge Thanksgiving. It’s animated and bright, but about as appealing as the original animals because it’s about as dim-witted. ** AP

Frozen: A warming tale of the power of love, family and sisterhood in the face of adversity. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.*** LN

Fifth Estate: The story of Wikileaks is well-known, so where’s the story of Julian Assange? He needn’t have gotten so hot under the collar about this one. ** TS

Gravity: Intense, anxiety-inducing and visually arresting, this thriller in outerspace is about the human spirit and the will to survive. **** TS

Goddess: Story of a woman stuck at home with twin toddlers who dreams of finding her voice. A web-cam becomes her pathway to fame and fortune. (Not reviewed)

Homefront: The cast is capable, but while it may hark back to classic action thrillers, this one is rather dull, adding nothing to the glutted genre. ** WP

Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire: Strong sequel brings back Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson. Action-packed with some nifty designs. *** TS

Imogene aka Girl Most Likely: This witless and dull foray into sitcom territory strands the gifted Kristen Wiig with not much to say. ** WP

Insidious: Rather short on the chills and spills that made its predecessor, also directed by James Wan and starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, so scary. ** HR

Jeune et Jolie (Young and Beautiful): A young girl starts exploring her sexuality by turning to prostitution. A provocative coming-of-age tale for contemporary times with an extraordinary turn from young actress Marine Vacth.*** DdB

Jobs: Ashton Kutcher does a great impression of the Apple founder, but the film never gets under his skin. ** TS

Justin and the Knights of Valor: Lazily animated kids’ film about a teenager on a quest to be a knight. No comic relief and little characterisation. At least it’s bright. ** TS

Justin Bieber’s Believe: A backstage and on-stage look at Justin Bieber during his rise to super stardom. (Not reviewed)

Khumba 3D: Local animated film about a zebra who earns his stripes. Cute, funny and with a bit of something for kids and adults alike.*** TS

Last Vegas: A brisk and goofy adventure about four old friends who go on a wild holiday. Although not original, the film manages to mine fanny packs and big white tennies for more laughter than it should. *** WP

Les Profs (Serial Teachers): Based on a popular French comic book strip, this isn’t well-fleshed out enough to have appeal beyond French borders, despite a strong technical base. ** HR

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: With a plot still largely driven by key political moments, rather than telling the story of the man behind the public persona (as it professes to do), Mandela nevertheless makes for eyeopening viewing. *** LDM

Mud: Matthew McConnaughey, Sam Shephard, Michael Shannon, Reese Witherspoon and many more in an excellent character study written and directed by Jeff Nichols, drawing heavily on Mark Twain’s influence for a sense of place, though very contemporary. **** TS

Nothing for Mahala: Funny local comedy with a strong moral message and a great soundtrack. *** TS

Paperboy: Another Lee Daniels classic book adaptation about two journalists who go on a quest to free a wrongfully accused man. They don’t like what they find. **** MV

Paranoia: The stellar cast cannot lift this unoriginal techno-thriller out of a morass of clichés and no-thrills. ** HR

Redemption: Beautifully shot, but Jason Statham can only break so many bones before you lose interest in this script-lite action movie. ** TS

Riddick: Vin Diesel takes us back to basics for some broody sci-fi. Considering he actually makes this an engaging experience, imagine what he could do with something fresh and original. *** WP

Ronin 47: A lumpy 3D epic that fuses Japanese historical legend with generic CGI-heavy action fantasy. ** TS

Runner, Runner: Justin Timberlake faces off with Ben Affleck in this gambling drama which takes us from the US to the scenic Costa Rica. It is a fun but forgettable film. *** MV

Salinger: While the documentary about a fascinating person has its moments, it gets too bogged down in re-enactments and a lack of attention to the writer’s actual work. HH WP

Schuks! Your Country Needs You: Critic-proof candid camera from Leon Schuster with some help and a bit of a storyline from Rob van Vuuren. ** WM

Stuur Groete Aan Mannetjies Roux: If you’re into slow-moving dramatic storytelling and want to seem some fine local acting, especially by Elton Landrew and Annamart van der Merwe, it has sub-titles and is worth watching. *** DdB

Tyler Perry’s Madea Christmas: The fake grandmother is back with some more laughs for family viewing. If you have the collection of previous films, don’t expect too much out of this installment. *** MV

A Late Quartet: It’s glorious ensemble acting from the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken in a drama that plays like a fine piece of music. If you like theatre, this is for you. **** DdB

The Bling Ring: Sofia Coppola paints a picture of the vacuity of Californian teenagers obsessed with celebrity culture, but never asks what makes these kids tick or why the world over castigates the idea, but loves it at the same time. *** TS

The Butler: The story of the metamorphosis of American politics from the 50s to date is told through an unlikely source. Another well-shot memorable piece of work from Lee Daniels. **** MV

The Conjuring: Unnerving and scary horror from director James Wan pays homage to 70s horror conventions while still scaring the popcorn right out of your hand. **** TS

The Counselor: a lawyer bites off more than he can chew when he steps in the world of drug trafficking. Featuring a huge stellar cast. ** WP

The Family: Luc Besson’s film cannot quite decide what genre to settle on. Combined with the overly familiar set-up, it never really gels. ** WP

The Heat: Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock make a great comic team in this buddy cop movie which follows a clichéd storyline, but is saved by their presence. *** TS

The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug: We return to Middle Earth for plenty of action and Legolas doing impossible stunts. *** TS

The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Director Mira Nair has created a companion piece to her previous The Namesake, again interrogating contemporary immigrant identity within the American Dream paradigm, but this one is saying that experience is not all it is cracked up to be. *** TS

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Playing out like a luscious magazine in moving pictures, this film will appeal to anyone who likes the idea of working on a newspaper. Based more on the previous 1947 film of the same name than the most famous of James Thurber’s short stories. **** TS

The Way,Way Back: An atmospheric coming-of-age story which makes good use of the talented cast and finely tuned script to create a charming film.*** HR

Tosca: This Luc Bondy/Paul Williams production is recommended for its mostly robust trio of principal singers and well considered dramatic plan which keeps this Metropolitan Opera on this side of melodramatic. **** PB

Walking With Dinosaurs: Talking dinosaurs compete for your attention with rolling vistas, but once the poo humour hits, this one just heads down the drain. HH TS

Welcome to the Punch: If you’re in for the ride and don’t care much about the story, the boys led by James McAvoy and Mark Strong will sweep you along. Set against a fantastic backdrop of a sparkingly lit London, it’s a thrilling chase as you try to sort good from bad. *** DdB

We’re the Millers: Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis in a film about a drug dealer who creates a fake family so he can get marijuana into America. *** AP

What Maisie Knew: It’s a story often told, of parents so obsessed with their own lives, they forget those they brought to life. With a superb cast including Julianne Moore and Onata Aprile as Maisie, the acting gives it power. *** DdB

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