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Film Guide - January 11, 2012

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TO Gangster cast 1

Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Gosling, left) signs up to fight Californias baddest baddie, gangster Mickey Cohen (Penn, centre) in Gangster Squad.

The Gangster Squad: Great ensemble cast in a 1940s gangster movie. ** HR

The Intouchables: a feel-good movie about a distinctly feel-bad subject, quadriplegia. *** WP

Adventures in Zambezia 3D: Locally made animated feature using birds to tell a story about community and friendship. Animation is so so and the story kind of hangs together. ** TS

Bel Ami: Laden with seduction and deception on a bed of politics, sadly, Bel Ami is not the most sweeping of period dramas. HH DT

Butter: The cast is talented and there are some funny moments, but the script is too smug and not subtle enough to create actual satire. It will work for some, and put others off completely. *** HR

End of Watch: Great chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as two cops marked for death by gangsters. Great performances make up for the cliched script. **** TS

Footnote: A finely drawn portrait of the complicated relationship between a father and son. **** TS

Here Comes the Boom: Kevin James in wrestling spandex trying to convince us he could bag Salma Hayek. No. ** HH

In Darkness: This story of suffering and almost inadvertent humanitarianism is sometimes literally hard to watch, but Agnieszka Holland’s arduous drama is more ironic and multi-faceted than most such tales. **** HR

Jack Reacher: Based on the Lee Child book, One Shot, this action movie has good pacing and sets up Tom Cruise’s unflinching, morally upright character against a by-the-book lawyer played by Rosamund Pike. *** TS

Life of Pi: Ang Lee creates a gorgeously rendered 3D world on the high seas as a young boy struggles to survive in the company of only a Bengal tiger. **** TS

Looper: Cleverly cast, with a wise Bruce Willis in a stand-off with an arrogant Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and cunningly told with a fine balance between action and intellect. **** DdB

Madea’s Witness Protection: Tyler Perry tries to broaden his target audience by bringing a white family into Madea’s home. It’s not funny, or novel. ** HH

Parental Guidance: Dull, overacted comedy about grandparents left to babysit bratty crumb-snatchers. * WP

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding: The combined talents of Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen cannot save this clichéd mess. ** WP

Pitch Perfect: Better than Glee, more grown up than High School Musical, this musical comedy about a varsity girl who joins an a cappella group packs a pretty good punch. **** HH

Prettville: Afrikaans musical set in a 1950s that never was, from the producers of Liefling. Beyond saccharine. *** TS

Rise of the Guardians: Santa, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, the Sandman and the Easter Bunny join forces to defeat the Bogeyman. Great for small ones, but problematic when you start analysing the weak storyline. *** TS

A Separation: This 2012 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film is set in Iran and looks at the trials and tribulations of a married couple and those around them. *** HH

Silver Linings Playbook: Director David Russell’s sensitive direction of a talented cast keeps the film on a tricky thematic tightrope which straddles romance and mental illness. **** AP

Searching for Sugarman: Narratively satisfying, Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul’s canny documentary tells the tale of the search for Detroit-born Mexican musician Sixto Diaz Rodriguez. **** WP

Skyfall: Action thriller that continues the Bond character development from the previous two Daniel Craig movies. Great cinematography, exotic locations and all the Bond extras. **** TS

Taken 2: Liam Neeson delivers breathtaking blows in this sequel about a man fighting abductors who are back for revenge. It is an unlikely story, forgettable but pleasantly surprising. *** MV

The Angels’ Share: Ken Loach directs a fairly unknown cast of Scots in a comedy set against the backdrop of Scotland’s inner city problems like unemployment and crime. **** TS

La Clemenza di Tita (The Clemency of Titus): Recorded live at the New York Metropolitan Opera House, Mozart’s Italian opera is conducted by Harry Bicket and stars Giuseppe Filianoti as Roman emperor Tito. (not reviewed)

The Master: Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix are compelling in two different ways in a finely drawn portrait of cult leaders and followers. **** TS

The Oranges: It’s not about the fruit, it’s about dysfunctional families living on a street called Orange Drive, but even a fantastic cast led by Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt could not save a script seemingly as random as the title. ** DdB

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Return to Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth where Bilbo steals the ring and helps the dwarves reclaim their homeland. *** TS

The Players: Jean Dujardin strays as far away from his The Artist role as possible in this French risque adult comedy. ** HR

The Perks of being a Wallflower: Heartfelt and sincere adaptation of a best-selling novel with strong lead performances. *** WP

The Possession: Relying on hoary ghost story clichés makes for unintentional laughs. ** HR

The Tempest: Opera recorded live at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. (Not Reviewed)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s on-screen love story as Bella, now a newborn, and Edward Cullen remains as intoxicating as ever. Fans will love the intensity of the story as family and friends unite for the biggest battle the Cullens have ever faced. *** DT


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