Film Guide - January 17, 2014

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NEW RELEASES

 

12 Years a Slave: Steve McQueen’s searing adaptation of the true-life account of a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South. Difficult to watch, but essential viewing. **** WP

Delivery Man: Vince Vaughn makes for a likeable lead, but this almost charming comedy suffers in comparison to its Canadian source material. *** WP

Fallstaff: While baritone Ambrogio Maestri impresses in the title role, conductor James Levine's return to the Met Opera is a tad too frothy thanks to stage director Robert Carsen. *** PB

Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit: Chris Pine is Jack Ryan, hero of Tom Clancy’s novels, though this one is not based on a specific book. It takes us back to his early days when he was a young covert CIA analyst. (Not Reviewed)

Paradise: Cody Diablo directs Julianne Hoff as a young conservative woman who suffers a crisis of faith after surviving a plane crash. ** HR

 

ON CIRCUIT

 

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 uneccessary from a cinematic point of view, but from a sociological point of view the tale of the bullied adolescent hits home. *** WP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 eye-opening viewing. *** LDM

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

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 see 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

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

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. ** TS

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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