Film Guide - January 25, 2013

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TO SW GuideJack Karen Ballard

Aida: Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska makes her Met debut with astounding acuity of voice, supported by refined orchestration and exemplary musicality from all. ****H PB

Argo: Understated, well-characterised thriller set in 1979 Iran. Director Ben AfFleck keeps the tension high and the action engrossing without beating you over the head with a message. **** TS

Flight: Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle star in this film about a pilot who gets a rude awakening about sobriety and accountability. **** HH

Lawless: Director John Hillcoat’s ultra-violent drama plays like a hot, sweaty, delusional fever dream and is similarly fitful. *** AP

Wreck-It Ralph: Stepping into the world of video arcade games, Disney manages to create a sophisticated story about humanity, using cgi characters. **** TS

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

Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino’s beautifully shot but controversial film about a slave-turned-bounty hunter who is in search of his wife. Starring Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson. *** HH

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

Les Miserables: Tom Hooper directs a stellar cast in the West End musical, except this looks like the real deal with gorgeous outdoor sets, lavish costumes and extreme detail. **** 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

Parental Guidance: Old school grandfather Artie (Billy Crystal) meets his match when he and his eager-to-please wife Diane (Bette Midler) agree to babysit their three grandchildren. (Not reviewed)

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

Playing for Keeps: Despite the star-studded line-up, this tale about a jobless former soccer star trying to win back his ex, is nothing more than an incoherent, cringeworthy attempt at a sweeping romance. *DT

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

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

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

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 adaptation of a best-selling novel with strong lead performances. *** WP

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

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