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To the movies!

Movie critic Scott Hayes previews current features and coming attractions

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 06:00 am

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  • WARM STORY – Philomena is a heart-warming journey of self-discovery.
    WARM STORY – Philomena is a heart-warming journey of self-discovery.
    Supplied photo
  • PART TWO – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is another epic trek.
    PART TWO – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is another epic trek.
  • LAUGHWORTHY – Anchorman 2 promises to deliver some laughs.
    LAUGHWORTHY – Anchorman 2 promises to deliver some laughs.

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It’s the holidays and your house is filled with family and guests, the seasonal cheer brimming right out the doors. There’s no denying that this is the time of year to remember that family is more important than anything: not presents, not greeting cards, and not tinsel on the tree.

It’s also the chance for many people to get back to themselves and have a little “me time.” There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to a night out at the cinema. There are many entertaining movies out there right now. Fortunately, there are several new releases that promise something for everyone. There’s a goofball comedy, an intellectual romance, a fantasy adventure and a couple of based-on-true-story stories too, among others.

As the Gazette’s movie critic, I thought it would be good information to those who want to make an informed choice about their movie-going experience before they make it to the lineup.

Philomena

Stephen Frears is a fantastic director and it’s high time that he returned to his small, personal movies like High Fidelity and My Beautiful Laundrette. In Philomena, Steve Coogan plays Martin, a failed journalist and political advisor looking to find something to do. He meets Philomena (the incomparable Judi Dench) who reveals her story about giving up a son for adoption 50 years previously.

The two embark on a journey of co-self-discovery that will surely warm the hearts, wet your eyes, and tickle the funny bones once or twice too. Released: Nov. 27

Out of the Furnace

Pretty much the antithesis to August: Osage County, Out of the Furnace is an action revenge movie starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson. Rodney (Affleck) gets involved in some seedy underworld business and then disappears. It seems that the law can’t help so older brother Russell (Bale) takes the matter into his own hands. He’s up against Harlan as played by Harrelson, an actor who I believe should get more credit for the versatile and engrossing work than he does.

This also stars Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe. Released: Dec. 6

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

J.R.R. Tolkien’s much beloved tale of a hobbit on an epic trek returns for the second of its three-part revival. Director Peter Jackson finally gets the troupe to the Lonely Mountain in their quest to free the land of Erebor from Smaug the dragon. This movie is rated PG and looks family friendly but please remember that there are frightening scenes involving monsters, much swordplay and yes, mortal injury. See www.albertafilmratings.ca for more detail on this. Also, it runs for 161 minutes so take your bathroom break beforehand if possible. Released: Dec. 13

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is back and this time he’s headed to a national network. This is the early 1980s, when the first 24-hour news channels are emerging but Burgundy still has his inflated ego and egregious attitudes of the 1970s. Audiences have been waiting for this sequel since the original came out in 2004. Now that it’s here, the big question is whether it will offer anything new or simply rehash the same gags in different ways. Place your bets but certainly there will still be a few good laughs. Released: Dec. 18

American Hustle

Anyone remember ABSCAM? No, well consider this film your primer on the FBI sting operation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, one that led to the convictions of several prominent U.S. politicians. Yes, there were bribes and political favours. In director David O. Russell’s adaptation of the story, it also looks like there are a lot of dated suits and hairstyles to accompany all the shady characters and their shady dealings.

It has already appeared on many critics’ best of 2013 lists. Both Russell and actress Amy Adams are fine and formidable talents who have yet to receive Oscar glory. Their time must be coming nigh. Released: Dec. 20

47 Ronin

It’s been in some kind of production hell scenario but Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin has finally made it to screen. Keanu Reeves stars as Kai, the classic outsider saviour who swoops in to lead a band of warriors against tyranny, all in the many forms of the shapeshifting Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano).

It looks like a spectacular pseudo sci-fi martial arts action film, a very specific genre that we all know he can pull off. The question is, will he say, “Whoa!”? To be released: Dec. 25

August: Osage County

Cue up another Oscar nomination for Meryl Streep. She takes a star turn as Beverly, a family matron with mouth cancer and a drug problem. A death causes the family to come together and, as often happens with such families, long-held grievances get aired out in the public, personalities clash and dinnerware is thrown all willy-nilly. This black comedy has an outstanding cast that includes Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney and Abigail Breslin. Hopefully all that talent can still convince you to stay in the theatre, even after you realize that Julia Roberts is one of the stars too. To be released: Dec. 25

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I’ve been waiting for about 20 years to see this film finally come to fruition. Adapted from the masterful story by James Thurber, Mitty (Ben Stiller) is an extreme daydreamer. He’s never done anything in his life but in his fantasies, he has done everything. In this movie, all he really wants is to get to know his co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) a little bit better. Maybe a lot better. To be released: Dec. 25

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese is a modern master of crime drama and this is his first long look at white-collar mischief. Three full hours long, it’s based on the book by Jordan Belfort about his real experiences as a stockbroker who gets into fraud, drugs, debauchery and pretty much every kind of corruption you could think of. Taking candy from babies? I bet he does that too.

It was reported that Scorsese refers to the story as “a modern day Caligula.” From early reports of the film, that comparison sounds about right. To be released: Dec. 25

Her

Spike Jonze has a thing for making movies unlike those that anyone else can make. Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Where the Wild Things Are are three stellar examples.

Here, Her is a sci-fi romance if such a thing is a sub-genre. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his computer’s operating system, Samantha (as voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Also starring Amy Adams, this movie muses on the invasion of technology into private lives and the deconstruction of personal relationships in the age of ubiquitous cellphones. Furthermore, it has touching performances by…

Hold on. I’ve got to answer a text. To be released: Jan. 10


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