Holiday movies according to me

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January 13, 2014 by jacklovelace

I’ve worked my way through most of the December releases. Here goes:

Wolf of Wall Street: Too long. You could cut 20 minutes by trimming some of the scenes of Jonah Hill drugged out of his skull. Surprisingly slow in spots for Scorcese. Some nice scenes and lots of eye candy, but not his best by a longshot. Two and a half out of four stars.

Anchorman2: Lots of laughs, some wonderful bits. I’ll probably watch this movie 50 times over the years. It is not as good as the first movie. The second half gets a little rusty. Give the movie credit for tracing the downward arc of news values without getting serious about it. Three out of four stars.

Saving Mr. Banks: Watching Emma Thompson spread her characters sour life is painful in the first part of the movie. I began to openly moan every time she opened her mouth to complain, which was every time she opened her mouth. But Hanks as Walt Disney is a charmer and the movie opens up enough in the second half to make it enjoyable. I believe critics who rip this movie as a Disney distortion of the truth have it in for Disney. Even in the last half of the movie, Thompson’s character doesn’t like what she sees of Mary Poppins and never really “softened” much. Which the movie shows. Three out of four stars.

August: Osage County: I liked the play and I liked the movie. The savage dialogue never reaches the point of parody, just a troubled family cutting loose. The scene in which Chris Coopers character tells his wife off is as good a piece of acting as you will ever find. The movie feels like a play from scene to scene. It ain’t great but it kept me on my toes and I even liked the story arc. Three and half stars out of four.

American Hustle: The best movie of the year. I think it nudges Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. Great characters, dialogue, pace and story. They all had me all the way, unlike the director’s previous movie, Silver Lining Playbook. I was not particularly interested in Cooper’s story until Jennifer Lawrence lit up the screen. They had me from then on. Hustle had me from the first scene. Great stuff. Four stars.

Inside Llewyn Davis: Extremely well crafted movie but I not only didn’t like the main character, I didn’t find him all that interesting. I love how the Coen Brothers never make the easy movie choices for their characters. And the ending is quote good. But I think I might fall asleep watching Davis play the guitar on second viewing. By the way, John Goodman’s least effective cameo in a long time. Two and a half out of four stars.

Nebraska: The best acting in this good movie isn’t from Bruce Dern, who does a nice job as a one expression almost out of it old guy. It comes from Stacy Keach, his former business partner, who oozes on and off the screen. Fantastic. I like plots that seem realistic, and I found it strange that the son who takes the Dern character on the trip to Nebraska never actually explains to anyone that he not only isn’t a millionaire, it is a clearinghouse fantasy. Another great ending. Three out of four stars.

12 Years a Slave: I felt that going to this movie would be a like a trip to the dentist, good for me but painful. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself engrossed in a really well told story, that puts the viewer inside the world of slavery from various points of view. By telling the story and not having grandiose speeches and simplistic heroes and villains, it makes the bigger points more eloquently. The brutality had me turning my eyes, but get past that and it was really smart filmmaking. Four stars.

Philomena: Another superb movie. Steve Coogan and Judi Dench are a joy to watch in a tough story about a mother trying to find her long, lost son. Never soapy, I think this movie belongs on the Oscar list. Four stars.

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