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‘Grudge Match’ Review

Grudge Match movie
Warner Bros.

Mr. DeNiro, there are other hobbies.

It's great that you like to keep busy, really. But gobbling film roles and saying “yes” to every single offer that comes to your door as if terrified there will never be another opportunity to go before the camera...this is no way to live. You were great once. You have occasional flashes of greatness still. I know opportunities dry up for older actors, but you must be selective.

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‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Review

The Wolf of Wall Street Review
Paramount Pictures

'The Wolf of Wall Street,' Martin Scorsese's most dynamic and spry film since 'GoodFellas,' is an up close and personal tour of a snarling den of unchecked depravity. Really, theaters should be handing out bottles of Purel with the tickets. What begins as jovial bad behavior spirals out into an excess and deviance rarely shown on the screen.

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‘Anchorman 2′ Review

Anchorman 2 Review
Paramount

There are a handful of extremely funny, laugh-out-loud moments in 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.' One happens early – the reveal that David Koechner now runs a cut-rate fast-food joint that saves money by serving fried bats (or, as he calls it, “chicken of the cave"). Another is a retread from the first film – a battle royale of news teams from various networks, but this time even more extreme. There's also great humor in what I suppose passes for “the point” of this movie – that lowest common denominator attitudes like those of Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy are what inadvertently invented the cesspool of modern cable news.

Of course, what you will find funny is entirely dependent on your own taste, but these highlighted scenes (and several others, I must point out) really landed with me. It struck me later, as I was trying to piece together why the movie felt about six hours long, that these moments were all dependent on gags that could not have been ad-libbed. Ferrell, Koechner, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and the rest of the gang are deservedly respected for their quick-thinking comedy chops. When they get together and riff, few can top them. The problem is that 'Anchorman 2' relies on this far, far too much. It's like a a dessert plate where mounds of fluffy whipped cream obscures the fact that, underneath, there's only a tiny bite of pie.

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‘Her’ Review

Her
Warner Bros.

Technology is a duplicitous wonder: it vastly connects us to people, places, and things beyond our reach, but limits our interactions with the people right in front of us. It allows us an additional layer of protection and evasiveness, while giving us the freedom to be whoever we want to be while hiding behind brightly lit screens. In 'Her,' Spike Jonze imagines a not-so-distant future, that's not just plausible, it's incredibly tangible; its characters -- both human and not -- contemplating what it means to exist, to connect, and to love. 

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‘A Madea Christmas’ Review

Madea Christmas review
Lionsgate

The night after watching Tyler Perry’s latest film, I had a dream where I was trying to do something, and never pulled it off – and that’s a lot of what 'A Madea Christmas' is like: a lot of effort that ends up being pointless, but feels exhausting anyway. That sounds crueler than I mean for it to, since I did in fact laugh at it, a lot, certainly more than I did in my dream. But as with most of Perry’s films, 'A Madea Christmas' is messy and half-baked, funny on purpose but especially when trying to be serious, and ultimately as convincing as a comically-oversized man, dressed up in drag, mispronouncing words in a way that no one possibly could.

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‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ Review

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Review
Warner Bros.

There comes a time when we must stop kidding ourselves. These 'Hobbit' films – with 'The Desolation of Smaug' representing the shank of the trilogy – are not real movies. These are exploitation films for Tolkien nuts, for enthusiasts of the original 'Lord of the Rings' movies and for audiences so hungry for high fantasy they'll gobble up whatever is served to them and ask for seconds.

As someone who has sympathy, but not empathy, for those who have such proclivities, I can get why someone might come away liking this picture. But that is more of an involuntary reaction to exposure to certain elements, not the summation of a film. Listen, there's a grey-bearded wizard who warns in low tones about a place that sounds like “Doggledoor.” And there's someone referred to as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror.” I love that geekorama stuff more than most. It's hilarious, and I'll probably refer to my cat as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror” for the next week. But this movie doesn't cohere – there's no forward momentum, no character development, no story happening. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fibber.

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‘American Hustle’ Review

American Hustle review
Sony Pictures

There is so much hair in 'American Hustle.'

Christian Bale's disastrous comb-over/rug combo basically opens the film with a wordless monologue. Beneath that unnatural mop is the sharp mind of Irving Rosenfeld, a “from the feet up” con man making the leap from running legit (but boring) dry cleaning businesses to grifting down-on-their-luck rubes on bad bank loans. His operation starts taking off when he hooks up with Amy Adams, a natural businesswoman looking to reinvent herself. She does this with a name change, a phony British accent and, later in the film, by frizzing her hair out to preposterous proportions.

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‘Out of the Furnace’ Review

Out of the Furnace review
Relativity Media

Instead of embracing any semblance of light and levity left over from his first film, filmmaker Scott Cooper’s highly anticipated follow-up to his 2009 hit ‘Crazy Heart’ goes straight for the darkness, never quite emerging on the other side of it, much to the detriment of both the feature and its audience.

Cooper’s ‘Out of the Furnace’ is a miserable experience, and though that seems to be entirely the point, that doesn’t mean it needs to come with such little redeeming value, at least as it applies to the film’s emotional stakes. The first act runs through a series of ever-increasing bad situations, bad acts, bad decisions, and bad accidents, but it's a lack of emotional investment that keep them from hitting with any sort of impact. It’s just one big stew of bad stuff, and the only interesting thing about it is waiting for everything to inevitably boil over.

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‘Frozen’ Review

Frozen Review
Disney

Sometimes great artistry comes from coloring inside the lines.

Walt Disney Animation's newest film, 'Frozen,' does precious little to push the boundaries of narrative storytelling. Indeed, it is a quite predictable – might I even suggest formulaic - culmination of elements. While picking over the bones of a half-remembered Hans Christian Andersen story, 'The Snow Queen,' Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck's film expands certain themes, disposes of some characters and, of course, modernizes a bit for contemporary audiences. However, miraculously, this doesn't feel like a Xerox of a Xerox impersonating a classic Disney film. There's precious little winking; hardly any of the 'Shrek'-effect. 'Frozen' has enough of the goods to play it straight and succeed on its own terms. It is a major entry in family-friendly entertainment, one that ought to reverberate for years with tie-in toys and stage productions.

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‘Oldboy’ Review

Oldboy review
FilmDistrict

You'd think that a guy trapped in a hotel room for 20 years would find a better movie to be in once he got out, right?

'Oldboy,' Spike Lee's remake of the Park Chan-wook cult film from 2003, is a fairly rotten film, which is strange because it is very similar to the rather effective original. Sometimes, though, there's something gained in the translation.

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