Opening in New York, December 13, 2013

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Lots of big films opening today, including a critic-proof blockbuster and a couple of helpings of Oscar bait.

The box office champ will be The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (66), the second film in The Hobbit trilogy. The first was soporific, but I feel a strange obligation to see this on a big screen. At any rate, it’s supposed to be much better than the first. Todd McCarthy: “After exhibiting an almost craven fidelity to his source material the first time out, Jackson gets the drama in gear here from the outset with a sense of storytelling that possesses palpable energy and purpose.”

I would rather see American Hustle (89), but it’s in limited release in New York City. David O. Russell is establishing himself as one of the best directors working today, and is almost certain to have three best pictures in a row. Roger Moore: “The disco decadence, the seedy era before Times Square became a theme park, the lowered expectations of an endless recession, everything that was then and is now makes up American Hustle. And that’s what makes this the best movie of this holiday season.”

Another bit of Oscar bait is Saving Mr. Banks (66), the story of how Walt Disney tried to charm P.L. Travers into allowing him to make Mary Poppins into a movie. Looks okay, but I’ve seen the trailer so many times, and it basically gives away the reveal, which makes me think I’ve already seen it. Joshua Rothkopf: “Saving Mr. Banks turns Travers’s tense collaboration with Walt and his team of Imagineers into — naturally — a schmaltzy journey of closure, climaxing in a teary screening of the finished musical.”

Unfortunately, Hours (51) is most notable for being a posthumous film for Paul Walker. It’s a tale of survival during and after Hurricane Katrina. Richard Roeper: “One only wishes Walker had stronger, better developed material instead of a promising drama that eventually unravels and seems overlong even with a running time of 96 minutes.”

I would also like to see Liv and Ingmar (74), a documentary about the professional and personal relationship of actress Liv Ullmann and director Ingmar Bergman. Diego Costa: “The documentary not only humanizes Ingmar Bergman as the absent lover-cum-father of everyday life, but works as a priceless oral history of cinema.”

Of Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (25), the less said the better.

 

 

 

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

4 responses »

  1. Saving Mr. Banks is wholly unimpressive. Nothing stood out to me. It was a simple, by the numbers film. What I also didn’t agree with was the cross-editing with her past. It doesn’t add anything to the narrative besides jarringly taking us away from the main story. I know that’s the entire (belabored) point, but we understand fictional characters come from real places, but really, nothing in her past explained why she was such a curmudgeon and sure, our past makes us what we are, but stick with the main story. I felt Disney was a cypher, too, strangely enough, since I thought it was the interplay between the two of them yet he’s hovering on the periphery, the ‘grand old man’ steering the ship towards having the movie he promised his kid. And the very definition of ‘maudlin’ is that speech of the past he gives her.
    Ultimately, what could have been a really quite great take on what fictional characters mean to their creators-why did Disney not tell the story of what Mickey means to him to her? Flat and unimpressive, with the only bright spot being Paul Giamatti as the ‘patient, sage limo driver’, though just for him and not for the character. it wasn’t even that much fun watching them create the movie.
    She sure as hell was right about thunder and rain and tea, though.

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