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Movie Reviews

Come for a love story, stay for an emotional evisceration

Blue Valentine isn’t a romantic drama; it’s a horror movie for romantics. Derek Cianfrance’s (Cagefighter) film asks questions that most modern romantic movies attempt to avoid: What happens to a married couple when they fall out of love? What if you’re not meant to be with the person you married? The answers to these questions are often painful, messy and uncomfortable.

A B-movie with an A-List cast earns a failing grade

A priest, some crusaders and a witch wander into the woods. Turns out the joke is on whoever pays to see the movie. An overwrought, overstuffed tale of medieval mysticism, Season of the Witch fails on every possible level, from storytelling to acting to star Nicolas Cage’s improbable hairpiece.

A speech impediment proves to be a royal pain in this excellent drama

At the close of the 1925 Empire Exhibition, England’s Duke of York Albert (Colin Firth: A Single Man) stands before a live audience for his radio broadcast debut. Instead of a refined address, the Duke broadcasts a halting stuttering address as his countrymen regard him in horror. 

A teenage girl spurs eccentric lawmen in a manhunt for her father’s killer in this sharp remake of a western classic.

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld in her feature debut) is a quick-witted and willful 14-year-old girl, come to the end of the railroad line in some dusty Arkansas town to collect her dear departed father. But she’s more interested in collecting Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin: Jonah Hex), the cur who killed him, and seeing the murderer hanged. By barter, wit and resolve she recruits crusty marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges: Tron: Legacy) and ornamented Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon: Hereafter) to her cause.

A hacker heir apparent fights to save the real world from the digital world in this glitzy reboot.

Computer genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges; Crazy Heart) has been missing for 20 years. Nobody has a clue where he went off to — at least until his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund; Georgia Rule) is mysteriously paged to his dad’s hidden lab and zapped into the grid, a digital realm where programs are living figures made in the image of their creators. Ends up his pop has been stranded here all those years, trapped when his own program Clu revolted and waged genocide against digital “imperfections.” Now it seems Clu has plotted an escape from the digital world.

Natalie Portman pirouettes to the dark side in this ballet thriller

When watching ballet dancers leap and spin across a stage, it’s hard to remember that these dedicated athletes punish their bodies to create such grace. Director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) is happy to remind you. His psychological dance thriller (which may be the best new genre in years) — Black Swan is awash with close-ups of battered toes, bony arms and raw bloody flesh — and that’s just the normal ballerinas. 

A moralistic adventure shines through evil fog in this allegorical fantasy.

Edmund and Lucy (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley: the prior two Narnia movies) are feeling pretty miserable. While the rest of the Pevensie family is off in America, these two are hunkered down with insufferable cousin Eustace (Will Poulter: Son of Rambow) — a know-it-all, curmudgeonly, 10-year-old —  in wartime Oxford. The twerp’s about to get it when a painting floods the room and the three kids surface in Narnia before the bow of the royal ship Dawn Treader.

Circus folk get squished between rogue cowboys and vengeful ninjas in this strange bit of camp.

Yang (Dong-gun Jang: The Promise) is the greatest swordsman of mankind and the deadliest assassin of the Sad Flutes, a Korean warrior clan. He has become his own clan’s worst enemy, though, after failing to take the life of a baby girl for the sake of wiping out a rival clan. Escaping retribution, Yang flees with the child to America and into western badlands. There he settles in among sad carnies in a dead town and teaches a plucky dame how to wield a blade.

A lewd romantic dramedy with gratuitous nudity bouncing around the conceit of trying to say something profound.

What an odd little romance.

Wizards and muggles will find fun and suspense as Harry’s magical world collapses around him

When the screen faded to black at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows there was an audible protest from the audience. The fact that a packed house sat still for 146 minutes and begged for more when the credits rolled is probably the best recommendation I can give. But they pay me to write more than a paragraph.