Movie Revue is a collection of capsule reviews of some of the latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.
FROZEN. With Frozen, Disney Animation has officially out-Pixar'd Pixar. Just look at the last three Disney titles (this, Tangled, Wreck-It-Ralph) compared to Pixar's (Cars 2, Brave, Monsters University). Kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it? It may have taken me two viewings to fully appreciate Frozen, but I count myself a fan now. The Disney machine is so good at making these sorts of movies at this point that it's impossible to resist. Frozen has all the typical elements of their beloved animated musicals - catchy songs, humorous sidekicks, princesses - but it cheekily plays with the formula, and the animation is just stunning (the 3D is good, but I recommend the 2D version because the animation is brighter and pops more). The voice cast is a who's who of veteran Broadway singers, and each gets their own song showcase. If there's any major issue with the movie, it's at the script level. There's not much of an "adventure" to be had here, and the sisterly love thematic elements, though admirable in theory, are really only paid lip service. Still, Frozen is hugely entertaining and the perfect family movie this holiday season. **** out of 5 stars.
THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY. The cast for this better-late-than-never sequel to 1999's The Best Man has charm and likeability to spare. For nearly half of the movie, that's good enough. I enjoyed spending time with this group of friends (including Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Morris Chestnut, and (best of all) Terrence Howard), as they gather together for the holidays. There isn't much story to get in the way, so the film relies heavily on the chemistry of its actors to hook the audience. It works. To a point. The second half of this movie is stacked with one melodramatic cliche after another, and tanks whatever goodwill the movie built up up until then. Secrets are revealed, religious beliefs are tested, and characters face their mortality. It's just too much for any one movie to bear. Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee takes a jackhammer approach to the material, when more finesse was needed. Not much of a holiday movie either, other than the title itself. **1/2 out of 5 stars.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. How good is Matthew McConaughey these days? As Dallas Buyers Club proves, he's very good, and his performance here is the capper to an incredible career turnaround for the actor these past few years. In this true story set in the '80s, he plays rodeo cowboy Ron Woodruff, whose character dramatically transforms after he is diagnosed with AIDS and fights to import a cure for the disease. McConaughey does much more than just a gimmicky physical transformation, he invests Woodruff with honesty and humanity at every turn. He carries the movie on his shoulders, but luckily has help from Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner, who are both excellent in supporting roles. The movie itself isn't quite up to the level of its actors - the story tends to run in place and never builds up the necessary dramatic momentum - but it's worth seeing for the performances alone. ***1/2 out of 5 stars.
ALL IS LOST. Few actors could hold the screen in as commanding a way as Robert Redford does in All Is Lost. Like Hanks in Cast Away, this is truly a one-man show about survival, and Redford nails it. Unlike Cast Away, there's barely any dialogue, and we know next to nothing about Redford's character. We know he's in a boat. The boat is sinking. That's about it. As an exercise in maintaining tone and watching an actor believably go through the motions of trying to survive, All Is Lost is a success. As a piece of entertainment that audiences can truly lose themselves in, it's less than that. Hard to invest too much in Redford's character when we know so little about him. Still, it seems silly that Redford has never won an Oscar before, so expect this role to easily get him a nomination, if not the win. *** out of 5 stars.
OLDBOY. Spike Lee's remake of Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy is faced with a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario. Fans of the original won't like this one as much, and those who have never seen the original will be shocked, confused and probably angered by some of the twists and turns here. Add to that the fact that Spike Lee really seems to have lost his filmmaking mojo of late - I don't think he's made anything good since 2006's Inside Man. Oldboy, despite the best intentions of its very game cast (Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen), is a paycheck film. Lee's heart just isn't in it. It's not very good and nowhere near the quality of the original, but I was surprised that it wasn't worse. It certainly could have been. And, the sick twist at the end still worked on my audience and got an audible rise out of them. ** stars out of 5 stars.
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