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Movies

Splendid, Gorgeous and Compelling

Movie: ‘Gravity’

I have one message for you: Watch this movie on the big screen.
Sure, “Gravity” will still be impressive on your television, but this film was made to be watched from a theater seat with the stars sprawled across the screen.
I usually dislike 3D in movies because it generally doesn’t add anything to the overall experience, but “Gravity” needs to be seen wearing those black glasses. Watching bits and pieces of space station float by creates the illusion that the entire theater is trapped in the same dire predicament as the astronauts.

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Brimming With Menace And Suspense

Movies: ‘Captain Phillips’

In his long career, approaching 30 years since “Splash,” Tom Hanks has become the favored stand-in for the American Everyman, often placed in dire, life-or-death circumstances, as in “Saving Private Ryan,” “Apollo 13” and “Castaway.”
No doubt this made him a natural for the real-life Captain Richard Phillips, skipper of the MV Maersk Alabama, the American container ship which in 2009 was hijacked by Somali pirates, leading to a tense standoff with the US Navy.

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Everyone’s a Prisoner

Movies: ‘Prisoners’

Denis Villenueve’s “Prisoners” is a very long and extremely unpleasant movie. Or maybe it’s very unpleasant and extremely long.
The story centers around the sudden disappearance — on Thanksgiving Day — of two young girls from a solidly middle-class neighborhood somewhere in Pennsylvania.
A recreational vehicle had been in the neighborhood. Indeed, the girls had been playing on it before their older siblings shooed them away.
And now the RV is gone. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is sure the RV was used to grab the kids.

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Embrace It

Movies: ‘Don Jon’

It’s a surprising film, “Don Jon.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who stars as Jon and makes his debut as screenwriter and director, hits you with a montage of raunchy images followed by a frank, raunchy voice-over discussion of computer-porn sexual satisfaction versus the real thing.
But be patient.
The film soon settles into a deftly made satire and, ultimately and perhaps too conveniently, a sweet commentary on real romantic intimacy.

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. . . And the Draw of Any Part of Show Biz

Movies: ‘In a World . . .’

When was the last time you saw a movie trailer that had a female voiceover? What about a political ad on TV or radio, or a major sporting event?
If you answered never, you may have already been aware, dimly aware, or not at all aware, of how male-dominated the voiceover industry is. After seeing Lake Bell’s spirited indie romcom-on-a-mission, “In a World…,” you surely will be.

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When Culture Clash Is Just Not Enough

Movies: ‘The Family’

It must have looked like a no-brainer, on paper. Join two Hollywood icons, Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, in signature roles — he the wiseguy, she the mob wife — put them in an unfamiliar place and, voila! Watch the ironies and the dark humor pile up.
But an unfunny thing happened on the way from the story board to the movie house. “The Family” (even the title is nondescript) exhibits a serious failure of imagination. “The Sopranos” it is not, no matter how hard it tries, even dangling Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos’ “Big Pussy”) in a cameo role.

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A Movie Every Parent Should See

Movies: ‘The Spectacular Now’

Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a high school senior. He’s got a hot girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson); he drinks a lot and is the life of the party; he’s flunking geometry; he’s coaching his friend on his love life, or lack of same; he’s got a job at the world’s dustiest haberdashery.And he drinks a lot. People occasionally comment on this. He brushes it off.

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Disorder in the court!

Movies: ‘Closed Circuit’

“Closed Circuit” should be a terrific movie: Great cast, London setting, terrorist bombing, quick arrest of the mastermind and both public and secret trials. It should crackle with energy and contemporary relevance. Yet after a terrific opening, the film bogs down in legal procedure, punctuated by increasingly violent and largely implausible actions of MI5, the U.K.'s internal secret service.

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For a Little History and Some Fine Performances

Movies: ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’

It’s a straight-up history lesson, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” one brought to life by a dozen or so extremely fine actors.
Director Lee Daniels pulls no punches in this walk through the civil rights era and has no qualms about manipulating our emotions.

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Allen, Still the Master

Movies: ‘Blue Jasmine”

Woody Allen’s 48th film, “Blue Jasmine,” his best since 2005’s “Match Point,” begins on an airplane. Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is flying from New York to San Francisco, leaving a life of privilege for an uncertain future with her estranged working-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins).
Breathlessly, she spills details of her life to her traveling companion, all the way through the baggage claim. Jasmine is already a bit unhinged.

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