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Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013)


CAST: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bill Cobbs



Sam Raimi’s prequel to The Wizard of Oz is cut from the same cloth as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a modern filmmaker’s homage to a timeless classic that boasts flashy updated visual effects but lacks the original’s magic. Continue reading

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson


Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood


A decade ago, Peter Jackson took us to Middle Earth and raised epic fantasy adventure to a high bar that all that followed in its wake would be hard-pressed to equal, let alone surpass. Ironically but probably inevitably, Jackson himself has fallen short of that herculean task with the first installment of the prequel trilogy, but while The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not as consistently enthralling as The Lord of the Rings, it is still an enjoyable adventure worth going on. Continue reading

Les Misérables (2012)

DIRECTOR: Tom Hooper


Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter



Based on the phenomenally popular, long-running musical stage production which debuted in 1985, which itself was based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, this musical big screen adaptation of arguably the greatest French novel was a long time coming. Continue reading

Skyfall (2012)

DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes


Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace



While Martin Campbell started the process in 2006’s Casino Royale, with Skyfall, Sam Mendes has truly finished what Casino Royale started—rebooting James Bond as Christopher Nolan did with Batman and J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek, taking the series back to the starting gate as if the previous films never happened. Casino Royale, star Daniel Craig’s debut—which was well-received—took 007 back to the basics, whittled down to the bare bones, with no gadgets, no Moneypenny, no Q, the quipping and sexcapades kept to a restrained minimum, and 2008’s Quantum of Solace—which was generally regarded as a disappointing follow-up—continued in this vein, but Skyfall truly completes the circle of the old and the new, keeping the “new” series’ restraint and seriousness (by Bond standards, at least), while adding a few familiar ingredients that were MIA in its two predecessors back into the mix. Most notably, Skyfall can stand on its own as an individual film. Familiarity with the events of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace is not necessary. Continue reading

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud AtlasDIRECTOR: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer

CAST: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Doona Bae, James D’Arcy, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, David Gyasi


The film adaptation of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, a German production co-directed by the Wachowski siblings behind The Matrix and German director Tom Tykwer, is nothing if not ambitious. Continue reading

Looper (2012)

looperDIRECTOR: Rian Johnson

CAST: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Noah Segan, Garret Dillahunt, Summer Qing, Pierce Gagnon


Time travel is commonplace in sci-fi stories, sometimes used effectively, sometimes as a flimsy plot device.  With Looper, writer-director Rian Johnson finds a way to embrace the inherent paradoxes and incorporate them into a hard-hitting sci-fi thriller in ways that are intelligent and unpredictable.  Looper is not just a generic action flick with time travel as a plot device; it’s a smart movie that works on different levels as an action thriller, a sci-fi story, and even a morality play, and stimulates the adrenaline, the brain, and the heart.  It’s not a perfect film, but its narrative is engaging, involving, and thoughtful, and doesn’t shy away from a tragic vein. Continue reading

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

DIRECTOR: Stephen Chbosky

CAST: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Nina Dobrev, Melanie Lynskey, Joan Cusack


Perks of Being a Wallflower, adapted from the book by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the screenplay and directed the film version, is part of a heavily-populated genre—the “coming-of-age” story, and like many of them, it focuses on the outsiders and non-conformists who spent high school on the outside looking in. Continue reading

Lawless (2012)

DIRECTOR: John Hillcoat

CAST: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Dane DeHaan


Based on Matt Bondurant’s 2008 historical novel The Wettest County in the World, a semi-fictionalized account of the Prohibition-era bootlegging activities of his grandfather Jack Bondurant and his grand-uncles Forrest and Howard, Lawless doesn’t reach the level of the bootlegging film classics it aspires toward, but it’s still an entertaining and engaging, if unspectacular, outlaw adventure that’s soaked in enough blood and moonshine to appeal to fans of the genre.  Its release in late August, generally regarded as a dumping ground for films the studios are not confident enough about to release at the height of summer, is a bit of a shame.  Lawless is a well-made movie that deserves a higher profile than it received. Continue reading

Premium Rush (2012)

premium rushDIRECTOR: David Koepp

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Wolé Parks, Henry O


Premium Rush isn’t anything deep or substantial, but as its title suggests, its an hour and a half of breezy, fast-paced diverting entertainment that slows down as rarely as its characters.  Writer-director David Koepp has mined a previously little-used premise–bicycle messengers–for chase scenes that feel less generic than standard-issue dime a dozen car chases. Continue reading

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

DIRECTOR: Tony Gilroy

CAST: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy, Zeljko Ivanek, Oscar Isaac, Corey Stoll


Considering that the total box office gross for the first three Bourne films is nearly $1 billion, the temptation was too much to resist for Universal Pictures to greenlight a fourth installment, even when director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon were uninterested in returning (Greengrass dismissively referred to a fourth film as “The Bourne Redundancy”). Universal tried to work their way around this not by recasting Jason Bourne, but introducing a new character within the same “universe”, but their approach was flawed (in my opinion, forging onward with more Bournes without Damon was a dubious prospect to begin with). Continue reading