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The Reel Deal In Theaters


  • Amour   
  • Michael Haneke is well known for violent, confrontational, and utterly disturbing movies like Funny Games, Time of the Wolf, and The Piano Teacher. But his latest film, Amour, is something different, tenderly and painfully depicting the final test of true love. Well into their eighties, Georges and Anne are retired music teachers, enjoying the fruits of their labors until one day over breakfast, Anne suffers a mild stroke. Over time, her condition deteriorates as her husband does everything to keep her alive, knowing full well the end is near. Unlike so many films that sensationalize love as a young person's game, Amour is tough love. The kind that comes unexpectedly, while watching a loved one confront the realities of old age. French stars, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, turn away from the glamour to show something more honest and revealing. And Haneke's direction is spot on, demonstrating how a blank stare conveys more truth than words. Amour is as heartbreaking and real as it gets.

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  • Beasts of the Southern Wild   
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild is the reason we go to movies. A fantastical tale that depicts the life of a six year old girl named Hushpuppy, growing up with her father in a region of the bayou known as the bathtub, just on the other side of the levees. It's a desolate, post-apocalyptic place with rising waters, widespread poverty, and dilapidated housing. But from a child's point of view, it is the prettiest place on Earth. Unfortunately, that all comes crashing down when a heavy storm floods the region and along with her father's fading health, forces Hushpuppy to become mature and resourceful in order to survive. Beasts of the Southern Wild is an amazing accomplishment. Directed by Behn Zeitlin on a low budget with lofty ambitions, it perfectly balances real world hardships with child-like imagination. Featuring a tour de force performance from Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild is pure movie magic. For once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub.

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  • Django Unchained   
  • In 2009, Quentin Tarantino delivered his finest effort with Inglourious Basterds, a genre blending, fictionalized tale of Jewish Allied soldiers out to assassinate Nazi leaders. Now, 3 years later, he sets his aim on slave owners in Django Unchained, a spaghetti western set in America's Deep South. Starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, and Kerry Washington, the film depicts the story of a freed slave (Foxx) who travels across America with a German dentist turned bounty hunter (Waltz) to rescue his wife (Washington) from a sadistic plantation owner (DiCaprio). With influences ranging from grindhouse to kung fu, Django has tremendous style and stellar performances along with a pulp pounding soundtrack. All are hallmarks of Tarantino, whose bold ideas, cheeky humor, and graphic violence make Django Unchained a guilty pleasure. Wildly provocative, Django is a revenge film best served cold.

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  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey   
  • Has it really been 9 years since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King took home Best Picture gold? Taking us there and back again is director Peter Jackson and a cast of familiar faces for The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey. In this epic tale, home loving Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, journeys outside the Shire, across Middle Earth, along with Gandalf the Grey, Thorin Oakenshield, and thirteen dwarves to battle goblins, orcs, and spiders. Not to mention the creature that will forever change Bilbo's life (Gollum). At a little over 300 pages, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the shortest book in the series and An Unexpected Journey is the first of what will soon become a trilogy. However, even with familiar faces and places and an emphasis on humor, the pressure of three films limits much of the creative energy that made its predecessors so special. Strictly faithful to the novel, The Hobbit hems and haws with only an occasional cinematic punch, making it a good, but very expected journey.

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  • Life of Pi   
  • Very few filmmakers have the grace, vision, and personal touch of Ang Lee. His latest film, Life Of Pi, is a perfect example of that extraordinary talent, making the unbelievable, believable. The magical tale centers on a young boy named Pi, who loses his family at sea and winds up alone on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Together, the two form a unique bond, spending 227 days lost at sea, fighting for survival. Adapted from the award winning novel by Yann Martel, Life Of Pi is an allegory - part philosophical, part spiritual, and part practical. With an agile script from David Magee and meticulous attention to detail, depth, and color, from a lifelike tiger to the grandeur of the ocean and a frightening thunderstorm, Ang Lee has crafted one of the finest, most mesmerizing films of the year. An absolute wonder to behold, Life Of Pi is an intimate story about the power of storytelling and the essence of life.

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  • Silver Linings Playbook   
  • Director David O. Russell always seems to find absurd humor in serious places. In Three Kings, it was a group of American soldiers searching for treasure in Iraq. In I Heart Huckabees, it was a pair of existentialist detectives investigating the meaning of life. And in his latest film, Silver Linings Playbook, Russell finds humor with mental illness, relationship woes, and professional football. The film stars Bradley Cooper as a former substitute teacher who attempts to reunite with his wife after spending eight months in a psychiatric facility for beating up his wife's lover. Upon his release, he receives support from his football obsessed parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and a mysterious girl (played by Jennifer Lawrence) with many of her own flaws. Both Cooper and Lawrence exhibit great chemistry together and the onslaught of zingers is one of the many silver linings in the film. Hysterically awkward, Silver Linings Playbook is a razor sharp, unfiltered exploration of recovery and reconciliation.

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  • Wreck-It Ralph   
  • From the 8-bit arcade games of the 80s and 90s that saw iconic characters like Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Super Mario spring to life comes Wreck-It Ralph, the latest animated adventure from Walt Disney that pays homage to those early joys of video gaming. Much like Donkey Kong, Wreck-It Ralph is a hard coded bad guy. But after 30 years of seeing his counterpart, Fix-It Felix, always saving the day, he yearns for a change. And thus, decides to escape his game in the hopes of becoming a hero himself - a journey that takes him from the trenches of Hero's Duty to the high speed thrills of Sugar Rush. Taking a page from Pixar, Wreck-It Ralph gives its 2 dimensional characters a conscience. And as a result, real emotions and drama ensue. With colorful animation, spirited voiceovers, and plenty of in-jokes and cameos, Wreck-It Ralph has plenty of amusements for everyone - a cleverly conceived, coin operated machine.

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  • Zero Dark Thirty   
  • So, how do you follow an Oscar winning Best Picture, like The Hurt Locker? If you're director Kathryn Bigelow, you amp it up to eleven with Zero Dark Thirty, one of the year's most powerful films about the hunt for Bin Laden. The film depicts the 10 year journey following the events of 9/11 all the way up to the raid on Bin Laden's compound. At the center of the story is a CIA agent named Maya whose unwavering determination and resourcefulness not only leads to retribution, but proves that women can get the job done in a male dominated environment. This is personal for Bigelow, the first woman to ever to receive an Oscar for Best Directing. It's not political. There aren't a lot of unnecessary back stories. It's just great storytelling. With an intricate script by Mark Boal and a gutsy performance by Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty is every bit as efficient and focused as Maya's investigation. Even though we know the final outcome, we are still locked in to the final frame. Powerfully provocative, Zero Dark Thirty is Kathryn Bigelow's finest hour.

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