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Thumbnails Jan 13

by Tony Medley

Django Unchained (9/10): Christoph Waltz shines in this role written expressly for him by writer/director Quentin Tarantino, who keeps the pace moving throughout this 2 hour comedy/drama about slavery and bounty hunting just prior to the Civil War. Although there is some violence, it's not as horrifically graphic as past Tarantino films. Despite a silly, Republic Pictures-era style shootout, I hated to see it end.

Silver Linings Playbook (9/10): This is not your garden variety romcom because it tackles a serious subject in an entertaining manner. Bradley Cooper gives a fine performance in a difficult role as a seriously bipolar man, but the one who really sparkles is Jennifer Lawrence, who should be up for awards for this one. She not only nails it, but displays a body that was well hidden in The Hunger Games and Winter's Bone, especially when she takes stage in a form fitting, steamy white outfit in the dancing finale. The dialogue is sometimes as quick as the dialogue between George Segal and Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class (1973), the first third of which is among the funniest films of all time.

Hyde Park on Hudson (8/10): Brilliantly directed by Roger Michell from a fine script by Richard Nelson, the story is set in June, 1939 and is described as a "fiction based on real events," the first visit by a ruling British monarch to the United States and FDR's (Bill Murray in a scintillating performance) randiness with his fifth cousin, well played by Laura Linney. The cinematography of the beautiful locations is gorgeous, as are the Production Design, Art Decoration, and Set Decoration. This is a film that seems to have been made with a lot of love and attention to detail. Quite simply, this is a captivating movie. There are so many good things I could say about it, but it's better to just go and see it and enjoy it as it unfolds. In one of the final scenes the King is shown taking home movies. The actual home movies he took are shown under the end credits, so don't race out of the theater when the screen fades to black.

Jack Reacher (8/10): Aficionados of author Lee Child's Jack Reacher action novels will hardly recognize 5-7 Tom Cruise as Child's 6-5, 240 pound protagonist. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie stands Cruise on the Alan Ladd peachbox so he will appear taller than Rosamund Pike, his 5-8 co-star, whose pushup bra and plunging necklines make her look almost Dolly Partonesque. In their two shots she's always looking up at Tom. But movies must stand on their own. Cruise is a fine actor and this is a fun, slam bang action movie with lots of bad guys for Reacher to conquer all by himself. It's highlighted by 81-year-old Robert Duvall, who appears near the end and comes close to stealing the film.

Hitchcock (7/10): This entertaining but slow biopic about Alfred Hitchcock's (Anthony Hopkins) relationship with his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren), is centered on the making of his 1960 horror hit, Psycho. Director Sacha Gervasi does a fine job of capturing the ambience of the era and location. The cast is very good, especially those portraying familiar actors. Scarlett Johansson is a believable Janet Leigh with the body to back it up. Hopkins' performance is good, falling a little short of caricaturization, but Mirren makes the film her own (how many times have I said that in recent years?). I saw it at its premiere at the Academy in Beverly Hills and one scene of hers drew applause from a very sophisticated audience. Despite her 67 years, she is, quite simply, the best actor extant.