‘Identity Thief’ will steal your money

Melissa McCarthy needs better material than 'Identity Thief'
Melissa McCarthy needs better material than ‘Identity Thief’

[rating=1]Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Genesis Rodriguez, Tip Harris, John Cho, Robert Patrick
Director: Seth Gordon
Writer: Craig Mazin

In the first sequence of Identity Thief, Melissa McCarthy’s guileless character, Sandy/Julia/[insert other alias here] treats a barful of Winter Park, FL, strangers to unlimited drinks on the card ages just grafted from unsuspecting Denver yes man Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman). The other customers love this generous broad who has seemingly come out of nowhere to shower them with live and free spirits. And then at one point, she dives over the crowd to grab a chandelier. She misses the brass ring, and they dive out of her way, letting her land on the floor, alone, with a thud. Thief does pretty much the same thing to its star.

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‘Stand Up Guys’ is a tale of vice and men

Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin and Al Pacino are the 'Stand Up Guys'
Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin and Al Pacino are the ‘Stand Up Guys’

[rating=2]Starring: Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Mark Margolis, Julianna Margulies, Addison Timlin
Director: Fisher Stevens
Writer: Noah Haidle

If Stand Up Guys, the new light crime noir that marks Fisher Stevens’ second stab as a feature film director, were a person, it would be a voyeur. This is most certainly a film that likes to watch.

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Thrills in ‘Mama’ are all relative

Jessica Chastain goes sexy punk in 'Mama'
Jessica Chastain goes sexy punk in ‘Mama’

[rating=3]Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Jane Moffat
Directors: Andrés Muschietti
Writers: Neil Cross, Andrés Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti

What makes a thriller good? Is it ingenuity or number of scares? Mama, directed by Andrés Muschietti, dips into the supernatural while still gripping onto such familiar umbrella areas as scary houses and unpredictable children. It’s no fright fest, but it is, for a long time, an intriguing domestic parable. As an exercise in the genre, Mama doesn’t completely redefine its core, but it stretches it to a more limber stage.

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‘Les Misérables’ hits notes both sweet and sour

Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) find love in a France at war with itself in 'Les Miserables'
Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) find love in a France at war with itself in ‘Les Miserables’

It’s simple. You’re either for or against Les Misérables, the epic musical that broke records on the London, New York, and regional stages around the world. In an exercise of hubris, bravery or naïveté, Tom Hooper, his King’s Speech Best Director Oscar still in possession of its original sheen, has elected to helm the long-awaited film adaptation. Full disclosure: I’m a lover of the show’s music and performance opportunities, and a hater of its book, full of contrivance and unearned relationships. I dreamed a dream that that Hooper could be the man to use this adaptation as an opportunity to clean up some of the narrative debris from the show. Alas, I was on my own in that hope.

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Crazy antebellum: ‘Django Unchained’ is pulp non-fiction

Jamie Foxx is 'Django Unchained'
Jamie Foxx is ‘Django Unchained’

[rating=3]Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino’s filmography is now long enough for his own telltale calling cards to emerge in his latest genre time warp, Django Unchained: his episodic narrative, his usury of genre tropes with modernist updates, violence galore, use of a wronged protagonist to seek vigilante justice and speak for a greater population, whether it be women (the Kill Bill films) or Jews (Inglourious Basterds).

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‘Guilt Trip’ is a journey best intended for the challah-back crowd

Seth Rogan is tortured by his overbearing mother, Barbara Streisand, in 'The Guilt Trip'
Seth Rogan is tortured by his overbearing mother, Barbara Streisand, in ‘The Guilt Trip’

[rating=2]Starring: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Brett Cullen
Directed by: Anne Fletcher
Written by: Dan Fogelman

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time fathoming why the characters in so many holiday movies cringe at the thought of reunion with their families. Am I the only one that likes visiting and talking to my relatives? It’s a mixed blessing. While it might be a sign of healthy relationships, I’ve been deprived of what appears to be endless source material for movies with a release date during the last two months of every year. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

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‘Promised Land’ is a vanity project that doesn’t dig very deep

Matt Damon gets to look good in vanity piece, 'Promised Land'
Matt Damon gets to look good in vanity piece, ‘Promised Land’

[rating=2]Starring: Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski, Rosemarie Dewitt, Hal Holbrook
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Written by: Matt Damon, Dave Eggers, John Krasinski

Promised Land is the latest in a modern stream of films to weigh the costs of ecology versus economy. It stars Matt Damon as Steve Butler, a small-town boy made good who has left his Eldridge, Ia., upbringing to become a hotshot corporate salesman working for a natural gas company in the Big Apple. The film – co-written by Damon with hungry star-on-the-rise John Krasinski and esteemed nonfiction writer Dave Eggers – aspires to be a virtuous one about the honor of living on the land. But don’t be mistaken. Beneath the t-shirts, jeans and flannel, Land is a vanity project.

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‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is a candy-coated delight

Ralph reluctantly makes a new friend named Vanellope in 'Wreck It Ralph'
Ralph reluctantly makes a new friend named Vanellope in ‘Wreck It Ralph’

[rating=3]Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk
Directed by: Rich Moore
Written by: Jennifer Lee, Phil Johnston

One need not be a huge gamer to enjoy the deliriously entertaining Wreck-It Ralph, directed by Rich Moore. This Disney movie proves that evergreen themes like family, friendship and self-esteem can win audiences over in any genre.

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