Top 10 Best DVD Movies December 2012
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Anyone who’s watched Family Guy knows that its creator Seth MacFarlane has a lot of hang-ups. As outrageous as many of them are in their animated TV show forum, they get a real rundown in Ted, MacFarlane’s multi-hyphenate debut in feature films. As the director, producer, cowriter, and voice artist behind the title character, MacFarlane riffs on pop culture, drug culture, religion, sex, bodily functions, and all things ’80s with the kind of abandon that borders on offensive to pretty much anyone–if only it all weren’t so spot-on funny. Ted is an utterly believable CGI teddy bear who comes to life in the arms of a friendless 8-year-old boy named John, who quickly grows up to be Mark Wahlberg. John has made a wish that the pudgy plush be a friend for forever, a deal that they both hold on to with genuine poignancy as the years roll by. Ted grows right along with John in voice, manner, attitude, and bad habits until they’re both unmotivated layabouts who would rather do nothing more than swill beer, smoke dope, and watch the absurdly iconic ’80s movie Flash Gordon over and over again to the exclusion of most everything else in life. John has managed to pick up a girlfriend named Lori (Mila Kunis), who somehow tolerates the pair of them–at least for a little while. Eventually she’s annoyed enough with John for not putting away his childish things, thoughts, and behaviors that she demands Ted move out and let them move on as adults. Among all the conceits that Ted embraces is the fact that this fully anthropomorphized stuffed bear started life as a global celebrity sensation before everyone forgot about him. Now he’s just a blue-collar Boston nobody who sucks on a bong, chases women, and makes dirty jokes at every opportunity while nobody pays attention. This could have been a generic lowbrow buddy movie in the Judd Apatow mold, which might have been a little funny with a human slob in the Ted role. But MacFarlane brings to the remarkably expressive CGI creation an astonishing and often shocking dynamic with his voice characterization and the consistently clever situations, which whiz by in a structure that’s pretty similar to an episode of Family Guy. There are frequent non sequitur digressions and offhanded one-liners that MacFarlane could never get away with on TV. But in the raunchy, anything-goes world of Ted it’s all fair game. In addition to farts, drugs, bodily functions, and all manner of sexual
vulgarity, it’s the slams or homages to the 1980s that are the butt of many of the best zingers or recurring jokes. There are several cameo appearances that may make for delighted double takes. And Sam Jones, the star of the ill-fated Flash Gordon, plays a version of himself that makes a running gag all the more ingenious and demonstrates how far MacFarlane will go to bring comedy down to his level of hilarity. Mark Wahlberg should be commended for being game enough to participate and absolutely shows the comedy chops to make his scenes with Ted come alive. Technically the movie is a wonder as the two-foot Ted blends into the real world with complete believability even as he spouts some of
the most outrageous dialogue this side of The Hangover. Ted may be an acquired taste for those who have a dislike for MacFarlane’s comic sensibility–and there are a lot of people who do. But as a laughable lowbrow adventure that delivers virtually nonstop unexpected laughs with a little heart to back it up, Ted is a surprising comic novelty that may even win over some of the most vituperative MacFarlane haters.
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- Bonus content from all three films.
Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight’s emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents’ murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.
The Dark Knight:
The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Heath Ledger stars as archvillain The Joker, and Aaron Eckhart plays Dent. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as Rachel Dawes. Returning from Batman Begins are Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
The Dark Knight Rises:
It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.
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Building on her performance as a take-no-prisoners teenager in Winter’s Bone, Jennifer Lawrence portrays heroine Katniss Everdeen in Gary Ross’s action-oriented adaptation of author-screenwriter Suzanne Collins’s young adult bestseller. Set in a dystopian future in which the income gap is greater than ever, 24 underprivileged youth fight to the death every year in a televised spectacle designed to entertain the rich and give the poor enough hope to quell any further unrest–but not too much, warns Panem president Snow (Donald Sutherland), because that would be “dangerous.” Hailing from the same mining town, 16-year-olds Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, The Kids Are All Right) represent District 12 with the help of escort Effie (an unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks) and mentor Haymitch (a scene-stealing Woody Harrelson). At first they’re adversaries, but a wary partnership eventually develops, though the rules stipulate that only one contestant can win. For those who haven’t read the book, the conclusion is likely to come as a surprise. Before it arrives, Ross (Pleasantville) depicts a society in which the Haves appear to have stepped out of a Dr. Seuss book and the Have-Nots look like refugees from the WPA photographs of Walker Evans. It’s an odd mix, made odder still by frenetic fight scenes where it’s hard to tell who’s doing what to whom. Fortunately, Lawrence and Hutcherson prove a sympathetic match in this crazy, mixed-up combination of Survivor, Lost, and the collected works of George Orwell.
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Blasphemy? Perhaps. But the best thing about what may be the most rousing and well-crafted superhero movie since The Dark Knight is not the boffo action scenes that culminate in a New York City-destroying finale that rivals Michael Bay’s obliteration of the Chicago skyline in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. No, the real appeal of The Avengers comes from the quiet moments among a group of decidedly unquiet humans, extra-humans, mutants, and demigods. In no particular order those are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), S.H.I.E.L.D. world-government commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and indispensable functionary Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). That’s a superstar lineup both in and out of character, and The Avengers brilliantly integrates the cast of ensemble egos into a story that snaps and crackles–not to mention smashes, trashes, and destroys–at breakneck pace, never sacrificing visual dazzle or hard-earned story dynamics. Writer-director Joss Whedon is no slouch when it comes to being a comic geek and he handles the heavy duty reins with efficient panache. The effects are of course spectacular. They include a monstrous flying aircraft carrier that is home base to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury’s Avenger Initiative; Tony Stark’s gleaming skyscraper in midtown Manhattan; off-world scenes of malignant evil; as well as blindingly apocalyptic fights and the above-mentioned showdown that leaves New York a virtual ruin. Yet it’s the deeply personal conversations and confrontations among the very reluctant team of Avengers that makes the movie pop. Full of humor, snappy dialogue, and little asides that include inside jokes, eye rolls, and personal grudge matches, the script makes these superhumans real beings with sincere passion or feelings of disillusionment. The conviction of the actors as they fully commit to their clever lines gives credibility to what comes off as more than simple banter, even during the more incredible moments among them (of which are many). The plot involves the appearance of Loki, disgraced villain and brother of Thor, who was also a key player in his eponymous movie. Loki has come to Earth to retrieve the Tesseract, a blue-glowing energy cube that is valuable beyond compare to forces good and evil throughout the universe. As Loki, Tom Hiddleston is supremely, yea gloriously appealing as the brilliantly wicked regal charmer who captures minds from S.H.I.E.L.D. and attempts to conquer Earth with the hideous army at his command. To say he is foiled is an understatement. His face-off with the Hulk is one of the giddiest moments in a movie filled with lightheaded mayhem, and is a perfect example of Whedon’s throwaway approach to translating the mythic mystique of the Marvel comics universe. Though at times deadly serious (as deadly serious as an outrageous superhero destructo/fight-fest movie can be, that is), The Avengers is best when it lightens up and lets the fun fly alongside the powerhouse punches. By the way, a single blink-and-you’ll-miss-it powerhouse punch is another moment that makes Hulk the most loveable underdog of a smashing green rage monster ever. That spirit of fun and pure adventure makes The Avengers the greatest kind of escapist Hollywood fantasy $250 million can buy. A blockbuster in the most literal sense.
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Sort of a sequel, not quite a reboot–The Bourne Legacy is not easy to peg as a follow-up to the original Matt Damon trilogy. Except for this: it’s a heckuva satisfying spy picture, an ingenious expansion on the Bourne universe that also meets the expectations of a multiplex title circa 2012. (Plenty of action to go with the espionage talk, in other words.) Jeremy Renner takes center stage as Aaron Cross, an agent groomed by the government program that also unleashed Jason Bourne, but with a few new wrinkles. Cross is busy training in Alaska when he’s caught in a tsunami of hurt, thus beginning a frantic search for answers that leads to a mad motorcycle chase through the streets of Manila. He picks up a partner in government doctor Marta Shearing, who is mighty confused herself after nearly being caught in a madman’s bloody rampage. She’s played by Rachel Weisz; like Renner, she lifts her character above the usual genre expectations. Kudos to writer-director Tony Gilroy, who scripted the other Bourne installments–he brings his knack for crafting intelligent, complicated stories and zingy dialogue to good use, while simultaneously announcing himself as a potential James Bond director. Two caveats: the movie’s timeline makes it slightly confusing to sort things out with the ending of The Bourne Ultimatum–at least on first viewing–and the ending itself sneaks up on us a little abruptly. But the movie’s a humdinger anyway: not exactly Bourne again, but something distinct to itself.
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- The entire Harry Potter series in one collection!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Here’s an event movie that holds up to being an event. This filmed version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, adapted from the wildly popular book by J.K. Rowling, stunningly brings to life Harry Potter’s world of Hogwarts, the school for young witches and wizards. The greatest strength of the film comes from its faithfulness to the novel, and this new cinematic world is filled with all the details of Rowling’s imagination, thanks to exuberant sets, elaborate costumes, clever makeup and visual effects, and a crème de la crème cast, including Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, and more. Especially fine is the interplay between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his schoolmates Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), as well as his protector, the looming Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). The second-half adventure–involving the titular sorcerer’s stone–doesn’t translate perfectly from page to screen, ultimately because of the film’s fidelity to the novel; this is a case of making a movie for the book’s fans, as opposed to a transcending film. Writer Steve Kloves and director Chris Columbus keep the spooks in check, making this a true family film, and with its resourceful hero wide-eyed and ready, one can’t wait for Harry’s return. Ages 8 and up.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets First sequels are the true test of an enduring movie franchise, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets passes with flying colors. Expanding upon the lavish sets, special effects, and grand adventure of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry involves a darker, more malevolent tale (parents with younger children beware), beginning with the petrified bodies of several Hogwarts students and magical clues leading Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) to a 50-year-old mystery in the monster-laden Chamber of Secrets. House elves, squealing mandrakes, giant spiders, and venomous serpents populate this loyal adaptation (by Sorcerer’s Stone director Chris Columbus and screenwriter Steve Kloves), and Kenneth Branagh delightfully tops the supreme supporting cast as the vainglorious charlatan Gilderoy Lockhart (be sure to view past the credits for a visual punchline at Lockhart’s expense). At 161 minutes, the film suffers from lack of depth and uneven pacing, and John Williams’ score mostly reprises established themes. The young, fast-growing cast offers ample compensation, however, as does the late Richard Harris in his final screen appearance as Professor Albus Dumbledore. Brimming with cleverness, wonderment, and big-budget splendor, Chamber honors the legacy of J.K. Rowling’s novels.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Some movie-loving wizards must have cast a magic spell on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, because it’s another grand slam for the Harry Potter franchise. Demonstrating remarkable versatility after the arthouse success of Y Tu Mamá También, director Alfonso Cuarón proves a perfect choice to guide Harry, Hermione, and Ron into treacherous puberty as the now 13-year-old students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry face a new and daunting challenge: Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison, and for reasons yet unknown (unless, of course, you’ve read J.K. Rowling’s book, considered by many to be the best in the series), he’s after Harry in a bid for revenge. This dark and dangerous mystery drives the action while Harry (the fast-growing Daniel Radcliffe) and his third-year Hogwarts classmates discover the flying hippogriff Buckbeak (a marvelous CGI creature), the benevolent but enigmatic Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), horrifying black-robed Dementors, sneaky Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), and the wonderful advantage of having a Time-Turner just when you need one. The familiar Hogwarts staff returns in fine form (including the delightful Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the goggle-eyed Sybil Trelawney), and even Julie Christie joins this prestigious production for a brief but welcome cameo. Technically dazzling, fast-paced, and chock-full of Rowling’s boundless imagination (loyally adapted by ace screenwriter Steve Kloves), The Prisoner of Azkaban is a Potter-movie classic.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire The latest entry in the Harry Potter saga could be retitled Fast Times at Hogwarts, where finding a date to the winter ball is nearly as terrifying as worrying about Lord Voldemort’s return. Thus, the young wizards’ entry into puberty (and discovery of the opposite sex) opens up a rich mining field to balance out the dark content in the fourth movie (and the stories are only going to get darker). Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) handily takes the directing reins and eases his young cast through awkward growth spurts into true young actors. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, more sure of himself) has his first girl crush on fellow student Cho Chang (Katie Leung), and has his first big fight with best bud Ron (Rupert Grint). Meanwhile, Ron’s underlying romantic tension with Hermione (Emma Watson) comes to a head over the winter ball, and when she makes one of those girl-into-woman Cinderella entrances, the boys’ reactions indicate they’ve all crossed a threshold. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of wizardry and action in Goblet of Fire. When the deadly Triwizard Tournament is hosted by Hogwarts, Harry finds his name mysteriously submitted (and chosen) to compete against wizards from two neighboring academies, as well as another Hogwarts student. The competition scenes are magnificently shot, with much-improved CGI effects (particularly the underwater challenge). And the climactic confrontation with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, in a brilliant bit of casting) is the most thrilling yet. Goblet, the first installment to get a PG-13 rating, contains some violence as well as disturbing images for kids and some barely shrouded references at sexual awakening (Harry’s bath scene in particular). The 2 1/2-hour film, lean considering it came from a 734-page book, trims out subplots about house-elves (they’re not missed) and gives little screen time to the standard crew of the other Potter films, but adds in more of Britain’s finest actors to the cast, such as Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody and Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter. Michael Gambon, in his second round as Professor Dumbledore, still hasn’t brought audiences around to his interpretation of the role he took over after Richard Harris died, but it’s a small smudge in an otherwise spotless adaptation.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Alas! The fifth Harry Potter film has arrived. The time is long past that this can be considered a simple “children’s” series–though children and adults alike will enjoy it immensely. Starting off from the dark and tragic ending of the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix begins in a somber and angst-filled tone that carries through the entire 138 minutes (the shortest of any HP movie despite being adapted from the longest book). Hopes of winning the Quidditch Cup have been replaced by woes like government corruption, distorted media spin, and the casualties of war. As the themes have matured, so have the primary characters’ acting abilities. Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), and especially Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) are more convincing than ever–in roles that are more demanding. Harry is deeply traumatized from having witnessed Cedric Diggory’s murder, but he will soon find that this was just another chapter in the continuing loss he will endure. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned and, in an attempt to conceal this catastrophe from the wizarding public, the Ministry of Magic has teamed up with the wizard newspaper The Daily Prophet to smear young Potter and wise Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)–seemingly the only two people in the public eye who believe the Dark Lord has returned. With no one else to stand against the wicked Death Eaters, the Hogwarts headmaster is forced to revive his secret anti-Voldemort society, the Order of the Phoenix. This welcomes back characters like Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), kind Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), fatherly Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and insidious Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), and introduces a short list of intriguing new faces. In the meantime, a semi-psychotic bureaucrat from the Ministry (brilliantly portrayed by Imelda Staunton) has seized power at Hogwarts, and Harry is forced to form a secret society of his own–lest the other young wizards at his school be left ill-equipped to defend themselves in the looming war between good and evil. In addition, Harry is filled with an inexplicable rage that only his Godfather Sirius seems to be able to understand. This film, though not as frightening as its predecessor, earns its PG-13 rating mostly because of the ever-darkening tone. As always, the loyal fans of J.K. Rowling’s books will suffer huge cuts from the original plot and character developments, but make no mistake: this is a good movie.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince The sixth installment of the Harry Potter series begins right where The Order of the Phoenix left off. The wizarding world is rocked by the news that “He Who Must Not Be Named” has truly returned, and the audience finally knows that Harry is “the Chosen One”–the only wizard who can defeat Lord Voldemort in the end. Dark forces loom around every corner, and now regularly attempt to penetrate the protected walls of Hogwarts School. This is no longer the fun and fascinating world of magic from the first few books—it’s dark, dangerous, and scary. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) suspects Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) to be a new Death Eater recruit on a special mission for the Dark Lord. In the meantime, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) seems to have finally removed the shroud of secrecy from Harry about the dark path that lies ahead, and instead provides private lessons to get him prepared. It’s in these intriguing scenes that the dark past of Tom Riddle (a.k.a. Voldemort) is finally revealed. The actors cast as the different young versions of Riddle (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and Frank Dillane) do an eerily fantastic job of portraying the villain as a child. While the previous movies’ many new characters could be slightly overwhelming, only one new key character is introduced this time: Professor Horace Slughorn (with a spot-on performance by Jim Broadbent). Within his mind he holds a key secret in the battle to defeat the Dark Lord, and Harry is tasked by Dumbledore to uncover a memory about Voldemort’s darkest weapon–the Horcrux. Despite the long list of distractions, Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) still try to focus on being teenagers, and audiences will enjoy the budding awkward romances. All of the actors have developed nicely, giving their most convincing performances to date. More dramatic and significant things go down in this movie than any of its predecessors, and the stakes are higher than ever. The creators have been tasked with a practically impossible challenge, as fans of the beloved J.K. Rowling book series desperately want the movies to capture the magic of the books as closely as possible. Alas, the point at which one accepts that these two mediums are very different is the point at which one can truly enjoy these brilliant adaptations. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is no exception: it may be the best film yet. For those who have not read the book, nail-biting entertainment is guaranteed. For those who have, the movie does it justice. The key dramatic scenes, including the cave and the shocking twist in the final chapter, are executed very well. It does a perfect job of setting up the two-part grand finale that is to follow.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I is a brooding, slower-paced film than its predecessors, the result of being just one half of the final story (the last book in the series was split into two movies, released in theaters eight months apart). Because the penultimate film is all buildup before the final showdown between the teen wizard and the evil Voldemort (which does not occur until The Deathly Hallows, Part II), Part I is a road-trip movie, a heist film, a lot of exposition, and more weight on its three young leads, who up until now were sufficiently supported by a revolving door of British thesps throughout the series. Now that all the action takes place outside Hogwarts–no more Potions classes, Gryffindor scarves, or Quidditch matches–Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione), and Rupert Grint (Ron) shoulder the film almost entirely on their own. After a near-fatal ambush by Voldemort’s Death Eaters, the three embark on a quest to find and destroy the remaining five horcruxes (objects that store pieces of Voldemort’s soul). Fortunately, as the story gets more grave–and parents should be warned, there are some scenes too frightening or adult for young children–so does the intensity. David Yates, who directed the Harry Potter films Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince, drags the second half a little, but right along with some of the slower moments are some touching surprises (Harry leading Hermione in a dance, the return of Dobby in a totally non-annoying way). Deathly Hallows, Part I will be the most confusing for those not familiar with the Potter lore, particularly in the shorthand way characters and terminology weave in and out. For the rest of us, though, watching these characters over the last decade and saying farewell to a few faces makes it all bittersweet that the end is near (indeed, an early scene in which Hermione casts a spell that makes her Muggle parents forget her existence, in case she doesn’t return, is particularly emotional). Despite its challenges, Deathly Hallows, Part I succeeds in what it’s most meant to do: whet your appetite for the grand conclusion to the Harry Potter series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the film all Harry Potter fans have waited 10 years to see, and the good news is that it’s worth the hype–visually stunning, action packed, faithful to the book, and mature not just in its themes and emotion but in the acting by its cast, some of whom had spent half their lives making Harry Potter movies. Part 2 cuts right to the chase: Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has stolen the Elder Wand, one of the three objects required to give someone power over death (a.k.a. the Deathly Hallows), with the intent to hunt and kill Harry. Meanwhile, Harry’s quest to destroy the rest of the Horcruxes (each containing a bit of Voldemort’s soul) leads him first to a thrilling (and hilarious–love that Polyjuice Potion!) trip to Gringotts Bank, then back to Hogwarts, where a spectacular battle pitting the young students and professors (a showcase of the British thesps who have stolen every scene of the series: Maggie Smith’s McGonagall, Jim Broadbent’s Slughorn, David Thewlis’s Lupin) against a dark army of Dementors, ogres, and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter, with far less crazy eyes to make this round). As predicted all throughout the saga, Harry also has his final showdown with Voldemort–neither can live while the other survives–though the physics of that predicament might need a set of crib notes to explain. But while each installment has become progressively grimmer, this finale is the most balanced between light and dark (the dark is quite dark–several familiar characters die, with one significant death particularly grisly); the humor is sprinkled in at the most welcome times, thanks to the deft adaptation by Steve Kloves (who scribed all but one of the films from J.K. Rowling’s books) and direction by four-time Potter director David Yates. The climactic kiss between Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), capping off a decade of romantic tension, is perfectly tuned to their idiosyncratic relationship, and Daniel Radcliffe has, over the last decade, certainly proven he was the right kid for the job all along. As Prof. Snape, the most perfect of casting choices in the best-cast franchise of all time, Alan Rickman breaks your heart. Only the epilogue (and the lack of chemistry between Harry and love Ginny Weasley, barely present here) stand a little shaky, but no matter: the most lucrative franchise in movie history to date has just reached its conclusion, and it’s done so without losing its soul.
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In Men in BlackT 3, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back… in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K’s life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him — secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind.
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The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.
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Academy Awardr-winning director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”) unveils the story of Mike (Channing Tatum), an entrepreneur with many talents and loads of charm. Mike spends his days pursuing the American Dream, from roofing houses and detailing cars to designing furniture at his Tampa beach condo. But at night.he’s just magic. The hot headliner in an all-male revue, Magic Mike has been rocking the stage at Club Xquisite for years with his original style and over-the-top dance moves. Magic Mike features the hottest cast of the year: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Cody Horn and Olivia Munn
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The good news is, Dr. Watson does get married. The bad news is, Sherlock Holmes throws his bride off a moving train. Actually, there’s even worse news than that–but all will be explained in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the sequel to Guy Ritchie’s 2009 hit. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return to their roles as Holmes and Watson, as the duo take on the world’s greatest criminal mind, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), a man whose latest scheme has global implications. Sherlockians who prefer their consulting detective to remain in a traditional mode had best look the other way, for the sequel continues Ritchie’s vision of Holmes as a hard-punching action hero hurtling through a barrage of special effects sequences. If you can go with that, A Game of Shadows actually improves on the first film: the story makes a little more sense (or possibly the whole thing moves so smoothly you don’t notice the illogic), Harris is a delicious villain, and new cast members Noomi Rapace (from the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series) and Stephen Fry (playing Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, who calls his sibling “Sherlie”) add appeal. It’s all frivolous and superficial, but the film’s playful attitude and breathless forward motion are skillfully managed–and the final note adds just the right punctuation.
Copyright David Masters 2012