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Musical Opens Christmas Day

Into the Woods: A Tasty Treat For the Holidays

by Sandra Olmsted

With Into the Woods, an adaptation of the Broadway musical, director Rob Marshall whips up a tasty treat for the holiday. Dashes of wit and Brothers Grimm darkness complement the equal parts talented cast, solid musical source material, and, finally, imaginative staging for film.    The story combines several favorite fairy tales into a new story with interwoven threats between the stories, as through all these familiar characters live in the same community. At the center of the fairy-tale-based musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) long for a child, and then the neighborhood witch (Meryl Streep) informs them that she has cursed the Baker’s family for something his father stole from her garden and offers the couple a way to have child.

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WWII codebreaker film is Oscar material

The Imitation Game: There’s Nothing Fake about It

by Sandra Olmsted

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum makes his English language debut with The Imitation Game, the true story of Alan Turing (played smashingly by Benedict Cumberbatch), the man who broke the German code during WWII and created an early version of a computer in the process.    Also the tragic story of Turing’s demise because he was gay, and under the Victorian-era Labouchere Amendment (1885-1967), being gay was illegal.

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Foxcatcher: Great Performances But Bleak and Long

By Sandra Olmsted

Director Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, which has already garnered prestigious accolates, mostly for acting, chronicles the true store of eccentric multimillionaire John du Pont’s (Steve Carell) descent into madness and murder.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is Thrilling Finale

By Sandra Olmsted

Director Peter Jackson’s final installment in his extended adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is definite the best of his three prequels to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which Jackson also directed. For The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Jackson pulls out every computer generated image and special effect trick he knows and uses them well to create his leanest, most thrilling film in his Hobbit trilogy. The film also resolves a number of subplots that have been swirling through Jackson’s artificially lengthened trilogy based on one thin novel.

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Exodus: Gods and Kings: Computer Images Great, But Film Lacks Spiritual Grandeur

By Sandra Olmsted

Director Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings lacks the spiritual majesty and mystery of Cecil B. DeMille’s original Biblical epic, The Ten Commandments, and figuring out where the blame lies doesn’t provide much of a problem.

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The Homesman: Not a ‘Feminist Western’

By Sandra Olmsted

“People like to talk about death and taxes, but when it comes to crazy, they stay hushed up,” says a character in Tommy Lee Jones’ second foray into feature film directing. Like The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, The Homesman bends the Western genre. This time Jones, who also co-wrote and stars, explores the effects of the harsh frontier life on the gentler sex. When three neighbor ladies of Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) loose their minds and suffer rejection from the men who brought them to the dangerous isolation of the Western frontier, Mary stoically takes the job of transporting them “East” to Iowa. Mary, a lonely 31-year-old spinster, refuses to be a tragic figure even when her neighbor rejects her offer of a marriage that is more a partnership. According to him, she’s “bossy” and “plain,” and he will go East to find a pretty wife. This statement resonates when one of the three husbands talks about how pretty his wife once was.

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