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Friday, December 19, 2014, 2:03 a.m.
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Review: Thinnest of gruels

posted: 12/19/2014 1:52 a.m. Discuss

The glaring issue for this entire Middle Earth saga is clarified in the first few minutes of this final installment. You recall the awe-inspiring Smaug, the fire-breathing, gold-adoring dragon whose presence enervated the first film, and dominated the second, ending as it did with an infuriated Smaug shucking off the Dwarves' puny attempts to kill him to go wreak horrible vengeance on the innocent enclave of Laketown, nearby?

Review: Annie

posted: 12/19/2014 1:51 a.m. Discuss

Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie has conquered the comic strips, radio and the Broadway stage. While the plucky little heroine and her dog, Sandy, can take on just about any foe imaginable, the big screen still eludes her.

Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

posted: 12/19/2014 1:50 a.m. Discuss

It has been eight years since the exhibits first came to life in high-concept, lowbrow Night at the Museum, and after itself exhibiting a bit more life with a peppy 2009 sequel, the franchise is seriously showing its age with what is purported to be its final installment.

Review: The Babadook

posted: 12/19/2014 1:50 a.m. Discuss

Saturated with dread and genuinely unsettling, Australian director Jennifer Kent's first feature The Babadook is an elegant little horror film reminiscent of Roman Polanski's "apartment trilogy" -- Repulsion (1965), Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976) -- albeit minus Polanski's kinky male gaze. It is the sort of thing that stays with you for a while, possibly for quite a while, and even as I write this review I recognize that it's possible I've slightly underrated it.

On Film: The balloting begins for good year in film

posted: 12/19/2014 1:49 a.m. Discuss

This weekend the Southeastern Film Critics Association will vote on the best films and performances of what -- to my mind, anyway -- has been the best year at the movies since 2007 (the year of No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac, Into the Wild, Juno, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Superbad). I'll be in the bunker most of this weekend tabulating that poll, and we'll have the results here next week.

Exodus marches past Games

posted: 12/19/2014 1:47 a.m. Discuss

Exodus: Gods and Kings dominated the box office last weekend, riding past The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1 and meeting expectations with an estimated $24 million debut.

Review: Wild

posted: 12/19/2014 1:47 a.m. Discuss

The thing is, Reese Witherspoon was always a gifted actress. Back before she made Legally Blonde in 2001 and briefly got tagged with the dreaded "America's sweetheart" label, she was making intriguing, thought-provoking stuff (Election, Pleasantville), even into the aggressively disturbing.


posted: 12/19/2014 1:46 a.m. Discuss

At area theaters 87 BIG HERO 6, PG A plus-size inflatable robot (voice of Scott Adsit) and a prodigy (voice of Ryan Potter) form a special bond that comes in handy when the boy is catapulted into the midst of danger and transforms his six friends into a band of high-tech heroes. Animated. (108 minutes)


posted: 12/19/2014 1:45 a.m. Discuss

(opening dates are tentative) Big Eyes, PG-13 Christoph Waltz plays a supposed photographer who became a national celebrity in the 1950s by mass-producing and marketing prints of big-eyed kids. Turns out, however, that the real artist was his shy wife (Amy Adams).


posted: 12/19/2014 1:44 a.m. Discuss

New this week The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 79 PG-13 Director Peter Jackson closes out his second Tolkien trilogy as title Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the Dwarfs he has been accompanying on a quest to retake the Lonely Mountain have unwittingly loosed the dragon Smaug on the folks who helped them along the way.

Helpful Hints

posted: 12/19/2014 1:43 a.m. Discuss

DEAR HELOISE: We have three children and like to take short trips with them. To save money and curb early morning crankiness, here is what we do: We use a rolling ice chest as a piece of luggage. After unpacking, we take a trip to the grocery store. We get milk, juice, cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc. We eat breakfast in the room. My husband and I get our coffee, the kids get fed, plus it's cheaper and quicker than breakfast for five.

Horoscopes by Holiday

posted: 12/19/2014 1:43 a.m. Discuss

Happy birthday. It's your year to be playful and laugh more. In January, a special interest colors your outlook on life. Love will thrive. In March, you'll change to become better.

On Christianity

posted: 12/19/2014 1:43 a.m. Discuss

DEAR REV. GRAHAM: I know Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, but it won't be for me. I got talked into doing something bad, and now I'll be spending the next few Christmases in prison. My family has disowned me and I'm just going to try to forget Christmas.

Super Quiz: Christmas Songs

posted: 12/19/2014 1:42 a.m. Discuss

1. And may all your Christmases be white.

MovieStyle: What's next? The Silmarillion?

posted: 12/18/2014 11:01 a.m. Comment 1

When Peter Jackson announced he planned to split J.R.R. Tolkien's relatively slim The Hobbit into a second trilogy (after the highly successful Lord of the Rings triptych), some people were skeptical.


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