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Catch up on all the big movies out right now

Good thing there aren't really any movies opening this week, because you still have a ton to catch up on from around Christmas. Here are excerpts of some reviews from Times movie critic Steve Persall. For full reviews, go to

American Hustle

"David O. Russell and co-writer Eric Warren Singer lay out deceits and double-crosses with precision but American Hustle isn't merely a procedural. Defining these outsized personalities, tracing their unconventional connections and affections, is where Russell's movie finds its irreverent heartbeat. Everyone is trying to be someone else, as con artists and undercover cops do, but that's tougher to accomplish with romance, bromance and jealousy in the mix."

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Alessandro Nivola, Michael Peña

Rating: R; strong profanity, sexual and drug content, nudity, brief violence

Grade: A

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

"By imposing carpe diem purpose on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — although no deeper than a Nike ad — Ben Stiller turns James Thurber's everyman into every man for himself. If you have a dream, get your own movie. Little about this one is embraceable or teachable, and nothing swells your chest with emotion. It's the sort of oppressively pop cultured pep rally that Thurber's Walter might have faced an imaginary firing squad to escape."

Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn, Patton Oswalt

Rating: PG-13; profanity, fantasy action

Grade: C+

Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney doubter's delight, the Mouse House making a movie about a movie classic it already made, with Walt Disney saving the day. What could possibly be allowed to go wrong, under the studio's hermetic control of its image and heritage? The most satisfying portions of Saving Mr. Banks occur when the movie adds pinches of salt to the spoonfuls of sugar making this medicine go down. Always in the Hollywood segments, where author P.L. Travers — a stuffily marvelous Emma Thompson — reluctantly spends two weeks in 1961 refusing Walt (Tom Hanks, who else?) the rights to turn her Mary Poppins character into a movie."

Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Bradley Whitford, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, Kathy Baker, Rachel Griffiths

Rating: PG-13; brief profanity, alcohol abuse, mildly disturbing images

Grade: B

The Wolf of Wall Street

"For a while it's a voyeuristic kick. Eventually The Wolf of Wall Street grows exhausting, our euphoria worn down while the party's still raging. In a typically brilliant opening sequence, Scorsese makes clear the depths of (Jordan) Belfort's high living. Then he builds a movie around little else than stylized variations on that maniacal decadence. Yet even when it annoys, Scorsese's bacchanal is too brazen to completely dislike."

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, P.J. Byrne, Jon Bernthal, Cristin Milioti, Matthew McConaughey, Joanna Lumley, Jon Favreau, Kenneth Choi

Rating: R; pervasive sexual and drug content, strong profanity, frontal nudity, brief violence

Grade: B

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

"Director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell keep the jokes naughty not dirty and flying for shrapnel accuracy; many miss, but when one hits it counts. It doubles down on the original's signatures: another silly jazz flute solo, another epically epic rumble among TV news gangs. Like any legend, Ron Burgundy deserves a third movie, preferably skewering reality TV, and he can divide it into two movies like teenage wizards and vampires do. Never happen.''

Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, James Marsden, Dylan Baker, Meagan Good, Kristen Wiig, Greg Kinnear, Harrison Ford

Rating: PG-13; crude and sexual humor, drug content, profanity, comical violence

Grade: B

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

"There were simply too many years and milestones in Mandela's life for a single movie to adequately cover, and the flaws such tributes overlook. Director Justin Chadwick dutifully and sometimes beautifully re-creates those, trying to show how a revolutionary not entirely averse to violence evolved into a living, breathing emblem of forgiveness and reconciliation. It's a valuable history lesson crammed into a creatively uninspired movie. Wiki-cinema, if you will."

Cast: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Jamie Bartlett, Deon Lotz

Rating: PG-13; intense violence, disturbing images, sexual content, brief profanity

Grade: B-

Catch up on all the big movies out right now 12/31/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 3:16pm]
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