ADVERTISEMENT

“American Hustle” 4 stars “A triumph and a stunner. Not just brilliantly acted by actors who have become a stock company for director David O. Russell – Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence – but brilliantly and quotably written, too. It’s hilarious, And crazy. And lovable.”

“Captain Phillips” 4 stars “A truly great film and not just because of the commanding suspense and overpowering sense of reality created by its director Paul Greengrass. The film’s coda, is Tom Hanks giving you something you’ve probably never seen an actor do before. It shows us the consequences of things our movies usually care nothing about. The great film actors can always surprise you. It’s best to never forget that.”

“Dallas Buyers Club” 3 stars “A tough, grubby movie about the onset of AIDS in America. Matthew McConaughey lost 47 pounds to play – brilliantly – a different kind of AIDS victim, a low-living, homophobic with a penchant for booze, coke, grungy topless joints. It’s not a major movie, but the commitment of everyone in it is nothing but major.”

“Gravity” 4 stars “Director Alfonso Cuarón is, at first, asking us to live in outer space. And then, as the movie proceeds, he is trying to tell us about the heroine’s terrors of inner space. It is wrenchingly powerful and harrowingly imagined.”

“Her” 4 stars “Neither a perfect film or all that original. But so imaginative and so touching and so surprisingly and brilliantly realized in every casual particular is this movie that it perfectly completes the magnificent mosaic of films in 2013.”

“Nebraska” 3 stars “Two things give this movie the stellar reputation it doesn’t entirely deserve – the return after several decades of Bruce Dern, one of the best of his era, to a major role in an American movie and the extraordinary black and white cinematography and the way it’s been edited by Kevin Tent, who grew up in Marilla. Beyond that, this father and son road movie is overfull of condescension to a rural world of the fat, the ugly, the backward and the greedy.”

“Philomena” 3 stars “It’s funny, moving and as sentimental as can be but it never goes ‘full-on’ into melodramatic contrivance to stoke the audience’s affections and outrage. It never wallows or panders. It earns every tear honorably.”

“12 Years a Slave” 3½ stars “The achievement of ’12 Years a Slave’ is nothing less than the long overdue triumph of cinematic justice. This is an immensely powerful film and brilliantly acted by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender. For all that, it is sometimes tough to watch. But then this is a film American films have needed since they began to exist. Decades of loathsome exploitation and euphemism needed to be exploded for all our sakes. Finally they have.”

“The Wolf of Wall Street” 3 stars “Three hours is a long time to spend laughing at the high jinks of guys who think the word ‘degenerate’ is a compliment. For all its length, the movie is a one-trick pony, but the all-out performance by Leonardo DiCaprio is worth seeing if you can stomach the monotonous, contemptuous, braggadocious sleaze-fest in which it’s housed.”