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Monday, December 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 37.0° F  Light Drizzle Fog/Mist
The Daily


Anchorman 2 is a smarter jab at TV news than its predecessor

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is like a mash-up of movies released in 2013. It's got self-delusion in '70s New York, just like American Hustle. It's got a shark fight that rivals the one in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, with poor Kristen Wiig playing nearly the same part she plays in that film. It's also got a strong black character fighting for her place in the world, similar to 12 Years a Slave. >More
 Saving Mr. Banks is a stark look at the story behind Mary Poppins

In Saving Mr. Banks, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the irascible author of Mary Poppins, bitterly complains that her story will lose its realistic edge in the hands of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). This is just one way director John Lee Hancock force-feeds us gritty realism when telling the story behind the magical nanny with the flying umbrella. >More
 Director Peter Jackson retools the Hobbit story in The Desolation of Smaug

It's easy to confuse Peter Jackson's Hobbit films with his Lord of the Rings films. He seems to be counting on it. That much was clear in An Unexpected Journey, the first part of his series based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved novel The Hobbit. Jackson took a lot of liberties, adding an extended prologue and familiar faces from The Lord of the Rings to establish a connection with his original trilogy. >More
 A Touch of Sin shares tales of violence from modern China

"China is still changing rapidly," writer and director Jia Zhangke observes in the production notes for A Touch of Sin. "Violence is increasing." That's the starting point for this remarkable, Palme d'Or-nominated anthology film, which tells four stories of contemporary China, all of them involving hideous brutality. >More
 In Out of the Furnace, two brothers face steep obstacles in a blighted steel town

The Pennsylvania town where Scott Cooper's superb Out of the Furnace is set looks ready to collapse at any moment. Its steel mill is rusted, and chain-link fences lean at precarious angles, barely protecting the weedy ground behind them. >More
 A man comes to terms with his aging father during Nebraska's long car trip

Nebraska's central character, seventysomething Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), has the headfirst, quick-step dodder of a toddler, dangerously fast and ever on the edge of a tumble. And a tumble is surely coming. Woody has fixed all his hopes on a fantasy: winning a fortune in a Publisher's Clearing House-like scam. Is Woody addled by dementia or just clinging to a desperate dream at the end of his life? >More
 In Philomena, a mother and a journalist search for a child the church stole

Be warned: Philomena will make you angry. This film takes place in the Magdalen laundries of Ireland, where the Catholic Church imprisoned young women for "crimes" like having sex, being raped, or even being too pretty. The last of these brutal places didn't close until 1996. >More
 In Frozen, Disney princesses solve problems instead of chasing boys

Frozen bears little resemblance to its supposed inspiration, Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. It sprang from the grand Disney tradition of animated, Broadway-style musicals. But unlike 2009's tired retread of The Princess and the Frog, it could very well be the start of a new era of fairy-tale films. >More
 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire asks thorny questions about heroism

Katniss Everdeen's life is over. The life she once knew, anyhow. The protagonist of The Hunger Games survived her country's eponymous battle to the death, but it's not cause for celebration. In Hunger Games: Catching Fire, we find her having a horrific flashback in her "safe" place: the secret hunting grounds on the fringes of the district where she grew up. >More
 In Dallas Buyers Club, AIDS turns an uncouth jerk into a rough-edged humanist

Dallas Buyers Club is proof that Matthew McConaughey has resurrected his acting career. His ascent started in the 1990s with a standout performance in Dazed and Confused, but he got waylaid over the next decade with a series of wan romantic comedies. Over the last two years, however, McConaughey's choice of roles has improved. >More
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