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Overblown acting mars ‘Furnace’

Memories of “The Deer Hunter” creep in long before the deer hunt in “Out of the Furnace,” co-writer/director Scott Cooper’s ambitious, impressionistic and confused ode to steel belt machismo, family and revenge.

‘Catching Fire’ on target as second ‘Hunger Games’ installment

The Districts are in revolt. People are being shot simply for raising their hands and whistling – not because they’re trying to hail a cab (they’re too poor), but as a symbol of solidarity and protest.

‘Catching Fire’ takes on even darker themes than first ‘Hunger Games’

One teenage girl and her bow and arrow become a mighty symbol for revolution in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” as Hollywood’s reigning young adult franchise goes deeper and darker to explore the impact of violence on a community.

Hollywood rolls out its holiday releases

The holiday movie season technically started with the release of “Ender’s Game” last weekend, and kicked into high gear with “Thor: The Dark World” this week.

‘Thor’ sequel hammers out no new ground

Thor returns, with his long blond mane, his manly chest and his sense of humor intact in “Thor: The Dark World,” a sequel that hews close to the structure of the 2011 original.

Stylistic ‘The Counselor’ leaves audience waiting and hoping

Ridley Scott directed “The Counselor,” but this is Cormac McCarthy’s film all the way, a showcase for his original screenplay, and what a screenplay it is. It’s possible there has never been anything like it. It contains memorable dialogue, vivid characters and several superb scenes, yet it still manages to be wrong, a complete miscalculation.

Mother steals the show in ‘Carrie’ remake

Awash in blood and tears, a woman howls in unspeakable anguish as she gives birth in the harrowing opening moments of “Carrie.” She is ashen and alone, her face gnarled with fear. Believing the child to be the devil’s spawn, she grabs a pair of scissors to stab the infant to death. Only the baby’s soft mewling, the pureness of its gaze, spares it from the knife.

Prison film a pleasant ‘Escape’ for viewers

Sylvester Stallone was always a better actor than Arnold Schwarzenegger. That burning question, for those old enough to have asked it and deluded enough to have never figured it out, is answered once and for all in “Escape Plan,” a vintage prison escape movie in the classic Sly and/or Arnold mold.

Tallgrass: Love the film, ask the questions

Seeing a film you love is fun. But seeing a film you love and then immediately being able to ask the filmmaker how he did it is Film Festival Fun.

Best bets at the Tallgrass Film Festival

The Tallgrass Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday with a gala screening and kick-off party at Botanica. Festivities and films continue through Sunday night.

Brilliance of ‘Gravity’ in its emotional pull

Emotional impact is not the first quality one thinks of when the subject is science-fiction adventures. Yet that’s one of the qualities that sets “Gravity” apart as a stratospheric achievement. Not just a futuristic drama, it’s also a universally human drama about the need for hope in desperate situations.

Actors’ portrayals rev up ‘Rush’

“Rush” is a Formula One racing drama of almost irresistible forward momentum. The on-track action is blistering, the filmmaking sure-footed (even as cars fishtail into catastrophic crashes), the characters bigger than life.

‘Prisoners’ holds one’s attention

“Prisoners” is a mystery told with such skill that just when you think you’ve figured it out, it finds new blind alleys for us to visit.

‘The Family’ tends to lurch between laughs

Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones revisit some blasts from their pasts in “The Family,” a violent action comedy about a mob family in France thanks to the witness protection program.

‘World’s End’ reunites friends in the beer and now

“The World’s End” feels like a grand last hurrah, a victory lap for those “Hot Fuzz/Shaun of the Dead/Spaced” mates Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and their writer/director-partner-in-crime, Edgar Wright.

Don your bathrobe for Dudegrass

It’s a strange, quirky little movie about a slacker nicknamed “The Dude” who spends his time drinking White Russians, bowling and wearing his bathrobe.

Actors miss the target in ‘2 Guns’

Denzel Washington teams up with that king of movie-buddy chemistry, Mark Wahlberg, in “2 Guns,” a jokey-bloody action comedy that could use more jokes and less blood.

‘To Do List’ checks off teen comedy boxes

Just as “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” proved women can excel in buddy comedies, “The To Do List” establishes that female characters can serve as more than mere conquests in a teen sex farce. They can be the carnal conquistadors, who are as vulgar, one-track-minded and hilarious as the guys from “American Pie.”

Coming-of-age films rarely as endearing as 'Way, Way Back'

On a scale of one to 10, Duncan rates himself a six, after being prodded to pick a number by the bully who’s driving.

Sharp script powers 'Wolverine'

Somewhere along the line somebody must have had a crazy idea about this movie, that maybe for once the Wolverine required a decent script, and it shouldn’t rely only on action, audience goodwill and the sight of Hugh Jackman with his shirt off. And so a team was assembled, made up of people who have made some very good movies.

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