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Labor Day
A Dull Holiday Weekend

Director Jason Reitman’s first feature-length film Thank You for Smoking was released in 2005 and followed by Juno two years later. Each of these films was told in a hip, unique, and fresh way that boldly announced that a new talent had arrived. Up in the Air followed and although it was somewhat more traditional, it still had a certain level of freshness to it. Now, following 2011’s polarizing Young Adult, Reitman releases what is by far his most traditional film. Unfortunately, whereas his earlier films were fresh and exciting, Labor Day is just bland and dull.


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Pine Reboots Another Action Hero

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the second attempt to reboot the Jack Ryan franchise, based on characters created by spy novelist Tom Clancy. The first was The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck, which was released fourteen years ago. Obviously, that one failed to reinvigorate the franchise and Shadow Recruit hopes to succeed where Sum failed. Whether it will remains to be seen, but the movie definitely proves to be more entertaining than your average January release.


Lone Survivor
Operation: War Movie

War movies are not as easy to sell these days as they were back in John Wayne’s time. This is especially true when the war in question is the modern war, one so many people are outspokenly against. Perhaps that is why director Peter Berg struggled for over five years to get Lone Survivor made. The story, based on the ill-fated “Operation Red Wings” in 2005, is one that is definitely worth telling and Berg tells it in a way that is at the same time entertaining, tragic, and hopeful.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Get Busy Living

Directed by its star Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is actually a remake of a 1947 film of the same name. Few people might remember that Danny Kaye vehicle and even fewer are likely to remember the James Thurber short story that inspired both films, which was originally published in 1939. Fortunately, that’s one of the reasons we have remakes and Stiller’s version thrusts the daydreaming hero into a modern-day setting… well, almost modern day.


Inside Llewyn Davis
Folksy Atmosphere

After taking on the Wild West in their last film, True Grit, the Coen brothers are now tackling the 1960s folk music scene in their new film, Inside Llewyn Davis. No matter what era or environment they are exploring, the directing duo always seems to nail the atmosphere right on the head and this latest film is definitely no exception. Like most of the Coen brothers’ films, the focus is more on the atmosphere and the characters than on the actual story.


Philomena
Human Interest Story

Every year come awards season, there are those movies that are universally appraised for the Oscar-worthy performances of their leads, while the quality of the film itself tends to be nothing but an afterthought. Although star Judi Dench certainly deserves the praise she has been receiving for her performance in Philomena, the movie itself should not be forgotten. With a good mix of laugh-out-loud humor and tear-inducing drama, this movie is quality entertainment that will hopefully be able to find its audience.


Black Nativity
Holiday Disappointment

There are a lot of big movies scheduled for release this holiday season, but not many of them are actual holiday movies. There is also a surprising lack of musicals. Sweeping in to fill the void is Black Nativity, a holiday-themed musical that is based on the play by Langston Hughes. The film’s timing may be good, but unfortunately the movie comes off more like a television special than a big-screen musical.


Thor: The Dark World
He’ll Bring the Thunder

Thor: The Dark World is a continuation of not one but two franchises. Mainly, it is the second film in the Thor franchise, but it is also the seventh chapter in what you might call the Marvel franchise. Like Iron Man 3, The Dark World limits the tie-in to The Avengers to a mention here and a cameo there, keeping the focus on its title character and what is going on in his universe. What is going on in Thor’s world is that an ancient and not-very-clearly-explained weapon that was hidden ages ago has recently been uncovered.


About Time
Time Traveling for Love

Having written the screenplays for Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Love Actually (which he also directed), Richard Curtis has proven to be adept at creating captivating romantic comedies that feature wonderfully-written characters. With About Time, he returns to the genre as both writer and director, but this time he slyly introduces elements from another genre: science fiction. No, there aren’t any flying cars or aliens; just some simple time travel. The time travelling itself may be simple, but as the film’s main character quickly learns, using time travel to control your destiny is not so straightforward.


Ender’s Game
Franchise Worthy

There have been plenty of franchise movies released in 2013, but most of them are sequels to, or reboots of pre-existing franchises. There have been a couple of movies that were released in hopes of dawning new franchises (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, After Earth), but they were widely considered to be busts. Enter Ender’s Game, based on the 1985 novel of the same name by author Orson Scott Card. Excellent special effects, a compelling storyline, and a good blend of talented young actors and solid veterans just might turn this sci-fi adventure into the next big franchise.


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