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What to Watch: Feb. 11-17, 2014

The Returned

We’re a little light on quantity at What to Watch this week but not on quality. And our newest contributor, Dave Canfield, has already handled today’s release of “All is Lost,” a film you really should add to whatever queue allows you to see quality films. When you’re done with that, pick one of these five. OK, four. Ignore “Diana.” Please.

Film Review: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright Fake It in ‘Adore’

CHICAGO – For a movie that should be about passion, sex, and scandal, “Adore” is surprisingly and depressingly tame. Two great lead actresses are left floating on a dock by a script that doesn’t treat them like real characters and a team that cast two inferior actors opposite them.

Film Review: Shattering Power of True Story of ‘The Impossible’

CHICAGO – Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” captures what its title implies. It transports us to an unimaginable situation, into an absolute nightmare in which air is replaced by rushing water, families are ripped apart, and people’s lives hang in the balance. It is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, a film that is at times devastating, at times emotional, at times inspirational, and always riveting. It’s one of the best films of 2012.

Interview: Director Juan Antonio Bayona Recreates ‘The Impossible’

CHICAGO – Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible,” starring Tom Holland, Naomi Watts, and Ewan McGregor, is one of the most emotionally wrenching films in years (and my #7 film of 2012). The movie recreates the devastating 2004 tsunami through the true story of a family that was there when it happened.

Film Feature: The Best Lead Performances of 2012

CHICAGO – I worked my way through the best supporting performances of 2012 earlier today and I’m back with the much-stronger array of actors and actresses who challenged themselves with great leading performances in film this year.

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Ring’ Remake Initially Frightens Before Going in Circles

The Ring Blu-ray

CHICAGO – I have a certain begrudging affection for Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 thriller, “Ringu,” despite the fact that I know in my heart of hearts that it doesn’t really work. Verbinski’s film falters precisely when it should be at its scariest, and yet it still has enough memorably eerie moments to inspire at least a couple sleepless nights.

Blu-ray Review: Leonardo DiCaprio Shines in Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar’

J Edgar Blu-ray Review

CHICAGO – With all due respect to Damián Bichir, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman and Brad Pitt, I believe that the three best lead performances by an actor in 2011 were entirely overlooked by the Academy. None of the five Oscar nominees quite managed to top Michael Shannon in “Take Shelter,” Michael Fassbender in “Shame” or Leonardo DiCaprio in “J. Edgar.”

Film Review: Leonardo DiCaprio Embodies the G-Man in ‘J. Edgar’

CHICAGO – Much of history is determined by the petty quirks and strange psychosis of “great leaders.” J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director for 48 years, worked hard to hide his very nature by squelching the nature of others – enemies, friends and perceived enemies. Leonardo DiCaprio is Hoover in “J. Edgar.”

Film Review: Not Much to Build Upon in Vague ‘Dream House’

CHICAGO – Mixing three actors with great reputations – Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts – with Jim Sheridan, a six time Oscar nominated director, would assume to yield some fruitful results. But with “Dream House,” the artifice is indistinct and ill-defined, ultimately much ado about nothing.

Blu-Ray Review: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn Carry ‘Fair Game’

Fair Game

CHICAGO – Two of the best living actors shine in Doug Liman’s “Fair Game,” the (mostly) true story of Joe and Valerie Plame Wilson, two people who became symbols of the abuse of power of the Bush administration just as public opinion was turning on the war in Iraq. If you don’t know the name Scooter Libby, “Fair Game” will be educational. If you do know everything about the Wilson case already, it may be a little dry and inconsistent but strong performances still make it worth a rental.

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  • The King of Comedy

    Something always felt a bit out of place for me in Martin Scorsese’s brilliant “The King of Comedy”, just released on Blu-ray for the first time. I couldn’t put my finger on it but chalked it up to it being thematically ahead of its time in its investigation of the cult of personality that defines modern entertainment.

  • 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves

    CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.

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