Movie Review

Veteran movie reviewer Jim Erickson shares his no-holds-barred opinions on Hollywood's best efforts. Tune in every Thursday for the latest review.

Toward the end of World War II, the United States set up a military unit it never had before and unfortunately has never had since, a unit whose duty was to protect national and international treasures from the destruction of war. The movie Monuments Men is about the unit’s efforts, and while it is pretty fictionalized – watch for the closing credit on that subject - I’m glad somebody is drawing attention to what they did. But the movie itself is not very impressive.

Labor Day is a good movie badly damaged by a single fundamental mistake: Almost all the action is chronologically limited to one Labor-Day-extended weekend, and while the physical action may be credible over just three days, the psychological and human-relations developments are such as should have been allowed at least three months.

The title The Invisible Woman suggests some kind of comic book sci-fi thing, but The Invisible Woman is actually the supposedly true story of the aging novelist Charles Dickens and an 18-year-old talentless actress for whom he risked his reputation, profession, social standing, home and family. But it never persuades us that it is really telling the story.

August: Osage County suffers only from too-close similarity to an all-time classic, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, filmed by director Sidney Lumet with Ralph Richardson and Katharine Hepburn in 1962.

Again we have the story of a disharmonious family revealing its emotional strains during a short reunion, with startling revelations of character but no real plot, made notable by excellent writing and marvelous acting, with this time a touch of unnecessary melodrama toward the end.

Her is certainly one of the most unusual love stories ever filmed, with Scarlett Johansson as a computer voice and an unrecognizable Joaquin Phoenix as a sort of nerd who falls in love with her, with Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde in little support parts, and Amy Adams very effective in not much more.

Nebraska is a terrific movie, and not just because of Bruce Dern's Oscar-worthy performance, which is unlike anything I've ever seen before.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a welcome return to those old-time movies such as Bette Davis used to recommend, in which all the colors are a little brighter than real life, the Ferraris are spanking new, the women are drop-dead gorgeous, the clothes are the peak of fashion, and everything from the tableware to the picture windows are sparkling clean.

In other words, everything is a little more exciting than real life.

American Hustle is an old-fashioned intrigue comedy in the tradition of The Sting, but with more concentration on complications of plot, as smart crooks eventually outsmart themselves-- if you read the story that way.

It starts with Christian Bale in charge of a fair-sized scam, and then his partner, Amy Adams, more or less takes over, and then a rather dubious FBI man played by Bradley Cooper gets involved, and from there we proceed to complications that eventually pretty much left me behind.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a visual delight and a miracle of special effects and CGI.

Out of the Furnace is rated by Entertainment Weekly as the eighth-best movie of the year, and it is well written, well photographed, well acted, and generally worth a lot of praise. It is a serious drama for grownup audiences.

But it is also thoroughly unpleasant, with unsympathetic characters, occasional ugly violence and some artsy camerawork that implies subtlety that isn't there.