Movie Review

The first thing to realize about Stalingrad is that it is not the story of the World War II battle that many cite as the beginning of the end for Hitler's Germany. It is the story of a little group of Russians who are defending the city and a little group of Germans who are about to attack it, both of which groups include a woman-- one who is trapped with the Russians and one who is captured by the Germans. And Stalingrad is as much the story of the women as the story of the men.

The final half hour or so of Pompeii should satisfy everybody-- it even satisfied me.

About Last Night has one big problem: the story develops in ways that the general tone and the character developments don't support.

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.