Eric D. Snider

Movie Review: "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" C- December 17, 2014

There and back again, again, and again

Peter Jackson's ill-advised and transparently greedy three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's one-part "The Hobbit" sputters to a conclusion in "The Battle of the Five Armies." This cacophonous and half-hearted sequel bears the distinction of being the shortest of the lot (only 144 minutes!) and containing the least amount of plot by volume. The meat of the story has already been told; all that's left now is the third-act battle and the tying up of threads whose beginnings we may well have forgotten.

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Movie Review: "Exodus: Gods and Kings" C- December 12, 2014

Scott: what Hebrews Israelite on drama

This was the year that Hollywood tried to revive the Biblical epic, hoping to duplicate the success of 1950s smashes like "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben-Hur." It seemed like a long-shot, but Hollywood was willing to try anything (other than originality) to pull in audiences. But after Darren Aronofsky's bizarre "Noah" and now Ridley Scott's turgid "Exodus: Gods and Kings," don't be surprised if the idea quietly falls by the wayside and nobody in Los Angeles County mentions the Bible again until they're called to swear upon it before testifying in court.

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Movie Review: "Wild" B+ December 5, 2014

Reese Witherbackpack takes a long hike

It's been several years since Reese Witherspoon starred in a movie worth recommending, and a decade since she won her Oscar for playing June Carter Cash. Whether by choice or happenstance, she's been flying under the radar, making easy trifles like "How Do You Know," "This Means War," and that one about Robert Pattinson and a circus elephant.

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Movie Review: "The Imitation Game" B- November 28, 2014

Another math nerd gets a glossy biopic

Alan Turing, the English math genius who cracked Nazi codes and was the father of computer science, deserves to be the subject of a masterful biopic someday. This is not that day. But "The Imitation Game" works as a glossy, conventionally entertaining account of Turing's top-secret military work, with biopic elements before and after the war thrown in for good measure.

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Movie Review: "Penguins of Madagascar" B November 26, 2014

The flightless birds soar to new heights

Whether in TV or movies, spin-offs are risky, never more so than when the figures being spun off are wacky supporting characters who must now carry the story themselves. What made viewers happy in small doses may overwhelm them when it's administered in jumbo servings. You may think you want a bowl of Lucky Charms with nothing but marshmallows, but really, you don't.

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Movie Review: "Horrible Bosses 2" B November 26, 2014

Being your own boss isn't much better

Understand: nobody "needed" a sequel to "Horrible Bosses." But it made $209 million worldwide, which for a comedy means a sequel will be spawned automatically, whether anyone wants it or not. Fortunately, "Horrible Bosses 2" turns out to be another pretty funny romp down the avenues of vulgarity, a success due largely to the unquenchable chemistry that has developed between its three stars.

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Movie Review: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" B+ November 21, 2014

Out of the arena and into the streets

Having survived back-to-back trips to the arena in "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire," fearless Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) graduates to real-life struggles in "Mockingjay," applying what she has learned about war, propaganda, and public relations to the growing rebellion against Panem's oppressive government.

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Movie Review: "Dumb and Dumber To" C+ November 14, 2014

Now it's just two middle-aged sad guys

The first problem with making a sequel to "Dumb and Dumber" 20 years later -- a problem that might have been unavoidable -- is that playing an idiot is a young man's game. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels aren't "old," exactly (they're 52 and 59, respectively), but neither do they have the youthful vigor and innocence that made Lloyd and Harry such likable morons in 1994. Coming from men in their 50s, the juvenile buffoonery and slapstick often feels wrong somehow, just as it does when children try too hard to appear grown-up.

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Movie Review: "Foxcatcher" A- November 14, 2014

Steve Carell puts on his serious nose

If you don't remember the bizarre news story from the '90s about weirdo billionaire John du Pont and gold-medalist wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz, then Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" won't just be deeply unsettling, it will also be surprising. And even if you do know ahead of time what direction the story goes, you may not be prepared for the masterful way that Miller keeps us off-balance and uneasy, or for the gnawing sense of doom that gradually builds.

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Movie Review: "The Homesman" C- November 14, 2014

Old maid, old coot travel in the Old West

Tommy Lee Jones has acted in movies of many genres, but when he directs, he sticks to Westerns. His debut behind the camera was a 1995 TV movie, "The Good Old Boys," followed 10 years later by an impressive theatrical feature, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada." Now comes "The Homesman," a tonally disjointed, intermittently bearable drama (with awkward comic moments) that makes you wonder what TLJ ever saw in the Old West.

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