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  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

    Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

    ★★½

    Idris Elba and Naomie Harris are fine as Nelson and Winnie Mandela in Justin Chadwick’s biopic, based on Mandela’s autobiography of the same name. It’s too bad that such good performances are employed in the service of a film so utterly bereft of novelty or freshness, and with so little desire to present anything other than a ploddingly reverential portrait of its subject.

  • August: Osage County

    August: Osage County

    ★★★½

    Step right up, folks! This is what you’ve been waiting for, Academy voters, critics, and discerning audiences: the cinematic equivalent of an MMA smackdown, the thespian death match to end all thespian death matches. In this corner is Meryl “The Multi-Accented Masher” Streep, who brings the pain with the chameleon-like acting you’ve come to know and love. In the other corner is Julia “The Not-So-Pretty Woman Wrecker” Roberts, battling it out with Streep as her estranged daughter. The backdrop for…

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  • First Steps Ashore

    First Steps Ashore

    ★★★★

    Fascinating remake of Sternberg's "Docks of New York." The geometric and pictorial aspects, as in the case of many Japanese films, and especially those of this time period, fascinate as much as the story. The push/pull, attraction/repulsion dynamic of the romance between the lowly ship stoker and the "fallen woman" he rescues from drowning gives a charge to the claustrophobic confines of their scenes together. The fight scenes between the men fascinated me also: a chaotic melange of sprawling limbs,…