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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

The totemization of former South African president Nelson Mandela had, of course, begun long before his recent demise released an international torrent of emotion and tributes. The nearly concurrent release of Justin Chadwick’s movie biography has become part of this celebration. Some industry figures have speculated that producer and studio head Harvey Weinstein agreed to distribute the film last February in a sort of bet on Mandela’s mortality, a suggestion that’s been vehemently denied.

Grudge Match

There isn’t an unpredictable beat or joke in Grudge Match, the geriatric boxing comedy in which Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro jab at their famous performances as Italian Stallion Rocky Balboa and Raging Bull Jake LaMotta, but that won’t prevent their fans from enjoying the film’s central conceit. The filmmakers have mixed the formula of the Rocky sequels with Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, and the result approximates Grumpy Old Men with training scenes. I was reminded of a TV skit Bob Hope once did which depicted Rocky and Apollo Creed still going at it as geezers. In the end, it’s a comedic take on the same subject matter Stallone mined in Rocky Balboa.

American Hustle

If Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas is your favorite movie of all time, you are exactly the viewer that Hollywood has in its sights this holiday season. (God knows it’s a big enough target.) There’s Scorsese’s own The Wolf of Wall Street, which, to go by the trailers, looks like GoodFellas in the Stock Market.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Second only perhaps the The Big Lebowski as an offbeat comedy whose audience has grown surprisingly in the years (nearly 10 of them now) since its theatrical premiere, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was a standard-issue Will Ferrell vehicle (working with his usual partner writer-director Adam McKay) with a higher proportion of successful gags than usual. The one everyone remembers—and it is a classic—is the gang fight among competing TV news teams.

Nebraska

It’s hard to describe Nebraska without making it sound like the last film you would want to see during the holidays. To begin with, it’s in black and white. I can tell you that the cinematography (by Phedon Papamichael) is gorgeous, filled with endless landscape vistas of unpopulated areas of Montana and Nebraska that would not be nearly as striking in color, but many people will simply think, “Back and white? Ugh. What time does that Disney movie start?”



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