‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ and other new movies, reviewed

December 13, 2013

In this week’s new releases, Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star in “Saving Mr. Banks,” a film dramatizing the story behind Disney’s classic movie musical “Mary Poppins." Elsewhere, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” surpasses “An Unexpected Journey" and includes some additions not featured in J.R.R. Tolkien's book.


Tom Hanks turns on the charm as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson is practically perfect in every way as P.L. Travers in “Saving Mr. Banks.” (François Duhamel)

Saving Mr. Banks” (PG-13) “…the film — which John Lee Hancock directed from a script by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith — more than makes up for its occasionally unwieldy structure in telling a fascinating and ultimately deeply affecting story, along the way giving viewers tantalizing glimpses of the beloved 1964 movie musical, in both its creation and final form.” – Ann Hornaday

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (PG-13) “Bilbo spends much of this movie trying to resist the temptation of the ring he found in ‘An Unexpected Journey,’ which holds both power and corruption. This enriches and deepens an admittedly silly story and satisfies a more mature palate, imbuing what might otherwise be seen as a children’s book with a kind of darkness that, paradoxically, gladdens the heart. That was the problem with the first film. Too much of it was like a fairy tale, without the ogres.” – Michael O’Sullivan

The Punk Singer” (Unrated) “Anderson clearly has a deep respect for her subject, although sometimes the plethora of old photos and the shots of Hanna looking off in the distance feel like they verge on hero worship. Despite that quibble, ‘The Punk Singer,’ like the best documentaries, captures more than just its subject, fascinating though she may be. Anderson manages to capture the feel of an era and the excitement surrounding a fresh feminist voice.” – Stephanie Merry

1/2 “Bettie Page Reveals All” (R) “Despite Page’s excellent voiceover, ‘Bettie Page’ suffers from embarrassingly choppy editing and a parade of stock film clips used to illustrate episodes recounted by its subject. If Page mentions being in her apartment when she heard a knock on the door, Mori will, sure enough, show us a grainy shot of a generic 1950s apartment building, followed by the sound effect of knocking.” – Michael O’Sullivan

Go For Sisters” (Unrated) “For all his considerable gifts as a writer, Sayles has succumbed to schematic plotting, too-obvious contrivances in recent films, and unfortunately ‘Go For Sisters’ is no exception. After an intriguingly evocative opening sequence during which we observe Bernice on the job, where she bumps into Fontayne after a years-long estrangement, her journey takes on the tidy, over-determined contours of a sub-par detective story.” – Ann Hornaday

1/2 “The Last Day on Mars” (R) “There is much to be said about the utter ridiculousness of the villains in the movie, but it doesn’t seem right to give too much away. So I’ll keep it simple: The zombies aren’t scary. After the early scenes, which feel serious, even understated, the walking dead theme seems strained and silly.” – Stephanie Merry

 

Macy L. Freeman is an editorial aide for the Weekend/Going Out Guide section at The Washington Post.
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Maura Judkis · December 13, 2013