In this week’s new releases, Disney’s “Frozen” succeeds as a throwback to classic children's films; in “Philomena,” Judi Dench plays a woman searching for the child she was forced to give up for adoption when she was a teenager; and director Kasi Lemmons' invokes Langston Hughes’s classic holiday play “Black Nativity” in a film supported by a strong cast.
★★★“Frozen” (PG) “The movie, while dazzling to look at, may be a little long for some small children. But its surprising and poignant ending, which subverts so many fairy-tale stereotypes, feels as though it cancels out the movie’s small flaws and dragging moments. ‘Frozen’ may be a nod to the pleasures of vintage Disney and old fairy tales, but there’s nothing outdated about it.” – Stephanie Merry
★★★1/2 “Philomena” (PG-13) “...the film takes on fascinating added meaning, obliquely reminding the audience of an era when homosexuality was the stuff of closeted stigma, a time that may seem as antediluvian to some audience members as the shame of an unwed mother in the 1950s. (In this way, ‘Philomena’ serves as an effective bookend to the equally moving ‘Dallas Buyers Club.’) But at its core, this clever, wrenching, profound story underscores the tenacity of faith in the face of unfathomable cruelty. Evil may be good, story-wise. But virtue, at its most tested and tempered, is even better.” – Ann Hornaday
★★1/2 “Black Nativity” (PG) “In an attention-grabbing breakout lead performance, 16-year-old Jacob Latimore does an impressive job of carrying ‘Black Nativity,’ even if the character he plays is often surly and unresponsive. By the time the film reaches its biblically inspired dreamscape of a climax, ‘Black Nativity’ qualifies as equal parts surreal and stirring.” – Ann Hornaday
★★1/2 “Oldboy” (R) “In general, Lee directs with less visual verve than Park. Anchored by Brolin, who brings an almost simian physicality to his portrayal, this ‘Oldboy’ feels simultaneously less showy, less nightmarish and less epic than the original. Nevertheless, with its moral about the ubiquity of man’s corruption — where those who hand out punishment are as guilty as those who receive it — ‘Oldboy’ redux is just as depraved and depressing as the original.” – Michael O’Sullivan
★★ “Homefront” (R) “…Gator and his goons start trying to run Phil out of town, which only makes our hero mad. This, of course, is precisely what makes fans of Jason Statham movies happiest. For the rest of us, it helps that Franco clearly relishes his role as the heavy here, lapping up the part like so much gumbo.” – Michael O’Sullivan
★★★1/2 “The Great Beauty” (Unrated) “So begins ‘The Great Beauty,’ a film more ravishingly Felliniesque than many of Federico Fellini’s own movies. Director Paolo Sorrentino doesn’t simply mimic the master’s style and preoccupations, which anyone could do, but conjures the kind of emotions that made ‘La Dolce Vita,’ 8 1 / 2’and others endure. He collects scenes of superficial extravagance and eccentricity, then finds the deeper yearnings they conceal.” – John DeFore
★★ “Enzo Avitabile Music Life” (Unrated) “…details about Avitabile’s life remain frustratingly obscure. The film shows a few minutes with his daughters, who gush briefly and politely about their dad, but that adds little to the man’s portrait; there is a photo of the musician’s late wife, although no indication of when she died or the impact it had on Avitabile is provided; and there are pictures of the musician with Tina Turner, James Brown and Maceo Parker. Did he perform with all of these people? It’s unclear.” – Stephanie Merry