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"THE IMPOSSIBLE" (PG-13)
NAOMI WATTS, EWAN McGREGOR, TOM HOLLAND
What a nice surprise to start the new year, a powerful film about a family literally torn apart by the tsunami that hits a seaside resort.
The faint of heart may have a rough time watching a mother and young child tossed into trees, sharp edges and more as a wall of water sweeps over them.
Even more emotional: Losing track of the husband and two other children in the family, and being forced to abandon any search for them as the mother seeks medical treatment.
It's surprising how powerful and emotional the film is, thanks largely to the straightforward telling of the family's story and the special effects that give the viewer a feel for what being swept away might be like.
Naomi Watts deserves whatever awards come her way for a gritty, tough and heartfelt performance of a mother who literally drags herself through the muck and mud to move her son to higher ground.
Not left out but not sensationalized: the death and suffering around this family that refuses to give up on one another.
Rated PG-13 for intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity. 103 min. [PV]
"PROMISED LAND" (R)
MATT DAMON, FRANCES McDORMAND, JOHN KRASINSKI, ROSEMARIE DEWITT
Though Matt Damon has lots of fans who enjoy roles where he's the guy trying to do the right thing, this one starts slow and fades from there.
What they're going for here is the age-old tale of a decent guy faced with picking between his job and doing the right thing.
The job in question: He and his assistant (Frances McDormand) buy the rights to mine natural gas under the sellers' property.
It isn't just the threat of groundwater contamination from fracking that forms the moral dilemma here.
The film goes one step further and pushes the big, evil company the pair works for into outright fraud.
It all comes off too slow, too ethereal and too clearly manipulated to make you care how it ends.
Rated R for language. 106 min. [PV, RA]
"NOT FADE AWAY" (R)
(LAST SHOW TONIGHT) You can say this film is evocative of an era.
You can call it musically alive.
You can even say it has coming-of-age moments that are captivating.
But what you can't call this first film after "The Sopranos" for director David Chase is a complete movie.
At best, it's slices of life, a look back at the music, the shifting philosophies and the times in 1960s New Jersey.
It works best in the film's beginning as young Douglas (a so-so John Magaro) decides the way to be cool in high school and life is getting into a band.
It's roughly based on Chase's own experiences, which doesn't really explain why the story's threads so loosely move through the years.
Only to dump the viewer at an ending that's every bit as unsatisfying as was the final scene of "The Sopranos."
Rated R for pervasive language, some drug use and sexual content. 117 min. [PV]
H Don't waste your time.
HH Nothing special
HHHH A must-see