‘Grudge’ gets knocked out, ‘Mitty’ inspires and ‘Wolf’ entertains

Among the new movies that were released Wednesday, Dec. 25 are a sports comedy that pairs Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone, Ben Stiller’s directorial debut and Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest collaboration with Martin Scorsese.

Grudge Match

Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone play a pair of aging boxing rivals who are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout – 30 years after their last match. (PG-13 – 113 minutes)

“Grudge Match” is just the latest in a long list of movies made for aging audiences whose mere appreciation of seeing actors like stars Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone refuse to act their age is enough to earn their admiration. Granted, it is impressive to see De Niro jump rope and Stallone flip a tractor tire but those achievements in and of themselves do not a good movie make. You also need a strong story and this one is more or less a retread of “Grumpy Old Men.” The grand finale is fun and ends on an emotionally resonant note but the road there is repetitive, routine and anything but original. (Thumbs Down!)

The Last Days on Mars

Liev Schreiber plays one of several astronauts who, on the last day of the first manned mission to Mars, succumb one by one to a mysterious and terrifying force. (R – 91 minutes)

When all is said and done, “The Last Days on Mars” can be whittled down to a three-word synopsis: Zombies on Mars. That along with the knowledge that the new science-fiction thriller is inspired by a short story written by Sydney J. Bounds may give you some idea of what a simple, straightforward and stretched-out film it is. Granted, scientific mutterings may make naive viewers to believe that there is more to the movie than meets the eye but most will merely be annoyed. And almost everyone is certain to become bored with the by-the-books trajectory of the tale. (Thumbs Down!)

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Idris Elba portrays South African President Nelson Mandela who spends 27 years in prison before becoming president and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society. (PG-13 – 152 minutes)

Sadly, as good-intentioned as it is, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” will feel like precisely that to most moviegoers – a long walk to freedom… from what is essentially a dry and dutiful history lesson. Director Justin Chadwick’s new biopic about the recently deceased instigator of change features some very strong speeches that command your attention and represents the against-all-odds forgiveness and love that South African President Nelson Mandela believed comes more naturally than hate to the human heart, but it does not make that trek particularly entertaining. Nor is its educational value very effective as viewers who do not already know the ins and outs of the story may find themselves lost along the trail. (Thumbs Down!)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller plays a day-dreaming man who, when his job along with that of his co-worker (Kristen Wiig) are threatened, takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined. (PG – 125 minutes)

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is an interesting and inspirational motion picture. On the one hand, there is so much whimsy about the new dramedic adventure, with which star Ben Stiller makes his directorial debut, that you cannot help but get swept away by its spectacular sense of imagination. On the other hand, it demonstrates that, while everyday Average Joes represent everything beautiful in this world, one is not truly living unless they are embarking on all of the adventures that the world has to offer. If this does not make you want to run out and grab life by the horns, then nothing will. (Thumbs Up!)

The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort, a man who rose to become a wealthy stockbroker living the high life before eventually falling as a result of his involvement with crime and corruption. (R – 165 minutes)

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is epic in every conceivable way, coming across as some sort of crazy party during which revelers go through every experience imaginable. Granted, the new biographical crime comedy’s runtime may be a bit daunting but by golly does director Martin Scorsese use each and every minute of it to entertain viewers. In fact, it is easily and without a doubt the director’s best work to date. The film features a performance that runs the gamut by star Leonardo DiCaprio but supporting actor Jonah Hill steals the show – as does Matthew McConaughey in somewhat of a cameo. (Breakthrough!)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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