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Disney (And Me) On TCM

11 hours ago

This Sunday, I’m pleased to be part of a new series of Walt Disney presentations on Turner Classic Movies. I’ll be joining Ben Mankiewicz to introduce a full evening of Disney treats, including the classic Silly Symphonies short Santa’s Workshop (1932) and two other wintry cartoons, the wonderful behind-the-scenes feature The Reluctant Dragon (1941) featuring Robert Benchley, my boyhood favorite Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955), the Oscar-winning True Life Adventure The Vanishing Prairie (1954), and another film I’ve always liked, Third Man on the Mountain (1959) starring James MacArthur, Michael Rennie, Janet Munro, and Herbert Lom, followed by Perilous Assignment, an...

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- Leonard Maltin

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Mr. Turner—Movie Review

20 hours ago

The British have a wonderful term that describes my reaction to Mr. Turner: I was gobsmacked. I look forward to every new Mike Leigh film, but there was no way to prepare myself for this novel treatment of a great artist’s life. Stunning to behold, it’s almost indescribably powerful and nakedly emotional at times…yet it eschews all the conventions of a traditional biopic and focuses on a man who was a mass of contradictions, the esteemed painter J.M.W. Turner. Leigh says it all in the movie’s press notes: “He was a giant among artists, single-minded and uncompromising, extraordinarily prolific, revolutionary in his approach, consummate at his craft, clairvoyant in his vision. Yet Turner...

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- Leonard Maltin

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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb—Movie Review

18 December 2014 9:04 PM, PST

Third time turns out to be the charm for Ben Stiller and the animated figures from the Museum of Natural History. Having worked their wonders in a family-friendly 2006 box-office smash, then squandered that good will in a laborious 2008 sequel, Stiller, director Shawn Levy, and a new team of screenwriters have redeemed themselves with this lively, entertaining fantasy yarn. The second film almost collapsed under its own weight, while the latest effort favors simplicity, to its benefit. Assuming that we’ve seen the earlier movies, little time is wasted on exposition. Stiller is back on staff at the Museum in Manhattan. A crisis arises when a magical tablet in the Egyptian exhibit threatens...

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- Leonard Maltin

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Annie—Movie Review

18 December 2014 9:02 PM, PST

I was dreading this movie; my expectations were as low as they could possibly be. Perhaps that’s why I came away from Annie thinking it wasn’t bad. This is a thoroughly modernized, urbanized version of the Broadway musical, with hip-hop beats and new songs along with the old standbys. Some of the reinvention works well, and some is laid on with a heavy hand. But the key to any rendition of this material is the star, and Quvenzhané Wallis has the main requisite for success: a thousand-watt personality. She’s the primary reason I think kids (and families) will find this Annie appealing. Director Will Gluck, who cowrote the screenplay (with Aline Brosh McKenna), has...

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- Leonard Maltin

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Some Crosby For Christmas

18 December 2014 4:00 AM, PST

No entertainer is more associated with Christmas than Bing Crosby, who introduced Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” in the 1942 movie Holiday Inn. His recording of the song remains the best-selling single of all time which, along with constant showings of the 1954 movie White Christmas, keeps the star in the public eye (and ear). His rendition of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” has even made its way onto Billboard’s Top 100 chart this month, currently resting at #71. A recent installment of PBS’ American Masters has reinforced interest in all things Bing. There is no shortage of new Crosby product, including a new DVD collection from Universal called Bing Crosby:...

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- Leonard Maltin

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies—Movie Review

16 December 2014 5:46 PM, PST

We deserve a movie as good as this, having invested so many hours in the first two parts of Peter Jackson’s distended Hobbit trilogy. After a deadly beginning and a more tolerable followup, the final film delivers the goods. The movie opens with the fearsome, fire-breathing dragon Smaug wreaking havoc on Lake-town, and the action seldom flags in the more than two hours that follow. There are battle scenes galore: some battle scenes even have battle scenes within them! The final portion of the film features some of the most exciting hand-to-hand combat I’ve ever seen portrayed onscreen—on a crumbling stone bridge, a lake of ice about to crack open, and other perilous locations....

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- Leonard Maltin

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New and Notable Books December—Part Two (2014)

15 December 2014 12:01 PM, PST

Herewith, another installment of my periodic book survey, derived from skimming or browsing the books at hand. They all pique my curiosity and I hope to read them cover-to-cover at my leisure. In the meantime, I’m happy to bring them to your attention, as so few specialty books are publicized in the mainstream media. Any one of these would make a suitable Chanukah or Christmas gift—even for yourself. Marc Davis: Walt Disney’S Renaissance Man (Disney Editions) Walt Disney wasn’t known for paying compliments, but he once said of Marc Davis, “Marc can do story, he can do character, he can design shows for me. All I have to do is tell him what I want and it’s there! He’s my...

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- Leonard Maltin

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