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If you can watch 132 minutes of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler ” with completely dry eyes, you may need to have your empathy and emotional receptivity checked. You’re a quart low – at least.You may not be quite as close to outright blubbering as I was watching the movie, opening Friday, but then all I can do is plead contemporaneousness with the historical events of…

In “Blue Jasmine,” Cate Blanchett gives the finest single performance I have ever seen in a Woody Allen film.By far.One could well argue that in a way, she’s cheating – merely lifting the most important elements of her previous performance as Blanche DuBois in the 2009 Sydney Theater Company stage production of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” …

“Zelig” (1983) Woody Allen’s finest achievement: a fantasy about a perennial eyewitness that’s even better than its New Yorkerish literary conceit, thanks in no small measure to the genius of cinematographer Gordon Willis. Unlike anything else ever made in America (please don’t tell me about “Forrest Gump”). In its own way, a very personal film, too.“Manha…

Though actress Karen Black never stopped working, news of her passing last week at age 74 sent me back to the 1970s. That era – a transformative cultural moment for women in general – had the films I remember the actress in most.It actually starts on the eve of the decade with 1969’s “Easy Rider,” the movie that put Black on Hollywood’s radar. (She had already …

Jerry Seinfeld was about to do a standup gig at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. So we were on the phone talking.I asked the adamant sitcom retiree about his old partner and “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David, who was then starring in everyone’s favorite whine-and-kvetch fest, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Everybody but everybody was talking about Larry David back then.…

Any thoughts that a second Percy Jackson and the Olympians film would drag Rick Riordan’s “Greek Godchildren” franchise out of the shadow of Harry Potter are dashed the moment Percy and his “half-blood” friends pile into a supernatural taxi in “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”The cab may be driven by the three haggling, wisecracking Graeae of Greek myth – b…

Actor Ryan Gosling and Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn first collaborated in 2011 with “Drive,” a bloody but ambitious film with a brilliant 10-minute opening sequence bathed in shadows and nearly devoid of dialogue. Critics admired the film and it drew respectable box-office numbers for its $15 million budget. The duo was the buzz of the film world.When somethin…

Did Walter Cronkite say a word that – as Seinfeld fans recall – is a female body part that rhymes with a woman’s name on the nightly news? After all, a clip in the film “Lovelace” shows us that Cronkite did indeed report on “Deep Throat,” the infamous 1972 pornographic film smash that became a punch line for Johnny Carson and Bob Hope, and provided a suitable…

My hopes couldn’t have been higher. But “Elysium” is the major disappointment of the movie summer.It’s by no means a bad film, mind you, only a movie that doesn’t begin to stack up to what it could have been – and should have been.Anyone who saw Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi horror film “District 9” had every reason to anticipate gleefully a new film by the man…

“Planes” is a pleasant surprise.Not a huge one, that’s for sure. So no, it isn’t even close to the caliber of film that one might think belongs with those a few years ago that made us wonder if computer animation hadn’t put us into a Golden Age of Animation. And yes, this movie, then, is many miles away from masterpieces like “Wall-E,” “Up” and “How to …

The trailer for “We’re the Millers,” a late summer comedy offering starring Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston, is misleading. It promises familiar comedy staples in the form of “hapless criminal” capers and “awkward virgin” jokes, as well as, of course, one or two stripteases from Aniston. And the movie delivers all this. But what the trailer doesn’t show…

“Byzantium” owes more to the both endearing and creepy Swedish vampire art film “Let the Right One In,” and its American remake, than to “Interview with the Vampire,” Irish director Neil Jordan’s 1994 Hollywood adaptation of Anne Rice’s best seller, and his last foray into the popular bloodsucking genre.What “Byzantium,” opening Friday, shares most is a…

“This Is Martin Bonner” is a film for people who love well-told short stories and poetry that hits its mark. It is a film for people who want to be invested in the characters on the screen, not just blown away by or blown up with them.Writer/director Chad Hartigan has made a non-action movie about two men in their middle years who, for different reasons, are starting a…

Two guns, my foot.By the time, “Two Guns” is over, you’ve seen and heard a great deal more than just the two guns wielded by our semi-heroes, who are played by the redoubtable Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.But then you knew that. All that anticipated bulletry and boom and bash is why you’re probably tempted to go. We are, after all, not talking about guns and…