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‘Hours’ breaks hearts, ‘Madea’ gets merry and ‘Velvet’ unsettles

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Among the new movies that were released Friday, Dec. 13 are a drama in which the late Paul Walker gives the performance of his life, Tyler Perry’s Christmas card to his fans and a return-to-form from filmmaker Neil LaBute.

Hours

Paul Walker plays a man who arrives at a New Orleans hospital with his pregnant wife (Genesis Rodriguez), who has gone into early labor, when the birth goes tragically wrong and Hurricane Katrina ravages the city, forcing an evacuation. (PG-13 - 97 minutes)

If losing an actor who was capable of making our hearts race in the “Fast and Furious” film franchise was not tragic enough, the new drama “Hours” reveals that we have also lost an actor who was capable of breaking said hearts before putting them back together again. Filmmaker Eric Heisserer’s directorial debut is slow-moving and often outlandish but it certainly keeps a firm grip on the audience’s attention as Walker, giving the richest and most multifaceted performance of his all-too-brief life, demonstrates with this character the great lengths to which a father will go for a child who he really does not even know... yet. (Thumbs Up!)

A Madea Christmas

Tyler Perry reprises his role as Madea who, this time around, dispenses her unique form of holiday spirit on a rural town when she is coaxed into helping a friend pay her daughter a surprise visit in the country for Christmas. (PG-13 - 105 minutes)

A Madea Christmas” is harmless enough, features an admirable message about accepting one another despite our differences and has more of the Madea that we have inexplicably come to love. However, its underuse of its Christmas themes is just disappointing enough to tip the scales out of the new holiday dramedy’s favor. The laughs are nearly nonexistent and the production values are lower than low but the thing that stands out the most is that what was supposed to be the closest thing to a Christmas movie we got this year turns out to be a bust. (Thumbs Down!)

The Punk Singer

Filmmaker Sini Anderson takes a look at the life of activist, musician and cultural icon Kathleen Hanna, who formed the punk band Bikini Kill and pioneered the “riot grrrl” movement of the 1990s. (NR - 80 minutes)

Like it or not, documentaries about musicians are a tough sell to anyone other than those who are already fans of - or at least familiar with - the particular artist. In order to break out beyond a specific audience, a movie must be about something larger. “The Punk Singer” gets that - to an extent - as filmmaker Sini Anderson tells Kathleen Hanna’s story through a filter of the fight for gender equality (a.k.a. feminism) but it ultimately comes across as a very well-done behind-the-music special. Although the conversations are extremely candid and therefore fascinating, non-fans will undoubtedly be a bit bored before all is said and done. (Thumbs Down!)

Some Velvet Morning

Stanley Tucci plays a married man who arrives at the doorstep of his mistress (Alice Eve) after 4 years apart, claiming to have finally left his wife. But when she rejects his attempts to rekindle their romance, his persistence evolves into obsession - and a dark history between the former lovers comes into focus. (NR - 83 minutes)

The dialogue-heavy, two-person drama “Some Velvet Morning” is more of a roller-coaster ride than most movies that spend millions of dollars on special effects. And it has got one spectacular kick-in-the-teeth of an ending that will leave your mouth agape. Its greatest asset is writer/director Neil LaBute’s script, which digs its razor-sharp fangs deep into what little love and romance is left in the modern world. Cynical as it sounds, the film is also very emotionally resonant, revealing the complexity of its characters’ feelings - if only fleetingly. Needless to say, the experience is a little unsettling on a very identifiable level. (Thumbs Up!)

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