Another biography, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," tells of a much different life: That of South African leader and icon Nelson Mandela. Idris Elba gives a powerful performance as Mandela, but his most passionate scenes are in the movie's first half, as a young Mandela grows from lawyer to protest leader to underground fugitive. Naomie Harris co-stars as Winnie Mandela, whose radicalization during her husband's imprisonment is a major thread of the story.
Ben Stiller directs and stars in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," a long-awaited adaptation of James Thurber's beloved short story. Stiller plays Walter, a mild-mannered photo processor at Life magazine, whose daydreams are more adventurous than he is. But when the magazine is on the verge of closing, Walter takes a chance to travel the world to find a danger-seeking photographer (Sean Penn). The daydream sequences are the movie's best feature, hilarious flights of fancy that precede the sentimental conclusion.
Sentimentality is all over "Grudge Match," an awful comedy that pairs up Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro as aging boxers persuaded to face off in the ring again, 30 years after their prime. Aside from defiling our memories of the actors in "Rocky" and "Raging Bull," the movie is just painfully unfunny.
Two more movies open on Christmas Day, but neither were screened for Utah critics: "47 Ronin," a samurai action movie starring Keanu Reeves; and "Justin Bieber's Believe," a concert movie featuring the singing star.