Philomena ★★½

The Good: Judi Dench delivers a consummate performance, as always. The beginning grabs attention. Alexandre Desplat composes yet another wonderful musical score (although it sounds more like something that would've fit perfectly in the Harry Potter movies).

The Bad: Goes from compelling and charming to "When will this end?" Evil baby-selling nuns—perhaps the worst kind of nuns (also awarded Most Villainous Group of the Year, edging out dark elves and flying sharks.) Blatant emotional manipulation. Blatant Oscar bait. Pushing anti-(insert cause) propaganda is just as obnoxious as pushing pro-(insert cause) propaganda. (I expected a movie named Philomena to be about an elderly woman named Philomena and her incredible and inspiring search for her long lost son, not some heavy-handed lecture on the evils of the Catholic Church. You could feel the anger slathered all over the screenplay. I want none of that overpowering angry shit anywhere near my movies, thank you.) Big Momma's House is in no way "hilarious." Martin Lawrence is not, and never has been, a "hilarious" man. Never.

The Bottom Line: Among 2013's solid crop of Best Picture nominees, Philomena sticks out as the weakest of the bunch. I'll take the cynical Stephen Frears circa High Fidelity any day.

The Scorecard:
Direction: ★★
Acting: ★★★
Writing: ★★
Editing: ★★
Visuals: ★★★
Sound: ★★★½
Overall Rating: ★★½