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Four stars: superior. Three stars: good. Two stars: average. One star: poor. D (

November 22, 2013

YellowBrix

Four stars: superior. Three stars: good. Two stars: average. One star: poor. D (drug use), L (language), N (nudity), S (sexual situations, references), V (violence). Ratings by Dann Gire, Daily Herald Film Critic, unless otherwise noted.

Picks

"About Time" -- Richard Curtis presents a romantic fantasy about a Brit (Domhnall Gleeson) who can travel back in time but doesn't tell his wife (Rachel McAdams). A wonderful message about spending your time wisely, despite the film's flaws. (R) L, S. 123 minutes. . . . 1/2

"All is Lost" -- Robert Redford is a one-man tour-de-force in this virtually dialogueless survival drama about a man trapped at sea in a sinking yacht. Nicely directed by J.C. Chandor. (PG-13) L. 106 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Captain Phillips" -- A superior fact-based thriller about the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. cargo ship by Somali pirates, who hold the captain (Tom Hanks delivering a nuanced, powerful performance) hostage. At least until the Navy's cavalry arrives. A rich, multilayered action movie from Paul "United 93" Greengrass, with four talented Somali actors. (R) D, V. 134 minutes. . . . .

"Carrie" -- Kimberly Peirce directs a respectable remake of Brian DePalma's classic horror film based on Stephen King's best-seller about a bullied teen (Chloe Grace Moretz) with telekinetic powers and a crazy religious mother (Julianne Moore). (R) L, S, V. 92 minutes. . . .

"Dallas Buyers Club" -- Matthew McConaughey's risky, hardened- heart performance highlights this spunky, fact-based "man against the system" drama about a Texas bigot who gets AIDS in 1985 and forms a buying club to get the drugs he and other patients need. (R) D, L, N, S. 117 minutes. . . . .

"The Delivery Man" -- Suburban native Vince Vaughn gets to break out of his stereotypical motormouth as David, whose donations at a sperm bank years ago have produced 533 kids, 143 of whom are suing the clinic to discover Dad's identity. A flawed but sincere comedy remade from the French Canadian feature "Starbuck." (PG-13) D, L, S, V. 103 minutes. . . .

"Despicable Me 2" -- The Minions take over this fast, but dumbed- down sequel with their popular slapstick shtick. Former villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) helps secret agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig) search for a stolen formula while overprotecting his adopted daughters from boys. (PG) 98 minutes. . . .

"Ender's Game" -- Rocky but visually potent science-fiction action film offering an ethics lesson about taking responsibility for military and personal actions. A boy (Asa Butterworth) is trained by a colonel (Harrison Ford) to defend the planet from invading aliens. (PG-13) L, V. 114 minutes. . . .

"Gravity" -- Alfonso Cuaron directs a visually stunning work, a bold and daring survival thriller about two astronauts (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) dealing with the aftermath of a debris storm that wipes out their shuttle in space. How will they get back? (PG-13) L, V. 91 minutes. . . . .

"Great Expectations" -- Mike Newell, a "Harry Potter" director, reunites Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter in an impressive translation of Charles Dickens' classic story of a blue-collar lad who, financed by a mystery sponsor, is able to become a gentleman. With Jeremy Irvine as Pip and Holliday Grainger as Estella. (PG-13) V. 128 minutes. . . .

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" -- Better than the original film. Katniss (Jennifer Lawerence) and other past Games winners get drafted to face each other in the 75th tournament. Dramatically richer and technically higher quality. With Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone. (PG-13) V. 146 minutes. . . . 1/2

"Nebraska" -- Alexander Payne directs a carefully crafted black- and-white comic drama about a father and son (Bruce Dern and Will Forte) who go on a road trip to Nebraska to collect a million- dollar sweepstakes. With Naperville's Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach. (R) L. 110 minutes. . . . .

"Prisoners" -- Riveting child-abduction thriller about a father (Hugh Jackman) who kidnaps and tortures the man (Paul Dano) he thinks is responsible for taking his daughter. Taut, suspenseful and surprising. (R) L, V. 146 minutes. . . . .

"12 Years a Slave" -- Steve McQueen directs a leading contender for best picture of 2013, a hard-hitting, fact-based drama about a free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 Washington, D.C. A tough, brave movie. (R) N, S, V. 133 minutes. . . . .

"We're the Millers" -- Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and the rest of the cast somehow make this cliched comedy work. Sudeikis plays a drug dealer who recruits a stripper (Aniston), a runaway girl (Emma Roberts) and his neighbor (Will Poulter) to pose as his fake family to smuggle drugs in an RV from Mexico. (R) D, L, N, S. 110 minutes. . . .

Passables

"The Best Man Holiday" -- Sequel to Malcolm D. Lee's 1999 breakthrough comedy. Original cast members reassemble for a little bit bawdy, fitfully funny look at old friends and lovers sharing the holidays at a football star's mansion. With Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Terrence Howard and Morris Chestnut. (R) L, N, S. 122 minutes. . . 1/2

"Free Birds" -- Turkeys (voiced by Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson) go back in time to change the Thanksgiving Day bird from turkey to something else. Animated comedy with Amy Poehler. Reviewed by Stephanie Merry, Washington Post. (PG) 91 minutes. . . 1/2

"Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa" -- The 86-year-old Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) goes on a cross-country journey with his 8-year- old grandson in a hidden-camera road trip. Reviewed by Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post. (R) D, L, N, S. 82 minutes. . .

"Last Vegas" -- Erratic comedy about four childhood buds who hook up as senior citizens in Las Vegas to celebrate one getting married to a woman half his age. Mary Steenburgen steals this show from co- stars Robert De Niro, Kevin Klein, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas. (PG-13) L, S. 90 minutes. . . 1/2

"Thor: The Dark World" -- Visual effects overpower character, plot and sense in this quasi-sequel to "Thor" in which the God of Thunder (a bored Chris Hemsworth) springs naughty Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from an Asgardian pokey to stop a nasty Dark Elf (Christopher Eccleston) from using the Aether (whatever that is) to destroy the universe. Natalie Portman practically yawns her way through as Jane Foster. (PG-13) V. . .

Pits

"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" -- Chester and Flint must save the world again in this animated sequel, complete with "foodanimals" and sophomoric jokes. Reviewed by Sean O'Connell, Washington Post. (PG) 95 minutes. . 1/2

"Escape Plan" -- Finally! Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger together! They play inmates trying to escape from a supposedly inescapable prison in this ridiculously cheesy, low-IQ, cliche-riddled action film. (R) L, V. 116 minutes. . 1/2

Unpreviewed

"The Christmas Candle" -- When a candle blessed by an angel disappears, it means tough times for a new local minister (Hans Matheson). Based on Max Lucado's book. (PG) 100 minutes. Not screened for critics, and we all know what that means, don't we?

"Gori Tere Pyaar Mein" -- A shallow family black sheep gets his life shaken up by a firebrand political activist. A romantic comedy in Hindi. (NR) 150 minutes.

"Krrish 3" -- A science-fiction fantasy directed by Rakesh Roshan. In Hindi. (NR) 152 minutes.

"RamLeela" -- The story of Romeo and Juliet gets replayed between the feuding families of Ram and Leela. In Hindi. (NR) 155 minutes.

"Singh Saab The Great" -- An action, comedy drama in Hindi. (NR) 150 minutes.

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