News Column

Movie Capsules [Buffalo News (NY)]

December 5, 2013

YellowBrix

about time. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. Directed by Richard Curtis. An awkward young man can travel back to moments in his own life and get a redo, helping his love life and teaching him about real happiness. "Curtis has made a nice name for himself crafting clever romantic comedies that manage to soar above their down-to-earth settings. Here, takes his ideas of love and happiness further in time past the first blush of romance turns his bit of fluff into heartier stuff." 124 minutes. (Rated R for language and some sexual content.) *** (Melinda Miller)

baggage claim. Starring Taye Diggs, Paula Patton and Jill Scott. Directed by David E. Talbert. Pledging to keep herself from being the only woman in her entire family never to wed, Montana embarks on a 30-day, 30,000-mile expedition to charm a potential suitor into becoming her fiance. 96 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language.)

The Best Man Holiday. Starring Monica Calhoune, Morris Chestnut, Melissa De Sousa and Taye Diggs. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. College friends reunite after 15 years over the Christmas holidays, and discover how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited. 122 minutes. (Rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity.) **o (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Black Nativity. Starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese Gibson and Jacob Latimore. When a single mother sends her teenage son to live with her estranged parents, music and a Christmas miracle occur. Based on the play by Langston Hughes. "An urban Christmas with an R&B/rap soundtrack provides the energizing backdrop for a modern tale of rejection, redemption and forgiveness in Kasi Lemmons' dramatic holiday musical." 93 minutes. (Rated PG for thematic material, language and a menacing situation.) *** (Melinda Miller)

Blue Jasmine. Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale in Woody Allen's comedy/drama about a Park Avenue diva forced to live with her struggling sister in San Francisco when her Wall Street crook of a husband is sent to jail. 98 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.) **** (Jeff Simon)

the Book Thief. Starring Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. Directed by Brian Percival. While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, a girl finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. 131 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for some violence and intense depiction of thematic material.) *** (San Francisco Chronicle)

Captain Phillips. Starring Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Barkhad Abdirahman. The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama. "A truly great film and not just because of the commanding suspense and overpowering sense of reality created by its director Paul Greengrass. The film's coda, after all the action has ended and your nerves have gone back to normal, is Hanks giving you something on screen you've probably never seen an actor do before. It shows us the consequences of things our movies usually care nothing about. The great film actors, bless them, can always surprise you. It's best to never forget that." 134 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.) **** (Jeff Simon)

cloudy with a chance of meatballs 2. With the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Kristen Schaal and Will Forte. Directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. Fun sequel to the original story about a machine that made it rain food. Now, the food is alive. "'Meatballs' is such a treat because they never oversell it. Enjoy the nods to 'Jurassic Park,' 'Willy Wonka' and 'Up,' and see if you catch the little tribute to 'Enemy From Space,' from 1957. Flint is tricked into a mission that brings him back home, where his small island has become a haven for the foodimals. Watermelonphants. Shrimpanzees. Flamangoes. Susheep. Honestly, it would make a great game, coming up with these hybrids. Beautiful to look at, especially in 3-D, and written in a way that is both smart and kind, this second serving of "Meatballs" is simply delicious." 95 minutes. (Rated PG for mild rude humor.) ***o (Melinda Miller)

The Counselor. Starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt. Directed by Ridley Scott. A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking. "A noble experiment that simply doesn't work. It has a great gleamingly decadent look to it and a few scenes of violence that you'll be unable to forget. But you can't pair so much visual style with so much super-literary dialogue the way this film tries to do with Cormac McCarthy's script. (Which, sadly, demands to be read, and not really heard as delivered by Diaz, no matter how witty Javier Bardem almost manages to be.) The final score here is Literature 4 Cinema 2. In a movie, it should be the other way around." 117 minutes. (Rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and profanity.) **o (Jeff Simon)

Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner and Griffin Dunne in Jean-Marc Vallee's film about a homophobic AIDS victim in the earliest neglectful days of the disease who becomes an effective medical activist. "A tough, grubby movie about the onset of AIDS in America when no one knew much about it except that it was a horrifying new plague killing people. McConaughey lost 47 pounds to play - brilliantly - a different kind of AIDS victim, a low-living, homophobic, electrician and wannabe rodeo star with a penchant for booze, coke, grungy topless joints and the kind of crowded pickup sex that can be arranged there. He's a good ol'boy about whom there is little, if anything, good. He turns into an effective activist to relieve the sufferings of those he used to despise, including Leto in an amazing performance as a transvestite. It's not a major movie, but the commitment of everyone in it is nothing but major." 117 minutes. (Rated R for rough language, nudity, strong sexual activity and drugs.) *** (Jeff Simon)

Delivery Man. Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt and Cobie Smulders. Directed by Ken Scott. An affable underachiever learns he's fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. "Is it possible to despise a foreign- language film, but enjoy an American remake from the same director? In the case of 'Delivery Man,' the answer is ... Not really. However, the mawkish Vaughn comedy is, in its own way, a slightly superior film than director Ken Scott's off-puttingly titled 'Starbuck.' Scott's first attempt at this story was a French- Canadian smash, with a plot - a slacker is stunned to discover his sperm donations from two decades earlier have resulted in 533 children - seemingly tailor-made for an Americanized treatment. Hollywood adores a high-concept, and lord knows 'Starbuck' had one. It is virtually the same movie. Except, that is, for the casting. And that is what 'Delivery Man' is a better film. No, it cannot be classified as a good film. Comparatively, however, it is a stronger one." 103 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language.) ** (Christopher Schobert)

DESPICABLE ME 2. With the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Miranda Cosgrove. Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal. 98 minutes. (Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.) *** (Christopher Schobert)

Ender's Game. Starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin. Directed by Gavin Hood. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle for Earth's future. 114 minutes. (Rated PG- 13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material.) ** (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

enough said. Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini and Catherine Keener. Directed by Nicole Holofcener. A divorced woman pursues a man only to learn he's her new friend's ex-husband. "'Enough Said' is a movie whose lack of underlining and italicizing would seem to be the whole point of it all. In the warmth and off- hand and low-key charm Gandolfini exhibits, it is clear that, in its small way, it showed a new side to his talents that would undoubtedly have grown." 93 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence and partial nudity.) *** (Jeff Simon)

Free Birds. The voices of Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler and Amy Poehler. Directed by Jimmy Hayward. Two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences to travel back in time and get turkey off the holiday menu for good. 91 minutes. (Rated PG for some action/peril and rude humor.) *o (McClatchy-Tribute News Service)

Frozen. With the voices of Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff. Animated tale about a fearless optimist who goes on an epic journey to find her sister, whose icy powers have trapped her kingdom in eternal winter. "It's a lighthearted affair, and not nearly dangerous enough. Still, a tween-friendly musical fairy tale based on the particularly dark 'The Snow Queen' is not an easy sell. In its simplification, some of the source material's subversions are left untidy. It's one of those just-go-with-it movies." 108 minutes. (Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.) *** (Ben Siegel)

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein. Starring Imran Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Anupam Kher. Directed by Punit Malhotra. A shallow guy realizes he's made a big mistake and tries to win back his ex-girlfriend. 150 minutes. (Not rated. In Hindi with subtitles.)

Gravity. Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris. A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive

after an accident leaves them adrift in space. "What happens after the first 20 minutes follows the actors as they try to survive, much less cope. It is wrenchingly powerful and harrowingly imagined. I have nothing but admiration, too, for the story director Alfonso Cuaron's schema is trying to tell about Bullock's character, who is the movie's centerpiece in what is certainly the best performance in a career that has been probably underrated too often. Cuaron is, at first, asking us to live in outer space. And then, as the movie proceeds, he is trying to tell us about the heroine's terrors of inner space." 90 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.) **** (Jeff Simon)

Homefront. Starring James Franco, Jason Statham and Winona Ryder. Directed by Gary Fleder. A former DEA agent moves his family to a quiet town, where he soon tangles with a local meth druglord. 100 minutes. (Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality.) *o (McClatchy Tribune Services)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Amanda Plummer and Stanley Tucci in the new installment in the blockbuster fictional series about a starving future world where young people compete in survival games for everyone else's entertainment. "If you know the books or remember the first installment vividly, you'll have to trouble with this. If you don't, you might think all the initial complaining about celebrity life a bit too Kardashian for you but the movie soon turns into another smart, entertaining, engaging and completely worthwhile fantasy. We can see clearly now the truth: it's a cool franchise full of cool people. It deserves whatever blocks it busts." 146 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for violence and action and frightening images.) *** (Jeff Simon)

Insidious: Chapter 2. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey. The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world. 105 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements.)

JAckass Presents: Bad Grandpa. Starring Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Spike Jonze and Georgina Cates. Directed by Jeff Tremaine. An 86-year-old grandfather travels America with his 8-year-old grandson. 92 minutes. (Rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.)

Last Vegas. Starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Three 60- something friends throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal. 105 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.) **o (Jeff Simon)

Lee Daniels' The Butler. Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, Robin Williams and Jane Fonda in the story of one African-American man's 30 years in service in the White House during the most tumultuous times of the civil rights movement. "If you can watch all 132 minutes of this movie with completely dry eyes, you may need to have your emotional receptivity and empathy checked. They're on the fritz. It's the right story at the right time told in the right way by the right people. That list is of crucial importance. Here is a movie made by what might be thought of as this country's black show business 'establishment' (with important white participation, too-from co- writer Danny Strong and the late co-producer Laura Ziskin). It's essentially the story of the civil rights movement told with huge broad strokes and no fear whatsoever of the most blatant sentimentality. Yes, it's about the life of a White House butler but it's lived inside the black American history of his time. And both Whitaker and Winfrey give truly exceptional performances." 132 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for language, brutal violence, thematic elements, sexual material, language, disturbing images and smoking). **** (Jeff Simon)

Oldboy. Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson. When a man who is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement is released without explanation, he begins an obsessive mission to learn who imprisoned him. Directed by Spike Lee. 118 minutes. (Rated R for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity and language.)

one direction: this is us. Documentary and concert film on the popular teen band One Direction. Directed by Morgan Spurlock. 92 minutes. (Rated PG for mild profanity.) *o (McClatchy Newspapers)

percy jackson: sea of monsters. Starring Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario and Nathan Fillion. To restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends embark on a quest to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising. 106 minutes. (Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language.) ** (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Philomena. Judi Dench, Steve Coogan and Mare Winningham in Stephen Frears' tale from life about an Irish woman's search after 50 years for a child born out of wedlock and sold to Americans by the Irish convent that took her in. "At the Toronto Film Festival this was the runner-up to '12 Years a Slave' as the audience's favorite film. That's eminently just. It's funny, moving and as sentimental as can be but it never goes 'full-on' into melodramatic contrivance to stoke the audience's affections and outrage. It doesn't need to. It's based on a true story of a BBC reporter between jobs who helps an Irish woman find out the truth about the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years before. It never wallows or panders. It earns every tear honorably." 88 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for language, thematic elements and sexual references.) *** (Jeff Simon)

Planes. The voices of Dane Cook, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett, John Cleese and Cedric the Entertainer in Klay Hall's animated feature about a little cropduster named Dusty who wants to enter the "Wings Around the Globe" air race and compete with the bigger, faster planes. "A pleasant surprise. Not a huge one, for sure. But there's something appealingly open-aired and international about this version of the 'Cars' template tale in which a lowly little cropduster yearns to compete in the Worldwide air race with the bigger planes. Unlike the NASCAR cheese of 'Cars,' the aerial scenes here have some real beauty and so do they aerial views of the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas. It's modestly exhilarating for one and all. It made the kids at the screening reasonably happy and the adults didn't feel sorely burdened. A win-win as such movies go." 92 minutes. (Rated PG for action intensity.) *** (Jeff Simon)

Prisoners. Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano in Denis Villeneuve's acclaimed and superbly performed thriller about a couple of distraught fathers who take the law into their own hands when their daughters are kidnapped and the police investigation seems to have stalled. "The movie is so much more intense than what people expect of our ordinary stylized wisecracking thrillers - especially when their emotions are of the canned TV variety - that some people laugh at the most inappropriate times at the film. It's the contrast between the film's overpowering emotional naturalism and the sudden bursts of its characters' impotent frenzy that people react to with nervous laughter. American films have taught us too well it seems, which is why powerful and brilliant films like this are needed to un- teach us." 153 minutes. (Rated R for violence, language and extremely brutal torture scenes.) ***o (Jeff Simon)

Ram-Leela. Starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. When two people from warring families meet and fall in love, they have to fight to live their dreams. 155 minutes. (Not rated. In Hindi with subtitles.)

The Smurfs 2. Starring Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays. The Smurfs team up with their human friends to rescue Smurfette, who has been kidnapped by Gargamel because she knows the secret spell to turn his newest creation, creatures called the Naughties - into Smurfs. 105 minutes. (Rated PG for some rude humor and action.)

THOR: THE DARK WORLD. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. Thor fights to protect his loved ones and the Nine Realms - including Earth - from the destruction of the Dark Elves. "Too much storytelling threatens to drag down this film that is equally a sequel to both 'Thor' and 'The Avengers.' Thankfully, the film gets a jump-start by unleashing Loki and letting the two brothers go at each other as only these two can. Add in a few more scenes of Stellan Skarsgard as the professor with "a god in his brain," and tender moments between Thor and his lady love, and you've got yourself a film." 111 minutes. (Rated PG-13 some suggestive content and intense sci-fi action/violence.) *** (Toni Ruberto)

12 Years a Slave. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson, and Alfre Woodard in Steve McQueen's adaptation of 1853 narrative of a free black man in Saratoga who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. "When you consider that a film as aesthetically pioneering as D. W. Griffith's silent film 'Birth of a Nation' and as commercially monumental as 'Gone With the Wind' have both purported to show as American slavery, the achievement of '12 Years a Slave' is nothing less than the long overdue triumph of cinematic justice itself. It's an immensely powerful film and brilliantly acted by Ejiofor and Fassbender. For all that, it is sometimes tough to watch. But then this is a film American films have needed since they began to exist. Decades of loathsome exploitation and euphemism needed to be exploded for all our sakes. Finally they have." 133 minutes. (Rated R for a great deal of cruelty and violence, some sex and nudity.) ***o (Jeff Simon)

we're the millers. Starring Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts. A veteran pot dealer creates a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico. 110 minutes. (Rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.) *** (Aidan Ryan)

about time. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. Directed by Richard Curtis. An awkward young man can travel back to moments in his own life and get a redo, helping his love life and teaching him about real happiness. "Curtis has made a nice name for himself crafting clever romantic comedies that manage to soar above their down-to-earth settings. Here, takes his ideas of love and happiness further in time past the first blush of romance turns his bit of fluff into heartier stuff." 124 minutes. (Rated R for language and some sexual content.) ??? (Melinda Miller)

baggage claim. Starring Taye Diggs, Paula Patton and Jill Scott. Directed by David E. Talbert. Pledging to keep herself from being the only woman in her entire family never to wed, Montana embarks on a 30-day, 30,000-mile expedition to charm a potential suitor into becoming her fiance. 96 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language.)

The Best Man Holiday. Starring Monica Calhoune, Morris Chestnut, Melissa De Sousa and Taye Diggs. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. College friends reunite after 15 years over the Christmas holidays, and discover how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited. 122 minutes. (Rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity.) ??o (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Black Nativity. Starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese Gibson and Jacob Latimore. When a single mother sends her teenage son to live with her estranged parents, music and a Christmas miracle occur. Based on the play by Langston Hughes. "An urban Christmas with an R&B/rap soundtrack provides the energizing backdrop for a modern tale of rejection, redemption and forgiveness in Kasi Lemmons' dramatic holiday musical." 93 minutes. (Rated PG for thematic material, language and a menacing situation.) ??? (Melinda Miller)

Blue Jasmine. Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale in Woody Allen's comedy/drama about a Park Avenue diva forced to live with her struggling sister in San Francisco when her Wall Street crook of a husband is sent to jail. 98 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.) ???? (Jeff Simon)

the Book Thief. Starring Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. Directed by Brian Percival. While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, a girl finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. 131 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for some violence and intense depiction of thematic material.) ??? (San Francisco Chronicle)

Captain Phillips. Starring Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Barkhad Abdirahman. The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama. "A truly great film and not just because of the commanding suspense and overpowering sense of reality created by its director Paul Greengrass. The film's coda, after all the action has ended and your nerves have gone back to normal, is Hanks giving you something on screen you've probably never seen an actor do before. It shows us the consequences of things our movies usually care nothing about. The great film actors, bless them, can always surprise you. It's best to never forget that." 134 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.) ???? (Jeff Simon)

cloudy with a chance of meatballs 2. With the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Kristen Schaal and Will Forte. Directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. Fun sequel to the original story about a machine that made it rain food. Now, the food is alive. "'Meatballs' is such a treat because they never oversell it. Enjoy the nods to 'Jurassic Park,' 'Willy Wonka' and 'Up,' and see if you catch the little tribute to 'Enemy From Space,' from 1957. Flint is tricked into a mission that brings him back home, where his small island has become a haven for the foodimals. Watermelonphants. Shrimpanzees. Flamangoes. Susheep. Honestly, it would make a great game, coming up with these hybrids. Beautiful to look at, especially in 3-D, and written in a way that is both smart and kind, this second serving of "Meatballs" is simply delicious." 95 minutes. (Rated PG for mild rude humor.) ???o (Melinda Miller)

The Counselor. Starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt. Directed by Ridley Scott. A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking. "A noble experiment that simply doesn't work. It has a great gleamingly decadent look to it and a few scenes of violence that you'll be unable to forget. But you can't pair so much visual style with so much super-literary dialogue the way this film tries to do with Cormac McCarthy's script. (Which, sadly, demands to be read, and not really heard as delivered by Diaz, no matter how witty Javier Bardem almost manages to be.) The final score here is Literature 4 Cinema 2. In a movie, it should be the other way around." 117 minutes. (Rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and profanity.) ??o (Jeff Simon)

Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner and Griffin Dunne in Jean-Marc Vallee's film about a homophobic AIDS victim in the earliest neglectful days of the disease who becomes an effective medical activist. "A tough, grubby movie about the onset of AIDS in America when no one knew much about it except that it was a horrifying new plague killing people. McConaughey lost 47 pounds to play - brilliantly - a different kind of AIDS victim, a low-living, homophobic, electrician and wannabe rodeo star with a penchant for booze, coke, grungy topless joints and the kind of crowded pickup sex that can be arranged there. He's a good ol'boy about whom there is little, if anything, good. He turns into an effective activist to relieve the sufferings of those he used to despise, including Leto in an amazing performance as a transvestite. It's not a major movie, but the commitment of everyone in it is nothing but major." 117 minutes. (Rated R for rough language, nudity, strong sexual activity and drugs.) ??? (Jeff Simon)

Delivery Man. Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt and Cobie Smulders. Directed by Ken Scott. An affable underachiever learns he's fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. "Is it possible to despise a foreign- language film, but enjoy an American remake from the same director? In the case of 'Delivery Man,' the answer is ... Not really. However, the mawkish Vaughn comedy is, in its own way, a slightly superior film than director Ken Scott's off-puttingly titled 'Starbuck.' Scott's first attempt at this story was a French- Canadian smash, with a plot - a slacker is stunned to discover his sperm donations from two decades earlier have resulted in 533 children - seemingly tailor-made for an Americanized treatment. Hollywood adores a high-concept, and lord knows 'Starbuck' had one. It is virtually the same movie. Except, that is, for the casting. And that is what 'Delivery Man' is a better film. No, it cannot be classified as a good film. Comparatively, however, it is a stronger one." 103 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, some drug material, brief violence and language.) ?? (Christopher Schobert)

DESPICABLE ME 2. With the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Miranda Cosgrove. Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal. 98 minutes. (Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.) ??? (Christopher Schobert)

Ender's Game. Starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin. Directed by Gavin Hood. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle for Earth's future. 114 minutes. (Rated PG- 13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material.) ?? (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

enough said. Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini and Catherine Keener. Directed by Nicole Holofcener. A divorced woman pursues a man only to learn he's her new friend's ex-husband. "'Enough Said' is a movie whose lack of underlining and italicizing would seem to be the whole point of it all. In the warmth and off- hand and low-key charm Gandolfini exhibits, it is clear that, in its small way, it showed a new side to his talents that would undoubtedly have grown." 93 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence and partial nudity.) ??? (Jeff Simon)

Free Birds. The voices of Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler and Amy Poehler. Directed by Jimmy Hayward. Two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences to travel back in time and get turkey off the holiday menu for good. 91 minutes. (Rated PG for some action/peril and rude humor.) ?o (McClatchy-Tribute News Service)

Frozen. With the voices of Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff. Animated tale about a fearless optimist who goes on an epic journey to find her sister, whose icy powers have trapped her kingdom in eternal winter. "It's a lighthearted affair, and not nearly dangerous enough. Still, a tween-friendly musical fairy tale based on the particularly dark 'The Snow Queen' is not an easy sell. In its simplification, some of the source material's subversions are left untidy. It's one of those just-go-with-it movies." 108 minutes. (Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.) ??? (Ben Siegel)

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein. Starring Imran Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Anupam Kher. Directed by Punit Malhotra. A shallow guy realizes he's made a big mistake and tries to win back his ex-girlfriend. 150 minutes. (Not rated. In Hindi with subtitles.)

Gravity. Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris. A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive

after an accident leaves them adrift in space. "What happens after the first 20 minutes follows the actors as they try to survive, much less cope. It is wrenchingly powerful and harrowingly imagined. I have nothing but admiration, too, for the story director Alfonso Cuaron's schema is trying to tell about Bullock's character, who is the movie's centerpiece in what is certainly the best performance in a career that has been probably underrated too often. Cuaron is, at first, asking us to live in outer space. And then, as the movie proceeds, he is trying to tell us about the heroine's terrors of inner space." 90 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.) ???? (Jeff Simon)

Homefront. Starring James Franco, Jason Statham and Winona Ryder. Directed by Gary Fleder. A former DEA agent moves his family to a quiet town, where he soon tangles with a local meth druglord. 100 minutes. (Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality.) ?o (McClatchy Tribune Services)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Amanda Plummer and Stanley Tucci in the new installment in the blockbuster fictional series about a starving future world where young people compete in survival games for everyone else's entertainment. "If you know the books or remember the first installment vividly, you'll have to trouble with this. If you don't, you might think all the initial complaining about celebrity life a bit too Kardashian for you but the movie soon turns into another smart, entertaining, engaging and completely worthwhile fantasy. We can see clearly now the truth: it's a cool franchise full of cool people. It deserves whatever blocks it busts." 146 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for violence and action and frightening images.) ??? (Jeff Simon)

Insidious: Chapter 2. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey. The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world. 105 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements.)

JAckass Presents: Bad Grandpa. Starring Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Spike Jonze and Georgina Cates. Directed by Jeff Tremaine. An 86-year-old grandfather travels America with his 8-year-old grandson. 92 minutes. (Rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.)

Last Vegas. Starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Three 60- something friends throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal. 105 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.) ??o (Jeff Simon)

Lee Daniels' The Butler. Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, Robin Williams and Jane Fonda in the story of one African-American man's 30 years in service in the White House during the most tumultuous times of the civil rights movement. "If you can watch all 132 minutes of this movie with completely dry eyes, you may need to have your emotional receptivity and empathy checked. They're on the fritz. It's the right story at the right time told in the right way by the right people. That list is of crucial importance. Here is a movie made by what might be thought of as this country's black show business 'establishment' (with important white participation, too--from co- writer Danny Strong and the late co-producer Laura Ziskin). It's essentially the story of the civil rights movement told with huge broad strokes and no fear whatsoever of the most blatant sentimentality. Yes, it's about the life of a White House butler but it's lived inside the black American history of his time. And both Whitaker and Winfrey give truly exceptional performances." 132 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for language, brutal violence, thematic elements, sexual material, language, disturbing images and smoking). ???? (Jeff Simon)

Oldboy. Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson. When a man who is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement is released without explanation, he begins an obsessive mission to learn who imprisoned him. Directed by Spike Lee. 118 minutes. (Rated R for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity and language.)

one direction: this is us. Documentary and concert film on the popular teen band One Direction. Directed by Morgan Spurlock. 92 minutes. (Rated PG for mild profanity.) ?o (McClatchy Newspapers)

percy jackson: sea of monsters. Starring Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario and Nathan Fillion. To restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends embark on a quest to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising. 106 minutes. (Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language.) ?? (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Philomena. Judi Dench, Steve Coogan and Mare Winningham in Stephen Frears' tale from life about an Irish woman's search after 50 years for a child born out of wedlock and sold to Americans by the Irish convent that took her in. "At the Toronto Film Festival this was the runner-up to '12 Years a Slave' as the audience's favorite film. That's eminently just. It's funny, moving and as sentimental as can be but it never goes 'full-on' into melodramatic contrivance to stoke the audience's affections and outrage. It doesn't need to. It's based on a true story of a BBC reporter between jobs who helps an Irish woman find out the truth about the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years before. It never wallows or panders. It earns every tear honorably." 88 minutes. (Rated PG-13 for language, thematic elements and sexual references.) ??? (Jeff Simon)

Planes. The voices of Dane Cook, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett, John Cleese and Cedric the Entertainer in Klay Hall's animated feature about a little cropduster named Dusty who wants to enter the "Wings Around the Globe" air race and compete with the bigger, faster planes. "A pleasant surprise. Not a huge one, for sure. But there's something appealingly open-aired and international about this version of the 'Cars' template tale in which a lowly little cropduster yearns to compete in the Worldwide air race with the bigger planes. Unlike the NASCAR cheese of 'Cars,' the aerial scenes here have some real beauty and so do they aerial views of the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas. It's modestly exhilarating for one and all. It made the kids at the screening reasonably happy and the adults didn't feel sorely burdened. A win-win as such movies go." 92 minutes. (Rated PG for action intensity.) ??? (Jeff Simon)

Prisoners. Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano in Denis Villeneuve's acclaimed and superbly performed thriller about a couple of distraught fathers who take the law into their own hands when their daughters are kidnapped and the police investigation seems to have stalled. "The movie is so much more intense than what people expect of our ordinary stylized wisecracking thrillers - especially when their emotions are of the canned TV variety - that some people laugh at the most inappropriate times at the film. It's the contrast between the film's overpowering emotional naturalism and the sudden bursts of its characters' impotent frenzy that people react to with nervous laughter. American films have taught us too well it seems, which is why powerful and brilliant films like this are needed to un- teach us." 153 minutes. (Rated R for violence, language and extremely brutal torture scenes.) ???o (Jeff Simon)

Ram-Leela. Starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. When two people from warring families meet and fall in love, they have to fight to live their dreams. 155 minutes. (Not rated. In Hindi with subtitles.)

The Smurfs 2. Starring Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays. The Smurfs team up with their human friends to rescue Smurfette, who has been kidnapped by Gargamel because she knows the secret spell to turn his newest creation, creatures called the Naughties - into Smurfs. 105 minutes. (Rated PG for some rude humor and action.)

THOR: THE DARK WORLD. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. Thor fights to protect his loved ones and the Nine Realms - including Earth - from the destruction of the Dark Elves. "Too much storytelling threatens to drag down this film that is equally a sequel to both 'Thor' and 'The Avengers.' Thankfully, the film gets a jump-start by unleashing Loki and letting the two brothers go at each other as only these two can. Add in a few more scenes of Stellan Skarsgard as the professor with "a god in his brain," and tender moments between Thor and his lady love, and you've got yourself a film." 111 minutes. (Rated PG-13 some suggestive content and intense sci-fi action/violence.) ??? (Toni Ruberto)

12 Years a Slave. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson, and Alfre Woodard in Steve McQueen's adaptation of 1853 narrative of a free black man in Saratoga who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. "When you consider that a film as aesthetically pioneering as D. W. Griffith's silent film 'Birth of a Nation' and as commercially monumental as 'Gone With the Wind' have both purported to show as American slavery, the achievement of '12 Years a Slave' is nothing less than the long overdue triumph of cinematic justice itself. It's an immensely powerful film and brilliantly acted by Ejiofor and Fassbender. For all that, it is sometimes tough to watch. But then this is a film American films have needed since they began to exist. Decades of loathsome exploitation and euphemism needed to be exploded for all our sakes. Finally they have." 133 minutes. (Rated R for a great deal of cruelty and violence, some sex and nudity.) ???o (Jeff Simon)

we're the millers. Starring Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts. A veteran pot dealer creates a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico. 110 minutes. (Rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.) ??? (Aidan Ryan)

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