Aug. 22--"THE BUTLER" (PG 13)
3 OUT OF 4 STARS
FOREST WHITAKER, OPRAH WINFREY, CUBA GOODING JR., TERRENCE HOWARD
Thanks to a compelling performance by Forest Whitaker and a historic backdrop of civil rights change, this is one of those films people clap for when the credits roll.
That said, I would have enjoyed it much more had the focus strayed less from the film's main character, Cecil Gaines, who served eight presidents in his tenure at the White House.
Instead, the script keeps hopping to the historic and violent struggles that accompanied changes in civil rights, often using a freedom-riding son of Gaines to shift focus.
While that puts the black butler's career into context, it brings with it the imposed weight of "important history," which takes away from the quiet dignity and the personal struggles at the center of the film.
Thankfully, there's enough of that to make this a winner.
The cast is solid, with Oprah Winfrey doing a fair job as Gaines' wife, although she's such an icon that it's hard not to think of her as a talk-show host.
If anyone deserves an Oscar so far this season, it's Whitaker, whose portrayal of grace and strength in this ultimately triumphant film is superb.
Rated PG 13 for violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking. 92 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"PARANOIA" (PG 13)
2.5 OUT OF 4 STARS
LIAM HEMSWORTH, GARY OLDMAN, AMBER HEARD, HARRISON FORD
I enjoyed this lightly attended film, thanks largely to Liam Hemsworth's performance as a young worker blackmailed into trouble.
Critics who hated it said the story of industrial espionage was just too thin to care about.
Rated PG 13 for some sexuality, violence and language. 106 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"JOBS" (PG 13)
1.5 OUT OF 4 STARS
ASHTON KUTCHER, JOSH GAD, DERMOT MULRONEY, LUKAS HAAS
A note to up-and-coming film producers: In biopics, it's more important to have a lead actor who can act than one who just looks the part.
Unfortunately, the lead actor chosen here Ashton Kutcher isn't yet that actor.
Just as problematic is the film's weak script. It never provides any real clue about what made Apple creator Steve Jobs tick.
The historic details are all there: the long hair, the acid and the acid rock. But it all feels perfunctory, with Kutcher a solid comedic actor failing to capture any depth in Jobs' emotional upheavals.
Rated PG 13 for some drug content and brief strong language. 122 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"KICK-ASS 2" (R)
1 OUT OF 4 STARS
AARON TAYLOR JOHNSON, CHLO GRACE MORETZ, CHRISTOPHER MINTZ PLASSE
While the first film about these young superheroes had moments both funny and cool, this is just a sad rerun, and one that's way too violent for most viewers.
It also fails to capture any of the first film's allure. Without young dorks trying to become superheros, how cool can it be?
Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity. 103 min. [MC, RA, RF]
(c)2013 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)
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