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RECOMMENDED

AMOUR

Grant Park. PG

Oscar-nominated for best picture this year, this quietly intense film by Michael Haneke examines the lives of an elderly couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) thrown into turmoil when she suffers a series of strokes, leaving him to struggle to care for her at home. In film, the visual language of love tends to be sex, but Haneke offers a bold and beautiful reconsideration. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

STARTING friday

BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING

Cinematheque. 14A

This is a droll documentary portrait of Wayne White, an artist whose comic sensibility led to a stint on Pee-wee's Playhouse and, more recently, a new career altering ordinary landscape paintings with extraordinary messages. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

BLOOD PRESSURE

Cinematheque. 14A

Winnipeg director Sean Garrity's latest is a Toronto-set puzzle in which a respectable suburban mom starts to get messages from an anonymous admirer who compels her to carry out a series of mysterious tasks.

DARK SKIES

Kildonan Place, Polo Park, Towne. PG

A family suffers weird and unwelcome phenomenon in their home, only to learn an alien presence might be behind it all.

SNITCH

McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A

Dwayne Johnson plays a regular guy who turns undercover cop against a Mexican drug cartel in a desperate bid to save his son from a trumped-up drugs charge.

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The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.

ARGO

Grant Park. 14A

Ben Affleck doesn't let facts get in the way of a good story with this based-on-fact tale of a CIA agent sent to rescue six American embassy workers trapped in the Canadian consulate during the hostage crisis in Iran by posing as a film producer scouting for Persian locations for a science-fiction movie. The film shifts the focus of heroism away from the Canadians and onto American intelligence operatives, who kind of caused the mess in the first place. But as long as you remember that "based on a true story" is not the same things as "a true story," Argo is a fun ride. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES

McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG

A couple of teens endure an odd first love when he (Alden Ehrenreich) has disturbing dreams about a witchy beauty and she (Alice Englert) starts to learn about her supernatural family history. The one-liners drawl from the lips of the South Carolina characters like Spanish moss dripping from the oaks in a script so witty it attracted Oscar winners Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons and Oscar nominee Viola Davis in supporting roles. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

DJANGO UNCHAINED

McGillivray, Polo Park. 18A

Quentin Tarantino's latest stars Jamie Foxx as a freed slave who joins up with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from the decadent plantation of a depraved southern gentleman (Leonardo DiCaprio). It's a runaway stagecoach of a movie, suspenseful, shocking and grimly funny. As always with Tarantino, it is wildly referential. (Hey, that zoom shot is right out of The Wild Bunch! Hey, I recognize that music from Two Mules for Sister Sara!) But as usual, the disparate references add up to something unique. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG

This animated comedy follows alien astronaut Scorch Supernova (voiced by Brendan Fraser) as he travels to Earth on a rescue mission only to fall into a trap. Not reviewed.

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne. 14A

Bruce Willis takes a feeble kick at the yippi-ki-ay franchise as perpetually-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time cop John McClane, this time in Russia, where he fights for survival alongside his estranged son (Jai Courteney). Willis's character has finally made the leap from regular guy to supercop, and a hokey espionage plot only serves to further the franchise from its roots. 'Ö'Ö

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS

Polo Park, St. Vital. 18A

The siblings of the classic fairy tale grow up to be vengeful anti-witch mercenaries (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) in this oddity directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow). The fairy-tale-as-adult-horror-story could have been worse (see: Red Riding Hood), but the steampunk production design and gory violence can't elevate a lazily cobbled-together script. 'Ö'Ö1/2

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Polo Park, St. Vital. PG

Director Peter Jackson revisits Lord of the Rings turf with another three-part epic, albeit one based on a much slimmer story than the first trilogy. Martin Freeman plays the young Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf who comes to the Shire with a mission to help restore a dwarf kingdom to an heir to the throne. While it feels good to be back in Middle-earth, one can't help the niggling feeling that Jackson is padding out this story in a transparent attempt to duplicate LOTR's multi-billion-dollar box office. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

IDENTITY THIEF

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A

A businessman (Jason Bateman) takes matters into his own hands when he discovers his identity has been stolen, only to discover an unlikeliest of perpetrators (Melissa McCarthy). McCarthy and Bateman bring their collective charm to bear, but as an escapist comedy, you probably have less stressful options, such as staying at home and paying bills. 'Ö'Ö1/2

A LATE QUARTET

Globe. 14A

After 25 years, the members of a successful string quartet (including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener) face dissolution when one of the members announces his intentions to retire in this high-minded melodrama about musicians who take solace in the perfection of music when their personal lives are so much less than sublime. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

LINCOLN

Globe, Grant Park. 14A

Steven Spielberg succeeds at getting under the skin of American icon Abraham Lincoln from the perspective of his singular genius as he negotiates the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery, an effort that required prodigious political skill. Daniel Day-Lewis offers an Oscar-nominated performance. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

MAMA

Polo Park. PG

A couple (Jessica Chastain and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) takes custody of a pair of long-lost feral sisters, only to find they have been accompanied by a spectral protector in this thriller produced by Guillermo del Toro. Expectations for a ghost story released in January may be minimal, but this particular thriller boasts inspired touches of visual poetry along with the terror. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

LES MISERABLES

Grant Park. PG

The hit musical finally gets its big-screen treatment as Victor Hugo's tragic novel comes to life with the help of Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe as, respectively, the fugitive Jean Valjean and the relentless Inspector Javert. While this may not be a feel-good movie, it's doubtful there has been any movie so invested with such raw feeling, especially a musical. Anne Hathaway's performance of I Dreamed a Dream is one for the ages. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

QUARTET

Grant Park. PG

Maggie Smith stars as a former opera diva who stirs things up at a retirement home for musicians, whose numbers include her own embittered ex-husband (Tom Courtenay) in this tasteful, safe drama directed by, of all people, Dustin Hoffman. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

SAFE HAVEN

Globe, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. PG

A formulaic film based on a formulaic novel by Nicholas Sparks, this one has a beautiful stranger (Julianne Hough) who arrives in a North Carolina town under suspicious circumstances, only to fall for a handsome widower (Josh Duhamel). It's as similar to every other Nicholas Sparks movie out there, which may please the novelist's fans, but makes for a bit of an ordeal for the rest of us. 'Ö'Ö

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park. 14A

Bradley Cooper plays an unemployed bipolar school teacher who moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) planning to reunite with his estranged wife, only to be distracted by a young widow (Jennifer Lawrence) with issues of her own. Director David O. Russell returns to the same eccentric/blue-collar milieu as The Fighter but a climactic dance competition doesn't have the same impact as a prize fight, and Bradley Cooper doesn't have the same impact as Mark Wahlberg. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

WARM BODIES

Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A

In a post-apocalyptic world, a zombie who calls himself R (Nicholas Hoult) struggles to overcome his brain-eating ways when he falls for a plucky human survivor (Teresa Palmer). This is no Twilight with zombies. But even devoid of any serious sexual heat, Warm Bodies prevails on a plucky romantic spirit that strives to demonstrate love conquers all ... even undead cannibalism. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

ZERO DARK THIRTY

McGillivray. 14A

Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) directs this dramatic chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden through the eyes of an obsessive CIA agent (Jessica Chastain). It may seem shapeless compared to the average war/espionage movie, but the gist of this compelling drama is that war has changed and war movies must change accordingly. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2013 ??65524

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