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THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED

Cinematheque. G

Perhaps the oldest surviving animated feature film, this 1926 work by German animator Lotte Reiniger has inspired contemporary films such as Andy Smetanka's animated contributions to My Winnipeg and the "Tale of the Three Brothers" in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Reiniger's take on The Arabian Nights features a soundtrack performed live by Julia Ryckman, a classically trained opera singer and piano player and front-woman of post-punk rockers This Hisses. Thursday night, Feb. 28 only.

STARTING friday

BARBARA

Cinematheque. PG

Director Christian Petzold's film is set in the twilight of the Iron Curtain era, where an accomplished Berlin physician, banished to a rural hospital as punishment, is torn between the promise of escape across the border and her growing love for a fellow colleague.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

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

Director Bryan Singer (X-Men) directs this fantasy about a likely lad (Nicholas Hoult) who ventures up a beanstalk to save a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) and, oh yes, take on a race of malevolent giants.

THE LAST EXORCISM: PART 2

Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A

Nell (Ashley Bell), the possessed girl who predicated a satanic conflagration in the 2010 found-footage thriller The Last Exorcism, tries to move on with her life, only to find herself back in demonic clutches.

THE MOVIE OUT HERE

McGillivray, Towne. 14A

This semi-raunchy comedy about a boozy fundraiser to save a ski shop may be a bid to be the new Animal House or (more likely) is a feature-length ad for Kokanee beer, based on its commercials.

21 AND OVER

Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. Subject to classification.

On the night before he is scheduled to take a life-altering medical school interview, a dutiful student (Justin Chon) is taken out for a debauched night on the town with his friends to celebrate his 21st birthday, with catastrophic results.

TOWER

Cinematheque. Subject to classification.

This Canadian feature debut from director Kazik Radwanski is a study of a solitary 34-year-old man who lives in his parents' basement who finds himself falling into an intimate relationship with a woman.

NOW PLAYING

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

AMOUR

Grant Park. PG

An Oscar winner for best foreign film this year, this quietly intense work 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

ARGO

Grant Park. 14A

Ben Affleck doesn't let facts get in the way of a good story with this Oscar-winning 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

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. Call it a horror mash-up: one third haunted house movie, one-third demonic possession movie and one-third alien invasion movie. Doubtless a few people believe in ghosts, demons and extraterrestrials. But even in the context of such hoke, it's a bit of a stretch to ask us to believe they all exist in the same package. 'Ö'Ö

DJANGO UNCHAINED

McGillivray, Towne. 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

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital. 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. 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

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-winning performance. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

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

Globe. PG

Maggie Smith stars as a former opera diva who stirs things up at a retirement home for retired 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

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

Globe, 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

SNITCH

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

Dwayne Johnson plays a regular guy who turns undercover cop to get the goods on a Mexican drug cartel in a desperate bid to save his son from a trumped-up drug charge. While the movie offers a refreshingly clear-headed view on the inequities and absurdities of the war on drugs, casting pumped up he-man Johnson as a regular guy is just plain absurd. They might as well have cast Roger Rabbit and dubbed the movie Undercover Bunny. 'Ö'Ö1/2

WARM BODIES

Polo Park, St. Vital. 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 28, 2013 ??65524

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