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RECOMMENDED

BLOOD PRESSURE

Grant Park. 14A

On the surface, Winnipeg director Sean Garrity's Toronto-lensed film resembles a tawdry, late-night-cable erotic thriller with the premise of a respectable working mom (Michelle Giroux) who receives anonymous "assignments" from an unknown admirer. But Garrity shoots for stimulation of a more cerebral order and achieves that with intelligent direction and crisp editing, and solid performances, especially by Giroux. Actor Jonas Chernick will be in the cinema Friday to participate in a Q&A following the screenings at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

STARTING friday

DEAD MAN DOWN

Polo Park. 14A

Niels Arden Oplev, who directed the original (and superior) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, makes his Hollywood debut with Tattoo star Noomi Rapace as a damaged woman who blackmails a hitman (Colin Farrell) into a mission of revenge.

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

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

This prequel to The Wizard of Oz posits how a travelling magician of dubious character (James Franco) lands in the magical world of Oz, where he is greeted as both a saviour and a menace by a trio of witches (Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz).

STARTING SATURday

THE END OF TIME

Cinematheque. 14A

Canadian documentarian Peter Mettler assigns himself the task of representing the nature of time itself with this far-reaching film that leaps from a Hindu burial rite to disintegrating inner-city Detroit to a facility in Switzerland where scientists are trying to reproduce the conditions of the Big Bang.

NOW PLAYING

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

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

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

McGillivray, 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 shift the franchise from its roots. '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

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, 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. A solid, unpretentious entry in the busy bedtime story genre. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

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. Not reviewed.

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

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 (Oscar winner 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 drugs 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 Dwayne 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

21 AND OVER

Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A

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.

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-Qaida 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 March 7, 2013 ??65524

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