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MOVIES

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AMERICAN HUSTLE

McGillivray. 14A. 138 minutes.

Director David O. Russell follows up last year's unexpected hit Silver Linings Playbook with a movie more deserving of its accolades, recycling two of that film's stars -- Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence -- paired with Christian Bale and Amy Adams of The Fighter. Russell's take on the Abscam affair offers riches of deception and danger, with terrific performances by Cooper and Lawrence as genuinely horrible people. FOUR STARS 

 

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Grant Park. 14A. 121 minutes.

In the grand tradition of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill, playwright Tracy Letts introduces another dysfunctional American family in the Westons. Fire-breathing matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) holds savage court when her three daughters (Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicolson) show up to comfort their newly widowed, cancer-afflicted mom. Trimmed from its three-hour and 20-minute stage incarnation, the downbeat drama retains its cathartic humour, but two hours of shrill tantrums and plate-smashing hysterics are overpowering. THREE STARS (Reviewed by Kevin Prokosh)

 

DIVERGENT

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 140 minutes.

In a dystopian future society, every citizen at age 16 is designated for one of five social factions but Tris (Shailene Woodley) discovers she doesn't fit into any one category, which places her life in danger from the clique-oriented powers that be. While an undistinguished piece of speculative pop fiction, the premise is at least more interesting and credible than The Hunger Games, and Woodley proves to be a sympathetic heroine. THREE STARS

ENEMY

Polo Park. 14A. 87 minutes.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a troubled history professor who realizes he has a doppelganger in this unsettling and hallucinogenic film by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners), boasting one of the most sublimely strange surprise endings in recent memory. THREE AND A HALF STARS

 

THE GREAT BEAUTY

Globe. 14A. 132 minutes.

This Italian Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film stars Toni Serville as an aging writer living in Rome and still coasting off a literary success from decades earlier, now in crisis over his life as a party-goer and man about town. Living up to its name, it's a film that is luxuriously, seductively, stunningly cinematic. FOUR STARS (Reviewed by Kenneth Turan)

 

THE LEGO MOVIE

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 101 minutes.

An ordinary Lego figure (voiced by Chris Pratt) is enlisted to lead a force of Lego good guys (including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) against an evil megalomaniac plotting to glue the Lego universe together. This wild animated feature may appeal to kids, but adults will be heartened by its potent satiric undercurrent and its championing of creativity. THREE STARS

 

THE MONUMENTS MEN

Grant Park. PG. 118 minutes.

A platoon of art experts is assembled to retrieve stolen works of art from the Nazis in this fact-based combat drama starring and directed by George Clooney. It's a great idea for a war movie, but the screenplay feels a few drafts short of completion, with a sketchy narrative that never achieves any momentum in addition to Clooney's heavy-handed messaging: Art is good. TWO AND A HALF STARS

MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 93 minutes.

This studio-produced animated epic, based on Jay Ward's more humbly satiric 'toon from the '60s, gives us the return of the time-travelling genius canine Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) attempting to undo the temporal damage done by his adopted son Sherman when he used their time-travel "Wabac" machine to impress a girl. Fans of the old Jay Ward TV show may take longer in adjusting to the new voices, but the witty word play and the pull-out-all-stops supporting cast pay off. THREE STARS (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

MUPPETS MOST WANTED

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 107 minutes.

Kermit the Frog falls victim to a look-alike international criminal named Constantine, who takes his place on a Muppets tour of Europe while Kermit is trapped in a Russian gulag under the command of a musical-theatre-loving prison guard (Tina Fey). A slight comedown from its more inspired predecessor, this is still an entertaining, silly time for kids and their parents (although they won't always be laughing at the same thing). THREE STARS

 

NEED FOR SPEED

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 131 minutes.

An ace mechanic and driver (Aaron Paul) participates in a reckless cross-country race to clear his name against the unsavoury professional driver (Dominic Cooper) who let him take the fall for a crime he didn't commit. Because its admittedly impressive stunts were all achieved without use of CGI, Need for Speed stakes a claim to roots in movies of the '60s and '70s (Bullitt, The French Connection or Vanishing Point), but it's really here to rake in a little of the gearhead cash the Fast and Furious franchise is making by the truckload. ONE AND A HALF STAR

 

NON-STOP

Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 107 minutes.

An air marshal (Liam Neeson) finds himself in the hot seat on a transatlantic flight when an anonymous psycho threatens to kill one person on board every 20 minutes. In the movie's third act, the implausibility factor hits an altitude higher than 40,000 feet, but Neeson holds the centre well by virtue of his physically imposing presence and tragic demeanour. THREE STARS

 

PHILOMENA

Grant Park. 14A. 98 minutes.

A political journalist (Steve Coogan) gets emotionally involved when he helps an older woman (Judi Dench) search for the son she forcibly gave up for adoption decades earlier. Philomena is a standard-issue, little-old-lady tour de force for Oscar-winner Dench, but it's a delicious change of pace for snarky funnyman Steve Coogan. FOUR STARS (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

RIDE ALONG

Polo Park, Towne. 14A. 100 minutes

Kevin Hart stars as a security guard who accepts the challenge when the cop brother (Ice Cube) of his intended bride invites him to accompany him on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta. Even by the standards of the well-worn buddy-cop genre, this is a lazy movie, insulting the audience by letting us stay five steps ahead of the hack screenwriters. TWO STARS (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

SON OF GOD

Polo Park, St. Vital. 14A. 138 minutes.

The stand-alone story of Jesus Christ is adapted for the big screen from last year's History Channel mini-series The Bible, with Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado as the titular scion. It's too brutal at times, but it has a redemptive optimism about it that makes the brutality go down easier. THREE STARS (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 18A. 103 minutes.

This sequel to Zack Snyder's 300 offers stylized, bloody, seagoing action concurrent to the events of the first movie. It involves a raging female admiral (Eva Green) fighting for Persia against the Greeks, led by the formidable General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton). It's sexy, violent and stylish, which certainly makes for an improvement over Pompeii. THREE STARS

 

VERONICA MARS

McGillivray. PG. 108 minutes.

This crowd-funded feature film catches us up with the sleuth (Kristen Bell), a high school-age crime-solver in the original TV series, now a New Yorker obliged to return to the town of Neptune for a 10-year high school reunion (and to solve a murder in which the chief suspect is her ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). For all its fun flourishes and tepid overfamiliarity, fans are going to dig this. It is, after all, the movie they paid for. THREE STARS (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2014 A13

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