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Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMOVIES -

NEW RE­LEASES

The Hob­bit: The Deso­la­tion of Smaug: Be­hold the sec­ond in­stal­ment of Peter Jack­son’s tril­ogy of movies. This time, Bilbo (Martin Free­man), with Gan­dalf (Ian McKellen) and the dwarves, sol­diers on, avoid­ing the dan­gers of wood elves and big spiders be­fore ar­riv­ing at Lonely Moun­tain, the home of the men­ac­ing trea­sure­hoard­ing dragon, Smaug. ★★★★★ Es­cape Plan: Sylvester Stal­lone and Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger can still carry an ac­tion flick, al­beit one as flimsy as this. Yet there is mod­est plea­sure to be had watch­ing the Ital­ian Stal­lion, at 67, and the 66-year-old Aus­trian Oak de­liv­er­ing jus­tice to those who would dis­rupt their re­tire­ment. ★★★ The Fifth Es­tate: As a piece of filmed en­ter­tain­ment, this shows why things like au­tho­rial point of view and vis­ual sen­si­bil­ity are es­sen­tial in bring­ing such sto­ries to life. Un­like its pre­de­ces­sor, The So­cial Net­work, this film doesn’t have much of ei­ther. ★★★ Se­rial Teach­ers (Les Profs): This glossy and brain­less comic book adap­ta­tion fol­lows the tra­vails of seven first-rate losers who, hav­ing failed in al­most ev­ery school they’ve taught in, are hired to save the sink­ing test scores of Lycee Jules Ferry. ★★★ Tyler Perry’s A Madea’s Christ­mas: Madea dis­penses her unique form of hol­i­day spirit on a ru­ral town when she’s coaxed into help­ing a friend pay her daugh­ter a sur­prise visit for Christ­mas. Not re­viewed

ON CIR­CUIT

Mud: As the slip­pery cen­tral fig­ure of Jeff Ni­chols’s richly ob­served comin­gof-age fa­ble, Matthew McConaughey in­jects a note of dan­ger into a bayou noir story of youth­ful ad­ven­ture that is lyri­cal yet sober­ing. ★★★★ En­der’s Game: There’s a moral heft that lends bal­last to this sci­ence-fic­tion ad­ven­ture about fu­tur­is­tic mil­i­tary academy cadets. ★★★★ Young and Beau­ti­ful: The mys­ter­ies of ado­les­cence, and in par­tic­u­lar the sense of con­trol and power that can ac­com­pany an at­trac­tive girl’s dis­cov­ery of her sex­u­al­ity, are ex­plored with hyp­notic fo­cus. ★★★★ Home­front: A for­mer DEA agent (Ja­son Statham) seek­ing a quiet life tan­gles with a small-town drug lord (James Franco) in this pulpy, over-thetop thriller. It’s a guilty plea­sure, in a low-rent, South­ern Gothic way. ★★★ Black Na­tiv­ity: Sen­sory plea­sures abound in this story of fam­ily, faith and re­demp­tion. As the film opens, the teenage pro­tag­o­nist, Langs­ton, is run­ning amok on the streets of Bal­ti­more. The film is grounded by For­est Whi­taker and An­gela Bas­sett’s per­for­mances as Langs­ton’s strict, God-fear­ing grand­par­ents. ★★★ Free Birds: Owen Wil­son, Woody Har­rel­son and Amy Poehler lend their voices to a trio of an­i­mated tur­keys de­ter­mined to re­move the tra­di­tional bird from the in­au­gu­ral Thanks­giv­ing menu. Al­though it sel­dom ap­proaches the in­spi­ra­tion of its plucky premise, Free Birds avoids be­ing branded a hol­i­day tur­key. ★★★ Man­dela: Long Walk to Free­dom: This has the po­ten­tial to stir emo­tions, but it sac­ri­fices his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy for the sake of drama. ★★★★ Schuks! Your Coun­try Needs You: Com­bin­ing a loose script with Leon Schus­ter’s sig­na­ture Can­did Cam­era gags, this film adds a fa­ther-and-son el­e­ment. The film’s gags are slightly more palat­able than usual. ★★ Enough Said: This marks one of the fi­nal ap­pear­ances by the late James Gan­dolfini, play­ing a frumpy aca­demic who em­barks on an awk­ward ro­mance with a masseuse (Ju­lia Louis-Drey­fus), who, like Al­bert, is di­vorced with a teen daugh­ter. The film sparkles within and with­out. ★★★★ The Hunger Games: Catch­ing Fire: The sec­ond in­stal­ment of the fran­chise fur­ther ac­cen­tu­ates the Or­wellian el­e­ments in the Suzanne Collins nov­els from which it is adapted, and ben­e­fits from another full-blooded per­for­mance by Jen­nifer Lawrence. Yet, Catch­ing Fire is caught some­where be­tween night­mar­ish po­lit­i­cal al­le­gory and adolescent es­capism. ★★★ Thor: The Dark World 3D: Di­rec­tor Alan Tay­lor’s valiant at­tempt to bal­ance the ac­tion with hu­mour is helped by Tom Hid­dle­ston’s sleekly malev­o­lent per­for­mance as Loki. ★★★

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