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Movie Reviews

A bigger budget means louder, not scarier, thrills in this horror prequel

I don’t think of myself as a horror wimp. I’ve seen it all, and I’ll watch the sequels. That said, the first Paranormal Activity creeped me out. Days later an unexplained noise or a movement in my peripheral vision would cause me to tense and search for its demonic origins. Paranormal Activity 2 is a worthy step in the series, but it nowhere nears the original’s scare-power.

This meditative speculation on the spiritual realm is easily the quietest death-minded movie in the Cineplex this Halloween.

Three strangers are wrestling with death. Marie (Cécile De France: Mesrine: Killer Instinct), a French journalist, is revived after nearly being consumed by the Indian Ocean tsunami and emerges shaken by her brush with the afterlife. Marcus, a British schoolboy, is left rudderless when his twin brother Jason is stolen by tragedy (Frankie and George McLaren in their debut). And George (Matt Damon: Green Zone) is a genuine psychic talent who laments his burden of communing with the dead.

Superspy sages come out of retirement swinging in this snappy comic action flick.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis: Cop Out) is a lonely guy, quietly whiling away retirement with regular phone calls to his federal pension agent, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker: TV’s Weeds). Dimmed verve gets a jolt, though, when a hit squad comes crashing through his home in the dead of night. Suddenly he’s crisscrossing the country, fighting off a kill order and CIA hotshot William (Karl Urban: Star Trek) even while connecting with mothballed allies and assets. Together they’ll crack a few heads and break the conspiracy that would have them dead. Thus the fun ensues.

An upstart horse owner rocks the racing world in this capable equine sports drama.

Penny (Diane Lane: Nights in Rodanthe) is a Denver housewife returned to the family’s Virginia horse farm by her mother’s death. She means to stay just long enough to set the stables in order. But Penny’s equestrian id returns full force, and her passion flares when she’s gifted with the prize foal that will become Secretariat. She’s hooked.

Harvard alums battle for ownership of a legacy in this smart Silicon Valley pastiche.

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg: Zombieland) is a socially stunted Harvard sophomore. Just dumped by his girlfriend, he gets drunk, lashes out in a blog, hacks for photos of Ivy League co-eds and creates a hotness rating website that crashes Harvard’s network. The misadventure stirs up trouble but also catches the attention of alpha twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both Armie Hammer: Spring Breakdown), who recruit him into developing their own dating website.

Owls battle and soar in this beautiful tangle.

Soren (Jim Sturgess: 21) is a young barn owl from the forest of Tyto. The dreamer is just learning to spread his wings when he and his brother are kidnapped by agents of the Pure Ones, an evil flock of hawkish owls who snatch owlets for conscripts. It’s up to Soren, bolstered by bedtime stories about legendary heroes, to escape brainwashing and fly to the Guardians of Ga’Hoole to mount a rescue. His quest for help may forge Soren as a legend himself, as he strives to free the owlets and short-circuit one evil owl’s planned reign of terror.

A Bah-ston robbah tries to go straight in this engaging and pulpy crime tale

  In the first five minutes of The Town, a group of precision criminals, donning skeleton masks, knock over a bank. Everything is going smoothly until someone triggers the silent alarm. The slick crew devolves quickly into violence and kidnapping as they make a sloppy getaway with the loot and terrified bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall: Please Give).

An action film with a message fails to deliver either.

Danny Trejo (Predators) is a badass. His 20-year career is based on the fact that he is the most intimidating man in just about any room. Trejo’s visceral presence inspired filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) to make his frequent collaborator an action movie star. At 66, however, Trejo is rapidly moving from grizzled action hero to curmudgeon.
  In the backwoods of Depression-ravaged Tennessee, grizzled hermit Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) emerges after 40 years of solitude. Though he’s lived with only mules and dogs for company, the town rumor mill has already invented stories of Felix that range from him killing men in fights to shooting trespassing children. But Felix doesn’t want to kill. He wants to party.

A criminal family falls to shambles around the ears of a shell-shocked teen in this smart and bruising drama.

Joshua (newcomer James Frecheville) is a 17-year-old at the seam of the Melbourne underworld. When his mother died, he moved in with his uncles, a trio of criminals led by eldest Pope (Ben Mendelsohn: Knowing). It’s not a very happy place to be. Tensions simmer as an aggressive police task force puts the squeeze on the family, boiling over when a family friend is gunned down by renegade cops.