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'The Smurfs 2"  2.5stars

The youngest skewing movie of the summer -- more so than "Turbo" or "Monsters University" -- came with a message children and adults can embrace.

As wise Papa Smurf counsels: "It doesn't matter where you came from. What matters is who you choose to be."

That's a lesson Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry) and Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), now a dad but still smarting from the long-ago departure of his father and arrival of his stepfather, must learn in this sequel to the 2011 blockbuster blend of live action and animation.

Evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) is back and playing to sold-out houses who love his sorcery act. He engineers the kidnapping of Smurfette as part of a plot to win world domination. He sends one of his Smurf-like creations -- he calls them "the Naughties" -- to grab Smurfette.

She is transported to Paris, where Gargamel uses threats and tricks to try to get Smurfette to give him a secret formula that could lead to Smurf-a-geddon.

"The Smurfs 2" gives both Smurfette and Patrick crises to work through, within the confines of a PG movie with blue cartoony creatures.

The Smurfs took Manhattan in the first movie, but this time, they pop up all over Paris, which lends a note of sophistication amid the jokes about blue butts.

Rated PG for some rude humor and action.

-- Post-Gazette

"The Wolverine" 

A cocktail of action-movie staples, "The Wolverine" combines the bracingly adult flavor of everyone's favorite mutant antihero -- tortured, boozy X-Man Logan, aka Wolverine -- with the fizzy effervescence of several mixers from the cabinet of Japanese genre cinema: noirish yakuza crime drama, samurai derring-do and ninja acrobatics.

It goes down smooth but packs a punch, erasing the memory of Marvel's last foray into the Wolverine mythos, the 2009 stinker "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."

After a brief prologue, the film opens on the titular hero (Hugh Jackman), who is now a virtually homeless alcoholic living in a squalid encampment in the woods, where he's plagued by nightmares starring his late lady love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Fans of the "X-Men" series of movies will recall that Logan was forced to kill Jean at the end of the final chapter of the "X-Men" trilogy, 2006's "The Last Stand."

In short order, however, our hero is on his way to Tokyo, escorted by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a magenta-haired Harajuku girl whose powers of persuasion are enhanced by her skill with a samurai sword. A mutant with the ability to foretell people's deaths, she's a great character, hinting at a soul as dark as Logan's.

It's too bad the film doesn't do more with her; she and Logan are kindred spirits.

Extras include "Inspiration: A Ronin's Journey" featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: alternate ending, X-Men set tour, "The Path of the Ronin" featurette and interactive "Second Screen" experience. A four-disc Unleashed Extended Edition also includes a 3-D version, extended, unrated cut (with an additional 30 minutes) and commentary by director James Mangold.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.

-- The Washington Post

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones"

Based on a series of novels by Cassandra Clare, "The Mortal Instruments" story feels like a mash-up of "Twilight" and "Harry Potter."

The main protagonist is Clary (Lily Collins), a seemingly typical teenager who begins drawing strange symbols in her sleep and seeing violent images that her best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan), cannot. It turns out Clary is a shadow hunter, a half-human, half-angel predestined to track and kill demons. Her realization coincides with the disappearance of her mother (Lena Headey), another such vigilante who's been masquerading as an artist in Brooklyn.

To find her mom, Clary teams with Simon and another shadow hunter, the snarky, smoldering Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower). Their quest coincides with the demon-killer network's larger goal of finding a magical cup that could save or destroy humanity; Clary's mother knew its whereabouts, but the information may also be hiding somewhere in Clary's cloudy memory.

Extras include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurette, a featurette on the stunts and the cast's transformation into Shadowhunters and "Almost is Never Enough" music video by Ariana Grande. Also, on Blu-ray: "Interactive Lineage Tracker," making-of featurette with Collins and Bower on their roles as Clary and Jace, "Entering the Shadow World" creatures featurette and "Into the Shadows: From Book to Screen."

Contains fantasy violence, action and some suggestive content.

-- The Washington Post

Also this week: 

* "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman": It's been 37 years since this syndicate series debuted and the comedy remains as crisp and funny as ever. That's because of the wickedly funny writing used to poke fun at the soap opera world through the often foggy eyes of Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser). This send up of daytime television from Norman Lear works on every level because of the strong supporting cast of Mary Kay Place, Greg Mullavey, Debralee Scott and Dody Goodman. Included in the DVD set are all 325 episodes.

* "Drinking Buddies": Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick star.

* "Simpsons: Season 16": Animated adventures of the wildest family in Springfield.

* "Transformers Prime: Season Three -- Beast Hunters": Contains all 13 episodes of the animated adventure series.

* "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane": Amber Heard stars.

* "Galactic Adventures: 3D Sun/Mars 3D": Double feature that looks at the universe beyond Earth.

* "The Perfect Wedding": Marriage plans get complicated. Eric Aragon stars.

* "Doctor Who -- The Doctors Revisted: Ninth-Eleventh": Features Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith as the Doctor.

* "A Christmas Tree Miracle": A family finds the Christmas spirit they lost.

* "Argo Extended Edition": Includes nine minutes of footage that delves deeper into CIA specialist Tony Mendez's personal life.

* "Duck Dynasty: Seasons 1-3": Includes the first three seasons of the series.

* "Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series Collector's Edition": Includes all six games from the 2013 World Series and the pennant-clincher, ALCS Game 6.

* "Things Never Said": Love story centered on the trials and tribulations of life.

* "Good Ol' Freda": Freda Kelly tells her stories of the Beatles for the first time in 50 years.

* "Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Series": Jack Lord stars in the cop drama that ran 12 seasons.

* "The Jack Ryan Collection": four films featuring the Tom Clancy hero.

* "Civil War Double Feature": History Channel productions about the bloodiest war in American history.

* "Power Rangers Legacy: The First 20 Seasons": DVD collection is limited to only 2,000 copies.

* "Thomas & Friends": The Thomas Way": The TV train and his friends learn to be really useful.

* "Tracie Long 'Focus' Series": Three titles have been released in the 30-minute workout series.

* "Trail of Blood": A camping trip turns deadly when a disturbed war veteran starts a killing spree.

* "Matilda": The film based on the Roald Dahl novel is now on Blu-ray.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers


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