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"Prisoners" 3.5stars

This thriller set in Pennsylvania takes twists and turns that even the most astute moviegoer may not see coming.

Hugh Jackman plays carpenter and survivalist Keller Dover, who lives by the motto, "Pray for the best, prepare for the worst."

The worst happens on a Thanksgiving Day when his 6-year-old daughter vanishes with a neighbor girl, victimized perhaps by the stranger in a camper that had been parked down the street.

But when the childlike driver (Paul Dano) of the rusty RV is questioned and released, Keller takes matters into his own hands, beginning a hellish ride in which virtually every character is a prisoner of circumstance, fear, neuroses or demons.

"Prisoners," written by Aaron Guzikowski ("Contraband"), is powered by Mr. Jackman as the panicked furious father and Jake Gyllenhaal as the cop who never failed to solve a case and surrenders to his anger and frustration, too.

Just when you think you have it all figured out, it rounds another curve in the maze, a recurring image in the story with themes of religion, violence, vengeance and how those who have been hurt often hurt others.

It lassoes the audience, pulling the rope and the puzzle tighter and tighter until the end. And then some.

Extras include "Every Moment Matters" and "Powerful Performances" featurettes.

Rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.

-- Post Gazette

"Elysium" 3stars

The good news in 2154 is that a miraculous medical breakthrough employing "re-atomizing" can cure a fatal disease or heal an accident victim in mere seconds.

The bad news is that the tool exists only on Elysium, a man-made space station that hangs above the planet like another moon. It might as well be in another galaxy for some.

It's where the very wealthy have fled and re-created a California-like conclave far from the madding crowd on polluted, overpopulated and crime-ridden Earth. That is where Max (Matt Damon), a tattooed ex-convict, works in a gritty factory manufacturing droids.

When Max is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, he has a shot to live if he can get to the paradise in the sky. But Elysium's Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is happy to shoot down unauthorized shuttles or detain airborne occupants trying to breach the border.

"Elysium," from Oscar-nominated "District 9" writer-director Neill Blomkamp, is a sci-fi action movie with messages about the haves and have-nots. He creates two dramatically different and visually arresting worlds and proves he has not fallen victim to a sophomore or a sci-fi slump.

Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout.

Extras include a behind-the-scenes cast featurette and a look at how the space station was designed. Blu-ray adds an extended scene, a three-part documentary and more.

-- Post-Gazette

"Lone Ranger"3stars

This isn't your father's or grandfather's "Lone Ranger." Gore Verbinski's marathon version is a real switcheroo, starting with Johnny Depp's daring decision to play Tonto instead of the legendary L.R. himself.

In those thrilling days of yesteryear 1869, a band of Texas Rangers led by Dan Reid (James Badge Dale) sets out to recapture vicious outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner).

Butch goes not just ballistic but also cannibalistic when his gang ambushes and massacres the Rangers. A lone ranger, John Reid (Armie Hammer) -- left for dead --- survives and, discovered by a white "spirit horse," is nursed (grudgingly) back to health by a lone Indian. If they can get over their mutual antipathy, they'll be looking to find Butch and to thwart the greedy capitalist railroad baron (Tom Wilkinson) he's in league with.

Director Verbinski gives it a framing device in the form of a little boy (Mason Cook) who stumbles onto a surreal Wild West sideshow exhibit. He also gives it a lot nastier violence and even a bunch of rabid rabbits.

But it's a hoot, thanks to the best American actor of his generation, Mr. Depp, having as many whimsical eccentricities here as ever, including a few residual Jack Sparrow moves.

The location cinematography, shot around the incredible rock formations of Utah's Monument Valley, where many of the great John Ford Westerns were filmed, is terrific. So are the sound effects and the train derailments.

Heed the PG-13 rating (for intense action sequences and violence, and some suggestive material). With its 21/2-hour, $250 million excess of plots and subplots, this isn't for small children.

Extras offer a blooper reel, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurette on the train sequences and more.

-- Post-Gazette

"Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters"

The second film based on Rick Riordan's immensely popular books about a dyslexic boy who discovers he is a demigod is a desperately-trying-to-be-epic adventure.

It features droll quips from Stanley Tucci and Nathan Fillion, who play small but enjoyable supporting roles. But even likable actors can't obscure the fact that this thing is a slog, a movie that dutifully hits its plot points involving prophecies and fleeces without evoking a whiff of spirit or imagination. It's a shame that the millions of readers who fell in love with Mr. Riordan's classic-meets-contemporary children's stories have been handed such limp adaptations of the material.

The first, 2010's "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief," was respectable but dull, while "Sea of Monsters," as directed by Thor Freudenthal ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid"), is dull and awkwardly executed. It's less a theatrical release than a Disney Channel special that got dressed up in CGI clothes.

Contains fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language.

Extras include "Back to Camp Half-Blood" and "It's All in the Eye" featurettes. Also, on Blu-ray: "Deconstructing a Demigod" featurette, a motion comic and collectible character cards.

-- Washington Post

ALSO THIS WEEK: 

* "One Direction: This Is Us": Morgan Spurlock documentary about the British boy band.

* "Burn Notice: Season Seven": Includes the series finale.

* "Justified: The Complete Fourth Season": Series stars Timothy Olyphant.

* "Night Train to Lisbon": A look at a man's quest for self-discovery.

* "The Family": A mob family is moved to France under the witness protection program.

* "Shameless: The Complete Third Season": Showtime series starring William H. Macy.

* "Nature: Love in the Animal Kingdom": Securing perfect mate in the animal world brings out the best in males.

* "Kick-Ass 2": Hit Girl and Red Mist return. Chloe Moretz stars.

* "Omnibus: Gene Kelly -- Dancing: A Man's Game": Release marks 55th anniversary of telecast.

* "Ghost Team One": Two friends try to impress a girl who believes her home is haunted.

* "Shadow on the Mesa": Bounty hunter sets out to avenge his mother's death.

* "Contest": Bullied student cautious of new friendship.

* "The Secret Village": Journalist looks into a town's deadly secret.

* "Four": Steamy July Fourth night brings four people together.

* "Mischief Night": A woman must protect herself from a mysterious intruder.

* "Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion!": Blythe and her very best friends have fashion-filled fun.

* "Crawlspace": Landlord keeps a close eye on his female tenants.

* "Force of Execution": Steven Seagal stars.

* "Greek Gods, Heroes and Monsters": History Channel series.

* "Line of Duty": Loyalties are tested.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers


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