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' Beautiful Creatures'


2 1/2 stars = Average
Ratings explained

Based on the first novel in a series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, "Beautiful Creatures" seems positioned to launch a franchise.

But don't expect "Twilight."

Both deal with supernatural forbidden romances between an otherworldly creature -- a vampire or, here, a "caster" or witch -- and a mortal. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson had real chemistry, and the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's first novel was faithful but serviceable and conveyed deeply felt emotions.

"Beautiful Creatures" combines or omits some characters and essential details (including teen telepathic communication), which is not a fatal flaw, but the resulting love story seems flat and doesn't leave the audience craving more.

It's set in Gatlin, S.C., a small conservative Southern town populated by "the stupid and the stuck," as the never-seen widowed father of teenager Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) has said.

Everything changes with the arrival of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the 15-year-old niece of Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), the town's most famous recluse. He's a mysterious and haughty figure whose family founded the town and still owns much of the land.

Lena is the girl of Ethan's dreams, literally, because he dreamed about her nightly before she turned up at his high school. But she's immediately ostracized by the cool clique -- mean girls say Lena is from a family of "satanists" and launch into prayer in the classroom -- who also freeze out Ethan when he befriends the newcomer.

Lena eventually tells Ethan that she and her family have powers. She's a "caster," and when she turns 16, she will be "claimed" by either light or dark forces, and she fears it will be the latter.

If that wasn't drama enough, the mother of Ethan's best friend is leading the charge to expel Lena, the young couple have a mysterious tie to the Civil War, and their very relationship is forbidden in a world that also counts hidden seers, sirens, an incubus and others with supernatural powers.

Richard LaGravenese, an Oscar nominee for his original screenplay "The Fisher King," directs the screenplay he wrote based on the 2009 novel.

While interesting in their own ways, Mr. Ehrenreich and Ms. Englert don't seem like a couple destined to be together. If you cannot buy them together, the whole movie falls apart.

Extras include deleted scenes and "ICONS by Margaret Stohl" book trailer. The Blu-ray has six featurettes including "Book to Screen," "The Casters," "Alternate Worlds" and "Designing the Costumes."

-- Post-Gazette

' Stand Up Guys'


2 1/2 stars = Average
Ratings explained

Call it "Grumpy Old Crooks."

Chief among them is Al Pacino as Val, just concluding a 28-year stay in the penitentiary for taking a rap and refusing to rat on his criminal associates. Now, upon release, he is met and taken home by old pal Doc (Christopher Walken), his soft-spoken comrade-in-arms who paints landscapes, watches cable TV and otherwise enjoys a calm, cool daily routine.

Doc, it seems, wants to help Val quietly adjust and heal. Val, on the other hand, wants to party. Hard. The only thing Val wants more than partying is to get his old gang back for one last criminal hurrah. That requires rescuing their car thief pal Hirsch (Alan Arkin) from the Lighthouse Nursing Home.

It's all great fun, except for one minor detail unbeknownst to Val: The Mob has assigned his beloved Doc to kill him by 10 a.m. the next morning.

There's minimal violence in this geriatric "GoodFellas," directed by Fisher Stevens, with no gunplay till an hour or so into it. The iconic stars work hard, playing nicely off one another and investing their half-drawn characters with more depth than this gangster dramedy really deserves. Mr. Arkin especially brightens up the proceedings whenever he's around, which is not enough.

Mr. Walken, Mr. Pacino and Mr. Arkin are great fun to watch in "Stand Up Guys," even as it is, and almost --- if not quite --- make this silliness work.

The extras include director commentary, making-of featurette, deleted scenes, "American Muscle" stunt driving scenes and "The Stand Up Songs of Jon Bon Jovi."

-- Post-Gazette

' Side Effects'


3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

Rooney Mara looks nothing like "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" as she's caught up again in a case of murder (and suspect pharmaceuticals) in a Steven Soderbergh psychological thriller.

"Side Effects" effectively conveys how commonplace prescription meds are in today's society, as strangers or colleagues toss around names of pills they were prescribed.

But drugs are the bait in a bear trap in this story. They can ensnare patients, those in their universe and doctors who may be paid handsomely for participating in the trial of a new drug.

Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum also star in this film that aspires to greatness but doesn't make it.

-- Post-Gazette

' Parker'

Parker, the antihero of Taylor Hackford's serviceable action thriller, is an odd duck. Partly, it's the quaint code of ethics espoused by this gentleman thief (Jason Statham), who shoots a guy in the leg before robbing him and then calls him an ambulance.

Covered in scars from previous injuries, Parker is shot -- twice -- and left for dead early in the film, when four accomplices in a robbery (Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Micah Hauptman and Clifton Collins Jr.) decide that they don't want to split the proceeds with him. After being rescued by a farmer and self-medicating with a quick dose of stolen Demerol, Parker sets about hunting down the double-crossers, who are planning another heist, so he can enforce his Robin Hood-ian moral code on them.

Although the outcome is never in doubt, it's satisfying, like pot roast and gravy. Although the reliably rocklike Mr. Statham lacks Hugh Jackman's zest, he makes for a dependably watchable warrior.

Extras: Commentary with Mr. Hackford, making-of short and "Who Is Parker?" featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: featurettes "The Origin of Parker" and "Broken Necks and Bloody Knuckles."

-- Washington Post

ALSO THIS WEEK:

• "Perception: The Complete First Season": Eric McCormack stars in the cable series about a genius who helps solve crimes -- with the help of the voices in his head.

• "True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season": This season of the HBO vampire drama finds Sookie triumphant over her encounter with Marnie. Anna Paquin stars.

• "Captain America": Matt Salinger plays the comic book hero in the TV movie.

• "Laverne & Shirley: The Sixth Season": The two friends try to make a go of it in L.A.

• "Saving Hope: The Complete First Season": Medical drama about a doctor and the man she loves, who happens to be in a coma.

• "Nightfall": A gritty, brutal story of love, hate and vengeance from director Chow Hin Yeung Roy.

• "Pound Puppies -- Mission: Adoption": Canines continue to try to match a dog with every person.

• "The Aquabats! Super Show! Season One!": Cable series about an offbeat band of heroes.

• "American Masters: Mel Brooks Make a Noise": Features new interviews with Mr. Brooks.

• "Twinkle Toes Music Video Collection": Grace "Twinkle Toes" Hastings will have you on your feet dancing.

• "ABCs of Death": Includes 26 chapters exploring the concept of death.

• "Classic Collection": Remastered versions of "The Public Enemy," "White Heat" and "The Petrified Forest."

• "National Lampoon's Vacation": Chevy Chase comedy being re-released for its 30th anniversary.

• "Teen Wolf Season 2": Teen with a secret continues to find himself caught in a war between hunters and werewolves.

• "The Royal Collection": The box set includes a series on Queen Victoria's children.

• "H.P. Lovecraft's Cool Air": A look at the evil that goes on behind the doctor's door.

• "Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn": A man must decide between family and fortune. Ice T stars.

• "The Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown": A golden retriever settles into his new home.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers

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