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'Dallas Buyers Club" 3.5stars

"Dallas Buyers Club," a medical drama set in 1985 Texas, is anchored by Golden Globe-winning performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.

Mr. McConaughey plays homophobic electrician and rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof, who is informed he is infected with the AIDS virus and has 30 days to live.

After a denial laced with drink, drugs and women, he goes to the library to do some research on AIDS and returns to the hospital to buy the drug AZT. When he's informed by a doctor (Jennifer Garner) that's not possible, Ron finds himself in a no-man's land -- no legal drugs, and no easy rapport with his old macho friends and none with an AIDS support group.

His salvation comes in Mexico, where he realizes he can load up on unapproved medicines and supplements and smuggle them back into the United States to treat his own illness and, it turns out, others'. With eventual help from transsexual and fellow patient Rayon (Jared Leto), he starts a buyers club for the gay community that gives the movie inspired by true events its name.

Much has been made of the alarming weight loss by Mr. McConaughey and Mr. Leto -- it's their willingness to leap outside their comfort zones that makes them so remarkable.

Mr. McConaughey has to convincingly change from a foul-mouthed, womanizing good ole boy to a man who becomes an expert in matters of business, science and government regulations and who is able to see past sexual orientation. Mr. Leto, singer for Thirty Seconds to Mars, spends almost all of the movie in drag and brings a delicacy and bruised quality to the drug-addicted Rayon.

Despite a few murky scenes that betray the movie's guerrilla pace and budget (just 27 days and $4.7 million), it's still a story of a man who would not take no -- or death in 30 days -- for an answer.

Extras include a look inside the film and deleted scenes.

Rated R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use.

-- Post-Gazette

"Escape Plan"2stars

"Escape Plan" is an action movie mainly set in a mysterious prison where the worst criminals in the world are "disappeared."

Sylvester Stallone is Ray Breslin, an expert in prison escapes -- masterminding, executing and preventing. He goes undercover behind bars, figures out a way to break out, does so and then informs the warden where the security holes exist.

But when Ray agrees, for millions of dollars, to work for the CIA at a privately run maximum security prison, he is cut off from his co-workers on the outside world and unable to convince the menacing warden (Jim Caviezel) that he doesn't belong there.

The only way out will be a great escape, and to have any chance of that, he has to ally himself with another tough guy, Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Truth be told, everyone is a tough guy in The Tomb, a drab, windowless honeycomb of glass cells.

The movie grows more improbable by the minute, even for an action movie, and it springs surprises without properly planting the seeds. Actors the caliber of Sam Neill and Amy Ryan are wasted in anemic roles, and stunt casting comes in Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson as a street-smart computer wizard.

Nevertheless, Mr. Caviezel makes a dandy villain, and it's certainly fun to see these iconic actors who could collect Medicare (Rocky is 67; The Terminator, 66) join forces and act as though they are half their ages.

"Extras include commentary with director Mikael Hafstrom and co-writer Miles Chapman and making-of featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: "The Real-Life Tomb" and "Clash of the Titans" featurettes and deleted scenes.

Rated R for violence and language throughout.

-- Post-Gazette

"About Time"3stars

This is a much smaller, more intimate story from writer-director Richard Curtis than his sprawling "Love Actually," and it's not as funny or winning across the board.

But it's a sweet romance and father-son story, courtesy of characters played by Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleeson.

Shortly after the movie opens, Tim's dad shares a sensational secret with his son: The men in their family can travel back in time once they reach age 21. Tim (Mr. Gleeson) need only go into a small, dark place -- a closet or wardrobe will do just fine -- clench his fists and think about the instant he wants to revisit. Voila! He will get a mulligan and the ability to stop himself from blurting out something inappropriate or tripping awkwardly or making a mistake big or small.

Tim, who describes himself as "too tall, too skinny and too orange" in hair color, would love to use this magical ability to get a girlfriend, and he does, after some false starts and stops. She is Mary (Rachel McAdams), an American reader for a publisher, living and working in London where Tim is a barrister.

Its love affair rings true and its father-son scenes are tender and touching.

Extras include commentary; deleted scenes; Ellie Goulding "How Long Will I Love You?" music video.

Rated R for language and some sexual content.

-- Post-Gazette

ALSO THIS WEEK: 

 "Baggage Claim": Paula Patton stars in a comedy about a young woman who decides to track down men she previously dated in hopes of making a love connection.

"Burton and Taylor": A look at Hollywood's most famously volatile on-again-off-again couple.

"Romeo & Juliet": William Shakespeare's love story has been updated.

"Joanie Loves Chachi: The Complete Series": Scott Baio, Erin Moran play teens in love.

"Banshee Chapter": Journalist is drawn into the world of top-secret chemical research.

"A Case of You": Shy guy goes to extremes to impress girl of his dreams.

"Family Matters: The Complete Fourth Season": Includes 24 episodes of Steve Urkel.

• "Reaching for the Moon": Film based on the true story of poet Elizabeth Bishop.

"McConkey": Close look at the skier turned BASE jumper.

"The Inn of the Sixth Happiness": Englishwoman (Ingrid Bergman) goes to China.

"The Divorce": TV anchorwoman celebrates divorce by throwing herself a party.

"The Lady Vanishes": New adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller.

"Pride of St. Louis": The 1952 biopic based on the life of "Dizzy" Dean.

"House of Versace": Story of fashion icon Donatella Versace.

"Laverne & Shirley -- The Seventh Season": Further escapades of the best friends.

"Justice League: War": Darkseid and his forces invade Earth.

-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers


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