X-Men 5: First Class James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Matthew Vaughn  
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When Bryan Singer brought Marvel's X-Men to the big screen, Magneto and Professor X were elder statesmen, but Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) travels back in time to present an origin story—and an alternate version of history. While Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) grows up privileged in New York, Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner) grows up underprivileged in Poland. As children, the mind-reading Charles finds a friend in the shape-shifting Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Erik finds an enemy in Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), an energy-absorbing Nazi scientist who treats the metal-bending lad like a lab rat. By 1962, Charles (James McAvoy) has become a swaggering genetics professor and Erik (Michael Fassbender, McAvoy's Band of Brothers costar) has become a brooding agent of revenge. CIA agent Moira (Rose Byrne) brings the two together to work for Division X. With the help of MIB (Oliver Platt) and Hank (A Single Man's Nicholas Hoult), they seek out other mutants, while fending off Shaw and Emma Frost (Mad Men's January Jones), who try to recruit them for more nefarious ends, leading to a showdown in Cuba between the United States and the Soviet Union, the good and bad mutants, and Charles and Erik, whose goals have begun to diverge. Throughout, Vaughn crisscrosses the globe, piles on the visual effects, and juices the action with a rousing score, but it's the actors who make the biggest impression as McAvoy and Fassbender prove themselves worthy successors to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. The movie comes alive whenever they take centre stage, and dies a little when they don't. For the most part, though, Vaughn does right by playing up the James Bond parallels and acknowledging the debt to producer Bryan Singer through a couple of clever cameos. —Kathleen C. Fennessy

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The Green Hornet Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Michael Gondry  
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The buzz around The Green Hornet comes from the collision of weird talents involved: Seth Rogen plays the crime-fighting hero and writes the movie with his Superbad bud Evan Goldberg; pop star Jay Chou plays Kato; and the whimsy-headed Michel Gondry directs. Toss in Inglourious Basterds Oscar winner Christoph Waltz as a super-villain highly self-conscious about his brand, and you've got a blockbuster that definitely isn't going for the normal. And for a while, the movie's Apatovian comedy and bromantic tendencies supply some definite fun; plus, Waltz and his double-barreled revolver (along with an uncredited cameo by James Franco) launch the picture with a giddy opening action sequence. At some point, though, you want all this stuff to mesh, and The Green Hornet keeps zipping about in three directions at once, never quite maintaining its early comic zip, but not grounding itself in an engaging enough crime-fighting plot, either. And there's little to do for nominal female lead Cameron Diaz; although both millionaire playboy Britt Reid and Kato make half-hearted passes at her, it's clear their main interest is each other. You just knew a franchise that began as a radio serial in the 1930s (and took a brief but memorable detour into TV in the '60s) would end up being part of that unavoidable 21st-century genre, the male-bonding comedy. Of course, it's really a triangle. Their boss car, Black Beauty, also gets a lot of love. —Robert Horton

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Limitless Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Neil Burger  
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Depending on your take-away of the visual inventiveness and jam-packed plot that drives Limitless to peaks and valleys of preposterous fun, drugs are either a terrible scourge or the fundamental solution to all of life's problems. Limitless isn't exactly a morality tale, but the made-up drug that turns Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) from a scuzzy loser into a master of the universe does become a metaphor for ambition, menace, devastation, and ultimate success. Eddie is a writer who can't write, his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) just dumped him, and his squalid lifestyle has driven him to the breaking point. After a chance meeting with his mysterious ex-brother-in-law, he's offered change in the form of a little transparent button, a pill code-named NZT that allows the user to access 100 percent of their brain. After he pops it, Eddie is transformed. Everything he's ever heard, seen, glanced at, or passed by becomes neatly ordered in his mind. He has total recall, total access to knowledge both known and unknown, and he understands exactly what to do. Without the ingenious visual effects that frequently push the bounds of innovation, our view of the alteration of Eddie's drug-induced reality would fail utterly. When his synapses snap from every new hit, the sparkling blue of Bradley Cooper's eyes pops off of the screen, the colours and textures of his reality ripple and zoom with his every move. Of course he needs more of the drug to maintain his progression, not to mention his very life—remember, kids, drugs are addictive!

The movie throws tangled clumps of plot threads against each other in a whizzing mass that incorporates Russian gangsters, shadowy surveillance figures, cops, lawyers, and a couple of murder mysteries. It's a hurtling progression of narrative tangents that often echo the physical and mental extremes Eddie experiences when he's either on or off the drug. Sex, society, and money are big parts of Eddie's newfound brainpower, and he exploits them all. The money element leads Eddie to a big-shot investor, played with twinkling irony by Robert De Niro. The sparring matches between Cooper and De Niro are some of the best parts of the convoluted and manic pace that drives Limitless inexorably onward. Abbie Cornish is relegated to the sidelines far too much, and the suspension of disbelief required to simply maintain stride with the movie's frenzied velocity is often exhausting. But there are some bigger themes that director Neil Burger and writer Leslie Dixon try to sustain in spite of repeated absurdities meant to be accepted at face value. Eddie's actions are both vile and redemptive, and Cooper gives a rousing performance as he bounces from being contemptible to irresistible, sometimes all at once. Fortunately, Limitless is itself redeemed by the nifty visuals that often do evoke the effects of a drug that promises perfect clarity. It's best to just forget the ludicrous lack of coherence and enjoy it as a wildly entertaining trip on a perfect drug that offers the potential for payback and infinite salvation. —Ted Fry

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Rango Johnny Depp, Timothy Olyphant, Gore Verbinski  
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An animated Western with a chameleon as the hero is an unlikely concept, but Rango is a great film thanks to its witty mix of parody, intriguing characters, and sophisticated humour. When a common pet chameleon who's suffering from an identity crisis crashes headfirst into the stereotypically classic Western town of Dirt, he has the unique opportunity to completely reinvent himself. Dubbing himself Rango, the chameleon boasts of his own heroism and creates a spiral of deception that lands him an appointment as sheriff of a town in crisis. The question is, can one unprepared and completely unqualified chameleon possibly change this little town's future for the better? And how do road kill, enlightenment, and the Spirit of the West figure in to the equation? The animation looks great in this film and kids will love the goofy characters and crazy scenarios. But adults will find the film intriguing on a whole different level because of its comic parody of the iconic classic and spaghetti Western genres and the skilled balance of action, romance, and adventure. Kudos to director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) and the talented voice cast, among them Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, and Bill Nighy, for an award-worthy film. Some kids ages 7 to 9 may find the film rather dark and the action a bit too intense, but kids 10 and older should be fine as long as parents don't object to the PG rating (some rude humour, language, smoking, and action). —Tami Horiuchi

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Something Borrowed Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Luke Greenfield  
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Chick-lit lovers, and those who love them, will flock to Something Borrowed, a frothy adaptation of Emily Giffin's bestselling novel. Something Borrowed itself borrows some of the best bits from earlier romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally…, 27 Dresses, and Sex and the City. Though Kate Hudson is the ostensible Big Star here, it's Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love, He's Just Not That into You) who finally comes into her own as a winsome leading lady. The plot is fairly simple: Rachel (Goodwin) harbours secret feelings for Dex (Colin Egglesfield), the fiancé of her best friend, Darcy (Hudson). Along for the ride, and acting as a sort of stage manager/narrator à la Our Town, is Ethan (John Krasinski), who just may be harbouring some secret longings of his own. Will the right boys end up with the right girls? Well, Something Borrowed is one of those comfy films in which the viewer knows who's right for whom long before the characters do. And because of the light, easy direction of Luke Greenfield (whose previous works are mostly TV movies and series), and the sparky chemistry among the stars, Something Borrowed ends up delivering a delicious snack even more satisfying than the sum of its yummy parts. Krasinski, Egglesfield, and especially Goodwin shine in this ensemble, and fans of modern love stories—with a twist—will want to hold on to Something Borrowed. —A.T. Hurley

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The Lincoln Lawyer Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Brad Furman  
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Smooth operator Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) zips around Los Angeles in his chauffeured Lincoln town car, cutting deals and finding clients on the road. Then he lands a doozy: a rich real-estate heir (Ryan Phillippe) accused of the brutal assault of an escort. At first, the case looks like a breeze, but odd details start nagging at Haller until he recognizes an ugly connection to an earlier case—and realizes he's been set up in the strangest way. There are some deep implausibilities in The Lincoln Lawyer, but they hardly matter. This is a movie that cruises on charm and smart casting, from McConaughey as a man whose glib polish is betrayed by a streak of doubt, down to the detectives (solid performances from Bryan Cranston, Michael Paré, Michaela Conlin, and others) and lowlifes (Katherine Moennig as an unlucky hooker, Shea Whigham as a lazy snitch) that flesh out the legal world. Every character pops out, clean and distinct; this sort of web-of-deceit story line, full of twists and turns, depends on the audience clearly connecting all the players. Some moments get overstated or maybe don't make complete sense, but the zippy pace carries the audience over those bumps. The Lincoln Lawyer could easily turn into a television series, a sort of Rockford Files-esque mixture of procedure and puzzle making. Also starring Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Frances Fisher, John Leguizamo, and Josh Lucas as the prosecuting attorney who gives McConaughey some competition in the chiseled-looks department. —Bret Fetzer

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Killer Elite Gary McKendry  
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Jason Statham (The Italian Job), Academy Award® nominee Clive Owen (Inside Man) and Academy Award® winner Robert De Niro (Raging Bull) star in Killer Elite, "one of the best action thrillers of the year!" (Richard Roeper) When two of the world's most elite operatives — Danny, a retired contract killer (Statham), and Hunter, his longtime mentor (De Niro) — go up against the cunning leader of a secret military society (Owen), their hunt takes them around the globe from Australia to Paris, London, and the Middle East. As the stakes rise along with the body count, Danny and Hunter are soon plunged into an action-packed game of cat-and-mouse where no one is what they seem. Based on a shocking true story, it's an explosive, no-mercy thrill ride where the predator ultimately becomes the prey. Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell, Aden Young, Yvonne Strahovski, Ben Mendelsohn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje Directed by: Gary McKendry

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