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Steven Soderbergh’s “Haywire features slick action and high-stakes excitement. The film rises above the recent barrage of superhero films due to its generation of thrills and high-quality entertainment value. The film stars mixed martial artist Gina Carano as a double-crossed covert agent on the run, continuously evading capture by the firm managed by her ex-boyfriend, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). “Haywireenlists an exceptional supporting cast, led convincingly by Carano in her debut performance. Most exciting, however, is the full display of Soderbergh’s directorial vision, which is surely to be missed after his pending retirement. Despite periodic gunfights over the course of the film, in my opinion, the violence ofHaywire does not amount to a heavy R-rating. Rated R for some violence.

Rating: Three and a half stars

“Red Tails”

Anthony Hemingway’s “Red Tails” intends to commemorate the Tuskegee airmen, the first African-American pilots to overcome racial adversity and serve in the U.S. military during World War II.  But the film’s potential allegory dissolves into conventional popcorn entertainment within its first few minutes.  To its detriment, “Red Tails” plays like a lighthearted, uneven Saturday morning cartoon episode. As a result, it questions too infrequently the harsh realities of war and the unjust circumstances the Tuskegee airmen faced. By all means, watching the film is not an unpleasant experience. However, given the dramatic possibilities available, “Red Tails” was too forgettable and should have been a whole lot better. Rated PG-13 for some sequences of war violence.

Rating: Two stars

“The Iron Lady”

“The Iron Lady”, written by Abi Morgan, contains the template for a terrific movie. In her screenplay, Morgan clearly draws influence not only from the dry wit of “The King’s Speech” but also from the non-linear structure and emotions of “The Social Network.” However, “Mamma Mia!” director Phyllida Lloyd’s somewhat unrefined execution diminishes the power of the script.  The film focuses on former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, holding special prevalence on her later years, but also delving into her 11-year tenure in office. Despite its widely evident mechanical flaws, “The Iron Lady” nonetheless encompasses a fantastic Meryl Streep performance, worthy of her 17th Academy Awards nomination. Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity.

Rating: Three stars

“War Horse”

While “War Horse” was certainly a crowd pleaser, those directly affected by World War I may have a different opinion of the film. Steven Spielberg’s latest war film undoubtedly deserves the Christmas release date Dreamworks well-advisedly scheduled. The film stirs the warm, sentimental emotions  that characterize some of Speilberg’s best work. But unlike other Spielberg masterpieces, “War Horse” does not convey enough of the melancholy and apprehension that Great War veterans faced. We see remarkably little of the trenches that distinguished the war as one of the most violent in world history. “War Horse” is clearly far from a bad movie, but given the creative talent and ambition involved, it should have been much better. Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity.

Rating: Two and a half stars

—Compiled by Cooper Aspegren

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