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Philip Martin

Columnist: Philip Martin

Jennifer Christman

Weekend Editor, Columnist: Jennifer Christman

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Indifferent

Potential action, thrills in Insurgent sabotaged by plodding direction

It takes a unique movie to make Chicago dull. The City of The Big Shoulders can be scary or grim, but it has millions of residents and a vivid history. But the makers of Insurgent -- the sequel to 2014's Divergent -- have managed. German director Robert Schwentke (RIPD) takes over for original helmer Neil Burger and approaches Veronica Roth's young adult novels with the solemnity normally reserved for commemorative readings of the Gettysburg Address.

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The Gunman

Taking the lead protagonist role for a change instead of playing the villain (as in Gangster Squad) or a peripheral enigma (see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or The Tree of Life), Sean Penn stars as a reformed hit man seeking redemption in the trite action film The Gunman. Pierre Morel (Taken) may be in the director's chair, but Penn has credits as a co-screenwriter and producer, and ultimately this feels like a vanity project designed to do for Penn's bankability, Africa, Spain and mercenaries what the Taken franchise did for Liam Neeson, Paris and Albanian gangsters.

Vietnam saga to screen at Ron Robinson

There will be a free showing of Rory Kennedy's Oscar-nominated documentary Last Days in Vietnam at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Central Arkansas Library System's Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave. Admission is free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served, and the doors will open at 1:30 p.m.

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Home Movies

Pioneer, directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg (R, 106 minutes) Arkansas native Wes Bentley stars in this paranoia-drenched conspiracy thriller set in the early 1980s in the North Sea, where a massive oil reserve is found near Norway.

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Cinderella has fairy tale weekend

Cinderella brought her magic to the box office last weekend, debuting with about $68 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters.

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Leviathan

Sober and deliberate, with the gray force of inevitability, Andrey Zvyagintsev's remarkably well-wrought Leviathan is a compelling drama set in contemporary Russia about a car mechanic who has built -- apparently by himself -- a ramshackle house on a spit of waterfront land somewhere in the country's northwestern interior. It is a beautiful spot, coveted by the corrupt mayor Vadim (a remarkable performance by Roman Madyanov, an actor I've never seen before but whom I'll never forget), who uses the Russian equivalent of eminent domain -- the power of the state to take private property for public use -- to compel the owner to sell.

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Not a ‘geri-action’ hero like Neeson, Penn asserts

Sean Penn surfs, shoots, sprints, punches and fights for his life in the geopolitical thriller The Gunman. At age 54, it's easy to assume that Penn, as a rogue ex-special forces officer, is drifting into territory that Liam Neeson claimed just a few years ago with a series of action-heavy box office hits.

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Timbuktu

The desert is empty, khaki and rolling. Then there is a gazelle, sprinting through the dream. The crack of what we instantly recognize as gunfire, a Toyota pickup with a half-dozen men riding in its bed are firing on the animal. They raise their AK-47s. They miss, they miss, the animal vanishes.

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Insurgent's defiant women break the mold

On the surface, Insurgent, with its dystopian setting and teenage heroine, might just seem like another by-the-numbers young adult tale. Look a little closer and it's clear that this second installment isn't merely capitalizing on a popular genre, but, with its half dozen female leads and supporting characters, actually represents a subtle subversion of what audiences have been taught action films should be.

COMING MOVIES

(opening dates are tentative) Home, PG An alien race in search of a new place to call home takes over Earth and relocates all humans except one resourceful girl (voice of Rihanna) who, with a banished alien (voice of Jim Parsons), embarks on the road trip of a lifetime. Animated.

Helpful Hints

DEAR HELOISE: Thanks for the column about coping with a pet's blindness. Dogs are so adaptable! Our miniature dachshund was in her teens when she lost her hearing. Dogs usually are good at scrambling out of the way.

PREVIEWS

New this week The Divergent Series: Insurgent 73 PG-13 The stakes are raised for Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), on the run from the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite (Kate Winslet).

Horoscopes by Holiday

Happy birthday. Your equinox birthday is an omen for high energy, self-creation and self-declaration. You'll lead others by being relatable and vulnerable and by connecting on the deeper levels that inspire true loyalty. Loved ones celebrate and spoil you in April. A professional win in July may inspire a new business later in the year. Scorpio and Gemini people adore you.

On Christianity

DEAR REV. GRAHAM: I've just been released from prison for about the fifth time. Every time, I've said I'd change and not fall back into my old ways, but I always do. What's wrong with me? I know you'll probably say I need God, and maybe I do, but what difference would that make?

Super Quiz: Oscar Hosts

Oscar hosts

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