Picks of the week
‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’
(PG-13, 136 minutes, Disney): One of the great strengths of the “Avengers” mega-franchise has been its canny casting, and “The Winter Soldier” is no exception: Chris Evans once again brings a clean-cut, straight-shooting air of simplicity to Steve Rogers’ principled paragon, even evincing a whiff or two of prissy self-righteousness along the way.
Happily, directors Joe and Anthony Russo, working from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, have decided to make this “Captain America” installment something of a two-hander between Steve and Natasha, who, as portrayed by Scarlett Johansson, continually threatens to steal the entire movie with her slinky martial arts moves and sultry, smoky-voiced one-liners. (If Hollywood was waiting for proof that the Black Widow was ready for her own feature, here it is. Get cracking, fellas.)
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Contains intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout. Extras: a making-of-featurette and deleted scene. On Blu-ray: commentary, more deleted scenes and bloopers. Available in 3-D.
‘Words and Pictures’
(PG-13, 111 minutes, Lionsgate): The roles of Jack Marcus and Dina Delsanto don’t require the heavy lifting of Academy Award-nominated actors. The stock characters at the center of this romantic dramedy are an alcoholic writer and a painter with an artist’s standoffish temperament, respectively.
Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche have played similar, better-written roles before (see “Hemingway & Gellhorn” and “The Lovers on the Bridge”), and they could probably sleepwalk their way to a paycheck here. But to their credit – and to the movie’s great benefit – they don’t.
Contains sexual material including nude sketches, strong language and some mature thematic material. Extras: commentary with director Fred Schepisi and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
(PG-13, 90 minutes, Fox): Set in Detroit in the near future, this is a watered-down American version of “District B13,” the 2004 French cult hit action flick that featured stunts inspired by the French-born discipline of parkour, a fluid mix of acrobatics and dance.
Both films have the stylishly gritty look (and preposterous premise) of a video game. Frenchman David Belle, regarded as one of the founders of parkour, reprises his role as the citizen hero, and is quite possibly the only good reason to see the new film. But his French co-star has been replaced by Paul Walker in the role of the police officer, and the late star of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, though likable enough, just can’t keep up with Belle.
Contains violence, obscenity, drug use. Extras: “Creating the Characters.” On Blu-ray: Unrated cut with 16 minutes of additional footage; “Becoming Tremaine” featurette.
‘The German Doctor’
(PG-13, 93 minutes, in Spanish, German and Hebrew with subtitles, First Run Features): Based on filmmaker Lucia Puenzo’s novel “Wakolda,” the film focuses on a 12-year-old heroine who crosses paths with one of the 20th century’s most notorious war criminals, Nazi physician Josef Mengele, who fled to South America after his inhumane experiments on concentration camp inmates during World War II came to light.
At times it feels like a real-life horror story, but Puenzo is interested in larger truths. Those truths have to do not only with post-war Argentina, and its seemingly open-door policy toward fugitive Nazis, but also with the nature of adolescent attraction. Puenzo coaxes a mesmerizing, unmannered performance out of Florencia Bado, making her feature-film debut.
Contains disturbing thematic material and brief nudity.