Robert Amaya and Angelita Nelson in “Courageous”

“Ides of March” (R) — Ryan Gosling and George Clooney stage a battle of the jawlines in this Clooney-directed political drama. Gosling plays Stephen, a young but experienced media man working on Clooney’s Democratic presidential campaign. When an old associate (Paul Giamatti) tries to woo Stephen onto another campaign, a series of scandals and disillusioning revelations put the young politico in the center of the controversy.

The election year and the politics at the heart of the campaign matter less than the character drama. The true conflict is in seeing Stephen’s mantra — that integrity and best intentions always win — put to the test. Clooney’s direction steers the movie toward straightforwardness, but skirts around easy answers.

“Courageous” (PG-13) — This latest film from Sherwood Pictures follows up on its previous success with 2008’s “Fireproof” — a sincere story about Christian characters struggling with life’s problems without miracles. This time, instead of a fireman with a failing marriage, four cops need help being better fathers.

The film features capable performances and direction, but the message of the film is the real dividing line between audiences who love it and audiences who feel annoyed. The film wears its evangelical heart on its sleeve, and the long-winded preaching can please believers as much as it irks others. For a real movie depicting real Christians learning about faith and fatherhood, “Courageous” is your pick. For an accessible drama that examines the complexities of some real-life problems, look somewhere else.

“Traffic” (R) (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] — This grittier-than-thou crime thriller released in 2000 uses a diverse set of characters to flip over the rock of the War on Drugs and see the mess beneath. It brought in four Oscars, including one for best director (Steven Soderbergh) and another for its script. Characters on either side of the border struggle personally and professionally with the demons of the drug trade. Soderbergh uses an up-close and visceral perspective, which is reciprocated by great performances from Michael Douglas and Benicio del Toro.

“Abduction” (PG-13) — Done as a field test for Taylor Lautner’s (the shirtless boy from the “Twilight” series) leading-man readiness, this snoozer of wannabe thrills fails to abduct anybody, much less take the audience anywhere but their seats. Lautner plays Nathan, a teenage party boy who stumbles upon some photos on the Internet indicating that his parents aren’t his real parents. Nathan gets the girl next door to join him on his quest to discover his origin and avoid some bad guys.

The baddies come in two flavors: government agents and foreign conspirators. Each plot twist lands on shaky ground filled with plot holes. The whole while, Lautner seems to be failing his post-Twilight acting exams, as the 19-year-old actor struggles to emote anything but confusion.

“Merlin: The Complete Third Season”
“Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain”
“Sliders: The Fifth and Final Season”
“Waking the Dead: Complete Season Six”
“Delocated: The Complete Seasons One and Two”
“Mad: Season 1 Pt. 2

© 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.