Couch Theater

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Keira Knightley in “Begin Again”

Keira Knightley in “Begin Again”


PICKS OF THE WEEK
“Begin Again” (R) —  This is one of those enchanting movies where the music almost eclipses the entire story. Greta (Keira Knightley) is a songwriter and sometimes-singer who’s hit a low point, breathing her feelings into a microphone in a stale little lounge in New York City. Her voice has a deep effect on Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a disgraced music producer who’s hit an even lower low. Dan convinces Greta to take a chance and produce a record with him, shunning studios and making music in the streets.

This is the follow-up feature from John Carney, the director of the wildly successful, low-budget musicians-in-love movie “Once.” Carney —  a musician himself —  knows how to make audiences feel that love of music. Funny thing is, he got better dramatic performances in “Once,” when his actors were musicians instead of movie stars.

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“Deliver Us from Evil” (R) —  Sick of exorcism movies yet? How about a crime-solving exorcist who works for the NYPD?! Fortunately, there’s a 2001 memoir by a real-life cop detailing his “experiences” fighting the supernatural. Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) has great cop-intuition, a smart-mouth partner (Joel McHale) and a bone to pick with the Man Upstairs. He meets up with a too-cool-for-Sunday-school renegade priest (Edgar Ramirez) who helps Sarchie realize that he should be doing the Lord’s work.

Despite combining the crime drama and supernatural thriller genres, the action feels by-the-numbers. The most the movie has to offer is a climactic exorcism and a lot of sudden noises to try to fry your nerves. What’s missing is the right psychological trickery to make all of that spookiness into real nightmare fuel.

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“Life of Crime” (R) —  Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins) has a lot of money, a gorgeous wife (Jennifer Aniston) and a team of bumbling career-criminals plotting to kidnap her for a huge ransom. The masterminds didn’t realize one important detail: Frank is an amoral slob who can save a lot of money if his wife disappears, since he wants to get rid of her and go full-time with his enthusiastic mistress in South Beach. It’s an uncomfortable realization for the kidnappers and the wife, really. This crime-comedy unfolds into a full-on confusing caper. The chuckles are worth the rental fee.

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DOG OF THE WEEK
“The Prince” (R) —  Since “Taken” was such a surprise hit, we’ve been stuck in a pain-parade of shoddily made Dad-gets-revenge flicks. Hopefully, this last lump indicates that we’re near the end. Paul (Jason Patric) is your generic knife-jawed protagonist, playing it safe as a mechanic with presumably dark secrets in his past. You know the drill: Baddies kidnap innocent daughter; Dad grunts his way through a homicidal rampage until the credits roll. John Cusack, who plays a brooding buddy to the boring hero, looks like he’s in literal agony from being on-screen. Bruce Willis plays a bad guy who looks about as bored as the audience.

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TV RELEASES
“WKRP In Cincinnati: The Complete Series”
“Vera, Set 4”
“Masterpiece: Death Comes to Pemberley”
“Big Valley —  Season 4”

© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.