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Some of the best stuff in Robert Schwentke’s RED is in the early scenes, in the setup before it really gets going. In the first half hour, the movie segues smoothly from sweetly eccentric, long-distance-telephone rom-com maneuvers, into big-bang cartoonish violence and on to a comic abduction.

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

In 1985 the Coen Brothers made a splashy debut with Blood Simple, their distinctive take on the Postman Always Rings Twice subgenre of film noir. A few years later, Zhang Yimou had his first international hit with Ju Dou, also mined from the same noir vein though distinctly Chinese. Is it closing some circle that Zhang has now remade Blood Simple as a Chinese folktale? The project seems to have a pleasing kind of symmetry, but the result is a muted exercise, more watchable than Gus van Sant’s remake of Psycho but still too wedded to the original to breathe on its own.

I Want Your Money

Opening in a handful of local theaters this week is this right-wing propaganda piece pitting Ronald Reagan against “socialist” Barack Obama (both played by actors in giant bobblehead masks).

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