"Killing Them Softly"

Brad Pitt stars as a hit man hired to even the score after a mob card game is robbed by petty thieves. "Sopranos" alumni James Gandolfini and Vincent Curatola make understated appearances, giving the film a familiar mafia feel.

There is lots of violence and dark humor, including the talented Richard Jenkins playing the mob's penny-pinching CPA who serves as the go-between for Pitt and his clients. The role serves Pitt well, given his specialized acting skills, and if you enjoy organized crime movies, there's no reason you won't like this one, too. That said, there is no new ground broken here, and it feels more like a tribute to gritty crime movies of the past instead of an innovative new look at the underworld.

Blood o' plenty makes this off-limits for kids younger than 15. (R: Violence, language and drugs). 1 hours and 37 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 2½ stars

Kids: N/A

Teens: 2½ stars

Adults: 2½ stars

Seniors: 1½ stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- a good enough "Reservoir Dogs" wannabe.

"Lincoln"

Daniel Day Lewis as America's most-loved president is an amazing thing to behold. It's hard to imagine how an English-born son of a poet can so perfectly capture an American icon, but darned if he doesn't -- which explains why he just won his third Best Actor Oscar.


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Lewis is accompanied by a stellar supporting cast, including Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Hal Holbrook as statesman Francis Preston Blair.

Director Steven Spielberg wisely doesn't attempt to portray the full breadth of Lincoln's life, or even his entire presidency. Instead, the focus is on a sliver in time just before his assassination when the president is pouring all of his energy into having Congress enact a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.

The result is a stellar film that entertains as it educates.

The intensity and gore of the battle scenes, as well as the historic plot, may be too much for kids younger than 13. (PG-13: Violence and language). 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 3½ stars

Kids: N/A

Teens: 2 stars

Adults: 3½ stars

Seniors: 3½ stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- An amazing presidential biopic without fault.

"Parental Guidance"

This is a very silly kids' movie. And that's OK. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star as absentee grandparents who parachute in to watch their three grandchildren for a week.

This lowbrow comedy has it all: troubled tween girl, rambunctious younger brother, social misfit brother and a baseball bat/testicles rendezvous. That said, it was an amiable crowd-pleaser with my kids and father-in-law alike, so who am I to complain?

The standard potty humor makes this best for kids 6 and older. (PG: Rude humor). 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 2½ stars

Kids: 3 stars

Teens: 1½ stars

Adults: 2 stars

Seniors: 2 stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- predictable family film that does the job.

J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at jason@alderman.net.