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"2016: Obama's America" (PG): This film by conservative thinker Dinesh D'Souza, based on his articles and his 2010 book "The Roots of Obama's Rage," has made it into the box office top 10 in the last couple of weeks. It offers a hard-right take on President Obama, from his childhood forward. For high schoolers and college-age kids interested in the coming election, the film offers a partisan jumping-off point from which they could do their own reading and research, perhaps starting with the president's 1995 autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," from which D'Souza quotes and interprets in his own way. He also interviews fellow conservative scholars, Kenyan relatives of Obama's, Kenyan friends of the father Obama barely knew, and former friends of his late mother's. D'Souza and co-director John Sullivan also weave in re-enactments of scenes from Obama's life. These are common in "nonfiction" films today, but are a dubious tool when not clearly labeled. Then he concludes that Obama's background has turned him into an "anti-colonial," anti-American zealot who aims to reduce the United States to a more socialist, empireless equal among nations, and no longer a beacon of freedom and prosperity to the world. Despite D'Souza's mild-mannered style, his film comes quite close to calling the president a traitor.
"The Possession" (PG-13): Despite its moderate PG-13 rating, this thriller about a 10-year-old girl possessed by a demon could prove too intense for many middle schoolers. It's not that the depictions are so graphic - it is the looming creepiness factor, which the film very successfully conjures. In the prologue, an older woman tries to destroy a mysterious carved wooden box, which seems to speak to her. Invisible forces toss and twist her and she is badly hurt. Purportedly based on a true story, "The Possession" then recounts what ensues after a little girl named Em (Natasha Calis), short for Emily, buys the box at a yard sale with her recently divorced dad, Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Alone with the box, Em opens it, and finds dead birds, dried moths and a ring that turns her finger black. Her bubbly personality darkens. She stabs her dad in the hand with a fork, and viciously attacks a schoolmate who tries to look at the box.
Creepy images abound - strange black moths fly out of little Em's mouth, fill her room and terrorize her father and sister. Sometimes Em's eyes roll back and her throat emits a low growling voice. Looking in a mirror, she sees a hand deep inside her throat. The dialogue includes occasional profanity. Some may be uncomfortable at the idea of Jewish lore being mined - and perhaps distorted - for a horror film.
"Lawless" (R): This fantastically acted and gorgeously shot tale of bootleggers in Prohibition-era Virginia will sweep film buffs 17 and older into its world. In gangster movie fashion, however, "Lawless" is exceedingly violent and not for the faint of heart, even among adults. It is based on Matt Bondurant's novel ("The Wettest County in the World"), a fictionalized account of his ancestors, who were bootleggers in rural Franklin County, Virginia. Tough, laconic World War I vet Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy), his older brother Howard (Jason Clarke) and their callow kid brother Jack (Shia LaBeouf) make and sell moonshine, like many of their neighbors. No one messes with the tough Bondurants, until a corrupt, homicidal, and weirdly fastidious Chicago lawman, Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), shows up. Young Jack, inspired after witnessing a Chicago gangster (Gary Oldman) machine-gun a rival on a street in Franklin County, thinks he can show his big brothers how to deal with Rakes.
A war erupts between lawmen and bootleggers. During quieter moments, Jack falls for Bertha (Mia Wasikowska), innocent daughter of a pious preacher, and Forrest can't hide his love for Maggie (Jessica Chastain), the former dancer who runs the Bondurants' cafe.
The violence in "Lawless" earns an R and then some. It features bloody, deafening shootouts, stabbings (including a slit throat), as well as fires, explosions, brass-knuckle fights and other bashings. The rape of a woman by two gangsters is strongly implied, though not shown. And there is a consensual sexual situation that is not explicit. Characters drink and smoke. The dialogue includes strong profanity.