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The harrowing 12 Years a Slave has all the makings of a mesmerizing period drama for the ages. The only question is whether the execution meets the potential.

The movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor in the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man in 1800s N.Y. State, who was kidnapped and forced into slavery.

Toiling away on a plantation near New Orleans, he subsequently fought for his freedom with the help of a Canadian abolitionist, played by Brad Pitt.

Also starring Michael Fassbender, the film is drawing major Oscar buzz as it opens this weekend. Does it live up to the high expectations it sets?

Let's see what critics' 12 Years a Slave reviews are saying ...

"Sometimes you have to prepare yourself for the journey a film takes you on. So it is with 12 Years a Slave, a harrowing, unforgettable drama that doesn’t look away from the reality of slavery and, in so doing, helps us all fully, truly confront it." - The New York Daily News

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Machete Kills, the sequel to 2010's Machete, is not going for Oscars, but camp, with a strong ensemble cast bringing the aspiring cult classic to life.

Yes, Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) is back, and this time he's got the President of the United States (Carlos Estevez a.k.a. Charlie Sheen) for a boss.

If you're up for a potential B-movie spectacle, then this could be for you.

It not, you should probably heed the words of warning from critics, whose Captain Phillips reviews and Gravity reviews are glowing, and avoid Machete Kills.

But let's see what the critics are saying about the latter just the same ...

"Machete Kills is exploitation cinema, in the same way that a teen who pays $28 at the mall for a Sex Pistols T-shirt is a punk rocker." - San Francisco Chronicle

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Captain Phillips’ story is well-known, and not new. It was reported by every major media outlet as it played out dramatically over five April days in 2009.

For anybody who somehow missed this then, it's been repeated in every major media story about Captain Phillips the movie, directed by Paul Greengrass.

Tom Hanks is Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, a U.S. container ship with an unarmed crew that was hijacked by Somali pirates.

Hauling tons of cargo, including food from the U.N. World Food Program designated for Africa, the ship looked like a floating jackpot to the marauders.

Is it a jackpot with critics as well? Let's see what the reviews are saying ...

"When Paul Greengrass directs a thoroughly dramatic tale based on true events and Tom Hanks takes on the title role, you think you know what to expect. But just you wait — the piercingly realistic "Captain Phillips" will exceed your expectations." - L.A. Times

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In Runner, Runner, when a poor college student who cracks an online poker game goes bust, he arranges a face-to-face with the man he thinks cheated him.

Yes … it's an offshore gambling thriller, fans!

While the premise is different and the star power is present - Justin Timberlake and a big, bad Ben Affleck - is the movie, opening this weekend, worth seeing?

Depends who you ask and what you're after.

Unlike the nearly universally positive Gravity reviews, Runner, Runner is more of a mixed bag with critics. Here's a glance at what some of them say ...

"How blandly by-the-numbers is Runner Runner? When it’s time for a hot sex scene with Timberlake’s ambitious Richie Furst and Rebecca (Gemma Arterton), his boss’s luscious second-in-command, the encounter is as charmless and chemistry-free as the wooden banter that has led up to it. I’ve had dentist’s appointments that were sexier. - Boston Globe

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In Gravity, which lands in theaters this weekend, director Alfonso Cuaron has given new meaning to the "lost in space" theme, and to the very concept of isolation.

It's as much an existential exploration as it is science fiction.

Following an explosion during a space walk, the premise is a human being, floating tiny and unbound, in the limitless, quiet, stark expanse of the cosmos.

Add in Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and what have you got? Critical gold! Check out excerpts from some of the week's top Gravity reviews ...

"The film’ extraordinarily beautiful in its vision of a much larger universe, and it’s slyly honest about our insignificance within it. That’s what makes the ending both awe-inspiring and far-fetched. - Boston Globe

"A great movie is hard to define. So let Gravity do it for you. With enthralling detail, it offers thrills, humor, dazzle, disaster, poetic vision and mythic reach." - Rolling Stone

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Autumn is upon us and it's growing a bit chilly in various parts of the country.

But on the big screen, starting today, it's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs! 2!

Yes, a sequel to the original hit - which was based on a wildly popular children's book - is now in release at a theater near you. Should you take your kids to a showing?

Check out the trailer below and then scroll down for a collection of movie reviews from critics around the nation:

Honestly, anyone who can pull off a running joke about leeks that does not make you gag, and is in fact a silly delight, deserves props. - The Los Angeles Times

It's another brightly rendered effort, but, as the title indicates, a lot of the real creativity seems to have been used up the first time around. - The Boston Globe

Sometimes so strange, colorful and wildly cute that it may end up becoming a "Yellow Submarine" for a new generation. - The New York Times

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Don Jon, the first feature from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is not like most films, but that helps make the actor's debut behind the camera all the more charming.

Gordon-Levitt directed, wrote and stars as a Jersey lothario, a regular, old-school, how-YOU-doin' guy who happens to be a hardcore porn addict.

Yes, he's a man dedicated to family, friends, and church, yet develops unrealistic expectations from porn and works to find intimacy with a true love interest.

Can he and Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) live happily ever after? And does this romantic comedy (of sorts) flourish despite of (or because of) its unusual premise?

Let's see what the Don Jon reviews are saying ...

"While addiction may make Jon sound like a bummer, as played with great swagger and subterranean wit by the movie’s writer and director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this improbable charmer conveys convincingly triumphant braggadocio." - The New York Times

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Prisoners, which opens this weekend after premiering at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, is a family drama crime thriller that fits the Oscar bait formula.

Artistic ambition and star wattage combine, with Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo forming the standout cast.

But does Prisoners meet those lofty expectations?

Let's see what the reviews are saying ...

"Some will write off Prisoners as shameless exploitation. But like Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, to which it's been compared, Prisoners is so artfully shaped and forcefully developed that objections fade." - Rolling Stone

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Robert De Niro co-stars with Michelle Pffeifer, Tommy Lee Jones and Dianna Agron in the Luc Besson/Martin Scorsese mafia comedy, The Family.

The Family (DeNiro, Pffeifer, Agron, John D'Leo) is placed under a witness protection program, but have a hard time leaving their old lives behind.

Should the mob comedy be relegated to such a program?

Let's see what The Family reviews have to say …

"The movie has holes galore, tonal shifts, an incoherent back story and abandoned subplots. It doesn’t even try for basic credibility. But buoyed by hot performances, it sustains a zapping electrical energy." - The New York Times

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The horror-thriller Insidious: Chapter 2, the sequel to the 2010 film Insidious, hits theaters today. But is the follow-up worth watching, according to critics?

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne reprise their roles as husband and wife Josh and Renai Lambert, who seek to find out a mysterious childhood secret.

Directed by James Wan, Insidious: Chapter 2 weaves a suspenseful tale as they discover how dangerously connected they are to a world of darkness.

That sounds good, but does the final product measure up?

Let's take a look at what a few critics are saying ...

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