A critical digest of the week's latest U.S. theatrical releases. Where applicable, links to longer reviews have been provided.

Lee Daniels' The Butler
Distributor: The Weinstein Co.
The director of "Precious" and "The Paperboy" plays things relatively straight in "Lee Daniels' The Butler," a sprawling, highly fictional biopic of longtime White House butler Eugene Allen that also positions itself as a panoramic snapshot of the African-American experience across nine decades. But if Daniels has tamped down the kinky sexuality and outre stylistic flourishes for his first PG-13 outing, his handprints can still be found in the film's volatile mix of acting styles, gratuitous sentimentality cut with moments of real emotional power, and a tone that seesaws between serious social melodrama and outsized chitlin'-circuit theatrical. At its root the kind of starry, old-fashioned prestige pic the studios used to make, this stealthy late-summer release from the Weinstein Co. (smartly moved up from its original fall date) stands to make a modest killing with oxygen-deprived adult moviegoers, whom the pic will have pretty much to itself between now and the start of awards season.
-- Scott Foundas
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Kick-Ass 2
Distributor:
Universal
A crudely entertaining genre hybrid that merges smart-alecky comicbook satire and semi-plausible vigilante fantasy to weird and wobbly effect, "Kick-Ass 2″ improves on its 2010 predecessor in at least one respect: It doesn't make the mistake of trying to pass off its bone-crunching brutality as something shocking or subversive. Chloe Grace Moretz remains the standout asset of a series that, like Hit Girl herself, has entered an awkward adolescent stage; as diverting as this action-packed caper often is, it feels not just weightless but emotionally and morally stunted whenever it veers into grown-up dramatic territory. Still, thanks to a fresh infusion of comic energy from writer-director Jeff Wadlow, the screw-loose sequel is certain to command a degree of attention, despite or perhaps even because of its maddening unevenness.
-- Justin Chang
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Jobs
Distributor:
Open Road Films
The casting of Ashton Kutcher turns out to be the sole risky element of "Jobs," a smooth, reasonably engaging but not especially revealing early-years account of Steve Jobs' storied career. Offering a creditable take on the 20-year period in which the determined young tech whiz founded, lost and eventually regained control of Apple, helmer Joshua Michael Stern's biopic avoids outright hagiography, but more or less embodies the sort of bland, go-with-the-flow creative thinking Jobs himself would have scorned. Widespread interest in the late entrepreneur and his legacy could spark moderate audience interest.
-- Justin Chang
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