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The Cricket
Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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Thure Lindhardt stars in the drama "Keep the Lights On." Jean Christopher Husson | Music Box Films
Friday movie roundup: "Lincoln" or "Twilight"?

Too bad "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is already on DVD, because it would fit right in between this weekend's big movie releases.

The prestige Oscar-buzz film is "Lincoln," director Steven Spielberg's lavish and well-rendered portrait of our 16th president in the last years of his life – when he cannily navigated the 13th Amendment, banning slavery, through a difficult lame-duck Congress. Screenwriter Tony Kushner draws from Doris Kearns Goodwin's acclaimed book "Team of Rivals" (among other sources) to portray Lincoln as a cagey politician, a tender father and a haunted wartime leader. And in a cast of notable actors all at the top of their game, Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as Abraham Lincoln is nothing short of amazing. (Read The Cricket column, which includes an interview with actor David Strathairn – who plays Lincoln's Secretary of State, William Seward – talking about an actor's preparation.)

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There will be no Oscar buzz for "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part Two," the fifth and final installment in the sparkly-vampire romance series based on Stephenie Meyer's books. (By the way, you can also read The Cricket's interview with Meyer.) This time out, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is finally a vampire, free to love Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and raise their hybrid daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). But those nasty Volturi are determined to make things tough for them, as they come to Forks prepared to wipe out the Cullens once and for all. Director Bill Condon ramps up the action this time, but it's still all about the lovey-dovey stuff. Fans will eat it up; everyone else will continue to wonder why.

But this week's best movie – and one of the year's best – is "The Sessions," writer-director Ben Lewin's sly, warm-hearted tale of real-life quadriplegic Mark O'Brien (played by John Hawkes, who's also featured in this week's Cricket column). Mark, at 38, wants to lose his virginity, so he enlists a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) who works with people to help them become at ease with their sexuality. The performances — by Hawkes, Hunt, and William H. Macy as a decidedly understanding priest — are top-shelf in this sexuall frank and emotionally moving film.

"Keep the Lights On" is even more frank about its characters' sexuality, as writer-director Ira Sachs holds nothing back in this depiction of a decade-long romance between two gay New Yorkers. The raw graphic sex scenes are matched by an open and honest emotional tone.

Lastly, there's "A Late Quartet," a melodrama about the tangled personal lives of the members of a string quartet. The acting — by Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mark Ivanar — and the music are better than the soap-opera plot structure.



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