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On Demand movie highlights

Elf

(Starz on Comcast) In an exciting demonstration of mild restraint, Will Ferrell plays a human who’s been raised in the North Pole as an elf and heads to New York to meet his workaholic biological father (James Caan). Naturally, the movie is headed for big-time family-flick healing, but director Jon Favreau doles out sentiment without a whole lot of schmaltz. (PG; runs through Jan. 31)

Zero Dark Thirty

(Starz on Comcast) Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliantly crafted ground-level procedural unfolds over a nine-year-period, from the early days of the war in Afghanistan to the midnight assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound. Jessica Chastain plays a CIA agent obsessed with the search; the early torture scenes make viewers confront their own response. (R; runs through March 6)

City of God

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(Starz on Comcast) Set in an arid and packed favela of Rio that’s called City of God, Fernando Meirelle’s irritating gangsta opera spans three decades and an extreme body count. Two kids take opposite paths to adulthood: one’s a drug dealer, the other’s a photographer. What ought to be devastating and tragic feels discomfiting in its offhandedness, with Meirelles’s smooth, visual penmanship serving — what end? This isn’t a movie; it’s a soulless pictorial. (R; runs through June 7)

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