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The real victim is the audience

© Blacklab Entertainment Ensconced in her sprawling California mansion, eccentric firearm heiress Sarah Winchester believes she is haunted by the souls of people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle.
      Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren: The Leisure Seeker) is heir to a vast fortune. Her husband, founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, made his money selling instruments of death. His guns were used in the Civil War, to settle the West and in most of the crimes committed in America.
       Complicity plagues Sarah. She believes her husband and child died because angry spirits are haunting the family, repaying the death Winchester unleashed on the world.
      Moving to California, she begins 24/7 construction of an elaborate mansion filled with nailed-shut doors and stairways that go nowhere. Ghosts have dictated how the house should be built, she believes. Should construction halt, those spirits will kill all ­Winchesters. 
       Concerned about the mental state of the majority shareholder, the Winchester board of directors hires Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke: Mudbound). At first he believes the reclusive widow is delusional, but staying in the house shakes his conviction.
      Winchester is the type of fare that makes January and February bad months to go to the movies. Jump scares don’t land, acting is embarrassing, the orchestral score overpowers and opportunities are wasted by directors Michael and Peter Spierig (Jigsaw).
       Worst is its failure to feature the house, which should be the star of the show. The real Winchester Mystery House is an elaborate tangle of odd rooms, doors that open into abysses and stairways that dead-end into ceilings. People who have worked there for years get lost; rooms and passages are to this day being discovered. The house in Winchester has no such mystery.
       Winchester holds only one surprise: A dreadful performance by the legendary Mirren. Using a crazy American accent, she wanders through the film looking bored.
Terrible Horror • PG-13 • 99 mins.
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The 15:17 to Paris
       Three American tourists subdue an armed man storming through a Paris-bound train, saving countless passengers and becoming international celebrities.
      Director Clint Eastwood tells this tale with a twist: The three heroes who saved the train play themselves in the film. The technique has paid off in the past, with Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy rising to cinematic fame. Murphy had charm and natural presence; Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone seem stilted, and Eastwood’s script is clunky and unnuanced.
       It’s a shame that these brave young men don’t get a polished showcase for their valor. Still, it’s a fascinating story. 
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        Insist on something better for your Valentine’s Day.
Prospects: Dim • R • 105 mins. 
Peter Rabbit 
       Peter (James Corden) and his woodland pals are used to having their land to themselves. They graze where they like, disregard fences and get special treats from Bea (Rose Byrne) who lives near the meadow. Then Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) moves into the estate. 
        He doesn’t care for rabbits and sets lethal traps. He also romances Bea to get her to abandon the furry nuisances. Can Peter scare off Mr. McGregor? Or is he destined to become a pelt on a wall?
      A “hip” update to the classic Beatrix Potter tale, this should be nearly intolerable to anyone over the age of 12. Filmmakers have made Peter into an obnoxious Bugs Bunny ripoff, with poor Gleeson in the thankless role of man who falls down constantly in a children’s film. 
Prospects: Annoying • PG • 94 mins.