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Best bets: 'The Mechanic' ready for action

Jason Statham stars as an elite assassin out for revenge in this remake of a Charles Bronson film. Also this week: Goofy animated spy "Archer" returns; "Secretariat" and "Nowhere Boy" come to DVD.
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British actor Jason Statham, last seen with Sly Stallone, Mickey Rourke and the rest of "The Expendables," is taking a solo starring role in "The Mechanic." Statham plays an elite assassin who wants revenge on those who killed his mentor. He plans to seek that revenge alone, but grudgingly discovers he can't bring himself to turn away the dead man's son. It's a remake of the Charles Bronson film from 1972, which famously features no dialogue for the first 16 minutes. Statham is no Bronson, but can he pull it off? (Opens Jan. 28.)

Anthony Hopkins remains one of the most terrifying screen villains ever in his role as Hannibal Lecter. But can he make as compelling a film when he's not playing the scary guy? Hopkins stars as Father Lucas in "The Rite," based on a book by a supposed exorcist. He plays a Rome-based exorcist teaching the ins and outs of demonic possession to a young American priest. I imagine it's like learning to be an exterminator only with more pea-soup vomit and scarier voices. (Opens Jan. 28.)

I have no idea if my TV can get the channel called Planet Green (formerly known as Discovery Home), but let's hope so, because the network has an interesting new show coming up. "Boomtown" looks at what happens to a tiny, cold North Dakota town when oil is discovered there. The five-episode documentary examines life in Parshall, N.D., over the course of a very eventful year. Some people get rich, but others only get headaches. (Jan. 29, 10 p.m., Planet Green.)

Have you discovered "Archer" yet? The animated FX series focuses on a suave master spy who's more a zero than a 007. Instead of being all about tuxedos and martinis, he's more a fan of turtlenecks and Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone." You kinda just have to see it. (Second season premieres Jan. 27, 10 p.m., FX.)

Watching "American Experience" on PBS is like going back to school for just 90 minutes at a time, with a teacher who's not only interesting but has access to the best audio-visual aids available. The latest new offering is "Panama Canal," which looks at the creation of one of the world's wonders. "American ingenuity and innovation has succeeded where, 15 years earlier, the French had failed disastrously," notes the PBS website. "But the U.S. paid a price for victory."  (Jan. 24, 9 p.m., PBS.)

"Secretariat" is the latest famous horse to get the full-on Disney movie treatment. In the 2010 film, now on DVD, Diane Lane plays the Triple Crown winner's owner, with John Malkovich as his trainer. Roger Ebert calls it "a great film about greatness, the story of the horse and the no less brave woman who had faith in him." (Out on DVD Jan. 25.)

John Lennon's life story is well known, yet every few years, there's another movie, or book, or TV special focusing on the lad from Liverpool. "Nowhere Boy," starring Aaron Johnson of "Kick-Ass" fame, focuses on Lennon's relationship with his mother, Julia, who gave him up to her sister, Lennon's famed Aunt Mimi, at a young age. Knowing about that relationship helps listeners view Lennon's lyrics, so often sad and aching, in a new light. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone writes of the film, " 'Nowhere Boy' is smart enough not to spell it all out. You can hear it in Lennon's music, which plays in your head as the movie works its subtle magic." (Out on DVD Jan. 25.)

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's movies editor.