A MOST WANTED MAN (R). In his last completed movie before his death, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a Geman intelligence officer caught in a web of good, evil and the sins committed in the name of national security. Based on the novel by John le Carré. Review, D4
AND SO IT GOES (PG-13). Rob Reiner directs Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in this rom-com about an unpleasnt, self-centered hugely successful realtor who is unexpectedly left in charge of the granddaughter he never knew existed.
BEGIN AGAIN (R). Keira Knightley stars as Gretta, a songwriter trying to find her voice in the wake of a bad breakup with her pop-star boyfriend (Adam Levine). She’s discovered at an open mic night by Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a down-on-his-luck music industry executive. Without the financial means to make a demo, the traditional path to courting a record company, the two embark on a plan to record an album on the streets of New York that will incorporate the ambient sounds of the city. From John Carney, the director of "Once," who keeps flipping clichés to keep us guessing. The film also improves on the typical genre picture with its rueful, intelligence, warmth and creative use of music to advance the story. HHH (Covert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- 7/12).
CHEF (R). Having quit his job at a prominent restaurant over refusing to compromise his creative integrity, a chef teams with his ex-wife and son to start his own food truck.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (PG-13). Picking up where "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" left off, the first scientifically evolved ape, Caesar, has led his tribe into the Muir Woods, where they’ve built a village, mastered fire, SSL (Simian Sign Language) and horseback riding, isolated and safe from human interference. Then some humans, led by the curious and compassionate Malcolm (Jason Clarke), encounter the colony. An action-packed epic, a moving sci-fi allegory rendered in broad, lush brush strokes by the latest state of the computer animator’s art. HHH (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 7/16). 2:10.
GET ON UP (PG-13). Biopic about the late James Brown.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (PG-13). A ragtag team of thieves who get tossed together to battle a threat to the planet Xander and the galactic defense group, Nova Corps, that’s based there. The threat comes in the form of Ronan (Lee Pace) -- a minion of super-villain Thanos -- who is looking for an ancient artifact that would become one of the biggest threats to the universe.
HERCULES (PG-13). The King of Thrace and his daughter seek the Greek demigod’s help in taking down a tyrannical warlord. With Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Reece Ritchie.
IDA (NR). Set in 1962, when Poland was part of the Soviet bloc, "Ida" is about a young novitiate, an orphan, who discovers she has an aunt. She is sent to the city to meet this woman before she takes her vows, and so a journey begins. "Ida" is a breathtakingly concise film -- just 80 minutes long -- with a clear, simple narrative line. But within its relatively brief duration and its narrow black-and-white frames, the movie somehow contains a cosmos of guilt, violence and pain. Its intimate drama unfolds at the crossroads where the Catholic, Jewish and Communist strains of Poland’s endlessly and bitterly contested national identity intersect. (Scott, New York Times -- 6/30). 1:20.
LIFE ITSELF (R). Steve ("Hoop Dreams") James documentary celebrates film critic Roger Ebert’s life and times, and documents the last months of his battle with cancer. A bit long-winded and some of the "final days" footage is hard to watch -- unpleassant and kind of manipulative. But, in the end, "Life Itself" is a grand testamemnt to a life lived loving movies, on sceens that were larger than life and were reviewed by a couple of genuine characters. HHH (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 7/12). 1:58.
LUCY (R). Scarlett Johansson stars in this sci-fi action-thriller about a woman who becomes the unwilling subject of an experiment to unlock her brain so that it can function at 100% capacity -- something normally beyond the realm of human capability. "Lucy" would be fine without its pseudo-intellectualism, just Johansson doing her faster pussycat thing, with guns, knives and stunt doubles. With Morgan Freeman. HH (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 7/29). 1:28.
NIGHT MOVES (R). Three radical environmentalists plot to blow up a hydroelectric dam. With Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard.
PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE (PG). Roughly twice as good as its predecessor, "Planes," which was so story-and-laugh starved it would have given "direct-to-video" a bad name. Yes, there was nowhere to go but up. The sequel’s story is about something -- Dusty the racing plane learns to be a S.E.A.T., a Single Engine Ariel Tanker, a fire-fighting plane. For very young children, it offers animated suspense and lovely and exciting animated aerial footage of planes and helicopters fighting forest fires in the American West. There’s more of a "Thomas the Tank Engine" feel to this sequel, with planes and firetrucks and bulldozers doing the righteous work of dousing pretty convincing animated blazes. A couple of flight sequences take us over majestic deserts and amber waves of grain -- beautiful animated scenery. Other than that, there’s not much to this. HH (Moore, McClatchy-trubune News Serice). 1:23.
SEX TAPE (R). A couple wake up to find the sex tape they made the night before to spice up their marriage has been accidentally downloaded to other iPads given away as gifts. Dirty minded but wholesomely executed, like a 6-year-old telling a smutty joke he doesn’t understand. With Cameron Diaz, Jason Siegel. H1/2 (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 7/21). 1:46.
SNOWPIERCER (R). After a human-engineered planetary catastrophe (trying to arrest the planet’s warming, we accidentally froze it solid), the remaining people are stuck on a train that never stops moving. A few thousand survivors live in railway cars, sorted into a rigid and ruthlessly enforced social order. In the back are huddled masses fed on gelatinous, insect-based black protein bars and kept in line by a combination of propaganda and brute force. Toward the front, the more fortunate enjoy access to schools, nightclubs, fresh food and the reassurance that they deserve everything they have. An unseen, quasi-mythical entrepreneur is in charge, and a group of rebels has decided to challenge his power and the extreme inequality he represents.
TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF
EXTINCTION (PG-13). This new film departs from the prescribed "Transformers" universe to present a world in which Autobots are no longer viewed as friends of man. It’s a post-Witwicky era when the Earth’s populace is unclear about who their extraterrestrial robot enemies are.
THE PURGE: ANARCHY (R). In the near future, during a single 12-hour period every year, Americans are free to commit any crime they choose, no matter how cruel or bloody. Sponsored by the U.S. government, the event is called the "purge," and participants are encouraged to "release the beast."
WISH I WAS HERE (NR). Woody Allen wannabe Zach Braff wrote, directed and stars in this comedy-darama about a struggling actor and family man whose life starts to unravel. Until you partly surrender to its underlying goodwill and sincerity, watching "Wish i Was Here" is like observing an experiment in a cinematic test kitchen with all the chefs running around in the hopes of turning out a new, improved recipe for that old familiar, Thoughtful Comic Entertainment. (Holden, New York Times -- 7/29). 1:40.