A MOST WANTED MAN (R). A smart, bluntly effective adaptation of John le Carré’s political passion play about good, evil and the sins committed in the name of national security. In his last completed film before his death, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s presence is felt as a German intelligence officer and man of sorrows driven by his uncompromising belief in himself. (Dargis, New York Times -- 8/1). 2:01.
AND SO IT GOES (PG-13). Rob Reiner directs Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in this rom-com about an unpleasant, self-centered hugely successful realtor who is unexpectedly left in charge of a 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).
BOYHOOD (R). Filmed over 12 years, director Richard Linklater traces a character named Mason Evans through a shy and curious childhood, his rebellious tweens, his quiet and considered teens and into a gregarious, smart and deep-thinking -- Linklaterish -- college freshman.
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). Chadwick Boseman is electrifying as James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, dancing in perpetual sweat on what must be greased soles. It isn’t easy portraying "the hardest-working man in show business," but this young man (along with some deft makeup) brings the funk. He’s so much better than the movie around him. HH1/2 (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 8/5). 2:13.
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. A fun ride driven by top-notch performances, a galaxy of funny moments and a wicked soundtrack. "Guardians of the Galaxy" has finally kicked the summer movie season into high gear. It took a while, but it was worth the wait. HHH (Bentley, The Fresno Bee -- 8/5). 2:01.
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.
INTO THE STORM (PG-13). The action transpires in a single momentous day in the life of small-town Silverton, Okla., where an assistant high school principal and his two teen sons prepare for a graduation ceremony destined to be interrupted by an unrelenting series of mighty winds. Meanwhile, a group of storm chasers is casing the joint following a twister that recently claimed the lives of four teens in a car.
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 -- unpleasant and kind of manipulative. But, in the end, "Life Itself" is a grand testament 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 victim of an experimental drug that unlocks 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.
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.
SOL LeWITT. Notoriously camera-shy, Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) refused awards and rarely granted interviews. In this first-ever documentary about the artist, made by Chris Teerink, the pioneering conceptual American artist comes alive.
STEP UP ALL IN (PG-13). The all-stars from the previous movies in this series convene in Las Vegas.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (PG). Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael are back on the big screen. With Megan Fox, Will Arnett.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (PG). An imperious French restaurateur and a Mumbai family looking to open a kitchen in a quaint Pyrenees village do battle with pots and pans, spatulas and sieves, brulee and brouhaha. With Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon.
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."
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.