The Frozen Ground
If we told you Nicolas Cage and John Cusack were starring in a movie about a noble policeman chasing a crazed murderer, you'd think Cage=killer and Cusack=cop, right? Wrong! Cusack is scary good as the calculating killer of young women, and Cage is touchingly vulnerable as the detective trying to stop the maniac before he strikes again. Filmed in and around a grungy-looking Anchorage, Alaska, the film will not be featured on the local Chamber of Commerce website.
In a month or so everyone's going to be talking about Chiwetel Ejiofor's breakout performance in the upcoming 12 Years a Slave-but here's your chance to catch him early, in a big-hearted drama about a Savannah, Georgia duck hunter (Jim Caviezel) and his lifelong friendship with a freed slave (Ejiofor). The terrific supporting cast includes Sam Shepard, Hal Holbrook, and The West Wing's Bradley Whitford, but the real star is the lavishly photographed Savannah marsh wilderness, sprawling and lovely as the story itself.
The World's End
Twenty years after an epic pub crawl, five friends reunite to do it again in a remote British village. They expect to get good and plastered; what they don't expect is to run into a town populated by sinister robots. Writer/Director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg are responsible for the razor-sharp comedies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz; At World's End likewise finds a way to be both smart and raucous.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Lovers don't get a lot more star-crossed than those played here by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara ( The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo): They go on a crime spree, she shoots a cop, he takes the fall and goes to prison, she gives birth to their child, he escapes jail to find them. But director David Lowery has created a visually poetic yarn that recalls 1970s movie visionaries like Terence Malick and Arthur Penn.
Still in Theaters
Lee Daniels' The Butler
Litigation resulted in a title change to feature the name of the film's director; it might have worked better as Forest Whitaker is the Butler. Or maybe Oprah Winfrey is the Wife of the Butler. No matter; this is worth seeing for Whitaker as White House butler Cecil Gaines, Robin Williams as President Eisenhower and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan.
A by-the-numbers plot ultimately foils this would-be thriller, but there's still some fun to be had in watching Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford (in a skull-baring buzzcut!) go mano-a-mano as big business rivals.
Ashton Kutcher has some genuine moments as Steve Jobs, but this biopic never seems to get the core of Apple's founder.
One of the great truisms about grownup movie lovers, at least of the female persuasion, is that they're nuts for all things Jane Austen. Here, Keri Russell plays a modern woman who, in search of her own personal Mr. Darcy, visits a Jane Austen theme park.
Amanda Seyfried is powerful in this biopic of porn star Linda Lovelace-but Sharon Stone steals the show as her working-class mom.
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg see to it that you have as much fun as they do in this dusty, firepower-happy buddy cop flick.
We can only hope that stars Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins cashed their paychecks with more enthusiasm than they show in this half-hearted sequel.
World War Z
Brad Pitt stars in a classy, nerve-jangling thriller about a virus that's turning the world's population into an army of flesh-eating fiends. In concept and execution, the most grownup horror flick of the summer.
The Way, Way Back
It's a coming-of-age comedy starring Liam James as a confused 14-year-old kid, but he's surrounded by one of the great grownup casts of the year: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, and Sam Rockwell.
If you're an actress, get yourself directed by Woody Allen: Here he casts Cate Blanchett as a latter-day Blanche Dubois, depending on the kindness of strangers in San Francisco. Smart, tragic, and funny, it's Woody and Cate at their best.
20 Feet from Stardom
A stand-up-and-cheer documentary about the backup singers who make music's biggest stars sound their best.
James Cromwell ( Babe, L.A. Confidential) gives the performance of a lifetime as an 87-year-old man who builds a small house for his ailing wife (a radiant Genevieve Bujold) with his own two hands. That is, until local bureaucrats start butting in.