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Friday, July 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 70.0° F  Overcast

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A tenderhearted woman tussles with an ornery widower in And So It Goes

In the opening moments of And So It Goes, Oren Little (Michael Douglas) visits the grave of his beloved wife, who has died of cancer. This scene is supposed to humanize Oren, who is horrible to most of the people he interacts with. Unfortunately, director Rob Reiner wants us to spend 90 more minutes figuring out that deep down, Oren's a sad guy, not a bad guy. >More
 A troubled record exec helps a shy musician find her voice in Begin Again

Back in 2007, there was a magical musical called Once. Set in Dublin, it was the tale of two emotionally damaged musicians whose lives intersected just enough for them to start healing through a collaborative project. >More
 The broken jukebox of Jersey Boys

In the opening credits of Jersey Boys, there's something unusual for a modern movie: an overture. And in the closing credits, the entire cast gathers in a curtain call. If you watched only these two moments, you might think director Clint Eastwood knows how to turn a Broadway musical into a movie, something few filmmakers have mastered. >More
 A young journalist contends with leukemia in Chasing Life

April (Italia Ricci) is an ambitious young reporter proving her mettle at a Boston newspaper. She has an eye on the publication's gorgeous, sensitive, super-cool arts-and-entertainment writer (Richard Brancatisano), and he seems to like her too. Given her talent and charm, it looks like April has it made. >More
 In Edge of Tomorrow, a man discovers how to fight and love by reliving an alien invasion

Doug Liman, director of the terrific new sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow, is best known for propulsive action movies like Go and the original Bourne Identity. But what he really wants to be, it seems, is contemporary cinema's foremost chronicler of relationships under pressure. >More
 Noisy frat boys and the parents of a newborn face off in Neighbors

Elise and Zoey Vargas may be the most adorable children ever captured on video. Jointly playing the baby of first-time parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) in Neighbors, the twins elicit an involuntary "awwwwww" every time they flash a four-toothed grin. Nobody was immune to the cuteness at the screening I attended: not critics, not hulking frat guys there for the gross-out comedy, nobody. >More
 Kevin Costner is in his element in the football laugh-fest Draft Day

Journey back with me 20 or so years, to the prime of Kevin Costner's movie career. He was the center of romances and heroic narratives like Dances With Wolves and JFK, representing integrity with a square jaw, steely stare and resolute seriousness. It really pissed me off. >More
 In Bad Words, a 40-year-old misanthrope competes in a spelling bee for middle-schoolers

Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman), the 40-year-old protagonist of Bad Words, is a wretched human being. He takes advantage of a loophole in the rules for a national spelling bee so he can compete against a bunch of middle-schoolers, but that's the least of his sins. A true misanthrope, he treats everyone around him like garbage, including the journalist (Kathryn Hahn) who's sponsoring him in exchange for an exclusive story about his perplexing quest. >More
 Captain Phillips

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 A man falls for his computer's operating system in Her

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), the protagonist of Spike Jonze's prickly sci-fi romance Her, is a sensitive guy. He pens richly detailed letters for clients of his employer, BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com. He carefully reads the expressions of people he sees and hears the subtle inflections in their voices. >More
 Martin Scorsese likens finance-industry corruption to organized crime in The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese is a master at capturing the drama of a criminal's ascent to power while showing how far there is to fall. In The Wolf of Wall Street, he dives into a milieu he hasn't explored: the cutthroat, manic, excessive world of America's financial bigwigs. >More
 Saving Mr. Banks is a stark look at the story behind Mary Poppins

In Saving Mr. Banks, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the irascible author of Mary Poppins, bitterly complains that her story will lose its realistic edge in the hands of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). This is just one way director John Lee Hancock force-feeds us gritty realism when telling the story behind the magical nanny with the flying umbrella. >More
 Director Peter Jackson retools the Hobbit story in The Desolation of Smaug

It's easy to confuse Peter Jackson's Hobbit films with his Lord of the Rings films. He seems to be counting on it. That much was clear in An Unexpected Journey, the first part of his series based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved novel The Hobbit. Jackson took a lot of liberties, adding an extended prologue and familiar faces from The Lord of the Rings to establish a connection with his original trilogy. >More
 The Lone Ranger, Prisoners

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 In Out of the Furnace, two brothers face steep obstacles in a blighted steel town

The Pennsylvania town where Scott Cooper's superb Out of the Furnace is set looks ready to collapse at any moment. Its steel mill is rusted, and chain-link fences lean at precarious angles, barely protecting the weedy ground behind them. >More
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