Maria Bello and Michael Sheen give an acting master class as parents of a boy who dies in a campus killing spree. Their grief is compounded when they learn that the child they loved was the gunman. Simply told, this drama examines the emotional fallout from an inconceivable tragedy. —Alison Bailes
Woody Allen’s latest is a witty and poignant love story set in the City of Light. Owen Wilson stars as a romantic who revels in the magical streets while his fiancée, Rachel McAdams, finds her interest piqued elsewhere. In this glorious celebration of love and nostalgia, the superb cast includes Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody. —Alison Bailes
THE WHISTLEBLOWER Oscar winner -Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) tackles sex trafficking as an American peacekeeper in postwar Bosnia. Vanessa Redgrave and David Strathairn costar in this true-life thriller.
THE HELPEasy A’s Emma Stone and Doubt’s Viola Davis star in this faithful adaptation of the popular novel about black maids and their white employers in the South of the early ’60s. Remarkable performances, including Bryce Dallas Howard as a snooty socialite and Octavia Spencer as the maid who can’t keep her mouth or her cooking under control, make the best seller come alive onscreen.
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Tree of Life
Some see Terrence Malick’s long-awaited meditation on the origins and obstacles of life as one confusing mess; others find it a puzzle of infinite wisdom. Either way, you’ll have plenty to talk about after viewing, including Brad Pitt as a dictatorial ’50s dad. —Susan Toepfer
British comedians Steve Coogan (right) and Rob Brydon romp through the English countryside reviewing restaurants and regrets in an engaging road trip of a movie from director Michael Winterbottom.—S.T.
This tenderhearted comedy stars Paul Rudd as a clueless whirlwind who touches down in the lives of his three sisters, trailing chaos and marijuana smoke behind him. Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks play the exasperated siblings, but Rudd’s peacenik hippie slacker steals the show.
Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) ditches the frat-boy high jinks but not his humor to stand by a friend (Inception’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is battling cancer. Anjelica Huston plays Gordon-Levitt’s anxious mother, and Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick (with him, left) is his inexperienced therapist in this bittersweet romance.
Michelle Williams channels Monroe in this charming look back at the making of the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, which paired the Hollywood bombshell with esteemed British actor Sir Laurence Olivier. Kenneth Branagh plays Olivier impeccably, and Williams captures the vulnerability beneath M.M.’s sexpot façade. With Dougray Scott and Dame Judi Dench. --Alison Bailes
Writer-director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) examines lonliness and longing by spotlighting an aimless movie star (Stephen Dorff) who gets a surprise visit from his daughter (Elle Fanning). The girl diverts her dad from the pull of ennui and vice at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont.-- Alison Bailes