By Ryan Lattanzio | Thompson on Hollywood July 24, 2014 at 10:30AM
Unimpressed by the gleaming musculature of Dwayne Johnson as a mythic warrior in Paramount's comic book adaptation "Hercules"? Then take solace in the art house, and at home, with these six quieter films in theaters and on demand.
Though it lacks the sound and fury of "Blue Jasmine," Woody Allen's kickback "Magic in the Moonlight" is a perfectly fine late-career comedy, handsomely shot in France by Darius Khondji, and witty enough to coast on the crackling chemistries of Emma Stone and Colin Firth as illusive 1920s expats.
Meanwhile, already on VOD and in select cities Friday, Joe Swanberg's delicate relationship comedy "Happy Christmas" finds an oats-sowing twentysomething (Anna Kendrick) on the frontlines of a domestic Midwestern cold war between her cheery older brother (Swanberg) and his writer wife (Melanie Lynskey). Hilarity, and melancholy, ensue in equal doses.
Three long-awaited, considerably darker films arrive: Luc Besson's high-throttle Scarlett Johansson vehicle "Lucy," the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman's final film "A Most Wanted Man" from Anton Corbijn, and Dan Krauss' acclaimed Afghan war doc "The Kill Team."
More picks, and trailers, below.
Magic in the Moonlight
Dir. Woody Allen, USA | Sony Pictures Classics
Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Hamish Linklater, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Eileen Atkins
56% Fresh | Deadspin: "'Magic' will be one of Allen's films that his detractors pinpoint when they complain that he makes too many movies too quickly. This time, they're probably right."
Happy Christmas (also available on VOD)
Dir. Joe Swanberg, USA | Magnolia Pictures
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Joe Swanberg, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham
94% Fresh | The Hollywood Reporter: "A dedicated focus on character development pays off with ample humor." | Read our Sundance review
Dir. Luc Besson, France, USA | Universal Pictures
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked, Pilou Asbaek
65% Fresh | Variety: "Scarlett Johansson and writer-director Luc Besson make an effective duo in this agreeably goofy sci-fi thriller."
The Kill Team
Dir. Dan Krauss, USA | Oscilloscope Pictures
93% Fresh | Globe and Mail: "The mesmerizing documentary about a group of U.S. soldiers killing Afghan citizens for kicks, circa 2010, has the kind of urgent intimacy that characterizes the best such non-fiction films."
A Most Wanted Man
Dir. Anton Corbijn, UK | Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Bruhl, Nina Hoss, Robin Wright
88% Fresh | Village Voice: "By the end, Corbijn and screenwriter Andrew Bovell have laid bare all of these unknowable men. The answers satisfy - sometimes they're even heartening."
A Letter to Momo
Dir. Hiroyuki Okiura, Japan | GKIDS
Voice Cast: Karen Mamiya, Toshiyuki Nishida, Kouichi Yamadera
75% Fresh | The New York Times: "As Momo conquers her fears, averts a tragedy and finally sees the beauty of her surroundings, the movie grabs your heart with the softest of hands."