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Hollywood got the one bad movie of the week, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," out of the way early, and everything else is either good or great.
The best studio movie this week is "The World's End," the third in the "Three Flavors: Cornetto" trilogy that began with "Shaun of the Dead" and continued with "Hot Fuzz." This time, director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg (who co-wrote with Wright) and Nick Frost take on the alien-invasion genre, and explore hitting 40 in this tale of five friends returning to their hometown to recreate a legendary pub crawl only to find out the town has somehow changed. It's scathingly funny, smart and charming. (Read this interview with Wright and Pegg.)
"You're Next" is a fresh spin on the home-invasion horror movie, when a family reunion is interrupted by masked killers, who don't reckon on one woman (Sharni Vinson) with some mad survival skills. Directed by Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, two of the collaborators in the "V/H/S" horror anthology films, generate some legitimate scares among the bloodshed.
Also opening in area theaters is "Blue Jasmine," the latest comedy from Woody Allen. Cate Blanchett shines as Jasmine, a down-on-her-heels Manhattan socialite who moves in with her working-class sister Georgia (Sally Hawkins) after her husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for investment fraud. Blanchett's performance, bringing Allen's neurotic dialogue to nervous life, is a stunner.
The art-house slate is topped by one of the year's best documentaries. "Blackfish" looks at the moral question of whether orcas, those graceful and sensitive sea creatures, should be kept in captivity. It's also a stinging indictment of SeaWorld, centering specifically on one bull orca, Tilikum, whose suffering in captivity is implicated in the deaths of three people, including a SeaWorld trainer in 2010. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite presents the facts, focusing on the emotional debate and capturing the voices of former trainers who have become passionate activists.
"Austenland" is a delightfully daffy comedy, a collaboration of two Utah artists, filmmaker Jerusha Hess and author Shannon Hale. It's the story of a Jane Austen fan (Keri Russell) who sinks her life savings into a trip to a Regency-era immersive vacation, only to discover the reality of Austen's era doesn't match the fantasy. The hilarious cast includes Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie (from "Flight of the Conchords"), J.J. Feild, Georgia King, James Callis ("Battlestar Galactica") and Jane Seymour. (Read this interview with Hess and Hale about the making of the film, and being women filmmakers in Hollywood's boy's club.)
"The Spectacular Now" is a moving teen drama, centering on a hard-drinking high-school senior (Miles Teller) who gets dumped by his girlfriend (Alison Brie) and starts dating a shy classmate (Shailene Woodley). Director James Ponsoldt ("Smashed") captures the pains of young love with heartfelt authenticity, and stars Teller and Woodley are wonderful. (Read The Cricket's column, with an interview with Ponsoldt.)