There's just one thing you have to do this weekend at the movies: Go ape.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is the real deal, an exciting action movie that's also a thought-provoking drama about war, leadership, and the corrosive effects of xenophobia. Ten years after an outbreak of the lab-created "simian flu" has decimated humanity, an ape colony led by the strong and intelligent Caesar (performed by Andy Serkis) is thriving in the California woods. When some apes encounter some humans, survivors from an outpost in San Francisco, tension grows as both sides split between peacemakers and warmongers. Serkis' motion-capture performance is full-blooded and emotional, to the point where you may forget he's hiding behind a computer-generated mask.
For a change of pace, there's the modern musical "Begin Again." Mark Ruffalo stars as a washed-up, alcoholic record executive who discovers a shy songwriter (Keira Knightley), who he thinks could be a major star. The songwriter has her own story, as ex-girlfriend to an unfaithful budding rock star (Adam Levine of Maroon 5). Writer-director John Carney, who made the amazing "Once," doesn't quite capture lightning in a bottle twice but he's got a charmingly scruffy style, and sweetly conveys the healing power of music.