It's a week where Philip Seymour Hoffman's last work, Roger Ebert's last days, Michael Douglas' worst mugging, and one of Scarlett Johansson's weirder movies all hit theaters at the same time.
Let's start with the good stuff: "A Most Wanted Man" is a low-key spy thriller, smart and tense, and featuring the final starring role of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He plays Gunther Bachmann, a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, righteously jaded head of a secret German counter-intelligence unit that's trying to roll a Chechen refugee (Grigoriy Dobrygin) to see to which Islamic terrorist groups he'll lead them. To do this, Bachmann eventually must muscle a shady banker (Willem Dafoe) and a naive human-rights attorney (Rachel McAdams), while dancing past his fellow German law officials and a CIA operative (Robin Wright) working her own agenda. Director Anton Corbijn pulls plenty of quiet menace from this John LeCarré adaptation, but it's Hoffman's ruggedly lived-in performance that resonates.
The other standout this week is "Life Itself," in which "Hoop Dreams" director Steve James profiles the life and captures the final months of film critic Roger Ebert. It's a warm and touching look at Ebert's love of the movies, his shared romance with his wife Chaz, and a beautiful meditation on facing death with grace.