"Frances Ha" — On paper it sounds unbearably precious and solipsistic — a cliche, even. Middle-class, college-educated white girl in her mid-20s wanders around New York City with no real home, job or purpose, and as she struggles to find herself, she ends up even more lost. Wah. But as it turns out, "Frances Ha" is absolutely charming: funny, sad, cringe-inducing and heartbreaking but, above all, brimming with authenticity, thanks in large part to a winning star turn from indie darling Greta Gerwig. This is a great showcase for Gerwig's abiding naturalism; not a single moment from her feels cutesy, self-conscious or false. She and director Noah Baumbach, who worked together on the 2010 comedy "Greenberg," co-wrote the script, creating a sense of realism through a series of absurd moments. Frances is goofy and guileless, awkward and affectionate but clearly decent-hearted to the core, which only makes her misadventures more agonizing and makes you root harder for her to find true happiness. Baumbach, whose previous films include the subtle, brilliantly observant "The Squid and the Whale," borrows from a couple of different sources here: the chatty, cultured New York epitomized by 1970s Woody Allen films and the black-and-white intimacy and restless youth of the French New Wave. But there's a timelessness to this story and a universality: that state of uncertainty between the optimism of college and the responsibility of adulthood. R for sexual references and language. 86 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"Star Trek Into Darkness" — Like fan-boy fiction on a $185 million budget, director J.J. Abrams' film is reverential, faithful and steeped in "Trek" mythology. It's also an excessively derivative what-if rehash of themes and interactions that came before, most of the characters lesser copies and even caricatures of the originals. The scenario's been hijacked and rejiggered from better "Trek" plots of decades ago, the best verbal exchanges lifted nearly verbatim from past adventures. In short, the new chiefs of Starfleet aren't coming up with much to call their own. But they pile on the spectacle in a way that's never been seen before in "Star Trek"; the action in "Into Darkness" is top-notch, the visuals grand, though the movie's needless conversion to 3-D muddies the images. Abrams was most definitely not a fan-boy for this franchise when he made 2009's "Star Trek," which reintroduced Kirk, Spock and the rest of the starship Enterprise gang with a time-travel twist that allowed the William Shatner-Leonard Nimoy original to coexist with an entirely different destiny for the new players. Abrams grew up a fan of "Star Wars," the next space saga he'll be reviving with the launch of a third trilogy. But his key collaborators, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, are "Trek" fan-boys to their marrow. They know this world, they love this world, and like many fans, they have a particular fixation on 1982's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," the best that the franchise has ever had to offer, on the big-screen or TV. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho and Zoe Saldana are among the returning ensemble cast. PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence. 132 minutes. Two stars out of four.
— David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"Stories We Tell" — A documentary about Sarah Polley's family: her father and mother, sister and brother, and the sister and brother she has from her mother's first marriage. It's about moments they've shared that are seemingly prosaic and universally relatable, as well as the betrayals and losses that shaped and strengthened them. But while it's incredibly specific in its detail and makes you feel as if you've known these people forever after spending less than two hours with them, "Stories We Tell" is also about every family. It reveals that we're all unreliable narrators of our own histories, especially after years and even decades have gone by. And it reminds us that the truth is a fleeting thing, constantly changing in the slightest of ways depending on who's telling it. Polley, the Toronto-based actress-turned-filmmaker, has shown astonishing emotional depth and technical maturity at a young age in just two previous features: "Away From Her" and "Take This Waltz." Like those earlier films, "Stories We Tell" focuses on how a long-term relationship evolves over time. Now 34 and tackling a subject that's so close to her heart, she reveals a whole new level of artistic mastery. Her meta-, multilayered exploration of her own past combines interviews, archival footage and meticulous reenactments so seamlessly, it's hard to tell what's real and what's mythologized. And that's the point. PG-13 for thematic elements involving sexuality, brief strong language and smoking. 108 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic