“Blue Jasmine” (PG-13, 98 minutes, Sony): Cate Blanchett is an addled force in Woody Allen’s homage to San Francisco and the epic self-deceptions of Tennessee Williams’ battered heroine Blanche DuBois. Blanchett’s character, Jasmine, is a sad, self-medicating New Yorker whose rapidly fraying mental state is barely camouflaged under layers of Chanel, carefully coiffed hair and frequent applications of Stolichnaya. As “Blue Jasmine” opens, Jasmine is flying to San Francisco to stay with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), to escape troubles caused by her Wall Street executive husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), and begin a new life. Once in Ginger’s shabby apartment, Jasmine’s already fragile composure begins to crack, her compulsive small talk taking on even more desperate cadences, her memories of happier times — on Park Avenue, in the Hamptons, accepting diamond-encrusted baubles from her adoring husband — beginning ever more insistently to intrude. Following an ingenious structure devised by Allen at his most sharp and alert, “Blue Jasmine” turns out to be as familiar for its ripped-from-the-headlines topicality as it is for its magnolia-scented whiffs of Blanche’s beloved Belle Reve.
“Captain Phillips” (PG-13, 130 minutes, Sony): This film about piracy off the coast of Africa is such an impressive dramatic achievement that it comes as a shock when it gets even better, during a devastating final scene in which Tom Hanks single-handedly dismantles Hollywood notions of macho heroism in one shattering, virtually wordless sequence. That moment, as purely emotional as what went before has been kinetic, makes “Captain Phillips” yet another Paul Greengrass masterpiece.
“In a World . . .” (R, 93 minutes, Sony): Lake Bell, the tall, gorgeous actress best known for sexy-funny supporting roles in “What Happens in Vegas” and “It’s Complicated,” delivers a smart, enjoyable writing-directing debut in which she deservedly stars. Bell plays Carol, a struggling voice-over artist whose career is stymied by a rigid old-boys’ network in the studio and at home by her own overbearing father, Sam (Fred Melamed), a famous movie-trailer narrator and contemporary of the late, great Don LaFontaine. The real-life voiceover legend LaFontaine, who died in 2008, is the one who made the phrase “In a world” his own; in Bell’s nervy, fizzily paced story, a studio decides to dust off those three little words for its upcoming “quadrilogy” about a tribe of heroic Amazonian women vanquishing mutant male savages. Carol unwittingly becomes part of the race for that coveted gig, competing with her dad.
“Instructions Not Included” (PG-13, 115 minutes, in Spanish and English with subtitles, Lionsgate): Eugenio Derbez, a television superstar in his native Mexico, directs and stars in this Mexican dramedy that surprised many box office observers by pulling in $44 million — making it the most successful Spanish-language film ever released in the United States. While polished, amusing and with some crossover appeal, the film is geared mainly to Latinos who are already in the know. One joke in the film — which concerns an unemployed Acapulco playboy-turned-Hollywood-stuntman left to raise a child he fathered with one of his exes — is set up by the statistic that stuntman is one of the three most dangerous professions in the world. What’s number two? Pizza deliveryman in Mexico City. Derbez does make for a genial idiot as Valentin, growing from clueless new father to World’s Best Dad almost overnight, in a montage that covers seven years of his daughter Maggie’s growth. Loreto Peralta is also pretty darn adorable as the little girl, a bilingual charmer who serves as her hapless father’s interpreter in Los Angeles, where most of the film is set.