— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer
‘‘This Is 40’’ — Every inch a Judd Apatow movie, from the pop culture references and potty mouths to the blunt body humor and escapist drug use. And like all of Apatow’s movies, it’s a good 20 minutes too long. But within that affectionately messy sprawl lies a maturation, an effort to convey something deeper, more personal and more substantive. That goes beyond the casting of his real-life wife, Leslie Mann, as half of the couple in question, and the Apatow children, Maude and Iris, as the family’s daughters in this sort-of-sequel to the 2007 hit ‘‘Knocked Up.’’ As writer and director, Apatow seems more interested in finding painful nuggets of truth than easy laughs. Much of the banter between longtime Los Angeles marrieds Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) can be very funny, but frequently it’s raw and painful as they have the kind of conversations about kids, finances and sex that might make many people in the audience feel an uncomfortable shiver of recognition. The film takes place during the three-week period when Pete and Debbie are both turning 40 (although Debbie likes to pretend she’s still 38). Birthday parties, fights about money, school confrontations, bratty kid flare-ups and awkward attempts at reconciling with parents are among the many events that occur during this vulnerable time of transition. The strong supporting cast includes Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Jason Segel and a surprisingly funny Megan Fox. R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material. 133 minutes. Three stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
‘‘West of Memphis’’ — ‘‘The Hobbit’’ director Peter Jackson reveals the results of his own unexpected journey in this magnificent documentary, which chronicles how an unwavering band of filmmakers, artists and other dissenters challenged the judicial system and won. The case of the West Memphis Three — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, imprisoned as teens in the 1993 murders of three Cub Scouts — has become widely known through the activism of A-list actors and musicians who took up the cause, along with three ‘‘Paradise Lost’’ documentaries that called the convictions into question. After seeing that first ‘‘Paradise Lost’’ film in 2005, Jackson and wife Fran Walsh stepped in, financing their own investigation and enlisting director Amy Berg (the Academy Award-nominated ‘‘Deliver Us from Evil") to chronicle the convoluted case and the new findings that were uncovered. This is nonfiction filmmaking at its best, a film with a fierce point of view yet one that doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or a monopoly on truth. It tells a great story, one that surprises, appalls, riles and gratifies, even as it leaves at least as many questions as it resolves. The film has a triumphant conclusion — freedom for Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley after 18 years in prison. But the ending vexes even as it satisfies. The abiding image is that of the other West Memphis Three, little boys who died horribly, for whom justice has not been served. R for disturbing violent content and some language. 147 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
— David Germain, AP Movie Writer