“Philomena” (PG-13, 95 minutes, The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay): At 78, British actress Judi Dench has become an international treasure, playing steely, formidable characters with as much ease as cozier, more grandmotherly roles. All those qualities can be glimpsed in “Philomena,” in which Dench plays the title character, a woman who, as a pregnant teenager in 1950s Ireland, was forced to give her son up for adoption after giving birth to him in a Catholic abbey. As the soft-spoken, slightly frumpy Philomena Lee, Dench delivers one of her most recessive, unprepossessing performances yet; her dashing silver-haired turn as James Bond’s “M” is thoroughly banished beneath a staid crown of mousy curls. But that signature brand of Dench tungsten glints through, as Philomena embarks on a search for her now-middle-aged son and debates the tenets of her faith with the skeptical journalist chronicling her journey. Contains strong profanity, thematic elements and sexual references.
“Ride Along” (PG-13, 100 minutes, Warner): This buddy-cop comedy has one big thing going for it. Or, more accurately, a little thing: comedian Kevin Hart. He plays Ben, a motor-mouthed gamer and high school security guard who wants to marry his girlfriend, Angela (Tika Sumpter), but needs to get approval from her prickly brother, James (Ice Cube). The two men got off on the wrong foot, but James, a police officer, tells Ben there’s one way he can prove himself: James proposes that Ben tag along during a day on the job. Given that Ben is an aspiring cop, he jumps at the chance. Predictably, the day doesn’t unfold as heroically as Ben hopes. Contains action, violence, sexually explicit discussions and language.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (PG, 114 minutes, Fox): As the title character, Ben Stiller brings his jut-jawed, laser-blue glare to a character who starts off as something of a passive cipher. As a longtime manager for “negative assets” at Life magazine, Walter processes the magazine’s photographers’ celluloid – in other words, he’s an obsolete guy working in an obsolete media platform within a soon-to-be all-digital art form. The film’s opening scene, wherein Walter hesitantly “winks” at a woman on an online dating forum, makes it clear: This is a man working at Life, rather than living it. The unevenness of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and Stiller’s recessive characterization of the title character, keep it from being an all-out crowd-pleaser. Still, there’s a winsome, atta-boy appeal to “Walter Mitty” that deserves to be honored. It’s a perfectly likable movie, and sometimes that’s good enough. Contains some crude comments, profanity and action violence.
Also: “The Nut Job,” “The Invisible Woman,” “Mobius,” “Better Living Through Chemistry,” “Date and Switch,” “Boys of Abu Ghraib,” “Copperhead,” “The Curse of the Gothic Symphony” (2011, documentary), “Flowers in the Attic” (Lifetime original movie), “Breaking the Waves,” “The End of Time,” “The Gabby Douglas Story,” “Great Expectations,” “Confession of Murder” (South Korea), “Picture of Light” (1994), “Murder on the Home Front” (PBS), “Being Ginger,” “Camp Dread,” “Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings” and “Barney: Happy Birthday Barney” (animated).