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The Cricket
Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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This image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures shows Jude Law in a scene from "Dom Hemingway." (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Pictures, Nick Wall)
The Cricket’s Daily 3: Humanity, an outsider’s perspective

It’s like an Easter egg hunt at the movies this weekend, with a bunch of new titles in a wide range of topics and quality.

The best this week is over at the Broadway Centre Cinemas: "Under the Skin," an eerie and beautiful thriller that follows an alien female (Scarlett Johansson) driving around Scotland trying to seduce lonely human men. Director Jonathan Glazer ("Birth," "Sexy Beast") creates some haunting images in a spare, nearly wordless narrative — and Johansson is arresting as an alien slowly gaining empathy for humanity.

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The weekend’s big studio movie is "Transcendence," a high-tech thriller starring Johnny Depp as a computer genius who uploads his conscienceness into an artificial-intelligence mainframe. The movie has a glossy look, but falls apart emotionally — largely because Depp’s performance is lacking in humanity in a story that desperately needs it.

DisneyNature’s annual Earth Day offering is "Bears," which follows a mama brown bear and her two cubs through one feeding season in the Alaskan wilderness. The footage is spectacular, but the dumbed-down narration (intoned by John C. Reilly) is a distraction.

Two more studio offerings — the horror parody "A Haunted House 2," and "Make Your Move," a dance romance starring Utah native Derek Hough — were not screened for critics.

On the art-house side, "Finding Vivian Maier" is a fascinating documentary that unravels the mystery of a lost artist — a woman who worked as a nanny for decades, all the time hiding her talent as a street photographer. Directors John Maloof (who discovered Maier’s work) and Charlie Siskel interview many of Maier’s former charges to try to understand the woman, while leaving unanswered the question of whether she would have wanted all this attention.

Lars von Trier’s "Nymphomaniac, Vol. II" arrives at the Tower Theatre, finishing the four-hour saga of a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her many sexual encounters. The sex scenes are more graphic and nasty this time around, but the faux-intellectual digressions are just as off-putting.

Lastly, there’s "Dom Hemingway," which serves up an engaging character — a brash English safecracker played by Jude Law — and then can’t decide what to do with him. Writer-director Richard Shepard ("The Matador") places Law’s Hemingway first in a crime comedy scenario and later in a family drama, trying to reconcile with his daughter (Emilia Clarke), but never settling well into either scenario.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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