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Nicolas Cage has had money problems for awhile — problems that have forced him to take seemingly any project that winds up his way, which has in turn tarnished his critical reputation. But he’s still got it, when he’s actually asked to show it. In between something called “Frozen Ground” and something called “Rage,” the Oscar-winner last year starred in the latest from “George Washington” auteur David Gordon Green —himself an eccentric, back to making serious fare after a dip in stoner comedy (“Pineapple Express”). Cage may be playing an ex-con who becomes a role model for a wayward kid (“Mud”’s Tye Sheridan), but much like his character, he’s a very reluctant goodie, and his growling, hungry turn is by no means Cage playing nice. Savor it, as the film’s failure at the box office and lack of accolades means you’ll be getting plenty more Cage vehicles with titles like “Men with No Fear” (out later this year).

‘The Music Never Stopped’
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J.K. Simmons had never been Oscar-nominated before “Whiplash,” though that’s partly due to a shortage of meaty film roles. He deserved a lot more attention, at least, for this 2011 drama, in which he plays a nicer character, at least relatively speaking. Adapted from Oliver Sacks’ essay “The Last Hippie,” it puts Simmons into the role of a cranky, old school distant dad in the early 1970s who slowly softens after his estranged hippie son (Lou Taylor Pucci) suffers a brain tumor and can only communicate when listening to his favorite music. That means far, far too much Grateful Dead, but it also means watching Simmons’ peerless work, which tears heart strings through precise underplaying.

‘The Heart Machine’
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The Internet is destroying humanity, we’re constantly assured by doomsday prophets on the Internet, and “The Heart Machine” gets in on that. It follows a young Brooklynite (John Gallagher Jr.) who strongly suspects his Berlin-based Internet girlfriend (Kate Lyn Sheil) actually lives in Manhattan. His clumsy, increasingly creepy investigation methods, however, aren’t any more humane than her subterfuge, and director Zachary Wigon films him in chilly long takes that suck all air out of the room. Even if you think it’s peddling hysteria, you have to respect its style.

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