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when God (returning Morgan Freeman) appears and instructs him to build an ark.

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A Mighty Heart 

Based on Mariane Pearl’s book A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl, the film finds Angelina Jolie delivering a remarkably restrained performance as Mariane, whose husband (played by Dan Futterman), a Wall Street Journal reporter, is kidnapped while the pair are living in Pakistan in 2002. Six months pregnant, Mariane tries to stay optimistic in the face of this grim situation, using her own sources to track him down while also relying heavily on the aid of the Pakistani anti-terrorism unit, American diplomats and the FBI. In fact, her outer fortitude is occasionally misinterpreted as a lack of concern (i.e. the Lindy “The dingo’s got my baby” Chamberlain syndrome), which leads some to foolishly question her devotion to her husband. But all that matters to Mariane is having her spouse returned to her, and, given Hollywood’s propensity for promoting American know-how as well as its can-do attitude, it’s perhaps the movie’s most surprising development that the efforts of the Pakistanis, not the U.S. law officials, go the furthest toward cracking the case.

Ocean’s Thirteen  Isn’t it accepted -- in fact, isn’t it pretty much gospel -- that the third picture in any given trilogy is when the series has totally lost it, when the filmmakers have been completely replaced by pimps and profiteers? So how is it possible that Ocean’s Thirteen has emerged as the best of this franchise?

Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer 

It remains a mystery how the 2005 superhero yarn Fantastic Four grossed $154 million stateside, considering that most of its special effects were on the level of a 6-yearold floating his plastic boat in the bathtub.

This time effects are a vast improvement. Would that the rest of this picture inspired similar admiration. Instead, FF2 suffers from the same ailments that made the original such a drag: ham-fisted direction, embarrassing acting, stilted dialogue and the fumbling of a classic villain. There are some mildly interesting conflicts, not only between the heroes and their adversaries but also among the team members themselves: group leader Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd), fiancee Sue Storm/Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba), Reed’s best friend Ben Grimm/The Thing (Michael Chiklis) and Sue’s kid brother Johnny Storm/ Human Torch (Chris Evans). Personal issues get thrust onto the backburner, though, once the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne) flies onto the scene with the intention of destroying the planet.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End  Thirty-three minutes. Yes, it takes 33 minutes into the 168-minute Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End before Johnny Depp even makes an appearance. Considering he’s this franchise’s MVP, that’s a dicey move on the part of the filmmakers; then again, everything about this second sequel operates with a go-for-broke mentality. Pirates 3 is overblown, overstuffed and overthe-top. It’s also entertaining and sometimes

even exciting, which right there marks it as an improvement over last summer’s Dead Man’s Chest.

Knocked Up 

Like There’s Something About Mary, director Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin was unique in that it successfully mixed raunch with romance. Knocked Up, which reunites Apatow with Virgin co-star Seth Rogen, attempts a similar balancing act, only it falls a tad short. There’s a sweet love story on view here as well, only because it’s more rushed it ultimately plays second string to the picture’s comedy quota. Fortunately, on that front, the movie’s an unqualified hit. Rogen plays Ben Stone, a slacker who enjoys reefer and hanging out with his equally unambitious roommates. One night at a nightclub, he meets Alison (Katherine Heigl), who’s out celebrating her promotion at E! Entertainment Television. Before morning arrives, the pair will have engaged in a onenight stand. Alison learns she’s pregnant,

and she decides that she and Ben should attempt to make their relationship work for the sake of the baby.

Spider-Man 3

The appeal of Spider-Man has always reached far beyond the comic book crowd: He’s become an icon of enormous proportions. With this in mind, director Sam Raimi and his scripters have fashioned three Spider-Man flicks that have all managed to remain true to the spirit -- if not always the letter -- of the comic series. None have reached the giddy heights of, say, 1978’s Superman or 2005’s Batman Begins, but they have all achieved what they set out to do: provide solid entertainment. w

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A fairly effective creepshow in which our protagonist only has to worry about a haunted room. But what a room! Hack writer Mike Enslin (an excellent John Cusack) has built a career penning guide books on supposedly haunted locales across America, and after years of doing so, he realizes, with the same level of smugness as Hilary Swank’s mythbuster in The Reaping, that there are no such things as ghosts and goblins and gremlins and golems. So when he receives a postcard from the Dolphin Hotel in New York telling him not to enter the establishment’s room 1408, he scoffs at the warning but elects to check it out anyway. His arrival is met with resistance by Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), the hotel manager. At first, the spooky proceedings are kept on a low-key simmer. But scripters Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski don’t just adapt Stephen King’s short story; they stick a helium needle into it and expand it to grotesque proportions.

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