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Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of recently released movies

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A MIGHTY HEART (R) Based on Mariane Pearl's memoir, this restrained and intelligent film feels too careful and moored to the technicalities of the situation to really deliver the emotional or insightful goods. Director Michael Winterbottom focuses on Mariane's (Angelina Jolie) determined search for her kidnapped (and eventually brutally murdered) Wall Street Journal reporter husband, Daniel Pearl, in 2002 Pakistan. 3 stars -- Feaster

MR. BROOKS (R) Kevin Costner and William Hurt prove eerily entertaining as a Portland, Ore., pillar of the community and the imaginary friend who encourages his "addiction" to murder. The thriller features numerous surprising twists, but suffers enormously when the plot shifts to Demi Moore's drab turn as a millionaire police detective stalked by a standard-issue crazed killer. 3 stars -- Holman

NANCY DREW (PG) Often suggesting a tween "Murder She Wrote," this film based on the classic book series features Emma Roberts as a '50s-style wholesome-girl detective stuck in a contemporary L.A. full of Bratz decadent teens. The film doesn't live up to that comic culture-clash premise, though it may provide a welcome plucky, adventurous-girl role model for younger tweens. -- Feaster

OCEAN'S THIRTEEN (PG-13) In Steven Soderbergh's latest fizzy, flashy caper film, unflappable Danny Ocean (George Clooney) enlists his band of hipster heisters to sting scuzzy casino magnate Willie Bank (Al Pacino with a mesmerizing fake tan). Despite few emotional stakes and plot complexity that crosses the line into incoherence, Soderbergh and company's cool cleverness hits the jackpot anyway. 4 stars -- Holman

ONCE (R) The Guy (Glen Hansard) works part-time helping his father run a small vacuum-cleaner-repair business in Dublin, Ireland, but dreams of one day landing a record deal. His life changes when he meets the Girl (Marketa Irglova), an Eastern European woman who has moved to Ireland to start a new life for herself. Directed by John Carney.

PAPRIKA (R) Director Satoshi Kon strives to push the surreal possibilities of animation to their absolute limit in this mind-boggling tale of scientists trying to wrestle with technology that manipulates dreams. Even when the film seems reckless with its plot and rules, its use of dreams as metaphor for terrorism, cinema and the internet provide more than just eye candy. 4 stars ­-- Holman

PARIS JE T'AIME (R) Twenty filmmakers, including Alfonso Cuarón, the Coen brothers and Gérard Depardieu, bring their own personal touches to the film, which features 20 interconnected narratives set in Paris.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END (PG-13) Jettisoning clarity of plot and character like so much ballast, the overstuffed final film in Gore Verbinski's swashbuckling trilogy lives up to its origins as a diverting theme-park ride, particularly in a pitched battle between two ships in a whirlpool and the surreal sequence of Capt. Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp) rescue from Davy Jones' Locker. 3 stars -- Holman

RATATOUILLE (G) Despite having a cast that's nearly half rodent, writer/director Brad Bird (The Invincibles) breaks from the Pixar formula of cute, funny action comedies about talking toys/bugs/cars/etc. for an ingenious, bittersweet culinary farce. The brilliant gags might tickle your sweet tooth, but the film also serves rich, hearty subtext about life's sensual pleasures and the necessity of personal evolution. And it looks good enough to eat. Features the voices of Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo and Ian Holm. 5 stars -- Holman

SEPTEMBER DAWN (R) Academy Award winner Jon Voight stars as Jacob Samuelson in Christopher Cain's fictionalized love story set against the historical backdrop of the 1857 massacre of more than 100 men, women and children supposedly ordered by one of the nation's most controversial religious figures.

SEVERANCE (R) A busload of white-collar office drones experiences a high mortality rate on a "team-building weekend" at a remote Eastern European lodge. Director Christopher Smith strikes a sharp balance of humor and horror in this lightly satirical slasher flick with a keen observant political edge. 3 stars -- Holman

SHREK THE THIRD (PG) Slovenly ogre Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) shirks his royal duties by trying to enlist the only other heir, meek teen Arthur (de facto king of pop Justin Timberlake). Smug and self-congratulatory, Shrek the Third lacks the freshness and energy of its predecessors and takes perfunctory potshots at such cutting-edge topics as high school, dinner theater, hippies and vain, snobby princesses (although such voice actresses as Amy Sedaris offer amusingly ditzy turns). 2 stars -- Holman

SICKO (PG-13) Propumentarian Michael Moore thankfully tends to fade into the background in this impassioned film about America's health-care crisis. Apart from the occasional stunt, such as a trip to Cuba to highlight the advantages of nationalized health care, Moore instead lets the victims of America's bureaucracy-choked and bottom-line-minded health-care business show -- in chilling but often humorous terms -- how adequate medical treatment has become a luxury item in the United States. 5 stars ­-- Feaster

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