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Owl and the Sparrow (PG)

Image Entertainment

As a critic, sometimes a movie I didn't ask for and didn't expect makes its way into my mailbox. Most are utterly senseless, zero-budget, backyard zombie movies made by meth-addled juggalos, but sometimes I'll get a wonderful surprise I can't wait to share with the world. Owl and the Sparrow is that kind of film. In the low-rent metropolis of modern-day Saigon, three people from various walks of life — a young runaway (Pham Thi Han), a shy zookeeper (The Lu Le) and a lonely flight attendant (Cat Ly) — impact one another in the most sweetly subtle way. Filmed with Vietnamese dialogue and shot guerrilla-style on the streets by director Stephane Gauger, this is a moving, charming story of pseudo-familial love that will have you alternately beaming and tearing up. If only I was sent more movies like this! Louis Fowler

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From Paris With Love (R)

Lionsgate Home Entertainment

There's something breezy and new in what seems, on the surface, the same-old, same-old: mismatched secret agents John Travolta (the badass veteran) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (the stuffy newbie) take on drug dealers and terrorists in Paris. They give us a breathlessly exciting, surprisingly funny 90 minutes of audacious twists, outrageous violence, sexy car chases and cinematic tomfoolery. Director Pierre Morel and screenwriter Luc Beeson balance, in exquisitely satisfying fashion, a story that is timely — suicide bombers and the faith it takes to fuel them are key to the plot — while also refreshingly apolitical. The humor comes not from culture snarking but the interplay between our heroes. If this is the birth of a new franchise, hoorah: It is pure movie joy to revel in the chemistry between Travolta and Meyers, and I'd love to see more. — MaryAnn Johanson

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The Landlord (NR)

Massive Ego Productions

Over the past year, I have been a cinematic Johnny Appleseed, spreading the word about the raucously cynical horror-comedy The Landlord to anyone within earshot. Stereotypical slacker (and titular landlord) Tyler has a hard time keeping tenants in his apartment; turns out the place is also a doorway to hell, and its inhabitants are two demons with a constant need to feed. The heart of the movie, directed by Emil Hyde, is the hilarious banter and genuine camaraderie between Tyler (Derek Dziak) and demon slave Rabisu (Rom Barkhordar). Every time they're on screen together, bickering like a aged, demonic Odd Couple, with the affable Tyler having to deal with Rabisu's bloody screw-ups and growing disdain for his demon boss, it's pure comic gold. The Landlord is the best demon-possessed real estate comedy since Beetlejuice. Louis Fowler

Ghost Hunters International: Season One, Part 1 (NR)

Image Entertainment

When it comes to trashy basic cable reality shows, some people like 16 and Pregnant, while others dig Rock of Love Bus. I, on the other hand, love the huckster table-tapping antics of the Ghost Hunters crew and their constant use of the phrase "What was that?" in their indomitable Rhode Island accents. This latest spin-off series, Ghost Hunters International, as you can surmise, takes the original premise and puts it smack-dab in Europe. The crew bumbles around castles with monikers like "Chillingham," wandering in the dark with flashlights and answering every single noise with hushed panic and a pallid refrain of "Did you hear that?" Of course, nothing ever materializes clearly, but is typically captured on recordings as faded globs or easily interpreted voices, but that doesn't stop them from believing. And it won't stop you from laughing at their foibles. Louis Fowler

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