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Paper Man (R)

MPI Home Video

Quirky indie comedy alert! Set phasers to ... indifference? OK, maybe that's a little bit harsh, because inside Paper Man is a sweet little movie, but they have unnecessarily thrown in so many twee plot contrivances that it's just annoyingly, well, quirky. Jeff Daniels is Richard Dunn, a possibly autistic author with an imaginary friend, superhero Captain Excellent (a ridiculously blond Ryan Reynolds). As Dunn's marriage crumbles around him, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with Emma Stone, who, true to every character she plays, has more issues than a Tori Amos album. It would've been enough to just have Daniels and Stone work out their various problems, but why Captain Excellent? He serves no purpose and does nothing that Dunn can't do himself. It's way too distracting from the actual plot to fully invest you in the thing as a whole. — Louis Fowler

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Freakonomics (PG-13)

Magnolia Home Entertainment

The 4 million people who've already read Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's smash 2005 economics analysis Freakonomics might think there's nothing new to be gained in seeing this omnibus visual companion masked as a documentary. They would be wrong. A supergroup of documentary filmmakers each tackle one of the book's tenets. Morgan Spurlock's (Super Size Me) trademark goofy style is fun but caricatures his subject (the effect of black baby names vs. white baby names on the baby's future) to the point of offensiveness, while Alex Gibney's (Casino Jack and the United States of Money) segment on cheating in sumo wrestling is solemn and beautiful. The best of the bunch, by Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), examines the shocking reason behind the 1990s crime drop. — Justin Strout

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Secretariat (PG)

Walt Disney Studios

Secretariat is another of Disney's pigheadedly inspiring, demographic-slathering, sports-movie heartwarmers, and it's just as clichéd and clueless as The Blind Side. Diane Lane does her best Joan Allen impersonation as Penny Chenery, the ballsy daughter of an ailing Virginia horse breeder. Penny takes over the business while the white men in her life grumble and disapprove, but she eventually shepherds her prize horse to the 1973 Triple Crown. Supposedly a creaseless model of stiff-upper-lip feminine power, here Penny winds up a wink and a nod away from being a horsefucker. (She retreats from family gatherings to nuzzle and confide in Secretariat.) Director Randall Wallace brings all the subtle grace you would expect from the writer of Pearl Harbor — dig that dance scene/horse bath set to the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There"! — Daniel Barnes

  • Paper Man, Freakonomics, Secretariat

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