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Nina Conti: Her Master's Voice (NR)

Virgil Films

After seeing the brutally unfunny, racist comedy of Jeff Dunham and his jalapeño puppet, it's easy to not only believe that ventriloquism is the last resort of stand-up hacks, but also a dead art form. That's why I'm so glad this half-documentary, half-mockumentary has come along. Nina Conti: Her Master's Voice not only lifts the art form out of the gutter, but injects it with a real intellectualism that's been absent since Willie Tyler and Lester. British ventriloquist Conti inherits a trunk full of dummies from her mentor, highly acclaimed playwright Ken Campbell, and goes on a quest to deliver the puppets to Vent Haven, a museum for discarded dummies, which also happens to be near a ventriloquists' convention. Along the way, fact and fiction become blurred as Conti seems to have a mental breakdown of sorts, giving the film a deep and melancholy tone. — Louis Fowler

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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (R)

Universal Studios

A $10 million indie romance about an asteroid-facilitated apocalypse is certainly a departure for Lorene Scafaria, whose debut film, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, suffered from a depletion of romantic tension. In Seeking, an off-camera aeronautical mission to destroy an Earth-bound asteroid has failed, leaving the planet about three weeks. Scafaria follows lonely insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell), whose existence isn't in crisis so much as in question. Now he wonders, "What do I really want?" The answer comes in the form of a beautiful British neighbor (Keira Knightley), though their romantic connection develops slowly and more tenderly than expected. Seeking's first half wallows in nihilism, but once our leads leave clustered society behind, the film takes an involving turn toward character development. — Justin Strout

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Peter Gunn: The Complete Series (NR)

Timeless Media

Mostly forgotten by today's television-viewing audience, the classic series Peter Gunn was total swank in its day. Created by Blake Edwards (who would later do another classic caper series, The Pink Panther), it was TV's first cool-cat detective series, a kooky film-noir tribute that ran from 1958 to 1961. The titular Gunn was a suave player with expensive tastes (he drove a Plymouth Fury convertible with a mobile phone — did they even have those in the '50s?) and an eye for the dames, doling out justice when needed, all to an iconic theme song by Henry Mancini. This series is one of the must-buy box-sets of the year: It includes all 114 original episodes on 12 discs and a CD of the Grammy-winning soundtrack. Television has very rarely been as cool as this, and it's time that Peter Gunn be rescued from relative obscurity by a new generation of devotees. — Louis Fowler


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