Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ciaran Hinds

BY LEAH ROZEN
BIBLICAL

Teenage Mary is unhappy at her parents' plan to hand her over to Joseph, a taciturn suitor at least a decade her senior. "Why," she asks a friend in Nazareth, adopting a self-dramatizing whine apparently used by adolescents since time began, "do they force me to marry a man I do not love, a man I hardly know?" This brief display of age-appropriate resentment of parental authority tantalizingly teases that The Nativity Story might become Nazareth 90210. If only. Instead, the film continues on its march of respectful dullness, dry and dusty as the landscape of its locale.

This prosaic retelling of the early chapters of the New Testament is determinedly unshowy. Its Mary and Joseph are ordinary folk caught up in an extraordinary story. Mary (Castle-Hughes) furrows her brow in worry after becoming pregnant immaculately; Joseph (Isaac) is steadfast and kindly; an angel makes reassuring visits to both of them; and the three wise men are more like the three wise guys, cracking lame jokes and poking fun at each other. What's missing is either the whip-smacking passion that Mel Gibson brought to his Passion of the Christ or the amusing cheesiness of old-time Hollywood biblical epics. This Story will offend no one, but neither will it inspire. (PG)

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Josh Duhamel, Melissa George
HORROR

If The Wizard of Oz didn't already teach you that there's no place like home, this gruesome horror film offers a refresher course. Its tanned, toned and swimsuit-clad characters, just looking to relax on a Brazilian beach with an exotic drink, are stalked by murderous locals intent on—without giving away the plot—performing a little surgery without the patient's consent. It's enough to make you scissor your passport in half.

A movie like this is really all about guessing which, if any, of the characters will survive and in what order the less fortunate ones will be killed off. Turistas offers few surprises on this count: Watch your tummies, lesser-billed actors. Duhamel (TV's Las Vegas) looks ruggedly manly in his surfer shorts, which is about all that's asked of him here. (R)

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No Average Joseph!

ON PLAYING HISTORY'S MOST FAMOUS STEPDAD The Bible describes Joseph as righteous—that's it. In paintings he's always behind sheep trying to get in the shot! I wanted to show him feeling jealousy and fear.

ON LIVING BIBLICALLY Shohreh and Keisha had to milk goats and make cheese. I had "manly" tasks like masonry. People wouldn't know where I was and then find me at my little table carving a spoon.

10 Items or Less A Hollywood star (Morgan Freeman), his career on the downswing, befriends a grocery store cashier (Paz Vega) for a day after he finds himself in her store and without a ride home. Each learns life lessons from the other in a well-intentioned but wispy comedic drama by writer-director Brad Silberling (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events). (R)

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3 Needles A bevy of talented actors, Sandra Oh in particular, are wasted in three often confusing stories about the global spread of AIDS and its consequences. Lucy Liu comes off best in a moving episode about a woman collecting black-market blood in rural China; Stockard Channing appears as the mother of an ill porn star in Montreal; and Oh, Chloë Sevigny and Olympia Dukakis play nuns tending to the sick in Africa while trying to save their souls. (Not rated)

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Opal Dream In a sweet family drama that manages to stay just this side of precious, a young girl (Sapphire Boyce) living in rural Australia spends all her time in the company of two imaginary friends. Eventually her parents, brother and the whole town come to see why you gotta believe.(PG)

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The original Tracy Turnblad lands a cameo in the new musical version of Hairspray.

BACK IN THE DAY When I starred in the ['88 movie], we had no trailers! I changed in alleyways. It was the best summer of my life.

WHAT A TEASE! They ruined my hair—I had to dye it and tease it every day. [New star] Nikki Blonsky wears a wig.

PERK #1 I danced so much I lost weight. They'd yell "Fat patrol!" and give me Dove bars.

PERK #2 I loved making out with Link [actor Michael St. Gerard]. I hadn't kissed many boys—to kiss the hot one was really fun!

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST ($34.99) Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and his scurvy crew, plus Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, return in a bloated sequel. Extras: Only the writers show up to do audio commentary, but behind-the-scenes peeks in the two-disc collector's edition are plentiful. One even dissects Jack's costume (his sword is a 1740s antique). (PG-13) Movie:

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MIAMI VICE UNRATED DIRECTOR'S EDITION ($29.98) Undercover cops (Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx) in Miami pursue drug dealers in a joyless crime thriller based on the '80s TV series. Extras: Exhaustive commentary by director-writer Michael Mann, plus a new powerboat-race opener and extended scenes. (R) Movie:

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ROCKY COLLECTOR'S EDITION ($26.98) Can't wait for Rocky Balboa on Dec. 22? Here's the 1976 Oscar-winning original. Extras: Commentary by star-writer Sylvester Stallone plus lots more good stuff on two discs.(PG) Movie:

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