Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Abbie Cornish, Timothy Olyphant | R |

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DRAMA

Sgt. Brandon King (Phillippe) just wants to get on with his life. After volunteering for the Army and serving a tour of duty with distinction in Iraq, he's ready to pack away his medals and settle down in his dusty hometown of Brazos, Texas. But the Army, under its stop-loss policy, indefinitely extends his service. Told he's being shipped back to Iraq, King says no. "I'm done with killing and I ain't leading any more men into a slaughter," he vows.

Stop-Loss, director-cowriter Kimberly Peirce's first film since 1999's Boys Don't Cry, is an honorable—if sometimes narratively unwieldy—effort to examine the psychological and emotional effects of our country's current wars on the soldiers who serve. At the movie's center is King's anguished struggle to figure out where his duty and heart lie, even as he's AWOL and ducking authorities. Equally adrift are his pals (Tatum and Gordon-Levitt), who served with him and have returned to find themselves boozing too much and estranged from wives and girlfriends.

The performances by all are impressively heartfelt, and the movie gets to you. But you can't help thinking as you're watching that this is only fiction and will be neatly tied up at the end. For the soldiers who really have served and come back, as documentaries like the disturbing The War Tapes show, the trauma lingers.

Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth | PG-13 |

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DRAMA

It's a terrific story: A young brainiac (Sturgess) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aided by classmates and coached by a professor (Spacey), outsmarts the Las Vegas casinos. Heading there on weekends, he and his teammates win piles of cash at the blackjack tables by covertly counting cards. So why isn't 21, inspired by the true story told in Bringing Down the House, Ben Mezrich's bestselling 2002 book, juicier fun?

It's not a bad film, just an uninspired, conventional one. The movie labors too hard to establish its hero as a good guy and devise a few semi-charged jolts to toss in near the end. Ditto for the performances, which are adept but predictable. For a film all about gambling, 21 takes no chances and is the duller for it.

The British actress, 35, stars in the romantic comedy Run, Fat Boy, Run, directed by David Schwimmer.

HOW WAS WORKING WITH DAVID? On the first day, he got Star Wars light sabers for himself, Simon [Pegg] and Matthew [Fenton]. He got me a cashmere scarf, which was sweet, but I would have rather gotten down and dirty with the boys.

SIMON RUNS A MARATHON TO IMPRESS YOU. WHAT'S THE BEST ROMANTIC GESTURE YOU'VE MADE? Nothing you could print! It's not about the marathon. It's about being prepared to risk everything.

The rocker and star of Nickelodeon's Drake & Josh, 21, tackles crime (and a spandex suit) as the Dragonfly in the Spider-Man spoof Superhero Movie.

WHAT WAS THE COSTUME LIKE? It's three feet tall, and you've got to stretch it over a muscle suit. In the beginning, it took an hour to put on. If any superhero had to do that, they'd save no one!

HOW ARE YOU RECOVERING FROM YOUR SCARY '05 CAR ACCIDENT? I'm still healing, but it's a lot better. I'm getting my permanent [dental] bridge put on in a couple months. Finally!

YOU'RE A TWEEN IDOL. WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING SWARMED BY FANS? It's fun. That's why you get into it, seeing those old clips of Elvis and the Beatles, and the reaction.

CHAPTER 27 Jared Leto (above) porked up to play Mark David Chapman, John Lennon's assassin, in a tedious film which merely underscores that Chapman was a pathetic loser. Lindsay Lohan costars. (R)

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FLAWLESS In an enjoyably clever heist film, a passed-over female exec—it's 1960—at a diamond company gets sticky fingers. Demi Moore (above, with Michael Caine) looks great in her fitted suits but, as always, her acting is strained. (PG-13)

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RUN, FAT BOY, RUN Simon Pegg (above) is a likable everyman in a slack comedy about a London slacker trying to run a marathon. David Schwimmer directed. (PG-13)

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