Our Idiot Brother

Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer | R |

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COMEDY

Rudd's last summer comedy, Dinner for Schmucks, was such a mess that it was easy to overlook its critical flaw: Rudd was miscast as a suit, when he's clearly an awesome schmuck. Let me explain. Rudd always has seemed like the swellest of dudes, and as hippie farmer Ned, a lovable stumblebum with no filter between his brain and his mouth, he finally gets to play to his strength. After serving time for selling pot to a cop (in uniform!), Ned upends the lives of his more scrupulous sisters, frazzled Earth mother Liz (Mortimer), kooky Natalie (Deschanel) and careerist Miranda (Banks). It's not a terribly original plot, and the ending feels egregiously tacked-on, but the actors are so funny and Rudd is so sweet that you'll leave feeling pretty high on humanity.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison | R |

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HORROR

What a strange hybrid-a funny horror movie with scares in all the right places and laughs for all the wrong reasons. Don't Be Afraid gets its pedigree from the 1973 original, about a creepy house infested with demon critters, but makes a child, Sally (Madison), the intended victim. The whispering, bone-munching ghouls are equal parts spooky and silly, and it's ridiculous how long Sally's dad, Alex (Pearce), ignores the pleas of his daughter and his girlfriend Kim (Holmes) to flee. Still, there are real frights in the Dark.

GROWING ONE EPIC BEARD

"I've had a few super beards in my life. I'm a fan of the Civil War-era look. I like having a beard big enough that you don't have to lower your gaze to see it. You can look straight toward the horizon and still see your mustache. My wife [Julie] says that when it hits a certain length it develops its own smell. Not bad and not good, but specific. She thinks it's amusing more than anything else."

The Help's

Breakout Star

The Alabama native, 39-who's earning Oscar buzz as rebellious maid Minny-talks fried pickles, poker and Howard Stern

YOU HELPED INSPIRE THE CHARACTER OF MINNY.

I wish I could take credit for the brilliance that is Minny. I provided the prototype: chubby, short, with a strong ability to speak her mind. The rest is [author] Kathryn [Stockett's] sheer genius.

DOES YOUR OUTSPOKENNESS GET YOU IN TROUBLE?

Daily. It comes out when I feel I'm being disrespected. My mom died when I was 18, so I had to learn to speak up for myself.

FAVORITE SOUTHERN FOOD?

Anything fried: fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, fried pickles.

DID YOU LEARN TO COOK TO PLAY MINNY?

I didn't know how to cook then and I still don't. I made pulled-beef barbecue sandwiches recently, and they were horrible!

EVER GET STARSTRUCK?

Yes! Last week I got to meet Howard Stern and I totally gawked at him. I was the country bumpkin going, "Hey, y'all!"

HOW DO YOU UNWIND?

I'm a big mystery buff. I love Patricia Cornwell, Dean Koontz. But you can't read Koontz at night because you start freaking out. I love true crime. And I like FBI textbooks. I'm the fanatic who wants to understand the science behind it.

WE HEAR YOUR COSTAR ALLISON JANNEY HOSTS POKER NIGHTS.

We have so much fun. You need $20 to buy in. I've learned to pace myself, but I'm impatient. I want to win now!

SUMMER MOVIES CAN BE SMART!

ANOTHER EARTH

A girl's (Brit Marling) fight to atone for a crime is actually more thrilling than that new planet in the sky.

SENNA

Stunning footage of dashing top racer Ayrton Senna makes for one of the year's best documentaries.

ATTACK THE BLOCK

Funny, scary and gloriously low-tech, this gangsters vs. aliens romp is what summer was made for.

One Hot Barbarian

ON HIS BREAKOUT ROLE

Born in Hawaii and raised in Iowa, the actor, 32, smoldered on the HBO series Game of Thrones before tackling Conan the Barbarian 3D. Growing up, "my mom wouldn't let me watch the [Conan] movies," he says, "but I always got to read the comic books."

ON THOSE MUSCLES

"I love rock climbing and surfing, but I've never worked out to that level before," Momoa says of his Conan training, which involved a diet of "chicken and vegetables" and heavy weightlifting. One fan of his new look? His wife, actress Lisa Bonet, 43. "She wasn't complaining, I'll put it that way. My children [daughter Lola, 4, and son Nakoa-Wolf, 2] would be like, 'Wow, Daddy, you're big!' "

ON SWORDPLAY

Momoa also had to learn to wield a sword like a barbarian. "I love old samurai movies," he says. How good is he now? "I can cut some sushi."

ON FILLING ARNOLD'S SANDALS

"I heard that [Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in the 1982 original] thought that I did a good job. That meant the world to me."