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UPDATED 11/29/2010 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/29/2010 at 01:00 AM EST

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint | PG-13 |

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ADVENTURE

No more classes, no more books, no more teachers' dir-well, no more teachers at all, really. The penultimate Potter film abandons Hogwarts, thrusting Harry (Radcliffe), Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Grint) into the wilderness on a grimly adult hunt for clues to thwart Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Sadly, dividing J.K. Rowling's final Potter book into two films, however logical, does more violence to the material than even Voldemort could manage. Though the trio's trek through the first half of the book is often scary, the film underscores its tediousness; at nearly 2½ hours, it's far too long. A clever jaunt into the Ministry of Magic and brisk chases punctuate the dull stretches, but Part 1 is (and utterly feels) like setup for next summer's dramatic finale, with a mighty battle to decide the fate of the world. Take heart, fellow Potter fans: A better film surely awaits.

Fair Game

Naomi Watts, Sean Penn | PG-13 |

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DRAMA

Opening scene: Watts, a spy in a sexy suit, lures a foreign target into thinking she's easy prey. Before he realizes what's happened, she shifts the balance of power and turns him into a traitor. It's immediately clear that Valerie Plame Wilson-the CIA agent outed by a Bush administration official in 2003-could out-stealth James Bond, something coolly conveyed by Watts. Costarring Penn as Plame's bulldog of a husband, retired diplomat Joe Wilson, Fair Game charts the near-collapse of their marriage as political operatives work to discredit them. Where the film falls short is in revealing more about Valerie and Joe beyond their careers. Still, with solid casting and acting, it's a worthy effort.

The Next Three Days

Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks | PG-13 |

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DRAMA

There's a tense little thriller that wants badly to bust out of The Next Three Days, a film that spends too much of its time being a dry, sluggish family melodrama. It tells the story of John and Lara (Crowe and Banks), a happily married couple whose cozy life is obliterated after she's charged with murder and railroaded into a long prison term. Her appeals exhausted, John undertakes the unimaginable task of breaking her out of a downtown Pittsburgh jail. Playing an anti-gladiator, Crowe is quietly convincing as a nebbishy community-college prof who transforms himself, chiefly through clever YouTube searches and judicious use of duct tape, into a master criminal. It's a slog getting there, but once the jailbreak is afoot, the movie starts to cook, and you find yourself invested in characters who until then had been ciphers.

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