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The 11th Hour, Juno, more

THE 11TH HOUR (2007). In exactly which universe could Al Gore possibly emerge as a more charismatic screen presence than Leonardo DiCaprio? In our own, it seems. DiCaprio has long proven himself to be a sincere environmentalist (he was a logical choice to share the stage with Gore at last year's Academy Awards ceremony), yet good intentions don't always make for good movies. Case in point: The 11th Hour, in which DiCaprio (who serves as producer and narrator) looks at the fragile condition of this planet and makes some suggestions on how to improve our quality of life before it's too late. Unlike the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, in which Gore shocked everyone by revealing himself as an appealing teacher while passing along a wealth of knowledge in a colorful and easy-to-digest manner, this dry documentary relies on a monotonous DiCaprio and 55 talking heads (yes, 55; I counted the names in the end credits) to relay soundbites of scientific data, much of which many of us already knew (if this film was a book, it'd be called Environmentalism for Dummies). This is clearly a case of too many cooks spoiling the organic broth: Whereas, for example, An Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed the Electric Car? focused on specific issues and explored them in depth, this dull film is too scattershot to make much of an impression – or impact. As a PSA, The 11th Hour is perhaps an extremely important work, but strictly as a motion picture, it's ripe for recycling.

Speaking of recycling, the DVD release backs up the sincerity of the film's creators by being packaged in "100%-certified renewable resources." Extras on the disc itself include five featurettes (totaling 1-1/2 hours) in which various folks discuss possible solutions to the current global crisis.

Movie: **

Extras: **

JUNO (2007). Ellen Page (Hard Candy) is pure perfection as the title character, a spunky and verbose teen who finds herself pregnant after a dalliance with sweet classmate Paulie Bleeker (Superbad's Michael Cera). After careful research, she decides on the adoptive parents: Vanessa (Jennifer Garner), a tightly wound businesswoman who wants a child in the worst way, and Mark (Jason Bateman), a TV jingle composer who tends to live in the past. But Juno's idea of how everything should proceed doesn't exactly pan out, and her sarcastic front falters in the face of fear and uncertainty, revealing the child underneath. Perhaps because it was written by a woman – and a former stripper at that – Juno's theatrical run occasionally endured the sort of knee-jerk backlash that tellingly was never foisted upon Judd Apatow's similarly themed Knocked Up (not that the controversy made any dent in its box office numbers or awards tally). Yet Diablo Cody's script is more balanced than Apatow's: The laughs are plentiful in both, but Cody places more emphasis on the emotional fallout, with Juno and Bleeker awkwardly trying to express their feelings for each other and Vanessa's anxiety almost palpable as she worries that Juno might change her mind about handing over the baby (Garner is excellent in her best film role to date and should have received an Oscar nomination). Cody's dialogue may not always be believable (how many 16-year-old girls reference Dario Argento, let alone Soupy Sales and Seabiscuit?), but its intelligence and quirky humor qualify as music to the ears of moviegoers tired of witless banter. And speaking of music, the soundtrack is a keeper as well, with eccentric tunes that serve the action. Kicking up a fuss (much like Juno's unborn baby), this was one of last year's best releases. Nominated for four Academy Awards (including Best Picture), it won for – what else? – Best Original Screenplay.

Extras on the two-disc DVD include audio commentary by director Jason Reitman and Cody, a behind-the-scenes featurette, 20 minutes of deleted scenes, and a gag reel. The second disc contains a digital copy of the film for portable media players.

Movie: ***1/2

Extras: ***

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (2007). How is it even possible to make a PG-13 movie about a man and his plastic sex doll? To their (sort-of) credit, director Craig Gillespie and writer Nancy Oliver (the latter earning a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nom) give it a shot by fashioning a gentle parable about an introvert whose relationship with said object is actually a cry for help – plus, it doesn't hurt audience acceptance of the film (and the character) that he never uses the faux-female for what she was intended. In a performance that's as calculating as it is sweet-natured, Ryan Gosling plays Lars, a shy man who cringes at the mere thought of interacting with other humans, whether at the office, at parties, or even in the home of his brother (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer). Lars ends up purchasing a sex doll online, but rather than using her to satisfy God-given urges, he maintains a platonic relationship, escorting her all over town and introducing her to bewildered townsfolk as his Brazilian girlfriend Bianca. Rather than shunning Lars, his family and neighbors go along with the delusion, coaxing him (and Bianca!) into becoming more involved with the community even as a psychiatrist (Patricia Clarkson) attempts to uncover the source of his behavior. An often clumsy fable about the sting of loneliness and the welcome balm of selfless intervention, Lars and the Real Girl still can't overcome a gimmick that's well-suited for a short film but inadequate when stretched out over 105 minutes. The supporting cast is fine, especially Schneider and Mortimer as Lars' perplexed family members and Kelli Garner as a co-worker who could use some of that love and affection that Lars bestows on Bianca.

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