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In theaters this week

The Ides of March (R)

As a writer-director, George Clooney pushes all the hot buttons. In Good Night, and Good Luck it was the media; in The Ides of March it's politics. Clooney plays Mike Morris, an Obama-like governor running for the Democratic Party nomination. Ryan Gosling is Stephen Myers, an idealistic press secretary who thinks Mike is the chosen one. But the deeper he gets into the campaign — which is being battled over Ohio votes — the more dirt he finds. Clooney doesn't hold back his disdain for the political circus here. Everyone involved (including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti) hits below the belt, and nobody comes up clean in the end. Politics is an unsexy subject for a movie, but with Clooney and Gosling as leads, The Ides of March manages some sparks. Yes, it's talky and a bit melodramatic, and just like a real political arena, the same issues are hammered out over and over again. But after a summer of soggy superheroes and big action letdowns, a smart, savvy movie like this is just the thing to get your brain working again. (Michael Gallucci)

Drive (R) — Ryan Gosling's nameless character spends his nights chauffeuring criminals and his days stunt-driving for movies in L.A. He doesn't say much or do much, but somehow he manages to fall for his neighbor, a young mother whose man is in prison. When the man returns home and finds out he owes money, he turns to Gosling for help. Then things get bad. It's a seemingly one-note movie about cars, mobsters, and Gosling's muscles, which more than make up for it. (Courtney Kerrigan)

50/50 (R) — Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old news radio producer, finds out that his persistent back pain is actually a rare spinal tumor with a 50 percent survival rate. With the help of a sweet but inexperienced therapist-in-training, he begins the steps to dealing with his cancer. The people around him deal with it differently — especially his best friend (Seth Rogen), who uses his pal's illness to get laid. Gordon-Levitt — after nailing both a romantic comedy and an action movie in the past two years — gets to show off what a great actor he's become. One of the year's best movies. (Gallucci)

I Don't Know How She Does It (PG-13) — Doug McGrath's retro-feeling romantic comedy could have been made back in the mid-'60s with Natalie Wood. It leans a bit too heavily on Sarah Jessica Parker's Sex and the City persona, but likable performances and a breezy 90-minute run time make this more painless than you'd think. (Milan Paurich)

Moneyball (PG-13) — This low-key, somewhat downbeat movie, based on Michael Lewis' book about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's pioneering effort to build a winning team using statistical analysis, is an engrossing if overlong view of the back-office deals and clashing ideals of America's pastime. Brad Pitt plays Beane, who steals a Yale-bred economics whiz from the Indians to help draft a bargain-basement championship team. The emphasis is not on exciting on-field action but on the frustrations of dealing, trading, and cutting. (Pamela Zoslov)

Restless (PG-13) — Gus Van Sant's latest is just as relentlessly whimsical and calculated as it sounds: A morose loner (newcomer Henry Hopper, son of Dennis), who likes to attend funerals and converse with his imaginary WWII kamikaze pilot ghost friend, meets a quirky, terminally ill girl (The Kids Are All Right's Mia Wasikowska). But the big surprise is just how dreadfully acted, written, and directed this clunker truly is. When Hopper's Enoch is nearly outed as a tourist at a stranger's funeral, he's saved by Wasikowska's Annabel, and a budding romance is born. But not one scene pops off the screen. (Justin Strout)

What's Your Number? (R) — This movie has all the requisites of a modern romantic comedy: giggly girls planning a wedding, a womanizing bad boy poised for reform, copious drinking and vulgarity, and a retrograde message that relationships are all that matter in a woman's life. After losing her job, Ally (Anna Faris) reads in a magazine that women who have had more than 20 sex partners are doomed to spinsterhood. So with 19 notches on her belt, she decides to stop sleeping around and, rather than look for work, revisit former flames — one of whom may be "the one." The leads are likable and the story has some funny lines, but What's Your Number? never fully explores the possibilities of the old-boyfriends premise. (Zoslov)

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