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Best bets: Steve Carell goes to 'Dinner'

MoviesSteve Carell's characters always have a sweetness to them, whether he's playing clueless boss Michael Scott on "The Office" or voicing supervillain-turned-daddy Gru in "Despicable Me." In "Dinner for Schmucks," Carell plays Barry, a doltish IRS employee with a weird talent for dioramas featuring taxidermied mice. Paul Rudd's character, Tim, seeks to use Barry by taking him to a dinner party
/ Source: TODAY.com

Movies

Steve Carell's characters always have a sweetness to them, whether he's playing clueless boss Michael Scott on "The Office" or voicing supervillain-turned-daddy Gru in "Despicable Me." In "Dinner for Schmucks," Carell plays Barry, a doltish IRS employee with a weird talent for dioramas featuring taxidermied mice. Paul Rudd's character, Tim, seeks to use Barry by taking him to a dinner party where the goal is to show up with the biggest bozo. But anyone who knows Carell's characters has to know that somehow, in some ways, the tables are going to be turned. (Opens July 30.)

He sees dead people. Well, one dead person. In "Charlie St. Cloud," tween heartthrob Zac Efron plays a young man who still plays baseball with the spirit of his dead brother. The film is based on Ben Sherwood's best-selling book, and the cast includes Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta. Bring the Kleenex. (Opens July 30.)

TV

Thanks a lot, Discovery. Just when some of us were shaking the shark phobia we picked up from "Jaws," you come around with Shark Week and ensure that we'll never go in any water outside of our bathtub ever again. There are six new sharktacular specials this year, including "Into the Shark Bite," which breaks down the science of the chomp with high-speed cameras, and "Ultimate Air Jaws," which shows sharks leaping from the waves to attack seals in stunning aerial attacks. Nothing against seals, but at least when they're eating them, they're not eating us. (Shark Week kicks off Aug. 1 at 9 p.m. on Discovery, check local listings for specific programs.)

Spies and secret societies never fail to fascinate, and AMC is playing off our love for secrets with the new series "Rubicon." A government employee (who lost his family on Sept. 11) stumbles onto a giant conspiracy involving the agency he works for, and things only get more tangled and dark from there. The U.K. Independent raved about the pilot's measured pace, saying "in an era where thrillers unspool at breakneck speed, all furious camera and hurried moves, it's something of a relief to be asked to sit back and be told a story." (Premieres Aug. 1, 8 p.m., AMC.)

DVD

Some movies just need to deliver a one-sentence plot to interest their target audience. In "Repo Men," that sentence is: You pay for your organ transplant on the installment plan, and if you can't pay, guys come and rip the organs out of your body. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker star as the repo men, and of course, eventually Law's character needs a heart and ends up in the same boat as his former clients. Reviews were mixed, but the Miami Herald says "the less seriously the filmmakers treat their premise, the livelier and more outrageous 'Repo Men' becomes." (On DVD July 27.)

History and World War II buffs especially will appreciate "Vincere," about Benito Mussolini's secret lover and the son she bore him. Reviewers raved about Giovanna Mezzogiorno's portrayal of Ida Dalser, who was locked in an asylum for daring to demand that the Italian dictator recognize his child. New York Magazine calls it a near-masterpiece," and the Christian Science Monitor declares "the film has the accusatory force of an avenging angel." (On DVD July 27.)

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is msnbc.com's movies editor. You can follow her at www.popculturejunkmail.com or www.genxtinct.com.