For the fifth and final season of his novelistic crime series The Wire (HBO), creator David Simon expanded his look at Baltimore's crumbling institutions by including a subplot on the Baltimore Sun newspaper, where he worked as a reporter for 12 years before taking a buyout. Though his well-known rancor over the paper's editorial brass at the time occasionally leads the drama into bitter score-settling, Simon and his writers have an uncanny feel for the language and tenor of the newsroom, as well as the "more with less" philosophy that's currently driving print journalism into the ground. They also do a remarkable job giving voice to all the major characters and bringing the whole series to a satisfying, fittingly devastating conclusion…

Stephen Chow's films (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle, etc.) are known for their comic violence, and his latest, CJ7 (Sony), is no exception, though it tones down the martial-arts mayhem in favor of slapstick abuse of the rubbery, adorable CGI alien at its core. But it also piles on the emotional abuse, wringing tears from its child protagonist over everything from dead parents to the endless disappointments of poverty to a handful of shit to the face. For a comedy, it's squirm-inducingly cruel, and the fitfully hilarious parody setpieces can't quite justify the spastic humor and sometimes creepy tone…

Another film for the Sideways/Juno/Little Miss Sunshine quirks-and-jerks shelf: Smart People (Miramax), the story of a toxic, snobbish widower (Dennis Quaid) seeking love and redemption he doesn't really deserve in the form of Sarah Jessica Parker. Sharp performances from the leads and from supporters Ellen Page and Thomas Haden Church only somewhat offset the feeling that most of these smart people are irredeemably unpleasant assholes, to be avoided for the sake of social sanity…

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For reasons unknown, the prison drama Felon (Sony) got virtually no play in theaters before finding its way to DVD a month later, but it deserves a second chance, at least among appreciators of tight, pulpy B-movies that rarely see the light of day. As a blue-collar worker sentenced to a year of jail for killing an intruder in his house, Stephen Dorff is surprisingly good, and director Ric Roman Waugh understands the institutional indignities that weaken the wills of prisoners and guards alike.