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'The Nines'

A tricky, head-trippy mystery, John August's three-part cinematic thingamawhatzit seems to have been conceived as a film for puzzle addicts.

Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy play characters in each third. In the first, Reynolds is a TV star who goes on a drug binge and accidentally burns down his L.A. mansion. So that he can be remanded to house-arrest, his perky press agent (McCarthy) arranges for him to stay at another client's home, and then hangs around to supervise his confinement, much to the displeasure of Davis, who plays an interfering next-door neighbor.

In the second part, Reynolds is the owner (a wildly successful TV writer) of that same home, McCarthy is the star of his new series pilot, and Davis is an interfering studio exec.

In part three, Reynolds is a computer-game designer, McCarthy his wife, and Davis an interfering stranger on a strangely deserted highway.

It would spoil surprises even to hint at the way the three stories dovetail, as they don't do so until very near the end of the picture. So, suffice it to say that the setup is quirky fun and, while the ending isn't quite as nifty as what precedes it, it wraps things up in a way that will likely prompt animated discussions on the ride home from the multiplex.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.