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On Demand movie highlights

SERENITY ½

(Showtime on Comcast) The megaplex extension of Joss Whedon’s defunct cult science-fiction show “Firefly” concerns the hot pursuit of an escaped telepath whom the bad guys have engineered for destruction. She’s aboard the eponymous ship, which is full of wisecracking, space-faring scavengers. The movie is a tonal mess, but Whedon’s sense of humor and reverence for westerns are saving graces. (PG-13; runs through April 2)

PAYBACK ½

(Showtime on Comcast) In this late ’90s thriller, Mel Gibson plays a crook who returns from being double-crossed and left for dead with an I’ll-bury-you-before-you-bury-me attitude. Slowly but surely, he works his way up the criminal food chain, bearing a lot of punishment along the way. Of course, he always finds a way to redeem himself — and you would expect him to in the midst of such mechanical filmmaking. (R; runs through April 4)

THE APOSTLE ½

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(Showtime on Comcast) This is Robert Duvall at his writerly, directorial, and actorly best. He delivers a towering but never show-offy performance as a Pentecostal preacher from Texas who is reborn in a Louisiana backwater after a violent act turns him into a fugitive. Avoiding the caricature usually brought to portrayals of flamboyant believers, the film has an almost documentary realness to it. (PG-13; runs through April 21)

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