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by Jay Bobbin

(NOTICE: Ratings for each film begin with a ‘star’ rating — one star meaning ‘poor,’ four meaning ‘excellent’ — followed by the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and then by a family-viewing guide, the key for which appears below.)

STARTING THIS WEEK: “PROMETHEUS”: Director Ridley Scott’s return to the space-thriller genre led to much speculation that it would be an “Alien” prequel, and at the very least, some of the themes are the same in the challenging and visually striking saga. Noomi Rapace (the screen’s original “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”), Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Logan Marshall-Green play members of an intergalactic crew in search of ancient predecessors, with Michael Fassbender as an android who’s also aboard ... yes, there are links to “Alien.” The debate of science vs. religion gets a workout in the script co-written by “Lost” alum Damon Lindelof. DVD extras: “making-of” documentaries; audio commentaries; deleted scenes. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and Movies on Demand)

COMING SOON: “MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED” (Oct. 16): The animated friends join a traveling circus to hide from foreign animal control officers. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett Smith are back in the voice cast. (PG: AS)

FAMILY-VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.