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Zoe Saldana can imbue brutal action and slapstick with the lithe grace of a dancer in her prime. Maybe that's why, suddenly, she's in top demand. She is both sexy and super-smart as communications chief Uhura in "Star Trek." She anchors "Avatar" as Neytiri (right): Among all the actors playing the elongated, blue-skinned Navi characters, she does the most to transcend digital technology with naked emotion. She helps enliven the  comic-book espionage film "The Losers" and maintains her dignity among the broad comedians of "Death at a Funeral."

I got a kick out of her her iconic scene in "The Losers": she fires a projectile from a rooftop at explosive materiel on the ground. I relished her few amusing moments in "Death at a Funeral": she clicks with James Marsden, who plays her addled fiance and is the best thing in the movie.

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But these films barely tap her potential. To see what she can do with a multifaceted character, you have to go back to "Guess Who," the 2005 remake of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." As a daughter introducing her fiance (Ashton Kutcher) to her parents (Bernie Mac and Judith Scott), she's brimming with charm and humanity. When her character says that her dad's approval of the match won't change the world, but would change her world, her desire stings and reforms her dad. It also touches us.

Saldana could become a major box-office draw even when she doesn't work in fantasy adventures and ensemble pieces. All by herself, she's a good reason to see movies. She's been appearing in films since 2000. When did she first catch your eye?

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