So, you've entered your office's Oscar pool - and it's a good Oscar pool, one in which they make you guess the winners in every category - and now you're in a pickle. Best Foreign Language Film? You haven't seen any of the nominees.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Final Destination 3FINAL DESTINATION 3

Final Destination 3 is, almost unequivocally, the least successful of the franchise's entries. But you know what? The movie is still pretty terrific. It's easy to resent sequels that's don't deviate at all from the proven formula of their forebears, especially in regards to horror flicks; audiences want these follow-ups to give them what they loved about the original but not merely what they loved about the original. (The most common complaint I hear about horror sequels is "It's just like the first one.")

Kelly Reilly and Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson PresentsMRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS

Beginning with its first reel, I had a pretty fair inkling that I would wind up hating Mrs. Henderson Presents, but the point of no return occurred around the 30-minute mark.

How nice is too nice? The question arises after viewing two films written and directed by author and filmmaker Max Allan Collins. Collins, a Muscatine resident, is the author of the graphic novel Road to Perdition, along with dozens of other books.

Martin Lawrence in Big Momma's House 2BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE 2

In the second season of TV's Arrested Development, struggling wannabe actor Tobias, separated from his wife and daughter, devises a brilliant strategy for insinuating himself back into their lives: He dons a wig and a frumpy housedress, speaks in a high, quasi-British falsetto, and greets his family as Mrs. Featherbottom, hired by "the agency" to serve as housekeeper and nanny. (Tobias, as the narration points out, is giddily - and ridiculously - enacting the plot to Mrs. Doubtfire.) His family is, naturally, unconvinced by Tobias' disguise, but they're happy to let him continue the ruse anyway - the house never looked cleaner. This subplot was a typically, fiendishly clever one for the series; by finally addressing the "Are you kidding?" element of this comic staple - where seemingly smart characters are fooled by a touch of latex and rouge - it subverted expectation by making our "hero" the butt of his own joke. Tobias' drag act made it impossible to ever again watch Mrs. Doubtfire - or even Tootsie or Some Like It Hot or Shakespeare's Twelfth Night - in quite the same way.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (R) -Here's something that rarely happens: The movie that received the most Oscar nominations - eight in all - actually deserved to receive the most Oscar nominations. Ang Lee's agonizingly fine romantic western makes the mystery and heartache of love come alive in ways you may have forgotten movies were capable of. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Heath Ledger), Supporting Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Screenplay Adaptation, Cinematography, and Original Score ... and, to be honest, a few others - Best Film Editing, Art Direction, maybe even Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway - wouldn't have been out of line. (Great Escape Theatre, Showcase 53)

Philip Seymour Hoffman in CapoteCAPOTE

When I first saw Bennett Miller's Capote back in November, I was so knocked out by Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal that I fear I may have undervalued the movie itself; Hoffman's channeling of this singular author was so extraordinary that, although the film itself wouldn't fit anyone's definition of "feel-good," I'm not sure I stopped smiling once through its two-hour running length. (Performances of this quality have a way of putting me in a fantastic mood, regardless of a movie's subject matter.) But on a return visit to Capote this past weekend, I was able to more fully luxuriate in the brilliance of its design and the strength of its presentation; what could have been a "mere" performance piece proves, in the hands of Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman, to be a work of rare artistry and depth. Capote is so beautifully crafted - thematically rich, psychologically insightful, and mordantly funny - that you might be embarrassed by what a fine time you're having at it.

Josh Lucas in Glory RoadGLORY ROAD

Is it just a coincidence, or do you think there's an annual meeting wherein Disney shareholders tell the studio's executives, "Bring us this year's feel-good, triumph-of-the-underdog sports flick, and if you can find one that's more formulaic, clichéd, and shameless than last year's, all the better!" A couple of years back, we endured Kurt Russell guiding a bunch of interchangeable skaters to Olympic victory in the hockey drama Miracle, and my head is still reeling from the moribund sentimentality - and beyond-obnoxious miniature caddie - of The Greatest Game Ever Played, which managed to make golf look about five times less exciting than the sport's reputation would suggest.

Years before he became a filmmaker, writer-director David Riker worked as a photojournalist, and found himself especially haunted and moved by the plight of immigrants in Manhattan's Latin American neighborhoods.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback MountainBROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

In Ang Lee's agonizingly fine romantic western Brokeback Mountain, two taciturn young men - Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) - are hired, in the summer of 1963, to tend flocks of sheep on a Wyoming expanse. During the early days of their tenure, the men barely speak. Yet as the months pass, they form a solid friendship, and on one particularly cold night atop the mountain, Ennis and Jack share a bottle of whiskey and a sleeping bag, and - experiencing wordless, nearly aggressive desire - have sex. Despite the inevitability of the encounter, the sheer, naked hunger of the scene is startling, but a greater surprise comes some 20 minutes (and four years of screen time) later, in a scene so powerfully, emotionally true that - like much of Lee's transcendently moving work - it hits like a slap in the face.

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