Katherine Heigl, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen, and Paul Rudd in Knocked UpKNOCKED UP

A few hours before I saw the film, a friend asked if I was looking forward to Knocked Up, and as a devoted fan of writer/director Judd Apatow, I responded, only half-jokingly, that I was because "Judd Apatow is going to save movie comedy." After seeing the movie, I'm not sure there was reason to even half-joke: Judd Apatow just might save movie comedy. Over the past 10 years, there are only a handful of TV series that hold a candle to Apatow's Freaks & Greeks and Undeclared, and his directorial debut The 40-Year-Old Virgin is pretty much the current dirty/sweet-comedy standard-bearer; Knocked Up suggests that beyond being a sensational entertainer, Apatow may be that rare comic pioneer who is also (gasp!) a comedic artist.

Christopher Moynihan, Harry Shearer, Catherine O'Hara, and Parker Posey in For Your ConsiderationFOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

I love Christopher Guest's improvisational comedies with a passion bordering on mania, and he and co-scenarist Eugene Levy have been wonderfully consistent about treating fans to a new one every three years; 1997's Waiting for Guffman led to 2000's Best in Show and 2003's peerless A Mighty Wind. Now we have For Your Consideration, a skewering of the annual Oscar-derby madness, and I couldn't have been more excited about seeing it. So why, despite its many, many great moments, does reflecting on the director's latest leave me feeling disappointed, and a little depressed?

Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard in Lady in the WaterLADY IN THE WATER

A mysterious publicity campaign used to work in M. Night Shymalan's favor; the less you knew about his forthcoming movies, the more you wanted to see them. Now, however, a lack of pre-release information on a Shymalan project seems less about building suspense than trying to quarantine bad buzz, and, in the case of Lady in the Water, with good reason.

This might be the most hysterically inane movie of the year. This might be the most hysterically inane movie of the next several years. I'm torn between urging you to stay as far away from the film as possible and demanding that you line up to see it immediately; a cinematic goof of this magnitude is almost too priceless to miss.

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

I know a bunch of you bought tickets for it this past weekend, so allow me to ask: Did anyone else find Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest a little, you know, incoherent? A degree of senselessness, of course, has to come with the territory, but while I'm positive that I didn't nod off during Gore Verbinski's opus - the booming soundtrack and relentless, CGI-enhanced action won't let you - I'm not sure I ever quite understood it. There seemed to be a whole lot of plot in Dead Man's Chest but none of it meant anything or was revealed with an urgency that might make it mean anything; at some point, I simply gave up trying to figure the damned thing out, and just waited for Davy Jones and the rest of his barnacled baddies to show up again.

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in The Lake HouseTHE LAKE HOUSE

In The Lake House, Sandra Bullock plays Kate Forster, a Chicago doctor living in the glass-encased home of the movie's title. Upon abandoning her domicile for a move back to the city, Kate leaves a letter for the next tenant in the edifice's mailbox; the note is received by Keanu Reeves' architect Alex Winter, who responds, thus beginning a pen-pal relationship between the two. Based on their shared tastes, histories, and a fondness for melancholic gush, it's obvious the two are Meant for Each Other. But, unfortunately, a Happily Ever After doesn't appear in the offing, as there's a major hitch to their relationship: Kate lives in 2006, while Alex is firmly nestled in 2004.

John Malkovich and Max Minghella in Art School ConfidentialART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL

I've read critics who have described Terry Zwigoff's Art School Confidential as nihilistic, sour, and mean-spirited. They're saying it like that's a bad thing. Working with screenwriter Daniel Clowes - adapting the film from his comic book, and again collaborating with the director who helmed 2001's Clowes-scripted Ghost World - Zwigoff has, here, fashioned a wonderfully nihilistic, sour, and mean-spirited comedy; it might take easy potshots at the politics and posturings of the art community, but those potshots are funny and clever, and the film's refusal to sentimentalize any of its characters (even our protagonist) is incredibly refreshing. Still, the movie has been met with much dissatisfaction, if not outright annoyance. Art School Confidential seems, to me, the most thoroughly misunderstood movie of the year.

Dave Chappelle in Dave Chappelle's Block PartyDAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY

Dave Chappelle's Block Party is teeming with something that has been sorely absent from 2006's movie crop: joy. In the late summer of 2004, Chappelle, fresh from signing his now-legendary - and currently defunct - $50-million contract with Comedy Central, spontaneously decided to throw a block-wide bash, and recruited a batch of rap and R&B performers (including Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Jill Scott, and Lauryn Hill and the reunited Fugees) to perform a day-long gig in Brooklyn; the resulting concert doc features highlights from the concert interspersed with scenes of Chappelle kicking back with the stars and the block-party attendees, and the movie, directed by Michel Gondry, is a giddy, oftentimes exhilarating spectacle. It's hard to determine who's having more fun - the musicians, whose on-stage performances are heartfelt and vital; the Brooklyn masses, whose enjoyment of the show is palpable; or the movie's audience.

Jeez, you take one week off from regular movie reviewing and you fall so behind ... .

MurderballMURDERBALL

I've seen a lot of sublimely satisfying documentaries this year, but none with the scope and passion of Murderball. Like last year's brilliant Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, the film's title and ostensible subject matter - quadriplegic rugby - are probably enough to frighten off the audiences who would love it the most, which I pray won't happen; Murderball, currently playing at the Brew & View Rocket, is, thus far, the most invigorating, fascinating, surprising, and deeply human movie of 2005.

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