Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!DR. SEUSS' HORTON HEARS A WHO!

If you can separate your memories of Dr. Seuss' books from the experience of the computer-animated Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, you can have a reasonably good time at the film. You'll likely have a reasonably good time anyway, but for maximum enjoyment, it's best to ignore any prior knowledge of the kindly elephant and his microscopic speck-dwellers and simply accept this antic entertainment for the disposable blockbuster it is. Horton looks like a Dr. Seuss adaptation; it just doesn't much sound like one.

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.

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.

Rob Schneider and Eddie Griffin in Deuce Bigalow: European GigoloDEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO

Some comedies are so colossally, ridiculously unfunny that you're left with no choice but to stare at them in abject bewilderment. To the surprise of probably no one, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo is such a comedy. Yet the movie - and I hesitate to call it one - is actually far more intriguing than "colossally, ridiculously unfunny" would indicate.

Before assessing the Hollywood output designed to fill us all with holiday cheer (Jerry Bruckheimer's action extravaganza, Oliver Stone's historical war epic, Tim Allen after a Botox injection ... y'know, that sort of thing), let's take a brief look at a few titles flying a bit beneath the blockbuster radar.

James Hetfield in Metallica: Some Kind of MonsterMETALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster has the sort of title guaranteed to repel viewers who might love it the most. This warts-and-all documentary, chronicling the two-plus years devoted to creating Metallica's St. Anger CD, is like the best episode of Behind the Music ever made, offering an intimate look at the relationship between guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, and detailing the nightmare involved in getting the group recording again after a five-year hiatus. The movie will be Mecca for metal fans, yet its appeal isn't totally insular. Audiences who may be loath to sit through a doc on any heavy-metal group might not realize what directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have fashioned here; Some Kind of Monster is one of the finest recordings of the collaborative artistic process ever committed to film, a hard-edged and endlessly fascinating look at the excruciating work that goes into the making of an album. And for those for whom documentaries are even less appealing than heavy metal, it must be said that the film is one of the funniest and most shockingly touching screen works of the year, This Is Spinal Tap with actual human beings at its core. It's a thrilling experience.

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Volume IKILL BILL: VOLUME I

Miramax's decision to release Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill in two installments was probably smart, as it'll inevitably boost the film's collective box-office intake and doesn't require audiences to commit, all at once, to a three-and-a-half-hour homage to Japanese samurai flicks.

Michael Moore in Bowling for ColumbineBOWLING FOR COLUMBINE

Michael Moore's latest, the astounding documentary Bowling for Columbine, has finally made it to our area (it's currently playing at the Quad Cities Brew & View), and although I spent a couple hundred words extolling its merits last month in the Reader - where I named it my favorite movie of 2002 - the film is so good that a few hundred more seem necessary.

Before our cineplexes, and this column, become completely inundated with family-oriented holiday fare such as Treasure Planet, the latest Harry Potter, and The Santa Clause 2 (which is already in release ... how is it that holiday movies, like Christmas decorations at the mall, now routinely arrive the day after Halloween?), let's take a brief look at some of autumn's more adult works, a couple of which - unsurprisingly - have already left a theatre near you.

Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman in Startup. comSTARTUP. COM, WIT, and 61*

I had the good fortune to view three sensational 2001 releases last week, but as you might imagine, none of them is playing at your local movie theatre. The Warner Bros. and Touchstone studios showed welcome tact by delaying the premieres of Training Day and Big Trouble, initially scheduled for release on September 21, in light of the tragic events of September 11; apparently, both films feature subplots that, in our current national climate, might be inappropriate for mass consumption. (One of the plotlines in Big Trouble, for example, deals with the impending detonation of a nuclear device.) Good for Hollywood, I say, and I hope they feel free to forever shelve any movie where explosions could legitimately be billed as featured characters. Will any of us feel the desire to watch the destructive, slow-motion set-pieces in something like Die Hard or Independence Day ever again? Should we ever have wanted to in the first place?

Pages