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.

Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis in Open WaterOPEN WATER

We all know that shoestring-budgeted independent works aren't necessarily going to have the professional sheen of Hollywood output, but after reading the rave reviews for Open Water, I feel compelled to ask: Just how much amateurishness are we expected to endure in the name of cinematic political-correctness (i.e., loving an indie solely for being an indie)? Barring an ingeniously edited sequence during a thunderstorm and a few stomach-tightening moments when sharks make surprise appearances, I didn't find Open Water the least bit scary, let alone "Riveting!", "Electrifying!", and all the other superlatives currently being lavished on it (and this from someone who still gets freaked out watching The Blair Witch Project). Worse still, the movie is so badly performed and overwritten that it has the unintentional effect of coming off as totally phony, and since the film was notoriously shot with the leading actors surrounded by real sharks, realism is Open Water's only true draw. Are we film critics now so openly hateful toward CGI-heavy Hollywood blockbusters that we'll happily convince ourselves that tedious, flatly staged thrillers such as Open Water are actually great?

How strange that, of the two movies I recently caught as a double-feature - Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, directed by Dude, Where's My Car? auteur Danny Leiner - not only is Harold & Kumar the better of the two, it's the only one really worth discussing in any detail.

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.

Jason Biggs and Woody Allen in Anything ElseANYTHING ELSE

As a lifelong fan of Woody Allen's cinematic oeuvre, the last five years have been rather painful. Sure, Small Time Crooks was a lot of fun and Sean Penn delivered a truly inspired performance in Sweet & Lowdown, but The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, though intermittently amusing, felt pretty stale, and Celebrity and last year's Hollywood Ending were just plain awful. (Part of being a true fan includes admitting when your heroes fail, and feeling somewhat heartbroken when they do.)

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.

Laura Elena Harring in Mulholland Dr.MULHOLLAND DR.

We've all had the experience: It's the middle of the night, and you awaken from a dream so vivid, so unreal, so funny and terrifying in equal measure, that your only thought is to go back to sleep immediately, to re-enter that astonishing dream state and keep it going.

ZOOLANDER

Those of us who've been waiting, in film after film, for Ben Stiller to hit the comedic peaks he reached on his short-lived TV series The Ben Stiller Show might find Zoolander pretty irresistible.

HANNIBAL

About halfway through Hannibal, the long-awaited sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, our good Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is in mid-vivisection of his latest prey when the victim's cell phone rings. On the other end is FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore), who has called to give the soon-to-be-deceased warning about Lecter's grislier instincts. And then, with a thrilling, inevitable perfection, Hannibal picks up the phone and says with his patented, seductive purr, "Hello, Clarice." It ranks with one of the all-time-great moments in sequel history - the first reunion of these indelible characters in 10 years - and it produced an audibly electric sensation in the audience, where everyone simultaneously released a deep-throated chortle mixed with a shudder. It might be worth sitting through the film, at least in a packed movie house, just to get to that moment. But be warned: It'll probably be the only time during the movie when you'll have that feeling.

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