Nia Vardalos and Lainie Kazan in My Big Fat Greek WeddingMY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING

In the first 20 minutes of the romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there's a scene so simple it feels revelatory. Our heroine, Toula (Nia Vardalos), is a 30-year-old waitress in a diner owned by her Greek-with-a-vengeance parents, and has always been, as she describes herself, "a frump" - plain, bespectacled, overweight, and sadly single.

Jim Broadbent and Judi Dench in IrisIRIS

Allow me a moment, if you will, to thank the folks at Moline's Nova 6 Cinemas for their continued efforts at occasionally booking more offbeat cinematic fare than the multiplex standard.

Leelee Sobieski in The Glass HouseTHE GLASS HOUSE

The domestic thriller The Glass House is obvious and over-the-top from the word go, and that's what I liked about it. It takes true chutzpah to pull off a movie with visuals this baroque and plotting this convoluted; it might be the most trashily enjoyable work of its kind since 1997's The Devil's Advocate. Like that Al Pacino craptacular, The Glass House has no higher agenda than showing audiences, in horror-flick form, the luridness behind ultra-rich "perfection," and it's so up-front about its limited ambitions, and so earnestly performed by its top-tier cast, that you can easily lean back and enjoy it for the stylish dreck it is. Is it a good movie? Nah. An entertaining one? Hell, yes.

Tim Roth and Mark Wahlberg in Planet of the ApesPLANET OF THE APES

My guess is that Tim Burton's "re-imagining" of Planet of the Apes will meet the same fate as 1999's The Blair Witch Project and last year's X-Men: It'll stand as the most misunderstood, and least appreciated, blockbuster of the summer.

Renee Zellweger in Bridges Jones's DiaryBRIDGET JONES'S DIARY

A terrific leading character can atone for a lot of wrongs in a film, and there might be no better proof of that thesis than Bridget Jones's Diary, Sharon Maguire's adaptation of Helen Fielding's incredibly popular novel. Our heroine, a 32-year-old British woman who works a dead-end publishing job, is a completely realistic type we almost never see in movies: a chain-smoking, wine-slurping, slightly overweight, unsatisfied-in-relationships flirt who wants desperately to better herself but doesn't have the motivation or discipline to do so. Flawed as she is, she's intensely endearing, and as perfectly played by Renée Zellweger, she's a magically comic creation, even more wonderful than Zellweger's previous incarnations of Dorothy Boyd and Nurse Betty. That the moviemakers spend the film's running length putting her in one humiliating situation after another, and that she's trapped in a predictable love triangle between a cad and a sweetie, aren't to be held against her; Bridget Jones, and Zellweger herself, triumph over their circumstances, creating a totally enjoyable cinematic work, flaws and all.

Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in The MexicanTHE MEXICAN

We've had the evidence for years, but I think it's time we made it official: Brad Pitt is a gonzo supporting player stuck in a (rather dull) leading man's body. Recently, he portrayed the heavily-accented Irish boxer in Snatch, giving the film a jolt of pure, comedic adrenalin - his screen time was brief, but he was the most entertaining performer in the movie - and when he appeared as a supporting actor in 12 Monkeys, Thelma & Louise, and True Romance (probably his best, and easily his funniest, screen work), his performances were well-calibrated and often inspired. Pitt can display a true flair for off-kilter comedy; it's telling that his most enjoyable lead performance has come from the darkly comic cult film Fight Club, where his Tyler Durden was clearly one of Pitt's nutjob character roles gone berserk.

Michelle Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonCROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

You may have heard that Ang Lee's latest work, the historical-drama/romance/martial-arts/action pic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is in Chinese with English subtitles. It's true. Yet no filmgoer with a subtitle phobia should be dissuaded from seeing the movie, because it's such a thrilling, intoxicating, heady ride that its subtitles are absolutely superfluous. Ang Lee has created something rather amazing - an accessible, American-audience-friendly foreign work - that will leave you gasping at its audacity and superior visuals while finding yourself completely enraptured by its two sets of heartbreaking romances; it's a Chinese Titanic with a better script.

Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, and Alan Ford in SnatchSNATCH

First, the bad news: Guy Ritchie's latest crime thriller, Snatch, is nearly a carbon copy of his sizzling 1998 debut film, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. The good news: Who cares? Those who like their thrills fast, bloody, twisty, and awfully funny will be in B-movie paradise here; we're only three weeks into January, and we already have a movie that's more enjoyable than 90 percent of what was released last year.

The Emperor's New GrooveTHE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE

Despite being saddled with a crummy title, Disney's The Emperor's New Groove turns out to be the studio's most sheerly pleasurable animated feature in ages. It appears to have been made not only for those of us who were sick to death of the tired old Disney formula, but by people who were sick to death of the tired old Disney formula; it attacks the studio's shopworn clichés with a vengeance that is both hilarious and utterly deserved.

Eddie Murphy and Janet Jackson in Nutty Professor II: The KlumpsNUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS

You know exactly what you're going to get out of Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, and for the most part, that's a good thing. As the title indicates, the movie is more spin-off than sequel, as Eddie Murphy gives life to the Klumps, the vivacious and often beyond-vulgar kin to Sherman Klump, the obese genetics professor of the 1996 film.

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