The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianTHE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN

All things considered, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is pretty good, and on a purely technical level, it's more than pretty impressive. In his second stab at C.S. Lewis, director Andrew Adamson has fashioned a continuation that's both darker and lighter than 2005's The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe - the film is admirably grim for a Disney outing, and unlike its predecessor, it maintains a sense of humor throughout - and most of its visuals are extraordinary. Yet I still can't build up much enthusiasm for it, because like many recent works of its kind (including The Golden Compass and the last two Harry Potters), the movie wows you with everything except personality. Prince Caspian is epically scaled, gorgeous, and hollow - a Pirates of the Caribbean without Johnny Depp.

Shawnee Smith and Bahar Soomekh in Saw IIISAW III

There's a shot in Saw III - one of the less repellent ones, and one of the few that makes any sense whatsoever - that proves pretty emblematic of the movie as a whole. A middle-aged man, attempting to escape the machinations of the serial killer Jigsaw, runs down a dank hallway and vomits, and as he does, the camera pans down for a close-up of the bile. In a nutshell, that's Saw III - having our faces shoved in puke. (Also blood, entrails, and, in one sequence, pureed pig.) Whatever ultra-violent wit the Saw series may have once boasted is nowhere on display here; the film is 105 minutes of solid torture, both for Jigsaw's hapless victims and for the audience.

Brandon Routh in Superman ReturnsSUPERMAN RETURNS

It takes a while - nearly half an hour - to reach the first truly wonderful scene in Superman Returns. In it, a group of reporters (including Kate Bosworth's Lois Lane) are on an airborne jet's P.R. junket when the electronics suddenly fail, causing the plane to hurtle toward the earth. Thankfully, Superman (Brandon Routh), who has been M.I.A. for the past five years, is there to save the day, which he does by catching the jet and gently guiding it to the middle of a major-league ballpark (during game play, no less). He checks on the passengers, makes a comment (echoing a similar line in Richard Donner's 1978 Superman) about how air flight is "still the safest way to travel," and exits the plane to the deafening cheers of the baseball fans in the stands, and the rousing Americana of it all - baseball and Superman! - produces an extraordinary, joyful rush; you're hard-pressed not to cheer along.

Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen in Star Wars, Episode III - Revenge of the SithSTAR WARS, EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH

I've spent a lot of time - both in print and in person - making fun of George Lucas' Star Wars prequels, and for a reason: It's pretty easy. The prosaic (and endless) exposition, the flat staging, the unspeakable dialogue, the ba-dum-ching! clunkiness of the comedy, the videogame-inspired mayhem, Jar Jar Binks ... there's practically no end of topics worth goofing on.

Will Smith and Kevin James in HitchHITCH

As Hollywood romantic comedies go, the Will Smith vehicle Hitch isn't bad, which, unfortunately, isn't the same as actually being good. But judging by the film's sensational box-office intake - not to mention the enthusiastic audience response at the screening I attended (people actually applauded throughout) - no one seems much bothered by the movie's mediocrity; many viewers prefer a romantic comedy that doesn't challenge or excite them in the least to films such as Before Sunset and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sideways, works that understand and explore the nature of romance in ways that feel revelatory.

Zach Braff in Garden StateGARDEN STATE

Zach Braff's indie comedy Garden State is something rare: a homecoming tale told with a clear eye and, more often than not, a refreshing lack of sentimentality.

Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford in Hollywood HomicideHOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE

During Hollywood's Summer Blockbuster season, we critical types generally spend three months bemoaning the tired, formulaic scripts that inevitably lead to tired, formulaic summer movies, and when we do find something worth sitting through - The Matrix Reloaded, say, or X2: X-Men United - it's almost always despite the banality of their screenplays. (Which makes the release of a Finding Nemo, in which the brilliant execution is matched by an inspired script, even more miraculous.) Who cares about inventive plotting or smart dialogue or even basic coherence if, instead, you get to watch Keanu Reeves tussle with a hundred Hugo Weavings? Undemanding, turn-your-brain-off-and-enjoy entertainment certainly has its place, and even those of us with a particular aversion to Hollywood Blockbusters might be inclined to be a bit more generous than usual in our appraisal of empty-headed summertime escapism.

Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in Star Wars, Episode III - Attack of the ClonesSTAR WARS, EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES

Can two or three marvelous scenes make a movie? The question arises after seeing Star Wars, Episode II - Attack of the Clones, the fifth installment in George Lucas' sci-fi series, and the first to make me seriously ruminate on whether or not I actually liked it. (For the record, I found the first film very enjoyable, thought The Empire Strikes Back was a work of near-genius, and found both Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace plodding and dull.) My initial reaction upon leaving the theatre, though, was one of unfettered happiness; replaying the kineticism of the movie's big set pieces, I smiled during the whole drive home, immediately called my best friend, a devout Star Wars fanatic, to tell him he'd love it, and continued, for the rest of the day, to extol the film's surprising merits to friends and co-workers.

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.

Hugh Jackman in X-MenX-MEN

Movie reviewers kill me sometimes. The same critics who raved about the "kinetic thrill-ride" that was the senseless Mission: Impossible 2 and who called the ridiculous The Patriot "passionate and engrossing" are now turning up their noses at Bryan Singer's X-Men adaptation. According to most news sources, the movie is portentous, under-plotted, filled with too many characters (or, for X-Men fans, too few), and serves as nothing but the setup film for an obvious franchise.