Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger in National Treasure: Book of SecretsNATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS

National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the follow-up to 2004's globe-trotting-archaeologist adventure, could generously be termed "perfunctory"; it gives (family) audiences exactly the formulaic, Indiana Jones-lite action, romance, and humor they adored in the original. It could also, less generously, be described as "crummy," as returning director Jon Turteltaub ensures that every remedially staged sequence has the same bland, going-through-the-motions tone as the one that came before. (At least its predecessor provided a few jokes.)

Margarita Leviera and Justin Chatwin in The InvisibleTHE INVISIBLE

Funny story. I caught director David S. Goyer's The Invisible on Friday afternoon, and later that evening, watched a TV show I'd taped a couple of days prior but hadn't yet seen. During a commercial break, there was a preview for The Invisible. Amazingly, it was the first trailer for the film I'd landed upon, which gave me the unusual opportunity to judge a preview based on its movie, rather than the other way around. And now that I have seen the teaser for the film - a 15-second scare-flick pastiche of screams, slash-edits, and a threatening shriek of "You're dead!!!" - I feel compelled to ask: Did The Invisible's marketing wizards not see the movie, or did they indeed see it, not have a clue about how to market it, and purposely create the most misleading trailer imaginable?

Ben Affleck and Diane Lane in HollywoodlandHOLLYWOODLAND

Against all expectation, the most touching performance in current releases is probably Ben Affleck's turn as George Reeves in the Tinseltown drama Hollywoodland. Director Allen Coulter's work centers around the mysterious shooting death of the famed Superman star of '50s television, and Affleck is just about perfect here. Seen in flashbacks, he plays Reeves' heartrending rise and fall with the abashed sweetness of a man who knows his good looks and moderate talent will only carry him so far, and Affleck's strong, subtle turn is effortlessly moving. And as trophy wife Tony Mannix, Diane Lane nearly matches him, suggesting entire generations of women carelessly tossed away by Hollywood's obsession with youth and beauty; Hollywoodland's tragedy is hers as much as Reeves', and the emotionally naked Lane turns in a fierce, brave portrayal.

Nicolas Cage in World Trade CenterWORLD TRADE CENTER

Following Paul Greengrass' United 93, Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is the second 9/11-themed movie to arrive in the past four months - including A&E's Flight 93 and the Discovery Channel's The Flight That Fought Back, the fourth in the last year - and make no mistake: There will be more. There are so many tales to be told and so many elements of this national tragedy to focus on that, as cinematic subject matter, 9/11 is practically inexhaustible.

Scarlett Johansson and Woody Allen in ScoopSCOOP

If you're not a Woody Allen fan, it's easy to see how you could be annoyed by his latest comedy, Scoop.

Jake Gyllenhaal in JarheadJARHEAD

In movies, nothing is harder to define than tone, and the tone of Sam Mendes' Jarhead, based on Tony Swofford's Gulf War memoir, is so elusive that, hours after it ends, you might still not know what to make of it. In many ways, the movie is like a two-hour expansion of Full Metal Jacket's first 40 minutes, as the 20-year-old Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his fellow Marine recruits, pumped up to an almost insane degree, train for their mission in the unbearable desert heat and prepare for battle. In Mendes' film, however, there is no battle for his protagonists to respond to; the war ends while the Marines' bloodlust is still reaching a boil. The film is, in many ways, about the maddening banality of service, and it has resulted in an occasionally maddening movie, but its shifting tones and air of unpredictability make it impossible to shake off; at the finale, you might not know exactly what you've seen, but you certainly know you've seen something.

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.

Tim Allen and Erik Per Sullivan in Christmas with the KranksCHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS

Christmas with the Kranks is terrible. (Big surprise, huh?) What more needs to be said? As it turns out, a lot more.

Nicolas Cage and Alison Lohman in Matchstick MenMATCHSTICK MEN

Ostensibly, Ridley Scott's dramatic comedy Matchstick Men deals with Roy (Nicolas Cage), a professional con artist, connecting with Angela (Alison Lohman), the 14-year-old daughter he never knew he had, and trying to better himself as a father figure.

Matt Damon in The Bourne IdentityTHE BOURNE IDENTITY

I have a lower threshold for international spy thrillers than most people, yet I must admit that I found The Bourne Identity, based on Robert Ludlam's 1980 bestseller, pretty damned enjoyable.

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