Michael Moore's SickoSICKO

It seems that the older I get, and the older Michael Moore gets, the more I'm conscious of his imperfections as a filmmaker - and the less I could give a damn about them.

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?

Richard Gere and Julie Delpy in The HoaxTHE HOAX

Offhand, I can think of no performer less well-suited to play a desperate, talkative, Jewish novelist than Richard Gere. Yet in Lasse Hallström's The Hoax, Gere is asked to portray exactly that - real-life author Clifford Irving, who, in 1971, received a $1-million advance for concocting a fictional autobiography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes - and the perceived miscasting turns out to be the movie's subtlest masterstroke.

Adam Sandler and Liv Tyler in Reign Over MeREIGN OVER ME

Even though I have yet to enjoy Adam Sandler in, well, anything, I applaud the comic's attempts to stretch beyond the mumbling, hostile, stunted-adolescent shtick he's employed in such comedies as Click, 50 First Dates, and Mr. Deeds. I'd applaud them more if the films he chooses to stretch in - Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, and the current Reign Over Me - didn't wind up every bit as confused and unsatisfying as his comedies are.

Sandra Bullock in PremonitionPREMONITION

Note: Plot details will be revealed, so here's the Spoiler Alert for those of you who haven't seen the film, and for the two or three of you who haven't seen the film's previews, which give away the entire movie.)

Hollywood entertainments, in general, aim so low that it's disheartening to chastise one for aiming relatively high. But the psychological thriller-cum-melodrama Premonition is infuriating precisely because of its lofty ambitions. For a goodly stretch of the film - nearly the entire first hour - the plotting is clever enough and the direction (by Mennan Yapo) suggestive enough to keep you focused and alert; you're eager to solve the movie's many mysteries along with its heroine. But I left the auditorium frustrated and a little bit angry, and still haven't figured out exactly whom to blame this on.

Gerard Butler in 300300

Whatever its problems, and they are myriad, you can't say that Zack Snyder's 300 doesn't give you plenty to look at. Adapted from Frank Miller's and Lynn Varley's graphic novel, the film - which follow s the ancient Spartan army in a wildly violent, self-sacrificing battle against Persian forces - is filled with memorably outré images: an enormous tree and a 20-foot-high wall, both composed entirely of corpses; a triad of elephants, backed over a cliff, that plunge to their deaths; the sky blackening with what appear to be locusts, instead proving to be the incoming trajectory of thousands of steel-tipped arrows. In 300, Snyder shows a remarkable gift for graphic-novel composition, and continually keeps your eye engaged. Too bad the same can't be said of your brain.

Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench in Notes on a ScandalNOTES ON A SCANDAL

In Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal, Judi Dench appears to be having an amazingly fine time playing an evil harridan. Why does the movie itself have to be such a dud? In the film, Dench portrays prickly history teacher Barbara Covett, who becomes pathologically obsessed with Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), a younger colleague in the art department. (As Barbara's last name suggests, Eyre's film, based on the novel by Zoë Heller, won't be much concerned with subtlety.) When Barbara discovers that the married Sheba has been carrying on with a 15-year-old student (Andrew Simpson), she uses the knowledge to surreptitiously gain Sheba's trust, in the hopes of turning their friendship into something more, shall we say, Sapphic. Subsequently, threats are made, careers are jeopardized, relationships are destroyed ... and why oh why isn't the movie more fun?

Columbus Short in Stomp the YardSTOMP THE YARD

Before seeing Stomp the Yard, in which a young hip-hop dancer from Los Angeles adjusts to fraternity life at Atlanta's Truth University, I didn't know much about step dancing. But after watching director Sylvain White's inspirational drama, I discovered that there are apparently two distinct types - there's great step dancing and then there's really great step dancing. Though the movie is ostensibly a coming-of-age story wherein our hero, DJ (Columbus Short), finds respect and love during his first year of school, it's really just 8 Mile or Bring It On for the dance world, as warring frats compete to see whose moves out-step whose. (Step dancing - frequently practiced at African-American universities - is a combination of marching and precise choreography, generally accompanied by chants and, in this movie's case, taunts.) Yet it's pretty easy to guess which groups of dancers will be considered the greatest in Stomp the Yard - it's whichever dancers go next.

Clive Owen and Julianne Moore in Children of MenCHILDREN OF MEN

The year is 2027, and the world is in chaos. Scratch that: The world is chaos. For nearly 20 years, women have been infertile, and the planet's youngest citizen has just been murdered at the age of 18. Random bombings and guerrilla warfare have become an element of daily life - a newscast shows "the siege of Seattle" entering its 1,000th day - and internment camps are as commonplace as coffee shops. In England, refugees are routinely rounded up for deportation and execution. And it is in this hopeless, unspeakably dangerous universe that director Alfonso Cuarón, in Children of Men, has fashioned one of the most supremely intelligent, forceful, and exhilarating movies of recent years.

Anika Noni Rose, Beyonce Knowles, and Jennifer Hudson in DreamgirlsDREAMGIRLS

You may have heard that, in the middle of Bill Condon's Dreamgirls, former American Idol belter Jennifer Hudson lets loose with a power ballad that has the audience cheering and applauding at its finish. If the screening I attended is any indication, this rumor is untrue. The audience cheers and applauds the number way before Hudson's finale. And no one in their right mind could blame them.

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