The Hills Have EyesTHE HILLS HAVE EYES

The setup for The Hills Have Eyes - Alexandre Aja's remake of Wes Craven's 1977 horror classic, with Craven himself on board as a producer - couldn't be simpler. A vacationing family, headed for California, stops for gas at a filling station near an abandoned nuclear-testing site in New Mexico. The station's gnarled and suspiciously friendly attendant guides them to a shortcut. The shortcut is a trap, set by the attendant and a family of horribly mutated, not-entirely-inhuman cannibals. And from there on, the plot boils down to three words: Us Against Them.

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.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Shaun of the DeadSHAUN OF THE DEAD, THE GRUDGE, and SAW

Halloween has come and gone, but three horror flicks are currently in theaters and - surprise! - two of them are actually good.

Hugh Jackman in Van HelsingVAN HELSING

Stephen Sommers' action thriller Van Helsing, the first of 2004's torrent of summer blockbusters, is big, loud, frenetic, and almost no fun at all. For those who've missed the omnipresent previews, the film is a special-effects bonanza featuring Hugh Jackman as the titular character, a taciturn growler who spends 130 minutes attempting to rid his corner of Europe from a series of CGI-created monsters, and it's all treated with such solemnity that I wouldn't have been surprised to see Henrik Ibsen listed as a screenwriter.

Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler in Jersey GirlJERSEY GIRL

Theoretically, there's nothing wrong with Kevin Smith momentarily eschewing his predilection for what he terms "dick and fart jokes" in favor of more honest, heartwarming fare, but good God, don't we Smith fans deserve better than Jersey Girl? In previous films, Smith presented us with a woman who screws a dead man, the Almighty in the personage of Alanis Morissette, and a lesbian who switches teams for Ben Affleck, yet I found his latest work the least believable in his oeuvre, a movie so brazenly phony and audience-pandering that I wanted to hide my face.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in Freaky FridayFREAKY FRIDAY

Everyone I know has enormous fondness for the 1976 Disney comedy Freaky Friday, wherein mother Barbara Harris and daughter Jodie Foster switched bodies and discovered, on one very strange day, how the other half lived.

Jim Carrey in Bruce AlmightyBRUCE ALMIGHTY

It's been almost 18 months since Jim Carrey last graced the cineplex, but that was in the schmaltzy piece of doggerel The Majestic, so it barely counts. For full-out, Carrey-sized insanity, you have to go back to 2000's Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but that barely counts either, as he was buried beneath pounds of latex and inevitably forced to water down his act for kiddie consumption.

Meryl Streep and Ed Harris in The HoursTHE HOURS

Stephen Daldry's The Hours is so meticulously crafted, so assured in its conception, and so insistent on its themes and motifs that it's bound to drive a lot of people bananas.

John Turturro and Adam Sandler in Mr. DeedsMR. DEEDS

I'd love to reveal the finale to the new Adam Sandler comedy Mr. Deeds, but that would imply that I made it through the picture. For the first time in almost 10 years, I walked out of a movie - at roughly the one-hour mark - and am a little mortified that I lasted as long as I did.

Al Pacino and Robin Williams in InsomniaINSOMNIA

In Christopher Nolan's moody, atmospheric thriller Insomnia, based on a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a famed Californian detective now under investigation by Internal Affairs. To escape the surrounding publicity, he and his partner (Martin Donovan) are sent to a remote Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl, found beaten to death by a killer who apparently went to great lengths - washing her hair, trimming her fingernails - to maintain the dead girl's beauty. Dormer finds his suspect relatively early, but after he becomes the catalyst in a tragic shooting accident, Dormer is increasingly haunted by feelings of guilt and remorse - egged on by the endless Alaskan sun, which shines even at night - and finds the tables turned on him; the suspected killer (Robin Williams) has witnessed the shooting, and threatens to end Dormer's career if he is fingered as the girl's killer.

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