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.

Jet Li in HeroHERO

Does any moviegoer really care what Zhang Yimou's Chinese martial-arts epic Hero is actually about? You get to see adversaries battling one another while running on water! You get to see a woman warding off a bow-and-arrow onslaught using only her dressing gown! You get to see a guy splitting raindrops in half with a sword, for Pete's sake!

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.

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.

Kevin Spacey in K-PAXK-PAX

Kevin Spacey has made a career out of being snidely patronizing, of being the smartest person in the room, and that's what I adore about him; he patently refuses to be lovable, and his wicked intelligence and dry-as-sandpaper line readings give a snap to just about every role he plays. (That's why his performance as the physically and emotionally scarred teacher in last year's imbecilic tearjerker Pay It Forward was so disappointing; he's not built for sentiment, and his presence in that mopey role merely exposed the film's schmaltziness.) I guess it was inevitable that Spacey, who always comes off as knowing more than we do, would one day play an alien (or is he?) who arrives on Earth to teach us all lessons about life and love that we can't figure out for ourselves. And so we have K-PAX, which had the potential to be excruciating but, as directed by Iain Softley and performed by a marvelous cast led by Spacey and Jeff Bridges, turns out to be thoroughly engaging; it's a case study in how the right director and performers can redeem mostly worthless material.