Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards in The Golden CompassTHE GOLDEN COMPASS

I would love to give an account of how the little kids in the audience reacted to Chris Weitz's The Golden Compass, but as school was in session during the Friday-afternoon screening I attended, there wasn't a single kid to be found. And I'd give you an account of how the adults reacted, but in all honesty, I was too busy trying not to fall asleep to notice.

Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard in Lady in the WaterLADY IN THE WATER

A mysterious publicity campaign used to work in M. Night Shymalan's favor; the less you knew about his forthcoming movies, the more you wanted to see them. Now, however, a lack of pre-release information on a Shymalan project seems less about building suspense than trying to quarantine bad buzz, and, in the case of Lady in the Water, with good reason.

This might be the most hysterically inane movie of the year. This might be the most hysterically inane movie of the next several years. I'm torn between urging you to stay as far away from the film as possible and demanding that you line up to see it immediately; a cinematic goof of this magnitude is almost too priceless to miss.

Eric Bana and Geoffrey Rush in MunichMUNICH

He may be revered - and often reviled - for his sense of childlike wonder, but no Hollywood director shoots scenes of violence with the no-frills grimness of Steven Spielberg. In the helmer's taut, ambitious Munich - which focuses on Israeli retribution for the murders of nine of their athletes at the 1972 Olympics - Spielberg, as he did in Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, doesn't distance himself from the carnage on the screen, and doesn't let us distance ourselves, either. There's nothing self-consciously "artistic" about the numerous killings we're shown here; bullets tear through flesh with terrifying force, bombs rip limbs apart, and most of these atrocities are portrayed with an almost shocking matter-of-factness - we recoil from the violence because Spielberg's presentation of it is so intentionally artless. (The murders in Munich come off as almost painfully realistic.) Yet although Munich is a brutal work, it isn't brutalizing; Spielberg is too much of a natural showman - and natural entertainer - for that. The film is a riveting and intelligent political thriller, and although the director can't fully rein in his expectedly sentimental impulses, Munich is probably Spielberg's strongest directorial accomplishment in more than a decade. It's a gripping and, for Spielberg especially, refreshingly tough-minded piece of work.

Chulpan Khamatova and Daniel Bruhl in Good-bye, Lenin!GOOD BYE, LENIN!

Around this time last year, while local audiences were flocking to Pirates of the Caribbean and Bad Boys II, the Brew & View presented the area debut of 2003's finest film to that point - the extraordinary Capturing the Friedmans - and, amazingly, the Rock Island venue has done it again this summer.

Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, and Drew Barrymore in Charlie's Angels: Full ThrottleCHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE

Everything I loathed about the original Charlie's Angels movie - the Matrix-as-shampoo-commercial direction of McG, the beyond-senseless plotting, the "Are we hot or what? " imperiousness of Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu - is back in spades in the franchise's sequel Full Throttle, but this time, it worked for me.

HulkHULK

There are scenes of sublime directorial craftsmanship and exquisite beauty in the latest Ang Lee film, which should surprise no one familiar with Lee's oeuvre but might shock the masses lining up to see a Summer Blockbuster entitled Hulk.

Laura Linney and Kevin Spacey in The Life of David GaleTHE LIFE OF DAVID GALE

Reading the reviews for Alan Parker's The Life of David Gale, you might assume that it's the most staggeringly offensive cinematic release since Freddy Got Fingered. (Glenn Kenny of Premiere magazine and Roger Ebert gave the film a combined total of zero stars.) And upon realizing that the film in question boasts the considerable acting abilities of Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, and Laura Linney, not to mention direction by two-time Oscar nominee Alan Parker, you'd have every right to wonder: Can the movie be that god-awful? The short answer is: No, it's not. Parker's film is bad, yes, but it's bad in typical Hollywood fashion, especially for a paranoid thriller; the plot twists are ludicrous, the dialogue, especially when dealing directly with the film's polemic over the death penalty, is clunky, and it's so high on its do-gooder mentality that it comes off as vaguely embarrassing. But despite what you might have read, it's not the work of Lucifer, merely the work of talented individuals acting uncharacteristically like hacks.

Gosford ParkGOSFORD PARK

In Robert Altman's Gosford Park, set in 1932 England, a group of well-to-do guests is invited to a country estate for a shooting party, with their numerous servants in tow, and find their weekend disrupted by the murder of their host.