Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of LiesBODY OF LIES

I learned recently that Russell Crowe gained 50 pounds for his role in Ridley Scott's action-thriller Body of Lies. To which I reply: For this role? Seriously?

Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in AtonementATONEMENT

It seems that lately, whenever I leave the film version of some well-regarded or beloved novel - be it No Country for Old Men or Gone Baby Gone or one of the Harry Potters - I feel a nagging guilt for not having previously read the books they're based on, and I'd consider remedying that if I wasn't concerned about being subsequently disappointed by the adaptations. (Or, in the case of most of the Potter movies, even more disappointed.) After seeing director Joe Wright's Atonement, though, I was completely annoyed with myself for being unfamiliar with author Ian McEwan's 2001 precursor - I was dying to understand what, when the end credits rolled, inspired a majority of my fellow audience members to applaud.

Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Johnny Depp, and Mackenzie Crook in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's EndPIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END

Roughly 30 minutes into Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow makes an entrance that perhaps only Johnny Depp, being directed by Gore Verbinski, would be permitted to make: All we see is Depp's nose, in enormous close-up, as it hungrily sniffs out a peanut. Eventually we're treated to a full view of the sloshed swashbuckler we've been waiting a half hour to see, yet before Sparrow can pop the peanut in his mouth, he's shot dead. By Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow.

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

I know a bunch of you bought tickets for it this past weekend, so allow me to ask: Did anyone else find Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest a little, you know, incoherent? A degree of senselessness, of course, has to come with the territory, but while I'm positive that I didn't nod off during Gore Verbinski's opus - the booming soundtrack and relentless, CGI-enhanced action won't let you - I'm not sure I ever quite understood it. There seemed to be a whole lot of plot in Dead Man's Chest but none of it meant anything or was revealed with an urgency that might make it mean anything; at some point, I simply gave up trying to figure the damned thing out, and just waited for Davy Jones and the rest of his barnacled baddies to show up again.

RentRENT

During its first 10 minutes or so, the film version of Jonathan Larson's Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent is so thrilling you might want to applaud. As the opening credits unfurl, the movie's cast - all but two of whom reprise their original stage roles - sings Rent's signature number, "Seasons of Love," on a bare stage in dramatic downlight, and performs with fervent, passionate joy.

Frances McDormand and Charlize Theron in North CountryNORTH COUNTRY

At a serious, well-intentioned "issue movie," you will periodically hear from a sect of the audience whom I refer to as the tsk-ers. Tsk-ers are especially vocal at works in which the leading figure - always righteous and noble, and prone to suffering in silence - finds him- or (generally) herself experiencing painful hardships in the cause of Doing the Right Thing, while their families, friends, and the world at large all turn against them.

Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Be CoolBE COOL

Granted, I've missed a few of the year's more high-profile flicks - Are We There Yet?, White Noise, Son of the Mask, that thing with the Heffalumps - but, in general, the releases I have viewed have been so crummy as to be some kind of joke. (The Citizen Kane of the group would actually be the remake of Assault on Precinct 13, which should tell you everything you need to know about Hollywood's output in early 2005.) But, with the arrival of Be Cool, the joke is no longer funny. Be Cool is worse than Elektra. Hell, it's worse than Alone in the Dark. I literally can't remember the last time I left a screening feeling so angered by the waste of time and talent onscreen; it's the sort of smug, lazy Bad Movie that puts you in a foul mood for the rest of the day.

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.

Emma Thompson in Love ActuallyLOVE ACTUALLY

If you are to believe the (mostly) glowing responses to Love Actually, writer-director Richard Curtis has compressed material for a half-dozen romantic comedies into one, creating, in the words of one reviewer, "an epic romantic comedy." But that's not exactly accurate. For his first directorial outing, Curtis - the clever, funny screenwriter of Four Weddings & A Funeral and Notting Hill - has apparently decided to take every idea he's ever had, every last one, and blend them into a frothy, holiday-themed confection; it's less an epic romantic comedy than a romantic comedy shaped as an epic (which isn't the same).

Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black PearlPIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL

Throw a rock at the annual slate of summer movies and you'll hit one with state-of-the-art CGI effects, but finding one with imaginative effects can be an exercise in futility.