The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianTHE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN

All things considered, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is pretty good, and on a purely technical level, it's more than pretty impressive. In his second stab at C.S. Lewis, director Andrew Adamson has fashioned a continuation that's both darker and lighter than 2005's The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe - the film is admirably grim for a Disney outing, and unlike its predecessor, it maintains a sense of humor throughout - and most of its visuals are extraordinary. Yet I still can't build up much enthusiasm for it, because like many recent works of its kind (including The Golden Compass and the last two Harry Potters), the movie wows you with everything except personality. Prince Caspian is epically scaled, gorgeous, and hollow - a Pirates of the Caribbean without Johnny Depp.

Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter & the Order of the PhoenixHARRY POTTER & THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

I have no idea whether Alan Rickman, who portrays the impenetrable, vaguely sinister wizard Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, realized that the Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix movie would hit screens 10 days before the release of J.K. Rowling's seventh (and purportedly final) Potter book. But Rickman's portrayal seems so shrewdly tied in to readers' hunger for a new installment - and their passionate "Is Snape a villain or isn't he?" debate - that, with very little screen time to do it in, he practically emerges as the film's star.

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.

Lisa Kudrow and Bobby Cannavale in Happy EndingsHAPPY ENDINGS

This summer, I was fortunate enough to catch a special screening of writer/director Don Roos' Happy Endings at the University of Iowa, but decided to hold off on a review until the film made it to our area.

Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter & the Prisoner of AzkabanHARRY POTTER & THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN

Anyone interested in the distinction between routine direction and inspired direction - anyone who has ever wondered what, exactly, it is that a director brings to a movie - should compare Chris Columbus' first two Harry Potter films with Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban, helmed by Alfonso Cuaron; Columbus' films are the work of a by-the-numbers craftsman, and Cuaron's is the work of an artist. (Which isn't to say that everyone will prefer Cuaron's style; many people would rather dine on Big Macs than filet mignon.) Cuaron isn't quite able to overcome the series' built-in limitations - the familiarity of the storytelling arc, the "surprising" character reversals that aren't really much of a surprise, the fact that all three movies are too damned long - but for those viewers, like me, who've never been overly enamored of the Harry Potter film series, Azkaban is as fine an entertainment as you could hope for, a visually audacious work with moments of true magic, and it improves on Chris Columbus' vision tenfold.

Bonnie Wright and Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter & the Chamber of SecretsHARRY POTTER & THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

Although I didn't care for last year's Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone, I was more than willing to greet the new Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets with an open mind.

Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez in UnfaithfulUNFAITHFUL

Diane Lane has been a terrific performer for close to 25 years without really becoming a star, yet that's destined to change with Unfaithful, the hypnotic new Adrian Lyne thriller that gives Ms. Lane the chance to show, when granted the right material, how incredibly fine she can be.