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 Vince Vaughn in Fred ClausFRED CLAUS

As crass, demeaning, insufferable holiday-themed comedies go, Fred Claus is a little bit better than The Santa Clause 3, Deck the Halls, Surviving Christmas, and Christmas with the Kranks. (This faint praise might also extend to examples released before 2004, but I've succeeded in blocking those titles from memory.) It's also a little bit worse than 80 percent of the movies I've seen this year.

George Clooney and Sam Rockwell in Confessions of a Dangerous MindCONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND

George Clooney's directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, plays like the funny, ironic companion piece to A Beautiful Mind, and the new film shrewdly, and hysterically, plays off your knowledge of Ron Howard's Oscar-winning opus.

Robert Redford and Brad Pitt in Spy GameSPY GAME

Tony Scott's Spy Game opens with one of those enjoyably implausible preludes we're used to seeing in the James Bond series: It's 1991, and American CIA agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is attempting to free a female captive (Catherine McCormack) from a Chinese prison. How will he accomplish this task? Why, by masquerading as a doctor called in to give vaccinations to the inmates, feigning fatal electrocution after touching a wired prison fence - which results in the momentary shut-down of the prison's electrical power, including its surveillance cameras - lying "dead" on a hospital gurney, fleeing the scene when no one's looking, scrambling down ratty corridors in search of the captive, bribing a mentally defunct witness with a piece of gum, and accompanying the prisoner back to the "dead" man's gurney, where prison guards will unknowingly escort the duo to an ambulance and then to freedom. And what trips up the plan? The gum.

Johnny Depp in From HellFROM HELL

You can be forgiven for assuming that From Hell, Allen and Albert Hughes' re-telling of the Jack the Ripper saga (based on the immensely popular graphic novel), is a follow-up to Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, what with its previews focusing on a shadowy murderer, lots of fog and mist, Johnny Depp's investigator speaking in a British accent (Cockney this time), and Heather Graham in the Christina Ricci role of the Corseted Love Interest.

Will Smith and Matt Damon in The Legend of Bagger VanceTHE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE

The Legend of Bagger Vance, Robert Redford's golfing fable, isn't a work of any depth, and there's precious little intelligence on display, but it sure looks pretty - so pretty, in fact, that audiences might not realize that the movie itself is a dud. From the golden-hued cinematography of the great Michael Ballhaus to the stunning, Depression-era costuming and production design, it's clear that the film has been made with the utmost care and a real attention to physical and aural beauty; if you didn't understand a word of English, you might find it a masterpiece.