Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina BarcelonaVICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

In 1992's Husbands & Wives, Juliette Lewis' neophyte reads an unpublished novel by Woody Allen's author, and responds to its romantic ennui with an exasperated "Are our choices really between chronic dissatisfaction and suburban drudgery?" Sixteen years later, with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the writer/director's response appears to be: Yup. Yet while we Allen fans have been here before, we've never been here before.

Rachel Weisz and Ryan Reynolds in Definitely, MaybeDEFINITELY, MAYBE

If anyone's keeping track, writer-director Adam Brooks' Definitely, Maybe is the third romantic comedy of 2008 to climax with its protagonist taking a hasty cab ride to an inevitable romantic clinch and subsequent Happily Ever After. And that's about the only conventional element in it. I'm a little staggered by just how wonderful this movie is, as nothing about the film, from its cutesy setup to the presence of leading actor Ryan Reynolds, appeared to suggest anything more than the latest spin on a tireless (and, by now, tiresome) genre. Yet Definitely, Maybe is sensational, so smart and witty and refreshingly grown-up that, hours after seeing it, you may still find yourself in a great mood; the only times I stopped smiling at the movie were when I was laughing out loud.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Freddie Highmore in August RushAUGUST RUSH

There's a scene in the tear-jerker August Rush in which the titular musical prodigy (Freddie Highmore) and a friendly Irish rocker (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) - unaware that they're father and son - engage in a happy bit of dueling guitars in Central Park, their matching grins widening as the improvised strumming reaches its climax. It's a great moment, and I mention it because it's the only one in the film that I didn't find excruciating.

Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen in Star Wars, Episode III - Revenge of the SithSTAR WARS, EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH

I've spent a lot of time - both in print and in person - making fun of George Lucas' Star Wars prequels, and for a reason: It's pretty easy. The prosaic (and endless) exposition, the flat staging, the unspeakable dialogue, the ba-dum-ching! clunkiness of the comedy, the videogame-inspired mayhem, Jar Jar Binks ... there's practically no end of topics worth goofing on.

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.

Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in Star Wars, Episode III - Attack of the ClonesSTAR WARS, EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES

Can two or three marvelous scenes make a movie? The question arises after seeing Star Wars, Episode II - Attack of the Clones, the fifth installment in George Lucas' sci-fi series, and the first to make me seriously ruminate on whether or not I actually liked it. (For the record, I found the first film very enjoyable, thought The Empire Strikes Back was a work of near-genius, and found both Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace plodding and dull.) My initial reaction upon leaving the theatre, though, was one of unfettered happiness; replaying the kineticism of the movie's big set pieces, I smiled during the whole drive home, immediately called my best friend, a devout Star Wars fanatic, to tell him he'd love it, and continued, for the rest of the day, to extol the film's surprising merits to friends and co-workers.

Laura Elena Harring in Mulholland Dr.MULHOLLAND DR.

We've all had the experience: It's the middle of the night, and you awaken from a dream so vivid, so unreal, so funny and terrifying in equal measure, that your only thought is to go back to sleep immediately, to re-enter that astonishing dream state and keep it going.