Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in The VowTHE VOW

Even though I'm frequently annoyed, if not downright appalled, by them, I really don't ask a lot from traditional romantic weepies. If the actors involved share more-than-sufficient chemistry, and the film provides at least a decent amount of legitimate passion and pathos - with a few good jokes thrown in to keep the proceedings human - I'll generally feel that I've gotten my money's worth. And happily, I got my money's worth at The Vow. I'd hardly argue that director Michael Sucsy's love-among-the-mental-ruins effort is a good movie, but despite never being as interesting as it keeps threatening to be, this audience-friendly drama fulfills its basic requirements with the utmost sincerity and even something approaching wit.

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In 1992's Husbands & Wives, Juliette Lewis' neophyte reads an unpublished novel by Woody Allen's author, and responds to its romantic ennui with an exasperated "Are our choices really between chronic dissatisfaction and suburban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.

Christian Bale in Batman BeginsBATMAN RETURNS

Many Hollywood blockbusters feel so generic as to have been formed by committee, and in Batman Begins, that committee appears to be comprised entirely of comic-book bloggers. Just how afraid of Internet fanboys have movie studios become? It has been widely reported that this new installment in the superhero franchise is a deliberate rebuke to director Joel Schumacher's beyond-campy Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, and I couldn't be more on board with that; Schumacher managed to turn Warner Brothers' moody franchise into a half-assed Mardi Gras spectacle, minus the debaucherous fun. (Only in Schumacher's hands could Uma Thurman come off as a depressed drag queen.)

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.

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.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits WithinFINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN

I can't imagine who could make sense of the gobbledygook plotting of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, yet I can't imagine who will fail to be wowed by the movie's effects; it might be the most visually extraordinary, intellectually banal sci-fi work since 2001: A Space Odyssey. There isn't a moment in the film that isn't amazing to watch, and that includes the moments when the heroine (voiced by Ming-Na) simply walks alone with her hair blowing lightly past her cheeks; Final Fantasy stands as the current standard-bearer in computerized realism.

Morgan Freeman and Monica Potter in Along Came a SpiderALONG CAME A SPIDER

Here's a frightening thought: Are today's filmgoing audiences being programmed to expect less from movies? Because I'm afraid it might be happening to me.