"Charming oasis in the blockbuster desert"
Dir. Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz; writ. Nick Hornby (novel), Peter Hedges, Weitz & Weitz; feat. Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz (PG-13)
"Lawyers as swindlers — a novel idea"
Dir. Roger Michell; writ. Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin; feat. Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt (R)
Dir. Michael Apted; writ. Tom Stoppard, Robert Harris (novel); feat. Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, Saffron Burrows (R)
"Overwrought female revenge fantasy"
Dir. Michael Apted; writ. Nicholas Kazan; feat. Jennifer Lopez, Bill Campbell, Tessa Allen, Juliette Lewis, Dan Futterman, Chris Maher, Noah Wyle, Fred Ward, Russell Milton (PG-13)
A vehicle to promote the career of Jennifer Lopez, Enough is a Sherman tank when a jeep would surely have sufficed. Sleeping with the Enemy, Double Jeopardy, and even Gaslight, among many others, have already traveled this territory — a woman's triumph over an abusive spouse. But Enough is overwrought enough to constitute audience abuse. This is an exploitation movie that manipulates legitimate concern over domestic violence in the service of violent, androphobic entertainment. SK
"Warms the heart"
Dir. Carlos Saldanha, Chris Wedge; writ. Michael J. Wilson (story), Michael Berg (screenplay); feat. Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Goran Visnjic, Jack Black (PG)
The Importance of Being Earnest
Dir. Oliver Parker; writ. Parker, based on the stage play by Oscar Wilde; feat. Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Massey (PG)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Dir. Peter Jackson; writ. J.R.R. Tolkien, Frances Walsh; feat. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies (PG-13)
Murder by Numbers
"Less would have been more"
Dir. Barbet Schroeder; writ. Tony Gayton; feat. Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Agnes Bruckner (R)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
"Sweet Greek comedy, not Aristophanes"
Dir. Joel Zwick; writ. Nia Vardalos; feat. Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Joey Fatone (PG)
"You better get married soon. You're starting to look old" are the first words that greet us and 30-year-old Toula as she helps her father, Gus (Constantine), open the family restaurant, Dancing Zorba's, at 5 a.m. Bespectacled and bedraggled, Toula is starting to look like a spinster drudge.
Before long, though, Cinderella is transformed by Prince Charming — a handsome, winsome high school teacher who happens to wander into the Portokalos restaurant. Toula and the stranger become smitten with each other, and the only obstacle to their romance is the fact that Ian Miller (Corbett) is not Greek. "There are two kinds of people," proclaims Gus, "Greek and everybody else who wishes they were." Ian indeed wishes he were Greek, because Gus refuses to allow him to court his daughter.
It comes as no surprise that, eventually, exogamy triumphs, though the bridegroom, who undergoes an Orthodox baptism, ends up becoming Greek in everything but name — Miller, which Gus insists is derived from the Hellenic root for "apple." Since Portokalos comes from the word for "orange," the union of Ian and Toula is a matter of apples and oranges, which makes a tasty macedoine. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the story of how Toula both defied and confirmed her tribal expectations. But it is not this ordinary story as much as the details that keep a viewer chuckling. SK
The New Guy
"Barely repackaged high school comedy"
Dir. Ed Decter; writ. David Kendall; feat. DJ Qualls, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Griffin, Eliza Dushku, Zooey Deschanel, Parry Shen, Laura Clifton (PG-13)
The Scorpion King
"An ideal drive-in picture"
Dir. Chuck Russell; writ. Jonathan Hales; feat. Dwayne Johnson, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Michael Clarke Duncan, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Ralph Moeller, Scott L. Schwartz (PG-13)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
"Stupid, but fun in spite of itself"
Dir. George Lucas; writ. Lucas, Jonathan Hales; feat. Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee (PG)
Judging by all the evidence after 1973's warm, wonderful American Graffiti, George Lucas is like a not-too-bright kid who accidentally invented the hot fudge sundae. He introduced the world to his confection, Star Wars, and it made him a gazillionaire; then he handed it off to Julia Child (Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner), who made her own version with the freshest ingredients and ideal proportions. Since then, George has been trying to convince us that his sundae tastes great when covered with chile con carne, or when the whipped cream is replaced by sour cream, or with meatballs on it.
What I'm getting at is that Clones has meatballs on it that are easily discarded. It also has a corn dog stuck into the middle, but you can eat around that; the rest is still a hot fudge sundae. JD
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
"A horse is a horse"
Dir. Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook; writ. John Fusco; feat. Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi, Chopper Bernet, Jeff LeBeau (G)
Spirit is rated G, but a word of parental guidance: The animated violence falls somewhere between afternoon cartoons and video games, while Spirit's prancing wooing has only the faintest whiff of anything sexual. Still, images that equate darkness of hide with slavish villainy and animals with Native Americans seem tinged with the worst of Disney's old-world-order iconography. But at least in this spirited pony ride through the melodrama of the American West, it's the Indians who are the good guys. JKLC
The Sum of All Fears
"Gripping new spin on old series"
Dir. Phil Alden Robinson; writ. Tom Clancy (novel), Paul Attanasio, Daniel Pyne; feat. Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Alan Bates, Philip Baker Hall (PG-13)
Long-running film franchises can run into problems when the lead actor decides he's had enough. It's always a challenge for viewers to accept a replacement actor playing a character they already know. In Sum, the filmmakers handle Harrison Ford's departure from Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series by re-imagining the character; instead of being at the top of his field as the 21st century begins, Ryan is a fresh-faced hotshot right out of school.
While Ben Affleck's performance isn't as nuanced as in his recent Changing Lanes, he wears the Ryan mantle well; he's more smart-ass than Ford was, more believable in physical action than Alec Baldwin. And the plot he faces here certainly has its moments, playing on some fears (terrorism, the possibility that unknown enemies may manipulate America's anger for their own means) that are more timely than the producers knew when they began production. JD
"Race relations made funky"
Dir. Malcolm D. Lee; writ. John Ridley (based on his Internet comic series) and Michael McCullers; feat. Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards, Dave Chappelle, Neil Patrick Harris, and Aunjanue Ellis (PG-13)
Hooked on the funk that his father raised him with, Undercover Brother (Griffin) fights against everything un-funky — especially the Man — with a Robin Hood attitude and Bruce Lee baditude. When his path crosses that of the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. (a secret organization also dedicated to fighting the Man), Undercover Brother joins up to stop world-wide whitening. JB