Anger Management
Dir. Peter Segal; writ. David Dorfman; feat. Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei, Luis Guzmán, John Turturro (PG-13)
The director of Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, brings us this season's dumb-and-dumberered down version of Punch-Drunk Love, in which Sandler is oddly less volatile than in any of his other films. No coincidence is too outlandish for these filmmakers, no star cameo too silly to be included in the hopes that, amid the hoopla, you won't notice how flat this film really is. JD

Bend It Like Beckham
Dir. Gurinder Chadha; writ. Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges; feat. Parminder K. Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (PG-13)
Beckham is the endearing story of culture clash - between England and India, masculine and feminine, straight and gay, immigrants and their assimilating children. While Jess rejects the cultural role assigned her, Bend It Like Beckham follows the conventions of inspirational sports movies - montage of matches, crisis in the team we are rooting for, a modicum of suspense over who wins the big game. Relentlessly cheerful, it is Rocky served up with samosas and bitters. SGK

Blue Car
Writ. & dir. Karen Moncrieff; feat. David Straithairn, Agnes Bruckner, Margaret Colin, Frances Fisher, A. J. Buckley, Regan Arnold, Sarah Buehler (R)
Blue Car is forever on the verge of plunging into bathos, but novice writer-director Karen Moncrieff rarely loses balance. A teenage tale of lost illusions, the film follows a bright girl with poetic aspirations, neglected at home but encouraged by a male teacher. Moncrieff treats both characters and audience with respect; Blue Car is a rare film about adolescence that does not bully the viewer with a blaring rock score or a script unworthy of AP English. SGK

Bringing Down the House
Dir. Adam Shankman; writ. Jason Filardi; feat. Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Jean Smart (PG-13)
Queen Latifah is an escaped convict who intends to disrupt tax attorney Steve Martin's life until he helps clear her name. Blacks and whites may truly live in different worlds, but the filmmakers behind House don't know much about either one; only Eugene Levy, as a repressed white man in lust with a black woman, grasps the absurdity of this, and as a result gets most of the laughs in this bland, mechanical film. JD

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Bruce (Jim Carrey) gets some help from God (Morgan Freeman) himself in Bruce Almighty.
Bruce Almighty
Dir. Tom Shadyack; writ. Michael O'Keefe; feat. Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Anniston (PG-13)
Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a guy whose complaints to God are greeted with "if you think you can do better, you try it." It is a premise that exhausts itself very quickly. Carrey's penchant for rubber-faced histrionics makes him the perfect candidate for such a role, but unfortunately the script denies him the opportunity to do anything the least bit interesting with it. JW

Bulletproof Monk
Dir. Paul Hunter; writ. Ethan Reiff; feat. Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott, Jaime King (PG-13)
While ostensibly a tale of reluctant heroism and inner-peace gobbledygook, Monk is really just another vehicle for trotting out the horsewhipped East vs. West culture clash and all that goes with it. Since Monk is "enlightened" and polar-opposite Kar has no doubt spent a third of his life watching network television, the screenwriters are able to have an easy, paint-by-number time of things, apparently in the hopes that you will, too, and not resent it. JW

Chasing Papi
Dir. Linda Mendoza; writ. Laura Angelica Simon; feat. Roselyn Sanchez, Sofia Vergara, Jaci Velasquez, Eduardo Verástegui, Lisa Vidal (PG)
How many screenwriters does it take to write drivel? Four, say the credits to Chasing Papi. Three must have been busy changing a light bulb, since one is enough to conjure up this fluff about a three-timing ad executive whose women get wise, then even - despite moments in which Chasing Papi promises the madcap mirth of Billy Wilder, it settles for being much tamer. SGK

Cowboy Bebop
Dir. Shinichiro Watanabe; Writ. Keiko Nobumoto; Feat. voices of Steven Jay Blum, Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, Mellisa Fahn, Daran Norris, Jennifer Hale (R)
Set in a futuristic Mars amalgam of Earth's major cities, the animated Bebop follows a bounty hunter team as they try to foil a bio-terrorist plot. It's delightful to look at, thanks to cool, stylized characters and imaginative camera techniques; but those not addicted to Anime will find it at least half an hour too long, full of redundant and/or goofily pretentious dialogue. JD

Daddy Day Care
Dir. Steve Carr; writ. Geoff Rodkey; feat. Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Anjelica Huston (PG)
Daddy Day Care recycles tired Mr. Mom clichés, fart jokes, and bathroom humor in a story of Charlie and Phil, two men who, when they're unable to bring home the bacon, set out to conquer the world of commercial women's work. From start to finish, every gag is deadeningly familiar, another step in the public lobotomization of Murphy's once dangerous mind. JW

Divine Intervention
Writ. & dir. Elia Suleiman; feat. Elia Suleiman, Manal Khader, Nayef Fahoum Daher, Amer Daher, Jamel Daher (NR)
Suleiman's film, which is set in his native Nazareth, on the road between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and in Jerusalem, consists of a series of enigmatic, often wordless anecdotes that smack with the force of Middle Eastern koans. Some of the film's imagery is overtly - and explosively - political. Sometimes crude and sometimes uncanny, the images are a provocation, not to violence but to passions its affectless characters cannot feel. SGK

Down With Love
Dir. Peyton Reed; writ. Eve Ahlert & Dennis Drake; feat. Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, David Hyde Pierce, Sarah Paulson (PG-13)
The latest in a spate of homages to Fifties/Sixties "chick flicks," Love casts Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger as Rock Hudson and Doris Day in a tongue-in-cheek battle of the sexes. Packed with lavish eye-candy sets and costumes, winking innuendos, and winning performances, it's the most accessible and entertaining of the retro-spectacles yet. JD

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A friendly great white shark named Bruce invites Marlin (an orange and white striped clown fish) and Dory (a regal blue tang) to join him and his shark-mates for a party in Finding Nemo.
Finding Nemo
Dir. Andrew Stanton; writ. Andrew Stanton; feat. Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould (G)
Finding Nemo is a proud continuation of the Pixar tradition, coming alive with the perfect ratio of drama to hyperkinetic irreverence that made its predecessors such lucrative, critically lauded efforts. For every pratfall the kids will find hilarious, the script provides a dash of higher-brow humor parents can appreciate, all set against an unprecedented backdrop of color and motion that's impossible to ignore. If distributor Disney wants to recapture the lost magic of their past, they needn't look far to see how. JW

Ghosts of the Abyss
Dir. and writ. James Cameron; feat. Cameron, Bill Paxton (G)
The rotting husk of the world's most famous ship comes alive here, with one of Hollywood's most gifted spectacle-makers using 3-D cameras to document the wreckage of the Titanic. James Cameron uses generous doses of computer imagery and re-created sets to show how great masses were once elegant decks and sepulchral chambers were once luxurious staterooms -- combining science, history, and gee-whiz effects in a very satisfying way. JD

Dir. Andrew Davis; writ. Louis Sachar; feat. Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette (PG)
An engaging, worthwhile, and clever film for both children and adults, Holes follows young Sidney Yelnats into a mysterious desert reformatory. It's good to see a kids' film with a multicultural cast, even if the filmmakers do resort to the old motif in which noble black savages help a white protagonist "build character." SM

The In-Laws
Dir. Andrew Fleming; writ. Andrew Bergman (original), Nat Mauldin, Ed Solomon; feat. Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Ryan Reynolds, Lindsay Sloane, Candice Bergen, A. Russell Andrews (PG-13)
It is hard to justify another take on The In-Laws, which seems to have been remade simply because Michael Douglas wanted to remake it. Yet the pairing of Douglas with Albert Brooks turns what might have been mere vanity into recurrent hilarity. Bringing the fathers of a wedding couple - one man straight-laced, the other a rogue spy - into combative cahoots throughout a series of madcap adventures, it's a accident report from the collision of normalcy and lunacy, a nicely paced magnum farce. SGK

The Italian Job
Dir. F. Gary Gray; writ. Donna & Wayne Powers; feat. Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Jason Statham, Mos Def, Donald Sutherland (PG-13)
Smooth and likeable, this caper remake takes itself far less seriously than "Heist" or "The Score," which is a good thing considering the charming sidemen surrounding leading man Mark Wahlberg. The initial caper is so clever it outshines the more elaborate one that closes the story -- and both are overshadowed by the trio of Mini Coopers that sometimes seem to be the film's reason for being. JD

Man on the Train (L'Homme du train)
Dir. Patrice Leconte; writ. Claude Klotz; feat. Jean Rochefort, Johnny Halliday, Charlie Nelson, Pascal Parmentier, Jean-François Stévenin (R)
Man on the Train is an exquisite silent film that happens to have a soundtrack. Primarily through the body language of a cast of expert actors, this French tale of strangers whose personalities rub off on one another manages to convey a rich sense of the possibilities in provincial lives that have been sidetracked. SGK

The Matrix Reloaded
Dir. and writ. Andy & Larry Wachowski; feat. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Harold Perrineau Jr. (R)
In this hyper-anticipated sequel, the Wachowski brothers appear to have taken the hype to heart, insisting on making everything bigger and bolder. The action is appropriately hyperbolic, then, but so is the endless philosophical pontificating - which misses the point of the original film, in which the heavy themes were demonstrated by the plot as much as they were explicated by dialogue. JD

A Mighty Wind
Dir. Christopher Guest; writ. Guest, Eugene Levy; feat. Guest, Levy, Harry Shearer, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, etc. (PG-13)
Christopher Guest's latest "mockumentary" is less mocking than usual, showering affection and only occasional barbs on three groups of old folkies who've reunited for a tribute to a dead impresario. A predictably great cast is so stuffed with talent that the sheer numbers become a liability, but spot-on songwriting and cutthroat scene-stealing keep it from turning into a big blur of talent. JD

Phone Booth
Dir. Joel Schumacher; writ. Larry Cohen; feat. Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes (R)
One location, one central actor: You've gotta give Phone Booth bonus points for pulling off something few films would dare. Farrell gives an appropriately over-the-top performance as a public-relations huckster cornered by a sniper with an overgrown sense of self-righteousness, and director Joel Schumacher is smart enough not to adorn this lean, no-frills thriller with a lot of extraneous nonsense. JD

Wrong Turn
Dir. Rob Schmidt; writ. Alan B. McElroy; feat. Eliza Dushku, Desmond Harrington, Jeremy Sisto, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Lindy Booth, Kevin Zegers (R)
Cannibalistic inbreeders with a knack for hacking up unwary travellers run wild in Wrong Turn. Sound familiar? It should. The gore quota is certainly met, compliments of effects wiz Stan Winston, and the deformed family of homicidal inbreds is a scary hoot. But the filmmakers' attempt to marry the action-filled set pieces of Deliverance with the cannibalistic intensity of Chainsaw Massacre is uneven, and at times ridiculous: Giggling, bumbling cannibals can survive any misfortune and get away with any scheme in Wrong Turn. AL

X2: X-Men United
Dir. Bryan Singer; writ. Michael Dougherty, Daniel P. Harris; feat. Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Anna Paquin (PG-13)
Somehow expanding on the original in opposite directions at once, this slam-bang sequel: introduces compelling new characters and enhances minor ones while still letting Ian McKellen shine as Magneto; features more and better action scenes while also enhancing the quieter social messages introduced in the first film; stuffs the frame with insider comic references while making the comic's serpentine plotlines digestible to newcomers. Excelsior! JD

Films reviewed by:
AL: Albert Lopez
JD: John DeFore
JM: Jonathan Marcus
SGK: Steven G. Kellman
WK: Wendi Kimura
LMF: Laura Fries
JW: Joe Weiss
AP: Alejandro Pérez



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