• Bukowski: Born in to This - There is a morbidly fascinating fly-on-the-wall vibe that pervades John Dullaghan's profile of the late Beat writer Charles Bukowski, a base familiarity that parallels the Ham On Rye author's own inimitable hard-lived life and style. Epic in scope (and length), first-time director Dullaghan compiles dozens of meticulously screened hours of archival footage, coupling the best of it with new interviews with Bukowski survivors to present a terrifically real character study of a little-studied real character. The watchable Chuck-alike Happy Hour, starring Anthony LaPaglia as a booze-addled writer, is also just out.
  • Chicken Little - Disney's CGI snipe at then-packing protectorate Pixar did not take the bite out of the box office that it had hoped, but it did serve as a successful enough test run (in about 100 theaters nationwide) for its cool new 3-D format. Zach Braff voices the diminutive mother(less) clucker who must save the world from an alien invasion. It's a hit-or-miss affair, on par with other imitators like Madagascar and Hoodwinked!, but certainly falling short of even Pixar's weakest.
  • Derailed - Jennifer Aniston and not-Bond Clive Owen star in this ironic and noir-ish thriller about two married people whose affair ends in bloody disaster. Gallic odd-boy Vincent Cassel takes his part of the heavy way, way over-the-top, distracting us momentarily from the fact that the two halves of the Weinstein Brothers' sketchy first post-Miramax release are so pronouncedly uneven. Available in R-rated and unrated versions.
  • Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story - Child of the Damned Dakota Fanning again out-acts her grown-up counterparts (Kurt Russell and Elizabeth Shue), here in a National Velvet type of family tale about a girl who put all her faith in a horse fit for the rendering plant. Luckily, the movie isn't.
  • Everything Is Illuminated - Actor Liev Schreiber's first directorial effort starts off a quirky, silly joke, but ultimately becomes a soul-slamming, existential Horton Hears A Who, with the long-silenced denizens of a Nazi-razed Ukrainian village crying out from beyond, "We were here!" Frodo-no-more Elijah Wood plays writer Jonathan Safran Foer as an oddball like Kiefer Sutherland's crap-snapping photographer in Crazy Moon, though the character becomes more than that one-bit pony as he makes his journey down his own private Mekong into the heart of darkness. Speaking of characters, gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello front man Eugene Hutz is a riot as Foer's America-obsessed tour guide, though mixing comedy and drama as Schreiber does here does not always work.
  • In The Mix - Perhaps one day someone will be so insensitive (or satirical) as to populate a movie entirely with stereotypes. This pimped-out vehicle for R&B heartthrob Usher combines two of them, anyway, in telling the story of a black dance club DJ who saves the life of a Mafia don and becomes his beautiful daughter's bodyguard. It perpetually seems that all the writers know about both of these groups is what they have seen on Def Comedy Jam and The Sopranos, and it is not a flattering (or entertaining) picture at all. Presently on the IMDB's Bottom 100 List...at #2 (just under Anus Magillicuddy).
  • A League Of Ordinary Gentlemen - This look at the 2000 revival of the Professional Bowlers Association by three former Microsoft execs makes competitive tenpin interesting enough for us to hope that the sport survives, even if we do not partake ourselves. Director Christopher Browne gives us heroes and villains as he lends some legitimacy to the Rodney Dangerfield of sports.
  • Marebito - Casual J-horror fans may not have heard much about this one from The Grudge creator Takashi Shimizu, and while it tops both that film and the Shimizu-helmed American remake, its exploration of fear gets bogged down in star Shinya Tsukamoto's relentless narration. He plays a cameraman who becomes obsessed with fear, and while it's easy to see where Shimizu is going with all this, every point in his schizo creep-fest is doubly underlined. Still, the fact that Shimizu shot this digital flick in just eight days is pretty impressive.
  • Occupation: Dreamland - With their lean little 2004 film, documentarians Ian Olds and the late Garrett Scott may not have been in Fallujah, Iraq at the right time to cover the recent insurgency, but the days-in-the-life of the Army soldiers on the ground they do deliver are gritty and telling. Stronger than Gunner Palace, it captures the naiveté (coupled with a sense of duty) and eventual disillusionment experienced by this bunch of kids who were dropped into hostile territory with little backup or leeway to do the job they were assigned.
  • The Squid And The Whale - Anyone longing to relive the initially icky feeling of having one's sensibilities challenged with a very pointy stick à la Todd Solondz's Happiness will find some meat and gristle in Kicking and Screaming director Noah Baumbach's moody and effective dramatic comedy. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney play an intellectual couple in late 1980s New York whose marriage breaks up, leaving children Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline to flounder emotionally as they deal with their own feelings of grief and resentment. It is good to see Daniels really acting again, and the lovely Linney follows Kinsey and Mystic River with another dynamic and memorable turn. Eisenberg is good as the confused poseur teen, and even newcomer (and Hollywood legacy) Kline makes his mark, prompting uncomfortable gasps and reactions like, "What a vile little boy he is."