Director Sergey Dvortsevoy tells a poignant story about Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov), a Kazakh soldier who returns from a duty in the Russian Navy to his family's remote, bucolic life on the southern steppe. The neorealist film captures the life-and-death demands of a seemingly alien landscape within the context of a generational paradigm shift in Central Asia. Grade: A.
This vital documentary covers "Zaire '74," a three-day concert preceding the famous Ali/Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match in Kinsasha, Zaire. It's an imperfect social document of a time when anything seemed possible. Here's proof that Michael Jackson never had a thing on James Brown. Grade: B.
Anne Fontaine's clever genre-bender is a romantic satire that achieves a delicate balance of motivation and risk/reward or punishment on the social stage of its French Riviera town. This shrewd film maintains a subtle layer of suspense before releasing its narrative trap. Grade: B-.
Writer/director Judd Apatow raises the stakes on his already stellar formula for generating laughs with a comedy that's equal parts sincerity and wit. This is by far Adam Sandler's best movie because Apatow writes comic set pieces that allow germs of humor to expand between the more obvious laughs that Sandler hits with sharp-shooter accuracy. Grade: A-.
Talented Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan errs on the side of shattered melodrama in a thought-provoking dissection of post-9/11 sensibilities. As with all of his films, 'Adoration' is a forward-thinking exploratory work of cinema meant to invigorate audiences into social discussions beyond its narrative structure. Grade B-.
Set in the Belle Epoque era of the late 1800s, Michelle Pfeiffer plays Lea, an aging high-society courtesan whose romantic dabblings with a young stud named Cheri (Rupert Friend) lead to a certain ennui of requited lust for the aged Lea, whose life plan was not as thoroughly conceived as she imagined. Pfeiffer momentarily teases the oh-so-droll drama from its dull-witted eroticism from time to time, but the overall effect is that of stale chocolate. Grade: C.
Nick Cassavetes' three-hankie weepy lurches during its music-video sequences and gratuitous voice-over narration from members of the Fitzgerald family as they struggle with their terminally ill daughter Kate (well played by Sofia Vassilieva). Yet, in spite of some of its less-than-elegant editorial decisions, 'My Sister's Keeper' is full of terrific performances. Grade: B.
Although the filmmaker fumbles with connecting Noel Coward and Cole Porter tunes to the film's narrative fabric, director Stephan Elliott wisely plays to the seething conflict between Larita (Jessica Biel) and Mrs. Whitaker (Kristen Scott Thomas). Restrained in its execution, 'Easy Virtue' is a nearly bawdy take on women's liberation in a post-Victorian England just before the Great Depression. Grade B-.
To its credit, 'The Hangover' transfers to the audience the smelly, still-inebriated state that the title promises. Director Todd Phillips (Old School) is nothing if not relentless in his pursuit of a full sack of masculine stupidity at the hand of drink, drugs and the dubious charms of Las Vegas. Grade: B-.
Co-written with his brother Ivan, Sam Raimi crafts an enormously enjoyable house of cinematic horrors that is at turns funny, campy, shocking and scary. He uses everything in his bag of cinematic tricks to create a fast-paced, 'Twilight Zone'-styled horror movie that continuously goes much further than you might expect. Grade: A.