Last year provided moviegoers with a vast array of films - some purely enlightening, some mind numbing and some comfortably in between.
Here is a selection of the movies released in the past few months, some of which are still in theatres, some already on DVD
1. "Rush Hour 3" - Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and LAPD Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) team up once again in order to find information on an international crime syndicate. Depending on your tolerance of Tucker's irritating personality, this action comedy is about on par with its predecessors.
2. "Balls of Fury"- A loser (Dan Fogler) who was once a ping-pong prodigy is contacted by the FBI to infiltrate an underground tournament run by the same crime lord (Christopher Walken) who killed his father (Robert Patrick). Even Walken is unfunny in this dull comedy from the "Reno 911!" team.
3. "Eastern Promises" - A London midwife (Naomi Watts) gets tangled up in a dangerous ordeal when she tries to find the family of a baby whose mother (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse) died in childbirth. Although not hugely riveting, the film gets quite a boost from Viggo Mortensen's performance as a Russian mafia underling.
4. "Mr. Woodcock" - A self-help author (Seann William Scott) who was traumatized as a kid by his mean-spirited gym teacher (Billy Bob Thornton) learns that his old enemy is planning to marry his mother (Susan Sarandon). Most of the movie is pretty sorry, but a few chuckles can be derived from the flashbacks Scott has of Thornton humiliating him in ways that are illegal today.
5. "Good Luck Chuck" - Charlie Logan (Dane Cook) is the subject of an unusual curse that causes each of his exes to marry the next man they date after breaking up with him. When he meets his perfect woman (Jessica Alba), he must ensure that nothing goes wrong lest he lose her forever. Alba may be cute in this, but even Cook's biggest fans know that he is no leading man. The juvenile humor is no help, either.
6. "Into the Wild" - After graduating college, Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) embarks on a journey of self-discovery, which leads him across the country and eventually to Alaska. Sean Penn does well in his directorial efforts, particularly in capturing the beauty of the American landscape.
7. "In the Valley of Elah" - When his son (Jonathan Tucker) goes missing after returning from Iraq, veteran Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) investigates the occurrence himself along with a local detective (Charlize Theron). A liberal look at the aftermath of a soldier's experiences (based on a true story), this emotional dynamo from Paul Haggis ("Crash") holds many painful truths regarding current events.
8. "The Kingdom" - A handful of FBI agents (Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman) are sent to Saudi Arabia after a terrorist group bombs an American compound within the country. While it tries to represent a balanced view of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, this uninvolved action movie comes across as very elitist and unflattering to both countries.
9. "Across the Universe" - British teenager Jude (Jim Sturgess) comes to America in the 1960s to meet the father he never knew (Robert Clohessy), but meets a new group of friends including restless Ivy Leaguer Max (Joe Anderson) and his sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), with whom Jude falls deeply in love. Visually mind-blowing, this musical uses the songs of The Beatles in every conceivable facet of its material. Even though the story is far from perfect, appearances by Bono, Salma Hayek and Eddie Izzard are compelling.
10. "We Own the Night" - In late 1980s, New York nightclub manager Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) has a conflict of interest when the Russian mafia family who owns his club takes arms against his brother (Mark Wahlberg) and father (Robert Duvall), who are both major components of the NYPD anti-drug task force. Chilling at times and despite good performances, it is not as memorable as it should be.
11. "The Darjeeling Limited" - Three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman) who have not spoken in a year try to bond on a train trip through India. There is the usual fare from director Wes Anderson in terms of characters, but the Indian backdrop is a nice change of pace. The accompanying short "Hotel Chevalier" also is artistically gratifying.
12. "Dan in Real Life" - A widowed dad of three (Steve Carell) meets a great woman (Juliette Binoche) while attending a family reunion, only to find out she is dating his brother (Dane Cook). What appears to be a superficial romantic comedy is actually quite substantial with nice work by Carell and Binoche.
13. "Saw IV" - Even after the death of serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), his elaborate torture traps continue. The latest "Saw" entry is just as gut-wrenching but makes the crucial mistake of forcing the audience to sympathize with the villain.
14. "American Gangster" - As Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) gains prominence in the criminal world by trafficking heroin in the 1970s, Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) works tirelessly to thwart his efforts. This spectacular crime drama is truly absorbing, with nods to some of the best crime movies of the decade.
15. "Beowulf" - The title warrior (Ray Winstone) of legend proves his mettle in fighting the monster Grendel (Crispin Glover) only to meet with more challenges. The major story alterations to the ancient tale work well, even if the motion capture techniques used are too weird to describe.
16. "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" - Aspiring train robber Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) and his brother Charley (Sam Rockwell) join the infamous James gang, but are unsatisfied with the way they are treated by ringleader Jesse James (Brad Pitt). Even with a title that leaves no mystery about the climax, this lengthy Western builds suspense nicely.
17. "The Mist" - An ominous fog pours over a Maine town and brings with it a variety of unholy creatures. Based on a story by Stephen King, this horror movie is fantastically scary in its depiction of mob rule as the characters trapped in a grocery store start to turn against each other.
18. "No Country for Old Men" - When Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) comes upon a satchel brimming with cash in the middle of the Texas desert, he has no idea of the repercussions that taking it home will bring. The latest from the Coen brothers is one of their best, featuring an unnerving portrayal of cold-blooded assassin Anton Chigurh by Javier Bardem.