By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
THE SWEETEST THING
TEDDY BEARS' PICNIC
Laurent Cantet follows Human Resources with another festival favorite. A middle-management exec gets canned and invents a new job, convincing friends to invest in his make-believe business.
ONE GIANT LEAP
Two globe-trotting musicians, armed only with laptop and digital-video camera, produce New Age travelogue.
Abbas Kiarostami's first DV effort documents the Uganda Women's Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO), which toils in a nation where 2 million have died of AIDS, 2 million more are infected, and 1.6 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease.
Director Bill Paxton also stars as an insane heartland dad who thinks God has commissioned him as his own personal hit man, possibly transforming his youngest son into an angel of death as well.
Chris Smith's follow-up to American Movie explores the unusual living spaces of five families.
KUNG FU SOCCER
Hong Kong football hooligans lay Chan-style waste to the field.
Olivier Assayas's generation-spanning epic is a galvanizing departure for the director, a mild rebuke to heritage cinema (the kinetic, decidedly anti-genteel lensing is by French cinematography juggernaut Eric Gautier), and a lavish acting playground for stars Charles Berling, Emmanuelle Béart, and Isabelle Huppert.
Being John Malkovich writer Charlie Kaufman updates Truffaut's Wild Child in this surprisingly clunky comedy about nudity, civilization, and body hair. Music video stylist Michel Gondry directs; Spike Jonze's deadpan understatement is sorely missed.
GIRLS CAN'T SWIM
Over the course of one pivotal summer, a small-town French teen and her city-mouse best friend realize that the onset of hormones and sexual discovery has fractured their bond.
THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE
Megalomaniac Hollywood producer Robert Evans gets an ego massage. Narrated by Robert Evans.
MURDER BY NUMBERS
THE SCORPION KING
FACING THE MUSIC
A university music department suffers under draconian budget cuts and considers a strike in this Australian documentary.
Scott Kalvert, whose two most notable directorial credits are The Basketball Diaries and Form, Focus, Fitness: The Marky Mark Workout, revamps West Side Story, loses the songs, and transports it across the East River to Brooklyn. With Matt Dillon, Stephen Dorff, and Fairuza Balk.
DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS
The former is a slum near Santa Monica; the latter are members of a skateboarding collective called the Zephyr team, captured here with narration by Sean Penn.
FRANK MCKLUSKY C.I.
Young girl with boozy mom and loser dad comes of age in '70s New Zealand.
A late-twentysomething schoolteacher abandons the inert comforts of a long-term relationship for the perilous badlands of L.A. singledom in this Dogme-inspired DV feature.
In Peter Cattaneo's first film since The Full Monty, a pair of bank-robbing buddies stage a musical as a front for their prison escapetrès Sound of Music! Olivia Williams, Rushmore's Miss Cross, costars as the stir shrink.
Yet another retelling of the homicidal Papin sisters' saga, Jean-Pierre Denis's version is nimbly shot and expertly paced, though its preeminent asset is Sylvie Testud's shattering performance as the deranged elder sister.
THE MYSTIC MASSEUR