Welcome to an exciting new column. (In other words, scrambling to catch up and jot down a legible post.) It was going to be about just ten films, but I've decided to turn it up to... oh, you know.

I'm not an expert on (or even much of a fan of) martial arts flicks, but I enjoy Takeshi "Beat" Kitano's work (or at least the two films of his I've seen: FIREWORKS and KIKUJURO). His take on the classic Japanese serial about a blind samurai is as irreverent as you'd expect. Whereas HERO is a gorgeous, polished, painterly epic, Kitano's film has a more wiry pulse: it's a leisurely paced character study, equally devoted to intricately choreographed battle sequences and comic asides drenched in the director's off-kilter sense of humor. Maybe too lesiurely-paced--to me, the film felt a little long and occasionally boring, but Kitano delivers a masterful, nuanced performance that's never pretentious or austere. However, I have to admit the lively tap dancing sequence at the end won me over. Anachronistic? Sure, but it works in a convincing genre film that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Of course this is the best Harry Potter film by miles, as Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN director Alfonso Cuaron is a virtuoso compared to the execrable Chris Columbus. This is the first Harry Potter book I've actually read before seeing the film adaptation, and my only gripe is that it feels a little rushed. It has no time for character development or most of J.K. Rowling's idiosyncratic little details and fanciful asides. While they're not essential to the story arc, they're certainly a major part of the books' allure. Still, if the first two films came out like Disney, this one's far more Miyazaki. The now-adolescent actors have grown, not only in physique but also in performance, and Cuaron renders the world of Hogwarts in more than two dimensions, especially with linking shots that approach visual poetry.

An old, endlessly quotable favorite. Still the finest feature length sitcom ever devised, and everyone in the principal cast (Dabney Coleman, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda) has never been funnier. The canabis-enhanced dream sequences are as inspired as golden-age screwball comedy.

"Abysmal" was how one friend described this notoriously misguided train wreck. He's right, but rarely has something so abysmal seemed such a campy, vampy pleasure to behold. It's "better" than THE APPLE, but you probably don't wanna watch this one entirely sober, either.

Fairly average Hong Kong action cop movie that wouldn't exist without Woo, Tarantino, et al... but entertaining and inoffensive enough. As double-crossing moles, Tony Leung and Andy Lau give the picture identity and some charisma. However, I doubt Scorsese's eventual American remake will be an improvement (although at least it'll steer him away from the overblown biopic/historical epic ghetto).

Delightful if slight documentary about a Finnish Men's Choir that shouts rather than sings. Funny in sort of a deadpan, Monty Python-esque way, and for now, that's all I have to say about it.

Worth seeing for the underseen (on film, anyway) Carol Channing in her prime. She's dressed like Big Bird's mother in one scene and inexplicably wearing a pirate costume in another (while singing the title song, no less). As a former mafioso who takes his first acid trip, Jackie Gleason can't help but lazily, hammily channel Ralph Kramden, and an aged Groucho Marx reads his lines off of cue cards (it's that painfully obvious). Still, this 1968 film directed by Otto Preminger (way past his prime) is a fun stoopid time capsule that really doesn't represent its era all that well, and that's kinda touching (albeit, also pathetic). "Skidoo, skidoo, between one and three is two!"

Yes, this one actually exists, and unlike SKIDOO, it's a tedious stoopid movie. Anthony Newley stars in a loosely autobiographical X-rated romp (although it would earn an R today and isn't really lively enough to be a "romp") and it plays like an inept version of Fosse's ALL THAT JAZZ set on a mystical seashore. No one comes off well (especially a way-past-his-prime Milton Berle), but you have to love that then-Newley paramour Joan Collins appears as a love interest named Polyesther Poontang. She also sings a trifle called "Chalk and Cheese" and sounds a lot like Nico (minus that chanteuse's velvet-y cool).

Engrossing documentary about Al-Jazeera, the Arabian world's equivalent to Fox News. Filmed during the first few weeks of the current Iraqi war, it doesn't entirely celebrate (or condemn) the network, but it probes into the causes and casualities of war and the media's role in reporting it with real insight. If you haven't seen FAHRENHEIT 9/11, don't bother and rent this instead.

So-so adaptation of a wicked good Ian McEwan novel. Starts off smashingly with an eerie, expertly-rendered balloon crash, then gradually devolves into a Hitchcock/De Palma imitation. McEwan's complex, purposely irritating narrative is a bit outlandish at times, but never as over-the-top or obvious as this screenplay suggests. Daniel Craig is fine as the lead, but Samantha Morton is given precious little to do and Rhys Ifans doesn't show any depth in the krrrrazy-person slot. As with the far superior LAWLESS HEART, Bill Nighy nearly walks away with the film in his few-and-far-between scenes.

Troy Duffy serves as a poster child for how one's ego and ineptitude can turn a once-of-a-lifetime possibility into a raging train wreck. It's creepily fascinating, but in a guilty-pleasure sort of way more than a fair account of what went wrong (see LOST IN LA MANCHA for the latter). A thinly veiled kiss-off made by two former members of Duffy's entourage, you could say they were justified in charting how stupendously he blew his Miramax deal and dug his own grave. But Duffy comes off as such a cartoonish loser that you can't help but root for his failure. OVERNIGHT makes a decent cautionary tale for aspiring auteurs, but for the rest of us, it's like a glum version VH-1's BEHIND THE MUSIC without the tacked-on optimistic ending.