Persistent Visions

This season's cinema demands attention

The Good Girl Miguel Arteta, director of Star Maps and Chuck and Buck, is back with yet another depiction of an unhealthy relationship. This time, it's department store clerk Jennifer Aniston who's the responsible party, engaging in an extramarital affair with a much younger co-worker, played by Donnie Darko himself, Jake Gyllenhaal. Things can only end badly, but based on Arteta's track record, they're likely to get quite entertaining along the way. With Zooey Deschanel, John Doe, John C. Reilly, and Tim Blake Nelson. (Fox Searchlight)

Secret Ballot This Iranian comedy from writer/director Babak Payami concerns the exploits of a female election official (Nassim Abdi) and the soldier (Cyrus Abidi) who must cart her around. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Serving Sara Matthew Perry gets kooky on a Texas ranch with Elizabeth Hurley while serving her divorce papers from her square-jawed soon-to-be-ex, Bruce Campbell. But will you be dazzled, friends? (Paramount)

Simone Writer/director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) turns that Michael Crichton mess, Looker, into a comedy, sort of. Catherine Keener and Al Pacino star in this synthespian adventure. (New Line)

Aug. 21

One Hour Photo Robin Williams will die someday, and we'll feel sorry for those things we said about him at the bitter end of the 20th century. To atone, simply rent Popeye or The Fisher King, or consider this new vehicle, wherein Mork plays a dangerous psycho. (Fox Searchlight)

Aug. 23

Children on Their Birthdays Children of a Lesser God playwright Mark Medoff makes his directorial debut with this adaptation of a Truman Capote short story about a 12-year-old girl and her friends who team up to outwit a local con man. (Artisan)

Drumline Nickelodeon personality Nick Cannon stars as a young drummer from Harlem who has trouble fitting in at a Southern university, until bandleader Orlando Jones steps in to mentor his unique talents. Crossroads' Zoe Saldana plays the obligatory love interest. (Fox)

Mostly Martha This German import from writer/director Sandra Nettelbeck explores the life of a meticulous chef (Martina Gedeck) when her young niece comes to visit. (Paramount Classics)

They Those who enjoyed director Robert Harmon's The Hitcher may get their kicks from his new thriller, wherein a grad student (Laura Regan) confronts her childhood fear of the dark. (Dimension)

Aug. 30

Biggie and Tupac Muckraking English documentarian Nick Broomfield, of the often unintentionally hilarious Kurt and Courtney, goes once again looking for conspiracies in the pop music world, this time focusing on the untimely deaths of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. (Lion's Gate)

Possession Director Neil LaBute (Nurse Betty) swings further yet from his trademark "radical" misanthropy in this adaptation of A.S. Byatt's romantic novel. Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart play a couple of modern scholars studying the exploits of a couple of 19th-century poets, played by Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle. (USA)

Slap Her, She's French Piper Perabo plays a French girl testing the foreign exchange rates in Texas. (Bandeira)

Undetermined

Apollo 13 IMAX A wide-screen version of the 1995 hit by Ron Howard. (Universal)

Cheaters Andrew Gurland, co-director of the controversial documentary Frat House, makes his dramatic debut about three friends who cheat their way through high school as an act of rebellion against what they perceive to be the tyranny of an unjust system. (New Line)

Jackass: The Movie Unlike Tom Green and Steve Irwin, Johnny Knoxville brings his unscripted shtick to the big screen essentially unchanged. For the sake of big-screen scope, Knoxville and his usual gang of idiots document a trip to Japan for more reckless endangerment of their own bodies. Though it'll undoubtedly gross more than any other nonfiction film ever made, its Oscar chances seem a little dim. (Paramount)

Love and a Bullet Michael McCants and Ben Ramsey direct Naughty by Nature rapper Anthony "Treach" Criss in this romantic thriller, wherein a hit man falls in love with his target. (Screen Gems)

The Sleeping Dictionary Without question, a much better way to learn a language than those silly tapes and computer programs. Hugh Dancy plays a colonial Englishman dispatched to serve in South America, and Jessica Alba (Dark Angel) is the local native assigned to help him develop a new vocabulary ... at night. Written and directed by Guy Jenkin. (Fine Line)

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge Otherwise known as Akai hashi no shita no nurui mizu -- Gesundheit! -- this new entry from Shohei Imamura (Dr. Akagi) explores the director's three favorite themes: sex, Japanese mythology, and sex. Despondent Yosuke (Koji Yakusho) is encouraged to have lots of carnal pleasure, hooking up with accommodating Saeko (Misa Shimizu). Being from a family of very sensuous women, Saeko releases deluges that revive a poisoned river. Bring a snorkel. (Cowboy)

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