Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Nia Long, Kate Nelligan
BY LEAH ROZEN
THRILLER

As her husband's casket is unloaded from a hearse, Linda Hanson (Bullock) demands to see the corpse. She doesn't believe that her spouse (McMahon) is really dead. She has good reason to doubt. One day she's being told that he was killed in a car crash, but the next morning he's in bed beside her, still very much alive. Repeat sequence. Kind of makes it hard to figure out how many places to set at breakfast.

Premonition is a trick movie—like 2000's Memento, only not nearly as good. It messes with time and its heroine's mind, jumping to and fro across a week to keep both her and viewers guessing what the heck is going on. Not for nothing do Linda's two little daughters keep attempting to fit together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Half the fun of this kind of movie is trying to get a step ahead and figure out the big picture. But Premonition doles out only a single piece of the puzzle at a time, controlling all the info. Halfway through, when it's clear there's less going on than the film thinks there is—and what is going on is relentlessly sappy—you'll stop even trying to solve the puzzle. That said, Bullock gets her character's jumpy anxiety just right. (PG-13)

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Chris Rock, Kerry Washington, Gina Torres
COMEDY

Chris Rock deserves a tip of the beret for I Think I Love My Wife, his often amusing, occasionally touching Americanized version of French director Eric Rohmer's classic 1972 bonbon, Chloe in the Afternoon. But Rock, who wrote, directed and stars in this comedy about a husband harboring lust in his heart for another woman, also earns himself a solid smack with a stale baguette. Why? For the times when, in pursuit of a cheap laugh, he stoops to easy, vulgar jokes such as an extended bit about Viagra-induced priapism.

Wife is wildly uneven, though easy to root for. Still more of a likable wiseguy than an accomplished actor, Rock plays Richard Cooper, an investment banker who commutes daily to Manhattan from the suburbs, where he lives with Brenda (Torres), his schoolteacher wife of nearly seven years, and their two small children. The marriage has grown tired. "What I can't understand," Richard muses, "is how my wife can not have sex with me and yet still send me out into the world where there are so many beautiful women." His appreciative gazing at passing lovelies turns into true temptation when sexpot Nikki Tru (Washington) shows up at Richard's office.

What Wife gets right is the push-pull of marriage, the way the comfort of the familiar can butt up against the siren call of the new. One senses that with this film, Rock is tentatively finding his way to a more grown-up approach to comedy. (R)

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Cillian Murphy, Pádraic Delaney
DRAMA

The Irish troubles seem to be ever with us, but rarely examined in such careful detail or savage beauty as in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The winner of the top prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival, this drama, by English director Ken Loach (Sweet Sixteen), tells the fictional story of two Irish brothers fighting to free their homeland from brutal English rule in 1920. Damien (Murphy) gives up his fledgling career as a doctor to join brother Teddy (Delaney) in the guerrilla war, but political differences eventually drive the brothers apart.

Politics, too, prove to be the undoing of the film when a factional rift among the freedom fighters comes to dominate the plot. What started off as a compelling human drama becomes overwhelmed by windy, point-by-point debates. Sure, they're important—if you're taking a history class. Murphy (Red Eye and 28 Days Later) continues to impress as an actor of range and enormous sensitivity. (Not rated)

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Films with scrambled timelines can make for head-scratching fun—and powerful stories. Three you should catch on DVD:

MEMENTO This 2000 thriller, about a man (Guy Pearce, left) with no short-term memory who's hunting for his wife's killer, is fiendishly clever and affecting.

BABEL It takes a while to grasp how four storylines fit together in this recent Oscar nominee, but when you do, the result is wrenching. With Brad Pitt.

THE LIMEY Terence Stamp stars as an ex-con seeking revenge for his adult daughter's death in this multilayered 1999 thriller, crisply directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Samantha Mathis

In the '90s she dated Christian Slater and starred in Gen X hits like Pump Up the Volume and Broken Arrow. Now Mathis, 36, plays a basketball coach's wife in Believe in Me (in limited release). And she's still on the A-list: as one of Hollywood's hot new florists.

WHY DID YOU EXIT THE FAST LANE? I removed myself [from Hollywood] after my mom [actress Bibi Besch] passed away in '96. That was hard. Then I came back, did some TV, theater. In this business it's a marathon, not a sprint—I'm interested in longevity.

HAS YOUNG HOLLYWOOD CHANGED? I'm so grateful I'm not 20 now. In my time, boy, did I have fun. But it was more innocent then—the limelight's much harsher now.

LUCKILY, YOU HAVE A GREEN THUMB! My partner [interior designer] Ryann Davis and I started a floral company, Succulent (www.succulentla.com). I lose myself when I'm planting and arranging. Our first paying job was for a film with Meryl Streep. Believe me, I worked on that arrangement for a long time!

Blood Diamond ($34.99) Leonardo DiCaprio, sporting an exotic accent, is impressive as a diamond smuggler in Sierra Leone in a plot-heavy thriller. Extras: The two-disc Special Edition features a worthy short on diamond trading reforms and informative commentary by director Edward Zwick, who reveals that the set for DiCaprio's squalid flat was a room rented from a brothel. (R)
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Rocky Balboa ($28.95) What's more improbable than an AARP-eligible Rocky stepping back into the ring? That Sylvester Stallone was able to pull off a sixth Rocky, with an effective mix of tender drama and thrilling boxing. Extras: Fun on-set footage, with worshipful Philly locals who interact with hometown hero Rocky as if he were real. (PG)
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