Ashley Judd, Hugh Jackman, Greg Kinnear, Ellen Barkin, Marisa Tomei

It's a rule of romantic comedy that when a man and a woman clash early on, they will end up in each other's arms by the closing credits. Without giving away too much of Someone Like You, let's just say that this overly contrived example of the genre isn't out to bend, much less break, the rules.

Jane (Judd), who spends her days booking big-name guests for a Manhattan-based national talk show, is single and looking. Within her direct sight line are two handsome potential Mr. Rights. There's Eddie (Jackman), the show's director, a constant target of Jane's withering sarcasm for his seemingly compulsive womanizing. "Eddie," she confides in a voice-over, "was enough to make me lose hope for all men." Prospect No. 2 is Ray (Kinnear), the show's puppy-dog-eyed new executive producer who begins wooing Jane, despite having a steady girlfriend of three years' standing. Within six weeks he is declaring that he loves Jane and that they should move in together. Which of her coworkers is the true cad? Hint: Ray makes his declaration with two-thirds of the movie still to come.

Someone tries to milk laughs by having Jane natter on and on about the laws of animal behavior. She formulates what she calls the New Cow Theory, likening men to bulls and women to cows. Bulls, as she sees it, mate with a cow for a single encounter and then seek a new cow the next day. Her constant harping ("Did you know," she asks, "that less than 5 percent of male animals are monogamous?") wears out its welcome long before Jane finally discovers that her theory is udder nonsense.

Judd is effective in her quieter moments, but she lacks that dazzling charm that makes a romantic comedy heroine someone you root for despite her trying behavior. (Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock can rest easy.) Jackman (X-Men) is appealingly rugged in an underwritten role, and Kinnear might want to talk to his agent about moving beyond Milquetoast parts. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Nothing to moo about

Pierce Brosnan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geoffrey Rush, Brendan Gleeson

Featured attraction

As elegantly stitched together as the Savile Row-style suits made by its title character, The Tailor of Panama is a sophisticated international thriller brimming with smarts, complex characters and cynical wit. This should come as no surprise, since Tailor is based on a novel by spy master John le Carré (who cowrote the script) and is directed and cowritten by the venerable John Boorman (Hope and Glory).

In a casting coup, Brosnan plays Andy Osnard, an amoral British intelligence agent who could be James Bond's evil twin. Posted to Panama, he sets about pumping fellow Englishman Harry Pendel (Rush), Panama City's leading tailor, for the skinny on local politicos. When Osnard threatens to reveal the tailor's criminal past to his beloved wife (Curtis), Pendel finds himself telling Osnard ever bigger whoppers with, eventually, tragic consequences. Brosnan is smoothly perfect, Rush is masterful playing a good man in way over his head, and Curtis does solid work as his puzzled spouse. (R)

Bottom Line: Quality workmanship

Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub

Pretty much every kid flick has at least one line that pint-size viewers glom onto. After Spy Kids, expect to hear constant choruses of "Never send an adult to do a kid's job."

That admonition is uttered by Carmen (Alexa Vega), who with her younger brother Juni (Daryl Sahara) must save the day when their parents (Banderas and Gugino) are kidnapped by sinister international powermongers. Mom and Dad, it seems, were once renowned secret agents. "My parents can't be spies," says a disbelieving Carmen, "they're not cool enough." Kids, despite a busy plot and excessive reliance on special effects and hi-tech gadgetry, is way cool enough to keep nonspy kids entertained. (PG)

Bottom Line: Worth having under surveillance

Sam Neill, Patrick Warburton

What did a satellite dish in the middle of a lonely sheep pasture in rural Australia have to do with Neil Armstrong taking his first step on the moon on July 20, 1969? For those here on Earth, quite a lot. It was thanks to that gargantuan piece of hardware that 600 million people were able to watch the first lunar landing live on TV. This sweet comedy tells the true, little-known story of how the dish's three-man Aussie crew (Neill, Kevin Harrington and Tom Long) and an American from NASA (Warburton) overcame technical glitches and high winds to play a small but crucial role in history.

The Dish is long on charm if short on gripping drama. It is most amusing when it contrasts the laid-back Down Under dwellers with their stick-to-the-schedule Yank counterparts; these Australians know they're smart, but they're not about to brag on themselves to prove it. Director-writer Rob Sitch (The Castle) perfectly captures the Aussies' "no worries, mate" attitude in a scene in which Harrington complains bitterly to Neill about getting no respect from NASA, all the while batting a cricket ball against the upturned face of the dish. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Delicious Dish

>Jennifer Love Hewitt

If there were any doubt that Jennifer Love Hewitt has left behind her doe-eyed teen days, it's quickly zipped in her latest movie, Heartbreakers. "I was attached to Ray Liotta's crotch for the first two days of filming," she says. "It was very strange—but if there's a crotch to be attached to, Ray's is definitely the one."

The 22-year-old actress—best known for playing innocents in the I Know What You Did Last Summer horror flicks and TV's Party of Five—hasn't gone X-rated. (Her character's hair gets caught in Liotta's zipper.) But in the movie, in which she costars with Sigourney Weaver as half of a mother-daughter con-artist team, Hewitt finally gets to vamp. "It was nice to play a bad girl with a rough mouth and attitude, and wearing skimpy clothing was really fun and freeing," she says.

Offscreen, Hewitt, who is unattached as well as single, takes life at a slower pace. She never drinks alcohol ("My personality is already goofy," she says) and "wouldn't be seen dead" in those racy Heartbreakers threads. What's more, she still lives in L.A. with her mother, Pat, a former teacher. "I'll move out," she says with a laugh, "when I'm 30."

>Enemy at the Gates This WWII drama is best when it concentrates on the duel between a Russian sniper (Jude Law) and his German counterpart (Ed Harris). The rest is routine. (R)

Exit Wounds Exactly what you would expect in a Steven Seagal film: car chases, firepower and martial arts. Rapper DMX costars. (R)

Heartbreakers Don't expect this breezy comedy to be mentioned at Oscar time next year, but it's sure fun to see right now. Con artists Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt, a mother-and-daughter team, scam Ray Liotta and Gene Hackman. (PG-13)

Memento This spring's must-see movie. An intriguing thriller about revenge in which the plot runs backward and the main character (Guy Pearce) suffers from short-term memory loss. Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano costar. (R)

The Mexican Borderline fun. Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt have a swell time goofing their way through a determinedly quirky romantic comedy. (R)

Series 7 A brutal but brilliant satire that targets reality television shows, as six armed contestants fight, literally, to the finish. (R)

See Spot Run Run, indeed. (PG)

  • Contributors:
  • Elizabeth Leonard.