David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott

Ivan Reitman evidently works on the premise that stealing from yourself is not plagiarism. The director of the 1984 blockbuster Ghost-busters and its lesser 1989 sequel, Reitman is clearly hoping magic will strike again with Evolution, in which a trio of quick-to-quip scientists (Duchovny, Jones and Moore) wage war on alien creatures. Sound familiar? Times have changed, though, and even a brief cameo by original ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd (he plays an elected official here) can't save this one from deserving a critical sliming.

Evolution begins with a meteor crashing into the desert near Glen Canyon, Ariz., where Duchovny and Jones, two skirt-chasing buddies, teach science at a community college. The men take samples of a blue liquid oozing from the meteor and soon have petri dishes swarming with living, breathing, rapidly evolving organisms. Within days, fierce dinosaur-like creatures are prowling the landscape and chomping at humans who cross their path. Warns Moore, a government scientist who joins forces with Duchovny and Jones: "In two months their ecosystem will take over the U.S." Who you gonna call?

There are amusing lines scattered throughout Evolution (urged to call the feds in on the case, Duchovny, in a nod to his X-Files days, says, "No government. I know those people"), and the solution for zapping the alien critters is inspired (and a triumph of product placement). Overall, though, this is an anemic effort that feels more recycled than evolved. Among the cast, Jones is the comic standout, using his rubber face and, one suspects, gift for improvising to advantage. Duchovny is essentially the straight man here (though he gets to moon an old foe in one scene), while Moore, repeatedly required to execute pratfalls, looks distinctly uncomfortable at finding herself marooned in such pallid piffle. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Darwin was wrong

John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Vinnie Jones

"You know what the problem with Hollywood is?" asks Travolta's character in this movie's opening scene. "They make s---."

Judging from recent releases, he's right, and Swordfish only proves his point. Although this technothriller starts off promisingly enough (with a clever verbal dissection of Dog Day Afternoon and other crime-spree movies), it's downhill in a hurry from there as viewers are subjected to the standard parade of pointless explosions, car chases and gunplay.

Travolta plays a high-living crime boss who dispatches his glamorous girlfriend (Berry) from Los Angeles to Texas to recruit one of the world's leading computer hackers (Jackman). Travolta needs Jackman, the film's nominal hero, to help him rob a bank fund set up by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Or something like that. Director Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds) appears to have scant interest in logic or plot coherence. Travolta is having a swell time doing another of his suave, sneering villains, but after Face/Off and Broken Arrow this act is getting stale. Jackman remains an able leading man in need of a decent film, while Berry is her usual decorative self. (R)

Bottom Line: Throw it back

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Cumming, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline

Joe and Sally Therrian (Cumming and Leigh), an English novelist and his movie-actress wife, have been wed for six years, including a recent yearlong split. Back together, they're living in a sleek modern house in one of L.A.'s pricier canyons and trying to have a baby. To celebrate their anniversary, they throw a bash, which turns into a bumpy night for them and their equally glamorous guests (including Paltrow as a rising young star and Jennifer Beals as a globetrotting photographer).

A glitzier if more irritable version of 1983's The Big Chill, The Anniversary Party sets out to show the cracks in Hollywood marriages and friendships. Cowritten and codirected by Cumming and Leigh, it's the kind of navel-gazing project that can be whiningly self-indulgent, but here—at least for most of the movie—it is fairly absorbing, often funny and gets within spitting distance of truths about aging, opportunism and artistic compromise in Hollywood.

The welcome surprise here is the long-absent Phoebe Cates, who creates a deft portrait of a retired actress content to let her film-star husband (Kline, Cates's real-life hubby) hog the spotlight. Cates and Kline's off-camera kids Owen and Greta also appear on-camera, and father and daughter do a charming mock ballet. (R)

Bottom Line: Party on

Boleslav Polivka, Anna Siskova, Jaroslav Dusek, Csongor Kassai

Featured attraction

bgwhite    



When the Nazis occupy a Czech village during World War II, residents no longer know whom among themselves they can trust. The problem proves particularly vexing for Josef and Marie Cizek (Polivka and Siskova) after they take in David Wiener (Kassai), a local Jew who has escaped from a concentration camp and made his way back home. While Wiener stays holed up in a pantry in their apartment, the couple's attempts to keep their neighbors and the Germans at bay grow ever more desperate—and comic—in the beautifully observed Divided We Fall, which mixes cynicism and idealism in equal measure.

"Who would be foolish enough today to act like a hero?" asks a character in Fall. The answer here is that while many did, director Jan Hrebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchovsky make clear that "heroic" motivations are often complex, contradictory and full of self-interest. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Czech it out

The Animal Another dumb comedy. Rob Schneider's behavior turns comically beastly after a mad scientist implants him with animal organs. (PG-13)

Bride of the Wind Handsome but stiff biopic about Alma Mahler (1879-1964), a Viennese beauty whose big-name husbands included composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius and writer Franz Werfel. Painter Oskar Kokocshka was a lover. Sarah Wynter portrays Alma as a privileged brat. (R)

Bridget Jones's Diary Renée Zellweger must choose between two beaux in a swell romantic comedy. (R)

Moulin Rouge It's easy to admire director Baz Luhrmann's vision and audacity in this musical set in Paris in 1899, but his frenetic editing leaves a viewer exhausted. (PG-13)

Pearl Harbor Boring and bloated. (PG-13)

Shrek The season's best movie so far. Offers animated laughs galore. (PG)