Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Stanley Tucci, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig
Featured attraction

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Englishman Sam Mendes (American Beauty) has made a hauntingly lyrical movie about that most American of cinematic obsessions, the gangster. And like all great mobster films, most notably The Godfather (1972), Road to Perdition is about so much more than a gun-toting guy mowing down rivals.

Perdition's hero, mob enforcer Michael Sullivan (Hanks), may be on the road to hell, but he'll make a detour through redemption on his way. He is, above all, an honorable man, and as his boss and surrogate father, crime kingpin John Rooney (Newman), says, "A man of honor always pays his debts and keeps his word."

Sullivan spends much of Perdition, a dark drama set in the Irish underworld of Chicago and its environs in 1931, seeking bloody vengeance after his wife and a son are shot. The complicating factor: The assassin is Rooney's only son (Craig). Even as he plots his revenge, though, Sullivan teaches his surviving boy, Michael Jr. (Hoechlin), that there is a better world, one where men don't need guns, and tries to deliver him to it.

The relationship between fathers and sons is central to the beautifully shot Perdition, which is based on a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins. "Sons are put on this earth to trouble their fathers," Rooney says early on. Here, fathers shoulder that trouble no matter the consequences.

Director Mendes wisely gives his premium cast room to breathe. A buttoned-down Hanks is quietly effective as a man who grows even as his world is closing in on him. Newman, conveying power with the tiniest of shrugs, is a wonder. Law, as an eccentric hit man tailing Sullivan, gives the film a welcome jolt of benign malice, though the bowler hat he wears makes him look like Stan Laurel's evil twin. (R)

Bottom Line: A glorious journey

Collision Course
Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin

There are two films here, one good and the other stupid. The good: Irwin, the excitable Aussie animal preservationist who stars on TV's real-life Crocodile Hunter series, and his American-born wife, Terri, capture imperiled crocodiles (ooohh!), snakes (aaahh!), spiders (eeekk!) and other creatures in the wilds Down Under. The stupid: Inept American CIA agents track down a spy satellite swallowed by the same Aussie croc that Irwin is tailing. This subplot must be intended to introduce kids to the pleasures of adult action thrillers. (PG)

Bottom Line: Bag it

There's a clear division of labor at the David Arquette and Courteney Cox Arquette household. "I'm the designated spider squasher," says Arquette, 30, who wed the Friends star in 1999. It's only fair then that as mining engineer Chris McCormick, he gets terrorized by SUV-size mutated arachnids with an attitude in his new film Eight Legged Freaks, which opens July 17. "I don't typically get to play an action hero," says the youngest of the Arquette acting clan, best known for goof-ball roles in the Scream flicks and AT&T ads.

Not that he gets to play Spider-Man in Freaks, a comic send-up of the campy sci-fi films of the '50s in which Arquette spends a good deal of screen time dodging lime-green spider guts (applesauce with food coloring) and giant spiderwebs made of glue. But he does stay in shape by playing pickup basketball on the Warner Bros, lot "while Courteney's working." At their Malibu home, he and Cox, 38, like to barbecue with friends or, in real-life goofball moments, sing along with their karaoke machine. And keep their house spider-free. "We sometimes have black widow spiders around," he says. "It's really important to get rid of those." Julie Jordan

Lovely & Amazing

A quirky comedy that lives up to its title. Four females—a mother, two adult daughters and her adopted 8-year-old African—American child—must come to terms with family traits or move beyond them. Catherine Keener and Brenda Blethyn star. (R)

Men in Black II Disposable fun. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as secret agents fighting aliens in an amusing, blessedly brief sequel (88 minutes). (PG-13)

My Wife Is an Actress French comedy about a sports journalist (Yvan Attal, who also wrote and directed) having trouble accepting that his wife (Charlotte Gains-bourg) is a popular film star whose job entails kissing other men onscreen. Pleasant enough, and light as the cream pie our hero daydreams of smashing into the face of one of his wife's more ardent costars. (R)