Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Geoffrey Rush
BY LEAH ROZEN
THRILLER
CRITIC'S CHOICE

In the months following the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Israeli agent Avner Kauffman (Bana) is assigned to track down those involved in the killings and assassinate them. With each target that Kauffman and his small band of helpers knock off, the more the Mossad veteran comes to question his mission and its long-term consequences. “Every man we killed has been replaced by someone worse,” he says.

Those who like their thrillers neat, clean and free of moral and political ambiguities should steer clear of director Steven Spielberg's Munich. It isn't easy viewing, but it's most definitely worth seeing. Helped greatly by a thoughtful screenplay by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Eric Roth, Spielberg probes the notion of revenge. There are bravura, Hitchcockian sequences (notably, a nail-biter involving a little girl's safety), but Munich, which was inspired by real events, is less compelling as a character drama than as one of ideas. What resonates days after seeing it, a point driven home by the movie's evocative final shot, is that the events depicted in Munich can't be relegated to history. All too bloodily, they reverberate still. (R)

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Jennifer Aniston, Shirley MacLaine, Kevin Costner, Mark Ruffalo
COMEDY

Aniston has a sensational figure, showcased here to tremendous advantage in everything from a tight white T-shirt and rear-hugging jeans to a clingy evening gown. But when one spends more time pondering a character's clothes than her plight, the movie is in trouble. Rumor Has It… is a contrived comedy that can't surmount its contrivances. A journalist (Aniston, emoting mightily) flies home to Pasadena with her attentive fiancé (Ruffalo) for a sibling's wedding. While home, she learns that both her boozehound grandma (MacLaine) and dead mom had flings with the man (Costner) who inspired the Benjamin character in The Graduate, and she seeks him out. Will she too fall prey to his raffish charms? Ick and double ick. (PG-13)

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Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Gary Beach
MUSICAL

The verdict on The Producers from this side of the footlights: It isn't as joyously vibrant as Chicago, but it sure outkicks the banal Rent. A movie version of the 2001 smash Broadway musical that was itself based on Mel Brooks's 1967 film comedy, it features Lane and Broderick lovingly re-creating their stage roles as larcenous theatrical producers who mount what they hope will be a colossal Broadway flop. The duo's vehicle of choice: Springtime for Hitler, a musical saluting the Führer.

Producers offers many of the pleasures of the stage show but is at times dragged down by hewing too slavishly to it. Judicious pruning, such as sacrificing musical numbers that don't work on- screen, would have made the film zippier. Though uneven, the movie is more hit than miss, particularly anytime a sexy Thurman parades about as Ulla, a ditzy Swedish bombshell. Playing the wacko Nazi who wrote Springtime, Ferrell is excessively broad, sputtering like Sgt. Schultz on old reruns of Hogan's Heroes. (PG-13)

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ALSO PLAYING

An affluent Parisian couple learn they're being stalked in a disturbing thriller (in French, with English subtitles) by Austrian director-writer Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher). Who's chronicling their comings and goings and leaving the tapes at their door? The film is less interested in solving the mystery than examining the impact of creeping dread on the pair (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche), their relationship and each one's sense of self. (R)

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—L.R.

Jim Carrey has mined laughs from some pretty dark places, but not even he can find much humor at the expense of Enron's bankrupted victims. When Carrey's company implodes after a similar accounting scandal, he and wife Téa Leoni turn to a life of crime to keep their bank account afloat. The result is only Fun when Alec Baldwin pops up as the company's oily CEO, but who would see a film called A Few Labored Chuckles with Dick & Jane? (PG-13)

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—Jason Lynch

Two years after Steve Martin, as a father of 12, rediscovered the importance of putting family first, he goes through the same tired motions all over again—this time during a family vacation on Lake Winnetka—in a lusterless sequel. Even the dependable Eugene Levy strikes out as Martin's longtime nemesis, leaving the film's few laughs to twin tykes Shane and Brent Kinsman, better known as Lynette's mischief-making sons on Desperate Housewives. (PG)

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—J.L.