"The Class"

On the face of it, Laurent Cantet's Oscar-nominated, documentary-style drama about a year in the life of a high school French teacher in an immigrant-heavy section of Paris is little more than a succession of classroom encounters that present a clash between elder authority and youthful rebellion. But Cantet delivers something distinctive with a taste of reality, in the myriad, mind-boggling ways in which the teacher's good intentions are derailed. Grade: A

"Gomorrah"

Matteo Garrone's drama about the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, knocks the wind out of the glamorous mob anti-heroics we know from movies. It's a portrait of an institution at war with itself, that's literally rotting the country's foundation. Yet this approach proves to be just as compelling as a standard mafia story, and Garrone is excellent at creating a sense of both the Camorra's weaknesses and its soul-crushing inescapability for some who get caught up. Grade: A

"I Love You, Man"

Writer-director John Hamburg takes the male bonding of 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad to its next logical step, building a comedy around a mousy, friend-challenged real-estate broker (Paul Rudd) who embarks on a bromance with Jason Segel's crude but lovable slacker. The terrific cast has fun altering rom-com tropes to fit same-sex friendship, but some are given too little to do. Grade: B-

"Knowing"

Director Alex Proyas (The Crow) dumbs down his doomsday plot about a father (Nicolas Cage) whose son brings home a sheet of seemingly random numbers that are attached to actual (and future) catastrophes, making what amounts to disaster porn. He gets queasy thrills from mass chaos but seems unable to move the story forward without having Cage's character speak his every thought. Grade: C-

"Two Lovers"

Sure to be remembered as the movie that prompted Joaquin Phoenix's infamous Letterman appearance, this flawed flick about a man torn between you-guessed-it (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw) aims to be a morally ambiguous romantic drama for grown-ups, but director James Grey fails to develop the love triangle. On the other hand, Phoenix is a talent who will be missed; let's hope this isn't actually his last movie. Grade: C+

"Watchmen"

For better or worse, Zack Snyder has made a pitch-perfect, grittily stylized adaptation of Alan Moore's dark graphic novel. This is way more of a superhero drama riddled with angst and existential dread than a pre-summer popcorn flick. It's got splashes of bone-splintering violence, but also a labyrinth of a plot and little of the crowd-pleasing flair of most big-screen spectacles. Fanboys, rejoice; the rest, be warned. Grade: B

For more movie reviews, showtimes and theater info, click to ColumbusAlive.com

For an opening-day review of "Haunting in Connecticut" on Friday, click to the Bad and the Beautiful blog at ColumbusAlive.com