After Alfonso Cuarón gave the Harry Potter series a dose of art with the dark-toned, beautifully designed Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, director Mike Newell added some urgency with movie number four, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (Warner Bros.), the tightest and arguably the best of the bunch. Aside from an overlong and overly heavy climactic sequence, Goblet Of Fire zips so quickly from crisis to crisis that until its poignant final image of a ship slipping away, it doesn't become clear how much and how well this movie is about the end of innocence…

In a year loaded with political entertainment, it's telling that Jarhead (Universal), the one movie actually set in Iraq, had the least to say about the current quagmire in the Middle East. Adapting Anthony Swofford's lively memoir about his experiences as a sniper during Gulf War I, American Beauty director Sam Mendes covers all the book's major incidents while completely missing its rambunctious spirit. It's enough to make you wonder why he bothered…

After proclaiming himself retired following the completion of 1997's Princess Mononoke, Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki went straight back to work with Spirited Away, then promptly took up the reins on his studio's project Howl's Moving Castle (Disney) when its assigned director quit. It's just as well—Diana Wynne Jones' young-adult fantasy novel tells a complicated story, and Miyazaki's animated adaptation doesn't exactly simplify things. In the hands of a less masterful director, it'd be chaos. Even so, it's a tad muddled, but its fairy-tale story of an evil witch, a heartless wizard, and a shy young girl changed into a brash old woman is rich, magical fun, and gorgeously realized to boot…

To damn Just Friends (New Line) with extremely faint praise, the comedy is better than its Ryan Reynolds-in-a-horrific-fat-suit-centered ad campaign makes it look. Reynolds is smug as ever, but Chris Klein and habitual scene-stealer Anna Faris do fine work in supporting roles, with Faris contributing the most extreme version of her trademark chatterbox in a performance that viciously parodies both Britney Spears and Ashlee Simpson…

She (Uma Thurman) is an older woman. He (Bryan Greenberg) is a younger man. His mom (Meryl Streep) is her therapist. The perfect setup for a wacky comedy? Sure, but only Streep seems to think Prime (Universal) actually is one. The rest of the cast follows the lead of writer-director Ben Younger in this sensitive, attractively shot, and ultimately pretty dull early-May/mid-July romance.