The deserving winner of last year's Best Foreign Language Oscar—and one of the sturdiest word-of-mouth sleepers in recent arthouse history—Germany's The Lives Of Others (Sony) exposes the terrifying threat of the Stasi, East Germany's all-powerful secret police, during the country's final years behind the Iron Curtain. The late Ulrich Mühe plays an exceptionally good Stasi spy who's assigned to run surveillance on a playwright and his girlfriend, bohemian types suspected of subversive activities. His gradual change of heart leads them all into dangerous territory…

Even by the exceedingly lenient standards of the cyber-thriller, Perfect Stranger (Sony) qualifies as a particularly convoluted, wildly preposterous mess. Continuing her post-Oscar slump, Halle Berry unconvincingly plays a shrill investigative reporter dogging wealthy businessman and possible killer Bruce Willis. Willis phones in (or IMs over) his sleepwalking performance: Much of his dialogue is delivered via computer avatar during lurid online chats with Berry. Who can blame him for exerting as little effort as possible in this high-concept, highly dubious idiocy?…

Writer-director Zoe Cassavetes offers cameo queen Parker Posey a rare star turn in Broken English (Magnolia); Posey acts melancholy and exposed as a hotel concierge whose fitful love life can't escape the constant scrutiny of her mother, Gena Rowlands. Cassavetes has a keen sense of what it's like to be just past 30, alone and rudderless, but the movie's eventual romance between Posey and mumbly Frenchman Melvil Poupaud squanders Posey in low-boil, go-nowhere conversations, shot without flair and drained of any improvisatory energy…

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As comebacks go, Charles Grodin's big-screen return in the painful black comedy The Ex (Weinstein) makes Jane Fonda's deer-in-headlights turn in the similarly misbegotten Monster-In-Law look like Elvis' '68 comeback special. Grodin is in fine, prickly form as the father-in-law of a naĂŻve jerk (Zach Braff) at war with even-jerkier co-worker Jason Bateman, but he and a lot of other talented people (Romany Malco, Amy Adams, Amy Poehler, Mia Farrow, Paul Rudd, Donal Logue) are utterly defeated by a joyless script that's ugly and mean-spirited without being funny. It's enough to scare a guy back into making Beethoven sequels for perpetuity.