Collateral Directed by Michael Mann
Getting back to his noir-genre roots, the always stylish Mann casts Tom Cruise as a natty, gray-haired assassin who flies into L.A. with a checklist of five witnesses he must dispose of in one night. His unlucky accomplice is the cabdriver Max (Jamie Foxx)--also a pro at his job--who is forced to drive him on his rounds. Mann vividly captures the nocturnal pulse of East L.A. in this taut, confined game of cat and mouse. In the homestretch the thrills get too generic and farfetched for their own good. But the first two thirds are a knockout.
The Corporation Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott
This smart, informative and lively polemic makes a strong case for viewing the corporation--which enjoys the legal status of an individual--as a psychopath run amok. Chockablock with disturbing tales (Bechtel's attempts to privatize rainwater in Bolivia, for one), this clever screed never hides its leftist politics (Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore are among the talking heads), but it doesn't make the mistake of demonizing the people who run these behemoths. There's even a ray of light at the end, in the form of an enlightened CEO.
Maria Full of Grace Directed by Joshua Marston
This harrowing story of a smart, poor and pregnant Colombian girl (the beautiful and gifted Catalina Sandino Moreno) who becomes a mule transporting heroin into New York could have descended into hysteria or moralism. Fortunately, first-timer Marston concentrates on getting the details right and letting the story speak for itself. You will know exactly what it feels like to ingest 52 pellets of contraband before stepping onto a plane to Newark: the movie puts us in Maria's shoes, taking us step by suspenseful step through her physical and spiritual ordeal.