Zatoichi Directed by Takeshi Kitano
The blind (and blond) swordsman Zatoichi is as legendary a character to Japanese audiences as James Bond is to us. The stone-faced writer-director-star "Beat" Takeshi, a legend himself, resurrects this icon with characteristically quirky zest. Complete with bloody swordplay, unexpected eruptions of slapstick, a cross-dressing geisha bent on revenge and the first 19th-century Japanese tap-dancing sequence I've ever seen, "Zatoichi" is a mix-and-match crowd-pleaser that shouldn't add up, but delightfully does.
The Door in the Floor Directed by Tod Williams
Jeff Bridges is extraordinary as Ted Cole, a charming, womanizing author of children's books whose family has collapsed after the death of two sons. His wife (Kim Basinger) has been hollowed out by grief. His 4-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) obsesses over photos of her dead siblings. Based on part of John Irving's "A Widow for One Year," this hothouse tale of grief, sex and betrayal is told with a cool detachment that renders it commendably unsentimental--and slightly remote.
A Home at the End of the World Directed by Michael Mayer
For all its shortcomings--bad wigs and truncated transitions as it leaps from '70s suburban Cleveland to N.Y.C.'s East Village and Woodstock in the '80s--this unconventional love story between gay Jonathan (Dallas Roberts), bisexual Bobby (Colin Farrell) and free spirit Clare (Robin Wright Penn), who loves them both, packs an irresistible emotional punch. Guided by Michael Cunningham's witty screenplay--he also wrote the hypnotizing novel of the same name--the actors celebrate a new notion of family.