Snap Judgments

Matchstick Men

Directed by Ridley Scott

Abandoning his epic mode, the stylish Scott serves up a tricky tale about a tic-ridden, obsessive-compulsive L.A. con man (Nicolas Cage, in fine frazzled form) who can't leave his spotless house without meds. His criminal career is disrupted by his discovery of a long-lost 14-year-old daughter (Alison Lohman), who seems to have inherited her dad's gift for the grift. "Matchstick Men" glides from comedy to suspense to poignance, arriving at a destination you might not suspect. But Scott's finesse can't entirely disguise the mechanical nature of Nicholas and Ted Griffin's script, which has one too many twists for its own good. Fun while it lasts, but it's a bit of a con job itself.

So Close

Directed by Corey Yuen

A delirious example of grrrl power, Hong Kong style. After watching professional assassins Lynn (Shu Qi) and Susan (Zhao Wei) wreak kung fu and high-tech havoc on their enemies while being pursued by the equally impressive female cop Hong Yat Hong (Karen Mok), it's hard not to think that this is the real "Charlie's Angels." Master action choreographer Yuen keeps topping himself with one battle royal after another, while finding pockets of real feeling (and homoerotic undercurrents) in an outrageously farfetched plot.

Party Monster

Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

Macaulay Culkin gamely transforms himself into fey, bitchy Michael Alig, a notorious club kid in '90s New York, now behind bars for the murder of his drug dealer. This oddly unsensual movie focuses on his "friendship" with mentor and rival James St. James (Seth Green)--another outcast gay boy determined to be Fabulous--but there isn't an ounce of genuine affection on display. Fenton and Barbato already made a documentary of the same title about Alig, and their fascination with this vapid, charmless pied piper of decadence remains a mystery.