Elephant (Van Sant): C+
Gawk! at the beautiful Calvin Klein model high school kids doing mundane things.
Revel! in the exquisitely choreographed tracking shots that contain, in the shot, a kid's entire universe.
Behold! the gay outsiders who love guns and watch shows about Nazis.
Grimace! as this lovingly crafted "tone poem" clunkily shifts into exploitative crap.
To Be and to Have (Philibert): B+/B
It takes a village, or maybe it takes the dedication of an attentive soul with the right touch just to keep these adorable French urchins on track. Shapeless yet so in rich in carefully observed cuteness that you gotta be a Grade-A tin man to resist.
The School of Rock (Linklater): B+
Probably the best Kindergarden Cop-type movie ever made. Jack Black is so awesome, but I bet he'd be pretty obnoxious to have around all the time.
Intolerable Cruelty (Coen): B/B-
An homage to the greatest genre of classic Hollywood, the screwball comedy. The problem with the Coens' scenario is that the spy v. spy set up makes the boy gets girl an anticlimax. (In the best screwball comedies, usually one of the two would-be lovers has a heart.) That CZJ is completely overmatched by a pitch-perfect Clooney doesn't help. Many fine scenes, especially those involving Billy Bob Thorton, make it worthwhile.
Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (Tarantino): B+/B
So fucking cool, except when it's trying too hard to be so fucking cool. Superb use of music, virtuoso filmmaking, and dope references (Lone Wolf and Cub, Tokyo Drifter, Killer Clans, Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, Zatoichi, Female Scorpion 41, etc. -- basically, ego-tripping for hardcore movie nerds), all adding up to what, exactly? And, yo, QT: Yuen Wo-ping does not do samurai swordplay. Stick with one-on-one stuff like the schoolgirl/Uma showdown. Now that was awesome.