Fever Pitch

PG-13, 2005, 98 minutes, Fox Home Entertainment

This American baseball recasting of Nick Hornby's British soccer memoir never quite steps up to its iffy plate. As the Boston Red Sox fan who has to choose between his beloved game and a gorgeous, available business consultant (Drew Barrymore), Jimmy Fallon is ineffective at best, deadly weird at worst. The two embark on a romantic relationship so formulaic, you wonder why filmmaking brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly even wanted to do this. There isn't one true Farrelly moment in the whole film. Contains sexual language, sexual scenes, obscenity and cartoon violence.

* Extra: "Break the Curse" featurette.

-- Desson Thomson

{sstar} Head-On

Unrated, 2004, 121 minutes, Strand Releasing

This gritty romantic melodrama, set in the Turkish neighborhoods of Hamburg, is about a marriage of convenience between two violent souls: Cahit (Birol Unel), a drunken widower with a ravaged face whose job consists of picking up detritus in a nightclub, and Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), an eccentric beauty prone to suicide attempts. Director Fatih Akin, a Hamburg-born filmmaker of Turkish heritage, imbues this film with a raw emotional urgency that never relents. And no matter what is going on in the story, these star-crossed lovers are always fascinating to watch. Unel's a Turkish Mount Rushmore with a drinking problem. Kekilli, a former porn star, exudes odd-bird poignancy; she's both naif and a graduate of the school of hard knocks. They're made for each other, and in this world, that romantic pairing amounts to a blessing. Contains sexual scenes, nudity, obscenity and violence.

* Extra: Deleted scenes.

-- Desson Thomson

{sstar} The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

PG, 2005, 110 minutes, Buena Vista Home Video

It was a wonderful television miniseries, radio series and a five-book "trilogy," all created by Douglas Adams. Now comes this respectably amusing movie, which has Martin Freeman of the BBC series "The Office" as Arthur Dent. The hapless earthling, with alien pal Ford Prefect (Mos Def), embarks on a massively epic and wonderfully improbable trip that includes visits to other spaceships and planets, plus run-ins with an assortment of oddball characters. Given the fact that a quintessentially British show-book-franchise has been peopled with Brits and Americans and spearheaded by a Hollywood studio, this is more than a pleasant surprise. Contains some sophisticated thematic elements and minor strong language.

* Extra: "Marvin's Hangman" game.

-- Desson Thomson

{sstar} Palindromes

Not rated, 2004, 100 minutes, Wellspring Media

Todd ("Happiness") Solondz never shies away from pushing hot buttons. This story about preteen girl Aviva is played by eight very different actors, and the storyline is guaranteed to scratch all nerve endings. Aviva becomes pregnant after having sex with the son (Robert Agri) of some close friends. Aviva's mother (Ellen Barkin) is outraged and wants her daughter to have an abortion. But when Aviva is forced to undergo the operation, she runs away, determined to get pregnant again. "Palindromes" references many taboos and political prejudices, forcing the viewer to consider them. But as soon as the film seems to be taking some sort of assertive stand, it suddenly runs for the very opposite. The movie demands moral elasticity. For those willing to take it, "Palindromes" has its share of backhanded rewards. Contains shocking, provocative material, sexual scenes, obscenity and violence.

* Extra: None.

-- Desson Thomson

{sstar} Rock School

R, 2005, 93 minutes, Columbia Tristar

Paul Green is the proprietor of the Paul Green School of Rock Music, a Philadelphia after-school music education program for 9- to 17-year-old aspiring rock performers that is the subject of this fascinating and funny documentary by Don Argott. Sometimes described as a real-life version of "The School of Rock," this movie is half about Green, a foul-mouthed guitarist who turned to teaching after failing to make the big time, and half about his young charges, some of whom will knock your socks off and some of whom are just plain adorable. Contains drug references and torrents of obscenity.

* Extra: "Making the Soundtrack" featurette.

-- Michael O'Sullivan


Unrated, 2004, 86 minutes, Picture This!

This small film about a troubled boy caught up in the seedy world of bare-knuckle boxing moves too slowly for its own good. The coming-of-age-through-crime story focuses on Mustafa (Olzhas Nusuppaev), a 15-year-old with a mental condition that forces him to pop pills and visit doctors his mother can only afford to pay with eggs and homemade sour cream. He sees potential relief from his depressing existence in his mother's boyfriend, Sakura (Eduard Tabyschev), who offers Schizo a job helping him recruit fighters bound for brutal beatings in illegal, underground matches. Nusuppaev is convincing as a conflicted adolescent who can't decide whether he wants to smoke cigarettes or play with Matchbox cars. But as admirable as some of the film might be, it's ultimately too sluggish and dreary to be very memorable. Contains violence, adult language and some sexual situations.

* Extra: Featurette.

-- Jen Chaney

{sstar} Winter Solstice

R, 2004, 89 minutes, Paramount

Moments of sad stillness pervade this film, characterized best not by what happens but by what happens just under its calm surface. Written and directed by Josh Sternfeld, it's ostensibly the story of a widower (Anthony LaPaglia) trying to run a landscaping business and raise two sons (Aaron Stanford and Mark Webber) five years after his wife died in a car accident. But "Solstice" is more than a tale of a lonely man and the difficulties of being a single parent. It's about the difficulties -- and the rewards -- of simply living, most of which only reveal themselves, like flowers in a garden, slowly and with a lot of hard work. Contains obscenity.

* Extra: None.

-- Michael O'Sullivan