The Black Balloon ( M): Writerdirector Elissa Down has made one of the best Australian films of recent years: an exhilarating story of suburban family life and the anguish of teenage love. A fine performance from Luke Ford as an autistic boy, with memorable support from Rhys Wakefield, Toni Collette and the model Gemma Ward. — Evan Williams
Paranoid Park ( M): Gus Van Sant’s latest is a minimalist drama centring on an inarticulate 16- year- old skateboarder ( Gabe Nevins). Fine cinematography by Australia’s Christopher Doyle can’t compensate for a needlessly fractured narrative accompanied by unusually inappropriate music. Some of the amateur actors acquit themselves very well. — David Stratton
Sleuth ( M): Anthony Shaffer’s venerable mystery play, filmed in 1972 with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, is given a hi- tech gloss in Kenneth Branagh’s stylish remake, with Caine playing the Olivier role and Jude Law as his sparring partner in a dangerous battle of wits. Devious and engrossing. — E. W.
Run, Fatboy, Run ( M): A British comedy which, like Death at a Funeral, is directed by an American, David Schwimmer, who brings a fresh eye to the London backdrops. Simon Pegg is in tremendous form as the hopeless hero who pulls himself together to try to win back the woman he loves by running a marathon. Formulaic fun. — D. S.
Talk to Me ( M): Director Kasi Lemmons’s absorbing film follows the career of a barely remembered 1960s disc jockey, Petey Greene, an ex- convict who won countless followers with his charismatic blend of music and civil rights activism in Washington, DC. Don Cheadle plays him with a winning blend of bluster and charm. — E. W.
In the Valley of Elah ( MA15+) A disturbing film from writer- director Paul Haggis ( Crash ) in which Tommy Lee Jones plays a grizzled army veteran who investigates the brutal murder of his son soon after the young man returns from duty in Iraq. Inspired by true events, the film carries a powerful message about the state of the US today. Charlize Theron gives a fine performance. — D. S.
We Own the Night ( MA15+): In this competent police thriller from writer- director James Gray, Joaquin Phoenix stars as a reluctant undercover cop who infiltrates a 1980s New York drugs ring to avenge attacks on his family. Well- handled action and suspense, but little depth or originality. — E. W.
Memorable: A scene from The Black Balloon