Actress Kimberley Elise impressed critics last year with a riveting performance in the film Woman, Thou Art Loosed. She played a woman suffering from a lifetime of abuse by unfaithful and dangerous men, a woman who eventually turned to violence to settle the score.

In Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the big screen adaptation of Tyler Perry's popular stage play, Elise again plays a woman rightfully angry at a man's unfaithfulness. Elise plays Helen, the wife of an unfaithful husband. Her mother, Myrtle (Cicely Tyson), her cousin Brian (Tyler Perry himself, in one of three roles), and a potential beau named Orlando (Shemar Moore) all support her while she chronicles her pain and her struggle in diary entries.

LaTonya Taylor (Christianity Today Movies) writes, "The themes that emerge … are obvious: how to deal with relational pain and betrayal, and how wounded people can heal in a healthy emotional space somewhere between pained acceptance and soul-destroying rage before eventually learning to trust again."

Taylor praises Kimberley Elise who "brings A-game acting to this B-movie." But she criticizes poor character development, implausible dialogue, and a few other aspects of the film. She concludes, "The story's end is both predictable and surprising, combining a series of very sweet, truly moving moments with a climactic, tear-inducing end and a little twist. It's a satisfying end, but it takes a lot of work—and a lot of suspended disbelief—to get there."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says the film "mixes emotional drama with dollops of dark-edged comedy, resulting in a moving—if at times melodramatic—and fitfully humorous affirmation of faith, family and forgiveness, the tone of which alternates between raucously zany and spiritually soaring. Given Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce, some viewers may object to the film's resolution. Still, with its rousing gospel score, it is hard to find fault with the movie's overall celebration of faith as a source of strength in times of personal pain."

Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) agrees that the movie is "an uneven mix of drama and comedy, romance and revenge. Though the audience I saw it with clearly resonated with the theme of man's inhumanity to women, the characters are so one-dimensionally extreme that the story is almost pure melodrama." Lyon concludes by saying that the film fails "to offer a solid, biblical message" and settles for an underwhelming and too-familiar lie."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) sums it up: "Folks who decide to see Diary of a Mad Black Woman will be getting many films for the price of one. It's a weepy melodrama … a raucous urban … [and] a Christian-oriented morality tale about love and forgiveness. The problem is that those elements don't blend together particularly well, resulting in often jarring shifts in tone and mood."

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Only a few mainstream critics think all of this melodrama is a good thing.

Cursed could describe the poor souls who watched it

So here's a film about an estranged brother (Jesse Eisenberg) and sister (Christina Ricci) getting back together and mending their relationship. A sweet, sappy story? Hardly. The reason they're back together is that a werewolf is after them, and they're fighting for their lives. Such is the premise of Cursed. Kinda gives new meaning to the term "sibling rivalry," doesn't it—only this time the rival isn't a sibling, but a scary creature.

Though it finished No. 4 at the box office, the religious critics who saw it say the movie itself might as well be cursed. It's that awful. Here are some of their "biting" remarks:

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "The only people who are 'Cursed' are those unfortunate enough to have to sit through this banefully bad horror flick about a young television producer and her geeky teenage brother, who find themselves in increasingly hairy situations after being bitten by a werewolf-at-large in their Los Angeles neighborhood."

Tom Neven (Plugged In) calls the movie "an unholy mess in more ways than one. It was drastically rewritten and large portions of it reshot after they'd wrapped up principal photography in the summer of 2003. It's hard to see where the 'improvements' were made."

The mainstream press also hated it, including one who calls it an "idiotic movie, even by werewolf standards."

Rory O'Shea Was Here "a heartening drama"

Beneath his gruff behavior and cuss-heavy talk, Rory O'Shea (James McAvoy), a young man bound to a wheelchair as a result of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, has just enough heart to win audiences' support in the film about his struggles with limitations and attitudes. In Rory O'Shea Was Here, Rory befriends Michael (Steven Robertson), who suffers from cerebral palsy and struggles to communicate through a severe speech impediment. When Rory discovers he has a special gift for understanding and translating Michael's speech, he exploits that talent to try and escape the consequences of his own misbehavior. Things get more complicated when a sexy young drifter (the radiant Romola Garai of I Capture the Castle and Vanity Fair) gets to know the men and agrees to work as their attendant.

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Mary Lasse (Christianity Today Movies) says, "Despite the contrived story and predictable plotline, Rory O'Shea urges viewers of all abilities to live life to the fullest. Rory celebrates our desire to live freely and fully, regardless of one's physical condition. Because, whatever our disability (and we all have something), we can embrace opportunity and discover greatness."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) calls it "a heartening drama about finding that life is full of possibilities, even when it seems otherwise. Director Damien O'Donnell restrains any heavy-handed sentimentality, showing his disabled leads as flawed and presenting them in honest and fully human terms. The film's impassioned message—that every life is worth living, even when physically compromised—is a refreshing response to the better-dead-than-disabled attitude advocated in recent films like The Sea Inside."

Mainstream critics find the film predictable and melodramatic, but many of them still think it's worth the price of a ticket.

Man of the House could use a housecleaner

Tommy Lee Jones plays a ranger assigned to protect a house full of scantily clad cheerleaders in Man of the House. That's enough of a premise to earn the film some box office success, and if you're interested in more plot details than that, well, you're probably not part of the film's target audience.

Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) writes, "Is it just me, or is the premise of an older man 'shacked up' with five busty cheerleaders in uniform—one of whom seriously wants to be involved with him—kind of creepy? The movie makes a half-hearted statement about immodesty via the 'old school' Roland telling the girls to cover up. But it's lip service only, and it's quickly forgotten."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) calls the movie "sleep-inducing as it takes a one-joke premise and tries to stretch it to fit a 90-minute film. The normally reliable Tommy Lee Jones … is unable to lift the material above its rather pedestrian nature. Uninspired, unoriginal and bland pretty much sums up the experience."

Mainstream critics are burning down the House.

More reviews of recent releases

Hotel Rwanda:Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says, "A film of great moral and cinematic value, Hotel Rwanda is a sobering reminder of just how important it is for those who have power—whether financial, physical or moral—to intervene, when great evil is taking place. If we do not, then who will? And then who will be there for us, when it is our turn?"

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Becauseof Winn-Dixie: David Bruce (Hollywood Jesus) says that the title character, a scrappy little hound named Winn-Dixie, "presents the way God works: through the unexpected and ordinary events in life. I really appreciated [the film's] ending. As in real life, not all things can be resolved. But, it is all part of the life journey of faith."

Constantine:Greg Wright (Hollywood Jesus) says, "Constantine often plays like eschatology-as-theme-park-ride. And when it's all said and done, you may find yourself tired of the—ahem—constantinanity."

The Merchant of Venice:Gene Edward Veith (World) says, "The Merchant of Venice may be Shakespeare's most explicitly Christian play. But for modern audiences, the play's portrayal of Jews overwhelms its intended themes. And the movie version now in theaters obscures the Christian themes even more."