[A warm "howdy" to resident film critic David Fellerath of the Independent Weekly, who reports on this week's movie news.]

The summer doldrums are upon us and there are precious opportunities for escape in the multiplexes. Like clockwork, the Monday morning box office grosses tell the same story: movie attendance is down, which should be no surprise to close students of the quality of Hollywood's offerings.

However, in a piece by the indispensable Edward Jay Epstein in Slate earlier this week, we get a portrait that is both soothing and disturbing. It turns out that the major studios are doing about the same, but the smaller distributors are feeling the pinch. What this means is slow sales in the art houses, a development that has been confirmed to me off the record.

To redress this deficit, there are several movies worth catching in the art houses of the North Carolina Triangle, including a personal favorite of mine called The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which plays for another week in Chapel Hill's Chelsea. Another fave is Head-On, a violent and sexy German-Turkish romance that holds on for another week at Cary's Galaxy.

The most noteworthy new movie is an ambitious French philosophical comedy called Kings and Queen. I confess to some ambivalence about it, but all the same, it's rapturously edited, emotionally bruising and a film well worth catching. My colleague Godfrey Cheshire makes a strong case for director Arnaud Desplechin's importance as an heir to the French New Wave in his review this week. -- DAVID FELLERATH