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HAMLET (R) Michael Almereyda's version of Shakespeare's timeless tale of familial intrigue and despair updates the tragedy to contemporary Manhattan. Despite the distracting performance of slacker poster boy Ethan Hawke as the existentially mopey Danish prince, Almereyda's is an amusing, smartly mounted production that remains true to the spirit of the play, while inserting some crafty modern touches. -- FF

HIGH FIDELITY (R)1/2 John Cusack and director Stephen Frears, 10 years after collaborating on The Grifters, show high fidelity to Nick Hornby's terrific novel about a lovelorn record shop owner. The film effectively echoes Annie Hall as Cusack engagingly chats to the camera and looks back on his relationships with women to understand why his latest girlfriend (Iben Hjejle) left him. But its spot-on depiction of music geeks and fanboys (led by Tenacious D's Jack Black as a disdainful record store clerk) gives it its biggest laughs and truest observations. The excellent cast includes Tim Robbins, Catherine Zeta Jones, Lili Taylor and Joan Cusack. -- CH

LOVE AND BASKETBALL (PG-13) 1/2 Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps star as two gifted basketball-playing neighbors who begin a relationship as children, which may or may not blossom into love as adults. Nope, the ending isn't a surprise. Nope, it's not directed very well. Nope, it's not written very well. Nope, co-star Alfre Woodard never gets to reveal the talent we've come to appreciate. And nope, it's not really worth your time. -- RJ

LOVE BEAT THE HELL OUTTA ME Two film-making brothers explore the intricacies of African-American love in their debut independent film.

ME, MYSELF & IRENE (R) 1/2 Jim Carrey only plays two of the three title roles -- two personalities of a Rhode Island State Trooper -- in the comedy that reunites him with filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly. There's all the outrageous humor you expect, and more -- too much more; the editors should have tightened it considerably. Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee and Jerod Mixon, who play Carrey's black teenage sons, can spin off into a franchise if they want to continue as a team. A movie by the Farrellys isn't over until it's over, so stay in your seat through the closing credits. -- SW

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 (PG-13) 1/2 John Woo's grand opera ballet of stylized violence, redemptive revenge and heroic love features Tom Cruise as special agent Ethan Hunt, who must recruit a lovely jewel thief (Thandie Newton) to prevent Ambrose Pierce (Dougray Scott) from taking over the world by controlling the antidote to a genetically engineered germ. Mission: Impossible 2 has all the makings of a thrilling and aesthetically seamless cartoon strip but for one critical element: suspense. -- KL

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (NR) 1/2 Paintstakingly rendered for IMAX by Russia's Alexander Petrov, 29,000 slides convey the essence of Hemingway's novel about a Cuban fisherman and a marlin, the catch of his life, in 22 minutes. The film precedes a crash course in the author's life and work, Hemingway: A Portrait, an equally brilliant piece by Erik Canuel that's even shorter but, thanks to the director's commercial background, gets everything in. Weekends at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. -- SW

THE PATRIOT (R) It's Braveheart in buckskin as Mel Gibson fights the English again in an epic war drama whose individual moments are as predictable as the outcome of the American Revolution. I didn't like it and don't recommend it unless you like unabashed flag-waving -- the twin flags of the USA and family values -- but I must concede it's well made. The hypocrisy is amazing as Mel's South Carolina farmer spouts anti-war sentiments when he's not hacking men to bits with his hatchet. It's interesting, though hardly believable, to see how African Americans are worked into the story. -- SW

THE PERFECT STORM (PG-13) The movie may not be perfect, but the storm sequence sure is, with the special effects offering a terrifyingly realistic treatment of a tempest at sea. Das Boot director Wolfgang Petersen credibly captures the lives of six ill-fated fishermen, but the film proves flat and unengaging until the weather starts getting rough, and it becomes the cinematic equivalent of a ride like "Splash Mountain." -- CH

ROAD TRIP (R) 1/2 MTV prankster Tom Green is one of the few bright spots in this inane, uneven comedy about a college kid racing cross country to retrieve an incriminating sex video before his girlfriend sees it. Booted by hollow characters and paper-thin plotting, Road Trip'll make you laugh; but you'll have to put your brain in neutral and let it tow you from gag to gag to do it. -- EM

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