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JOHN Q (PG-13) It's tough not to side with a movie that sticks it to America's health care crisis, but this heavy-handed button-pusher doesn't give any rationale room to breathe. As a factory worker with a son who needs a heart transplant, Denzel Washington takes an emergency room hostage to get his child on the donor list. The film offers a virtual checklist of "social drama" cliches, and the notion that the U.S. public would cheer a man holding innocents captive, no matter the reason, is ludicrous and insulting. --MB
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (PG-13) Adapting the first and longest book of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy, Peter Jackson offers an all-but-perfect fantasy epic that's no simple piece of story-book escapism. Jackson offers a full immersion in an imaginary world, and even when some virtual environments look fake, they bristle with personality. Thrilling -- and exhausting -- at three hours, Fellowship's greatest achievement is it never loses sight of the human side of its fanciful story. --CH
MEAN MACHINE (R) Guy Ritchie co-produces this British remake of Burt Reynolds' The Longest Yard, with soccer bad boy-turned-actor Vinnie Jones (Snatch) playing a soccer star send to prison, who leads a ragtag group of prisoners in a match against the guards.
MONSTER'S BALL 1/2 (R) The relationship between a racist death row guard (Billy Bob Thornton) and a condemned prisoner's wife (a remarkable Halle Berry) provides the fulcrum for a stunning, unpredictable treatment of Southern race relations. Little-known director Marc Foster and screenwriters Milo Addica and Will Rokos capture the rural South while avoiding sugarcoating or stereotypes, take on challenging subjects without hysteria or contrivance, and get Oscar-worthy performances from some of the least likely of actors. --CH
QUEEN OF THE DAMNED 1/2 (R) There's probably a compelling film to be made from this chapter in Anne Rice's vampire chronicles, but this draggy and occasionally laughable take ain't it. The late singing star Aaliyah plays the title role, and it's impossible to gauge her acting abilities, as she only arrives during the final half-hour, buried under makeup and jewelry and boasting an electronically altered voice that sounds like Bela Lugosi meets Twiki the robot from the "Buck Rogers" TV series. --MB
SCOTLAND, PA. 1/2 (R) Finally an indie with a grasp of the simple joys of humor, a cast of oddball actors and a sense of irreverent, stupid fun. Director Billy Morrissette's retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth amidst a group of '70s stoners trying to hash out a murder plot is inspired lunacy and a blessed relief from the hyper-serious and plain insipid independent films of late. --FF
THE SON'S ROOM (R) A low-key, thoughtful film about how a family copes with the death of a beloved son, Nanni Moretti's drama is the Italian In the Bedroom without the New Yorker set dressing. A winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, this meditation on grief will hopefully turn the exported Italian cinema away from its recent emphasis on sugary sex comedies and trite melodramas and toward a new, intelligent brand of filmmaking. --FF
In the latest 'Emory Looks at Hollywood' episode, Judith Evans Grubbs, Emory Professor of Roman…
"In the movies' worst scene..." should be "movie's"
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I saw this headline before watching the movie yesterday, but this movie was way better…