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JASON X (R) Apparently every schlock horror franchise is destined to go to space: it happened to Critters, it happened to Leprechaun and now it happens to Friday the 13th, as the hockey-masked murderer stalks young people on a 25th century spaceship.
LIFE OR SOMETHING LIKE IT (PG-13) This schizophrenic picture's success begins and ends with Angelina Jolie, cast as a TV reporter who comes to reassess her values after a street prophet (Tony Shalhoub) informs her she has a week to live. Director Stephen Herek and writers John Scott Shepherd and Dana Stevens are too much the consummate hacks to provide the serious sections with the import they require. But with the appeal of Jolie and co-star Edward Burns, it represents a serviceable feature -- or something like it.--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 a full three hours, Fellowship's greatest achievement is that it never loses sight of the human side of its fanciful story.--CH
MONSTER'S BALL (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
MURDER BY NUMBERS (R) This fitfully entertaining thriller casts Michael Pitt and Ryan Gosling as two privileged high school seniors who elect to pull off the perfect murder. As long as the film places them front and center, it avoids the standard "cop flick" trappings. Much of the running time is frittered away on scenes involving the troubled detective on the case, shakily played by top-billed star (and executive producer) Sandra Bullock.--MB
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (PG) While not as accomplished as Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding,- this is nevertheless a gratifying romantic comedy that gently tweaks stereotypes even as its characters wallow in them. Adapted by Nia Vardalos from her own one-woman show, the film centers on the plight of a 30-year-old lonelyheart (Vardalos) who risks the wrath of her family when she falls for a non-Greek (John Corbett) .--MB
THE NEW GUY (PG-13) A bullied high schooler (DJ Qualls) gets revenge on his peers after a wisecracking convict (Eddie Griffin) gives him pointers on being a badass. Also starring Eliza Dushku.
NINE QUEENS (R) This Argentinean drama written and directed by Fabian Bielinsky depicts con men bluffing and triple-crossing each other on their way to increasingly larger swindles. Fans of David Mamet films like House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner take note.
PANIC ROOM (R) Pop stylist and zeitgeist-surfer David Fincher goes gimpy in his latest dull, unimaginative pseudo-thriller about a recent divorcee (Jodie Foster) and her teenage daughter (Kristen Stewart) who wage a psychological battle with a trio of criminals (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam) who have invaded their Manhattan mansion looking for a $3 million treasure.--FF
THE PIANO TEACHER (NR) An audacious, bizarre film that has captivated critics and freaked-out audiences, this story of a masochistic Vienna piano teacher (marvelously played by Isabelle Huppert) examines the frustrations of sexual desire, and the punishing blows society deals women who act on their impulses. Intellectually lofty, but also shocking, bold filmmaking, this entirely original film has the power to revolt and inspire.--FF
THE ROOKIE (G) This overly familiar formula film won't move anyone who's already seen their share of follow-your-dream flicks. What little juice this gets comes courtesy of its actors, especially Dennis Quaid as a high school baseball coach who takes one last shot at his dream of pitching in the major leagues. The leisurely direction, 129-minute running time and clichéd script provide little sense of joy.--MB