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"Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"; "Vanilla Sky"; "Ocean's Eleven"; "Amelie"; "Spy Game" 

Quick Flicks

"Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" — This eagerly awaited and much-discussed adaptation is a thrill to behold. "The Fellowship of the Ring" casts its own magical spell, deftly crafting together the tenets of good old-fashioned storytelling with fantastic special effects and inspired casting. Those who revere the original tale of Frodo Baggins' perilous quest will not be disappointed. Nor will the newly aware who queue up for this sword-and-sorcery twist on good vs. evil. Boasting a cast that includes a delightful Elijah Wood as the Hobbit Frodo, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Liv Tyler in the expanded role of beauteous rescuing elf Arwen, director Peter Jackson proves he's up to this once-in-a-lifetime task. He keeps the "Odyssey"-like narrative moving swiftly, tossing in a spectacular special effect now and then or the entertaining presence of Gandalf whenever things get too intense. While some diehard fans will miss the odd excised favorite character or two, their absence is minor compared to all the things Jackson and company get right. The downside to the enchantment? "LOTR: Fellowship" runs three minutes shy of three hours. But to quote a Hobbit-loving pal, "That's long for a movie, but not an epic."

"Vanilla Sky" — Depending on the mood you're in, this Tom Cruise/Cameron Crowe mindbending parable will either frustrate the hell out of you or have you raving about its endless, bizarre twists, turns and plot surprises. The biggest surprise, however, is Crowe's strict adherence to Alejandro Amenabar's 1997 "Open Your Eyes," on which "Vanilla Sky" is based. Despite almost being a by-the-letter remake of that Philip K. Dick-inspired Spanish psychodrama, "Vanilla Sky" manages to out-weird the original while oddly defanging its dark bite. As David Aames, a wealthy, goodlooking womanizer and publishing heir, Cruise is all trademark boyish grin and doe eyes. Until he meets with a disfiguring car crash courtesy of Cameron Diaz, a babe who doesn't take well to being tossed aside when Penelope Cruz catches David's eye. Intended to be a house-of-mirrors thriller where nothing is as it seems — or is it? — "Vanilla Sky" ends up pulling one too many punches. While some will ponder "What's it all about?" for weeks, others will answer cynically, "Open your eyes — it's all about Tom."

"Ocean's Eleven" — This star-studded crime caper is all about style and star power, and Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh keeps the action and his cast nonchalant and breezy. George Clooney leads an ensemble of Hollywood's A-list as Danny Ocean, a thief with a big plan: He wants to rob a Vegas vault that holds the cash to three casinos owned by suave but dangerous Andy Garcia. To pull it off, he pulls together a team that includes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner and Bernie Mac. While the guys think the job is all about the money, we know what's really at the heart of the heist — Julia Roberts, Ocean's ex-wife who's currently involved with Garcia. "Ocean's Eleven" won't win any awards, but that's clearly not its goal. Pure escapist entertainment cut with undeniable Hollywood glamour, "Ocean's Eleven" is a hip, holiday ride.

"Amelie" — Why is it the French seem the only ones capable of capturing that infectious yet elusive froth factor when it comes to lighthearted romance on screen? This beguiling look at the cause-and-effect of love is a perfect case in point. Gamine and charming, Audrey Tautou stars as a simple waitress who discovers as she yearns for love that she has a knack for helping others. Her help, however, is not without comic consequences. "Amelie" is magical whimsy at its best. Don't let a prejudice against subtitles keep you away from this delightful confection.

"Spy Game" — Director Tony Scott overdoes the showy cinematography in this compelling tale of mentors, love and espionage, but the movie remains quite watchable. Though the plot's often implausible, it doesn't seem to phase co-stars Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. They both deliver finely tuned performances as two agents on the outs with CIA bosses. Redford plays a Covert Ops expert about to retire. But on his final day, his former protege (Pitt) has been arrested, charged and about to be executed for spying by Red China. As Redford pretends to be helping his bosses find a way to disavow Pitt, he's secretly trying to stage a
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