Penelope Cruz and Tom Cruise in Vanilla SkyVANILLA SKY

Vanilla Sky could be subtitled Jerry Maguire Climbs Jacob's Ladder to Reveal What Dreams May Come, and if that's not enough reason to run for the theatre's exits, the movie's actual presentation should be.

George Clooney in Ocean's ElevenOCEAN'S ELEVEN

Danny Ocean has an idea. Just paroled from prison, this Las Vegas smoothie (played by George Clooney) decides to rip off three of the city's casinos, the profits from which are all stored in one underground safe. In order to successfully pull off the caper, Ocean assembles 10 of the smartest, shiftiest cons he knows to form a labyrinthine plot that'll net the crooks upwards of $160 million. The problem: The safe in question is more heavily guarded than Fort Knox, and getting in the vault is small potatoes compared to how difficult it will be to leave the area once they have.

Robert Redford and Brad Pitt in Spy GameSPY GAME

Tony Scott's Spy Game opens with one of those enjoyably implausible preludes we're used to seeing in the James Bond series: It's 1991, and American CIA agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is attempting to free a female captive (Catherine McCormack) from a Chinese prison. How will he accomplish this task? Why, by masquerading as a doctor called in to give vaccinations to the inmates, feigning fatal electrocution after touching a wired prison fence - which results in the momentary shut-down of the prison's electrical power, including its surveillance cameras - lying "dead" on a hospital gurney, fleeing the scene when no one's looking, scrambling down ratty corridors in search of the captive, bribing a mentally defunct witness with a piece of gum, and accompanying the prisoner back to the "dead" man's gurney, where prison guards will unknowingly escort the duo to an ambulance and then to freedom. And what trips up the plan? The gum.

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson in Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's StoneHARRY POTTER & THE SORCERER'S STONE

When I sheepishly tell friends that I haven't yet read any of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, their reaction is usually shock - "You're kidding!" - followed by euphoric insistence - "You've got to read them! You'll love them!" When I tell these same friends that I didn't much like the movie version of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone, I get a different response, one that's a combination of mild disgust and serious condescension.

Laura Elena Harring in Mulholland Dr.MULHOLLAND DR.

We've all had the experience: It's the middle of the night, and you awaken from a dream so vivid, so unreal, so funny and terrifying in equal measure, that your only thought is to go back to sleep immediately, to re-enter that astonishing dream state and keep it going.

Sulley in Monsters, Inc.MONSTERS, INC.

Saying that Pixar's Monsters, Inc. is the weakest of its quartet of computer-animated feature films is like bitching that you got a Jaguar for Christmas when you really wanted a Porsche; instead of achieving the genius-level greatness of the Toy Story films and A Bug's Life, the studio's new work is just brilliantly designed, cleverly plotted, and funny as all get-out. What's to complain about?

Kevin Spacey in K-PAXK-PAX

Kevin Spacey has made a career out of being snidely patronizing, of being the smartest person in the room, and that's what I adore about him; he patently refuses to be lovable, and his wicked intelligence and dry-as-sandpaper line readings give a snap to just about every role he plays. (That's why his performance as the physically and emotionally scarred teacher in last year's imbecilic tearjerker Pay It Forward was so disappointing; he's not built for sentiment, and his presence in that mopey role merely exposed the film's schmaltziness.) I guess it was inevitable that Spacey, who always comes off as knowing more than we do, would one day play an alien (or is he?) who arrives on Earth to teach us all lessons about life and love that we can't figure out for ourselves. And so we have K-PAX, which had the potential to be excruciating but, as directed by Iain Softley and performed by a marvelous cast led by Spacey and Jeff Bridges, turns out to be thoroughly engaging; it's a case study in how the right director and performers can redeem mostly worthless material.

Johnny Depp in From HellFROM HELL

You can be forgiven for assuming that From Hell, Allen and Albert Hughes' re-telling of the Jack the Ripper saga (based on the immensely popular graphic novel), is a follow-up to Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, what with its previews focusing on a shadowy murderer, lots of fog and mist, Johnny Depp's investigator speaking in a British accent (Cockney this time), and Heather Graham in the Christina Ricci role of the Corseted Love Interest.

Denzel Washington in Training DayTRAINING DAY

In Training Day, Denzel Washington plays a character so far against type - a ruthless, volatile inner-city detective who just might be a sociopath - that the movie's opening 30 minutes give you a bit of a charge; you're willing to give this umpteenth good-cop/bad-cop tale the benefit of the doubt for the chance to see Washington showboat in a larger-than-life villain role.

ZOOLANDER

Those of us who've been waiting, in film after film, for Ben Stiller to hit the comedic peaks he reached on his short-lived TV series The Ben Stiller Show might find Zoolander pretty irresistible.

Pages