Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd in High CrimesHIGH CRIMES

If Hollywood studios absolutely insist on feeding us one piece-of-crap potboiler after another, they could certainly do worse than the trashily entertaining military thriller High Crimes.

Kristen Stewart and Jodie Foster in Panic RoomPANIC ROOM

David Fincher can pull off some amazing tricks. Early on in Panic Room, the director's latest thriller, the camera, initially located in an upstairs bedroom where newly single mom Meg (Jodie Foster) rests, glides away from the bed, through the banister of the staircase, and down the flight of stairs, and then scoots through the kitchen - and, it must be added, over countertops and appliances - until it finally lands on the kitchen doorway, where a shady character is waiting to break in.

Aaliyah in Queen of the DamnedQUEEN OF THE DAMNED

Granted, the new year is only eight weeks old, but I already have a nominee for Best Guilty Pleasure of 2002: the Anne Rice adaptation Queen of the Damned. I'm not suggesting the movie is great, or even good, but this tacky amalgam of vampire clichés, hard rock, and MTV posturing is a surprisingly deft and confident work, and about a hundred times more fun than the pompous, enervated Interview with the Vampire.

Henry Cavill, Dagmara Dominczyk, James Caviezel, and Luis Guzman in The Count of Monte CristoTHE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO

The best reason to see the latest remake of The Count of Monte Cristo is the source material. You can easily shrug off the movie's unimaginative staging, corny laugh lines, and obtrusive score for the chance to enjoy an opulently designed adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' audience-grabbing tale; it's the sort of story that was once called "a ripping good yarn."

Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning in I Am SamI AM SAM

How does one begin to discuss the blinding idiocies of I Am Sam? This comic weepie about Sam (Sean Penn), a mentally challenged Starbucks employee trying to retain custody of his young daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning), is so shockingly offensive, both thematically and as a work of cinema, as to defy rational analysis, so here's a brief checklist of what made me want to bash my head in:

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.

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.

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?

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.

Anton Yelchin and Hope Davis in Hearts in AtlantisHEARTS IN ATLANTIS

Given current events, are audiences now so hungry for nostalgic, nonthreatening entertainment that they'll happily accept something as profoundly awful as Hearts in Atlantis? If so, you certainly can't blame them, but Lord knows they deserve better than this mawkish Stephen King adaptation, a gooey and incoherent fable that gets more maddening as it progresses. I have friends who swear by the greatness of King's novel (unread by me), but the film version comes off as a mixture of the feyest aspects of the mostly terrific Stand by Me (based on King's novella The Body) and the metaphysical hokiness of King's The Green Mile. It proves to be a nearly unbearable combination, and yet something tells me that this wimpy, unfocused film could turn into a big hit among those who believe, as its author apparently does, that America died right about the time King turned 13.

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