Leelee Sobieski in The Glass HouseTHE GLASS HOUSE

The domestic thriller The Glass House is obvious and over-the-top from the word go, and that's what I liked about it. It takes true chutzpah to pull off a movie with visuals this baroque and plotting this convoluted; it might be the most trashily enjoyable work of its kind since 1997's The Devil's Advocate. Like that Al Pacino craptacular, The Glass House has no higher agenda than showing audiences, in horror-flick form, the luridness behind ultra-rich "perfection," and it's so up-front about its limited ambitions, and so earnestly performed by its top-tier cast, that you can easily lean back and enjoy it for the stylish dreck it is. Is it a good movie? Nah. An entertaining one? Hell, yes.

Nicole Kidman in The OthersTHE OTHERS

Alejandro Amenabar's ghostly The Others feels like the film version of some beautifully chilling short story by Lovecraft or Shirley Jackson, where "Boo!"-style thrills take a back seat to dread and psychological complexity; it's a savvy, entertaining piece.

Jackie Chan in Rush Hour 2RUSH HOUR 2

I didn't care for the smash hit Rush Hour when it came out in 1998, and so the arrival of Rush Hour 2, needless to say, didn't fill me with excitement. But the prospect of seeing the great John Lone and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Zhang Ziyi in supporting roles piqued my interest, and you never know when star Jackie Chan is going to pull off some miraculous stunts, so an open mind seemed appropriate.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits WithinFINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN

I can't imagine who could make sense of the gobbledygook plotting of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, yet I can't imagine who will fail to be wowed by the movie's effects; it might be the most visually extraordinary, intellectually banal sci-fi work since 2001: A Space Odyssey. There isn't a moment in the film that isn't amazing to watch, and that includes the moments when the heroine (voiced by Ming-Na) simply walks alone with her hair blowing lightly past her cheeks; Final Fantasy stands as the current standard-bearer in computerized realism.

Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss in MementoMEMENTO

It has taken quite a while, and an especially long while here in the Quad Cities, but the first unequivocally great movie of 2001 has finally appeared: writer-director Christopher Nolan's crime thriller Memento. And its greatness is of a very particular kind - you want all of your friends to see it immediately, so you can share your excitement with them and work out passages of the film that you're almost sure you understood. (Getting to review works like Memento is the absolute best thing about being a published film critic.) Like The Truman Show, Memento is so clever, so smart, so full-to-brimming with detail and wit and filmmaking passion that it feels miraculous, and within its genre, it just might be a new classic.

Geoffrey Rush and Pierce Brosnan in The Tailor of PanamaTHE TAILOR OF PANAMA

It's been a very long time since a movie was released in our area that wasn't abjectly stupid, so it's easy to get some initial enjoyment from John Boorman's The Tailor of Panama, an adaptation of John LeCarré's 1996 bestseller. It's partially a spy thriller, but unlike the James Bond installments or the recent smash Spy Kids, the goofiness is kept to a minimum. Beyond that, the plot is smartly established, the cast is promising, the locations are exotic, and director Boorman shows from the start that he's in a frisky, playful mood; this is easily his most lighthearted work since 1987's Hope & Glory. So with all this going for it, and considering the undisputed wretchedness of the year's cinematic output, I have to admit that I feel like an ungrateful jerk for finding The Tailor of Panama itself rather disappointing.

Morgan Freeman and Monica Potter in Along Came a SpiderALONG CAME A SPIDER

Here's a frightening thought: Are today's filmgoing audiences being programmed to expect less from movies? Because I'm afraid it might be happening to me.

Edward Burns and Robert De Niro in 15 Minutes15 MINUTES

Near the start of writer/director John Herzfeld's 15 Minutes, two tourists-cum-thugs, the Czech Emil (Karel Rodin) and the Russian Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), murder a pair of acquaintances and torch their apartment, while the movie-loving Oleg videotapes the crime.

Helen Mirren and Jack Nicholson in The PledgeTHE PLEDGE

Sean Penn is one of the few dependably downbeat figures in American film, and those who like their dramas moody, atmospheric, and richly detailed will get some initial pleasure with The Pledge, Mr. Penn's third directorial outing.

Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe in Proof of LifePROOF OF LIFE

Proof of Life, the kidnapping drama by director Taylor Hackford, stars David Morse as Peter Bowman, an American engineer living near the Andes who gets abducted by a group of Latin American revolutionaries convinced that Bowman's dam-building project is an insidious political maneuver.

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