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"Vanilla Sky," "Ocean's Eleven," "Amelie," "Spy Game," "Behind Enemy Lines," "Sidewalks of New York," "Waking Life"

Quick Flicks

"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 rescue.

"Behind Enemy Lines" — This gung-ho tale of a downed Navy pilot and his determined commanding officer overflows with that good ol' American can-do spirit. Owen Wilson is the pilot who's shot down over hostile territory in Bosnia; Gene Hackman, the CO who's gonna get him out alive. Although Hackman brings his usual depth and dignity to the role, the CO is still a character he could play in his sleep. Wilson, who usually sticks to comedic roles, shows promise as a wisecracking action-hero. The feature film debut of Irish commercial director John Moore, "Behind Enemy Lines" crackles with tension, imminent danger and some dazzling special effects. While the plot may be standard issue, Hackman and Wilson are all that they can be.

"Sidewalks of New York" — Former "McMullen" Bro' and Woody Allen wannabe Ed Burns writes/directs/produces/stars in this "mockumentary" about neurotic Manhattanites who yammer on about "love, sex and stuff." Burns' character, Tommy, a successful TV reporter, is at the center of this romantic roundelay. Kicked out by his fiance, he starts flirting with the realtor (Heather Graham), who helps him find new digs. She's married to a smarmy dentist (Stanley Tucci) who's having an affair with a younger woman (Brittany Murphy) who's got her eye on doorman/struggling musician (David Krumholtz) who's divorced from, but still in love with, his schoolteacher ex-wife (Rosario Dawson) who's interested in Tommy. Yikes! Though Burns the writer gets off a few good lines, "Sidewalks" ends up a case of "been there, seen that done better."

"Waking Life" — Looking for something unique? Here it is. This trippy fantasy from Richard Linklater was filmed as live-action, then had it all transformed into animation. It's a shimmery, dizzy dream world where characters expound upon their theories of life only to dissolve into clouds or drift away. With no discernible plot and set in no real time or place, "Waking Life" will frustrate as many as it delights. "Waking Life" made me think, and then made me

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