The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (PG-13) The first of Peter Jackson's long-awaited adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy succeeds on just about every level it's supposed to. For virtually its entire three-hour running time, Jackson's epic fantasy keeps us happily immersed in the stuff of legends, sort of like a Harry Potter for grown-ups. Stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee.(
Monsoon Wedding (NR) See Film.(
Monster's Ball (R) The film is essentially about two very different people whose lives happen to intersect at a given moment when both are very much in need of something that the other is able to give. That one of the characters is black and the other white (and a bigot to boot), just makes the film all the more interesting, although by the end Monster's Ball winds up coming a little too close to simply being a morality play about the redemption of a racist. (
Ocean Men (PG) As beautiful and bombastic as a Wagner opera, this latest IMAX documentary tells the story of the friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) competition between two world-class athletes, each striving to dive to unimaginable depths without the aid of any sort of breathing apparatus. The film is filled with cosmic soul-searching and gorgeous, amazingly dramatic vistas of training grounds like the rocky beaches of Sardinia — but the real story here is what amounts to the extended pissing contest between these two extremely eccentric and self-possessed underwater warriors. At IMAX Channelside.(
The Other Side of Heaven (PG) Beautifully photographed but curiously uninvolving account of the trials and tribulations of an Iowa farm boy adjusting to life as a missionary in the Tongan Islands. Based on the memoirs of Elder John Groberg, The Other Side of Heaven features lots of pretty beaches to look at, but much of the movie has a flat, almost perfunctory feel; it unfolds in an episodic and largely scattershot manner, as a series of obstacles and mini-crises that simply emerge out of nowhere and are then quickly overcome and apparently forgotten. We never really get much of a sense of who Groberg or any of the other characters are, and huge stretches of dialogue and several of the performances are transparent to the point of being amateurish. Stars Christopher Gorham, Joe Folau and Anne Hathaway. Opens April 12 at local theaters.(
Panic Room (R) The latest from David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club) is a modern riff on such classic home-invasion exploitation films as Wait Until Dark and Lady in a Cage. Fincher tones down the sadism a touch (at least until the last act), introduces some high-tech elements and gives the whole thing an unmistakable sheen of artsy class, but the basic narrative is both familiar and lurid, and appeals to our worst fears: Almost immediately upon moving into their new home, a newly divorced mother (Jodie Foster) and her young daughter (Kristen Stewart) awaken to discover armed intruders lurking just outside their bedroom doors. The besieged duo retreat to their panic room — a supposedly impenetrable chamber hidden away in the house — and a series of nasty cat-and-mouse games begins between the hunters and the hunted. Foster turns in another finely nuanced performance as the imperiled heroine, as does Forest Whitaker as the intruder with a conscience. The movie's real surprise, though, is Dwight Yoakam, who accomplishes the considerable feat of exuding all sorts of serious menace while spending the lion's share of the movie with his face almost completely concealed by a ski mask. After the ambitions of Fight Club, Panic Room may just represent David Fincher's gift to his audience and to himself: a taut little thriller that doesn't demand we think too damn much about it. Also stars Jared Leto.(
Resident Evil (R) Another based-on-a-videogame project, this one starring Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez as a pair of butt-kickin' bad girls with only hours to stop a deadly virus from turning the entire world into a bunch of drooling, undead zombies.
The Rookie (G) The local hook in the based-on-a-true-tale of The Rookie is that the film's hero, Jimmy Morris (played by that master of good ol' boy, aw-shucks heroism, Dennis Quaid), makes good on his childhood dream and, at the relatively advanced age of thirtysomething, finds himself playing major league baseball for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. There are at least two stories, maybe two and a half, going on in The Rookie and the film doesn't devote quite enough time to any of them. Nor does it segue with particular grace from one story to the next. The Rookie is filled with handsome production values and serviceable performances (although Quaid's Texas accent comes and goes), but the movie just doesn't seem to trust its own basic elements. The film force-feeds our emotions with slabs of dripping string music, exaggerated moments of wide-eyed, Spielbergian wonder and the sun-dappled instant nostalgia of clean, uncluttered Main Streets and charming toothless locals. It's all quite sincere and uplifting but not terribly interesting. Also stars Brian Cox and Beth Grant.(