*Animal House
John Landis' classic comedy, which was filmed, thankfully, without the decapitation of Vic Morrow. Egyptian, Fri-Sat at midnight.

* Cabaret
Nazis and Liza and Bob Fosse, oh my! Columbia City Cinema, Sat Nov 29 at 7:30 pm.

Jailhouse Rock
There's nothing more satisfying than a shimmy in the slammer. Lots of musical numbers, all starring Elvis. Columbia City Cinema, Fri Nov 28 at 7:30 pm.

Mary Poppins
A spoonful of sugar--you know the drill. Columbia City Cinema, Sun Nov 30 at 2 pm.

* The Return of the Living Dead
One of the greatest movies ever made. Seriously. If you haven't seen The Return of the Living Dead, or if you've only seen it on video, then you must go see it now. It will be one of the wisest choices you make all year. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat at 11 pm.


The hills are alive with... blah, blah, blah. Columbia City Cinema, Sat Nov 29 at 2 pm.

Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers
I'm all for a careful consideration of our consumer habits, but more frequently I wonder what sort of alternative is being posited to take the their place. In Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers, activist John Zerzan seems to long for some prelapsarian agrarian utopia, one in which, he notes, there was no war and lots of leisure time. This kind of thinking--that "simple life" equals "better life"-- just drives me batty, and there's nothing in Surplus to suggest anything more complex. This film relies very much on a kind of music video technique of using a catch phrase over and over again--such as George W. Bush's exhortation to not let terrorists keep us from shopping--to form a rhythmic background to images of workers in an Indian boatbreaking yard and Zerzan-type activists breaking store windows. It's not nearly as edgy a technique as the filmmakers think it is; it's meant to imitate the spot advertisement (repetitive, insistent, narrow), but instead it just feels as though someone thinks we're too stupid to get the point. Which is senseless, since the likely viewers of this film are already converted to the cause. The only person who talks any sense during this film is Adbusters' Kalle Lasn, who reminds us that we let corporations drive the creation of meaning in our culture. Here is something worth knowing--a way to take our humanity back without having to return to the stone age. (EMILY HALL) Little Theatre, Sat-Sun at 7, 9 pm.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Before Metrocard, there was Matthau. Walter and friends take NYC subway passengers hostage, circa 1974. Grand Illusion, Fri at 6:30, 8:45 pm, Sat-Sun at 4:15, 6:30, 8:45 pm, Tues-Thurs at 6:30, 8:45 pm.

Terrorist Shopper
Northwest Film Forum kicks off "Ultra: Corporate Cheese" with this unpasteurized specimen, recorded earlier in the morning on 2003's biggest shopping day of the year. Little Theatre, Fri Nov 28 at 8 pm.

* This is What Democracy Looks Like
This documentary, produced by the Independent Media Center and Big Noise Films, is partly a hokey, rock-the-protest video about the week the WTO came to Seattle. But it's also surprisingly captivating. It shows the mess of determined protesters, over-rehearsed cops, confused world-trade representatives, blundering media, skittish politicians, and disgusting human-rights violations that made Seattle exciting for a week. Highlights include a guy in a suit comforting delegates as they cower inside a downtown hotel lobby, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz complaining about the "injustice" done to his store windows, and a "Strike fast, kick ass" sign the cops posted in one of their "peacekeeper" tanks. Independent Media Center, Sun Nov 30, 7:30 pm.

Touchez Pas Au Grisbi
Reviewed this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sun 2:15, 4:30, 7:00, 9:15 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:00, 9:15 pm.

* Twisted Flicks: Santa Claus Captures the Martians
If there were ever a plot that didn't need to be messed with, it would begin like this: "The children of Mars covet earthly toys, and so they plot to kidnap Santa." But this 1964 gem is in the hands of Jet City Improv, and mess with it they will. Historic University Theater, Nov 28-29 at 8 pm.


* 21 Grams
Reviewed this issue.

* American Splendor
As a comic-book movie, American Splendor is more like Crumb and Ghost World than like Spider Man or The Hulk. Along with a deadpan sense of humor, the focus is entirely on character and not at all on spectacle. There's also a tone found in underground comics that this movie perfectly captures. Smartly constructed and often surprising, American Splendor indulges in how artificial the filmmaking process is, and ends up with a heartfelt portrayal of a very real man. (ANDY SPLETZER)

* Bad Santa
Reviewed this issue. Meridian 16, Varsity, Redmond Town Center, Factoria, Woodinville 12, Lewis & Clark

Brother Bear
The Disney movie you have to take your kids to between Pixar movies.

* Bubba Ho-Tep
In an East Texas convalescent home, a penis-cancer-ridden Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) are awaiting death. The two geezers are revitalized when they band together to fight a mummy who's been sucking the souls out of old people's asses. Surprise number one is that the film, while being a complete piece of trash, is actually pretty great. Aside from its crackpot intelligence, fine acting, deadpan absurdity, and startling sweetness, however, Bubba Ho-Tep is exactly what you'd expect. (SEAN NELSON)

The Cat In the Hat
Not as terrible as everyone is saying, but still not good. (Dakota Fanning, however, is superb.) Now, with both The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat being thus "tainted," let's just hope Hollywood stays far, far away from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. (MEGAN SELING)

* Die Mommie Die!
Die Mommie Die! is packed with witty banter and drop-dead set pieces that simultaneously pay homage to and send up B movies, Douglas Sirk's melodramas, and '50s boilerplate women's pictures. And Charles Busch (Psycho Beach Party) is the perfect leading lady for it. (NATE LIPPENS)

* Elephant
There are many faults in Gus Van Sant's Elephant, including subpar acting, a pretentious eye, and an over-saturation of time-lapse photography (by now one of the stalest tools in Van Sant's arsenal). But there is also something mysterious and engaging about it, something that follows you home after you've left the theater. It's a haunting piece of work, one that refuses to take a stand on a weighty social concern, and instead uses light and film stock to bring not the meaning of a tragic event, but the feeling of it, to an audience. It is, in short, pure cinema. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

No matter how tanked you get before you hit the theater, nothing will change the fact that Elf is a kids' movie. Written and directed by a softened John Favreau (Swingers), Elf is the vehicle that finally puts Will Ferrell on the Jim Carrey path from adult comedian to sensitive family-movie guy. Not that there's anything really wrong with that, but for my comedic dollar, I'd stick with Ferrell's Old School way of doing things. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

Freaky Friday
Despite the generally amiable Jamie Lee Curtis and the overwhelming presence of feigned teen rock band sequences (the greatest joy that the pubescent live-action genre affords), the new Freaky Friday movie is not the old Freaky Friday movie. Absent: Jodie Foster, Barbara Harris, Boss Hogg, and (in the most unfortunate oversight) the earth-shattering car-chase/water-skiing/hang-gliding finale. Present: an uninvested Jamie Lee, obligatory modernizations, and (most inexplicably) something called "Asian voodoo." (ZAC PENNINGTON)

Good Boy
The only thing better than a talking dog movie (in this case, talking dogs from outer space) is a talking dog movie voiced by third-tier Hollywood celebrities. The agents of Matthew Broderick, Brittany Murphy, and Carl Reiner suggest "broadened horizons," and have a good laugh at their clients in Good Boy.

A combination of The Sixth Sense, Bless the Child, Fallen, and What Lies Beneath, Gothika, like its predecessors, has a very weak plot but is beautifully shot. It's the first Hollywood film by French director Mathieu Kassovitz, whose previous films Hate (the French Do the Right Thing) and Crimson River (the French Seven) made it abundantly clear that it was only a matter of time before he made the leap from directing American-influenced French films to simply directing American films. Gothika, which stars Halle Berry as a brilliant psychiatrist who sees ghosts, is called such for no other reason than its effects, moods, and modes seem gothic. It is also not entirely terrible. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Haunted Mansion

Reviewed this issue. Pacific Place, Metro, Oak Tree, Lewis & Clark, Woodinville 12, Grand Alderwood

The Human Stain
Director Robert Benton spends most of the film focusing on the relationship between a professor (Sir Anthony Hopkins, a Welshman playing a Jew who is actually an African American) and the last love of his life, a janitor played by a terribly thin Nicole Kidman. The janitor is attracted to the professor's prestige; the professor is attracted to the janitor's youth. They have hot sex and eventually fall in love, and it is the quality of this fall into love, its problems, its complexities, the scandal it generates, that the film revolves around. The conclusion of the affair is the substance of The Human Stain. Nevertheless, the film manages to be lyrical, and the love affair ends, as all love affairs end, tragically. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Intolerable Cruelty
To malign Intolerable Cruelty as the worst Coen brothers film to date is really only a testament to their decades of consistency--a legacy of quirk and pop vision that seems to only improve with age. And despite its relative visual artlessness, Cruelty boasts quality (if not altogether brilliant) performances, a decent amount of humor, and some of the Coens' lyrical delivery. Even the worst Coen brothers movie is still a Coen brothers movie. But with its slapdash directions--and their names deeply buried amongst the screen credits--the whole debacle comes off with the sense that they owed somebody a favor. (ZAC PENNINGTON)

* Kill Bill Vol. 1
The first half of Quentin Tarantino's opus has very little character development, only the thinnest of stories, and more severed limbs than you can count. It is brilliant. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Looney Tunes Back In Action

* Lost In Translation
Lost in Translation is a tiny movie, as light as helium and draped upon the thinnest of plots. There is very little conflict, and even fewer twists and turns. It is as close to a miracle as you're likely to get this year. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Love Actually
"Trite" doesn't begin to describe Love Actually, a movie that America will probably gobble up like grease in a bucket of gravy because it's about love and Christmas, and who doesn't like love at Christmas? And really, who doesn't love Hugh Grant? (JENNIFER MAERZ)

* Master and Commander
If Master and Commander sounds soundly square, that's because square is exactly what the film is; massive and solidly made, Peter Weir's picture is a throwback, of sorts, to the works of David Lean, delivering the sort of rousing, smart, and earnest adventure rarely delivered nowadays. It has been far too long since I'd felt the joy and excitement such spectacular entertainment as Master and Commander provides. This is not to say the film is equal to Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, but that it reminds one of that film's greatness. Big and loud, thrilling and expensive, it is the type of film that only major Hollywood studios can produce. It is also, perhaps, the best work a major Hollywood studio will produce all year. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Matchstick Men
Ridley Scott has never been known for a feather touch; when given the choice during his lengthy career between beauty of image and subtlety of character, image has almost always trounced. But surprisingly, subtlety is in abundance in his new picture Matchstick Men, and the result is his best film since Thelma & Louise. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Matrix Revolutions
And so the bloated series ends, bringing about a resolution (of sorts) to the toil and tomfoolery of Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, et al. What is the Matrix? Who is the Oracle? Are the Machines defeated? For those who still care, each of these questions is answered, in a way, by the conclusion of the trilogy, which means that geeks obsessed with the Wachowski brothers' tangled vision will surely depart the multiplex happy--or, if not happy, at least fully armed with plenty to argue about. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

The Missing
Reviewed this issue. Pacific Place, Metro, Woodinville 12, Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Redmond Town Center

* Mystic River
For all the "inexorability" and "meditation" of its violence, Mystic River feels desperately contrived. Whether director Clint Eastwood has some deep understanding of the nature of violence remains unclear. What is certain is that he knows how to make a movie, even a dumb one, well worth watching. I only wish someone would send him some better books. (SEAN NELSON)

* Pieces Of April
Starring Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, and Oliver Platt, Pieces of April has a look and feel that I hesitate to label "documentary-like." Gritty due to its transfer of digital to celluloid and mainly handheld, there is a certain spontaneity in the film, almost an improvised feel, that is enhanced by the sharp cast. Clarkson is particularly good, becoming the heart of the film that the rest of the group rotates around. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Pirates of the Caribbean
The summer's best blockbuster. And Johnny Depp gives one of the best performances of the year. Perhaps maybe Oscar will finally realize that comedy also takes acting talent? (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Combining the two most odious tools at Hollywood's disposal--celebrities portraying the mentally handicapped and Cuba Gooding Jr. --Radio is something like Rudy meets The Waterboy. With "heart." Oh, the heart.

Runaway Jury
Runaway Jury is completely solid and completely unsurprising--a John Grisham adaptation in the A Time to Kill vein, which is to say this: It is watchable Hollywood tripe.

The Rundown
The Rock, the guy from Dude, Where's My Car? (no, the other one), Ewen Bremner and Christopher Walken--in a cast destined for greatness--come together to fight crime or some shit in the Amazon. Most assuredly trash, but have you see the Rock's eyebrows? Hypnotizing.

Scary Movie 3
Maybe the Scary Movie franchise is smarter than I thought. Maybe their consecutively devolving sequels thrust upon a deaf-earred public are in fact just an extenstion of the grander joke on horror franchises. Or maybe some damn fool won't quit funding this shit. Be warned: 4's already in the fucking can. No, seriously.

* School Of Rock
Like Kindergarten Cop, the concept behind Rock is one of those near-hokey ones where "kids teach us more than we teach them," and where, in the end, everybody wins in some way because everybody loosens up a bit. What makes this movie different, though is that it tackles the parts of rock culture where people take themselves way too seriously, a subject that could use a little unwinding of its panties. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

Maybe I'm too cynical for Triumphant Lessons like this, but I like a little more grit under the nails of my Hollywood movies, and the manicured emotions in Seabiscuit are a bit too Hallmark for me, even if they are based on a true story. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

Secondhand Lions
A film about a boy who is left by his mother to spend an indefinite amount of time with his uncles, who, upon first impression, are stubborn hicks with a big barn. Through stories told by Michael Caine, the boy soon learns that his uncles are not hicks at all, but war heroes with glorious pasts. The eldest uncle, Duvall, was in his youth a man of action, a great soldier who defeated powerful sheiks and seduced a dark woman while riding a wild horse on the shores of Arabia--a man-among-men who, even in his old age, has not lost an inch of his erection. Impressed by this example of pure manhood, Osment switches his dependency on Mommy for an even more unhealthy dependency on this violent father figure. This movie just sucks. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

* Shattered Glass
Stephen Glass scandalized the journalism world in 1998 when it was unearthed that an article he penned for his employer, the New Republic, not only distorted facts but was an outright fabrication: Creating fictional characters, businesses, and events, Glass spun an entertaining tale about a teenage hacker that was eventually exposed as complete fiction by another journalist. Shattered Glass (which, yes, is a terrible title), directed by first-time helmer Billy Ray, chronicles Glass' exposure and tumble, offering as its lead Hayden Christensen, previously seen as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Don't let this bit of casting deter you from seeing the film, however, for if Shattered Glass proves anything it's that George Lucas is supremely untalented when it comes to directing actors. Christensen burrows himself beneath Stephen Glass' tics and charms, and the result is a smart, noteworthy performance; creating a character both endearing and repellent at the same time, he manages to shed the blunder that was his previous performance and emerges, somehow, as a talented actor. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* The Station Agent
Peter Dinklage plays Finbar McBride, a train aficionado who inherits an abandoned depot. The remote location suits him fine because he's not the most social of people. That doesn't stop the nearby Cuban hot dog vendor Joe (Bobby Cannavale) from talking to him, nor does it stop the woman who almost runs him over (Patricia Clarkson) from stopping by for an apologetic drink or several. They befriend him despite his better efforts to brush them off. Dinklage is positively magnetic here: what director Tom McCarthy has captured in his debut feature is a sense of happy loneliness--those times when it feels right to go for a walk and just look around and not talk to anyone. (ANDY SPLETZER)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Tobe Hooper's classic gets raped by hacks Michael Bay and Marcus Nispel. Leatherface will surely have his revenge. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion

Narrated by Martin Sheen, and made over a 10-year period, the purpose of Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion is to offer Western eyes clear documentation of the suffering that Tibetans have experienced under Chinese rule. The film is a work of propaganda by sympathetic Westerners who place Tibet completely on the side of the right, and China completely on the side of the wrong. According to their view, Tibetans just want to pray in peace, ring their bells, journey to their sky temples, kneel and mumble to incense, and find within the confines of their physical bodies the path to eternal wisdom. China, on the other hand, wants to enforce its foreign and worldly will on the "altar of the world." The documentary offers no real explanation as to why China wants to do this, all we are lead to understand is that China is bad, has a big and powerful army that has in the past and will in the future beat down any resistance. I'm certain that China (as with U.S. in Iraq) is in the wrong in all of this, but I really don't care for theocracies (or despots for that matter) of any kind, which is what Tibet will become if China pulls out of the land of the mountain monks. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Reviewed this issue. Pacific Place, Metro, Oak Tree, Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Grand Alderwood, Woodinville 12

* To Be and To Have
In this really very lovely documentary--without voice over and with very little obvious agenda--we follow Georges Lopez and about twelve students, from very little kids to unpredictable pre-teens, over the course of a half-year in a one-room schoolhouse, as he gently but firmly guides them toward reading, counting, and something higher and better and more ineffable: being good, thoughtful, communicative people. (EMILY HALL)

Tupac Resurrection
The success of the documentary Tupac Resurrection, which attempts to do nothing less than produce a saint from MTV videos, news reports, and intimate interviews, is that it focuses less on his music and more on his actual life--his childhood in New York, his teens in Baltimore, his early 20s in the Bay Area, and, finally, the transformation of this ordinary life into a pop life. Narrated by Tupac himself, as if from the grave ("I always knew I was gonna be shot"), the most important revelation the documentary has to offer is that Tupac was not a thug to begin with, but something of a geek who took ballet lessons, read Shakespeare, and wrote poetry in notebooks. His troubles with the law, which didn't begin until he was famous, were not a consequence of his upbringing but an invented gangster personality that the police mistook for the real thing. Ultimately, it did become the real thing, because Tupac died a real death in the most unreal city of the world. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Under The Tuscan Sun
Under the Tuscan Sun is based on Frances Mayes' nonfiction bestseller and stars Diane Lane, who manages to save the film from utter formula. And it is formula--the sex talk can't disguise the fact that this film is designed to make your mother feel good. Lane is the plucky divorced heroine, who impulsively buys a crumbling villa in Tuscany and discovers that "family" need not conform to the customary model but can be anything one makes of it (this last bit is Hollywood's favorite beaten horse). There are cute Italian people, cute Polish laborers, beautiful wildflower-filled vistas, and the obligatory gay best friend--a stock role salvaged by the splendid Sandra Oh. The movie is pleasant anyway. (CLAUDE ROC)