Coming Soon

Behind the Sun, Beijing Bicycle, Dragonfly, Life and Debt, The New Guy, Queen of the Damned, Scotland, PA

New This Week

* Art of Amália
A documentary/performance film about Amalia Rodrigues, the world's foremost practitioner of Fado, the doleful and beautiful folk song form of Portugal. She makes Elizabeth Barrett Browning seem like Fred Schneider from the B-52's. JBL Theater at EMP

No, this is not the Ralph Macchio film about Robert Johnson (!), nor is it a documentary about the local mall. It's the film debut of the world's hottest porn... I mean POP star, Britney Spears. Did you see that Cosmo cover? Damn! "Woman of the Year" is right.... The movie? Oh yeah, it's about friendship or whatever. (SEAN NELSON) Factoria, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

Reviewed this issue. Classy sex shorts by fancy directors like Hal Hartley, Bob Rafelson, Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell, Paul Cox, Mika Kaurismaki, Melvin Van Peebles, Janusz Majewski, Susan Seidelman, and others. Remember, it's not porn if there's no penetration. Little Theatre

Hart's War
It wasn't until the court martial scene that I realized how stupid this otherwise attractive, thoroughly modernist WWII flick is. When a black officer is accused of killing a white soldier (they're both in a POW camp) to avenge the death of the only other Tuskeegee airman in the camp, a lying witness is asked if he'd ever made an idle threat before. The response is "Yeah... but I'm not colored. I can control myself." Objection overruled. (SEAN NELSON) Metro

Reviewed this issue. England's greatest woman of 20th century letters is given a sentimental rubdown by alt-Hollywood. Starring Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent. Guild 45th

John Q
John Q is a problem film. Not in the race-conflict sense but in the class-warfare sense. The movie represents Hollywood's first attempt to address the failure of the healthcare system. Denzel Washington plays the American worker, and Anne Heche plays Enron. Enron, in this instance, takes the form of a healthcare corporation, with its expensive drugs and operations, and its affluent doctors and administrators. The film, of course, is timely. The layoffs and deepening recession in the real world are expressed by the part-time factory worker's frustration with the system. Though I agree with John Q's politics, it's dull and tendentious. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Metro

Since most cartoons nowadays are just a buncha loud horsing off and damn computers, here's a spate of stone classics for kids raised on garbage by parents with no guts or imagination. Includes the great Gerald McBoing Boing (1951), its sequel, Gerald McBoing Boing's Symphony (1953, story by Dr. Seuss), William Hannah's To Spring (1936--you know, the one with the centaurs, and little elves painting the flowers; "Spring is here, I say!"), Technocracked (1933, featuring Ub Iwerks' little-known "Flip the Frog" and his robot maid), and others. (SEAN NELSON) Little Theatre

The Ground Zero Teen Center in Bellevue will play host to a variety of entertainments, including this touring festival from Motown Philly of independent shorts, focusing, like many of the teens who go to Ground Zero, on activism, punk rock, and identity issues. The films include: An Albatross with Zak, Crowd Bites Wolf, Gigi From 9-5, Grethel and Hansel, Lego Trilogy, Maryland 355, medical, Passionbomb shorts, Pedalphiles, and Punk Rock Archives. (SEAN NELSON) Ground Zero

* Mala Noche
See Stranger Suggests. Gus Van Sant's rarely-seen first film is a hell of a lot better than his last couple. (SEAN NELSON) 911 Media Arts Center

* Moulin Rouge
It's hard to deny that Moulin Rouge is a flawed gem. What's harder to deny, however, is the heart that beats at the center of the elephantine spectacle--the rapturous love for the possibilities of movies and romance that once made musicals matter. (SEAN NELSON) Egyptian

The Olympia Film Ranch (nonprofit production wing of the Oly Film Society, host of the coolest film festival in the Northwest) presents a screening of music videos for NW bands (The Need, Space Ballerinas, Sunlake, C Average, Headless Pez, and Romantic Retard Nation) made by NW filmmakers (NoNo Fast Binder and Denise Pea Smith, Athena Agiular and Trevor Smith, Lindsey Boldt, Elliat Graney-Sauke, and Jacob Shepheard). Capitol Theater

The beginning of a weekly series of film and discussion about Palestine, where the focus of the world's attention must inexorably turn. Presented by the Palestine Solidarity Committee. This week: People and the Land, a documentary that provides "historical background and details of daily life under occupation." Independent Media Center

Return to Neverland
After a dynamic sequence in which a flying pirate ship sails through the bomb-torn skies of WWII London, Return to Neverland settles into bland formula. The filmmakers apparently wanted to subvert the girl = mother dynamic of the original Peter Pan, but they were too chicken-hearted to make Jane, the prepubescent heroine, as assertive and feral as most of the 10-year-old girls I know. The result is compromised and not a little creepy, as never-gonna-grow-up baby-boomer-idol Peter gazes erotically into the eyes of the daughter of his former love interest, Wendy. (BRET FETZER) Metro

Get your hard on with Dennis Nyback and this scholarly (ahem) look back at some of cinema history's coltish attempts to get it up without getting it off. Little Theatre

Super Troopers
Frat boys need comedy too, and now that Adam Sandler is off his game (see Little Nicky), the fine folks at Black Lizard (which, evidently, is some kind of comedy troupe--yikes!) are more than happy to step up to bat. Too bad their film swings and misses at a pitch well out of the strike zone. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Varsity

This week: Miracle of Morgan's Creek and The Lady Eve, two towering works by the great Preston Sturges, an American original, and one of the smartest filmmakers of them all. Betty Hutton and Barbara Stanwyck are the anchors of these films, setting off the screwball antics with the intelligent (if bewildered) female energy that was the heart of screwball. (SEAN NELSON) Grand Illusion

The Town is Quiet
Set in Marseilles in 2000, Robert Guediguian's latest film has several overlapping plot lines and interconnected characters whose circumstances and coincidences are meant to trigger deeper meanings on the fragility of life and peoples' profound influence on one another. At the center of the collage is downtrodden Michele (Ariane Ascaride), who works night shifts in a fish market to support her ingrate heroin-addict daughter and infant grandchild. Ascaride's entire face conveys the defiance and dread that French icon Jeanne Moreau used to with just her trademark downturned mouth. The entire film is like that--overstating emotions and hammering home strident politics that flatten out the nuanced moments. (NATE LIPPENS) Varsity

* Tunes of Glory
This Ronald Neame classic, starring the great Alec Guiness as a colonel who wages a psychological war against his successor in the aftermath of WWII, was released as the sun was setting on the empire of British cinema. Also starring John Mills and the young Susannah ("if ever anyone could help me with my obsession with the young Susannah York") York. Rule Britannia! (SEAN NELSON) Seattle Art Museum

* Within Our Gates
A remarkably complex silent melodrama by black film pioneer Oscar Micheaux. This 1920 film about the twisted vectors of racism and self-destruction among blacks and whites is being shown to commemorate Black History Month, and rightfully so; like much of Micheaux's work, it charts the development not only of black-produced cinema, but of a politically and psychologically challenging argument within the impulse to uplift the race. (SEAN NELSON) Paramount Theatre

See Stranger Suggests. There were many people I talked to at Sundance who were blown away by David Russo's short film "Populi." When I finally saw it, I understood why. My god, this piece is amazing. Using stop-motion animation and other techniques, Russo packs so much time and energy into this eight-minute 35mm film that you're left stunned and wondering, "How the f*** did he do that?" His older works also have a similar meticulous, hand-crafted feel. Russo himself will be at the screening and he is an entertaining curmudgeon: a guy boldly making art in an expensive world of commerce and crap, and someone who is not afraid to say as much. (ANDY SPLETZER) Little Theatre

Continuing Runs

A Beautiful Mind
Stories about the insane are an inherent paradox. Because for a story to be compelling, it has to have rules, and an inner logic, whereas mental illness doesn't have rules, and treats logic as just another way of seeing. In the case of John Nash (Russell Crowe), the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia, there is the added irony that a man of quantitative genius could lose all control of quantitative reality. With a deft directorial touch, the paradox of Nash's world could really come to life. But that would take more of a talent than Ron Howard. (MICHAEL SHILLING) Factoria, Majestic Bay, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

Birthday Girl
Nicole Kidman plays every man's fantasy Russian mail order bride: doesn't speak English, is literally perfectly beautiful, and when she finds your porn, she doesn't rip it up, she acts it out. (SEAN NELSON) Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12

Black Hawk Down
Though the real story is fraught with brutal moral complexity, in director Ridley Scott's hands, it's a slaughterhouse from beginning to end. Like any good shill, this director can't be bothered to let messy details like politics, reason, or history overcomplicate his pitch. (SEAN NELSON) Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Majestic Bay, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

Collateral Damage
Reviewed this issue. This isn't your father's Arnold Schwarzenneger-kills-all-the-terrorists movie. This one is all sensitive. Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Varsity, Woodinville 12

The Fluffer
The film purports to be an exploration of narcissism and self-destructive desire, but what it ends up being is gay porn with an average script (by porn standards) and no sex. Not even a boner, girl. (JEFF DeROCHE) Broadway Market

* Gosford Park
Set in 1932, Gosford Park is an exhausted murder mystery. It takes a toxic narrative, the sort that was exploited to death by Agatha Christie, and emphasizes things Christie wouldn't emphasize (like class antagonisms, power structures within sexual relationships), and de-emphasizes things she would emphasize (like the murder, the mystery, and its solution). (CHARLES MUDEDE) Aurora Cinema Grill, Grand Alderwood, Pacific Place 11, Seven Gables

I Am Sam
A retarded father fights for custody of his seven-year-old daughter. Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16, Metro, Woodinville 12

* In the Bedroom
This langorous, beautifully acted film about erotic and familial entanglements in a small Maine fishing town one summer builds up to three moments of utter emotional brutality so severe that the long moments in between them thrum like high tension wires. (SEAN NELSON) Metro, Oak Tree, Uptown

* Italian for Beginners
The characters of Italian for Beginners begin in a state of despair. This being a romantic comedy, their lives begin to intersect through a series of coincidences--coincidences that could feel contrived, but due to the rough integrity of the script, performances, and direction (shaped in part by the monastic rigors of the Dogme 95 ethic), they feel like the organic waywardness of life. (BRET FETZER) Harvard Exit

The long, slow film opens with a dead body and ends with a couple dancing, and in between are 120 minutes of middle-aged people living miserably. There is a story, sure--something about infidelity and a possible murder--but the bulk of the film is made up of pure misery, both for the characters and the audience. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Harvard Exit

Little Otik
A childless Czech couple adopt a log. Everything goes great till the kid starts teething.... Broadway Market

What makes Metropolis--which has a production pedigree that includes much of anime's royalty--feel like something truly new is the animation (combining the most up-to-date CGI with old-fashioned cels and the occasional live-action background), the mood (speakeasy 1920s, complete with Dixieland Jazz and gumshoe detectives), and its refusal to divide the world into absolute good and evil. Mostly, yes, it's eye candy, but everyone's eyes should be so lucky. (EMILY HALL) Broadway Market

Monster's Ball
Monstrous Balls is more like it. Hank is a racist prison guard (Thornton, perfect) in a Georgia State Penitentiary death row. Hank falls into a desperate affair with Leticia (Halle Berry, semi-plausible), a black woman, after both of their sons die. Also, Hank executed her husband (Sean Combs, puffy). Hank's dad says "nigger" and "porch monkey," and Hank fires a shotgun at some black kids, so we know that the film is about breaking the cycle of bigotry. A few nice notes are struck, but too many coincidences motorize this melodrama; its morality is tinny and safe. (SEAN NELSON) Guild 45th

The Mothman Prophecies
John Klein (Richard Gere) is a reporter whose wife (Debra Messing) dies after a sinister, bat-like creature--seen only by her--steps in front of her car. Confused and despairing, John throws himself into his work until it throws him into the backwoodsy town of Point Pleasant, where numerous residents have received similar visitations. Following his nose for news, John struggles to reconcile these incidents with his wife's death, in the process fleshing out what might be a schlocky, skeletal story in less capable hands than Mark Pellington's (Arlington Road). (SARAH STERNAU) Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16, Metro, Northgate, Woodinville 12

Perhaps the worst film you will see this year (though it's only February). (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

This post-Cold War spy thriller is about a deadly and beautiful North Korean spy, code-named Shiri, who consistently eludes and obsesses South Korea's Secret Service. The movie is a Hollywood/Hong Kong film, with lots of explosions, high-tech gadgets, helicopters, and balletic gun battles. "For me, a film is a commercial product," said the director in a recent interview. "We have to make films that appeal to the people." (CHARLES MUDEDE) Broadway Market

An 83-minute "fuck you" of a film that represents Solondz's first major disappointment. (SEAN NELSON) Broadway Market

Support The Stranger