All-Seattle Student Film Festival
The struggling masses of the city's film programs come together for a genre-sampling, self-celebratory short film festival. Little Theatre, Wed at 7, 9 pm.

Almost Famous
"Don't let those swill merchants rewrite you." Egyptian Fri-Sat at midnight.

Artist in Residence Screening and Reception
Providing artists with a budget and honorarium towards the creation of a new media work, this year's 911 Media Arts Center's Artist in Residency program comes to a close with a presentation of the three honoree's labors. Included is an animated short by David Donar, a experimental short by Reed O'Beirne, and a Typing Explosion documentary by Cynthia Rose. 911 Media Arts Center, Fri at 8 pm.

* Forbidden Zone
A completely bizarre freak-out of a movie that looks as close to an acid trip as any movie I've ever seen. Demons, hellfire, midgets, Susan Tyrell, and Oingo Boingo feature prominently in director Richard Elfman's wacko masterpiece, which is the kind of film that made USA's Night Flight the most important television series of the 1980s. Well, Night Flight is gone, but Forbidden Zone remains. I recommend getting very high before even thinking about seeing it. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat at 11 pm.

Nordic Film Festival
As presented by the Nordic Heritage Museum, an impressive lineup of Nordic cinema (documentaries, features, and shorts) with films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Broadway Performance Hall, see for further details.

Rivers and Tides
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sun at 12:20, 2:30, 4:40, 7, 9:15 pm, Mon-Thurs at 7, 9:15 pm.

Sound of Brazil
The Seattle premiere of acclaimed director Mika Kurismaki's recent documentary on the current music of Brazil. JBL Theatre, Wed at 7 pm, 9 pm.

The Sunset Rock and Roll Movies Series
This week's screening: On the occasion of the ageless Angus Young's birthday, the Sunset trots out the Bon Scott-era Let There Be Rock, which looks and sounds uncannily similar to everything AC/DC has ever touched. Sunset Tavern, Mon at 8 pm.

See review this issue. Little Theatre, Fri-Sun at 3, 5, 7, 9 pm, Tues-Thurs at 7, 9 pm.

Twisted Flicks: The Land That Time Forgot
The Land That Time Forgot gets the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment from Jet City Improv. Historic University Theater Fri-Sat at 8 pm.

The Paramount Theatre celebrates its 75th year with a 75¢ screening of Clara Bow's Oscar-winning silent from 1928, with score to be performed live by organist Dennis James. Paramount Theatre, Mon at 7 pm.NOW PLAYING

* About Schmidt
About Schmidt stars an exhausted Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt, an Omaha actuary facing the nothingness of retirement. At the end of his last day at the insurance agency, all of Schmidt's lifework is packed into blank boxes, the office is empty, and he has nowhere to go. When he awakes the following morning next to his wife, who bores him immensely, he finds himself at the top of the slope of slow time that leads down to an ordinary death. Overall, an entertaining film, whose comedy alone sustains the entire picture. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

* Adaptation
Crafting a follow-up to Being John Malkovich, 1999's head-tripping deconstruction of identity, desire, and fame, would be difficult job for anyone. For Charlie Kaufman--writer of Malkovich, co-writer and lead character of Adaptation--it's a virtual impossibility. Thankfully, Kaufman and Spike Jonze have created a rich entertainment out of this impossibility, stuffing it with enough meta-plot twists to fuel half a dozen lesser movies, and bringing it to the screen with brilliant performances by Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep. Still, not even Kaufman and Jonze can overcome the unfortunate fact that listening to a writer whine about how hard it is to write is always annoying. (DAVID SCHMADER)

Agent Cody Banks
"When it comes to girls, I suck." That's the central conflict in Agent Cody Banks, a dumb movie about a smart teenager who leads a double life: He's both a regular kid and a top-secret CIA agent. Oh sure, there are some other conflicts here too, like saving the world from little ice cubes of nanorobots, hidden away in a snow cave run by faggoty, big-lipped, vaguely French bad guys. And sure, Banks gets to operate all kinds of high-tech gadgetry (x-ray sunglasses, a turbo-powered snowboard) and shimmy through ventilation shafts and hang off helicopters without ever having to contend with anything so typical as a pimple--but when it comes to bagging the girl at the end of the movie, no amount of training can prevent him from fumbling the most vital instrument he possesses. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)

The documentary, whose title means "power," is constructed conventionally, with newsreel footage and talking-head interviews with South African musicians and activists (many of whom suffered exile, arrest, and torture for their efforts against institutionalized oppression). The experience of viewing Amandla! consists of a complicated series of jolts to the consciousness. It's astonishing to see so much history encapsulated so effectively, to hear so many eloquent accounts of such inhuman misery, to be exposed to so much stirring music. But the biggest jolt is generated by a simple fact: For nearly half of the 20th century, the governing principle of a predominantly black nation was that black people were not entitled to the same social, legal, and human rights as a tiny minority of white people. (SEAN NELSON)

Remember when the prospect of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta co-starring in a movie together would have be exciting? Yeah, me neither--but here goes: Samuel L. Jackson is a wily, scowling drill sargent who turns up missing after routine mission with a handful of those "elite" forces, John Travolta his ex-protege assigned to track him down. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville 12

Bend It Like Beckham

See review this issue. Guild 45th

Blind Spot

This documentary was shot on video shortly before her death in February 2002, and it offers no enhancements, no footage from the past, no music; all we have is Traudl Junge's face, and the direct reality of her story. She was Hitler's secretary, and she knew her boss was a criminal. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Boat Trip
The film opens with a montage of Cuba Gooding Jr. dancing to James Brown's "I Feel Good." Seriously. I sat through 94 minutes of this shit, and for that I deserve a Pulitzer. (ZAC PENNINGTON)

Bowling For Columbine
For a while, Moore seems on to something--a culture of fear endemic to our country--but in the end, he shortchanges the psychological complexity in favor of cheap shots. He wants to say something great, but ultimately doesn't. (SEAN NELSON)

Bringing Down the House
Bringing Down the House is the latest example of a burgeoning genre of American cinema--Socratic comedies, films that make a show of pretending to be dumber than they are. For the majority of its journey across the screen, it is as expert as fluff gets. (DAVID SCHMADER)

Catch Me If You Can
Catch Me If You Can, Steven "Poet of Suburbia" Spielberg's latest opus, is the safest of ventures--so much so that even Spielberg himself seems bored. Long stretches of the film are filmed so lazily, in a manner so devoid of energy, that the entire enterprise falters, producing more of a shrug than general excitement. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Chicago
Basically, the last hour of Chicago is a mess. In addition to not trusting his material, director Rob Marshall doesn't appear to trust either of the two movie-musical solutions he picks. Nevertheless, I recommend it. If you didn't get to see the Broadway revival, you should catch it. You'll have to endure Richard Gere as Billy Flynn, of course, but it's a small price to pay to watch the Fosse-inspired choreography and Catherine Zeta-Jones' star-turn as Velma Kelly. (DAN SAVAGE)

The Core
See review this issue. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Woodinville 12

Cradle 2 the Grave
Starring rapper DMX as Tony Fait, charismatic ringleader of a band of jewel thieves who heist some mysterious black diamonds,Cradle 2 the Grave starts out promisingly as a goofy caper flick but soon kills itself with bad action sequences, inexplicable racial jokes, and dishonest writing. (SCOTT McGEATH)

First some good news: Just four months until Ang Lee's The Hulk arrives. Now the bad news: Daredevil sucks.

The "evil bad creature" in Dreamcatcher hinges on alien ass worms that shoot out like a bad case of the scoots. And the plot? Well, the movie's kind of like Stand By Me with a retarded kid and ESP powers meets The Hunt For Red October meets a UFO Armageddon, where every other line about fighting for America's safety sounds so inane even G.W. Bush wouldn't use it to rally foreign allies. In other words, there isn't one plot, there's like ten, and all of them suck. I think the scariest part of this haphazard piece of trash was when this crazy lady next to my date told him, before the movie even started, that we better not talk the whole movie because we were in the "press area." Now there's someone I wish would get the giant worm out of her ass. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

* Far From Heaven
In both style and substance, Far from Heaven pays homage to Douglas Sirk's classic 1956 melodrama All That Heaven Allows, upping the ante by introducing intricate new threats to his heroine's true love--threats that would've landed Sirk's film in the studio censor's blender. But Todd Haynes' pitch-perfect inclusion of sexual confusion and racial bigotry into Sirk's original mix gives him the power to transcend his source material and create a melodramatic masterpiece all his own. (DAVID SCHMADER)

Final Destination 2
No, Final Destination 2 does not have good acting, nor a compelling plot. It does not blur the lines of reality or explore the dark reaches of the director's mind. All it has to offer you is awesome killing. (KATIE SHIMER)

Frida is yet another artist's story that has been stripped of nuance and turned into a paean to something indiscriminately called "living," here with requisite Latin heat and groaning tables of erotically charged food. (EMILY HALL)

* Gangs of New York
Combining real history, richly imagined historiography, and classical melodrama, Gangs of New York tells the story of Amsterdam Vallon, a young Irish immigrant (Leonardo DiCaprio) in mid-19th-century New York City seeking to avenge the murder of his father by a rival gang leader (Daniel Day-Lewis) who has since grown into a powerful crime boss. Scorsese invests the picture with increasingly biblical gravity in an attempt to portray the birth of a nation as a violent, ritualistic collision between two men. Day-Lewis gives the kind of performance that makes you feel proud to be a member of the human race. (SEAN NELSON)

Gods and Generals
Though I belong to the relative minority thrilled by the prospect of a four-hour movie about the Civil War, I simply didn't have what it takes to sit through another second of what may very well be the most vacuous, poorly acted, and pathetic depiction of the War of Northern Aggression ever committed to celluloid. (SEAN NELSON)

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
How hysterical that as conservatives in this country denounce the French over Iraq, the French cinema machine releases a film starring Amelie's Audrey Tautou--probably the most beloved French export to come along since the first Gulf War--in a fairly nasty role as a rather cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs young Parisian woman in love with a doctor (Samuel Le Bihan). Politics aside, however, is He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not any good? Oui, though it's not quite as entertaining (nor as nefarious) as the continual rantings of insipid war hawks. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Head of State
Chris Rock stars in a film about a Washington D.C. city councilman who yells a lot, turned unexpected presidential hopeful--who yells a lot. Scripted in part by Rock, the film is assured some semblance of humor--in spite of its preview's hint at some rather unfortunate rappin' Granny potential. Factoria, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

* The Hours

I was prepared to hate this movie. Script by David Hare, whose previous work I regard as self-absorbed Brit-babble, from a novel I haven't read by Michael Cunningham that won a Pulitzer, kiss of death, about a writer whose life is a lightning rod for stupidity about mental illness and feminism, and whose work has never meant much to me. Direction by Stephen Daldry, whose Billy Elliot was terrific in part because it was so self-confidently slight, here with a cast of thousands, every single one of them a Major Dramatic Star. And the nose! Nicole Kidman plays Virginia Woolf in a large, deforming nasal prosthesis; I had seen it in the previews and shuddered. Altogether, I hoped the movie was a shapeless pasticcio that would let me make cruel fun. I was so wrong. This is a really good movie. (BARLEY BLAIR)

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey star in this romantic comedy about a cad who makes a bet and the journalist who loves him. Pardon me while I vomit into my popcorn bag.

The Hunted
In The Hunted, a problematic soldier played by Benicio Del Toro is trained to be a killing machine for some elite army unit. The uneven story fails to properly explain why and how the once brave soldier Del Toro went insane and started killing deer hunters in the woods; or why Tommy Lee Jones, who is an excellent killer and hunter, is also a pacifist who worries about the hunting of wild animals, refuses to use a gun, and has never killed a person. The movie, in a word, lacks everything that would make it a reasonable film. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

The Jungle Book 2
AKA Clear Cut!

* Laurel Canyon
In Laurel Canyon, thoroughly modern young lovers Sam and Alex (Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale) are stranded at the home of Sam's mother, Jane, a famous record producer, played by Frances McDormand. During the course of the film, the couple's uptight romance is threatened by Jane's swinging lifestyle, which includes liberal pot-smoking and the free-ish love of her musician boyfriend Ian (Alessandro Nivola). Alex is tempted by both Ian and Jane, while Sam, still angry about his mother's loose parenting style, seethes. Though this description might lead one to believe Laurel Canyon is a bedroom farce between hippies and yuppies, the film is in fact a smart, emotionally insightful exploration of the multigenerational consequences of the quest to live free. (SEAN NELSON)

The Life of David Gale
With lead-balloon pacing and embarrassingly slack-jawed cinematography--not to mention another impossibly smug Kevin Spacey performance--David Gale has all the subtle artistry of a Twinkie. Without all the suspense. (ZAC PENNINGTON)

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Two Towers resonates so deeply, despite its potentially embarrassing fantasy trappings, because the filmmaker recognizes that violence and sacrifice are unavoidable aspects of the survival of civilizations. What separates The Two Towers is its faith in the possibility of heroes, and its admission, as one of those heroes plainly states, that "good is worth fighting for." (SEAN NELSON)

Morvern Callar
See review this issue. Varsity

Nowhere in Africa
See review this issue. Egyptian

Old School

Here's a film that relies on a whole list of old clichés (marriage is a ball and chain; the school losers vs. the campus suits) to deliver comedy that's actually really funny in a dumb kind of way. Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn play a trio of buddies who gave up partying too soon, and who attempt to get back to their wild roots by starting a frat house on a college campus--never mind that they're all way past college age. The story line is completely irrelevant from there, made from the same mush as a freshman's brain on a Friday night. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

* The Pianist
Despite appearances to the contrary, the film is not about the indomitable spirit of a survivor. It's about how low a human being can sink in order to live, and the depths of abasement a race is capable of withstanding in order to avoid extinction. There's no heroism in the picture, and all redemption is tempered by the knowledge of what's coming next. It's here, in the deeply Eastern European black comedy of this knowledge, that the film and its maker mark their territory most boldly. (Reassuring the Poles that "the Russians will be here soon" is a classic Polanski irony.) For all the possible autobiography of the story, The Pianist is most personal when it stares into the abyss of the Holocaust and finds nothing looking back. (SEAN NELSON)

Piglet's Big Movie
From the fever dreams of Christopher Robin comes another exploration of the Jungian neuroses of Hundred Acre Wood's most unbearably anxious citizens.

The Quiet American
Michael Caine deserves all the praise he's received for his role as Fowler, while Brendan Fraser slightly overplays the wide-eyed idealism that inspired America's misguided involvement in Vietnam. The metaphor of the love triangle doesn't work here nearly as well as the more overt politics, but the movie is worth seeing if only because it shows how America can do the wrong thing with the best of intentions. (ANDY SPLETZER)

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Director Phillip Noyce makes all the right decisions in telling what could have (justifiably) been a big slab of moist, liberal liver and onions; a tale of indomitable metaphor and sackcloth villainy. Instead it is a measured tale of a secret history, and of basic human desires asserting themselves in the most inspirational of ways. (SEAN NELSON)

The Recruit
The Recruit, though solidly made, doesn't really add up to much. Al Pacino naps his way through his role, and the director, Roger Donaldson, shows close to zero imagination. In short, it's the cinematic equivelent of "Yeah, whatever." (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Shanghai Knights
A sequel to the fairly entertaining Shanghai Noon, the 2.0 version re-teams Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan and, through some plot device involving a sacred seal (or something), sends them to London. Hilarity does not ensue, but a couple of cool fights do. That's about it. (Unrelated sidenote: "dehumorize" may not actually be a word.) (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

In short, this is a film about a cipher, and the only dramatic motion the filmmaker affords himself is in revealing just how much of a cipher Spider (Ralph Fiennes) is. Cronenberg clearly views this as an opportunity for humanism--but what you really feel is a kind of pity, watching him wander through his unreliable and violent childhood memories (which are artfully realized by the director). More than that, you feel like the film is pretending to be suspenseful as it winds toward a revelation that everyone but its main character can see coming a mile away. (SEAN NELSON)

See review this issue. Neptune, Uptown

Talk to Her

Pedro Almodovar's latest film, contains no drugs or sex, and I didn't even notice until it was over. The story of two comatose women (one a female bullfighter and the other a ballerina), the two men who care for them (Benigno, a male nurse, and Marco, a writer), and the friendships that grow between them, the movie unfolds with grace and still manages to shock while being funny, strange, morally complex, and moving. (NATE LIPPENS)

Tears of the Sun
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Tears of the Sun exists in a Hollywood foreign-policy pipe dream, as our indefensible policy of only interceding in atrocity when American interests are at stake is abandoned, and the American military does right by humanity for a change--a plot decision that may make for smooth consumption by the American public, but which, in reality, is completely dishonest. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

See review this issue. Varsity

A View From the Top
Playing out like something of a saccharine, low-rent version of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, A View From the Top is pure ocular wonderbread--featureless, familiar, and entirely inoffensive. Characters appear and disappear without relevance or explanation, the plot plods along with heart warming comic relief, and the whole slapdash mess ends almost painlessly. Almost. (ZAC PENNINGTON)

I can't exactly prove it, but I'm convinced that the secret to Crispin Hellion Glover's crushing genius has something to do with the perverse sexual pleasure that he seems take with the delivery of every twitch and stutter of his awkward performances. It's like staring straight into the pupils of a lonely, socially crippled stranger as he masturbates in the booth of a peepshow. And it's in its purest form as Glover takes on the retread of Willard, the 1971 cult relic about a boy and his rats. Though he doesn't quite save it, Glover makes a backbreaking attempt to shoulder a film that in less capable hands might have been entirely insufferable. (ZAC PENNINGTON)

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