Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin
See Stranger Suggests. Varsity, Fri-Sun 1:10, 4, 7 pm, Mon-Thurs 7 pm.

Experimental Works by Robert Schaller
Trained in music composition and chemistry, Robert Schaller fashions hand-worked films with a sense of rhythm. The filmmaker will be in attendance for both shows. Little Theater, Thurs Dec 18 at 7, 9 pm.

Hidden in Plain Sight
This documentary about the infamous School of the Americas, a training school for Latin American military forces run by the U.S. government in Georgia, indicts U.S. foreign policy for teaching and then relying on terror in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala to support American strategic interests--i.e., corporate profits. It's eye-opening, but the predictable orthodox leftist testimony from Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens begs for a thoughtful response from conservative intellectuals rather than the defensive posturing from U.S. officials that the filmmaker elicits with gotcha journalism. The testimony from a women who was raped, tortured, and then dangled over a pit of dying victims by Guatemalan thugs and their American accomplice, though, merits no response beyond horror. (JOSH FEIT) Little Theatre, Fri-Sun 7, 9 pm.

It's A Wonderful Life
See Blow Up. Grand Illusion, Fri 6, 8:30, Sat-Sun 3:30, 6, 8:30 pm, Tues-Fri 6, 8:30 pm.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
"We're knights of the Round Table/We dance whene'er we're able/We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impeccable/We dine well here in Camelot/We eat ham and jam and Spam a lot/We're knights of the Round Table/Our shows are for-mi-dable/But many times we're given rhymes that are quite un-sing-able/We're opera mad in Camelot/We sing from the diaphragm a lot/In war we're tough and able/Quite in-de-fa-ti-gable/Between our quests we sequin vests and impersonate Clark Gable/It's a busy life in Camelot." Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.

Movies of Mass Destruction
Annihilation and catastrophe, projected for your viewing pleasure. Sunset, Mon Dec 22 at 8 pm.

* The Nightmare Before Christmas
Beautiful and twisted, The Nightmare Before Christmas remains one of the greatest holiday flicks ever created. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Tim Burton and Henry Selick's splendid creation will be bowing for six days at the Varsity, and you should definitely take the opportunity to see it in its proper glory. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Varsity, Fri-Tues 9:45 pm.

Princess Tam-Tam
Josephine Baker stars as a Tunisian Bedouin whisked off to Paris to participate in over-the-top dance spectacles in this 1935 retelling of Pygmalian. Rendezvous, Sat Dec 20 at 7:30 pm.

See Blow Up. Rendezvous, Wed Dec 24 at 7:30 pm.

Silent Night, Deadly Night
See Blow Up. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat at 11 pm.


21 Grams
Though fragmented and seemingly random, 21 Grams is musical; it feels, moves, and concludes like a massive musical composition. 21 Grams is not a perfect work of art--it gets to be a bit long toward the end--but as with all great music, it manages to leave, once all of its parts come together, a strong impression on the senses. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Bad Santa
Thank the Lord someone has finally helped take the piss out of Christmas with a pure, spitefully cynical spirit. And that person, surprisingly, is Billy Bob Thornton. The usually despicable actor is the pants-wetting, booze-swilling Man in Red crowning the sour Christmas tree that is Bad Santa. Allowing me to review this movie was one of the best Christmas gifts I could receive this year; it's the antithesis of a feel-good film--actually, it's a feel-shitty film that, if you love brutal humor, will warm you like spiked eggnog. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

Calendar Girls
See review this issue. Guild 45th

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)

The Cooler
See review this issue. Harvard Exit

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)

After the murder of her husband, a criminal psychologist (Halle Berry) wakes up on the other side of the plexiglass under the watchful eye of a host of other fucked-up tabloid celebrities (Robert Downey Jr. and Penelope Cruz).

Haunted Mansion
Disney's third film in two years to mine theme-park attractions in place of recognizable plot structure (see Pirates of the Caribbean and The Country Bears--I'm still waiting to see how they're gonna pull a narrative out of those damned spinny teacups), The Haunted Mansion is an exotic thrill ride of humor and excitement and... oh, wait, I'm sorry--I was thinking of something else altogether. No, The Haunted Mansion is pretty much the same ol' live-action shitfest you've come to expect from our good friends from the Magic Kingdom--chock-full of bighearted parents, wisecracking kids, fancy special effects, and a convoluted moral about love or togetherness or something. (ZAC PENNINGTON)

Honey is about Jessica Alba; about her second shot at superstardom. Her first major attempt was Dark Angel, in which she played a genetically enhanced teenager who was designed by the U.S. Army to be a global killing machine but instead became a bike messenger in post-pulse (post-9/11) Seattle. Though excellent entertainment, the show failed to be the next X-Files for Fox. For her new feature, Honey, hiphop instead of cyberpunk is where her career places all of its bets. She plays a ghetto flower, a girl from the hood who has a heart of gold and a hot body. Alba dances her way to the top of the rap game, the dizzying point at which she discovers that the man who discovered her, her gifted mentor--who like the real director of this film, Bille Woodruff, is a famous rap video director--wants to bone her. She wants his fame; he wants her sex; she says no, and the rest of the film deals with the consequences of this noble decision. Honey is bad, but it never tries to be anything else but bad, which is not true of, say, Save The Last Dance, the rather ambitious rap movie that made Julia Stiles. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

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 among 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 perhaps the most fun you will have at the cinema this year. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Last Samurai
We have all seen The Last Samurai before when it was called Gladiator, or Lawrence of Arabia, or Dances with Wolves, and because of this, all the film can offer is the sight of Tom Cruise wielding a lengthy sword--a thought sure to excite fans of childish metaphor, but they may be the only ones. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
See review this issue. Cinerama, Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Majestic Bay, Neptune, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville 12

* 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)

Love Don't Cost a Thing
But it cost loads of dough to remake the perfectly serviceable Can't Buy Me Love. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Woodinville 12

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)

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
Ron Howard, delivering his first film since A Beautiful Mind was showered with awards, has managed to assemble a chase film, à la John Ford's classic The Searchers (which is its obvious influence), that is lumbering, obvious, and surprisingly unengaging, a film that routinely pauses when it should sprint. The result is not just dull, but, on the whole, a fairly terrible endeavor. (Bradley Steinbacher)

Mona Lisa Smile
See review this issue. Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville 12

* 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)

* 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)

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)

Something's Gotta Give
Here is a movie so filled with unappealing, uninteresting people, inane, pandering dialogue, and contemptuous pop psychologizing that it is humiliating to watch. I spent most of the film doodling on my notebook, in the dark. Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton spoof their on-screen personas--his cad, her compulsive nervous wreck--so thoroughly that they may very well erase years of good work in the process (and never mind that in this token bone tossed to the elderly among us who are apparently longing for a romantic comedy of their own, the lady is still a good 10 years younger than the gent). And do you really want to see Nicholson's bare ass? (EMILY HALL)

* 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 (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)

Stuck on You
See review this issue. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Varsity, Woodinville 12

* Thirteen
That the teenage years are difficult is not news--it's something we've known for years, thanks to after-school specials and blunt and terrifying movies like Kids. But stories about teens going out of control tend to inspire more polemic than art, encouraging viewers to identify the problem--the broken home, the oblivious parents, the oversexualized media--and turn the story into a message. What makes Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen more potent is that she offers no such easy outs, but rather points out the vulnerability of the whole structure (family, school, self) that keeps a teen from self-destructing. (EMILY HALL)

Richard Donner's Timeline is the type of spectacular failure one normally finds great joy in coming across; poorly constructed and preposterously acted, it is as close to a drive-in B picture as we're likely to get nowadays. Unfortunately, the film lacks the wit and, quite often, the intelligence of those trashy flicks, leaving behind only a dimwitted, dull exercise in ham-hocked acting and expensive visual effects. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

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)

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.

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)

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Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.