Anonymously Yours
Four Burmese women reveal the debasement of human trafficking in this documentary by Gayle Ferraro. Little Theatre, Fri-Sun 7, 9 pm.

Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror
Gotcha interviews with the various conservatives and Bush administration officials who cheered and/or instigated the latest Iraq war. On the House, Fri Jan 23 at 7 pm.

* Bringing Up Baby
Cary Grant (archaeologist) and Katharine Hepburn (mankiller) find out that adopting an infant leopard isn't all fun and games--or rather, that it is--in this madcap screwball from the lens of the great Howard Hawks. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Jan 29 at 7:30 pm.

Buster Keaton Hilarity!
Slapstick classics in this kid-friendly matinee include Coney Island (1917), Blacksmith (1922), and Balloonatics (1922). Little Theatre, Sat Jan 24 at 2 pm.

Fans Only: Belle and Sebastian
"Fans only" is a useful caveat. If you don't like twee, it'll be hard to sit through every video the band ever made, plus live footage and interviews. But if you lap up fey like a kitten does milk, you'll relish the opportunity to savor Lance Bangs' great video for "Dirty Dream Number Two." Rendezvous, Thurs Jan 22 at 7 pm.

* Heaven and Helsinki: The Complete Aki Retrospective
All films screen at the Grand Illusion. Aki is an auteur in the best sense of the term, and Seattle is one of only four cities hosting this complete retrospective of his work. Don't ask why we were so blessed, just go to the movies. La Vie de Boheme is's take on the Henri Murger novel. Fri 7:15 pm, Sat-Sun 3:30, 7:15 pm. Juha is a heavily stylized, wordless narrative about a woman who leaves her husband for the city. Fri 9:15 pm, Sat-Sun 5:30, 9:15 pm. Drifting Clouds is a cheery movie about unemployment. Tues-Thurs 7 pm. A sequel to Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses follows the faux Siberian rock band to Coney Island. Tues-Thurs 9 pm. (ANDY SPLETZER)

* The Lollipop Girls in Hard Candy
3-D porn on the big screen! Starring John Holmes. 18+. Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.

* The Scent of the Green Papaya
SAAM presents the visually stunning story of a young Vietnamese servant. Seattle Asian Art Museum, Sun Jan 25 at 1:30 pm.

Splendor in the Grass
Young love in 1920s Kansas, starring Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. Movie Legends, Sun Jan 25 at 1 pm.

Stage Door
Gregory La Cava's 1937 ensemble piece about a gaggle of stage-struck girls in a boarding house for young actresses. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Jan 22 at 7:30 pm.

The Stranger
Famous for being Orson Welles' only movie to finish on time and on budget, The Stranger is a thriller starring Edward G. Robinson and Welles himself. Rendezvous, Wed Jan 28 at 7:30 pm.

Tokyo Godfathers
Dear the Same 25 People Who Always Get Really Bent Out of Shape Whenever The Stranger Makes a Disparaging Remark About Anime: The good news is, this review is not designed to take cheap shots at the form you obviously cherish. Tokyo Godfathers is a very impressive example of Japanese animation. The scenery is beautifully rendered, the motion fluid, and the characterization lifelike. And though it hardly needs saying, the visual style, however familiar, is a vast improvement on the digital ink and paint favored by most American animated features. As for the story, it's particularly recommended for those who enjoy sentimental melodrama. I'm not certain that a live action version of these same circumstances (three homeless people--a drunk, a gay transvestite, and a teenage runaway--thrown together by fate, in the form of an abandoned infant on Tokyo's snowy streets) would have been any less treacly. The fact remains, however, that the emotional resonance on which the action turns is meant to come from our identification not with people, but with drawings of people, and that's a leap I really can't make; I actually kind of resent being asked to make it. It's bad enough when filmmakers shove flesh and blood bathos at you in the form of self-pitying alcoholics, tragic queens, and gurgling babies--but do they have to be so goddamn cute? Tokyo Godfathers' plot is said to echo the John Ford movie 3 Godfathers. I haven't seen the original, but I wasn't surprised to learn that Tokyo is a remake. As the characters wound their way toward their inevitable catharsis and salvation, I imagined that I was meant to be moved by the humanity of the animation, a form typically reserved for fantasy and action. All I could see was a drawing of a movie. (SEAN NELSON) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2:10, 4:30, 7, 9:15 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:15 pm.

See Stranger Suggests. Tron launches a series entitled "The Grid, the Game, and the Girl" at the Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.

Xtreme KOOK: Too Hot for TV
The series gets down and dirty in this 18+ schlockfest. 911 Media Arts, Fri Jan 23 at 8 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)

Along Came Polly
You know a movie can't be all bad when Phillip Seymour Hoffman falls down within the first 20 seconds. It's one of life's great mysteries why you can watch one movie, such as this one, which is full of predictable humor, improbable situations, unlikely segues, and unnecessary pop psychology (in lieu of character or motive), and not be filled with loathing for yourself, the world, and Bradley Steinbacher for sending you to see it, and why another, quite similar movie (such as Something's Gotta Give or Chasing Liberty) makes you want to slit your wrists--but there it is. Along Came Polly has Ben Stiller playing one of his anxious-Ben characters and Jennifer Aniston as a flaky nouvelle hippie with an appealing catch in her voice. They meet, and you can guess the rest, especially if you've seen There's Something About Mary. There's also Hoffman, who's absolutely grand as a repellent former child star, Hank Azaria as a scuba instructor with one of those unreal foreign accents that only he can pull off, and some other people doing other things that I can't remember because I was too busy laughing at the blind ferret jokes. (EMILY HALL)

Big Fish
Tim Burton's Big Fish is an ungainly, rambling piece of work built upon a bed of lies. The liar: a man named Ed Bloom who has spent his life spinning outrageous tales about himself, including run-ins with witches and giants, Siamese twins, and massive, uncatchable fish (hence the title). Sappy and cluttered, the entirety of Big Fish doesn't quite hold together. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

The Butterfly Effect
See review this issue.

Calendar Girls
I'll be honest here: At the end of Calendar Girls I walked out of the theater knowing the film wasn't quite as good as the condition of Helen Mirren's naked breasts made me want to believe it was--for all its lovely scenery and romantically sexual botanical metaphor, the movie's pace jerks abruptly between breezy and boring. (KATHLEEN WILSON)

Chasing Liberty
Chasing Liberty depends on the appeal of Mandy Moore as the daughter of the president. It assumes we'll buy that her charm and goodwill make international relations fall into place like so many Scrabble tiles. Except that she is not in the least appealing, which causes the plot to collapse at the center, sucking the whole movie into a dark vortex and pushing it out the other side like a prolapsed intestine. (EMILY HALL)

Cheaper by the Dozen
Speaking from a former nanny's point of view, unless you're expressly accompanying a child, don't be tempted by Cheaper by the Dozen's star power (Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Ashton Kutcher), the charming 1950 original starring Myrna Loy and Clifton Webb, or, well, Ashton Kutcher--this is the kind of kid's fare that is to be savored by the parent/caretaker once it's out on video. (KATHLEEN WILSON)

* Cold Mountain
Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain is a burly, brooding romantic epic set during the Civil War and starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger. Minghella steers the film into a few minor rough spots (including a somewhat clumsy beginning, and an occasionally annoying performance by Zellweger as a lodger who helps Kidman on her farm), but the picture as a whole delivers a big, heartfelt epic. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* The Company
The Company is very much a dance movie, but not in the sentimental way that The Turning Point was. This is to say that you'll see a lot of dance, much of it lovely, threaded in among the lives and rehearsals of the movie's characters like a kind of fever dream--rising out of the everyday, a better, more beautiful, more artful version of normal interaction. It might be that the subject of this film, rather than being "about" characters, is what it means to do something very, very well, to make it look easy, and what might be given up in the process. (EMILY HALL)

The Cooler
In The Cooler, director Wayne Kramer has managed to give audiences something all too rare in films these days: a sexy scene that not only causes the audience to flush, but makes sense to them as well. But the film itself feels cluttered and unfocused, especially as it limps toward a ridiculous climax that not only doesn't work, but nearly undermines the entire picture. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Girl with a Pearl Earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring is stuffy to a fault, no matter how many shots of Scarlett Johansson's pout director Peter Webber can fit in, and the final tally falls somewhere between the best of Merchant Ivory and the worst of Merchant Ivory. Which is to say this: It is a well-made but nonetheless empty and, quite often, outright dull affair. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

House of Sand and Fog
House of Sand and Fog is about many things, including stature and safety, racism and compassion, history and addiction. What it is not about, sadly, is subtle directing; blessed with great performances and an interesting story, the film is nearly derailed by ham-fisted direction from first-time director Vadim Perelman. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

In America
Director Jim Sheridan always turns up the emotion in his films, but at least his earlier movies took place in faraway Ireland. When all this emotion is suddenly close to home and out of its usual cultural environment, it's rather obnoxious and exasperating. Like a truck whose brakes have been tampered with, the emotion in this movie rolls uncontrollably down a steep road, swerving from side to side, until it finally hits a big tree. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

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
After greeting the first two films with slack-jawed reverence, I found myself viewing the third with a kind of grumpy anticipation. What I soon discovered, however, was that the begrudging-ness of my affection for the film was no match for Peter Jackson's swashbuckling craft. If this is just a fantasy, Jackson seems to say, it's going to deliver on every level available. (SEAN NELSON)

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

* 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. Big and loud, thrilling and expensive, it is the type of film that only major Hollywood studios can produce. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Mona Lisa Smile
Mona Lisa Smile perfectly demonstrates director Mike Newell's canny awareness of the secret language spoken silently among women. (KATHLEEN WILSON)

* Monster
There are many things that work in Monster, beginning with the much-praised performance by its lead, Charlize Theron. Saddled with 20 extra pounds, buried beneath grime and makeup, Theron is outright amazing in the film, and her performance as killer Aileen Wuornos will surely rank high on lists this year. However, on the whole, the picture is so bleak and depressing that it is nearly intolerable. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

My Baby's Daddy
I wish I could tell you this movie was a biopic about the Virgin Mary, but alas, it's about a bunch of guys whose girlfriends get pregnant at the same time.

Mystic River
For all the "inexorability" and "meditation" of its violence, Mystic River feels desperately contrived. (SEAN NELSON)

John Woo takes on the classic cinematic themes of amnesia and bags of money.

Peter Pan
P. J. Hogan's Peter Pan is big and colorful and only occasionally scary. It is also aimed directly at the tykes; sugary and sappy, it is a triumph of special effects and completely harmless as entertainment. Which may be its biggest problem. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER

* Power Trip
In Power Trip, director Paul Devlin documents the obstacles facing the American power giant AES as it valiantly struggles to provide electricity to the former Soviet republic of Georgia--and vainly attempts to wrest payment for this service from a defiant populace. It's a timely look at the economic upheaval that persists in the wake of regime change. Unfortunately, the same factor that allows Devlin unlimited access to AES (his college buddy, Piers Lewis, is the company's project director in the capital city of Tbilisi) also confines the movie within certain circles. The average citizens of Tbilisi seem thoroughly unmoved by a capitalist system that fails to banish corruption and then asks them to pay most of their income on electricity they used to get for free. Devlin paints them sympathetically but with very broad strokes, instead focusing on the idealistic businessmen of AES who are clearly out of their element in Georgia. The result is like a large-scale without the bite. Still, the documentary provides a useful glimpse into a region that doesn't often make the news (the exception being the recent deposition of former president Shevardnadze, which happened after the film had wrapped). (ANNIE WAGNER)

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. And do you really want to see Jack Nicholson's bare ass? (EMILY HALL)

The Statement
The Statement is a thriller concerning an ultra-right-wing Frenchman (Michael Caine) who, during WWII, assisted the Nazis in locating and executing Jews, and now, in the early '90s, is an old man running from the law. Sadly, however, with the exception of Caine's performance, there is little to recommend in the film. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

* 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. 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)

Teacher's Pet
Teacher's Pet has several funny moments, and is short. My son Ebenezer, who is seven, thought it was a great film and highly recommends it. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

A shit-eating redux of that golden cinematic nugget known as The Fast & the Furious, Biker Boyz puts our urban heroes atop whining Hondas... wait, this isn't Biker Boyz? Could've fooled me.

Touching the Void
See review this issue.

The Triplets of Belleville
Writer-director-animator Sylvain Chomet invokes the same absurdly entertaining and overwhelmingly brown nostalgia that Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro tapped into for Delicatessen and City of Lost Children (all three filmmakers are indebted to Terry Gilliam's Brazil). The world Chomet has created contains the same deadpan sadness that lies at the base of those films--the world may be a cold and lonely place, but with a little inventiveness you can not only survive, but prosper. (ANDY SPLETZER)

Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!
See review this issue.

The Young Black Stallion
Are you an 11-year-old girl who loves horses? No? Then, I'm afraid to say, this might not be the movie for you. Sorry. (AMY JENNIGES)

Support The Stranger

Helping you create a space uniquely yours for work or play, with style and art, your way.
Custom framing, photo frames, printing on metal, paper and canvas.