The Clay Bird
According to a title card at the beginning of the movie, in 1971 Bangledesh gained freedom from the Islamic state of Pakistan. The movie itself takes place in the '60s, during the time leading up to that civil war. Anu is a boy growing up in a family with a strict Islamic father and a more open-minded mother. His younger sister has a fever, and his father won't allow her to be treated with anything but faith and homeopathic medicine. Meanwhile, his uncle (on his mother's side) has been giving Anu heathen candies and taking him to Hindu celebrations. When his father finds out, he sends Anu off to a strict Islamic school. As the tensions within the family escalate, so too do the tensions within the country, as Islamic militias begins to scour the countryside and pockets of resistance begin to form.

There's a tendency to praise movies from other countries when they bring us information we should know but don't, particularly when they're as sincere as The Clay Bird is. For me, though, this movie works better as politics than as drama. Director Tareque Masud comes from the world of documentaries, and that's evident when he captures a couple of music performances, but the actors seem like earnest nonprofessionals and their wooden performances tend to oversimplify what could have been a very complex movie. For me, the movie reminded me of Indian director Deepa Mehta's films, especially Earth and Fire, which I didn't like but which have a lot of fans. In the same way, I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy The Clay Bird more than I did. (ANDY SPLETZER) Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.

Father and Son
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sun 12:40, 5, 7:15, 9:20 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:15, 9:20 pm.

Fluid Drive
A surf movie starring Rory Russel, Peter Townend, and Ian Cairns. Rendezvous, Thurs Aug 19 at 8 pm.

Grease Sing-Along
The movie plays, and you sing. Get it? Poodle skirts don't even enter the equation. Fremont Outdoor Movies #2, Sat Aug 21 at dusk.

Just Plain Weird Stuff
An evening of shorts and TV commercials that purport to be "weird." Linda's, Wed Aug 25 at dusk.

* 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) U District Outdoor Cinema, Sat Aug 21 at dusk.

* 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 seen nowadays. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Seattle Center Outdoor Cinema, Sat Aug 21 at dusk.

* Metropolis
The son of a wealthy industrialist follows a beautiful young woman down to the slums of the underworld and learns about the horrific working conditions of the laborers who live there. After complaining to his impassive dad (who runs the city of Metropolis), he joins their ranks and learns of an impending revolt. What keeps this from becoming a Communist fable is the fact that director Fritz Lang is more like the industrialist dad than the empathic son. The gorgeous sets dwarf the actors, the choreography of the workers at their machines is more beautiful than horrific, and the moral of the story is not that the workers and bosses are equals as much as they just need to get along. Add to this a mad scientist who gives a robot of discord the face and body of the son's girlfriend, leading the workers to revolt and the aristocrats to sin and debauchery, and you have a vision of the future as sexy and complex as anything those Matrix guys have put out. (ANDY SPLETZER) Rendezvous, Wed Aug 25 at 7:30 pm.

* My Sister Maria
See review this issue. Fri-Sun 2:30, 4:40, 7, 9:10 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:10 pm.

Off the Hump: 15 Short Films by Aaron Bourget
Titles include the orthographically inventive tyypo and Avant Guard. Seattle Art Museum, Fri Aug 20 at 6 pm.

* Paths of Glory
Stanley Kubrick's first antiwar film (1957) explores the class system within the French trenches during WWI. Movie Legends, Sun Aug 22 at 1 pm.

* Raiders of the Lost Ark
"Asps...very dangerous. You go first." Seattle Center Outdoor Cinema, Fri Aug 20 at dusk.

* Raising Arizona / Pink Flamingos
A double header with Joel and Ethan Coen's cult hit, starring Nicolas Cage, and John Waters' even culter hit, starring Divine. Fremont Outdoor Movies #1, Fri Aug 20 at dusk.

* 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) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.

The Sheik / Son of the Sheik
The Rudolph Valentino series wraps up with two more swoon-worthy performances by the matinee idol in The Sheik and The Son of the Sheik. Paramount Theatre, Mon Aug 23 at 7 pm.

Valley Girl
A valley girl (Julie Richman) meets a Hollywood punk (Nicolas Cage), and they, like, you know. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.


Alien vs. Predator
The world will surely end soon.

* Anchorman
Anchorman is one of the most inspired pieces of comedic surrealism ever to be released in the guise of a mainstream summer movie. Will Ferrell, unmoored from the mediocrity of SNL, has been let loose to create a film whose absurdity extends far beyond the zany '70s fashions you see on the posters. Talking dogs? Extended four-part harmony? Jazz flute? Gang warfare among rival TV journalists? Yes on all counts. And though Ferrell is characteristically hilarious, it's Daily Show regular Steve Coryell who steals the show as the retarded weatherman. (SEAN NELSON)

* Before Sunset
The best romances force you to care unreasonably about their characters, and watching Jesse and Celine reunited, I couldn't help but feel a bittersweet twinge; I was 21 when Before Sunrise was released--just as dreamy and dewy as I could be--and now, nearly a decade later, their return feels like the arrival of beloved, yet somehow forgotten, friends. I fell in love with them then and, as I found out, I'm still in love with them. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Benji: Off the Leash!
The return of the lovable pooch Benji.

* The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
Although "Beat" Takeshi Kitano's attempts at inserting choreography are probably better as an idea than they are in execution, the movie is still funny and light, and deliciously gory to boot. It is also deceptive. For one thing, it's a kind of quasi-musical. There isn't much singing, and the big dance number doesn't come until the very end, but Kitano most definitely had something musical in mind. (ADAM HART)

* The Bourne Supremacy
Forget the plot. Remember the dizzying fight scenes, the indefatigable cloak and dagger in which everyone is the smartest person in the room (and Bourne is the smartest of them all), and the best car chase ever filmed (fact!). Remember director Paul Greengrass's masterful handheld choreography. Best of all, remember the supporting cast: Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Franka Potente, all of whom, along with Damon--whose robotic beauty has never better served a character than this one--help to elevate the Robert Ludlum pulp into a high lowbrow masterpiece. (SEAN NELSON)

Halle Berry said in an interview that the role was "empowering." Now that's just embarrassing. (MEGAN SELING)

A Cinderella Story
So this girl and this boy meet online. They "chat" every night, text message all day, and while they know they go to the same high school, they're never really sure about who they're talking to. After doing this for quite some time, the stupid jerks are convinced they're falling in love with their computer companions but they never bother to ask who the fuck it really is?! Bullshit! I've been to high school, ain't nothing a secret in that place! Someone always knows someone else's business, so if Lizzy McGuire really wanted to know who her Prince Charming was, all she'd have to do is ask around and someone would put two and two together! Problem solved, movie over. Seriously. (MEGAN SELING)

Code 46
The primary source material for Code 46 is Alain Resnais' short, dazzling Hiroshima, Mon Amour, in which a French woman's affair with a Japanese man stirs up a reverie of memory, longing, and regret. When director Michael Winterbottom is successful, he transposes Resnais' surreal eroticism to the half-Orwell, half-Phillip K. Dick world he creates in this new film. When he fails, he strips Hiroshima for parts, stapling its hazy carnality onto a narrative whose underexplained context ultimately robs it of the emotional and political resonance it clearly strives for. (SEAN NELSON)

Coffee and Cigarettes
Meandering has always been one of the major tools in Jim Jarmusch's arsenal, but here it is taken much too far. In the past, people have been known to complain, rather wrong-headedly, that Jarmusch pictures are dull and unengaging; with this film, sadly, their complaints finally hit the mark. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

As polished and pleasant as all this scenery is (and as good as both Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx are), Collateral nonetheless fails, both as a thriller and as yet another entry into Michael Mann's brooding-men oeuvre. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Control Room
Like the recent documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Control Room offers us a look from the inside of the other side. Al Jazeera has 40 million viewers in the Arab world, and it shows its part of the world things that the American networks don't show their part of the world. The future may very well recognize Al Jazeera as the first genuinely global institution of the 21st century. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

The Corporation
Basically, the movie looks down upon the masses of people who thoughtlessly consume products made by corrupt corporations. But you know what? I identify more with the masses than I do with the filmmakers; if I want to spend 145 minutes being told I'm an idiot, I'd rather spend that time in the singles bars. (ANDY SPLETZER)

De-Lovely is perfumed with preciousness, and ultimately suffers from the self-consciousness of its Hollywood gloss, as well as the difficult-to-swallow progressiveness of its characters. (Oddly enough, the sub rosa insinuation of Cole Porter's homosexuality in the 1946 biopic Night and Day rings much truer to the life one imagines a gay man leading in the '20s and '30s.) Still, the fine performances of Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd diminish the film's more troublesome liberties. (SEAN NELSON)

Exorcist: The Beginning
A prequel to everyone's favorite tale of projectile vomiting.

* Facing Windows
Throughout the film, Ferzan Ozpetek's golden light conveys romance and elegy at once, and several times he brings striking images of great beauty and depth to the screen. The film's opening sequence depicts a bloody handprint fading over time as dawn light illuminates the wall that carries it, moving the narrative forward by 50 years. The handprint faded from the wall but replayed in my mind long after the film's screening. (MIKE WHYBARK)

* Fahrenheit 9/11
Michael Moore is a propagandist, taking the fight to the opposition on their terms, and winning. Because of his motives and his audience, this propagandist is the most important filmmaker we have, and Fahrenheit 9/11 is the best film he's ever made. (SEAN NELSON)

* Garden State
Zack Braff's debut film, Garden State, which he wrote, directed, and stars in, may very well be a similar act of egogasm (when you put Simon and Garfunkel on the soundtrack of your examination of disaffected twentysomethings, you're just asking for it), but it features enough odd grace notes among the rampant navel-gazing to warrant a watch. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

* Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
Those who smoke pot will laugh, those who smoke pot before the show will laugh harder, and those who don't smoke pot at all will wonder why everyone around them is laughing. Personally, I laughed hard on more than one occasion--not that I'm admitting anything. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Word on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was that it was the best of the series, and for once early word was correct; for the first time in the franchise's existence, a film has achieved the level of art. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

I, Robot
The movie is not bad or good; it is what it is--a big summer movie with lots of special effects. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Intimate Strangers
Directed by Patrice Leconte, Intimate Strangers has a strong start and a weak finish. The opening is strong because the premise actually works. But once the accountant is exposed, the comedy dies and a drama is born. With the comedy gone for good, all that's left to enjoy are the film's set designs and the cinematography, which works hard to capture the bourgeois elegance of Sandrine Bonnaire's face. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

* Ju-On
Ju-on is part of a new wave of Japanese horror film that doesn't rely on special effects and CGI for scares. These films more resemble American horror films of the '60s and '70s, where music and sound and editing work together to create a mood that is palpably creepy. Ju-on follows the conventions of creepy ghost movies closely enough that it's impossible not to be chilled by some of the images and sequences. (ANDY SPLETZER)

Little Black Book
Brittany Murphy hasn't exactly earned a reputation for starring in good movies (Uptown Girls, anyone?), and Little Black Book is no exception. The premise, of a girl who snoops in her boyfriend's Palm Pilot to look up his old girlfriends, is lame enough. And the plot doesn't make it any better. (AMY JENNIGES)

* The Manchurian Candidate
The resulting film is far from flawless--silly flourishes include the painful cliché of the retired professor the hero turns to for advice, and a gross pantomime of mental illness that's lifted straight out of A Beautiful Mind--but it's just as mesmerizing and suspenseful as the original. (ANNIE WAGNER)

* Maria Full of Grace
Following an angelic (i.e., stunningly gorgeous) young woman--pregnant and sick of life in her one-factory town--who joins up with the local drug lord for a single trip across the Colombian border, this first film from writer-director Joshua Marston is an admirably restrained, even-handed debut that wisely avoids making sweeping societal pronouncements, shrinking Maria's world--whether she's in rural Colombia or big-city New Jersey--to the small circle of people who directly impact her life. (ADAM HART)

* Napoleon Dynamite
In this charming film, 24-year-old writer/ director Jared Hess mines the nebulous area between popular chic and weirdo freak, where outcast attributes are both quality, subtle comedy, and a charmingly dark part of our collective high-school unconscious. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

* Open Water
This year's Sundance bidding champ, Open Water, made with a skeleton crew and produced on a budget unfair to most shoestrings, has a central gimmick that's hard to trump: actors in the water messing around with real live sharks. Where husband-and-wife team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau excel is in creating the steadily mounting feeling that something could go terribly wrong at any moment, both in front of and behind the camera. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Anyone who lives in this city knows very well what Fox News is all about--that it's staffed by absolute nutters who yell at their guests and tell them to shut up. So why is this documentary of any value to us? Because the Fox News it describes is even creepier than you imagined. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Princess Diaries II: Royal Engagement
The once very awkward and geeky Princess Mia is all growed up and graduated from college, and she's finally old enough to be crowned queen. Just so happens, the pretty princess' grandmother (the lady from The Sound of Music), who is currently queen, decides to "step down" (it's a Disney movie, brah, of course they're not going to kill anyone off), which would allow Princess Mia to be Queen Mia. Yippee! But there's a catch! Oh no! Mia can only be crowned queen, according to the rulebook, if she's married. And so if the very single Princess Mia can't bag a man in 30 days or less, a handsome and naíve jerk-off is gonna be crowned king! (MEGAN SELING)

* Riding Giants
This fascinating exploration of the culture of big-wave surfing by the director of the skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys is distinguished by the quality of its footage. I have no idea how Stacy Peralta and his crew managed to get on top of the water the way they do, but the actual surfing in this movie is heroic. Your heart rises and your breath leaves you as the surfers take on waves of 20, 30, 80 feet, waves that could easily kill them, then go back for more, then go back again. (SEAN NELSON)

Sacred Planet
No one who has graduated from the fifth grade ever goes to see IMAX movies. So I can't imagine that it's worth my time to tell you about the latest IMAX addition, Sacred Planet, because what do you care? You don't want to go see a beautifully filmed educational movie showing some of the most breathtaking areas of the world (like Namibia, Thailand, and Borneo). (MEGAN SELING)

Seducing Dr. Lewis
See review this issue.

She Hate Me
There may be nothing more horrifying in the history of computer animation than the sequences in which a troop of big-headed sperm, each adorned by a superimposed image of the hero's face, races toward a similarly expressive egg. The rest of the movie makes very little sense, but after the fertilization derby you'll likely feel so queasy that you won't even care. (ANNIE WAGNER )

Spider-man 2
In Sam Raimi's vision of Spider-man, however, his normally manic camera joins with CGI to create a work that is often completely fraudulent. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

The Stepford Wives
This bright and shiny new millennium edition not only completely changes the ending, it's also too campy, two-dimensional, and sanitized for what was a very chilling portrait of domination and control in a sci-fi war of the sexes. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

Super Size Me
Lest you think that this film is only for Fast Food Nation types, that it's aimed only at those who already have the information, remember that Morgan Spurlock put his own body on the line to get your attention. That's why he did it. He did it for you. (EMILY HALL)

The Terminal
This is easily the worst film of Spielberg's career, surpassing even blemishes like Always, Hook, and A.I. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Touch of Pink
Remember The Wedding Party? This is sort of like that, only the hapless, put-upon son is Muslim-Canadian, and his happy, super-gay life is in London.

Here's a twist: The Village is idiotic, uninvolving, and, in the end, insulting. Actually, thinking back on Signs, that's not really a twist at all. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

We Don't Live Here Anymore
See review this issue.

What the #$*! Do We Know?!
This ungainly, inane film purports to be about quantum physics but is really about the power of positive thinking, with a midlife-crisis plot (starring Marlee Matlin) and some childish cartoon figures and a series of talking heads who can't stop using the word "paradigm." (EMILY HALL)

Without a Paddle
See review this issue.

Word Wars
It's a shame that the narrative of this documentary is so frequently disrupted by shoddy computer graphics and unfunny jokes by the directors, because the subject (and these four Scrabble players in particular) is fascinating. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)

A dubbed version of an anime adventure tale. The message boards are all abuzz with discussion of the scintillating topic "Which is better? Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokemon," if that tells you anything.

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