* Bananas
Woody Allen goes ape in this 1971 movie about how one might come to inadvertantly lead a Latin American revolution. Movie Legends, Sun Dec 12 at 1 pm.

* Befort and Borowski: Dance Cinema
This program of work by dancer/choreographer Corrie Befort and filmmaker Darrick Borowski includes the premiere of Rota, a new dance film set on Coney Island. Chamber Theater, Thurs-Sat at 7, 8, 9 pm.

* The Big Red One
See review this issue. Northwest Film Forum, Fri 7 pm, Sat-Sun 5, 8 pm, Mon-Thurs 5:30, 8:30 pm.

Grand Illusion's Baad Side of Black Action series continues with this movie about driving a corrupt white police force out of town. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.

A new film by local filmmaker Michael Cross. 911 Media Arts, Tues Dec 14 at 8 pm.

Cowboys and Angels
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sun 2:30, 4:40, 7, 9:10 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:10 pm.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
"Look, there's two women fucking a polar bear!" Egyptian, Fri-Sat at midnight.

New Work by Mark O'Connell
A screening of new motion collages by video/media artist Mark O'Connell. 911 Media Arts, Thurs Dec 16 at 7 pm.

Night and the City
A 1950 Jules Dassin film about con games and wrestling. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.

* Pretty Poison
This incredibly rare 1968 movie by Noel Black is about a mentally disturbed young man (Anthony Pitt) who takes a liking to a girl named Sue Ann (Tuesday Weld). Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Dec 9 at 7:30 pm.

* Radiers of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation
See Stranger Suggests. See article, page 74. Northwest FIlm Forum, Fri-Sat 11 pm. Director will be in attendance.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Look closely and you might spot a young Pia Zadora as one of the kids sitting on Santa's creepy lap. Rendezvous, Wed Dec 15 at 7:30 pm.

Seattle Human Rights Film Festival
Twenty-four films focused on human rights issues. For details, please see Disbelief, 911 Media Arts, Thurs Dec 9 at 7 pm. Condor: Axis of Evil, 911 Media Arts, Thurs Dec 9 at 9 pm. The Man Who Stole My Mother's Face, 911 Media Arts, Fri Dec 10 at 7 pm. For a Place Under the Heavens, 911 Media Arts, Fri Dec 10 at 9 pm. White Rainbow, 911 Media Arts, Sat Dec 11 at 2 pm. In the Shadow of the Pagodas, 911 Media Arts, Sat Dec 11 at 4 pm. Lest We Forget, 911 Media Arts, Sat Dec 11 at 6 pm. Final Solution, 911 Media Arts, Sat Dec 11 at 7:30 pm. Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge, Seattle Art Museum, Sun Dec 12 at 2 pm. The Corporation, Seattle Art Museum, Sun Dec 12 at 4 pm. Innocent Voices, Seattle Art Museum, Sun Dec 12 at 7:30 pm.

Telephone Pole Numbering System
This partially improvised William Weiss film is the first finished production by NWFF's The Film Company. Northwest Film Forum, Thurs Dec 9 at 8 pm (w/ premiere party to follow), Fri-Sun 7, 9:15 pm.


After the Sunset
In which a superthief (Pierce Brosnan, apparently laying off the Pilates) ponders retirement in paradise while his FBI nemesis (Woody Harrelson, pupils fully dilated) hovers in the wings waiting for a slip-up. There's the germ of a clever premise here--invincible man of action done in by inertia--but any initial potential is thoroughly stymied by shoddy execution and mounting narrative indifference, culminating in a final heist that makes The Great Muppet Caper look like a piece of crackerjack precision. Director Brett Ratner (Red Dragon) appears to be aiming for a genially sloppy, Rat Packish tone (St. Frank is mentioned more than once), but the shambling results come off more as a bunch of slumming actors grinning at each other while rapidly developing melanoma. (To be fair, this does mark a significant improvement over the director's previous efforts.) On the plus side, Salma Hayek wears a constant slew of severely overstuffed bikinis, which honestly may be worth a matinee. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

To be honest, if you've seen one sword-and-sandals epic, you've seen them all. Oliver Stone's film, despite its hefty budget, does little to expand the genre. Alexander exposes the fatal flaw of biopics: Interesting lives, those worthy of the biopic treatment, are usually far too burly to be contained in a single film. The best biopics--David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, Spike Lee's Malcolm X--are able to flesh out and smartly condense at the same time. Alexander, under Stone's thundering direction, reduces matters to the depth of CliffsNotes. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Even in a picture that doesn't require him to do an accent (do people just not notice how terrible he is at doing accents?) pretty boy Jude Law remains unconvincing, even while playing a quintessential narcissist. Recasting the central character as a little boy lost, rather than a predator, director Charles Shyer squanders all the attraction and complications of the original role--you don't hate Law's Alfie; you're supposed to pity him because he's afraid of commitment, which is bullshit, because fear of commitment is never compelling. (SEAN NELSON)

Being Julia
Annette Bening throws herself into each dizzying emotion with abandon, but the histrionics are so grossly out of proportion with the charm or threat posed by her schoolboy lover that the emotional center of the film is hollowed out. The end is smashingly entertaining, but I'm not so sure it makes the tedious, feature-length setup worthwhile. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Blade: Trinity
See review this issue.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Desperate single women can be cute and funny. Moony, jealous women who obsess over their fancy boyfriends are neither cute nor funny. And that's all you need to know about this exceedingly lame movie. (ANNIE WAGNER)

See review this issue.

Callas Forever
Callas Forever swings wildly from one tone to another, and far too much of the film--the painful scene where Maria Callas pays an obsequious visit to a talentless painter's sixth-floor walkup, for example--is dedicated to grim '70s "realism." Zeffirelli lets his lush impulses take over only in little self-contained segments, including a truly great scene wherein Callas' friend Larry peers through a crack in the door to witness her in the midst of a weepy and thoroughly Sirkian meltdown. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Christmas with the Kranks
It would be a more enjoyable experience to drink egg nog vomit than to spend five minutes watching this crap. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

Viewed scene by scene, the unfettered, constant venom on display in this film is bracing, thrilling, and almost as much fun to watch as it must have been to perform. Taken as a whole, however, it proves to be a bit too much of a bad thing. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

* Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
Having studied the film carefully a few times, I still can't tell if the plot's weird calculus--what actually happens, to whom, and where, and when--actually adds up to anything more than a semi-random sequence of related but unconnected events. What I can say, however, is that the film resonates with a uniquely American kind of sadness. (SEAN NELSON)

Finding Neverland
Marc Forster's third film, Monster's Ball, was complete and utter nonsense. His fourth film, Finding Neverland, is ordinary and dry nonsense. Monster's Ball miserably failed to address the problem of racism; Finding Neverland simply fails to address the problem of death. Clearly, Forster is a director of the middling order. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

The Grudge
The problem with the American remake of The Grudge is that the ghost never rests. You want a moment to look at Tokyo, to observe its traffic, its bright shops and busy bars--but that pleasure must be found in another movie (see Lost In Translation), because before the setting cools into the normal rhythms of urban life, yet another victim is being pursued and devoured. The ghost in The Grudge is to horror films what Ebola is to pathology. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

* Hero
Initially, Yimou Zhang, the director of such intimate character pieces as Raise the Red Lantern and To Live, may seem an odd choice to successfully rekindle the flaming swords and arrows of the martial arts genre, but from the opening frames he sells you. Hero melds modern wirework effects with the director's own mastery of character to create an awesome chop-socky epic with an honestly moving emotional backbeat. This time, at least, the hype can be believed. I could watch it every night. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

I * Huckabees
While there are many characters, themes, plots, and subplots in Huckabees, the real conflicts are all dialectical--existential detectives vs. nihilist temptress, surrealistic idealist vs. empirical purist, etc. And even though these precepts are embodied by famous actors, the entire film winds up feeling like an abstraction, rather than a dramatization, of a philosophical quandary. That doesn't mean Huckabees fails to entertain; it just means that the viewer is required to discern a pattern from a seemingly random blizzard of ideas blowing across the screen. (SEAN NELSON)

* The Incredibles
The Incredibles is done in true and beautiful Pixar style, but the action sequences are far more exhilarating than anything seen in Finding Nemo or Toy Story. Plus, the humans aren't annoyingly unattractive, and it's pretty damn funny to boot. (MEGAN SELING)

Into the Deep
As a romantic comedy, Into the Deep comes up drastically short. It's neither funny nor romantic. The chemistry between the main characters (fish with almost no lines and facial expressions that can be described as stoic at best) seems nonexistent until the male is fertilizing the female's eggs, and then--BOOM! Where did that come from? There is scant character development as the camera distractedly follows first one, then another, underwater species with an attention span reminiscent of Richard Linklater's Slacker. The gratuitous squid orgy offers the only titillation. When the entire lot dies after a frenzy of blood-engorged betentacled copulation, we wish the film would die as graceful a death. Instead, it goes on for another 10 minutes while the narrator explains that in the kelp forests, the circle of life and death is infinite--a final irritating example of the lack of respect the filmmakers have for their viewers. One would think this movie was made for small children and not discerning adults who enjoy watching a little hot fish sex. (A.J. GLUSMAN)

The first half of Kinsey is exciting on a micro scale the way Kinsey's work was exciting on a grand one: It demonstrates that reason can prevail over mythology. Unfortunately, because it's a movie, the second half allows mythology--the mythology of narrative--to re-intrude, and the picture grows musty. (SEAN NELSON)

The Machinist
I know you've probably read by now that Christian Bale lost a bunch of weight for this film, but I kid you not--NOTHING YOU'VE EVER SEEN BEFORE CAN PREPARE YOU FOR THE SHOCK OF HIS APPEARANCE IN THE MACHINIST. His body literally resembles that of a concentration camp survivor or advanced anorexia sufferer. The fact that he has transformed himself for a film that would otherwise be a complete throwaway is somewhat perverse, but the fact that he could do it at all is all the evidence you'll ever need of his commitment to acting. (SEAN NELSON)

* The Motorcycle Diaries
This is a film that should be taken for what it is: a beautifully constructed road movie with a dash of conscience on the side. There is much to despise about Che Guevara later in his life; these early adventures help us understand where the eventual fanatic was born. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Napoleon Dynamite
In this charming new 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)

National Treasure
Ultimately, National Treasure imagines an America that is supremely meaningful, that can be read (or decoded), and has a final reward for those who are super committed to disinterring the mysterious source of its greatness. But at the end of the movie the main mystery remains unsolved: Why was so much money, energy, and talent spent realizing what is evidently a dull and dumb script? (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Ocean's Twelve
Twelve is the new eleven? What the hell does THAT mean?

The Polar Express
Here and there, Polar Express hits on an image or mood worthy of the season, particularly during the early scenes of the magical title vehicle, but the thundering need to make a state-of-the-art prefab classic steamrolls over most of the cheer. On Donner, on Blitzen, on Tron. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

* Ray
Despite a tendency to bathe in the molasses of sentimentality, Ray is a rich exponent of the biopic genre. It'd be crazy not to attribute the film's success to the brilliance of its subject, the inestimably great American composer Ray Charles, and the constant presence on the soundtrack of his songs, but the choices made by the filmmakers certainly don't hurt. Chief among them, the casting of Jamie Foxx, up to now a cloying black comic, and hereafter a dazzling performer capable of inhabiting one of the most recognizable faces of the 20th century in a mesmerizing feat of impersonation. Imposing a narrative on a life, especially one filled with so many contradictions (i.e. beloved entertainer/ abusive junkie cheapskate) may be a fool's errand, but this film is satisfying nonetheless. (SEAN NELSON)

Shall We Dance?
In Shall We Dance?, which is directed by Peter Chelsom, an estate planner (Richard Gere) wants to fuck a mysterious dance instructor (Jennifer Lopez). His marriage is safe, dull, and very white; in a flash he sees the exact opposite of all that he is--a brown voluptuous woman. She thrives in the heart of the city (Chicago); he is imprisoned in the suburbs. She has passion; he has a pension. As always, the north wants to hump the south. He makes a cautious move toward his desire, but what he ends up with are a bunch of dance lessons instead of sex. His wife (Susan Sarandon) suspects he is having an affair; but she soon learns that he is spending his nights practicing the tango. The movie ends with the marriage reaffirmed and a return of peace to the kingdom of the petty bourgeoisie. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

* Sideways
While Sideways is a road movie, it's a lazy one; the distance traveled, both physically and emotionally, is short. Blessed with pitch-perfect performances, especially by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church (who really is an actor on the downslope of his career), Sideways is a slight film, to be sure, but it's also one of Alexander Payne's least snide efforts; known for rolling his eyes at his characters as much as he rolls cameras on them, the director keeps himself mostly in check here. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
Based on Nickelodeon series, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie appeals to both the easily entertained and those who appreciate the power of double meaning--i.e., an ice cream bender that cause SpongeBob and Patrick to pass out, and wake up crimson eyed and quick tempered. The film follows in the footsteps of smart-ass cartoons like The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy. Except SpongeBob's money-shot is a cameo by David Hassselhoff. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

Team America: World Police
Heavily inspired by Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds series (which was recently bastardized by Paramount into a puppet-free "adventure"), the marionette work in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's film is truly amazing. The action sequences, and even the quiet moments, are triumphs of design, beautifully photographed by Bill Pope and far more complicated than any sane person(s) would even attempt, let alone succeed at creating. It's not just an homage to Anderson, it's a completion of the creepy world Anderson was so obsessed with. Team America's comedy may run from inspired to painfully flat, and the politics may be far too simplistic, but Parker and Stone have done one thing better than anyone has before: They've made the greatest marionette movie of all time. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Vera Drake
The title character, played with impossible pathos and naiveté by Imelda Staunton, is a housekeeper, mother, visitor of shut-ins, and part-time abortionist. She is paid for polishing fireplace grates in rich people's homes, but the latter three functions--feeding and clothing her family of four, putting the kettle on in the cramped flats of various invalids, and pumping the uteruses of troubled women full of a noxious solution of carbolic soap--she performs gratis. The narrative is clearly engaged in modern political struggles, but at the same time it's a bruising, classical tragedy about a woman whose passionate altruism brings pain and suffering upon herself and the people whom she loves. (ANNIE WAGNER)

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)

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