ANY GIVEN SUNDAY -- Meridian 16, Metro, others

CRADLE WILL ROCK -- Harvard Exit

THE END OF THE AFFAIR -- Pacific Place, Seven Gables, Grand Alderwood

GALAXY QUEST -- Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Lewis & Clark

LIBERTY HEIGHTS -- Meridian 16

MAN ON THE MOON -- Various theaters


THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY -- Factoria, Neptune, Southcenter, Pacific Place



DR. STRANGELOVE -- Varsity Calendar

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE -- Grand Illusion

LA DOLCE VITA -- Grand Illusion




December 31 -- Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember

January 1 -- Cremaster 2, Fantasia 2000

January 7 -- Magnolia, Snow Falling on Cedars, Show Me Love


*All About My Mother
Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's drama about a grief-stricken woman (Cecilia Roth) who loses her son. She travels to Barcelona to find the father he never knew. With Penelope Cruz. Reviewed this issue. Egyptian

Anna and the King
This latest film version of Anna Leonowens' experiences with the monarch of a changing 19th-century Siam is thoughtful and extraordinarily lavish, though not especially vital. Director Andy Tennant and screenwriters Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes have opened up the brutal turbulence that has always lurked around the story's edges, yet can't compensate for the fact that Foster and action star Chow Yun Fat have no real sparks between them. Foster is as smart and solid as ever, but feminine propriety has never been her trademark, and even with the rethinking done in this version, it's still an obvious requirement for her role as a widowed schoolmistress and mother. Fat is interesting, and he wisely avoids a case of the cutes with his complex king; it's just that there's nothing here that knocks you in the spine the way that Kerr/Brynner waltz does in the 1956 film, The King and I. (Steve Wiecking) Cinerama, Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Metro, Oak Tree

Any Given Sunday
Oliver Stone takes on football, as an Old Guard coach (Al Pacino) battles a reckless maverick quarterback (Jamie Foxx) all the way to the playoffs. I don't suppose anyone will be surprised at what runneth over Stone's cup: ear-splitting music, bolts of lightning, and growling, Wagnerian, slo-mo close-ups, among other things. Not a conversation squeaks by that the movie doesn't clobber you with it; Stone and co-writer John Logan have created dialogue that sounds like Arthur Miller getting a shot of steroids from a frenzied Sophocles. Stone's ham fist even takes a few ill-advised swipes at racial and, worse, sexual politics. There's hardly a woman in sight who won't bust your balls -- you don't want to know what becomes of Cameron Diaz. The thing moves, certainly, with Pacino and, surprisingly, Foxx in good form, but you can get this kind of bunk on Monday night without the pretense. (Steve Wiecking) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Metro

Anywhere But Here
Wayne Wang's latest, about a mother-daughter pair (Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman) who leave their cozy life in Wisconsin for Beverly Hills. Wang avoids the sugary chick-flick trap, and succeeds in making an interesting, honest, and significant relationship film. (Min Liao) Metro

*Being John Malkovich
Not only does director Spike Jonze explore aspects of storytelling through filmmaking that more established directors would never think to try; not only does this film thoughtfully explore philosophical issues like identity and desire (and eventually immortality); and not only is it one of the most emotionally honest movies in theaters today, Being John Malkovich is also damn funny and entertaining. You gotta see it to believe it. (Andy Spletzer) Meridian 16, Neptune, Varsity

Bicentennial Man
The Martins are your basic family of the near-future. Despite never being shown working or exerting themselves, they enjoy a disgracefully opulent lifestyle. To increase their sickening amount of leisure time, the man of the house (Sam Neill) purchases a robot (Robin Williams) to cook them waffles and perform various menial tasks. Then, in a completely revolutionary and unforeseeable development, the family discovers that the robot is developing a personality! Hilarity and sentimentality both fail to ensue as the audience is never persuaded to give a damn about "one robot's 200 year journey to become an ordinary man" so that he, too, can experience the same decadence everyone else seems to be enjoying, including fireside brandy, expensive sweaters, and, of course, android-human sexual relations. The performances are unspectacular, and Williams' tired schtick will have you longing for the comparatively brilliant robot/human drama of Short Circuit 2. (Jason Pagano) Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Metro, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center

Boys Don't Cry
Boys Don't Cry pushes myriad societal hot buttons. Sexuality. Gender. Masculinity. Why we even care about such labels is an indication of how frightened we are about ambiguities. The film is based on the true story of Brandon Teena, a girl who was murdered for living life as a boy. Hilary Swank, a Bellingham native, imbues Brandon with an infectious charisma, but the rest of the film could be seen as an indictment of the American psyche. This is not an easy film to watch; the rape and subsequent murder are unrelentingly harsh. Even the reason the story is "interesting" is depressing: Had Brandon been a real man killed in a senseless murder, his death wouldn't have merited one national headline. (Gillian G. Gaar) Broadway Market

Breakfast of Champions
Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, and Albert Finney star in Alan Rudolph's adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's famed novel. Thurs Dec 23 at 4:30, 7, 9:20. Varsity Calendar

The Cider House Rules
Lasse Hallstrom's understanding that our decisions are hardly ever black or white makes him a keen choice for director of his latest project, an adaptation of John Irving's The Cider House Rules. A sprawling homage to David Copperfield, the story charts the maturation of beloved orphan Homer Wells (Toby Maguire), who learns about the crushing ambiguities of living from several unique characters, foremost among them the paternal Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), the orphanage director who doubles as the town's clandestine, caring abortionist. It's unusual for a major film release to touch on the subject of abortion, let alone with the plainspoken grace that Hallstrom and Irving (adapting his own work) bring to the material. Though Irving's adaptation has integrity, it is unable to envelop us with the dazzling juggling of years and characters that makes the book such a luminous accomplishment, and this limited scope is a weakness that mars an otherwise touching film. (Steve Wiecking) Guild 45th, Redmond Town Center, Uptown

Cradle Will Rock
Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock is a mess, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. Tackling the chaos surrounding the birth of the House Un-American Activities committee, specifically its attempt to close down the eponymous, politically sensitive play in 1936, Cradle Will Rock lands somewhere between Robert Altman's Nashville and Irwin Winkler's terrible 1991 film that also tackled the Red Scare, Guilty By Suspicion. As a director, Robbins has a perfect attention to detail, both in technique and performances, but as a screenwriter he needs to learn that when an audience is confused by events, that audience won't give a rat's ass about those events. Still, for the most part, the film works. Opens Christmas day. (Bradley Steinbacher) Harvard Exit

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo
The title rhymes. That's funny. It stars Rob Schneider, the "Copy Guy" from Saturday Night Live. That's not funny. Grand Alder-wood, Meridian 16, Varsity

Of course, the controversy surrounding Kevin Smith's new film is overblown. Sure, God is a woman (Alanis Morissette), the Christ-figure (Linda Fiorentino) works in an abortion clinic, new characters like the 13th Apostle (Chris Rock) and a muse-turned-stripper (Salma Hayek) are added characters, but it's all a way for Smith to ruminate on the importance of faith. The plot begins when two angels who have been kicked out of heaven find a loophole that'll get them back in. Other angels believe their return would prove the fallibility of God, and negate existence. I never bought this premise (besides, The Prophecy took the idea of jealous angels striving to regain God's attention to a bigger and better extreme), but even so, Dogma has some nice ideas -- particularly about the vengeance of the Old Testament God. (Andy Spletzer) City Centre, Varsity

*Dr. Strangelove
A new print of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 doom 'n' gloom classic, about a crazy general, possible nuclear destruction, and Cold War drama. With George C. Scott and Peter Sellers. Fri Dec 24 at 5:15, 7:30; Sat-Thurs Dec 25-30 at 12:45, 3, 5:15, 7:30, 9:45. Varsity Calendar

End of Days
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays ex-cop Jericho Cane, an unrepentant alcoholic who stopped believing in God when He killed his wife and child. The very sexy Robin Tunney plays Christine York, an innocent girl who was born with the mark of the devil on her arm. Both of them get involved with an epic struggle between Satan (Gabriel Byrne) and the end of life as we know it. Director Peter Hyams doesn't get enough credit as a satirist, but this movie is funny, and usually on purpose. (Andy Spletzer) Pacific Place 11

*The End of the Affair
Neil Jordan's take on the Graham Greene novel about adultery and Catholicism. Starring Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes. Opens Christmas day. Reviewed this issue. Grand Alderwood, Pacific Place 11, Seven Gables

*Fight Club
With Fight Club, David Fincher has made his best film yet, taking a bleak story -- written in the first person with a detached sense of humor -- and matching its tone perfectly. A disenfranchised guy (Edward Norton), hooked on support groups for the terminally ill, gets a grade-school crush on a fellow support group tourist (Helana Bonham Carter), then meets a rebel (Brad Pitt) with whom he starts a masochistic fight club. (Andy Spletzer) Crest, Metro

For the Cash
Seattle's own scenesters and rock stars will appear in this film by local director Matt Matsuoka. A "rock 'n' roll action comedy," complete with stunts, special effects, and a kooky plot. Thurs Dec 23 at 8 or 9. Sit & Spin

Galaxy Quest
Dumb, but somewhat funny. Galaxy Quest begins as a spoof of Star Trek (both the show, and the continual Trekkie conventions), and by the end turns into a remake of The Last Starfighter. Tim Allen plays the William Shatner character who, along with his crew, is transported to a distant galaxy to save a (good) alien race from annihilation from a (bad) alien race. Every obvious joke imaginable is tossed into the screenplay, most of them misfiring, but the movie has a giddiness that almost makes it worthwhile. And Sigourney Weaver is absolutely stunning as a blonde. Opens Christmas day. (Bradley Steinbacher) Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center

The Green Mile
Stephen King is a great writer, as seen in his ability to make the most generic stories interesting, surprising, and fun to read. But the stories themselves are usually not very good, which is why the movies based on the books are often so bad: the writing isn't there to save them. In a present day nursing home, Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer) recalls the pivotal moment in his life 60 years ago when he looked like Tom Hanks and was in charge of a prison's death row and a magical prisoner was admitted who changed everybody's life. The bulk of this three-hour movie is his flashback. Yawn. Director Frank Darabont takes on big subjects like capital punishment, violence, and racism, and simplifies them to the point where you don't even have to think about 'em. Now where's the fun in that? (Andy Spletzer) Factoria, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center

*The Insider
Despite the ad campaigns, The Insider is not an indictment of big, evil tobacco. The real story is about bungled journalism and broken integrity, with a healthy dose of paranoia thrown in for good measure. As a big-budget Hollywood drama, perhaps even as a thriller, The Insider is just about as perfect as you can get. Michael Mann is one of the best technical directors around, able to put together a glossy-looking film without it appearing like one big commercial. However, though meant to be a cautionary tale about media accountability and how easily good journalism can be corrupted, The Insider is far too slick, and comes across as typical Hollywood mayhem instead of the "based-on-actual-events" drama originally intended. (Bradley Steinbacher) Metro

*It's a Wonderful Life
Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas classic, with Mr. Nice Guy Jimmy Stewart and Mrs. Perfect Donna Reed. A Grand Illusion tradition, this year with a beautiful new 35mm print. Until Sat Dec 25 at 4:30, 7, 9:30. Grand Illusion

*La Dolce Vita
If you don't swoon at least once during this classic from Federico Fellini, then you'd better check yourself for a pulse. With sumptuous visuals and a handsome cast (a young Marcello Mastroianni and hottie Anita Ekberg), this tale of a tabloid writer's decadence, temptation, and self-loathing regret is sure to ignite passion and sympathy. Sun-Thurs Dec 26-30 at 4:30, 7:45. Grand Illusion

Liberty Heights
Liberty Heights marks Barry Levinson's forth excursion into his native Baltimore (Diner, Tin Men, and Avalon being his first three). Set in 1954, Liberty Heights focuses on a family whose father (Joe Mantenga) runs a burlesque business and an illegal numbers racket. As he works, his two handsome sons (Adrien Brody and Ben Foster), are courting girls way outside of their social circles and community. Brody desires a WASP princess (Carolyn Murphy), an alcoholic because she can't cope with her father's homosexuality; the other (Foster) is crazy about a Negro whose father disapproves of her even thinking about dating a white boy. The very structure of this double courting forms (narrative-wise) a bold and broad attempt to map out the complex relationship that the Jewish immigrants had (and still have) with Negroes and WASPs, both of whom are the bedrock of American culture. In the end, everyone pulls a fine performance in this beautifully shot movie, which surly stands as Levinson's crowning words on American anti-Semitism. (Charles Mudede) Meridian 16

*The Limey
In Steven Soderbergh's latest, fading '60s icon Terence Stamp plays an unstoppable force of vengeance searching for the person responsible for killing his daughter. (Andy Spletzer) Harvard Exit

*Man on the Moon
Milos Forman's biography of Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey. Reviewed this issue. Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Metro, Northgate, Redmond Town Center

Mansfield Park
This adaptation of Jane Austen's novel tells the story of Fanny Price, a precocious girl from a poor family sent to live with wealthy relatives, who treat her special gentility as nothing more than the pretensions of a greedy beggar. Indomitable in the face of societal and familial restraints, she opens herself up to the wonders and sorrows of the world, maturing into a clever writer and gaining the devotion of her beloved Edmund. With Austen a perplexingly hot commodity for the past few years, it's a valid concern to worry what new angle anyone could possibly bring to the author's cunning romantic satires. Mansfield Park, though, has an unusual slant, highlighting class degradation and sexual frankness, and expanding the book's passing references to the slave trade as supple counterpoints to Fanny's plight. (Steve Wiecking) Grand Alderwood, Harvard Exit

Ophuls made this week's film, From Mayering to Sarajevo (1940), in France while in exile. Set in pre-WWI Austria, the film looks at the "intrigue and absurdity" of marriage and politics in an Austrian-Hungarian court. Sun Dec 26 ONLY, at noon. Grand Illusion

Naturally Native
In this season of very long films, this one just feels long. Three Native American sisters decide to start up a cosmetics business based on ancient tribal recipes. "After School Special" doesn't even begin to describe this film's patronizing tone (the fact that it "means well" only makes it more annoying). Thankfully, the super-attractive sisters make it vaguely watchable. (Andy Spletzer) Broadway Market

*Ride With the Devil
The most rewarding Civil War film I have ever seen. Based on the novel Woe to Live On, two friends (Toby Maguire and Skeet Ulrich) in the border states of Kansas and Missouri join the Southern militia, where they find friends, a former slave, not to mention classism and racism, particularly near the end of the war. The movie boasts a complexity one usually associates with a novel, but which most adaptations never achieve. Ride with the Devil is not only structurally complex; Ang Lee pays such close attention to detail that one soon stops looking for anachronisms or irregularities and just sits back to watch the film with full faith in the storytelling. The cinematography by Frederick Elmes, of Blue Velvet fame, is also remarkable, with spectacular widescreen shots of big and very graphic battle scenes. Plus, Lee concludes his film with a grand shot of a black man riding off alone into the sunset, and I don't think anyone else has ever done that before. (Charles Mudede) Uptown

Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's portrait of a poverty-stricken but determined girl who tries to find independence and a better existence. Obstacles, of course, ensue. Winner of the Palm d'Or at this year's Cannes festival. Broadway Market

Sleepy Hollow
Johnny Depp plays Constable Ichabod Crane, sent to upstate New York in order to solve a rash of beheadings utilizing his newfangled "forensic science." The year is 1799, and the townsfolk believe the Headless Horseman is behind all these killings. Turns out they're right. Tim Burton's latest film is as dark as the original Grimm's fairy tales, full of witches, stormy nights, and lots and lots of beheadings. Really, it's impressive just how many heads get cut off. The horseman's vengeance is tied in with a conspiracy of the town elders, and it's up to Crane and the bewitching Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) to uncover their secrets. The deadpan politeness and mannered acting style is often amusing, but it keeps the movie from becoming rip-roaring fun. Still, I liked it. (Andy Spletzer) City Centre, Grand Alderwood

*The Straight Story
Rather than making the journey of hundreds of miles on a riding mower a quixotic, life-defining quest, The Straight Story is even more about an interesting but unremarkable road trip taken by a quite remarkable man. David Lynch's name is so synonymous with violence and twisted sex that it's sometimes hard to remember that nearly everything he's done has been about decent people who were seduced, often literally possessed, by an evil force outside themselves. (Bruce Reid) Broadway Market

*Stuart Little
Stuart Little is about a mouse who has to learn how to live in a family, but he has some major problems to solve. For example, a gang of cats tries to kill him, he gets caught in a washing machine, and he almost sinks in a boat race. Only someone as little as Stuart could get caught in those kind of problems. The computer animation was fabulous! The clothes Stuart wore were great -- even my mom wanted to get the pants. Michael J. Fox was a perfect choice to be Stuart Little, because Stuart is a funny mouse and Michael J. Fox is a funny guy. In some parts it's a little scary and intense, like Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, but I still think Stuart Little is a great movie for your whole family to see. (Sam Lachow, 9 years old) Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center

Sweet and Lowdown
Woody Allen's ode to jazz, starring Sean Penn and Uma Thurman. Reviewed this issue. Guild 45th

The Talented Mr. Ripley
The new film from Anthony Minghella, the man behind The English Patient. Starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law. Opens Christmas day. Reviewed this issue. Factoria, Neptune, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center, Southcenter

Time Capsule: Message in a Bottle
Local gal Cathleen O'Connell's new documentary about the phenomena of time capsules, and our attempts to capture time and culture in the form of objects. Contents of various time capsules will be shown (including loony Andy Warhol's), and after the screening, you can participate in WigglyWorld's own millennium capsule burial. Opens Thurs Dec 30 at 5:30, 7:30, 9:30; closed on New Year's Eve. Little Theatre

*Toy Story 2
In the tradition of The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, and Bride of Frankenstein, Toy Story 2 is a sequel that's even better than the original. Because this is essentially a kids' film, the outcome's a foregone conclusion, but it's still a total blast, from its trick beginning to its all-is-well ending. Even the bad guys don't get punished in a mean way. Most ingeniously, the film manages to poke fun at mass consumerism and collector-mania while still inducing a desire to purchase at least one of the film's toys. (Gillian G. Gaar) Factoria, Grand Alder-wood, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11

Tumbleweeds is refreshingly free of Hollywood comment. That is to say, it's without swelling music cues, and is populated by average-looking folk whose epiphanies, if they have them, float by without "potential Oscar clip" tattooed on their backsides. Affecting moments come and go, and it doesn't take long to realize that nothing much is going to happen. It's not much longer before you decide you're really going to like this film, which thrives on the subtle wonders of its two lead performances. Janet McTeer and Kimberly J. Brown have ease and comfort between them, and their quicksilver transitions from frustration to affection give Tumbleweeds the right to call itself an original. (Steve Wiecking) Uptown

*The War Zone
After spying his father and sister taking a bath together and suspecting the worst, a young man investigates the matter and doesn't like what he finds, eventually witnessing a scene that reveals the unbounded dimensions of his father's depravity. The War Zone is the first feature by actor Tim Roth, directed in a style that recalls Andrei Tarkovsky's Sacrifice and Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly (both brooding dramas about families in remote outposts). Preoccupations about what is and is not healthy or safe for a family informs every aspect of this film, which concludes with the unsettling assertion that some transgressions are unpardonable; some crimes go beyond a family's inherent capacity to forgive, and forgive again, its misguided members. (Charles Mudede) Broadway Market

The World Is Not Enough
Instead of giving the Bond bad guys something to do, the story tosses in Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in hotpants, and the rest of the film is pure paint-by-numbers. Michael Apted proves to be so bad at directing action that even when Brosnan and Richards are disarming a nuclear bomb aboard some sort of speeding tunnel contraption at 70 mph, I was forced to stifle a yawn. Even the flashy credit sequence is dull. After 19 films, maybe Grandpa needs to go to bed. (Bradley Steinbacher) Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Metro

Support The Stranger