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The Affair of the Necklace
Will Hollywood never tire of mincing through the haunted halls of pre-Revolutionary Versailles? This time around, Hilary Swank (with an unflattering nimbus of frizzy hair and her negligible breasts [ed note: rrreer!] smashed unconvincingly into a corset), plays a conniving countess who crosses the Queen, old "let them eat cake" herself, Marie Antoinette. With the help of a court gigolo, she contrives an ingenious blackmail scheme in order to regain her family estate. Based on a true story, this might have been a sexy and thrilling tale in more capable hands. Instead, its corny sepia-toned flashbacks, nagging narrator, and nonexistent character development render it hopelessly clunky and perfunctory. However, it might be useful for high-school history teachers to show when they have a hangover. (TAMARA PARIS) Broadway Market

Ali
See Stranger Suggests. I heard Michael Mann's next film would star Calista Flockhart as Mama Cass. Guild 45th

* Burnt Money
The only thing better than a movie about homosexual, coke-addicted, Argentinean bank robbers working through their relationship troubles is one that's based on a true story. Sensitive Angel, who never wears a shirt, and his badassed lover, Nene, are known professionally as "The Twins" on the Bueños Aires mob scene. When Nene shoots a cop during a commissioned armored-car heist, everybody involved has to flee to Montevideo, but Angel gets seriously wounded in the scuffle. With his lover out of service, Nene hooks up with an emotionally needy whore. Meanwhile, Angel quietly goes insane. This is a beautiful film, and between the poetic narrative (derived from the book, Plata Quemada), the subtitles, and the voluptuous backgrounds, it feels more like reading a National Geographic about South America rather than watching a movie. I'd call it great, even if only from a literary standpoint. (MEG VAN HUYGEN) Broadway Market

CHILDREN'S CHRISTMAS MATINEE
See Stranger Suggests. Including Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, and Christmas cartoon classics; on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, respectively. Grand Illusion

Depth of Focus
A monthly screening series of short films with a pay-as-you-exit policy, curated by the Puget Sound Cinema Society. For more info: www.scn.org/pscs. University Heights Center

* The Devil's Backbone
A sun-baked gothic ghost story with a moving Marxist allegory buried in its gory heart. In the last death throes of the Spanish Civil War, newly orphaned Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is dropped off at an imposing school for leftist children. There is very little to eat, an unexploded bomb ticks away half buried in the dusty courtyard, and Jaime (Inigo Garces)--the ad hoc leader of these traumatized youngsters--tortures Carlos mercilessly. But worst of all, a ragged, pale apparition of a missing student haunts the school hallways, begging Carlos to bring his killer to justice. Genuinely frightening, deeply moving, and gorgeously shot, this is a horror movie that will engage your intellect even as it sends shivers of icy dread crawling down your spine. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. (TAMARA PARIS) Harvard Exit

Dinner Rush
Ever wonder what the auteur behind Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video has been up to for the last 20 years? Me neither. But somehow I'm not surprised by the revelation that in addition to cranking out music videos and commercials, Bob Giraldi has also become a big-shot restaurateur in New York City. So, I suppose his decision to make a feature film about--what else?--being a big shot restaurateur in New York City shouldn't come as a shock. Who else could so fully articulate the smug, snobby, unpleasant, and insular world of a trendy Tribeca eatery populated with degenerate line cooks, promiscuous hostesses, prima donna chefs, and underworld thugs? Like the nouveau-fusion confusion cuisine he so lovingly prepares, this movie has all the flash of a grease fire but is so sorely lacking in substance you'll leave the theater famished. (TAMARA PARIS) Broadway Market

* Fight Club
Based on the novel by Portland's Chuck Palahniuk (the bastard child of Kurt Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard), Fight Club is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of a book most people would consider unfilmable. And it's damn good. After Seven, David Fincher became popular as a director of dark and depressing films, and with Fight Club, he's made his best film yet. He has taken the bleak story, written in the first person with a detached sense of humor, and has matched 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 (Helena Bonham Carter), then meets a rebel (Brad Pitt) with whom he starts a masochistic fight club. That is when the story spins way over the top. The movie may be two and a half hours long, but it flies by. If you even remotely liked it, you'll want to see it again. (ANDY SPLETZER) Egyptian

HOLIDAY MOVIE EXTRAVAGANZA
It begins at 5, and will proceed in this order: Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch (the original), Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, It's a Wonderful Life. Plus: free hot cocoa for the kids! (Presumably this does not mean "kids of all ages.") Victrola

How High
I have not yet seen the film that stars the talented emcees Method Man and Redman, so I'm only able to look to the lyrics from the big hit song they wrote together, called "How High," for some insight. First, a piece of Method Man: "'Scuse me as I kiss the sky/Sing a song of six pence, a pocket full a rye/Who the fuck wanna die for their culture/Stalk the dead body like a vulture." Then Redman: "While the planets and the stars and the moons collapse/When I raise my trigga finga all y'all niggaz hit the decks!/...Plus, the Bombazee got me wild/ Fuckin' with us is a straight suicide." Then the chorus: "Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane/It's the funk doctor Spock smokin' buddha on a train/How High? So high that I can kiss the sky/How Sick? So sick that you can suck my dick." I anticipate the movie to be nothing like this, though it would be utterly marvelous to try to put those images and emotions in a narrative film somehow. Oh well. (BRIAN GOEDDE) Varsity

* In The Bedroom
This langorous, beautifully acted film about erotic and familial entanglements in a small Maine fishing town one summer builds up to three moments of utter emotional brutality so severe that the long moments in between them thrum like high tension wires. A college boy (Nick Stahl; never liked him before, but he's great here) having a fling with a townie single mother (Marisa Tomei, back from the dead and in excellent form), the boy's parents (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson, who carry the picture with a realistic melancholy gravitas), and the mistress's ex-husband (William Mapother, who is related to Tom Cruise, but a fine actor nonetheless; he recalls Eric Roberts in Star 80, the creepiest creep in movie history) form the locus of Todd Field's insidiously gripping adaptation of Andre Dubus' deeply moral short story. (SEAN NELSON) Uptown

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
This digital claymation for the under-10 set concerns a young man who likes to invent things like rocket-powered toothbrushes and what not, but whom everyone thinks is a dork. Until the aliens invade, that is. Then, come the wet-ass hour, he's everybody's fucking daddy. Well fuck you, world! FUCK YOU! Metro

Joe Somebody
Instead of re-creating the minor success he had with director John Pasquin (The Santa Clause), Tim Allen has produced one of the most undercooked Everyman sketches I've ever seen. More benign than bad, the film follows the predictable journey of a freshly divorced office drone (Allen) who is casually bitch-slapped by his über-male colleague in the company parking lot. The public shame is also witnessed by his daughter (Hayden Panetiere, appearing way too winsome for a child of divorce), a context which spurns Joe to go on a loosely structured self-improvement bonanza, complete with martial arts training by the requisite comic sidekick (Jim Belushi) and romantic dalliance with his perky blonde officemate (a thoroughly forgettable Julie Bowen). You'll find more creative vigor in the average infommercial. (HANNAH LEVIN) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11

Kate and Leopold
Meg Ryan plays a "career woman" in New York City. In Hollywood shorthand that means she's a bitter, frustrated spinster. Luckily, a strapping, sexy nobleman from 1876 falls through a "rip in the time-space continuum" and sweeps her off her sensible shoes. Oh, for fuck's sake, I simply cannot go on. Except maybe to say that America's Sweetheart now resembles America's Plastic Surgery and Anorexia Disaster. The poor thing looks like some mad doctor grafted Melanie Griffith's big, weird squishy mouth onto a piece of fried chicken and left it to dry on a windowsill for about two years. God, I hated this insulting piece of shit. It was like Crocodile Dundee crossed with Sleepless in Seattle, if your mind can wrap itself around that horror. (TAMARA PARIS) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Metro, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center

KIDS' WINTER MOVIE MATINEES
See Stranger Suggests. A different kids' movie each showdate! Lots of surprises!!! Prizes! Tolerant adults are welcome. Pay what you can--suggested donation of $5 supports this summer's children's festival at the Little Theatre. Little Theatre

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Reviewed this issue. Director Peter Jackson's adaptation of part one of Tolkien's tale of Hobbits, Wizards, Orcs, Elves, Black Riders, and Dwarves has finally made it to the screen with real live humans, including heavyweights like Ian McKellen (Gandalf!) and Christopher Lee (Saruman!), and middlewieght contenders like Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins) and Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn). The actors are all outstanding, and they have to be, because the film's real challenge (beyond making a credible Balrog; accomplished, btw) lies with its faithfulness to the subject of the book: It's an epic adventure about ambivalence. Right down to Frodo's face on the poster, Fellowship is all about rising above doubts (rather than stepping up to convictions), and all the special effects in the world can't convey that. Even though it's not perfect, this movie still kicks fucking ass. (SEAN NELSON) Cinerama, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place

The Majestic
It wasn't long ago that Jim Carrey burst onto the screen with the unpredictable and vaguely menacing charisma of a true trickster. But like ultimate antihero Jack Nicholson and the fantastically misguided Kevin Spacey before him, he's turned his back on difficult or even unlikeable characters in favor of a one-way ticket to Sapville. Smear the lens with Vaseline! Hire a fawning, anonymous blond actress! Trot out the weather-beaten character actors! Let the string section swell! Mr. "Where's my fucking Oscar?" Carrey is ready for his close-up! What I'm trying to tell you is that sitting through this movie was like watching a four-hour long Coke commercial or eating a pound of frosting roses or submitting to a high-fructose corn syrup enema... which is why I crept quietly out of the theater before I expired of glucose shock. It's too bad. Carrey could have been something special. But at least we still have Christopher Walken. (TAMARA PARIS) Grand Alderwood, Majestic Bay, Metro, Pacific Place 11

* No Man's Land
War is--guess what?--hell in this story of the Bosnia-Serbia conflict, circa 1993. Surrounded by UN "peacekeepers," clumsy media vultures, and their warring rival factions, two soldiers cross into the zone between the bullets and clash about the war's origins and costs. Spilling over with Eastern European absurdist humor (the kind where a bullet wound is a punchline), Land is sparing on the explosions but heavy on the existential observations. And though anti-war slogans will always be platitudes (you may as well argue against rain), it never hurts to be reminded of the insane reality that violence creates. (SEAN NELSON) Meridian 16

* The Royal Tenenbaums
Reviewed this issue. The most important movie of the year has finally arrived. Wes Anderson's follow-up to the beloved Rushmore, the most important movie of that year, stars Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray (rocking a Professor Barnacle beard) as an extended family of neurotic geniuses whose bastard of a patriarch (Hackman) wants to bring closer together. Too bad they hate his guts. The film is hilariously funny, dryly tender, and impeccably designed. A worthy successor. (SEAN NELSON) Neptune

The Shipping News
This movie takes place in the mediocre land of contemporary American fiction, a land where people have names like Tert and Wavey and Nutbeem and Petal and Skronk and no one bats an eyelash when they introduce themselves. It's also a land where houses magically contain the dark history of their inhabitants, and where every woman was either raped, beaten, or tricked into incest. Additionally, all the men in this land are either affectless near-retards, or delightfully quirky eccentrics. The film is full of shit on every level--every word it says is a lie. It should be avoided like fruitcake. PS Whoever it was that told Kevin Spacey to stop playing charismatic bastards and to start playing cosmic naifs should be dipped in tar. (SEAN NELSON) Guild 45th

Valley of the Dolls
Just... one... more.... Of the three women who star in this camp classic, only Barbara Parkins didn't have either a miserable life (like Patty Duke) or meet a gruesome end (like Sharon Tate). That doesn't mean she isn't cursed, though. Grand Illusion


Continuing Runs

* Amélie
A beautifully kinetic testament to human sweetness that has audiences lining up around the block and contrarians carping about its artificiality. (SEAN NELSON) Egyptian, Redmond Town Center

Behind Enemy Lines
THERE IS NOTHING GOOD ABOUT THIS FILM. NOTHING. AT ALL. EVER. AT ALL ALL ALL!!! Ugly as sin, badly lit, poorly acted, logically untenable, and possibly not even written, Behind Enemy Lines is a total fucking travesty in which even the makeup is incompetently applied. (SEAN NELSON) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12

The Black Knight
Martin Lawrence plays Jamal Walker, a brother who toils all day at a decrepit ghetto theme park known as Medieval World. While cleaning Medieval World's polluted moats he happens upon a medallion that transports him back in time to medieval England. The locals don't really know what to make of Lawrence's clothes, language, or mannerisms. And well, anyway, in an exercise of isolating exactly just what the world wasn't waiting for, Black Knight picks us up just where other "fish out of water" classics such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Turtles in Time left us: tunneling out of the theater with a spoon. (KUDZAI MUDEDE) Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16

The Business of Strangers
Stockard "Stockyard" Channing and Julia Stiles star in this reverse gender corporate revenge drama, cut from the same cloth as In the Company of Men. Though the actors, especially Channing, are excellent, the filmmaker's desire to lay bare a female variant on the archetypal male fantasy seems to expose something intrinsically male nonetheless. (SEAN NELSON) Harvard Exit

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
A documentary of Seattle's new favorite tragic failure of a sea voyage, Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 quest for Antarctica, which wound up, as we all know, with an icebound vessel full of starving crewmen reduced to smoking penguin feathers. Lucky for this documentary that they had a camera crew with 'em.... Seven Gables

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone
Fans of the novels won't be disappointed by Chris Columbus' adaptation, which is so faithful that it often feels like they just pointed a camera at the book and said "Action!" Those who haven't read it--myself included--may fail to be captivated by what feels like an exercise in defining the difference between page and screen. I had been led to believe there was some underlying artistic merit in the stories of Harry Potter, and maybe there is, but not in the film. The actors, sets, and effects are all great, but this really is a movie just for kids. (SEAN NELSON) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Majestic Bay, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12

* It's A Wonderful Life
This lachrymose landmark, featuring James Stewart as a 20th-century Job, stands as one of history's finest films, and a necessary annual reminder of how much of a bummer real life really is. (SEAN NELSON) Fremont Unconventional Centre, Grand Illusion

La Bôche
La Bôche ("The Yule Log") is set four days before Christmas and concerns a shattered family--three adult sisters, their divorced parents, a complicated network of spouses and lovers--in France, where Christmas evidently isn't Christmas without adultery and unplanned pregnancy. The story opens with Yvette (Françoise Fabian), the embittered matriarch, and the death of her second husband. In lieu of the funeral, her daughters suggest that their father, Stanislas (Claude Rich), be included in the holiday festivities. Stanislas, who hasn't seen Yvette in 25 years, isn't eager to show his face, but his daughters ignore him and conspire to piece the smithereens of their family back together anyway. The girls, however, aren't the picture of composure themselves. This is a diorama of rich, selfish losers who are hanging by threads, and that's what most recommends it. (MEG VAN HUYGEN) Varsity

Life as a House
Kevin Kline has cancer, but he hasn't told his ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), who's too busy letting herself be an emotional doormat, or his son (Hayden Christensen), who's too busy huffing Scotchguard to care. Rather than come clean, he decides to fix everything by making his dysfunctional son help him build his dream house. (SEAN NELSON) Crest, Woodinville 12

* The Man Who Wasn't There
The new film by the Coen Brothers, shot in glorious black and white, recalls the low-budget, slow burning, postwar noir of directors like Edgar G. Ulmer, and features Billy Bob Thornton's uncannily Bogartlike performance (In a Lonely Place-era) as the eponymous Man. The Coens' genre fetish works astoundingly well in this film, which mines noir's deeply American absurdities for rich laughs, shrewd plotting, top-flight performances from all the actors (Thornton and Gandolfini in particular), and visuals that make your eyes swell. (SEAN NELSON) Uptown, Varsity

Monsters, Inc.
Sully (John Goodman) is one of Monsters, Inc.'s top Scarers, meaning that he excels at getting kids to scream in fright--and bottled screams are the fuel upon which Monstropolis, his hometown, depends. Kids, however, are supposed to be highly contagious, so when Sully accidentally brings a little girl back to Monstropolis, he's got a lot of nervous running and hiding to do. The first two-thirds of this film are pleasant to watch, though the narcotizing currents of confused cultural allegory that run through modern Disney films course just as strongly through this one. But the final third of the movie is excellent and beautiful, arriving suddenly at one of those gorgeous imaginary landscapes that legitimately become a part of a child's dream fabric. (EVAN SULT) Factoria, Majestic Bay, Meridian 16, Metro, Northgate, Woodinville 12

* Mulholland Drive
Originally conceived as a network TV pilot, Drive takes a long time establishing its characters--an aspiring actress, a glamorous amnesiac, a luckless Hollywood producer, and a mysterious gang of Mafiosi who are dead set on making sure a certain woman gets a certain part. Like all of Lynch's post-Wild at Heart work, Drive is more concerned with atmosphere and suggestion than linear meaning. But like all Lynch, period, it's beautifully constructed, bizarre, and funny.(SEAN NELSON) Aurora Cinema Grill, Broadway Market, Metro

Not Another Teen Movie
The parody palette here is historically broad, lampooning every thing from Bring It On and Cruel Intentions to almost every movie John Hughes made, and, most bizarrely, Grease. While little of it is effective (save for a cheerleader with Tourette's syndrome and some clever set design touches), the sheer volume of comedic ground plowed proves teens will always find themselves bemused by homophobia, slutty girls, and hapless individuals being doused in human feces. Yes, it is another teen movie. (HANNAH LEVIN) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Metro, Pacific Place 11

* Ocean's 11
Steven Soderbergh remakes the classic (though turgid) Rat Pack heist film and kicks the original's ass. This time, instead of Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Angie Dickinson, we get George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, and Julia Roberts. Ain't that a kick in the head? Factoria, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

Out Cold
If you've seen the previews for this lowbrow snowboarding romp, you might think it's Porky's on Ice. And you'd almost be right. It's astoundingly stupid, all right. But shockingly, it's also sort of fun. It has just enough anarchic, substance-abusing, anti-authoritarian, apparently improvised hijinks in it to make it vaguely redolent of that all-time classic of unapologetic stupidity, Animal House. (TAMARA PARIS) Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Though many describe this film as the worst of all time, it's safe to say that they're not counting Behind Enemy Lines, which was probably not bad on purpose, as this one obviously was. Look closely and you might spot a young Pia Zadora as one of the kids sitting on Santa's creepy lap. Grand Illusion

Sidewalks of New York
This film is way better than Ed Burns' other efforts, and it certainly towers over the last five Woody Allen misery marathons, and Stanley Tucci is great, and everyone else hits their mark and seems believable enough. However, it's nowhere near as good as Aerosmith, not even Draw the Line. (MICHAEL SHILLING) Crest, Metro, Uptown

The Spy Game
A mass-market espionage thriller starring Robert Redford as a CIA agent on the verge of retirement and Brad Pitt as his rogue protégé. Pitt has gone and gotten himself in a jam, Chinese prison-style, and Redford has only 24 hours (coincidentally, his final day at the office) to contrive a way to free Pitt. Despite a number of crowd-pleasing moments. (SEAN NELSON) Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Majestic Bay, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

Vanilla Sky
Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz star in Cameron Crowe's inferior remake of Alejandro Amenábar's nonetheless overrated Abre los Ojos. If the rather long film is shrill and largely humorless for its first two hours--during which we are subjected to all manner of unreliable narration and circuitous plotting (not to mention cloying acting from Cruise and Cruz, the criminal squandering of the great Jason Lee, and some serious filmmakerly self-congratulation from Crowe), it makes amends with an impressive final 30 minutes. The real redemption, however, comes from Crowe's decision to use a Monkees tune during the film's climactic moment. Hearing "Porpoise Song" puts any movie a few steps closer to greatness. (SEAN NELSON) Factoria, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Varsity

* Waking Life
Richard Linklater's monologue-heavy, beautifully animated opus about the quest for lucid dreaming and active living is one of the coolest, most interesting movies you'll ever see. Or you might hate it and think it's talky and pretentious. If you liked Slacker, however--wait, not if you liked it... if you GOT Slacker--and have been waiting for Linklater to return to philosophical quandary mode, don't wait another second. Go see Waking Life. (SEAN NELSON) Broadway Market

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