2002 Student Academy Awards Jurying
Student films from the Western states are shown while jurors select the best animated, documentary, dramatic, and alternative films, which will go to the national competition in May.

40 Days and 40 Nights
Suffering from a breakup, Josh Hartnett vows to remain celibate for 40 days, but during that time discovers the love of his life and is therefore, unable to bone her.

Artists and Orphans with Sing! and Thoth
A documentary on the orphans of the Republic of Georgia (USSR), a teacher, a nun, and 116 kids face a winter with no food, heat, electricity, and water. The documentary Sing! follows, about a group of LA students who idolize Placido Domingo rather than Britney. Thoth catalogues the life of S.K. Thoth, who performed his operas in Central Park's Angel Tunnel.

Big Trouble
Based on "humorist" Dave Barry's novel, Big Trouble tells the story of how a mysterious suitcase brings together and changes the lives of a motley-ass group of people played by a motley-ass ensemble cast that features Tim Allen, Janeane Garofalo, Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, and many many more.

Blade II: Bloodhunt
Unfortunately, Blade II sucks so much ass, even Wesley's hottie six-pack won't distract you. Picking up where Blade left off, Blade the Daywalker must save his old sidekick, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), from the big pod of blood in which the vampires have kept him captive for years.

* Boomerang!
A small Conneticut town blames a nervous out-of-towner when a priest is murdered. The man denies he is the killer, but no one listens until the prosecutor starts to think the man is innocent.

* Bullitt
A San Francisco cop makes it his mission to find the person who killed the witness he was protecting. Kind of like I make it my mission to hunt down and kill anyone who makes weak coffee.

Changing Lanes
Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson star in this "Hey, you got your white privilege in my poor black nobility!" confection, whose trailer makes it look about as appetizing as a Stanley Kramer film.

A scientist invents a gun that makes time stand still for whomever it hits. The normal cliche science-movie things happen after that. If you can't get into this movie, just rent Flubber instead. You'll never know the difference.

Death to Smoochy
Driven by adults' universal aversion to pervy, purple, children's TV characters, Danny Devito's dark comedy is adequately raunchy, but ultimately forgettable. There's nothing really wrong with the dour turns by Devito, Ed Norton, and Robin Williams, but the script simply isn't deviant or developed enough to hold up, and the idiotic pseudo-conflict tacked on the end is simultaneously forced and boring.

* Female Trouble
Female Trouble is said to be John Waters' personal favorite of all his films. If you dig his brand of raunch, then this director's cut is a must-see. If anything, it's a guarantee that if you start looking, you probably won't want to stop. The film follows the life of one fucked-up poobah by the name of Dawn Davenport, played by the incomparable Divine. "Her" exploits include shooting liquid eyeliner, killing her annoying hare krishna daughter, prostitution, fucking nasty fat drunks, marrying hippies. and cutting off the hand of her aunt-in-law while kidnapped in an over-sized birdcage in her living room. Oh, the funny thrills abound in this flick. After Devine takes a glass of acid in the face, shit starts to get really weird, skirting around issues of fashion and beauty. Oh, the sordid world of fashion and art--clashing so gloriously, so sickeningly. Disfiguration, man. Go see it. At the very least you will develop opinions. (Marjorie Skinner )

* Frailty
Bill Paxton hears God's voice, and it tells him to cut people up with an axe! It's nice to know I'm not alone in the Lord's kingdom. See review this issue.

That oh-so-dazzling urban urchin, Audrey Tautou, is once again caught up in an intricate web of fateful occurrences on her way to finding true love. See review this issue.

High Crimes
This bad film is directed by the great Carl Franklin, who directed Devil in A Blue Dress. The movie (which stars Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd) is not horrible, just too professional and conventional. Set in an army court, it lacks sweeping shots of spectacular army helicopters, and, in the court scenes, it fails to sustain and exploit that efficient military speak ("These are the rules of engagement, sir!"). The result is a bland version of Denzel Washington's superb Courage Under Fire, which had lots of helicopters and military speak. (Charles Mudede)

Human Nature
The latest absurdist comedy from the pen of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), starring Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, and the great Rhys Ifans. Directed by music video avatar Michel Gondry. See review this issue.

The brilliant British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench, Kate Winslet), a woman who lives most decidedly in the world of ideas, succumbs to the dementia of Alzheimer's, "sailing into darkness" as she so rightly puts it. The story, as constructed by director Richard Eyre, flips back and forth between past and present, evidently mimicking the erratic thread that memory becomes in the hands of the disease. (Emily Hall)

* Italian for Beginners
The characters of Italian for Beginners begin in a state of despair. This being a romantic comedy, their lives begin to intersect through a series of coincidences-coincidences that could feel contrived, but due to the rough integrity of the script, performances, and direction (shaped in part by the monastic rigors of the Dogme 95 ethic), they feel like the organic waywardness of life. (Bret Fetzer)

* Kissing Jessica Stein
With the dumb title and no-name actors, you wouldn't think this would be a good film, but it is. Sex-fiend Helen places an ad in the paper because she wants to try getting her lesbian freak on, and uptight girl, Jessica, is so taken by the ad that she decides to give it a chance. The gals end up trying it out together for awhile, and Jessica overcomes a lot of issues, including, whether she's gay or not. The peripheral characters are hysterical, and the relationship between Jessica and Helen makes you question how easy it would be to go gay or to be gay without realizing it or to be unhappy without seeing the solution. (Katie Shimer)

Last Orders
The talents of six of the finest British actors alive (Tom Courtenay, Bob Hoskins, David Hemmings, Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, and Ray Winstone) are squandered by this moist little movie about a journey to deliver a dead man's ashes to the seaside. (Sean Nelson)

Light and Rhythms
Short avant garde films from the 1930s and 40s.

* Lord of the Rings
Remarkably true to the epic book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Though enhanced by computer animation, and certainly made in the post-Xena/Beastmaster era, this first installment promises to launch Lord of the Rings into the Star Wars strata. (Julianne Shepherd)

* Metropolis
The malicious but helpless President Boon presides over Metropolis, and the true power lies with the Roarkian Duke Red, builder of the Ziggurat and the muscle behind Tima, a gorgeous android (looking uncannily like Haley Joel Osment) who will someday rule the world. Mostly, yes, it's eye candy, but everyone's eyes should be so lucky. (Emily Hall)

* Monsoon Wedding
At first, it seems like Mira Nair is just doing family drama. The film is stylish, brisk, witty, and beautifully filmed (marigolds are so vibrant they would leave bright orange dust on your fingers if you touched them). But within the patchwork of marriage melodrama, Monsoon Wedding presents a subversive argument about the insidiousness of progress and its fluid relationship with tradition. Of course, it all comes out right in the end, but in getting to its satisfying resolution, it passes through so many uncomfortable revelations and unthinkable confrontations that it almost feels like watching history unfold. (Sean Nelson)

Monster's Ball
Monstrous Balls is more like it. Hank is a racist prison guard (Thornton, perfect), son of a retired racist prison guard (Peter Boyle, who desn't even try an accent), and father of a young, non-racist prison guard (Heath Ledger, who tries his hardest) in a Georgia State Penitentiary death row. Hank falls into a desperate affair with Leticia (Halle Berry, semi-plausible), a black woman, after both of their sons die. Also, Hank executed her husband (Sean Combs, Puffy). Hank's dad says "nigger" and "porch monkey," and Hank fires a shotgun at some black kids, so we know that the film is about breaking the cycle of bigotry. A few nice notes are struck, but too many coincidences motorize this melodrama; its morality is tinny and safe. Via their affair, Hank is cured of racism, and Leticia is cured of grief. She even gets a truck! "I thank we're gone be all right," Hank says at the end. I thank I'm gone puke. (Sean Nelson)

Mulholland Drive
David Lynch doing his usual contorted mystery.

National Lampoon's Van Wilder
And so once again National Lampoon's attempt to reclaim those cinematic "glory days" falls miserably flat. As a comedy, National Lampoon's Van Wilder offers maybe one or two laughs-not the hearty, spazzy laughs, mind you, but slight chuckles, possibly minor snorts. A zany college romp that tries to be Animal House for a new generation, this film lacks both the zaniness and the wit that made the Delta Brothers' movie so entertaining. Stay away. (Bradley Steinbacher)

Other Side of Heaven
A farm boy from Idaho Falls goes to the Tongan Islands in the 1950s, leaving behind his girlfriend. Don't worry though, she lifts his spirits with meaningful letters and the experience teaches him valuable lessons about life and love. A film for freshman girls whose boyfriends have gone off to Cal State.

Panic Room
Jodie Foster's husband is a rich, cheating prick, so she buys a giant Manhattan brownstone in order to get revenge. The house was previously owned by a dead, paranoid millionaire, and comes complete with a "Panic Room" with video camera monitors, a phone, a motion sensor door, and food. The son of the millionaire, unscarry Jared Leto, knows there's money in a safe inside the Panic Room and gets crazy Raoul, and a security expert (docile and friendly Forrest Whitaker) to help him get rich quick. But herein lies the problem: For some reason, dumbass Leto allows the house to sit empty for two weeks before performing the heist, and before he knows it, Jodie and daughter are all moved in. Instead of waiting until they're not home, Leto and pals debate for an hour about whether to try for the money anyway, and a bunch of implausible events ensue. (Katie Shimer)

Against all odds, Benjamin Bratt manages to shine as the gifted Nuyorican poet, playwright, actor, chicken hawk, and unapologetic asshole Miguel Piñero in this jumpy and jerky biopic. Piñero's dizzying ride from a con scribbling in prison to acclaimed author of a Broadway hit, and then back down to junky loser stealing his friend's television set, is inherently riveting. Inexplicably, director Leon Ichaso has chosen to show Piñero unstuck in time, flashing from present-time to flashback and from B&W to color. The effect is laughably disorienting and serves to shatter any sympathies the audience might have developed for this complicated character. Poor Piñero deserves better. (Tamara Paris)

Filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg returns to Jerusalem and interviews seven children, Palestinians and Israelis, about war and growing up in the Middle East conflict.

* Resident Evil
If you're going to be foolish enough to make a movie out of a video game, this here is the way to do it. It does exactly what it's supposed to do: entertain, disgust, and turn 13-year-old-boys on-hence Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez. Plus, it has zombies, a genre that has been woefully overlooked for far too long now. If you're a fan of the game, go see it. If you find yourself ridiculously baked, go see it. (Bradley Steinbacher)

The Rookie
Dennis Quaid's hopes of being a major league baseball player were dashed by shoulder injuries and now, he's a high school baseball coach. After the heal up of his final shoulder surgery, however, he realizes he can pitch better than ever before. He makes a bargain with his team that if they'll try and win the next two games, he'll try out for the majors again. Yipee!

* Royal Tenenbaums
This movie is great, go see it. A family of geniuses reunite from their separate, but equally fucked up lives. Once they get under the same roof, their individual and combined issues resurface--and they do their best to work them out. (Katie Shimer)

* Scotland, PA
This movie is going to sound really stupid: Scotland, PA sets Shakespeare's MacBeth in 1975. When Joe "Mac" McBeth (James LeGros) gets passed over as manager of Duncan's Diner, his wife Pat (Maura Tierney) convinces him to kill Duncan and put in a drive-through window. A trio of hippies give Mac advice with a Magic 8-Ball. The investigating officer is Ernie McDuff (Christopher Walken), a vegetarian who dreams of opening a restaurant of his own. Despite all this, I really enjoyed Scotland, PA. My only quibble is: Why, when doing this kind of adaptation, do filmmakers make obvious and distracting references to source material? Why don't they learn from the smartest literary adaptation of our time, Clueless? (Bret Fetzer)

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.

Eddie Murphy and Robert DeNiro star in this unlikely-buddy-cop film that satirizes reality cop shows on TV. Also featuring Rene Russo, William Shatner, and Kadeem "Dwayne Wayne" Hardison. Ker-snooze.

* The Sweet Smell of Success
A powerful New York newspaper columnist hires a press agent to break up his sister's engagement to a jazz musician.

The Sweetest Thing
Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate, together at last! Also, as my friend Michael is fond of saying: someone get that Selma Blair a steak. The film is some kind of romantic comedy bullshit from the director of Cruel Intentions.

The Time Machine
In this remake of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) has is a science geek and tremendously unsatisfied with his lot in life. However, when his fiancée meets an untimely death, he builds a machine designed to take him back and set things right. That doesn't work. So he travels to the future to answer the age-old question, "Why can't we change the past?" Naturally, when he arrives--800,000 years later--he learns what any grumpy sci-fi author could have told him: Humans have fucked everything up and the world is a big shithole. But what makes this particular world a shithole are the "Morlocks," who are a race of well, I don't know what they are, but they look like a cross between Jack Palance and the monsters from The Dark Crystal. Anyway they're kicking the crap out of peaceful surface dwellers, and Hartdegen must decide to either stay and help, or return to a time when they didn't have indoor toilets. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)

Town Bloody Hall
A 1979 documentary of a round table debate on feminism and the feminist movement, chaired by Norman Mailer.

Tuvalu is a long and wonderful dream. Like all dreams, the movie has a quasi-oedipal premise (an old man owns a public swimming pool in a crumbling building, which is barely maintained by his repressed son, who, like Buddha, has never left the building in his life). Like all dreams, the movie is highly erotic (there is a beautiful woman who loves the young man; the young man loves her too, but he can only express his desire by smelling her underwear). And like all dreams, the movie is scary at times (there is an evil capitalist who wants to demolish the building, make a profit, and get the girl). Though it is impossible to separate this dream film from the works and aesthetics of such directors as Emir Kusturica, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it is still worth watching simply because it is funny and has an excellent ending. (Charles Mudede)

We Were Soldiers
Scrawny little bastard Mel Gibson stars in this jingoistic turd of a Vietnam War film about 400 American soldiers in an elite combast divison who get blasted to bits by the Viet Cong. They try and save themselves and each other, their heroism is unparalleled, blah blah blah.