* American Splendor
As an examination of the self-loathing artist, American Splendor is arguably a better film than Adaptation, thanks to the auto-on-autobiographical nature of the material and the on-the-nose performances by Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis, combined with disarmingly deadpan voice-overs and interview interstitials with Harvey Pekar himself. (Shanon Gee) Hollywood Theatre

Billabong Odyssey
A team of world-class surfers travels the globe looking for monster waves (of the three-stories high variety) and for the most part are successful. There are shots of waves that demonstrate their incredible beauty and power, and there are also shots of the obligatory not-very-interesting surfers who yammer on incessantly about the "idea" of wave riding. And therein lies the problem with surf documentaries; though surfing itself has made startling advancements since the 1960s, surf movies have barely progressed past the narration driven format of Endless Summer. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Fox Tower 10

Calamari Union
Director Aki Kaurismaki is Finland's answer to John Waters. Or is it the other way around? Wry, droll, and deadpan, Kauriskaki examines the weirdness that is beautiful and the beauty that is weird in Helsinki. A pair of down-and-out Finns take off on an epic road trip. Whitsell Auditorium

* Chocolat
Juliette Binoche turns the whole town horny with her homemade chocolates. Pix Patisserie

Crime and Punishment
No, not the Woody Allen version, but a sparse take on the 19th-century Dostoevsky tome. Set in 1983 Helsinki, a slaughterhouse worker and a law student murder a businessman. From here, they are as stalked by their guilt as they are the police. Re-cast from the original dour classic to a hilarious, uplifting, perfect-for-the-holidays, feel-good ending. Whitsell Auditorium

* Deborah Stratman Films
Experimental films that sculpt time and space and move from the barren landscape of Iceland to the haunting landscapes of the suburbs. Deborah Stratman in attendance. Cinema Project

Dirty Pretty Things
An African illegal immigrant works as a cab driver by day and a hotel desk clerk by night, despite his training as a doctor. When he does sleep, it's on the couch of a Turkish illegal immigrant (Tautou from Amelie). He soon discovers an illicit kidney-selling scheme that is praying on fellow immigrants. Frears' London is engaging in that it is a place where corruption is taken for granted, but unfortunately the plot resolves itself mechanically. (Andy Spletzer) Hollywood Theatre

* Don't Tempt Me
Heaven and Hell are battling for candidates and Heaven seems to be losing the fight. Heaven sends their best angel, Lola, down to Earth to recruit, while Hell counters by sending Penelope Cruz to derail their plan. Heaven is potrayed as 1930s France while Hell looks like present day corporate America. Hollywood Theatre

* East of Eden
Reprising the Cain and Abel story as reprised by Steinbeck, James Dean gives his best (and first) performance as a young man aching for his dad's attention. Fifth Avenue Cinemas

Elephant
Elephant shows us a couple days in the life of two grumpy teens who go all Vice City on their Portland high school. Both the boys are cardboard characters who shop for guns on the internet, play violent video games, and have a brief homosexual affair. Neither is likeable, neither evokes sympathy. Their fellow high school students, however, are worse. We follow around ridiculous bitches who throw up after lunch. A sappy, hair-gelled guy who takes meaningful photos of everyone. The world would not be better or worse if all of these people were dead. And then they are. They all get gunned down by the two boys, and it's not sad. It's a little bloody, but not sad. (Katie Shimer) Fox Tower 10

* Elf
It's no secret that Will Ferrell is one funny mo-fo, and yet to this point in time his movie roles have been limited to comic relief sideshow. Elf begs the question: Can Ferrell carry a feature-length film, and can he do it wearing tights in every scene? The answer is yes, because Ferrell, for all his goofiness, has the uncanny ability to take himself utterly seriously. Regal Cinemas

* Girls Will Be Girls
Pitch-perfect camp isn't easy to do. But Girls Will Be Girls, written and directed by Richard Day, makes it look like it is. It's breezy, with a dark undertow and an easy comedic touch. The barbed bitchery is delivered by three drag queens. There's booze, pills, insurance fraud, drunk driving, abortion jokes, rape jokes, small-dick jokes, and a character asking offhandedly, "By the way, did you ever shit out that earring?" It's more disgusting than Divine eating shit. And funnier. (Nate Lippens) Cinemagic , Roseway Theatre

A Great Wonder
Seattle: Home to the Space Needle, Paul Allen and... one of the largest populations of Sudanese refugees? After being displaced by the Sudan civil war (and having their parents killed), about 15,000 teenage boys and girls wandered nearly 1000 miles before being picked up by relief organizations. Resettled into the U.S., these so-called "lost boys" have become subjects for numerous magazine articles, an upcoming book by Dave Eggers and, yes, a documentary film. Guild Theater

Hey, is Dee Dee Home? See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater

* The Human Stain
Director Robert Benton spends most of the film on the relationship between a professor (Sir Anthony Hopkins, a Welshman playing a Jew who is actually an African American) and the last love of his life, a janitor played by a terribly thin Nicole Kidman. The janitor is attracted to the professor's prestige; the professor is attracted to the janitor's youth. They have hot sex and eventually fall in love, and it is the quality of this fall into love, its problems, its complexities, the scandal it generates, that the film revolves around. (Charles Mudede) City Center 12 Koin Center

In the Cut
Mark Ruffalo sells out to Hollywood in this entirely unscary, unsexy, unthrilling movie about a detective, a crime witness, and their boring love affair. Also stars Meg Ryan. Laurelhurst

Intolerable Cruelty
George Clooney is charming, playing a caricature of a rich divorce lawyer who is bored with winning cases and making buckets of money. Enter Catherine Zeta, a gold-digging man hater, who is just clever enough to perk Clooney's interest. A battle of the sexes ensues, between two of the most selfish, loveless human beings on the planet. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas

Ken Kesey Tribute
A speaking tribute to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest author Ken Kesey. Gus Van Sant, Walt Curtis, and Mountian Girl (wife of Jerry Garcia) will be in attendance. Bagdad Theater

* Kill Bill: Volume 1
Unlike the meandering plots of Tarantino's previous films, Kill Bill is dead-on simple: Uma Thurman stars as "The Bride"--an assassin who's shot in the noggin on her wedding day by a band of killers sent out by her former boss, Bill. When she awakes from a coma, she takes revenge. Regal Cinemas

* Land and Freedom
A young communist leaves Liverpool to fight facism in Spain. When he's injured he leaves for Barcelona and joins another anti-Facist group, but eventually becomes disheartened. Directed by Ken Loach. PSU Smith Memorial Union Rm 225

Legend of Johnny Lingo
The life of Joe Falou comes and goes like the tide. As an infant he washes ashore in a canoe, only to be adopted by a wealthy island chief. Later, he is banished to the side of the island populated by ugly and drunk people. But fear not. Joe is able to see their virtues. A low budget and (not always intentionally) campy New Zealand film. Oak Grove 8 Theater

* Lifeboat
Alfred Hitchcock's 1944 film--story by John Steinbeck--about six people trapped on a lifeboat, one of them the man who sunk their ship. Fifth Avenue Cinemas

Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Loony Tunes: Back in Action is dumb. Boring, even. Yes, there were a few funny moments, and your eight-year-old niece would probably love it, but despite that, the film really doesn't do anything Who Framed Roger Rabbit didn't do way back in the day. (Megan Selling) Regal Cinemas

* Lost in Translation
In less delicate hands, Lost in Translation could easily have been a dull, pretentious disaster, but Sofia Coppola has two cards tucked up her sleeve. One is the city of Tokyo itself, which has never looked so mysterious and engaging in an American film, and the other is Bill Murray, the bulk of whose part comes across as having been improvised. Regal Cinemas, Tigard-Joy Theater

* Love Actually
Yes, it's frequently saccharine, and it's a Christmas movie, but it has an incredible cast. Any movie with Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, and Laura Linney is going to have to work its ass off to suck. Love Actually doesn't even work its ass off. Several of its many love-themed story threads are genuinely moving, and several of its scenes are surprisingly hilarious. Regal Cinemas

Matrix: Revolutions
This time around, the Wachowskis don't even mess with philosophy. Mystifyingly, they don't mess with kung fu either--above all else, their bread and butter to this point--outside of an over-the-top superhero climax between Neo and the rogue program Smith who, for poorly explained reasons, has become a kind of demigod. Meanwhile, filling the brunt of the film, the humans in the City of Zion wage endless battles with the oncoming machines and their squadrons of sperm-looking freaks. Explosions and gunfire fill the screen for what feels like hours, streamlined with an amazingly huge glut of banal one-liners, plus the development of Trinity and Neo's "love," which is only slightly less passionless than the mating scene in the IMAX classic, Beavers. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas

Mystic River
For all the "inexorability" and "meditation" of its violence, Mystic River feels desperately contrived. Whether director Clint Eastwood has some deep understanding of the nature of violence remains unclear. What is certain is that he knows how to make a movie, even a dumb one, well worth watching. I only wish someone would send him some better books. (Sean Nelson) Regal Cinemas

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Milos Forman's film based on Ken Kesey's novel, starring Jack Nicholson as a crook posing as a crazy guy in a nuthouse. As if he needed to pretend. Guild Theater

* Pieces of April
Starring Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, and Oliver Platt, Pieces of April has a look and feel that I hesitate to label "documentary-like." Gritty due to its transfer of digital to celluloid and mainly handheld, there is a certain spontaneity in the film, almost an improvised feel, that is enhanced by the sharp cast. Clarkson is particularly good, becoming the heart of the film that the rest of the group rotates around. (Bradley Steinbacher) Fox Tower 10

* Runaway Jury
Set in modern-day New Orleans, John Grisham's latest pulp fiction-turned-screenplay draws on the standard Grisham tricks. There's the expected cynicism and paranoia. And where we're ignorant about what happens behind the closed doors of jury rooms, Grisham fills in with grandiose conspiracies. (Phil Busse) Regal Cinemas

* Rundown
The Rock and Stifler from American Pie star in this entertaining action/adventure flick about a bounty hunter (The Rock) who has to track down his employer's son (Stifler) in the jungles of Brazil. Beautiful scenery and great fight scenes make up for a formulaic plot and terrible Brazilian accents. (Katie Shimer) Avalon, Mt. Hood Theater, St. Johns Pub

School of Rock
While I am passionate about rocking, The School of Rock, starring Jack Black, employs every cliché imaginable, from Kindergarten Cop to Spinal Tap, while promoting a sickly Gen-X nostalgia and not being funny, to boot. If the film is about the generation gap and the power of rock to span the ages, it's unfortunate that its power stinks like a rotten corpse. (Julianne Shepherd) Regal Cinemas

Secondhand Lions
A film about a boy who is left by his mother to spend an indefinite amount of time with his uncles, who, upon first impression, are stubborn hicks with a big barn. Through stories told by Michael Caine, the boy soon learns that his uncles are not hicks at all, but war heroes with glorious pasts. Blah, blah, blah... This movie just sucks. (Charles Mudede) Avalon

Shadows in Paradise
The Film Center plods on with their homage to wry and snide Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki with this down-and-out romance between a down-and-out garbage man and a down-and-out cashier. Guild Theater, Whitsell Auditorium

* Shattered Glass
Stephen Glass, a fast-rising writer and editor for the New Republic, scandalized the journalism world in 1998 when it was unearthed that an article he penned for his employer, titled "Hack Heaven," was an outright fabrication. Shattered Glass chronicles Glass' exposure and tumble. Despite some minor flaws, the film shows us in an intelligent fashion how the reputation damage to the New Republic came about, and gives us a smart portrayal of Stephen Glass the man. (Bradley Steinbacher) Fox Tower 10

* Shorts III
Crowfilm, by Edward Davee, celebrates the crow for 20 minutes while Afterthought by Michael Cross dissects a relationship for 20 minutes. Plus many more wonderful short films. Guild Theater

* The Singing Detective
Robert Downey, Jr. stars as an illness-afflicted author who rewrites his novel in lucid bursts while laying in bed. He imagines himself as the main character, frequently bursting into song, while trying to solve a murder on the streets of L.A. Fox Tower 10

* The Station Agent
Fin McBride (Peter Dinklage), The Station Agent's protagonist, was born a dwarf, and has built up a stone-faced resistance to the stares and slurs directed at him daily. When he inherits a small abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, he leaves the city and makes the shack his home. Within a day, the locals notice him and are banging on his door. (Brian Brait) Fox Tower 10

* Step into Liquid
Though big wave rider Laird Hamilton exhibits steely-eyed nerve while navigating monster-sized swells, Step into Liquid isn't just about tanned surfer gods. There's also an older group of fun-seekers tackling the two-foot waves of Lake Michigan, and a Texas trio who surf the wakes of oil tankers. However, cinematography makes or breaks a surf flick, and Liquid certainly delivers. Shot from inside, overhead, and underneath the waves, viewers get a visceral sense of their thundering power. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Laurelhurst

Swimming Pool
A mousy, frigid English woman (Sarah) who writes popular mysteries retreats to her publisher's mansion in the south of France. Then his illegitimate daughter Julie shows up unexpectedly, a slutty, bratty French vagina--I mean, character. The film follows the women as they eventually become friendly, and the uptight Brit mellows out with weed, swimming, and sex (Marjorie Skinner) Laurelhurst

* Taking Sides
Written by Ronald Harwood (The Pianist), Taking Sides involves a celebrated German conductor who was beloved by Hitler, and enjoyed power, prestige, and the pleasures of numerous women during what was for many the worst 12 years of the 20th Century. After the war, the doctor is questioned by Steve Arnold (Harvey Keitel), a major from the American Denazification Committee who is assigned to implicate the conductor in the orgy of evil that consumed Central Europe. The doctor claims he is an artist and his duty is only to music, not politics; the American more or less calls him a lying motherfucking Nazi cunt. Neither one moves from his position. The American yells at the German; the German yells at the American. (Charles Mudede) Cinema 21

Thirteen
Older people tend to address this film in an alarmist tone, while the younger set thinks it's crappy. (Except for the excellent tight jeans, slit shirts, and hoop earrings.) It tackles a lot of very real issues about maturity, but it takes on too much at once, to no effect. The lead protagonist is a smart, well-behaved child--until the hottest, brassiest, most popular girl in school criticizes her socks. Then it's like she slipped on a banana peel and became the embodiment of parental paranoia: Drugs! Tongue piercings! Boys! Shoplifting! (Marjorie Skinner) Laurelhurst

The Three Musketeers
If they can make an entire swashbuckling film from a ride at Disney, why not make one up about a creamy and delicious candy bar? The 1921 film that sets the standard for films about glory, romance, and crossing swords. Whitsell Auditorium

Tupac: Resurrection See review this issue. Division Street, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV

* Uncle Buck
John Candy stars as a fat, sloppy, fun-loving uncle who takes over the house and kids for his brother. The two younger kids fall for Buck immediately, while the rebellious older girl, Tia, sneaks out with her boyfriend, who is of course, only trying to get in her panties. Thankfully, Uncle Buck steps in. This film is directed by John Hughes, and preceded by two Northwest Film and Video shorts. Old Town Pizza