Africa Screams
Like Ernest Goes to Africa... except with Abbott and Costello instead of that crazy motherfucker Jim Varney. Old Town Pizza

* The Aviator See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.

* The Big Red One
An infantryman from the first scrimmages in North Africa to the discovery of atrocities in Germany, director Samuel Fuller was the only sort of director who should make a war film--a veteran. At its worst, The Big Red One feels like a stock WWII flick; at its best, it encompasses the entire ordeal like no other film. You can argue that any filmmaker can bring the horrors of warfare to the screen--what you can't deny is that it takes someone who has seen that horror with his own eyes to really make you understand the entirety of what you're seeing. The Big Red One may not be the best WWII movie ever made, but it's certainly one of the truest. (Bradley Steinbacher) Hollywood Theatre

Blade: Trinity
A mixed bag, combining the worst parts of the first Blade (asinine plot, lame villains) with the best of the second (slick visuals, funny one-liners, and awesome action sequences that are basically really violent music videos). If those simple pleasures ain't your bag, then don't even bother going--but if they are, Blade: Trinity proves appropriately capable of kicking some ass. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Charade
That crazy bastard Cary Grant meets up with some suspense and the smokin' Audrey Hepburn in Paris. Pix Patisserie

Children of Heaven
Like The White Balloon from a couple years back, Children of Heaven is a children's film, and the plot is deceptively simple. A boy loses his sister's shoes, and instead of telling their poverty-stricken parents, they share his shoes until he can find a way to make amends. Eventually, he joins a race where the third place prize is a pair of shoes, but coming in third ain't so easy. Through this sweet story, we get a glimpse of how people live through poverty, as well as the picturesque alleys that weave through Tehran. (Andy Spletzer) PSU Smith Memorial Union

Christmas with the Kranks
Tim Allen's career is starting to revolve solely around making family friendly Christmas movies. This year's offering, Christmas with the Kranks, has a nuclear family (Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) deciding that since their daughter will be serving in the Peace Corps this year, they'll skip Christmas and take a cruise. (Apparently, for the Wal-Mart/Oprah crowd, this is a shocking, gasp-inducing decision.) But predictably enough, their daughter (Julie Gonzalo) decides to return at the last minute with her new fiancé, causing the Kranks to tailspin into creating a Christmas miracle. If you're swamped with a suicide-inducing list of stuff to do for the holidays, chances are you're already busy as hell. Save some time and pain by not paying eight dollars to watch yet another crappy Tim Allen Christmas movie. (Lance Chess) Regal Cinemas, etc.

The Clash Double Feature
Hey, you look like you like the Clash. Well, tonight's yer night--two Clash-centric movies (Rude Boy and Westway to the World) will lead up to a performance from The Portland SS, who'll be doing an entire set of Clash songs. Sabala's Mt Tabor Theatre

* Closer
Everything in Closer revolves around four characters (Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, and Clive Owen) and their well- and ill-intentioned romantic and sexual experiences with each other; the film treats the oft-idealized concepts of love and romance as undeniably beautiful things that are just as undeniably filled with duplicity, anger, confusion, and pain. Closer's incestuously twisting, darkly fascinating narrative is rooted in the psychosexual drives of its characters, and it's all topped off with enough sadistic mindfucks and inevitable despair to satisfy even the staunchest emotional masochist. One of the best pictures of the year--and a film that powerfully proves that the most complex, accurate, and emotionally wrenching stories writhe beneath the surfaces of the simplest narratives. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Darkness
Not screened for critics, this film's press release insists that it's "a chilling tale of mounting psychological and supernatural terror" that follows a family as they move into a house that gets all evil when the sun goes down. Man, I hope there's not a solar eclipse! Oh, shit... there's one now! Regal Cinemas, etc.

* Die Hard
Bruce Willis battles some goddamn German terrorists in a high rise, and sustains considerable injury to his soft, fleshy feet. This, the BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE EVER, also contains the BEST MOVIE QUOTE EVER ("Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!"). Shit yeah. See My, What A Busy Week! page 15. Clinton Street Theater

* Duck Soup
If you're one of those poor bastards who embarrasses yourself by insisting that the Marx Brothers are funnier than the Three Stooges, here's your chance to get all hoity-toity. All that said, it's still a damn funny movie... it's just no Three Stooges, is all. (Plus! Admission is free if you bring a non-perishable food item!) Cinema 21

* Elf
It's no secret that Will Ferrell is one funny mofo, and yet to this point in time his movie roles have been limited to comic relief. 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. (Justin Sanders) Kennedy School

* End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
Unlike most of their musical peers who had the good sense just to burn out, the Ramones spent about 20 years at a slow fade. Thus, the task of summarizing their pocketed brilliance with the reverence they so rightly deserve is, at best, a difficult one. Evenly tracing the feats and pratfalls of the band's entire career with admirable honesty, End of the Century relies upon narrowly captured insights of the original foursome--miraculously filmed just prior to the untimely domino deaths of Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny over the last four years. (Zac Pennington) Laurelhurst

Fat Albert See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.

Finding Neverland
A pretty decent "dramatic reimagining" of how James Barrie (Johnny Depp) came up with Peter Pan. It's not bad at what it attempts--indeed, at times it's damn near skillful and clever in its technique and imagination--it's just that its heavy-handed attempts to be Oscar worthy are so transparent that they prevent the film from ever becoming an entity in and of itself. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Flight of the Phoenix
Pilot Frank Towns (Dennis Quaid) crashes a gang of laid-off oil workers in the middle of the Gobi Desert, where depression and Lord of the Flies-style social jockeying inevitably set in. Luckily, one of the passengers is an airplane designer (YAY!) who has a plan to rebuild the broken craft and get them all home to their loving families. Can this disparate group of outsiders learn to work together and make their former plane rise from the desert sands like the mythical Egyptian bird from whence it takes his name? If you can't figure out the answer, then I have another question for you: Are you retarded? (Also featuring Sticky Fingaz--what, was Ghostface Killa busy?) (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Fly Away Home
A young girl (Anna Paquin) adopts a shit-ton of geese and has to teach 'em to fly. (And she probably wants to fly away too, since her dad's played by Jeff Daniels.) PSU Smith Memorial Union

The House of Flying Daggers
Daggers follows two deputies (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau) who aim to track down the subversive House of Flying Daggers via a blind dancer (Ziyi Zhang). Films of the wuxia genre are unabashedly histrionic, but this one feels even more so; the plot's punches growing weaker and weaker as the filmmakers pull out big emotional stops with exhausting, insecure regularity. But the action-savvy cast is fully utilized in Zhang's breathtaking action sequences, and for all of its greater hopes and attempts, Flying Daggers ends up being best at what it seems most self-conscious about being--a slam-bang kung fu movie. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10

* I Y Huckabees
Jason "That Kid From Rushmore" Schwartzman plays Albert Markovski, a hipster/hippie whose experience with strange coincidences inspires him to hire two "existential detectives" (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin). A lackadaisically twisting, psuedo-intellectual examination of any and all pop philosophic concepts follows, as enacted through a veritable all-star cast. (Erik Henriksen) Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, Valley Theater

Incident at Loch Ness
A mock documentary about the making of a fictional documentary gone awry. The film is cleverly constructed (though it's not nearly as quick and witty as it stuffily fancies itself to be), and after a long, uneventful start featuring mediocre Hollywood jokes and boring self-reflexive exercises, Incident eventually evolves into something engaging. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood Theatre

Into the West
Jesus this sounds horrible. Two kids get a magic horse, which they use to fly away from their hard-drinkin' dad (Gabriel Byrne). But Dad hooks up with Ellen Barkin to track 'em down. Ugh. PSU Smith Memorial Union

* IT (Independent Tuesdays)
Nocturnal's homemade film and video event. See My, What A Busy Week! page 15. Nocturnal

Kinsey

Liam Neeson's rendition of revolutionary sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is a scientist to the bone. Sexual desire, feels Kinsey, is just a biological impulse, and should be openly discussed and explored. As a professor in the 1930s, Kinsey makes waves with his explicit sexuality classes, and Kinsey convincingly argues that its subjects' unflinchingly technical attitude towards sex helped liberate the American people in a time of intense prudishness. Good point, but what's missing is any exploration of why Kinsey is the way he is. This is the way of the Hollywood biopic; leaping frantically from rock to rock along the surface of its chosen figure's life, but never stopping to dig down and see what's underneath. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10

* Lawrence of Arabia
David Lean's sweeping epic about a lone British soldier who helps the Arab Bedouins fight against the Turks during WWI. With Peter O'Toole and Sir Alec Guinness. NO PRISONERS! TAKE NO PRISONERS! Cinema 21

Leadfinger
Benson High School junior Sean Parker directs this action-comedy in which "Agent Jim Bob 00-No" faces off against "Oddblob" and "Leadfinger." Aww. High shool kids are adorable! Hollywood Theatre

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Based on the popular series of children's books, Lemony Snicket tells of three children who're orphaned when their rich parents are killed in a fire and are left in the highly incapable hands of their "uncle," Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who devises a myriad of ways to kill the children--but is ultimately thwarted by the kids' cunning. To adapt a series like this to the screen, everything has to be firing on all cylinders--and it simply isn't. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.

* The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.

Meet the Fockers See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.

* The Motorcycle Diaries
A duo of medical school friends (Rodrigo de la Serna and Gael Garcia Bernal) ride, push, and carry their motorcycle across Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Peru, generally achieving the kind of good times/bad times adventure balance that all great road trip stories thrive on. After traveling thousands of miles, it's made clear just who Bernal's playing: Ernesto Guevara. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10

National Treasure
Though even the most blockbuster-lovin' cinephile would agree that National Treasure has a deeply stupid plot--Nicholas Cage plays "Benjamin Franklin Gates," who's trying to find a wondrous treasure from a map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence--the screenwriters throw in enough pseudo-history to make it "buyable," if not believable. Plus, director Jon Turteltaub gives the affair a rollicking "Goonies for adults" vibe that forces you to put aside any annoying intellectual cynicism. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.

* Ocean's Twelve
Picking up from 2001's Ocean's Eleven, Twelve follows the same formula for success: round up Hollywood's biggest stars, dress them sharply and have them act charming, and round it off with the confident, cool, and stylish direction of one of Hollywood's best, Steven Soderbergh. Not only does the film serve as a welcome reminder that mainstream Hollywood still has something to offer, but it also offers some hope that one might not have to wait for another mega-cast/Soderbergh team-up for that faith to be repaid. Yeah, right. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Phantom of the Opera See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.

The Polar Express
Simply said, this is an animated movie about a train going to the North Pole for Christmas, with more Tom Hanks than you can shake a Bosom Buddy at. If that's your bag, then go see this sugary, sugary sugar plum. Otherwise, I'm sure Tiny Tim needs his crutch kicked out from under him, Ebenezer. (Lance Chess) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Scarlet Street
A bank clerk falls in love with a whore and robs to help keep up her lifestyle. Unfortunately, however, he eventually discovers she's in love with her pimp. Don't you hate it when that happens? Cafe Nola

Shoah
Just in time for Christmas, it's Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary about the Holocaust, utilizing interviews from survivors and Nazis alike! PSU Smith Memorial Union

Sideways

Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a would-be writer who accompanies his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a week-long trip through California's wine country for a final bachelor's hurrah before Jack's upcoming wedding. While the week begins idyllically enough, glaring character flaws are soon revealed--wine connoisseur Miles' pedantic ranting about pinot gris hardly conceals his deep dissatisfaction with life, and Jack is an immature man-child determined to get laid one last time before tying the knot. While Sideways is enjoyable, it's ultimately unsatisfying--we watch as Miles and Jack are stripped of all their illusions, but we never find out what they're replaced with. (Alison Hallett) Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Cinemas

* Spanglish
A slow-paced, meandering slice-of-life drama about a family in turmoil. Téa Leoni plays Deborah Clasky, a self-centered neurotic who recently lost her job, and with it, all sense of self worth. The gorgeous Paz Vega plays Flor, her housekeeper, who is for some reason hired to clean and drive the kids around even though Mom isn't working. Adam Sandler, as John Clasky, is a world famous chef who keeps the family in expensive clothes and Escalades, but finds little satisfaction for himself. The film follows the interactions of all these people; interactions that are complicated by the fact that Flor doesn't speak a lick of English, and the Clasky family seems unable to communicate no matter what language they're speaking. While the film really isn't all that profound, enjoyment can be found in its subtleties. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.

* Vera Drake
With women in a frenzy over the GOP's implied threat to yank our reproductive rights from under us, it's as good a time as any to revisit the wholesome, family value driven days of illegal abortions, yeah? Besides working as a maid, factory worker, and homemaker for her husband and two grown children in '50s London, the beatifically portrayed Vera (Imelda Staunton) performs illegal abortions. When disaster strikes a teenaged patient and Vera gets pinched, the devastation she faces puts the finishing touches on the film's masterful, horrifying recreation. (Marjorie Skinner) Laurelhurst

A Very Long Engagement
Directed by Amélie's Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Amélie's Audrey Tautou, which is pretty much all you need to know. Mathilde (Tautou) and Manech (Gaspard Ulliel) are those involved in the titular engagement, but when Manech goes missing in WWI, Mathilde won't shut up about how he's still alive, even as all her stereotypically quirky supporting players try to talk some sense into her. It's here where Engagement promises a bit more than it delivers--as Mathilde goes all Columbo to investigate Manech's fate, Jeunet opens up the plot to focus on other WWI soldiers and their tangentially related characters and travails during the war--almost all of which are more interesting than Mathilde's sweet but utterly predictable tale. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10

* White Christmas
Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney whoop it up for charity at a failing Vermont inn. Because, really, who cares about cancer research or injustice when you can bail out a small business? Hollywood Theatre

White Zombie
White Christmas is totally played, so check 1932's Bela Lugosi zombie flick instead! Blind Onion