THE MACHINIST He’s no Mary-Kate Olsen.
Stander
Dir. Hughes
Opens Fri Nov 19
Hollywood Theater

Stander dramatizes the true story of Andre Stander, who might just be the coolest guy who ever lived. A member of the Johannesburg Police Force, decided one day to become a bank robber; he then hit a rash of banks while he was working for the police--sometimes even on his lunch break. Quickly imprisoned, he escaped with a gang of likeminded thieves, and the Stander Gang soon started making even more unsolicited withdrawals from banks. In the process, Stander became a quasi-Robin Hood figure and made Johannesburg's apartheid-lovin' officials look like incompetent jackasses. The film isn't quite as cool as all that, but it comes close. It has some initial trouble finding its footing--it can't decide if it wants to be a serious drama about the evils of apartheid or an enjoyable bank robber flick with a kickass soundtrack--but once it decides on being the latter, Stander's a lot of fun, buoyed by Thomas Jane's slightly sinister performance (he's given far more freedom here than when playing The Punisher, and his unique blend of charm and menace works perfectly). Plus, you'll leave the theater with a sugar rush-y sort of feeling, entertaining the notion that perhaps you too should start holding up banks on your lunch break. And that's always a nice feeling to have. ERIK HENRIKSEN

The Machinist
Dir. Anderson Opens Fri Nov 19
Cinema 21

I'm no good with proportions, so when I heard that Christian Bale starved himself down to 120 pounds for his role as the titular character in The Machinist, it didn't sound that bad. It is, however, horrifying to see. His performance--including the reckless sacrifice of his health--is by far the film's most striking aspect. Bale plays Trevor, a factory machine worker with extreme insomnia--his claim of not having slept at all in a year requires a little suspension of disbelief, but whatever. He pads through a fairly miserable existence consisting of work, bleaching things, hanging out in an airport café, leaving himself notes, and screwing Jennifer Jason Leigh, shockingly cast as a hooker. All is shot in dim, bluish light that's unflattering and bleak, matching the vague misery of Trevor's life.

Things get weirder when a new guy shows up at work, and Trevor causes an accident in which his coworker loses an arm. From there, the film plunges into delirium, as Trevor grapples with a deteriorating mental state and the mysterious and ominous clues that have begun to show up in his life. A psychological thriller in the vein of Memento or Fight Club, it suffers at the hands of its predecessors, sucking all the ingenuity out of what now seems like an old trick. MARJORIE SKINNER

Dreams + Desire: The Films of Wong Kar-Wai
Dir. Kar-Wai
Nov 19-Dec 19
Guild Theatre and Whitsell Auditorium

In terms of little-known influences on American film, it'd be hard to think of a more qualified candidate than Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai. If you look closely, he's everywhere--he got a shout out from Sofia Coppola when she accepted her Lost In Translation Oscar, and had his Chungking Express released by Quentin Tarantino's video imprint, Rolling Thunder Pictures. But he's also nowhere, or might as well be; chances are you've ignored his stuff as you walk past the dust-gathering "Foreign" shelf at Blockbuster. Treading the line between euphoric, emotion-driven entertainment and postmodern, nonlinear storytelling, Kar-Wai has a way of limning the utterly ordinary with a surreal and emotive feel that makes most of his films astounding (paired with Hero cinematographer Christopher Doyle, his films are often as much of a visual treat as an emotional one). Thanks to the Northwest Film Center, Kar-Wai's finally getting some local play, starting with his best-known film, Chungking Express (see Film Shorts, page 52), which kicks things off this week. The next month will see Kar-Wai's take on the crime film As Tears Go By, the existential Fallen Angels, the artsy martial artistry of Ashes of Time, as well as Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, and Days of Being Wild. It's perfectly understandable if up until now you've been blissfully ignorant of Kar-Wai's genius--but as of now, you no longer have an excuse. ERIK HENRIKSEN