ZATHURA “I am NOT falling for that ‘there’s an astronaut behind you!’ line again, asshole!”

Paradise Now
dir. Abu-Assad
Opens Fri Nov 11
Fox Tower

Paradise Now's mere premise—the story of two Palestinian men who have been selected for a suicide-bombing mission—raises both expectations and eyebrows by taking on an incredibly tense, controversial subject from a frightening perspective. The film is worth seeing for its apparently realistic portrayal of who suicide bombers actually are—in this case, average-seeming young men who work at a mechanic shop, and aren't religiously possessed so much as they harbor a secular, political grudge against their Israeli occupiers.

Despite its merits, Paradise Now shockingly manages to keep the tension of its story subdued. What should be an intense thriller is permeated by a sense of calm. It's frustrating, since it almost feels like a burglary of passionate film watching, but it does add to the eeriness of the experience. The film also doesn't make a clear impression of the motivations involved, and the bombers' moments of wishy-washiness are more credible than the idea that normal dudes without extraordinary conviction would be selected for such a mission. Nonetheless, the film is thought provoking and relevant, and for those reasons alone it's imminently worthwhile. MARJORIE SKINNER

Winter Soldier
Opens Fri Nov 11
Cinema 21

Although it is probably the most staid and somber film ever produced about the Vietnam War, Winter Soldier is also arguably the best. There are no tear-jerking buddy stories to drive the narrative arc, nor are there booming, Oliver-Stone-approved soundtracks. Instead, this is C-SPAN-style reporting—and its stark frankness delivers an emotional wallop.

Winter Soldier does little more than catalogue a 1971 press conference in which a group of disillusioned US soldiers (including John Kerry, who makes a brief cameo), sat down in Detroit and explained the atrocities they witnessed, from killing innocent children to gutting prisoners, and pushing gagged-and-bound civilians from helicopters.

This was just several months after the My Lai massacre, when officers and soldiers set a Vietnamese village ablaze, killing dozens of civilians. At the time (with obvious parallels to Donald Rumsfeld's current denials), the army's top brass insisted that My Lai was an isolated incident. The former soldiers hoped that their testimony would prove that the atrocities were actually widespread, and would help put an end to those practices.

Winter Soldier is not a flashy film, but its footage is as utterly engrossing as it is horrific. First released in 1972 to little fanfare, the film is finally receiving its much-deserved national distribution—and hopefully now will serve the purpose that it first set out to accomplish. PHIL BUSSE

Zathura
dir. Favreau
Opens Fri Nov 11
Various Theaters

It all started because my big brother was being a dick and locked me in the basement. While I was down there I found this awesome game about rocket ships and shit and so I took it upstairs to play it. I mean, I'm eight, I like that sorta shit. Anyways, all of a sudden—BOOM! POW! These meteors started falling outta the sky and totally fucked up our house! Then my brother and I looked out the window and we were totally FLOATING IN SPACE! We ran upstairs to find our stupid big sister and of course the little bitch didn't give a shit about the fact that our entire house was FLOATING IN SPACE! So my brother and I went and played the game some more and my brother took his turn and a giant robot started chasing him with hands made of saws! He was running through the house hollering "EEEEEE!" like a dumb girl. It was pretty funny even though he coulda died. Then we kept spinning the numbers and kept getting cards with totally weird shit like "Shipmate Enters Cryonic Sleep Chamber," which totally froze our bitchy sister. Meanwhile the entire house was still FLOATING IN SPACE! But then we rescued this astronaut and he helped us, and then my sister totally fell in love with my brother and it was soooo gross. MEGAN SELING