* About a Boy
Directed by Paul and Chris Weitz (of American Pie infamy), this tale of male mid-life angst centers around Hugh Grant's Will, an idler of hilarious proportions whose life is measured out in increments of time spent performing important tasks such as shopping for high-end electronic gadgets and gourmet snacks, and going to the hair salon. Living off a fortune earned and perpetuated by his one-hit-wonder musician father, Will has no idea his life is meaningless until he meets a 12-year-old boy whose depressed mother (Toni Collette) forces Will to provide guidance, except that the kid is far more mature than his begrudging father figure. Will can't conceive that his life is unfulfilled, and whenever anyone tries to inform him of what's missing, he digs in his heels and fights to stay a bastard, making his inevitable transformation all the more authentic. (Kathleen Wilson )

* Amélie
With an amazing turn away from the cynicism of Delicatessen, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet makes no bones about being sweet and charming. A quick-moving narrative about a shy, sexy, and dreamy Parisian who helps friends and strangers fulfill their fantasies while shying away from her own. Cute as a button. Really, you'll love it.

America, America
Elia Kazan's film based on his uncle, who was obsessed with leaving Greece for America, along with throngs of other Greeks and Armenians. The main character is intensely played, willing to do anything to achieve his goal of immigrating.

Bad Company
At the end of the 20th Century, meteorites obsessed our cinematic nightmares (see Deep Impact, Armageddon). At the start of the 21st Century, these "extinction level" meteorites have been replaced by nuclear bombs. But the nukes that spook our age are not the organized arsenal of the Cold War (Dr. Strangelove to War Games), but small, user-friendly gadgets that can fit comfortably into a laptop case. Also, these nuclear bombs are not managed by big governments, but bought and sold on the open market, like used cars. This is the interesting part of Bad Company: it magnifies the most popular nightmare of the day. Outside of that, the film offers nothing but deep boredom. (Charles Mudede)

* Best of the NW Film & Video Fest
The Northwest Film Center picks the best of the best of short flicks from the film and video festival. Expect 12 short works that run the gamut from the experimental to the animated, including Autographhss.com.

* Bicycle Drive-In
Ride up on your bike and watch the campy Robot Monster in 3-D (bring your own glasses if possible), for an absolutely minimal fee... free. Also screening are Sleazy Rider, You Killed Me First, a 16mm grab bag, and Rainy Day.

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. He does that in the first ten minutes of the movie so, the real plot is that there is a maniacal, vampire-eating monster on the loose, whose mandible comes apart to expose a tongue that resembles a large piece of fried calamari. The tongue carries a virus that turns vampires into vampire eating monsters, which look like a cross between Nosferatu and Batboy from the Weekly World News. (Julianne Shepherd)

* Business of Fancy Dancing
I once saw Sherman Alexie speak, and he was awesome. He was speaking at the extremely well-endowed, smarty-pants college that I went to, and he caused havoc by basically giving a stand-up comedy show rather than a big, academic talk like we expected. He also illuminated a subject which I, even having grown up in the Northwest very close to a lot of Indian reservations, didn't know a lot about. He made fun of people, he was defensive, and he made us laugh. This movie, written and directed by Sherman Alexie, evoked a similar reaction to seeing him. It's funny, provocative, and educational. It's the story of Seymour Polaktin, an Indian who's left the res., who's written a lot of poetry about life on the res. He has to return home in order to attend the funeral of a good friend, and, in doing so, face the people who he's exploited. He's also gay. It touches on a lot of issues that deal with contemporary Native Americans, but isn't lost in preserving and reliving something that's really old. (Katia Dunn)

Changing Lanes
Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck are involved in a fender-bender rendering Jackson immobile. Affleck speeds off, unknowingly leaving behind an extremely important document; a bitter Jackson misses an important custody hearing, and a grand old feud is born. So Affleck, from atop New York's twin-towers-less skyline, attacks Jackson's financial credibility, while down on the streets below Jackson prepares an old-fashioned smackdown. Who wins? You won't care. It has to be noted that there's a declining marginal utility to disaster in the movies; way too many things just happen to go wrong in this film, and it wears upon its feasibility. (Kudzai Mudede)

* Chaos
Although this is being shown as part of the Clinton Street's summer series of New Japanese Horror films, it's really more of a dark and twisty thriller than an out-and-out frightfest. Still, that doesn't mean you should miss it. Director Hideo Nakata ("Ring") starts us off with what seems like a simple storyline, in which a wealthy businessman's wife is abducted for ransom. Before too long, the movie jumps back in time to show the wife and the kidnapper apparently concocting a fakery in order to split the ransom between themselves. But then... well, suffice it to say that almost nothing turns out to be what it seemed, and Nakata expertly shifts the film around timewise, creating just enough confusion to keep you on your toes. Don't let your blabbermouthed pals ruin this one; see it before the inevitable American remake ruins everything. (Marc Mohan)

* Cinema Paradise
If Fellini were to have directed Disney movies, we would have had this decades earlier. Director Giuseppe Tomatore spins his own cleaned up and emotionally skin-deep autobiography about life in post-WW II Italy. An endearing young boy constantly bothers a dottering old movie house projectionist until the elderly man relents and shows the young imp the trick of the trade.

Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
It's like Steel Magnolias, except with Sandra Bullock. See review this issue.

* Dogtown and Z Boys
A documentary on surfers turned skateboarders who started the boarding craze and meanwhile got famous. A tad self-referential, but still worth seeing for the life threatening guerilla surfing and skating and the boys divergent reactions to fame. (Katie Shimer)

A bunch of British math geniuses whose sole purpose was to crack German code spent the war sitting in a London mansion (Bletchley Park) and deciphering Shark, the most sophisticated type of cipher, sent from U boats. Rife with intrigue, Bletchley Park is the natural setting for the film Enigma. Dougray Scott plays Tom Jericho, the man who cracked Shark and subsequently had a nervous breakdown. Of course, his nervous breakdown isn't due to the pressure of having to save thousands of lives just by stringing numbers together--no, Jericho has a nervous breakdown because he got dumped by the woman he loved. (Julianne Shepherd)

J.LO is a waitress; poor, beautiful, but still tough. She doesn't take any crap from any customers. That is, not until she meets the rich and charming Mitch (Bill Campbell), who whisks her off her feet, buys her an enormous house, and immediately impregnates her. Shortly after, he begins sleeping with other women. Then he starts beating J.LO up. But will J.LO stand for this? Of course not. After flying to Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco, moving her daughter around to different schools, and dodging Mitch and his powerful friends, J.LO decides that she's had enough (get it?). She begins training in martial arts, and learns how to beat Mitch up herself. Because this movie is made strictly for the J.LO lover, the writer and director scrap any notion of building suspense or a surprise ending, and simply give us shot after blissful shot of J.LO. The sequence of scenes in which she is training are beautiful (plenty of spandexed booty), and the ending fight scene is awesome. In short, for the J.LO lover, this movie is better than her last few. For the non-J.LO lover, don't bother. You'll hate it.

For A Few Dollars More
Two bounty hunters use starkly different tactics in hunting down a Western outlaw. Perhaps their motivations are different as well. Filmed in 1965, starring Clint Eastwood.

Ice Age
Ice Age takes over where films like Shrek and Monsters Inc. left off last year. Pleasant and funny, it is littered with enough sophisticated jokes to entertain the adults, but is really nothing more than a fast-paced, shimmering toy for kids. Which is just the way it should be.

The Importance of Being Earnest

Rupert Everett looks terrible--his face appears to be sliding off his skull, and he's as neckless as a football player. And he should simply stop playing straight men, because he's the most unconvincing lover this side of Passions. Southerner Reese Witherspoon is far too California-girl to play an English lass, with her "I studied with the same voice coach as Gwyneth" accent. Even these quibbles aside, this new adaptation is revolting, with Everett and Colin Firth (who plays Jack Worthing as a kind of stuttering Hugh Grant-type) swallowing all of Oscar Wilde's best lines. You lose everything by method-acting Wilde; his charm lies in all the stagy absurdity of drawing-room social intercourse. Thank God for Judi Dench, steamrolling her way through a terrible situation. (Emily Hall)

* In the Mood for Love
Tired of Meg Ryan damsel-in-distress love stories? Directed by Wong Kar-wai (Fallen Angels), an achingly beautiful film about two neighbors in 1960s Hong Kong whose spouses are having affairs with each other. Like cinematic Kama Sutra, the scenes unfold slowly but with mesmerizing charm. In spite of their smoldering lust for each other, the two jilted spouses try to refrain from falling into the same trap of lust and betrayal as their other halves. In one simultaneously yin-funny and painful-yang scene, the two act out scenarios in which they imagine their own spouses carrying on with their affair and mocking them behind their backs. (Phil Busse)

* Insomnia
Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a hotshot homicide cop from L.A. who travels to a small town in Alaska to help solve the brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl. However, as it turns out, the real reason for his arrival is to escape a murky internal investigation back in Los Angeles. When Dormer's partner is accidentally killed while chasing after the murderer, Dormer is then drawn into an unholy alliance with the suspect (Robin Williams), who has developed a convincing scheme that will make both of their problems go away. Insomnia plays like a pot-boiling page-turner you can't put down, and this is largely due to the talents of director Christopher Nolan (Memento). When Dormer's character develops insomnia (due to Alaska's perpetual daylight, as well as his own guilt), Nolan uses the surrealistic side effects of the condition to fuel the cinematography; the atmosphere is constantly charged with the feeling of claustrophobia and dread. Meanwhile, the script wisely reveals its many secrets slowly, keeping the audience on seat's edge while pulling them easily from scene to scene. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)

* 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)

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
This digital claymation for the under-10 set concerns a young man who likes to invent things like rocket-powered toothbrushes and what not, but whom everyone thinks is a dork. Until the aliens invade, that is. Then, come the wet-ass hour, he's everybody's fucking daddy. Well fuck you, world! FUCK YOU!

* 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 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 a while, 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)

* Little Otik
With children and pregnant ladies all around, Karel and Bozenka Horak desperately want a baby of their own, but alas! They are both utterly barren. Their collective infertility drives them temporarily insane, which manifests itself when Mr. Horak digs a tree stump from the ground and carves it into the shape of a baby. They begin treating the tree as if it is a child, dressing it up in swaddling clothes, breast-feeding it, and pushing it around in a pram. They even manage to fool their neighbors into thinking the baby is real, at least until people in their apartment building start to disappear. (Julianne Shepherd)

* 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. In a way, it's like playing the Final Fantasy VII role-playing game, only you probably already know the story and you don't have any controllers. And Sean Astin is in it. Aside from the early-on, too-fast editing that slows down as the movie unfolds, there's only one really cheesy part, graphics-wise. You are now an adventure dork. Make plans to see it twice. (Julianne Shepherd)

Made in Japan
Japanese businessmen are abroad in an imaginary Southeast Asian country. The viewer gets insight on how Japanese men view themselves, and into their stereotypes of third world countries. Chock full of cartoonish violence, yay.

* 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)

Murder By Numbers
Sandra Bullock plays her usual cheesecake self. She becomes a cop after being a victim of domestic violence. Luckily, Michael Pitt saves this bad acting fest by playing a pretty convincing teenage killer.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
A frumpy diamond in the rough (Nia Vardalos) goes against the wishes of her lovingly oppressive family and falls for a hunky WASP (John Corbett, coasting on his Sex & The City vibe) in this intermittently amusing Grecian yarn. The refreshingly unconventional Vardalos adapted from her one-woman play, and the best material springs from her sporadic narration, goofing gently on such eccentricities as her dad's Windex fetish and the many permutations of cousins named Nick. Unfortunately, her presence and a sharp supporting cast (including the ever-prickly Andrea Martin) can't wholly mitigate the myriad of memorexed gags, well-trod life lessons, and director Joel Zwick's flat, sitcomish presentation. There's precious little here that hasn't been seen a gazillion times before, but Vardalos' earthy charisma and a few stray bits of off-kilter wit make for an amiable saunter into the matrimonial breech. N'Syncher Joey Fatone cameos as a bearded guy. (Andrew Wright)

The New Guy
Why is the obnoxious-dweeb-turned-obnoxious-chick-magnet plot still selling? Why, in this advanced age, are people still laughing at fat jokes and transvestites and dwarves getting beaten up? Why did the guy in the front row howl like he was giving birth for the entire duration of this movie? Also, why would a beautiful 21-year-old actress with a decent résumé willfully dress up like some big-booty ho outta Lynnwood and perform a raunchy striptease on camera? Without a shred of irony? Why is this POS all-but-guaranteed to make millions at the box office, despite the fact that its only asset is the scene where a teenage nymphet addresses Vanilla Ice as "Pukeface?" Why do people pay money for this shit? (Meg Van Huygen)

* Notorious
Cary Grant badly wants to bed Ingrid Bergman, but he's too much a company man to break policy (that's CIA company-man, to you). Bergman is the hottie spy that Grant is supposed to be keeping tabs on; but, as part of her assignment, she's sleeping with a Nazi! Yeepers! Will Grant and Bergman get their freak on in this 1946 Hitckcock thriller? See review this issue.

Open Mike
This is a documentary/drama about Portland's very own local open mic scene, and involves local rock stars Jimmy Boyer, Billy Kennedy, and the Trailer Park Honeys. The drama part is based on a fictional character named Michael, who is trying to commit to a life of music and instead, ends up wrecking a relationship. "Will art fill the void?" asks the movie of itself. See for yourself.

Pan Tadeusz
This film is set in the year 1830, and it's based on the book by the same name by Adam Mickiewicz. The story is set in Soblicowo, and it's about the ways in which Polish nobility live; happily, but always waiting for Napoleon to save and free them. The screening will be preceded by a performance of 18th Century traditional dances by Sobotka, Portland's only Polish folk dance troupe

* Polyester Prince Road Show 2002
Formerly the Super Super 8 Tour... this festival includes silent films scored by local bands; experimental shorts from around the world (featured countries include Japan, Albania, and Germany); experimental American shorts; and hey, bingo and prizes. A little of everything.

* Princesa
A transsexual realistically portrayed by an actual transsexual... not Patrick Swayze. See review this issue.

* Rain
New Zealand directors seem to have excellent relationships with their cinematographers. Their movies are beautiful to look at. The drawback is that sometimes it seems more energy was put into the image than the plot. Such is the case with Christine Jeffs' Rain, a darn good-lookin' film that captures the feel of summer in 1970s New Zealand. The story is about a transitional time in an adolescent girl's life when her alcoholic mother starts drifting away from her father, with the implication that she may eventually follow in her footsteps, but the reason to see it is to let the images wash over you. (Andy Spletzer)

Rocky Horror Picture Show
Jesus Christ, can you just shut up? I'm trying to watch a fucking movie here! This is not the Life of Brian, people.

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. Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson are amazing, the story is depressing with moments of hilarity, and the pace of the film is similar to Rushmore--slow moving, but worth every minute. (Katie Shimer)

Space Station
Can't afford the million-dollar price tag to ride the Russian's MIR Space Station? Finally, IMAX used for worthwhile purposes: Feel like you're floating in outer space! An IMAX documentary about the in-orbit assembly of the International Space Station. See rocket launches, pans of the universe, and zero-gravity astronaut shower scenes in 3-D (nothing sags in zero-gravity!). Narrated by (not gay) Tom Cruise. Replete with retro-pop soundtrack and goofy astronaut jokes. (Anna Simon)

* Spider-Man
Though Spider-Man boasts tons of computer-generated action, in actuality, this is a teen romance about dealing with adult feelings and responsibilities. And while I generally despise Kirsten Dunst, the sparks literally fly off the screen whenever she and Tobey are together. Sure, this flick has all the trappings of a kid's comic: sappy dialogue, over-the-top action, and a scenery chewing performance by Dafoe--but it's fun, it's innocent, and it works. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
This is a cartoon about horses, which means that, like many animated features, there seems to be a perverted undercurrent just below the surface. This one's is manifested in the scary horsey-speak neighing sounds the protagonists make when speaking to each other. The first scene, in which the title stallion is born, is particularly rife with scary, provocative horsey noises. It goes on like this, following a traditional mythological cycle of events, but there is one special added dose of amusement: The soundtrack is all Bryan Adams all the time, who makes no attempt to conform to the historical setting of the film--the Wild West--and proceeds with his usual soft-rocking dramatics. You don't need to see this if you don't have kids. (Marjorie Skinner)

Star Wars: Episode II
Anakin Skywalker (Future Darth Vader and present Jedi-in-training) and teacher Obi-Wan are embroiled in a Blade Runner-style mystery to find out who's trying to snuff the Nabooian princess, Padmè Amidala. When Obi-Wan flies off to investigate, Anakin starts showing off his boner to Padmè in an effort to kindle the romance hinted at in Episode I. While the hot and horny teens are mooning over each other, Obi-Wan discovers a political conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the Republic--that's where the army of clones comes in. And while there are the occasional fun moments in this film, the problem comes down to a lack of interesting characters (i.e. Luke, Han, Chewbacca). But as it stands now, Lucas' script has all the emotional underpinning of a Dick & Jane primer, and doesn't have a prayer of being rescued by Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, Natalie Portman, and especially that wholly untalented hunk-of-beef Hayden Christensen (Anakin). As usual, Lucas has built a glorious façade of a mansion--but there's no way I'd wanna live in it. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)

Student Film Screening
Mount Hood students show completed and rough cuts of their films.

The Sum of all Fears
Despite all appearances, there are two good things about the new Tom Clancy movie with Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan. One is a bold plot twist that comes so suddenly that it reconfigures the whole experience in an instant, and almost tricks you into thinking the film is better than it is. The other good thing, almost a great thing, is the casting of Liev Scrheiber in the role of John Clark, CIA spook, and all-around spy genius. Clark is the grease in the gears, the genius-hero who speaks a dozen languages and can garrote a guard while hacking into a mainframe without ever being seen or heard. Schreiber came to Seattle to discuss his role, saying that his research revealed that most CIA guys are language students who get rooked into service, but whose real ambitions lie behind desks. Asked how he felt about representing this big Hollywood action picture to the press, Schreiber said, "Well, I like it. I think they did a good job. But I have to confess that the real reason has more to do with my belief that the real story lies with Clark. I think there's a lot more to that character that could-and might-be explored in a sequel. So, yes... I may have ulterior motives." (Sean Nelson)

Undercover Brother
The subtle comic stylings of Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie are brought to bear on a genre that's already a self-parody: that of the blaxploitation spy film. Denise Richards is fucking repugnant.

A spry suburban housewife falls for the erotic charge of a sexy young Frenchman, neglecting her responsibilities as a wife and mother. Richard Gere plays the annoyingly fawning husband, who immediately notices the change in his wife and hires a private investigator. His discoveries result in tragedy... which also results in a previously fun and sexy film taking a tragic Hollywood nosedive. Why so much morality I ask, why not more hot screwing? (Katie Shimer)

* Y Tu Mamá También
As two Mexican teenagers frantically fuck, the boy, Tenoch (Diego Luna), pleads/demands that the girl not screw any Italians on her impending European trip with her best friend. Meanwhile, that best friend is having rushed pre-departure sex with her boyfriend, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), who is also Tenoch's best friend. When the girls have left, we settle down to watch these two boys spend an aimless summer. Everything gets thrown sideways when they meet a sexy older woman (that is to say, in her 20s) named Luisa. Y Tu Mamà También is a brilliant, incisive core sampling of life in Mexico. It's both slender and profound; the movie's greatest pleasures are often its smallest ones--even the title comes from a tossed--off bit of banter. Any individual moment could be trivial, silly, pointless, even embarrassing--but the accumulation of moments has a devastating scope. (Bret Fetzer)