* 21 Grams
In Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 21 Grams, the story is told in a series of fragments. Flashing forward and back, the audience is given glimpses of its three main characters; Paul (Sean Penn) is on the cusp of death, waiting for his heart condition to finally claim him. Cristina (Naomi Watts) is a suburban wife with two children and a doting husband--who is soon to be scarred by an accident of epic proportions. Jack (Benicio del Toro) is an ex-jailbird turned fundamentalist Christian who can't escape the tragedies of his past which, like the repeated scenes of this film, keep returning as his future. The previously mentioned accident binds these three into an unwanted triad, sending each on a skidding path with their pasts, and sealing what seems to be a predestined fate. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Fox Tower 10

* Along Came Polly
Reuben (Ben Stiller) is an insurance risk assessor so caught up in his knowledge about the dangers that lurk in the world, he can't appreciate the thrills of life. Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston), is a flaky bohemian, who challenges his fail-safe world by taking him out for spicy food, salsa dancing, and other acts of spontaneity. All told, the story is about as intellectually challenging as an episode of Friends, but Along Came Polly is nothing more than it pretends to be: a simple, charming, and silly love story complete with Charlie Chaplin slapstick and laughable one-liners. (Phil Busse) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Bamako is a Miracle
The kora is a west African harp-like instrument. Tourmani Diabate from Mali is the king of the kora. What happens when a music producer comes to make a pop star out of Diabate? A clash of cultures, of course, but also a wonderful documentary about the genesis of music. Guild Theater

The Big Bounce See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.

* Big Fish
While director Tim Burton may have been pooh-poohed in the past for placing cinematic glitz over story-telling ability, with Big Fish he finally brings them together in glorious harmony. Switching back and forth between reality and tall tales, Burton weaves a truly poignant story about the complicated ties between fathers and sons, and how severing those ties can eventually strengthen them. The cast is uniformly terrific, with an absolutely amazing performance by Albert Finney. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Book of Mormon: The Journey
A mormon film oafishly detailing the events that take place in The Book of Mormon. Clackamas Town Ctr., Westgate

Bubba Ho-tep
Bubba Ho-Tep has an ingenious premise: Elvis (Bruce Campbell)--who didn't die, but instead swapped places with an Elvis impersonator--is stuck in a dilapidated rest home, spending his days desperately trying to convince nurses and visitors that he's The King. Unfortunately, the only person who'll believe Elvis' claims is another rest home resident: JFK (Ossie Davis), who insists that he survived his assassination, was dyed black, then stuck in the retirement home thanks to a Lyndon Johnson-led conspiracy. Elvis and JFK soon notice their geriatric compatriots are dying off even more often than usual. After some investigation, they discover that the culprit is an evil, soul-sucking mummy, Bubba Ho-Tep. So, as only two American mega-icons can, the two combine forces to kick some undead Egyptian ass. (Erik Henriksen) Laurelhurst

The Butterfly Effect
Dude, where's my chaos theory? The latest feature-length advertisement for Ashton Kutcher's bone structure, this film is so stultifyingly poor on every level that unless you're (a) 12 years old, (b) a sadly desperate gay man/straight woman with a thing for hunky morons, or (c) 13 years old, you really have no business watching. (Sean Nelson)

* The Circle
Judging from this film, Iranian women are obsessed with smoking cigarettes. Then again, according to The Circle, they've got reason to crave a taste of stress-reducing, unfiltered tobacco, a pleasure which, like so many, is denied them by their government and culture. The third feature from director Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, The Mirror), The Circle opens with the pained sounds of childbirth over a dark screen, followed by the first line of dialogue: "It's a girl." These three words can doom a person to second-class citizenry even in today's relatively moderate Iran, and Panahi demonstrates this with a series of connected vignettes. A couple of women on leave from prison for an unspecified crime try to arrange for travel from Teheran to an idyllic rural hometown, but they're not allowed to travel unaccompanied by men. Another ex-prisoner, this one an escapee, returns home only to face her family's wrath. Each woman's tale is connected to the others by a brief encounter, a la Max Ophuls' classic film La Ronde. But the cycle here is one of fear and injustice, not love. Panahi's film, banned from public screenings in Iran, is a potent indictment of a society that still has a long way to come. (Marc Mohan) PSU Smith Memorial Union Rm 225

The Company
Neve Campbell and the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago star in this dance-centric film about a young woman (Campbell) who is conflicted about becoming a principle dancer in her company. Fox Tower 10

The Cooler
The Cooler is a small, unremarkable film that's watchable due to one thing: sex. Specifically, a sex scene between William H. Macy and Maria Bello. Director Wayne Kramer has managed to give audiences something all too rare in films these days--a sexy scene that not only causes the audience to flush, but makes sense as well. The coitus in The Cooler is refreshing, fun, and the tangling of bodies helps elevate the entire endeavor above its somewhat middling quality. (Bradley Steinbacher) City Center 12, Fox Tower 10

The Decay of Fiction
The Ambassador Hotel in LA holds the ghosts of history. It is where Bobby Kennedy was shot. It is where countless movie stars and intrigue have flitted in and out. With images and snippets, director Pat O'Neill produces a montage of images and a film noir landscape to piece together a haunting detective story. Whitsell Auditorium

* 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. 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) Avalon, Edgefield, Kennedy School

* Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
Sam Raimi's horrific, funny sequel to the story of campers who get slaughtered on a trip into the wilderness. The group's only survivor returns to the campsite, and the madness continues.... Clinton Street Theater

* Fahrenheit 451
Presented in conjunction with the Multnomah County Library's "Everybody Reads" program, director Francois Truffaut adopts Ray Bradbury's sci-fi classic about a future world where books are burned and TV is king. Sound familiar? Why read the book when you can just watch the movie? Whitsell Auditorium

* The Fog of War
From World War II through the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara was everywhere and wrapped up in some of the most destructive aggressions by the U.S. military. It was his brainstorm to firebomb cities in Japan, so that bombs would not just destroy what they hit but would set fire to entire towns. Under his guidance, U.S. forces in Vietnam relentlessly dropped Napalm. (Oddly, also, in a foray into the private sector, under his direction, the Ford Corp. insisted on seatbelts and other safety measures that have saved countless lives!) Interspliced with historical footage, the interviews are simple and sober. They bring to the surface an old man who is less remorseful than he is in denial. The parallels with current political leaders are never touched on, but are nonetheless present. Directed by Errol Morris. Cinema 21

Girl with the Pearl Earring
See Review this Issue Fox Tower 10

* Girlhood
This documentary follows two girls who are incarcerated at a very young age, one for murder, the other for assault. The film chronicles their rehabilitation, relationships with their families (one girl's mother is a dope fiend), and daily life in the secured facility. Their stories are both sad and poignant, if a bit slow moving, but getting to know the two girls makes the running time worth it. (Katie Shimer) Hollywood Theatre

* Groundhog Day & Mad Dog and Glory
Celebrating the dog days of winter, Billy Murray plays a television reporter who relives the same day so many times he could puke; kind of sounds like your life, doesn't it? Afterwards is Mad Dog and Glory, starring Robert DeNiro, as a police photographer who helps out a crime boss (Murray) only to be paid back with a week's worth of companionship from Uma Thurman. XV, Laurelhurst (Groundhog Day Only)

* Head-to-Head Film Duel
The Know gets up and running again with this celebration of experimentation. Tony Gault, award winning short filmmaker shows some of his experimental documentaries, as does Roger Beebe. The Know

The House of Sand and Fog
When a recovering addict/slacker (Jennifer Connelly) temporarily loses her family's house on a technicality, a disgraced Iranian officer (Ben Kingsley) dives through the loophole and refuses to budge, resulting in mounting levels of righteous obsession for all concerned. (Andrew Wright) Hollywood Theatre

James' Journey To Jerusalem
An adorable yet weighty fairytale about James, a devout believer from a small African village, who is sent to Jerusalem on a religious pilgrimage. Once he arrives, his starry-eyed plans clash with reality, immigration laws, and indentured servitude. Whitsell Auditorium

* Monster
In an amazing feat, Charlize Theron not only manages to look like complete crap, she does a spectacular job of playing notorious serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Mimicking her telltale mannerisms perfectly, Theron plays the part with total believability. Her performance--and the smart direction of the film--evoke sympathy, anger, disgust, and an overwhelming emptiness. Granted, seeing a movie about a woman whose life went from child abuse to prostitution to rape to murder to betrayal by her lover to execution isn't a fun time; but it effectively makes you ponder the immense good and evil in humanity, and quite possibly, it will make you cry. (Katie Shimer) City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd 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, etc.

Nina Simone: Love Sorceress
An unfiltered and fawning look at concert footage from political soul singer, Nina Simone. Guild Theater

Oscar Aleman: A Swinging Life
The happy-go-lucky guitaring of Oscar Aleman brought the tango to life in 1920s Paris. However, the Nazis nearly silenced him, chasing Aleman to Argentina where he again stirred up a musical movement. Guild Theater

Instead of manifesting as a visionary, futuristic feature about a man's search for the missing pieces of his memory, director John Woo's Paycheck (based on a Philip K. Dick story of the same name) is an action flick impersonating a sci-fi film--a case of mistaken identity. Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, Kiggins Theater, Movies on TV

The Perfect Score See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.

* 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) Laurelhurst

* Prisoner of Paradise
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, the story of Kurt Gerron, a Jewish film star well-known and loved by the Germans in the 1920s. During World War II, he was sent to a concentration camp but escaped the worst horrors because of his reputation, sentenced instead to produce pro-Nazi propaganda films! Whitsell Auditorium

* The Revolution Will Not be Televised
Even if you're well versed in the events that occurred in Venezuela on April 12-13, 2002--the two-day failed coup d'etat against democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias--nothing will prepare you for the footage in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The Irish filmmakers, Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain, were allowed intimate access to the presidential palace before, during, and after the coup, yielding chilling footage, and a possibly unprecedented cinematic look into the political machinations of overthrow. (Julianne Shepherd) Laurelhurst

* Screaming Men
If rugby songs are considered high art, then these 50 men are nearly divine. Fifteen years ago, a motley group of men in remote Finland decided to overhaul the concept of a choir. Instead of singing, they shout--at the top of their lungs. Their favorite lyrics come straight from the Geneva Convention and other legal texts, "sung" in a catchy rhythm. It may not be the Backstreet Boys, but the choir has surged to the forefront of Europe's performing arts. Guild Theater

* The Sexy Chef
Ian and Tyson Smith, creators of the Oddjob comic series, bring their first feature length film, about a guy with a boring job who puts his last hope of happiness on a mysterious woman he sees smoking in an alley. He gathers a couple buddies together and the pack of them follow the woman across the country, finding perhaps not love, but good old misadventure. Hollywood Theatre

* Smokey and the Bandit
Burt Reynolds and Sally Field star in a film about an outlaw, a truck full of beer, a botched engagement, and an angry sheriff. Blind Onion

* 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. Hollywood Theatre

* Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion
Narrated by Martin Sheen, and made over a 10-year period, the purpose of Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion is to offer Western eyes clear documentation of the suffering that Tibetans have experienced under Chinese rule. The film is a work of propaganda by sympathetic Westerners who place Tibet completely on the side of the right, and China completely on the side of the wrong. According to their view, Tibetans just want to pray in peace, ring their bells, journey to their sky temples, kneel and mumble to incense, and find within the confines of their physical bodies the path to eternal wisdom. China, on the other hand, wants to enforce its foreign and worldly will on the "altar of the world." (Charles Mudede) Hollywood Theatre

* The Times of Harvey Milk
Shown as part of Phil Busse's "Me for Mayor" campaign. Harvey Milk is considered one of the most important (and probably least known) political figures of the 20th Century. The film about his life is equally and notably obscure. Elected to the Board of City Commissioners, Milk gave a voice to San Francisco's burgeoning gay population in the mid-'70s. When he was assassinated in 1978 by an ex-policeman, the event coalesced a lifestyle into a political movement. A spellbinding documentary weaves together testimonials and tells an intriguing tale about Milk's life, the birth of a political movement and even, yes, the changing American psyche. Stumptown Coffee Roasters

* The Triplets of Belleville
An animated French film that speaks nary an intelligible word throughout its entire 80-minute running time, Les Triplettes de Belleville's jaw-dropping artwork alone could have kept me riveted for hours. Physically exaggerated characterizations and dark, dank urban landscapes give the film a particularly strong noir sensibility, and in the void of spoken word, layered sound effects add to the ambience. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10

You Got Served
Known by urban dance movie obsessives as "the B2K movie," You Got Served stars Marques Houston and the entirety of now-defunct teen musical sensation B2K as a crew of dancers (slight bboyish, but mostly influenced by contemporary video choreography) who "get served" in a $5000 bet with some white punks (literally and figuratively) from Orange County. In the tradition of Bring it On the film presents themes of class and race as subtext for dancefloor battles. And yet, even with Lil' Kim as a guest star, and even for those possessing incredibly low standards for urban dance films (i.e., me), the trailer's not making it look so great. Plus, the studio didn't screen it before press time, which is usually a bad sign (they even press-screened Honey, for chrissakes). And yet, who could pass up the opportunity to see B2K on the big screen? Only a sucka. (Julianne Shepherd) Regal Cinemas, etc.