48 Hour Film Project
See My, What A Busy Week! Pg.21, Hollywood Theatre

Alien vs. Predator
Quite possibly the worst idea in the history of film: take two established and respected sci-fi/horror franchises and toss them in a blender, then let the utterly incompetent director of such classics as Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat randomly punch the "puree" and "dice" buttons. An insult to anyone who's stupid enough to see it, the only reason more Alien and Predator fans aren't more upset about Alien vs. Predator is because this piece of shit wasn't even made for them--instead of taking two R-rated franchises and making an actual horror action film, Fox decided to cash in with a PG-13 flick marketed to six-year-olds. I mean, if they're going to cram a half-assed plot and WWE-inspired action sequences down our throats, the least they could offer is some gore or cussin'. Instead, Alien vs. Predator feels more like The Care Bears vs. My Little Ponies. Oh, and there's a love story between one of the human protaganists and one of the Predators. I shit you not. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Benji: Off the Leash!
The following is excerpted from benji.com, and is part of an open letter to parents from the film's director, Joe Camp. Between lamenting the fact that all Hollywood family films are filled with "poop jokes," "gutter language," and "sexual innuendo," Camp notes that "So many times when we were trying to raise financing for the new Benji movie, I said 'God, what's the point?? We're talking to ourselves.' And God said... 'Quit whining and get busy! There's work to be done.' So many times I said 'Benji can't change the world, God. Even you are having trouble doing that. Christ changed it once, but that was a long time ago.' 'Hang on,' said God. 'Keep your eyes and ears open.' And along came Mel Gibson.... Once again, Christ changed the world.... The power of the individual has been proven by the The Passion of the Christ. Benji: Off the Leash isn't about Christ, but He has been in it from the beginning, and the film embodies Christ's teachings: love, hope, and perseverance." Century Eastport 16, Division Street, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Westgate

Charlotte's Web
Here's a conundrum: Why's this movie called Charlotte's Web when it's mostly about an adorable little pig named Wilbur? Shouldn't it be called Wilbur's Sty? Or if they really wanted to be honest: That Movie That Gives Those Annoying Vegetarians Their Stupid Reason to Not Eat Bacon So They Can Act All High and Mighty About It When They Go Out with Their Friends For Breakfast At Which Point They Feel the Need to Loudly Announce to the Whole Goddamn Restaurant "No Thanks... I Don't Eat Anything That Once Had a Face." Kennedy School

* Cinema Project Benefit Show
Features The Fall of the House of Usher (1928), Ménilmontant (1926), and Entr'acte (1924). For more info, see Up & Coming for Friday 8/20. Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Code 46 See review this issue. Pioneer Place Stadium 6

Jamie Foxx stars as Max, a cab driver who picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise), a hit man who needs to be shuttled around the city to make five messy appointments. As good as both Cruise and Foxx are, Collateral nonetheless fails, both as a thriller and as yet another entry into director Michael Mann's "brooding men" oeuvre. And Collateral is, indeed, just a thriller--the plot is pure pulp, and it should have been nurtured and groomed as such, rather than saddled with foreshadowing coyotes or lectures on genocide in Rwanda. Watching Collateral, you can see the straining--the pulled muscles and tendons--as Mann tries to force the film into something bigger than it should be. (Bradley Steinbacher) Regal Cinemas, etc.

* The Control Room
American intellectuals/humanists often confuse Americanization not only with modernization but also with globalization, but Americanization is centered whereas globalization is decentered. And this is what Control Room is about: the decentering of the West and the formation of the multiple capitals, information sources, and news stations that are outside of its diminishing borders. (Charles Mudede) Hollywood Theatre

* The Corporation
The citizens of the People's Republic of Portland love them some meaty documentaries, and this one will not disappoint. Not your usual one-sided hatchet job, The Corporation features interviews so extensive and sweeping that you're never quite sure if you should like the person being interviewed, even if they're funny and affable. But that dichotomy goes to the heart of what the filmmakers are trying to say: corporations--which, by law, are regarded as people--are psychopaths. Employing the criteria of the World Health Organization and the psychiatrists' and psychologists' revered Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, the filmmakers present a checklist of psychopathological behavior, then apply those criteria to corporations. (Michael Svoboda) Cinemagic

A photographer is almost inspired to create art again when he allows an unemployed guy from his hometown to stay with him while he looks for work in the shipyards. This slow-moving and sometimes funny film evokes the lonely satisfaction of a winter's stroll down by the waterfront. (Andy Spletzer) Guild Theater

Exorcist: The Beginning
The Mercury would never be so prejudiced as to review a film before we've seen it, but let's examine three facts surrounding Exorcist: The Beginning. Fact One: Exorcist: The Beginning was originally filmed by director Paul Schrader, who apparently did such a bang-up job that he was promptly fired by Warner Bros. Fact Two: Warner Bros. then hired a whole new director, Renny Harlin, to re-film everything, keeping nothing from Shrader's cut. (Harlin's known for his sensible, subtle work--like Cliffhanger, Cutthroat Island, and Die Hard 2: Die Harder. ) Fact Three: The only screening for this Exorcist that critics were invited to takes place the night before the film opens, so we can't get a review published before the film's opening weekend--clever, that. Yessir, this Exorcist just reeks of confidence, doesn't it? Broadway Metroplex, Regal Cinemas, etc.

Festival Express See review this issue. Fox Tower 10

* Garden State
First time writer/director Zach Braff plays Andrew "Large" Largeman, a struggling L.A. actor who returns to his New Jersey home for his paraplegic mother's funeral. Large's less than cheery homecoming is uplifted by Sam (Natalie Portman), a compulsive liar who lives with her mother and a house full of hamsters. Sam is carefree, beautiful, charming as hell, and just what Large needs--so of course they meet, hit it off, and you can probably figure out the rest. There are definitely some holes in Braff's writing and directing, but he's lucky enough to have a great cast to help fill them, and the film's solid enough overall for one to look past its flaws and simply enjoy the story and the characters. (M. William Helfrich) Century Eastport 16, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Cinemas, Tigard Cinemas

* Heathers See review this issue. Pix Patisserie

* Hedwig and the Angry Inch See review this issue. Mallory Hotel Parking Garage

* Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire
A documentary which asserts that 9/11 was used by the Bush administration to push "a neo-conservative agenda to assert that American hegemony is untouchable." Utilizing interviews with a slew of professors, retired military officers, and Pentagon employees, Hijacking Catastrophe outlines W., et al.'s pre-existing plans for nothing less than complete world domination. Parts of this film are remarkably solid, others are less so, and some sequences were apparently put together using iMovie, but the film retains an urgency and immediacy missing from most other documentaries. (Erik Henriksen) Clinton Street Theater

* House of Wax in 3-D See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater

A House on a Hill
Philip Baker Hall plays Harry Mayfield, a disillusioned architect enlisted to construct a house on the site of what was once his own tragically aborted dream home. Perhaps sensing the relative inertness of his plot, writer/director Chuck Workman goes plumb loco with the post-production visual fireworks; all too often in A House on a Hill's construction, the filmmakers seem content to slap a coat of Day-Glo paint over their rickety shack and call it good. (Andrew Wright) Hollywood Theatre

* I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
A character-driven thriller, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead follows a retired gangster who gets back in the game in order to unravel the circumstances behind his younger brother's brutal murder. Laurelhurst

I'm Looking for You
The most popular film in Columbia in 2002. A man reconstructs his childhood memories of helping his uncle seduce a beautiful singer named Jazmin who, like Avril Lavigne, has been relegated to performing in a shopping mall. Whitsell Auditorium

* Independent Filmmaker Lecture Series
The latest in a series of independent filmmaker lectures, featuring an open format screening, discussion, and a Q & A. This week: Bushra Azzouz, lead faculty member of the NW Film Center School of Film for the last 14 years. She'll show And Woman Wove It in a Basket, which curiously explores basket weaving, along with the life and culture of Oregon's Klickitat Indians. She'll also be screening her video short No News, a personal reflection on none other than 9/11. No comment. Fifth Avenue Cinemas

Intimate Strangers
The premise of a troubled woman meeting with a mild-mannered accountant to reveal her dark secrets is intriguing, but Intimate Strangers fails to find the right note with it. The main character, Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire), starts talking to the accountant, William (Fabrice Luchini), when she walks into his office by accident--it's on the same floor as the therapist she was actually planning to see. William, out of loneliness and curiosity, plays along, but he's clearly out of his element, and these early scenes should have been mildly funny in a fish-out-water kind of way. But director Patrice Leconte handles them with shimmery seriousness, as if the lives of two innocents are about to be forever changed. That tone of self-importance never lets up, and Strangers quickly becomes tiresome as every little conversation about Anna's lame husband struggles to impress you with its gravity. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10

* Ju-On See review this issue. Cinema 21

Julius Caesar
Thought Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were a kickass team in Lethal Weapon? Shit! You ain't seen nuthin' until Marlon Brando joins up with William Shakepeare, baby! PSU Smith Memorial Union Rm 225

The Manchurian Candidate
War sucks, dude. There's no Ricki Lake never enough peanut butter, and your dick can get shot off. Even worse, the enemy might capture you and brainwash you into thinking that the unpopular coward in your platoon saved your life. This seems to be the case for Capt. Ben Marco (Denzel Washington). Having recommended Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) for a medal of honor because of his supposed heroics during the first Gulf War, Marco's nightmares about Shaw tell a different story. Determined to discover the truth, Marco also has a deadline: Shaw, now a congressman, is running in the upcoming Presidential election. Compared to John Frankenheimer's 1962 classic, this remake blows. Though gripping, the new film is utterly patronizing--but perhaps that's fitting, considering today's moviegoers probably don't even know what Manchuria is. (Will Gardner) Century Eastport 16, Regal Cinemas, etc.

Maria Full of Grace
There are a lot of reasons to appreciate Maria Full of Grace, not the least of which are its subtly beautiful cinematography and its impeccable performances. Unfortunately, the film--which follows a 17-year-old Columbian girl, Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno), as she decides to become a "mule," ingesting pellets full of heroin and smuggling them into the U.S. --doesn't really have much to say, other than being a mule really sucks. Profound, that. Writer/director Joshua Marston's flip-flopping characterization alienates the audience about halfway through, leaving only his simple, heavy-handed moral. At least there are some unintentional laughs along the way, like a poorly placed poster in the final shot that says "It's what's inside that really counts" and the fact that the title's way funnier if you pretend that "grace" is slang for "heroin." (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10

* Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
For the most part, Some Kind of Monster shows an older, out of touch Metallica trying to work together to record their shitty St. Anger album. In the end, the film doesn't bring about any huge epiphanies other than "Wow, it must be hard to realize that you used to rule the world, but now you suck." That's enough to make this documentary a bizarre but utterly compelling watch--especially if you love the shit out of Metallica. (Katie Shimer) Laurelhurst

* Nanook of the North
Rumor has it this film was staged. That doesn't dilute its timeless beauty as a document of rugged country livin'-- Eskimo-style. Old Town Pizza

* Napoleon Dynamite
There are plenty of laughs to mine from the pseudo-tortured lives of realistically nerdy, unpopular, and just plain odd 14- to 18-year-olds, and as Napoleon Dynamite proves, young geek alienation is just as fun to parody as its grownup counterparts. (Jennifer Maerz) Regal Cinemas, etc.

* Oasis
Jong-du (Kyung-gu Sol) is a terminally irresponsible ex-convict who returns to Korean society, only to cause his family repeated problems after numerous crimes of social retardation. Jong-du then begins making clandestine visits to a severely physically disabled young woman, Gong-ju (So-ri Moon), whom he first tries to molest, then successfully courts. Gong-ju struggles to ask Jong-du to make love to her, but when the two are discovered, all hysteria breaks out and Jong-du is jailed for rape. Oasis is a sinuous, fascinating sociological study of responsibility and hypocrisy where nothing is quite what it seems. (Evan James) Hollywood Theatre

* Open Water
Open Water is less of a horror movie than a tense and fascinatingly fatalistic philosophical treatise. With sharks. Susan and Daniel are your all too average 21st-Century couple, so beleaguered by their high powered lives that they're unable to relax, even while vacationing in the Bahamas. Things perk up, however, when the two take a crowded scuba boat to the middle of the ocean--and due to a very unfortunate series of accidents, are left floating alone in the briny blue. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.

* Orlo Video Grand Slam
See My, What a Busy Week! Pg. 21 Laurelhurst

* Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater, Lloyd Mall

Radical Cheerleading

A new documentary about Portland's favorite gang of protesters, the Radical Cheerleaders. Bringing humor and energy to situations usually dominated by boring hippies, the Rad Cheerleaders are a breath of fresh air. In Other Words

She Hate Me See review this issue. Fox Tower 10

* South Asian Femme
The title of this short film roundup tricks you into thinking you'll be seeing lesbo porn, but instead you'll be enjoying a collection of short films made by South Asian women that assert their femme power. Afterwards, shake off your disappointment with the Holocene's banging international dance night, Atlas. Holocene

* Suburbia
When ennui overtakes young Evan (Bill Coyne), he does what smart kids do--he becomes a homeless punk rocker! Hailed by the Mercury's own Coordinating Editor Marjorie Skinner as "a punk rock classic!" Blind Onion

* The Terminator
Fuck yeah! It's the Terminator! He's an ass-kickin', shotgun-shootin', motorcycle-ridin' cyborg, and he's been sent back from a man vs. machine war in the future to kill you! Yes! You! You're as good as dead, Sarah Connor! Dead! Wait... your name is Sarah Connor, right? What? No? Oh, sorry. Never mind. Laurelhurst

* The Village
There are those who think M. Night Shyamalan is brilliant, and those who think he's an overrated hack. The Village will give both camps plenty of ammunition--it's by far his most confident, subtle, contemporarily relevant film yet, but it's also his most uneven. The film follows the residents of an isolated 1897 village, their peaceful lives marred only by the mysterious, violent creatures that prowl the surrounding woods. Just as Shyamalan's previous films (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs) weren't really about ghosts, superheroes, or aliens, The Village is hardly about monsters lurking in the forest--here, the main foci are the romance between Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), and the moral decisions of one of the village elders, Edward Walker (William Hurt). And yes, the patented Shyamalan Shocking Twist Ending is in effect, though one suspects it would be a hell of a lot more shocking if audiences hadn't learnt from Shyamalan's past three films to expect it. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.

Without a Paddle See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.

While the Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano)--a blind samurai who can take out ten 20/20-blessed thugs with a few thunderous swipes of his walking stick/samurai sword--is a badass, his movie (also directed by Kitano) isn't quite as cool. An awkward combination of Kurosawa's ponderous Japanese samurai epics and the desperate schizophrenia of an early Jackie Chan flick, Zatoichi attempts too much: It's at once a moving, thoughtful drama, a kickass action movie, and a borderline slapstick comedy... with a few dance routines thrown in. It's not that this makes for a bad film, per se, just an exceedingly uneven one. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10