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Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Meryl Cohen, David Fear, Dina Gachman, Susan Gerhard, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Patrick Macias, and Chuck Stephens. Film intern is Summers Henderson. See Rep Clock, page 100, and Movie Clock, page 101, for theater information.

 

Opening


*Amadeus, The Director's Cut "Special edition" releases are clogging the pipe these days, but Milos Forman's Amadeus, based on Sir Peter Shaffer's stage play and featuring 20 additional minutes in this new version, is well worth your time (even at three hours plus). The 1985 Best Picture winner – a "fantasia based on fact" – remains an engrossing, entertaining study of composer Antonio Salieri (Best Actor winner F. Murray Abraham), who is equally awed and angered when he encounters "Wolfie" Mozart (Tom Hulce), a giggly slob whose musical genius far exceeds his own. The period details -- wigs, costumes, theaters -- are outstanding, but Amadeus's biggest guns are its screenplay (adapted by Shaffer), which weaves humor and pathos into Mozart's and Salieri's descents into ruin; its cast, especially sympathetic villain Abraham; and, of course, Mozart's music, digitally remastered here and still stunning centuries after it was first written. Fri/5, producer Saul Zaentz appears at the film's 8 p.m. show at the Bridge. (3:08) Act I and II, Bridge, Colma, Grand Lake, Orinda. (Eddy)

Big Trouble See Movie Clock, page 101. (1:25) Colma, Emery Bay, Grand Lake, Oaks.

*Demon of the Derby See 8 Days a Week, page 58. (1:06) Roxie.

High Crimes Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman try to rekindle that old Kiss the Girls magic in this drama set in a top-secret military court. (1:55) Colma, Emery Bay, Empire, Galaxy, Jack London, Presidio, UA Berkeley.

*The Last Waltz See Critic's Choice. (1:57) Castro.

National Lampoon's Van Wilder Because you get so much more out of college when you stick around for seven years and run the show, Ferris Bueller-style. (1:35) Colma, Emery Bay, Jack London, Shattuck.

Teddy Bear's Picnic Every year the nation's most powerful men gather for a semi-clandestine weekend of drinking, amateur burlesque, and general tomfoolery. When footage of the upper-crust frat party is leaked to the news, the boys try to pretend it's business as usual while their escapist Rome literally burns around them. Basing his film on anecdotes regarding the exclusive retreat/elite playground of Bohemian Grove (Nixon and Kissinger were charter members), director and ace satirist Harry Shearer is obviously aiming to skewer. Who or what exactly he's sending up (the media? the pampered wealthy?), however, seems a little uncertain, and the lack of edge in Picnic's satire reduces what should have been a knockout into a soft jab. You can't make a movie with comic talent culled from Best in Show and Second City alumni without a few funny moments, but the absence of belly laughs and razor-sharp ridicule here makes for a major disappointment. (1:20) Galaxy. (Fear)

*Trouble Every Day One might reasonably have expected blood to ooze from a turnip before Claire Denis, director of the exquisite Beau travail and one of turn-of-the-century French cinema's most sensual filmmakers, would turn her hand to splatterpunk, but in the new Trouble Every Day, turn she does -- with a gnashing, slurping vengeance. A study of sexual carnivores painted in woodchipper chunks of gristly red and organ black, the film stars a wooden Vincent Gallo bumbling through a bleak Paris in search of his ex-lover/ex-guinea pig, played by Beatrice Dalle, who has become some sort of flesh-eating fuck-fiend. Cowritten by Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau (who reiterates the river-of-blood sex motif he supplied for Leos Carax's Pola X), this paean to all-consuming passion is a jumble of stunning shocks, not the least of which finds Gallo frenziedly producing a rope of ejaculate long enough to use at a rodeo. Denis's darkest film since I Can't Sleep – and one of her funniest. (1:37) Lumiere, Shattuck. (Stephens)

*Y tu mamá también See "Godard's Grandkids," page 41. (1:45) Act I and II, Century Plaza, Embarcadero, Piedmont.

 

Ongoing


All about the Benjamins (1:30) Emery Bay.

Amélie (1:55) Albany, Clay, Piedmont.

A Beautiful Mind (2:09) Balboa, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck.

Beauty and the Beast: The Large Format Cinema Special Edition (1:30) Metreon Imax.

*Big Bad Love The mythology of the great Southern writer rests in images of besotted genius savants battling personal demons one verb at a time while their livers battle an imminent bout of cirrhosis. It's an archetype well known to novelist Larry Brown (he hails from Oxford, Miss., home soil of William Faulkner), whose stories perpetuate that legend even as they deconstruct them with a broken-toothed comb. Writer-actor-director Arliss Howard knows his sub-Mason-Dixon region backward and forward too, judging from the picture-perfect adaptation of Brown's work that is the sumptuous, extraordinary Big Bad Love. Writer and first-class fuckup Leon Barlow (Howard) comes from a personal inner South that's part drunken fantasy, part tortured reality (call it magical Southern Gothic realism). Barlow spends his days crafting caustic replies to rejection letters in lieu of prose, hanging out with his equally tipsy best friend (the great Paul LeMat), and trying to make amends with the ex-wife (Debra Winger) he still loves. Howard's fearless performance is so culturally rich it's a one-of-a-kind; these sorts of losers are beloved by literature and Americana music, but you'd have to look hard to find an on-screen equivalent even in independent film. Even when the film threatens to derail itself with self-conscious flights of fancy, a supporting cast made up of the ghosts of cinema past (Winger, LeMat, Angie Dickinson, Rosanna Arquette) never lets it stray too far away from the human element. Heartbreaking, uplifting, and glorious, Big Bad Love is a near flawless portrait of an American landscape that's rarely ever seen and has never been rendered as eloquently. (1:51) Rafael. (Fear)

*Blade 2 There are some serious action-horror genre thrills to be had as badazz mofo Wesley Snipes and sidekick Kris Kristofferson (now more Gabby Hayes than Billy the Kid) go to Prague, get mixed up with classical "suckheads," and go to war against a new strain of toothy, thirsty supervampires. Director Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone) brings with him atmospheric cinematography, strong production design, and an effortless ability to apply maximum impact to the proceedings. The now played-out wire fu of the first film has been replaced by the trademark brutal martial arts style of Donnie Yen (also seen in a supporting role), one based on speed, impact, and broken bones. In every way, this is a case of a sequel bettering the original. The only downsides are an atrocious female lead (Leonor Varela) and an ending that dramatically overextends itself by half. Thankfully, the rest is a wild ride by any standard, violent and gory enough to make recent films like Queen of the Damned and Resident Evil look pale and anemic by comparison. (1:48) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley. (Macias)

Clockstoppers This entertaining sci-fi adventure film directed by Jonathan Frakes (a.k.a. Commander Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation) is based on a highly suspect idea: a physicist has built a device that can speed up a person's molecules fast enough to move him or her into "hypertime," so that everyone else seems to be standing still. Easier to swallow is the not-unpredictable story of a young man, Zak (Jesse Bradford), who winds up with the superwatch and must use it to fight the bad guys and rescue his scientist father. Clockstoppers only really works because of a solid starring performance by Bradford (last seen as Kirsten Dunst's Clash-loving boyfriend in Bring It On), who is understated and believable as a freewheeling kid caught up in extraordinary circumstances. (1:33) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Galaxy, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Shattuck. (Henderson)

*The Count of Monte Cristo (1:58) Kabuki.

Death to Smoochy Using Day-Glo visuals as a backdrop can make a comedy of human degeneracy much more hilarious and absurd to watch (remember Raising Arizona?). Director Danny DeVito and writer Adam Resnick pull it off with Death to Smoochy, an anti-G-rated movie about the wholesome Sheldon (Edward Norton), a guy with a "fetish for ethics" whose gig is dressing as Smoochy the Rhino and singing cute little ditties to kids and/or ex-smack addicts. When a major children's television network fires its main personality, Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams), after he's busted for extortion, Sheldon is recruited to polish the network's tarnished image. Smoochy is a hit, but Randolph wants him dead, a scheming agent screws him over, a shadowy figure is angling to control his money, and the network execs (Jon Stewart and Catherine Keener) are giving him hell. Norton is especially impressive as Sheldon/Smoochy, who rivals Norton's Fight Club character for creepiness in some twisted, Teletubby sort of way. (1:49) Century Plaza, Colma, Galaxy, Grand Lake, Metreon, Oaks, Orinda, Stonestown. (Gachman)

*E.T. the Extra Terrestrial The candy-chomping alien is back with a 20th-anniversary dust-off that includes new footage and effects. You know the story by heart, so here's the skinny on this edition: (1) while the famed "penis breath" insult stays in, Elliott's older brother's desire to dress as a "terrorist" for Halloween has been dubbed over in favor of "hippie"; (2) the most obvious newly inserted scene, in which E.T. takes a bath and Elliott pretends to puke over the phone, adds nothing to the film except the distracting, somewhat disturbing introduction of an all-C.G. E.T.; (3) Drew Barrymore still gets 90 percent of the laughs; (4) the whole guns-C.G.'d-into-walkie-talkies thing makes for one jarring edit and is otherwise forgettable; and (5) Spielberg's ham-fisted emotional manipulation remains overt and inescapable – to be sure, even 21st-century cynics may not be immune to E.T.'s lachrymose "death" scene. (2:00) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

The Fluffer It's been eight years since director Richard Glatzer made Grief (for The Fluffer he codirects with Wash Westmoreland), and though notions about queer film have changed, his filmmaking hasn't: the cheap L.A. gloss of The Fluffer's tale of porn-inspired delusion is very early '90s in feel. Naive young Sean (Michael Cunio) dives into the porn industry immediately upon arrival in California, after becoming obsessed with Ryan Idol-type Johnny Rebel (Baywatch graduate Scott Gurney); his obsession – which blinds him to reality outside the set – means that he's willing to do a lot more for his favorite gay-for-pay porn star than simply fluff him. By the time Glatzer and Westmoreland use America's Most Wanted-style black-and-white flashbacks to neatly explain Sean's problems, the one interesting actor and character – Roxanne Day as Johnny's stripper girlfriend – has long since left the film. (1:45) Lumiere. (Huston)

40 Days and 40 Nights (1:33) 1000 Van Ness, Metreon.

*Gosford Park (2:17) Four Star, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck, Vogue.

Ice Age The Triassic, Jurassic, and Late Cretaceous have been thoroughly picked over Spielberg and his many descendants, but the last Ice Age – which gave us the woolly mammoth, the saber-toothed tiger, and the giant ground sloth – has enough fossil left in it to fuel a whole new period in movies. This early entry into the genre opens auspiciously, with a determined squirrel setting off the entire continent-shifting chain of events by attempting to bury an acorn in hard-packed ice. Chris Wedge's cool 3-D computer animation style can compare with the latest from Pixar. But his story arc feels almost as old as the 10,000-year-old era that spawned it: a mammoth and his slothful friend (voiced by Ray Romano and John Leguizamo, respectively, in the Shrek and Donkey roles) set off to save a human child from saber-toothed tigers (including one who joins them, voiced by Denis Leary). The laughs are sitcom-ready and the outcome, history. (1:24) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Grand Lake, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Stonestown, UA Berkeley. (Gerhard)

In the Bedroom (2:26) Opera Plaza.

*Iris The late novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch was regarded as one of the most brilliant women of her generation, and so it was especially tragic when Alzheimer's disease stole her capacity for expression. Richard Eyre's film seeks to depict the uncommon love between Iris and her husband, John Bayley, but it succeeds more in exposing the devastating effects of her disease. The actors who portray Iris, the enchanting Kate Winslet and legendary Judi Dench, deftly convey the vitality and wit that made her so widely loved in her prime. But as her condition worsens, we are subjected to continual cuts between past and present, which are intended to provide a backdrop for John's devotion but feel mostly like an eerie glimpse into Iris's own mental regression. Her deterioration is quite painful to watch, but Eyre does manage to reveal enough of Murdoch's unique philosophy to intrigue those unfamiliar with her work. (1:30) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Cohen)

*Italian for Beginners An ensemble of lonely misfit adults – a pastor being badgered by his bitter predecessor, a beautician who seems to break down frequently during haircuts, a baker who can't help dropping the goods, and a few expected others – flicker around the flame of a night-school Italian class. When the teacher dies of a heart attack early on, one of the students, a brutish soccer fan-failed restaurateur happily takes over in this first Dogme movie by a woman, director Lone Scherfig. The waning movement could use the sweetness and light that this romantic comedy provides. Its cast of characters may be a little cute, but by the time they get together for a well-earned metaphorical big group hug in the form of an Italian-class field trip, you'll forget your fear of handheld camera. (1:39) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Gerhard)

*Jung (War): In the Land of the Mujaheddin Even with the United States engaged in an ongoing conflict in the region, Afghanistan is a startlingly unfamiliar place in Jung (War): In the Land of the Mujaheddin. Passionate and artfully constructed, the Italian-made documentary, shot during three trips in 1999 and 2000, is the introduction to the people of Afghanistan still largely missing from post-Sept. 11 news coverage. It is also a sobering commentary on the nature of war at a time when Hollywood seems bent on giving us only paeans to the military. Jung (pronounced "jang," the Dari word for "war") chronicles a European-based effort to open a hospital in the Panjshir Valley of northern Afghanistan, near the front line where mujahideen forces later known as the Northern Alliance battled the Taliban in the latest phase of a 20-year conflict. In a self-consciously cinematic but well-balanced style, filmmakers Fabrizio Lazzaretti, Alberto Vendemmiati, and Giuseppe Petitto use slow motion, montage, multiple camera angles, and a soundtrack incorporating local music and a haunting modern score. The most powerful impressions in the film come from ordinary Afghans, whether in the midst of battle in frontline trenches, in abject poverty and grief, or in makeshift operating rooms where land mine victims, many of them children, are treated before our eyes. (1:54) Roxie. (Avila)

Kissing Jessica Stein Adapted by its leading actors from their stage play, director Charles Herman-Wurmfield's feature is the WASPiest NYC Jewish romantic comedy since Crossing Delancey, and the story's gender-preference-identity-crisis gist is about as full of depth as it would be on an episode of Friends. None of which prevents this breezy movie from being a audience-pleasing experience, but those in search of something more than an indie-flick sitcom won't be among the most pleased. The title character (Jennifer Westfeldt) works at a newspaper and endures the usual parade of loser boy-men dates. Her attention is perked by a personal ad that quotes Rilke – but the problem, ahem, is that it's a woman-seeking-woman ad. She pursues anyway and winds up in a tortuously tentative relationship with art gallery assistant manager Helen (Heather Juergensen), the sticking point being Jessica's reluctance to "go" lesbian and terror of breaking the news to her friends and family. One thing that's nice about Kissing is its last-lap concession that in the Big City, changing partners, remaining friends, and shuttling about the Kinsey Scale can get to be a less than big deal. But a more conventional predictability dominates most of the progress here, with laughter and tears professionally extracted at familiar junctures. (1:47) Century Plaza, Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Harvey)

Lantana (2:00) Balboa, UC Berkeley.

*Last Orders Based on an excellent novel by Graham Swift, Last Orders was adapted and directed by Australian Fred Schepisi (Six Degrees of Separation), and while there's nothing groundbreaking, let alone remotely hip, about the film, it's a well-crafted piece of work. The death of "master butcher" Jack Dodds (Michael Caine) has pulled together his old drinking buddies for a long day's traveling pub crawl and coastal ash-scattering. His adopted son, Vince (Ray Winstone), is along as designated driver, alongside divorced bookie Lucky (Bob Hoskins), undertaker Vic (Tom Courtenay), and failed boxer Lenny (David Hemmings), all Jack's mates from way back. Last Orders is one of those films in which "nothing happens" in a chugging-narrative-engine, cathartic-explosion sense, yet everything is revealed – or perhaps just enough to leave you wanting more, wishing the characters might stick around for another round or three. Better still, the movie has a generosity toward ordinary lives' accumulative errata that considers some quiet desperation as a given but refuses to admit that tragedy or transcendent uplift must then result. (1:49) Balboa. (Harvey)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (3:00) Coronet, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.

*Monsoon Wedding Director Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!) returns to contemporary India but shifts her focus to the tribulations of upper-middle-class Punjabis. At the center of Monsoon Wedding is a multiday, traditional Indian marriage ceremony that gathers family and friends for feasting, celebration, and rituals. The film's sprawling, multicharacter story adroitly weaves together numerous intersecting lives: the bride, who is really in love with an already married man; the father, who is terrified his son is gay; the cousin, who must confront the childhood trauma of sexual abuse by her uncle; and the wedding planner, who is falling in love with the family maid. By compressing so much drama and conflict into three days, Nair treads dangerously close to soap opera, but she's saved by some intense, honest performances and a style that captures the poetry and lyricism of real life. (1:54) Albany, Embarcadero. (Henderson)

*Monster's Ball Marc Forster's Monster's Ball is a small-town melodrama sobered by a pervasive pall of meaning; it communicates so much thorny pain around such genuinely discomfiting issues that the hard-won modest uplift at the end feels utterly genuine. In a contemporary Southern state where racial power divisions haven't changed much at all, death row guard Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) crosses paths with the Leticia (Halle Berry, the widow of a former prisoner. Both Hank and Leticia are in desperate straits, each bottomlessly needy without the faintest idea of how or where to start getting help. The impulse toward mutual kindness is so unexpected and foreign, particularly as it stretches over near-impassable racial-economic lines, that neither one really knows what to do with the other for some time. The movie's eventual narrative gist is rife with tabloid TV-movie contrivance (Racist Prison Guard Gets Nice by Going Steady with Dead Inmate's Old Lady). But it works because the script and direction are so painfully attuned to the hurdles that inarticulate people driven (or frozen) by clenched rage must overcome before a happy ending is even remotely possible. (1:48) Bridge, Empire, Shattuck. (Harvey)

*No Man's Land (1:37) Four Star, Rafael.

No Such Thing The first 20 minutes of the latest offering from Hal Hartley (Amateur, Henry Fool) are almost too good. In a near-apocalyptic undetermined future (or is this taking place now?), New York City is ravaged by terrorism and downtown Manhattan has just been bought by a major Hollywood studio. The boss of a sensationalist TV news show (brilliantly played by Helen Mirren) demands only the most gruesome stories for her program. Far away in Iceland, an alcoholic, ennui-filled monster (Robert John Burke) has just killed the news crew that was investigating his exploits. Sweet young studio lackey Beatrice (Sarah Polley) lost her fiancé in the slaying, so she convinces the boss to let her cover the story. After a series of increasingly tragic mishaps, Beatrice, ever undaunted, finally reaches her destination. However, this is where the film's creativity ends. What follows is an entirely uninspired modern-day retelling of the beauty-and-the-beast story. The monster turns out to be not so much evil as simply disheartened by humanity's cruelty, and Beatrice, with her genuine goodness, is able to win his trust, give him renewed faith in humankind, and help him achieve his desired end. There are still a few nice moments (and a lovely performance by Julie Christie as the kind Dr. Anna), but the film ultimately fails to live up to the potential of its beginning. (1:42) Opera Plaza. (Lara Shalson)

Panic Room Three years after the commercial failure of Fight Club, maybe it's no surprise that David Fincher's latest emerges smacking a little of calculated wound-licking, grudging acquiescence to an apparently stupid mass audience's low capacity for challenge. In this techno-thriller, recent divorcée Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (Kristen Stewart) move into a new house equipped with a secret chamber/fortress, should unwelcome intruders arrive. Wouldn't you just know that on the Altmans' very first night in the town house, three variously malevolent burglars (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) break in. Panicked, mom and daughter bunker down. Unfortunately, the unwelcome guests know about the room. Worse still, what they're after (some millions hidden by an eccentric prior resident) is located guess where. A nightlong standoff ensues, complete with deadly criminal bickering, bluffs, power reversals, additional unexpected visitors, health crises, and so forth. Ever so impressively designed and shot, Panic Room gives a good ride for 108 minutes. Still, there's a popcorn triviality to this material that even Fincher, a gifted filmmaker, can't overcome. (1:52) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Metro, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda, Shattuck. (Harvey)

Pauline and Paulette Pauline (Dora van der Groen) is a childlike 66-year-old woman who worships flowers, floral wallpaper, and her sister Paulette (Ann Petersen), a fabric seller and opera singer. When her caretaker passes away, Pauline is shuffled between the irritated Paulette and their upwardly mobile sister Cecile (Rosemarie Bergmans), neither of whom want the burden of parenting their unsophisticated sibling. Guess who ends up developing an unlikely bond (see title)? Belgian writer-director Lieven Debrauwer initially lays on the kitsch, giving Pauline's flights of ingenuous fancy amid Blue Danube waltzes and gaudy LaChapellian pastels an interesting, truffle-like lushness. The script, however, is strictly store-bought bonbon material, and even as Groen's noteworthy take on the confused heroine blooms among the schmaltz, Pauline and Paulette's inclination to simply settle into the mellow groove of stock estrangement and reconciliation lends it a blandly, deadly familiar air. (1:18) Rafael. (Fear)

*Presumed Guilty Opening with the look and feel of an episode of Judge Judy, Pamela Yates's behind-the-scenes doc on San Francisco's public defenders widens into a film of profound dimensions as it follows four cases on their jittery ride through the local legal system. Prosecutions range from the tedious (a man police said appeared to be high on crack) to the tabloid (Lam Choi's killing of a Tenderloin mobster and the Pink Tarantula hair salon murder), but Yates keeps the focus on the lawyers charged with seeing the defendants through an agonizing process. To say the filmmakers unbutton the lawyers' stiff-shirted office world is an understatement: they got access to the late-night video diary of public defender Will Maas during the Pink Tarantula case, and Vietnam veteran Maas reveals a little more than one might want to know about his own emotional conflicts. The verdict on each of the cases comes in by film's end, but the drama is not over, as Adachi, the office's second-in-command, finds himself suddenly fired by his brand-new boss, Mayor Willie Brown's old family friend, Kimiko Burton. The epilogue just wrote itself: Adachi, as we all know, defeated Burton in the recent election. (1:55) Roxie. (Gerhard)

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace (1:33) Rafael.

Resident Evil A secret virus housed in the underground lab of an all-powerful corporation is released, causing the death (and subsequent reanimation) of its employees. Damage control is up to a crew of weapon-toting commandos and security experts (top-billed stars Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez are the most interesting components of an otherwise completely bland cast). Aside from a few jolts and the fact that it's always nice to see zombies – even sub-Romero clones that don't perpetrate nearly enough gore for genre enthusiasts – on the big screen, video game-adaptation veteran director Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat) makes do with a ho-hum "thriller" that falls short of its potential for B-movie greatness. (1:40) Colma, Emery Bay, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, UA Berkeley. (Eddy)

*Return to Never Land (1:12) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

The Rookie The Rookie tells the true story of unlikely hero Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid), a baseball pitcher who was injured before he made it to the big leagues. Coach Morris makes a deal with his small-town West Texas high school team: if they become district champs, he'll try out again. To everyone's surprise, Morris pitches better than ever and once again has the chance to get called up. This heartwarming drama is just the sort of story G.W. Bush would love, especially since it associates professional baseball with all that's right with America. Still, it's hard to dislike this film, in which the earnest Quaid comes across as a genuinely decent family man who's finally pursuing his dream. Incredibly, The Rookie gets around the usual fault of movies like this by not indulging in sappiness. At its best it gives the feel of real life in contemporary America. At worst, it's a pleasant fantasy that avoids exposing our most embarrassing faults. (2:09) Century Plaza, Jack London, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Henderson)

*The Royal Tenenbaums (2:25) Balboa, Four Star, UA Berkeley.

Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (:50) Metreon Imax.

Showtime (1:35) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.

*The Son's Room Nanni Moretti has made his name as a self-conscious, self-reflexively comic character in films often about himself, but fans of his international hit Caro diario should be warned that the frothy layer has been removed from this ale. Read no further if you don't want the spoiler: Moretti plays Giovanni, the well-adjusted father of a comfortable family whose son unexpectedly dies in a scuba-diving accident. Comparisons to In the Bedroom, frequent as they are, are actually appropriate, but where that film displayed its red-white-and-blues by grafting revenge and violence onto its story, The Son's Room manages to chip away at the icy grieving process without the heavy-handed plot maneuvers. Its metaphors are simple and central: Giovanni is a psychiatrist attending to the kooky, sometimes touching neuroses of his wayward middle-class patients. So the balance – and slightly comic tone – dramatically shifts when Giovanni experiences his own drama. But in true Moretti style, the director can't quite let go of his optimism: Moretti cares enough about the characters to follow them to what might not be a bitter end. (1:39) Four Star. (Gerhard)

Sorority Boys Duck-out-of-water comedies often lead protagonists to learn a Valuable Lesson, and so it is with the drag epic Sorority Boys. Three frat brothers (Barry Watson, Harland Williams, and Michael Rosenbaum), expelled from their sexist boys-club paradise, must disguise themselves as girls and take shelter in the ultrafeminist sorority across the street, where they discover firsthand the ignominies of womanhood and emerge with a valuable new understanding. The transformation of the three studly guys into chicks is supposed to be startling, but two of the trio start out already pretty – they're both stars on the W(omanly) B(oys) network, where bee-stung lips and doe eyes are de rigueur for the male leads. Some transgender people have threatened to protest the film because its forced-feminization scenario trivializes the transgender experience. But really the film has as much to do with most trannies' lives as Dude, Where's My Car? had to do with the auto industry. Boys is at its funniest when it abandons its p.c. aspirations for knock-down-drag-out violence, in a hilarious dildo fight between our two hero(in)es and a football match between the feminists and a team of bimbos. It's only when the movie lurches toward physical comedy that it overcomes its cringe-making attempts to deliver a muddled message. (1:34) Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Charles Anders)

The Time Machine (1:36) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.

We Were Soldiers (2:29) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

Wesley's Mysterious Story (1:40) Four Star.

 

Rep picks


*Bay of Angels In Jacques Demy's 1963 noir twist Bay of Angels, gambling is love, and Jacqueline Demaistre (the already worn Jeanne Moreau) and Jean Fournier (Claude Mann, the type of cloudy-minded fawn Demy was fond of casting) place their bets together, albeit from different perspectives. Jean leaves the cramped tedium of his bank job for the unpredictable vastness of beachside resort casinos. At the roulette wheel he meets up with Jackie, the bleach-blond extension of a burning Lucky Strike. Slightly unhinged by a steady diet of scotch and strawberry ice cream, Jackie steamrolls Jean's critical hesitance by acting on a pair of willful aphorisms: "What does it mean to 'know' somebody?" and "You must never let luck pass you by." The rumpled Moreau brings a nervous undercurrent to Jackie's impetuousness, a quality that Demy further emphasizes in the casino scenes' sound design: stretches of tense silence interrupted by the clatter of chips and the skitter of the ball across niches on a roulette wheel. "This display of flabby flesh makes me sick," Jackie says while on a stony beach. "I'd rather look at gamblers." So would Demy, though for different reasons, and the economy of his approach encourages viewers to closely scrutinize a gambler's character. (1:19) Castro. (Huston)

*'Kung Fu Kult Classics' and 'Saturday Midnites for Maniacs' This week's Kult Klassics double feature is Cheng Yam Yim's 1984 Shaolin Temple, a.k.a. Jet "The One" Li's first movie, with flying swordswoman classic Flying Swallow. Maniacs are advised to check out Chin Tung in 1983's Cripple Kung Fu Boxer for Four Star.

'Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation Best of the Fest' The veteran animation fest celebrates 25 years of bringing short films to the masses with a special "best of" collection. There are many proven winners here, both audience pleasers ("Bambi Meets Godzilla") and Oscar nabbers (Pixar's "Tin Toy," Chris Wedge's "Bunny," Nick Park's "Creature Comforts"), as well as newly minted 2002 Oscar winner "For the Birds" (also Pixar, as seen before showings of Monsters Inc.). All delightful stuff for first-timers, though these oft-screened works may be too familiar to attract perennial Spike and Mike fans. Oaks, Palace of Fine Arts. (Eddy)