Opens Friday

CHICKEN LITTLE

Somehow, Zach Braff is pretty much the last guy in the world you'd peg to play an animated chicken, but there it is. This fairy-tale revamp (which apparently includes the modern plot device of aliens who want to take over the world or anyway the barnyard, while the little feathered guy of the title's lost his street cred) also has the vocal talents of Garry Marshall, Patrick Stewart, Amy Sedaris, Wallace Shawn, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack, Adam West and Don Knotts (as Mayor Turkey Lurkey).

DreamCatcher, UA DeVargas, G, UA South, G, 77 min.

DORIAN BLUES

Tennyson Bardwell's sweetly innocent coming-out comedy stars

What I Like about You

's Michael McMillian as the young gentleman Dorian of the title (a reference to Wilde?), who's discovering he prefers Ken to Barbie while his extremely conservative parents (Charles Fletcher and Mo Quigley) and brother (Lea Coco) react pretty much exactly as you might think they would.

CCA, NR, 88 min.

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK

It's just not fair that someone with George Clooney's acting chops and silver-screen good looks would also be an impressive director; with his 2002 outing,

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

(written by Charlie Kaufman), he demonstrated his ability to bring forward the surreality of factual material; now he'll do the same with this version of Edward R Murrow (David Strathairn) and Fred Friendly's (Clooney) takedown of Senator Joe McCarthy. Combining the period sheen of

Quiz Show

(Clooney's not only shot his film in black-and-white, but also lets McCarthy appear as himself-though test audiences complained he was overacting) with the scathing corporate-media criticism of

The Insider

, this probably couldn't be more relevant.

UA DeVargas, PG, 93 min.

HARLAN COUNTY, USA

The 1976 Oscar-winner, here shown in a newly restored print, changed documentary filmmaking in much the same way that James Agee and Walker Evans forever altered the course of journalism with

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

. Director Barbara Koppel lived with her subjects, coal miners and their struggling families, in Kentucky during a bitter, lingering strike as the miners sought to unionize. With a heartbreaking score featuring authentic folk music by artists like Hazel Dickens and Nimrod Workman,

Harlan County

can be relied upon to take up residence in your brain and not go anywhere for quite a spell.

CCA, PG, 103 min.

JARHEAD

Four actors at the top of their game-Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Cooper and Jamie Foxx-an unusually competent Hollywood screenwriter (

Unfaithful, Cast Away, Apollo 13

) and one of our most enigmatic directors (Sam Mendes of

American Beauty

and

Road to Perdition

) take on Anthony Swofford's Desert Storm memoir. Let's all turn out to support our boys.

DreamCatcher, UA North, R, 122 min.

SHOPGIRL

Steve Martin stars in the screen version of his own novella, which he also adapted (or was it the other way round…); Martin plays Ray Porter, a millionaire who takes a shine to the glove saleswoman at Saks, starving artist Mirabelle (an underworked-of-late Claire Danes)-who's dating an impecunious and romantically clueless young font designer, Jeremy (

Rushmore

's Jason Schwartzman). Will she choose finesse over jeunesse, or someone who honks the horn when he comes to pick her up for a date over someone who knows what a wine list is? You'll have to fork over the $8 to find out, unless you spot Martin's book on a remainer table at Border's.

UA DeVargas, R, 104 min.

SUDDEN RAIN: THE FILMS OF MIKIO NARUSE

Nervy, damn-the-torpedoes maneuvers like this are why we can't help but love the Screen, who for the next 13 Sundays will be showing fearsomely prolific (but little-known outside Japan) director Naruse's work, beginning with his 1952

Inazuma

(

Lightning

). Like so many of his films,

Lightning

belongs to the

shomin-geki

genre (films about working-class families, with strong female characters) and recalls the work of Ray in its minimalism and luminous, piercing sense of impermanence.

The Screen, NR, 87 min.





Short Runs

THE AGGRESSIVES

One of this year's entrants in the Southwestern Gay and Lesbian film festival, here's a Fabulous Thursday for the girls: A tough-minded, tender-hearted documentary following the lives of five New Yorker women who, for various reasons and in various guises and disguises, choose to pass as men.

Santa Fe Film Center, NR, 75 min.

BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS

Originally filmed in 2002,

Xiao cai feng

is set in 1971 in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, when two Chinese university students (Kun Chen and Ye Liu) are sent to a labor camp in a mountain mining village to purify them of their Western education. When the two bored young intellectuals meet a beautiful, gifted young peasant woman (Xun Zhou), they decide to steal books (ergo, Balzac) and educate her. Guess their Western education didn't include anything about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil….

The Screen, NR, 110 min.

BEST OF YOUTH

So comprehensively epic it has to be shown in two parts, this current crowning glory of Italian cinema spans four decades in the lives of Roman brothers Nicola and Matteo, taking in almost every piece of European history in recent memory along the way; last year's Cannes Jury Prizewinner.

The Screen, R, 366 min.

CRONICAS

Sebastián Cordero's much-lauded thriller about an ambitious reporter from Miami (John Leguizamo) in pursuit of a serial killer and pedophile known as the "Monster of Babahoyo" also stars Leonor Watling and Damián Alcázar, and winds up being as much about the ratings-hungry news media as anything else.

CCA, R, 108 min.

DANCES OF ECSTASY

Documentarians Michele Mahrer and Nicola Ma travelled the world from Turkey to Nigeria, the Kalahari to Brazil, recording rituals to discover the nature of the altered state people seek in religious trance, induced by rhythm, music and above all dance-what do Sufi whirling dervishes and teens at an all-night rave have in common? Sunday's showings will present the extended version, lasting three hours.

Santa Fe Film Center, NR, 80 min.

ETHICS FOR THE NEW MILLENIUM

Sure to be a Santa Fe pleaser, this rare address of the XIV Dalai Lama to Westerners on the eve of the 21st century considers such political matters as conflict, force and violence. His Holiness also takes questions from the audience in London's Royal Albert Hall.

Santa Fe Film Center, NR, 81 min.

GODZILLA

No, no, no; not Matthew Broderick, not Hank Azaria. In its original incarnation (and here shown as a bright new nicely tidied-up print),

Gojira

had not so much to do with rubber model monsters knocking down power lines but more to do with post-war nuclear proliferation terror-an issue which, you might imagine, held particular relevance for the Japanese in 1954.

CCA, NR, 98 min.

iAIA STUDENT FILM SHOWCASE

A one-time screening of the six shorts and a documentary, produced and directed during the summer by the Native students, from Seneca to Lakota, who participated in the Institute of American Indian Arts' summer film and television workshop.

Santa Fe Film Center, NR

MACHUCA

It's the most genuine sign of a country's having come to terms with the messier details of its recent past that its movie producers become willing to back an historically astute film. Now that there's some padding between Pinochet and the present tense of Chile, we're lucky enough to have Andrés Wood's lyrical, funny and also unapologetic, ruthlessly accurate child's-eye version of the events of 1973. Gonzalo (Matías Quer) is an awkward upper-class 12-year-old who's befriended by a scholarship boy from Santiago's shantytown, Machuca (Ariel Mateluna)-and the politics of Gonzalo's family suddenly don't quite stack up for him anymore.

CCA, NR, 121 min.

PINOCCHIO 3000

The boy made of wood (or metal and silicon) still wants to be real in this futuristic version, in which Gepetto maketh an android in his own image. With the voices of Howie Mandel, Malcolm McDowell and Whoopi Goldberg as the fairy Cyberina.

Santa Fe Film Center, NR, 80 min.

SEEING DR. ZHAO

Yep, it's

that

Dr. Zhao, the one who practices Chinese herbal medicine right here in our own humble town; in Candy Jones' documentary, his patients share stories of transformation and healing.

Santa Fe Film Center, NR, 45 min.

SPIRIT OF CLAY

Filmmaker Christine MacKenzie portrays the small community of Galisteo in all its beauty and wackiness with this documentary focusing on the use of clay for art and healing from indigenous pottery to New Age mysticism.

Santa Fe Film Center, NR, 53 min.

TOUCH THE SOUND

After introducing us to the work of Andy Goldsworthy,

Rivers and Tides

' Thomas Riedelsheimer brings us another uncommon artist in this documentary about world-class, Grammy-winning percussionist Evelyn Glennie, whose ability to perceive and create riotous cascades of sound is not in the least limited by the fact that she is profoundly deaf.

The Screen, NR, 95 min.

TURMOIL

Local director Rhett A Muse just absconded with Best Documentary from San Francisco's World Film Festival for this scathing exposé of the sketchy politics underpinning US relations with the oil-saturated country of Venezuela, whose reserves are only surpassed by those of Saudi Arabia, looking closely at complex questions of democracy, the motives and choices of leader Hugo Chavez and the fate of his countrymen, 80 percent of whom live in poverty.

Santa Fe Film Center, NR, 52 min.




Now Showing

CAPOTE

See SFR's

.

UA DeVargas, R, 98 min.

THE CONSTANT GARDENER

As John Le Carré's diplomat Justin Quayle, Ralph Fiennes embodies the introverted expatriate, quietly manicuring Kenya into Kensington Park. When his impetuous young wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) is found murdered, however, along with the man thought to be her lover, Quayle turns falcon and begins to ask undiplomatic questions, revealing a connection between pharmaceutical companies and the British High Commission and catapulting into mortal danger himself. Strong performances by Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite add to the accelerando of Meirelles' chaotic, shimmering visual narrative.

UA DeVargas, R, 129 min.

CORPSE BRIDE

In a brooding gray 19th-century European village, on the eve of his wedding to sensitive, shy Victoria (Emily Watson), an equally bashful Victor (Johnny Depp) accidentally marries the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), a maiden no less alluring for being deceased and a trifle decayed. Trademark stop-motion mastery from Tim Burton (

The Nightmare Before Christmas

) makes it possible to completely forget this macabre little fairytale is animated. And speaking of animation, how can Victor return to his above-ground love when life after death seems so much livelier-or as one character says plaintively, "Why go up there when people are dying to get down here?" We take his point.

UA North, PG-13, 76 min.

DOOM

Doom

, based on the seminal video game and set on Mars (where the red threat is either zombies from hell or a government experiment gone awry, depending on your sources) stars The Rock, along with other actors of whom you've never heard (perhaps to preserve your sentiments when they're heedlessly slaughtered) and will doubtless remain faithful to its origins, with a fantastic volume of gore and scenes filmed from the POV of the shooter, the better to make you feel like you're trapped in a video game over which you have no control.

DreamCatcher, UA North, R, 130 min.

DREAMER: INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY

A spirited horse, a plucky little girl, Kurt Russell-we can't ask for much more. Though as it turns out, we also get Kris Kristofferson, Elisabeth Shue, David Morse and Luis Guzmán-to say nothing of Dakota Fanning, who'll probably soon have earned enough to buy Montana if she wants. Ms. Fanning plays Cale, a feisty young 'un determined to bring together an injured filly with her dour dad, who's recently been given the sack. Let the healing begin.

DreamCatcher, UA South, PG, 102 min.

ELIZABETHTOWN

Orlando Bloom stars in Cameron Crowe's latest as the typical mighty-man-fallen-to-incredible-depths that Crowe so loves to champion (cf

Jerry Maguire

); he plays Drew, an athletic shoe designer whose new sneaker is a failure of epic proportions which will cost his employer nearly one billion dollars in losses. As he's about to kill himself, Drew receives word that his father has died and he must return to a small town in Kentucky to retrieve the body. On the flight there, he meets Claire (Kirsten Dunst), an eccentric flight attendant who comes to his emotional rescue-therein revealing the secret ingredient of Crowe's male fantasies, the hope that some enabling muse will come along and say, "I love you even if you're a loser." But since Crowe has already made this film, and made it better, there is little point to the blandness here.

UA North, PG-13, 123 min.

EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED

If you didn't think it was possible to make Jonathan Safran Foer's linguistically pyrotechnic first novel dull-then by all means go see this as an exercise in understanding the sad depths of ennui to which it is possible for an adaptation to plummet. Liev Schreiber's screenplay is terribly earnest; Eugene Hutz and Boris Leskin are beautifully tragicomic as Ukranian translator Alex (speaking premium English) and his tormented grandfather; and Elijah Wood furrows his brow and looks blank and mystified, but nothing can save any of them from the fact that their movie is boring, boring, boring. Barely worth seeing for some beautiful photography, an amused yet tender look at post-Soviet Ukraine and Hutz's irrepressible energy (and manic rap-meets-polka music).

UA DeVargas, PG-13, 106 min.

IN HER SHOES

The good news is that as far as tearjerking, syrupy-sweet sloppiness goes, there are worse cinematic concessions to be made by straight men in order to appease the women in their lives. Toni Collette stars as Rose, a straitlaced, bordering-on-dowdy lawyer whose life is interrupted by her hard-partying, whorish ditz of a younger sister, Maggie (Cameron Diaz), who uses her sister's shoes without permission (not to mention humps Rose's boyfriend). When Rose finally has enough, she kicks Maggie to the curb. With nowhere else to go, Maggie journeys to Florida to see Ella (Shirley MacLaine), the grandmother she and Rose never knew they had; Maggie finds purpose amid the senior citizens who populate Ella's retirement community, and Rose begins to blossom-pun intended-as she finds love and happiness.

UA North, PG-13, 130 min.

THE LEGEND OF ZORRO

And this film needed to be made because…? It has an oddly historical flavor, even taking into account the fact that it's set in 19th century California, almost as though the movie were made 10 years ago and has been sitting around some back lot in a can gathering dust, waiting to go straight to video. Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones pick up their original roles as the passionately duelling de la Vegas, whose marriage is on the skids because the señor just can't quit with the mask-wearing and the crime-fighting, even though his son (Adrian Alonso) doesn't get to see much of Dad and Mrs. Zorro has started dating Rufus Sewall (go her!).

DreamCatcher, UA South, PG, 100 min.

NORTH COUNTRY

After the final credits, this story of the nation's first sexual harassment class-action lawsuit is merely a decent film when it could have been a great one. Truly brilliant performances from Charlize Theron, Richard Jenkins, Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek, Sean Bean-practically the whole bloody cast-are undercut by a soggy script that unravels into a loose collocation of emotional scenes and a sputteringly sentimental courtroom set piece that would have been ludicrous in

Ally McBeal

. The acting's almost enough to make you overlook the fact that you're having An Important Message crammed down your throat-but close just doesn't cut it with Oscar-bid dramas of this kind; for more authentic and less schlocky labor history, stick with

Norma Rae

(or better still

Harlan County, USA

).

DreamCatcher, UA DeVargas, R,123 min.

PRIME

See SFR's

.

DreamCatcher, UA North, PG-13,

99 min.

SAW II

Like its indie horror predecessor, only more so; stars Donnie Wahlberg, Franky G and Beverley Mitchell, among other unfortunates captured and offed by that mischievous rapscallion Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) in ever-more elaborate, grotesque and gratuitous ways, like a Rubik's Cube that's trying to kill you.

DreamCatcher, UA North, R, 91 min.

SEPARATE LIES

The Screener boldly predicts that Tom Wilkinson will be a household name after this film opens wide. Well, anyway in

her

household he will (though actually he has been for some time now, since

In the Bedroom

and

Wilde

). With screenplay and direction from the wickedly clever Julia Fellowes (

Gosford Park

) and costars Emily Watson and Rupert Everett…we Anglophiles expect nothing less than brooding, gloriously emotionally repressed and overwrought Real Acting, of a kind only plummy-voiced British luvvies can pull off.

Jean Cocteau, R, 90 min.

WALLACE AND GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT

Finally, after five long years, thousands of pounds of clay and 250 toiling animators, some little bendy Britons to fill that gaping wound left in our lives since

W&G: A Close Shave

. Nick Park's Wensleydale-loving inventor Wallace (still given voice by 84-year-old Peter Sallis) and his expressively silent pup Gromit seek to exterminate the mysterious critter eatin' th' wegetubbles of Lady Tottington (the omnipresent Helena Bonham Carter), vying with her scurrilous suitor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) to do so before the peckish hare ruins the town's annual giant veg contest. Huzzah for Plasticene!

UA South, G, 85 min.

THE WEATHER MAN

Chicago weatherman David Spritz (Nicholas Cage, with a mop of hair far too plenteous to be real) at last gets his chance to audition for a national morning show. But his dad (Michael Caine), kids and ex-wife (Hope Davis) are dead-set against his moving to New York. Apparently the message is that life, like weather, can't be predicted or controlled. This otherwise average-looking offering stands out because of director Gore Verbinski, known chiefly for three achievements:

Pirates of the Caribbean, Mousehunt

and, perhaps not least, the Budweiser bullfrogs. If nothing else, it might be entertaining to see what Verbinski does with a script that doesn't have frogs, mice or pirates in it.

UA South, R, 102 min.



NOTHING TRIVIAL ABOUT IT
The Screener's weekly film trivia contest

"That's right, Marian! We're just talking!"

Name the film from which this dialogue is taken and the forthcoming film from the same director, which stars (among others) Kevin Kline and John C Reilly. And stay off IMDb-no cheating! Email screener@sfreporter.com with your answers; the first respondent with the right answers will receive a DVD chosen from our eclectic collection here at the SFR offices.