'Birthday Girl' (R)

Ben Chaplin, a bank clerk in a London suburb, orders a Russian mail-order bride and gets Nicole Kidman. In short order, he gets a lot more Ñ mostly trouble. Remember Jonathan Demme's 1986 'Something Wild'? Well, whether you do or not, go rent it and skip this thin retread. Director Jez Butterworth can't manage the necessary whiplash mood shifts or find the sort of outrageous tone that would accommodate the plot's escalating absurdities. See it if you're smitten with Kidman. Otherwise, blow out the candles Ñ the party's over. (Pat Holmes)

Area theaters

'Brotherhood of the Wolf'(Le Pacte des Loups) (R)

This is one loopy 'loup.' Director Christophe Gans' epic tale of a mysterious beast ravaging the French countryside in the mid-18th century is a dizzying hybrid that mingles historical drama, period romance, swashbucklers, horror, martial arts and comic-book adventure in a way that most resembles an animated feature such as 'Vampire Hunter D.' It's alternately beautiful and gruesome, mythic and delirious, and just plain drunk on the thrill of filmmaking. Your eyes may be popping or rolling, but they'll never lack for stimulation. As for your brain, well, it may just explode. You could call it a classic of its kind Ñ but it doesn't have a kind. It stands alone, sublimely and triumphantly nuts. (PH)

Area theaters

'The Count of Monte Cristo' (PG-13)

This entertaining adaptation of Alexander Dumas' novel pays equal attention to the plot and the swashbuckling action. It's a classic story told in boldly old-fashioned, if not quite classic, style. Director Kevin Reynolds benefits from a fine cast, which includes Jim Caviezel ('The Thin Red Line') and Guy Pearce ('Memento'). The performances lend dramatic weight to Reynolds' handsome staging and measured pace. (PH)

Area theaters

'The Fluffer' (Not rated)

'The Fluffer' manages to make titillating subjects such as pornography and sexual obsession as dull as dishwater. Maybe it's the way our eponymous hero, Sean (Michael Cunio), disappears below the frame each time he services the object of his affections, 'gay-for-pay' porn star Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney). Or perhaps it's that Johnny's stripper girlfriend, Babylon (Roxanne Day), keeps all her clothes on when performing lap dances. Or maybe it's just that this examination of an egocentric porn actor and those who obsess over him starts out promising but quickly degenerates into cheesy, pointless melodrama. With the sort of on-screen action available in your average episode of 'Oz' or 'Queer as Folk' Ñ as well as the superior writing Ñ there's no excuse for the lukewarm, PG-13 pap 'The Fluffer' offers. Stay home and rent 'Boogie Nights,' or some real porn, instead. (Dawn Taylor)

Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd., 503-281-4215

'Gosford Park' (R)

Robert Altman's best film since 'The Player' is a comedy of manners and murder set during a weekend shooting party at a British country estate in 1932. The hosts, guests and servants are played by every actor in England who wasn't working elsewhere, plus two Americans (Bob Balaban and Ryan Phillippe) as Hollywood types researching the upper crust. Altman displays his usual fluidity with ensembles and multiple threads of story and character, as well as the amused and often cynical detachment that has soured the tone of more than one of his films. The Agatha Christie mystery aspects don't particularly interest him, while the humanist grace of his other model, Jean Renoir's 'Rules of the Game,' eludes him. Finally, it feels a bit less than the sum of its parts, consistently entertaining and constantly in motion, but not often moving. (PH)

Area theaters

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