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COMING SOON

The Barbershop, The Blue Vinyl Story, The Cameraman, Four Feathers, Fudoh: the New Generation, Healthy Baby Girl, Igby Goes Down, Sex With Strangers, Stealing Harvard, Welcome to Collinwood, Wisconsin Death Trip


NEW THIS WEEK

The Chateau
I'm not sure what to say about The Chteau. The premise is certainly retarded: Two brothers, one white and one black, inherit a chteau, then fly to France to sell it and try to fuck the maid. Still, it has a few strange merits. Paul Rudd and Romany Malco lend expert performances to the hideous plot, and the Super-8 cutaways add a documentary flavor that kind of excuses its inanity. A lot of the little translation jokes are reasonably clever, and it contains a priceless cameo by Donal Logue as a candy raver. Not to confuse you--this is a terrible movie, undoubtedly--but it's benign enough to let you forget the terrible parts. I guess. (MEG VAN HUYGEN) Metro

City By the Sea
See review this issue. "A dull and labored film soon to be clogging video store shelves everywhere." (TAMARA PARIS) Neptune, Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Oak Tree, Woodinville 12, Meridian 16

* Gold Rush
Chaplin dances his dinner rolls round the table as part of the Paramount's Silent Movie Mondays series. Paramount Theatre

* I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
See review this issue. "The question is not 'why did the evil, stupid, corporate major label reject the work of these innovators?' Nor is it 'what were these innovators doing on the evil corporate major label in the first place?' The question is: Why is anyone pretending to be surprised?" (Sean Nelson) Big Picture, Uptown

Mad Love
This costume drama, which is set in 16th century, is about a mad woman who claims to have been the queen of Spain. Before watching this film, please read Gogol's Diary of a Madman, which is about a madman who claims to be the king of Spain. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Seven Gables

* North By Northwest
Hitchcock's most inspired entertainment is also considered as an artistic lightweight by some of our more overeducated cineastes, who are forever arguing the greater merits of Vertigo or Strangers on a Train. Oh well... sucks to be them, 'cause North by Northwest is flat-out fantastic. The master never again reached a peak so high as the Mount Rushmore finale here. Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, an adman mistaken for a nonexistent espionage agent and framed for a murder. Chased from New York to South Dakota--by way of Chicago, where the funniest auction scene in the history of cinema occurs--Thornhill stays one confused step ahead of his pursuers, and one forlorn step behind the lovely FBI Agent, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie-Saint). Thrilling, hilarious, romantic, and just plain brilliant frame-by-frame. (Jamie Hook) Epyptian

* Open Screening
This monthly screening series at 911 is one of the most hit-or-miss events in town: no curators here, merely willing hosts to whoever submits a film. For only $1, however, it's also one of the best deals. (BRUCE REID) 911 Media Arts

Satin Rouge
See review this issue. "The content of society is determined by the character of its women." Varsity

Swimfan
Fatal Attraction in a speedo. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Oak Tree, Woodinville 12, Meridian 16

Underground Zero
With the incessant onslaught of liberal cynicism that permeates the very air of The Stranger offices, I honestly longed for a chance at private, earnest observance of the events of last September, and 76 minutes in a darkened theater watching 13 shorts crafted "in the wake of September 11th" seemed like a pretty surefire bet. Unfortunately, what is offered is an often clichéd, extremely uneven collection of shorts whose flag-waving sentiments are far too often absent of any sense of irony. Despite a handful of truly chilling moments (including the heart-racing Voice of the Prophet, featuring a prophetic 1998 interview with the head of security at the World Trade Center), the bulk of the collection is more likely to induce wary sighs than lumps in the throat. (ZAC PENNINGTON) Little Theatre

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge
In search of a rare golden Buddha, Yosuke (Koji Yakusho) travels to Japan's Noto peninsula, where he encounters a nice, old-fashioned girl with a rare internal condition causing her to climax in a violent torrent of vaginal fluid. Let me repeat that: violent torrent of vaginal fluid. Japanese with English subtitles. Grand Illusion


CONTINUING RUNS

24 Hour Party People
About a quarter of the way through Michael Winterbottom's comedic homage to the history of Manchester's seminal Factory Records, a nagging question began to tug at my easily distracted attention--who exactly is this film's target audience? For audiences not already familiar with the subject matter, there's really nothing particularly interesting to slake a viewers attention--and for those who hold the story with any level of reverence, it offers nothing but disappointment. 24 Hour Party People's single saving grace, the music (how often do you get to hear A Certain Ratio AND the Happy Mondays echoing through a cavernous theater?), ultimately serves as just another reminder that Manchester just deserves better. (ZAC PENNINGTON)

The Adventures of Pluto Nash
The tragic collapse of Eddie Murphy's career appears to be trudging new humiliating lows with his latest--an action adventure disaster that finds our man Gumby in the role of futuristic nightclub owner (on the moon!) defending his claim against futuristic gangsters (on the moon!). Did I mention it's set in the future? Just rent Coming to America. Hell, just rent Vampire in Brooklyn.

Austin Powers in Goldmember
There are chuckles here and there, but the prevailing wind is cynical, which my dictionary defines as "selfishly or callously calculating" and "skeptical of the motives of others." If there's a better way to describe Goldmember, I'd be happy to hear it. (SEAN NELSON)

Blood Work
Blood Work is a total bore. I was hoping this would be Clint Eastwood's swan song to a life of vigilantism, a retrospective of themes that have run through his work. But that's wishful thinking. The plot is thin, the characters aren't believable, the pacing and lighting are totally Matlock, and the performances are tired. Except for Anjelica Huston, who is not so much good but just never bad. As for the old firebrand himself, Eastwood acts constipated and ill tempered, like there's some annoying key grip just off-camera holding up a sign that says, "Go ahead, make my day." It's just too bad that someone talked the Great Warrior into this. (MICHAEL SHILLING)

Blue Crush
So, you're getting sick of Seattle's back-and-forth summer? What the hell's up with the weather? It's time for a goddamn vacation, to someplace warm and sunny. Maybe somewhere with a beach, where girls wear bikinis all day, and guys are shirtless. How about Hawaii? If you can't afford a plane ticket, you could go see Blue Crush instead. The plot's trite and cheesy--girl from Hawaii kicks ass at surfing, meets boy from the mainland, almost gives up surfing, until a crucial competition arises and he rallies behind her--but the surf scenes are awesome. Hawaii's gorgeous, as are the surfer chicks and their male counterparts. It's like a two hour vacation, especially for the part of your brain that does the thinking. (AMY JENNIGES)

* The Bourne Identity
All preliminary evidence tends to suggest that the film isn't worth bothering with. But I'll be hornswaggled if The Bourne Identity isn't a tight, satisfying exponent of its genre. The intrigue is intriguing, the tension is tense, and the action is artful. But let's be frank: What really makes the movie swing is the violence. The fight scenes, in which Bourne instantaneously "remembers" his training in the art of lethally kicking your ass, are killer. They make you clench your fists and punch the air in front of your seat. It's violence with consequences--as illustrated by Clive Owen's excellent death scene--but it's violence: clean, quick, and compelling, like movie violence ought to be. (SEAN NELSON)

* The Cruise
Filmed over the course of two years by NYC film school drop-out Bennet Miller, The Cruise is a delightful documentary about a double-decker tour-bus guide on New York City's Gray Line. His name is Timothy "Speed" Levitch, he earns $200 a week, he has written 40 plays (none of which have been produced), he is homeless, he has some guru-like theory about "the cruise," and he is obviously quite mad. His engagement with Manhattan is very passionate, irrational, distorted, immediate; and to watch him as he works on the bus is thrilling because his madness plunges you into the "frantic chaos of limitless universe" that is Manhattan. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

The Debut
The first major feature to treat the Filipino-American experience and aggressively court Filipino viewers, The Debut is a decent coming-of-age story with an engaging cast and a great dance sequence. The story is rather predictable: Ben, an aspiring animator, has enrolled in a fine arts college and must break the news to his father, who is certain that his son is destined for medical school. This conflict is staged and complicated at Ben's sister's 18th birthday party (the eponymous "debut"). As a director, Gene Cajayon could have pulled the reins on the excessive emoting of some of his younger actors, but his movie is serviceable enough. (ANNIE WAGNER)

* The Fast Runner
Although the filmmakers have lovingly reconstructed every detail of prehistoric Inuit culture--this being the first feature-length film entirely in the Inuktitut language--by recording life on the infinite tundra with digital-video intimacy, they keep the characters palpably real. Inside glowing igloos and behind roiling teams of sled dogs, the viewer sees a legend sprout from the very ice. I can't wait to go to sleep so I can dream that I am there again. Do not miss this extraordinary film. (MATT FONTAINE)

Feardotcom
This is a dark film. And by "dark," I don't mean brooding and gloomy--I mean the movie is poorly lit. And the inscrutable lighting is just one of many hellacious gaffes that makes you wonder how this movie ever made it past editors, producers, directors and any bevy of Hollywood execs onto the screen. Other major problems include: the plot, the acting (including a faux Jack Nicholson playing a bad Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter--excruciating), and the script, a sort of D-minus David Cronenberg rip off. Feardotcom dabbles in bondage voyeurism and psychedelic dream/internet imagery that devolves into laughable unintentional parody. (JOSH FEIT)

Freeze Me
Japanese director Takashi Ishii's 2000 revenge fantasy concerning a victim of gang rape who exacts a violent reprisal on one of her attackers--storing the remains Dahmer-style in her household freezer.

* The Good Girl
When it comes to deep, dark cinematic comedy--the kind that makes you want to laugh and weep and squirm out of your skin at the same time--Miguel Arteta and Mike White have cornered the market. Following 2000's Chuck & Buck comes The Good Girl, which explores similarly perverse terrain--the soul of a woman trapped by fate and circumstance, driven to commit acts of deeply iffy morality and legality. Starring Jennifer Aniston (who, incidentally, aces the role, bringing a beautifully understated gravity to the character), doe-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal, and John C. Reilly (who scores another supporting-role home run). (DAVID SCHMADER)

The Importance of Being Earnest
Rupert Everett looks terrible--his face appears to be sliding off his skull, and he's as neckless as a football player. And he should simply stop playing straight men, because he's the most unconvincing lover this side of Passions. Quibbles aside, this new adaptation is revolting. Thank God for Judi Dench, steamrolling her way through a terrible situation. (EMILY HALL)

K-19: The Widowmaker
This workable Cold War intrigue plot--a Soviet nuke-sub commander is forced to risk the lives of his men (and the fate of the planet) rather than seek help from Americans--is long to begin with, but the moral tensions of the story might have been enough to carry it through... if the film weren't completely submarined by the casting of Harrison Ford in the lead role. (SEAN NELSON)

Lilo & Stitch
Most people will be going to see this film because (a) it's Disney, (b) it's faux-vintage Disney, replete with hand-painted watercolor backgrounds, or (c) because he or she is five years old. You, however, will go to see this film because the protagonist, a little orphan child named Lilo, sits around her bedroom listening to rock and roll and commanding her big sister to "Leave me alone to die!" The plot is ripped from Frankenstein, and then tweaked to make the mutant adorable and intent on reform. Not too shabby, for a Disney flick--Lilo is the studio's best since Aladdin, and it's a tad less racist, too. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Little Secrets
Emily (Evan Rachel Wood) is a fourteen year-old Type A violinist who runs a neighborhood stand hawking "secret keeping" rather than lemonade. Kids pay to confess their minor misdeeds and receive her sage advice, while she suffers silently under the burden of a mammoth secret of her own. There is a sinister undercurrent running just below the surface of this limp ode to Salt Lake City suburbia, and it gives the movie's after-school special themes a certain morbid interest. (ANNIE WAGNER)

* Lovely & Amazing
This follow-up to the similarly graceful Walking and Talking is a shrewdly respectful character study of a fractured family of women trying to ride herd on their raging neuroses. Fantastic acting and sensitive writing underscore the simple DV directorial approach. (SEAN NELSON)

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat
Martin Lawrence attacks the "bullshit" (as he calls it) sensationalist media in this bullshit (as I call it) stand-up ego-a-thon. As Lawrence waxes philosophical, existential, and mental, offering "his side" to the weapons-and-drugs run-ins he's faced of late, his disingenuousness and palpable self-love become increasingly oppressive. Best to avoid Runteldat like you'd avoid jamming your fingers in a car door--at least until the self-destructive Mr. Lawrence winds up in an asylum, at which time the value of this movie's insights will have doubled. For now, it's just tragically unfunny. (KUDZAI MUDEDE)

Master of Disguise
A brief overview should demonstrate what a miserable, puny affair this Dana Carvey vehicle is. The men in a certain Italian American family possess a genetic predisposition toward disguising themselves as other people (and turtles, and piles of poo). Their family name: "Disguisey." The imagination that went into developing this magical universe is truly astounding: The term for this mimetic talent, for example, is "enérgico," and it involves the use of a device called the "Disguising Ball of Knowledge." There is a running gag that dictates that whenever the villain tries to cackle, he farts. And to top it all off, somebody had the brilliant idea of putting a pedophilia joke in a kid's movie. I can't believe this didn't go straight to video. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Me Without You
Me Without You details the immemorial drama of the "best friends." Best friends must ultimately become "worst of enemies." But at the very moment the worst of enemies are about to kill each other, something (a bar of soap, a word, a song) interrupts their raging violence and they realize that they were once best friends. They then hug each other, kiss, hold hands, and promise never to be worst of enemies again. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Men in Black II
When director Barry Sonnenfeld is living up the B-movie aspects of the movie's trappings--the sense of being there just to provide a foil for the special effects--Men in Black II (and no, I can't call it MIIB because fuck you) gives you the momentary sense that it was made by creative people with a good sense of humor. But all the humor is self-aware, and self-directed. It's like the whole joke is that the movie was even made. I call that crass. (SEAN NELSON)

* Minority Report
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise team up for this well-made futuristic thriller, based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, and featuring several special effects that are identical to ones used in Attack of the Clones. Report works best when Tom Cruise is actually running--he's a future-crimes cop being set up to commit murder--and when the maddeningly glorious Samantha Morton is actually freaking out. Complex in good ways, simple in others, the film marks Spielberg's second attempt at allegorical Kubrick paean (check the allusions to A Clockwork Orange) that ends with a cop-out. Still, a worthy effort, and much more intriguing than most sci-fi. (SEAN NELSON)

Monsoon Wedding
At first, it seems like Mira Nair is just doing family drama. The film is stylish, brisk, witty, and beautifully filmed. But within the patchwork of marriage melodrama, Monsoon Wedding presents a subversive argument about the insidiousness of progress and its fluid relationship with tradition. (SEAN NELSON)

Mostly Martha
American audiences are hot for foreign films about food--there's something about food, apparently, that makes us want to project our weakness for sensuality clear across the Atlantic. Sandra Nettelbeck's Mostly Martha, a German production, is compatible with this American fantasy--but the result feels much less crude than the escapist "foreign" fantasies American audiences have become accustomed to. It's a refreshing break from routine, though it's never quite gourmet cinema. (ANNIE WAGNER)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
This romantic comedy is based on the one-woman show of Second City alumna Nia Vardalos, who also directs. It tells the story of 30-year-old Toula who searches for love and self-realization.

P:p: Le Moko
A beautiful socialite named Gaby (Mireille Balin) chances upon the infamous criminal Pépé le Moko (Jean Gabin) during a police raid on the labyrinthine Casbah district of Algiers. In one fabulous, deservedly renowned scene, Pépé idly seduces the poised Gaby by pretending exclusive interest in her elaborate jewelry. This brilliant and feisty 1937 movie represents the sort of guilty pleasure that could only become a classic in the medium of film--the shame of France's colonial past is inseparable from the pleasure we take in watching these suave gangsters revel in their exotic surroundings. The newly restored print isn't perfect, but the experience of seeing this kind of grand fatalism on the big screen is priceless. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Possession
No director in the universe (with the possible exception of John Waters) could save a bad novel like Possession, which was authored by A. S. Byatt. It's the one novel Hollywood should have left in its original condition: a bad book. Now it has a second life as a bad movie. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Road to Perdition
Sam Mendes has done the impossible: He has made a film that is even more smug, phony, and wasteful than American Beauty. Road to Perdition steals its look (including several exact images) from the Coens' Miller's Crossing, purging that superior film's sense of humor and necessary awareness and replacing it with a catchpenny moralism that wants to have everything--its violence, its sympathies, and its casting--both ways. (SEAN NELSON)

Serving Sara
Sucks. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Sex and Lucia
The digital cinematography in this film is remarkable, but it's largely squandered on beach sunsets and early morning sex and other pretty, vapid things. Following the plot, which involves a very serious writer and his myriad romantic entanglements (all serving as grist for the proverbial mill), is like trying to figure out a single episode of a soap opera that's been broadcast for twenty years. But the girls are adorable and the high drama is quite absorbing, so it's not a complete waste of time. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Signs
Signs would have been exceptional if not for the necessity of elaborate surprises. All the things I like about M. Night Shyamalan's movies (the X-Files-like moodiness, the theological questions, etc.) are imprisoned by the necessities of plot twists. If liberated, this film, about a troubled man who is dealing not only with his wife's death but a massive alien invasion, would have been truly scary. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Simone
A film director loses his lead actress halfway through production and, desperate to finish his "masterwork," decides to create his own actress via computer. This is the plot to Andrew Niccol's Simone--a bland, unfortunate Hollywood satire that aims to skewer the cult of celebrity, but instead manages to shoot itself in the foot. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Spider-Man
As filmed by Sam Raimi, Spider-Man trots out a predictable (and cloyingly Victorian) boy-girl story that wastes Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) as a screaming damsel in distress, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) as a cackling villain, and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) spouting a bunch of pre-fab platitudes. (JOSH FEIT)

Spy Kids 2
Spy Kids 2 isn't a bad movie. Really, it isn't. And if you're an eight-year-old who dreams of being a spy--something I always wanted to be when I was eight--then it's the perfect movie for you. There are some mildly funny parts (involving nose picking or camel poop) and it's a highly predictable kids movie (which means zero brain energy needed). At least I didn't hate myself for going. And that's always a good thing. (MEGAN SELING)

* Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones delivers exactly what you should expect from a Star Wars movie. It is big. It is fun. It is an event. From the opening surge of John Williams' familiar score, to the final optical zooming out to the words "Directed by George Lucas," Episode II lives up to the Star Wars myth--a myth that has always meant "stupid fun." Don't agree? Go back and watch the first three. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Sunshine State
A cinematic soap opera of familial and neighborly drama centers around a small stretch of Florida coastline. Employing writer/director John Sayles' benchmark standards for dialogue and acting--the cast includes Edie Falco, Mary Steenburgen, Timothy Hutton, and Alan King--the film uses a tug of war over prime resort real estate to showcase both natural history and human frailty.

* Tadpole
Judging by the premise--precocious 15-year-old gets the hots for an older woman (who happens to be his stepmother, who happens to be played by Sigourney Weaver)--it doesn't seem improper to assume that Tadpole will hark back to the values of early '80s classics such as Private Lessons and My Tutor, films that understood the lusty pulse of suburban adolescence. No such (bad) luck, though; Tadpole is a witty, intelligent, and unsentimental coming-of-age comedy in which the a precocious preppie teen's lustful projections (onto his stepmom, whoa!) are part of a much larger picture, and the lusty boy is a too-smart-for-his-own-good kid who learns a lesson about snobbery and poseurdom. (SEAN NELSON)

* Undisputed
Undisputed is great because Ving Rhames is great. He plays a world heavyweight champion who, like Mike Tyson, is convicted for raping a woman. Unlike Mike Tyson, but much like Muhammad Ali, Ving Rhames is articulate. He is not just a slugging machine but someone who understands his situation (his limits, his value) and able to express it with a deep and convincing voice. While in the maximum security prison, Rhames is confronted by the boxing champ of the underworld, Wesley Snipes. Prisoners from all over America have tried and failed to claim a victory from Snipes, a convicted murderer. So now the king of the overworld must battle the king of the underworld, and whoever wins is the master the universe--a title Rhames already holds. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

XXX
Just how bad is XXX? Worse than you've imagined. Seriously. I would rather be catheterized by a Parkinson's-afflicted nurse than sit through it again. It's that bad. Don't believe me? Then go see it. Flop down the $10 at your neighborhood multiplex and slouch your way through the picture. You'll see--and afterward you'll say, "Shit, man, I wish I'd listened to that chump from The Stranger." (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

 

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