From the May 13 – May 19, 2004 issue
See Blow Up. A 1998 documentary about Aum Shinrikyo, the cult that was found responsible for the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway. Director Tatsuya Mori will be in attendance. Grand Illusion, Mon May 17 at 7 pm.
See Blow Up. A screening of the sequel to A, with the director in attendance. Kane Hall Room 220, Sun May 16 at 1 pm.
* The American Astronaut
Cory McAbee directs, sings, and stars as Samuel Curtis, a greasy, laconic, and strangely sexy space cowboy pursued through a remote solar system by a homicidal professor who insists on zapping everyone Samuel cares about into piles of ash. At times discernibly a parody of '50s Westerns, sci-fi flicks, and musicals, Astronaut often veers off into uncharted, deeply perplexing territory. Watching a rubber-suited Samuel sing "The Girl with the Vagina Made of Glass" to a pasture full of beautiful Southern belles as they zealously guard their mummified lover is both hilarious and haunting. (TAMARA PARIS) Grand Illusion, Fri 5, 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm, Tues-Thurs 7, 9 pm.
* Billy Liar
This masterpiece of the British new wave stars a young Tom Courtenay as a man whose life is so drab, he opts to live in elaborate fantasies--until all his lies converge and paint him into the corner of growing up. (SEAN NELSON) Seattle Art Museum, Thurs May 20 at 7:30 pm.
* Bubba Ho-Tep
In an East Texas convalescent home, a penis-cancer-ridden Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) are awaiting death. The two geezers are revitalized when they band together to fight a mummy who's been sucking the souls out of old people's asses. Surprise number one is that the film, while being a complete piece of trash, is actually pretty great. Aside from its crackpot intelligence, fine acting, deadpan absurdity, and startling sweetness, however, Bubba Ho-Tep is exactly what you'd expect. (SEAN NELSON) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
* Cinematic Splendor: Northwest Film Forum Auction
See Stranger Suggests. This year's Northwest Film Forum auction features such thrilling items as a guitar signed by the Dave Matthews Band and a personalized poison pen missive from the desk of The Stranger's own David Schmader. Tickets ($35) are available at 329-2629. Russian Community Center, Sat May 15 at 7 pm.
Music and Experimental Films
This program of 16 mm experimental films will be screened between music sets. Films include Jon Behrens' Vernal Obeisance, Devon Damonte's Duct & Cover, and Frank Olvey and Robert Brown's The Tempest. Rendezvous, Thurs May 13 at 8 pm.
Naked Freedom Film Festival
A film festival celebrating not wearing clothes. The kickoff screening includes Rob Moss' Riverdogs and the premiere of the local short Solstice. Excerpted in Moss' recent film The Same River Twice, Riverdogs is the nonfiction short the filmmaker made while working as a river guide in 1978. Seattle Art Museum, Sat May 15 at 1:30 pm. The second screening, Cinema Au Naturel, features the 1954 nudist exploitation film Garden of Eden by Max Nossbeck (who also directed Black Beauty!). 911 Media Arts, Sat May 15 at 7:30 pm. The festival wraps up Sunday with Public Nudity 101, a series of shorts by Charles MacFarland about the titular act of civil disobedience. 911 Media Arts, Sun May 16 at 7:30 pm. For more information, see www.bodyfreedom.org/nfff/.
* Prom Night
A 1980 slasher flick about a long-buried murder and the high-school seniors who are at last facing punishment for their crime. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
This month's entry in Central Cinema's "I Walk the Line: The Man Alone" series, Serpico is an Al Pacino vehicle from 1973 about a New York cop who's tough on corruption. Central Cinema, Fri-Sat 7:30, 10:10 pm, Sun 7:30 pm.
A Pulitzer-hungry journalist decides to infiltrate an insane asylum by pretending to be mad in this 1963 film by Samuel Fuller. Rendezvous, Wed May 19 at 7:30 pm.
Six of a Kind
This 1934 talkie about a madcap road trip stars Charles Ruggles and Mary Boland. Movie Legends, Sun May 16 at 1 pm.
The Sneak series of film previews continues its third season. For more information, see www.sneakfilms.com. Pacific Place, Sun May 16 at 10 am.
Spike & Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation
A good decade and a half after I discovered both pot and the adult cartoons that (at the time) seemed to go so well with it, it's both comforting and depressing to know that Spike and Mike are still at it, that stoners young and old still have a place to watch their R-rated cartoons, however bad they may be. Because that's the thing: For every cool animated short in the Spike & Mike's Sick and Twisted animation fests, there seems to be 10 bad ones. (JENNIFER MAERZ) Varsity, Fri-Sat midnight.
These Are the Damned
Who doesn't want to see a 1961 film about breeding radioactive children? Seattle Art Museum, Thurs May 13 at 7:30 pm.
* The Trilogy
Whatever it is that separates the movies--On the Run, An Amazing Couple, and After the Life--into their respective categories--thriller, comedy, and drama--these differences are basically superficial. The genetic-level differences are all based in the flow of information. Events repeat themselves from one film to the next, and each has the capacity to fit into any of the three genres. In other words, perspective is governed mainly by what we choose to share, or what we choose to notice. The main question is where to put the ellipses. What information are you holding back? Is it the kind that can turn laughter into tears? (ADAM HART) All films screen at the Varsity. On the Run, Sun May 16 at 2 pm. An Amazing Couple, Fri-Sat 2, 4:30, 7, 9:20 pm, Sun 4:40, 9:40 pm. After the Life, Sun 7 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:40 pm. NOW PLAYING
13 Going on 30
As you could probably gather on your own, this movie is dumb, dull, and lacking any sort of charm. And besides that, the stupid 13 Going on 30 promo package that the movie people sent got stupid "wishing dust" all over my stupid desk. Fucking glitter. (MEGAN SELING)
See review this issue.
* Bon Voyage
Bon Voyage has a big theme (Germany's invasion of France), big actors (in terms of reputation), and big emotions (a young man's eternal love for a famous but shallow movie actress). The speed of the film's narrative is always high, and the characters are kept in constant motion, rarely stopping to rest and look at the big world around them. If this were an American movie, it would have been described as intelligent and even profound; but as a French movie, it is big, dumb, and lots of fun. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Breakin' All the Rules
Jamie Foxx gets dumped by his girlfriend and then writes a book about it.
* Connie and Carla
Best friends Connie (Nia Vardalos) and Carla (Toni Collette), the female title characters, are not gay, but they witness a crime and (given their mutual love for dinner theater) quickly conclude that they must go into hiding as drag queens. The first 20 minutes of Connie and Carla, which attempt to demonstrate how this solution could possibly seem obvious to anyone, are awful. The rest of the movie--an inspired blend of Shakespearean gender-bent comedy, show-tunes cabaret, and vaudeville slapstick--more than compensates for those initial squirm-worthy scenes. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Ella Enchanted stars saucer-eyed Anne Hathaway as a young woman cursed with total obedience. A quasi-feminist fairy tale vaguely inspired by the story of Cinderella (Ella--get it?), the film follows its heroine's quest to remove the curse, which naturally results in the obligatory romance with the hunky Prince Charmont. As family fluff with a girl-power message, Ella Enchanted actually presents a more sophisticated argument than a "serious" movie like, say, Whale Rider. By making the restrictions placed on the heroine internal (sort of) rather than external (such as conservo-fascist parents and chauvinistic traditions), the movie inches toward a subject that has not really been dealt with in mainstream film: the subservience this society attempts to program into its women. To the film's credit, it keeps its woman on top all the way through, even at the expense of logic and narrative coherence. (ADAM HART)
Tim (Ben Stiller) and Nick (Jack Black) are best friends, co-workers and neighbors, somewhere in under-the-powerlines California. "You're a dreamer," Tim tells Nick, condescendingly. Then Nick's invention--a spray-on fecal disintegrator called "Va-POO-rize"--hits the big time. Hijinks, as they say, ensue. Tim accidentally kills his neighbor's horse, which, in time-honored farce fashion, introduces the J-Man, a goofy longhaired barfly played with comic menace by Christopher Walken. Naturally, the horse presents a recurring problem, never more so than when Nick generously makes his beloved neighbor his business partner. Eventually, environmental concerns arise concerning the fate of the dispersed crap. A crowd chants, "Where does the shit go?" Black's role requires a cherubic sweetness unleavened by mischief, rendering his casting choice moot. Stiller veers between his babbling neurotic shtick and a decent portrayal of a troubled, harried man. Walken, in sideshow mode, never hits a false note (except when he sings). Levinson's best known satire is Wag the Dog; Black and Stiller could conceivably have helped to deliver a similar work of wit. Unfortunately, Levinson takes up love, success, and forgiveness at the expense of a sharp tongue. These are themes seen elsewhere in his work--notably the terrific, but highly sentimental, Avalon. The American myth of the decent little guy making it big and remaining decent underpins both films. Here, it stays the venom of satire, leaving a sweet-natured film that verges on stickiness at points. (MIKE WHYBARK)
* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Whereas the last Michel Gondry/Charlie Kaufman collaboration, Human Nature, eventually crumbled under its own quirkiness, Eternal Sunshine finds director and scribe fitting perfectly together. This is a film that travels far beyond most of our imaginations. It is also one of the most beautifully assembled romances you will ever see. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Godsend is goddamn bad. Starring Robert De Niro, and directed by some English chap, the movie proves once and for all that the universe is without meaning. Agreed, a meaningful universe is a universe that is made meaningful by God. And if God were the creator and ruler of the universe, then He would have destroyed the production of this dumb film with a single bolt of lightening. But that did not happen. The movie exists in the world. I saw all of it with my own eyes, which means, irrefutably, that God does not exist. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
* Good Bye Lenin!
Because of Christiane's exceptionally delicate condition, her son Alexander cannot inform her that East Germany is no more, that the party and the socialist ideals that consumed much of her adult life are now a thing of the past. To protect her nerves as the outside world becomes more and more like West Germany, the inside of Christiane's room is maintained in the state of East Germany. The trick, and it is a trick devised by the clever director (Wolfgang Becker), works. In other hands it would have been silly and exhausted in a matter of minutes, but Becker manages to get over an hour's worth of comedy and drama out of it. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Home on the Range
Concerning three cows that live on a farm, Home on the Range is no A Bug's Life. However, it would have been in the same class (though at the very bottom of that class) as A Bug's Life if it had not been so self-referential. Instead of making smarty references to contemporary consumer predilections for healthier foods (fat-free milk, free-range chickens, and so on), it should have turned its back on our world and only referenced its historical period, the 19th century. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
I'm Not Scared
Soaring across plains of southern Italy, Michele is a coming-of-age hero waiting to happen, and happen he does when he comes across a hole in the ground behind an old, abandoned villa and spies a kidnapped child. Complicating matters, meanwhile, is the mounting certainty that Michele's own father is implicated in the abduction. These vectors are both the bane and the salvation of this picture, which successfully transcends genre, only to suffer under the weight of its own unlikeliness. (SEAN NELSON)
Director Jim Sheridan always turns up the emotion in his films, but at least his earlier movies took place in faraway Ireland. When all this emotion is suddenly close to home and out of its usual cultural environment, it's rather obnoxious and exasperating. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Kill Bill Vol. 2
As a whole piece (as it was originally intended), Kill Bill would've toppled over, eventually landing with a thud upon its inevitable anti-climax. There are some surprising fits to be found in Vol. 2 (including the Uma Thurman squaring off with Elle Driver, a romp that owes much to the Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona), but the final tally fails to shatter the earth--a shame, since Vol. 1 built hopes up so high. Lest we forget, Kill Bill, at its heart, is little more than a stock revenge flick--so why then does Tarantino waste so much of our time, and put forth so little apparent effort, in bringing the tale to a close in Vol. 2? I can hazard a guess: His desire to make something far more important than it should be trumped his ability to make something great. The resulting film is, when spackled together, one-half genius and one-half a failure. This half is the failure, and, in the end, it taints the genius. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The Ladykillers, sadly, is a weak effort on the part of the Coen Brothers (when the pair resort to using cheesy wipes, à la Star Wars, to transition between scenes, warning flares surely begin to fire), and despite what few strokes of brilliance it may contain, the final product is far too cumbersome and far too lazy. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The Laws of Attraction
With a sensibility that seems to have been only marginally updated since the 1950s, and a plot so familiar you could sing along if you wanted to, Laws of Attraction is unoriginal, untroubling fluff of the highest order. (ADAM HART)
Life of Brian
See review this issue.
* Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
After greeting the first two films with slack-jawed reverence, I found myself viewing the third with a kind of grumpy anticipation. What I soon discovered, however, was that the begrudging-ness of my affection for the film was no match for Peter Jackson's swashbuckling craft. If this is just a fantasy, Jackson seems to say, it's going to deliver on every level available. (SEAN NELSON)
Man on Fire
Denzel Washington stars as a bodyguard in Mexico with a passion for vengeance.
* Master and Commander
If Master and Commander sounds soundly square, that's because square is exactly what the film is; massive and solidly made, Peter Weir's picture is a throwback, of sorts, to the works of David Lean, delivering the sort of rousing, smart, and earnest adventure rarely seen nowadays. It has been far too long since I'd felt the joy and excitement such spectacular entertainment as Master and Commander provides. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Mean Girls
Mean Girls is no Heathers--it lacks the surreal quality of the teenage years, the quality that's found a strange but correct analogue in supernatural teen dramas like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch--but it's pretty good. Really, when you think about what sort of crap is out there for teenagers, about how teenagers live and interact and what Hollywood thinks is at stake for them (Chasing Liberty, anyone?), Mean Girls starts to look great. It's funny, lively, and smart, with a couple of characters who seem realer than not, and had I seen it as a teenager it might have changed something for me. (EMILY HALL)
New York Minute
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen finally make a movie that isn't a straight-to-video piece of crap about the sisters getting into all sorts of trouble in some strange city while meeting cute boys and coming to the conclusion that no matter what their differences, they'll always be sisters and best friends. Oh wait. That's exactly what New York Minute is. Except for the straight-to-video part. And NYM isn't really a piece of crap either (not as much as their straight-to-video projects, anyway). I mean, the twins certainly aren't flexing any acting muscles, but Eugene Levy is in it and I love him. Ufortunately, the whole movie revolves around a Simple Plan video shoot. And Simple Charlotte, uh, I mean Simple Plan is one of the lamest bands in the history of music. Major points lost there. MEGAN SELING
No one who has graduated from the fifth grade ever goes to see IMAX movies. So I can't imagine that it's worth my time to tell you about the latest IMAX addition, Sacred Planet, because what do you care? You don't want to go see a beautifully filmed educational movie showing some of the most breathtaking areas of the world (like Namibia, Thailand, and Borneo). Even if it is narrated by Robert Redford, you're still not gonna go! But I went. And I'm glad I did. Because besides it being all pretty and stuff, there's this really funny part when a big dumb bear is trying to catch a slippery little fish in the shallow part of an Alaskan river. And no matter how much he paws and pounces around in the water that dumb bear just can't catch that damn fish. Hahahaha. Stupid bear. (MEGAN SELING)
* Shaolin Soccer
When "Golden Leg" Fung blew the championship soccer game for his team by missing the winning goal, the angered Hung hired some big and tough mobsters to break the loser's leg. So they did, and by doing so they ruined his soccer career. Poor Golden Leg. Instead of being the rich and famous soccer star he was meant to be, he became a lonely, smelly drunk. Miserable and alone, Fung meets Sing, who is a master at the art of Shaolin. Together, they set out to recruit a soccer team that can harness the power of the martial art to defeat Hung's new team. Shaolin Soccer probably sounds like a sappy, "anything can happen if you only believe" love-fest, but it's actually quite funny. At least, it is if you're into obvious and cheesy jokes (which I totally am). And a bunch of critics, all more notable than me, agree. (MEGAN SELING)
* Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring
The five seasons are governed by very different generic conventions--meaning it's entirely possible to enjoy one and abhor the next. The opening parable "Summer" is successful, but the next two episodes (a coming-of-age vignette and a cop drama) come up short by comparison. Then "Winter"--by far the most successful segment, and the only full episode to feature director Kim Ki-duk as the main character--explodes into an astounding ode to labor and atonement. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Starsky & Hutch
Despite my high praise for Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, Starsky & Hutch is not a great success. It's barely a marginal success--funny Ha, not funny Ha Ha. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Super Size Me
It is uncannily hard to watch the preparatory stages of Morgan Spurlock's diet experiment in Super Size Me, the stage during which he visits doctors and nutritionists who calibrate, in every thinkable way, the ways in which he is perfectly healthy. Watching this man--all happy, puppyish energy and handlebar mustache--prepare to throw himself under the wheels of the fast-food juggernaut has the eerie air of readying for sacrifice. Why would a person do such a thing? Don't we all know that fast food is bad for us? Well, apparently we don't know, or didn't know, precisely the horrifying extent. And lest you think that this film is only for Fast Food Nation types, that it's aimed only at those who already have the information, remember that Spurlock put his own body on the line to get your attention. That's why he did it. He did it for you. (EMILY HALL)
Touching the Void
I'm not sure if Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are still active mountaineers, but it is clear that just speaking about their famous climb in this drama-documentary, detailing it in that near-formal language which distinguishes professional mountaineers from amateurs, gives them a pleasure that is satanic in its size and intensity. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
* The Triplets of Belleville
Writer-director-animator Sylvain Chomet invokes the same absurdly entertaining nostalgia that Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro tapped into for Delicatessen and City of Lost Children. The world Chomet has created contains the same deadpan sadness that lies at the base of those films--the world may be a cold and lonely place, but with a little inventiveness you can prosper. (ANDY SPLETZER)
See review this issue.
Monster huntin' was better back in the 19th century.
The Rock plays an Army boy returning to his home in the faux Northwest hamlet of Ferguson, Washington.
What the #$*! Do We Know?!
See review this issue.
The compression of desire, enhanced by wanting badly what one can't have and then taking it anyway, makes for some incredibly hot sex scenes--if only Tilda Swinton didn't look like such a wilted weed the whole time. But the real problem is that Young Adam (based on the book by Alexander Trocchi) builds up a steamy focal point for the movie, only to shift to something broader that never seems to pull the same weight. (JENNIFER MAERZ)