Big City Dick
You know Richard Peterson from urban memories of your nostalgic past. He is that local musician that you've seen playing a trumpet on the streets of Seattle, yet you never knew his story. Johnny Mathis- and local media personality-obsessed, Richard Peterson will capture your heart and mind in this wonderful doc, much like the film captured the grand prize at Slamdance this past year. (SHANNON GEE) Rendezvous, Thurs-Sat 7 pm.
See review this issue. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.
A Canterbury Tale
SAM's Michael Powell series continues with this film about three secular pilgrims heading to Canterbury at the beginning of World War II. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Jan 27 at 7:30 pm.
Childish Film Festival
The annual showcase of films for (and in one case, by) children returns with a diverse lineup of films from the international children's film festival circuit. All films screen at Northwest Film Forum. Stories & Games shorts package (including a Super-8 movie by Vanessa Briggs and local kids Ivy Girdwood and Zephyr Aleta) is aimed at children ages 3-6: Sat 11 am, Sun 12:30 pm, Mon 10:30 am, Tues 11 am. Brave New Worlds shorts package (including Aristomenis Tsirbas' The Freak, which stars an adorably bucktoothed creature who loves to dance), appropriate for ages 6-10: Sat 12:30 pm, Sun 3:30 pm, Thurs 11 am. Magic Carpet Ride (animated Iranian shorts), for all ages: Sat-Sun 2 pm, Wed 11 am. Rolli, a Finnish film about a friendship between elfin enemies, Sat 4 pm, Mon 10:30 am. Minoes, a Dutch film about a strange cat lady, Sun 5 pm, Mon 12:30 pm. Sing-Along with Sendak films, Sun Jan 30 at 6:30 pm.
Ralph Bakshi's animated feature about a Harlem ghetto. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
Cowards Bend the Knee
See review this issue. Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Wed 6, 7:45, 9:30 pm.
Demon of the Derby: The Ann Calvello Story
A documentary about "Banana Nose" Calvello, 70-something roller-derby queen. Preceded by 1948 Academy Award-winning short Roller Derby Girl. 911 Media Arts, Fri-Sat 7 pm.
See review this issue. Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Sat 6:15, 8:45 pm, Sun-Thurs 7, 9:15 pm.
The Flor Contemplacion Story
A free screening about the execution of a domestic worker accused of murdering a coworker and her Singaporean ward. Allen Auditorium, UW campus, Thurs Jan 27 at 6:30 pm.
Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst
It's not very often that a single news story functions as an allegory for an entire era. For example, while 9/11 defines our times by default, it doesn't actually distill the aughties for us. As for the clinically depressed early '70s, when Walter Cronkite broadcast footage of rich kid Patty Hearst wielding a machine gun during a "revolutionary" bank robbery committed by a fringe group called the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974, the comedown of the fucked-up, morose decade was captured in one fell swoop. (The rare bank robbery footage is shown here in its stunning, silent, and gorgeous entirety.) Robert Stone's Guerilla, which played at Sundance (and SIFF) in 2004, is anchored by newsreels from the time and features interviews with some surviving SLA members. (Most of the bizarre 10-member "army" died in a shootout with the L.A.P.D. shortly after the robbery.) Unfortunately, the movie's over-reliance on day-to-day outtakes from the media circus that chronicled the Hearst kidnapping leaves little room for Stone to step back and provide historical insights or even some much-needed clarity on the unwieldy storyline. Patty's (AKA, Tania's) infamous underground flight to the East Coast in the spring of '74, and her subsequent return to California, where she reorganized the gang (a story famously recounted by Rolling Stone in 1975), is also absent here. Also missing are any details about the SLA's origins as a sub-splinter faction of the venerated 1960's protest group Students for a Democratic Society and the infamous Weather Underground-rich history that makes the Hearst kidnapping and the misguided Symbionese Liberation Army such a potent allegory in the first place. (JOSH FEIT) Varsity, see Movie Times, page 68, for details.
I Know Where I'm Going!
Michael Powell's 1945 Celtic romance features Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Feb 3 at 7:30 pm.
Killing Us Softly 3
A documentary featurette about representations of women in advertising. Keystone Church, Fri Jan 28 at 7 pm.
Melvin and Howard
Jonathan Demme's 1980 movie about the latter-day Howard Hughes. Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
The Power of Literacy
A video about adult learners and volunteers at Fremont's Literacy Source. Central Library, Mon Jan 31 at 7 pm.
A 1955 movie about a predatory Southern socialite played by Joan Crawford. Movie Legends, Sun Jan 30 at 1 pm.
Spike & Mike: Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation
Beach balls. Giggling. The brilliance of Happy Tree Friends. The skull-crushing boredom of No Neck Joe and No Neck Joe and No Neck Joe and No Neck Joe. Orgasm jokes; boner jokes; unfunny jokes. Bad animation. Some beautiful animation. Some animation that was cutting-edge five years ago. Is your bong already filled? Varsity, Fri-Sat 2, 4:30, 7, 9:30 pm, midnight, Sun 2, 4:30, 7, 9:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:30 pm.
Tales from the Gimli Hospital
Guy Maddin's 1988 "tribute to optical crackle" is about two friends who meet during a smallpox quarantine and torture each other with nightmarish stories. Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
Alone in the Dark
The umpteenth movie based on a video game, Alone in the Dark is about a paranormal detective played by Christian Slater.
Are We There Yet?
Ice Cube stars as a player/babysitter. Aw.
The Assassination of Richard Nixon
Based on a true story, The Assassination of Richard Nixon follows Samuel Bicke (Sean Penn), an unemployed salesman and failed husband whose growing disillusionment with Watergate-era America leads him to attempt the title act. Comparisons to Taxi Driver are probably unavoidable but not exactly flattering: Where Scorsese's hallucinatory technique allowed the viewer to see how the main character's craziness was fed by his environment, debuting director Niels Mueller adopts a more naturalistic approach that's honestly tough to watch. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Assault on Precinct 13
It seems like the scenario--bad guys try to infiltrate an understaffed precinct house during a New Year's Eve snowstorm--is going to yield some good confined-action results, despite the slightly lazy treatment of the villains, who never seem terribly threatening, which makes the heroes never seem terribly heroic, which, in turn, makes the stakes never seem terribly high. Still and all, as genre exercises go, Assault on Precinct 13 redux has a lot going for it. (SEAN NELSON)
It may be impossible to fully know Howard Hughes, but DiCaprio and Scorsese can only offer the broadest of paint strokes here. Scorsese attempts to cover up the lack of depth in The Aviator by focusing heavily on both Hughes' love life as well as his daring in the skies, but no matter how many romantic entanglements and spectacular crashes we see, the film itself remains superficial. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Bad Education announces itself with a rich melodramatic subject--Catholic clergy sex abuse--only to reject all predictable conflict for an emotional and thematic territory all its own. It's a brilliant maneuver, sending audiences traipsing down an initially recognizable path that soon splinters in directions they never could've dreamed. (DAVID SCHMADER)
Beyond the Sea
Some of you might be thinking about going to see Beyond the Sea, Kevin Spacey's tribute to nightclub entertainer/old-time rock 'n' roller/folk song dabbler/sometime actor Bobby Darin. I'm going to do you a favor and urge you, unequivocally, not to bother, unless, of course, you like bullshit. (SEAN NELSON)
See review this issue.
Viewed scene by scene, the unfettered, constant venom on display in this film is bracing, thrilling, and almost as much fun to watch as it must have been to perform. Taken as a whole, however, it proves to be a bit too much of a bad thing. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Biopics, particularly when the subject is still around and willing to do promotions, can be a bit of a slog, often squelching essential complexities for easy stand-up-and-cheer moments. The heavily hyped Coach Carter tackles a worthy, deservedly inspirational story, about a tough-love basketball coach who turned his dead-ender squad into academic winners, but treats its subject in such a neutered, worshipful fashion that it ultimately does the actual accomplishment a disservice. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Some ninja devil demon thing killed Jennifer Garner's mom when she was a kid and so she has these terrible nightmares and a pretty wicked case of OCD. Instead of going into therapy because SHE'S CRAZY, she lines up objects in exact patterns, counts every step she takes, routinely washes her DNA off of things, and kills people. Yup, crazy. Anyway, aside from being fucked in the head and having terrible social skills, she also has some special powers (which come in handy when she's killin'). Now these people have hired her to kill this little girl and her sexy dad. Without asking why she goes to do it, but then has a change of heart at the last minute, which opens up a huge fucking can of worms because now these people are pissed because it turns out this little girl is special too and they want her gone. Dammit! So shit hits the fan and the guy with the bad tattoos and the woman with the terrible breath are chasing after them, and now Jennifer Garner and her stupid cheeks have to save the little girl and her sexy dad while fighting her own inner demons. Oh the drama! (MEGAN SELING)
Marc Forster's third film, Monster's Ball, was complete and utter nonsense. His fourth film, Finding Neverland, is ordinary and dry nonsense. Clearly, Forster is a director of the middling order. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Hide and Seek
A horror flick about the negative influence of imaginary friends.
The crux of Hotel Rwanda is Europe's cowardly abandonment of defenseless Africans, and how, despite this great betrayal, Paul Rusesabagina did not surrender to the chaos, to the evil that had consumed his fellow tribesmen. He was Africa's Oskar Schindler. Unlike Spielberg's Schindler's List, however, Hotel Rwanda doesn't have a huge budget, which is the primary reason why it's not a great film in terms of both photography and casting (many of the extras do not look like Hutus or Tutsis). It's a film held up entirely by Don Cheadle, whose portrayal of an African is, for a black American, second only to Canada Lee's in the 1951 adaptation of Cry, the Beloved Country. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
House of Flying Daggers
House of Flying Daggers, director Yimou Zhang's much-anticipated follow-up to Hero, is an exceptional period martial arts movie, filled to the brim with equal doses of kicks to the head and pathos, which suffers by comparison only to its older, more ambitious, brother. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
In Good Company
In Good Company is a happily inoffensive, warmly predictable, wholly inconsequential comedy/drama from American Pie and About a Boy director Paul Weitz. The movie's surface-level themes--corporate takeovers, white-collar backstabbing, familial versus professional relationships, fucking people you're not supposed to--could make for interesting conflicts in the hands of a sharp satirist or incisive sociologist. But the increasingly bland Weitz is neither. (ERIK HENRIKSEN)
The Incredibles is done in true and beautiful Pixar style, but the action sequences are far more exhilarating than anything seen in Finding Nemo or Toy Story. Plus, the humans aren't annoyingly unattractive, and it's pretty damn funny to boot. (MEGAN SELING)
The first half of Kinsey is exciting on a micro scale the way Kinsey's work was exciting on a grand one: It demonstrates that reason can prevail over mythology. Unfortunately, because it's a movie, the second half allows mythology--the mythology of narrative--to re-intrude, and the picture grows musty. (SEAN NELSON)
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
The movie is faithful to the books, mining the first three for settings, characters, and unfortunate events. Jim Carrey is perfectly cast as the evil Count Olaf, and the pair of roundups cast as the elder orphans, Jennifer Coolidge and Liam Aiken, more than hold their own against Carrey. (DAN SAVAGE)
The Life Aquatic
Unlike Wes Anderson's harshest critics, I've always been more than willing to accept both his otherworldly concoctions and his heavy lifting from Hal Ashby; this time, however, he delivers little else. Long stretches of The Life Aquatic feel malnourished, as if Anderson spent so much energy creating the film's distinct reality that he forgot to provide reasons for that reality to exist. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
A Love Song for Bobby Long
See review this issue.
Meet the Fockers
Watching Meet the Fockers started out grating and ended up grinding my flesh off the bone. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
The Merchant of Venice
You can sleep through the rest of the watery Venetian canal scenes, but Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons are fascinating. These aren't definitive performances by any means--Pacino's Shylock is so infinitely burdened he almost buckles, and that's before his daughter leaves him--but they are acute, stubbornly personal, and a joy to watch. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Million Dollar Baby
As sappy and Lifetime-y as the plot sounds, Clint Eastwood's skill with the performers keeps Million Dollar Baby afloat. Both Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman deliver graceful turns that mesh perfectly with Eastwood's grave brooding, and by the time the film takes a brutally tragic turn you can't help but find yourself yanked along emotionally. Eastwood still keeps his films criminally under-lit, and his editing still plods, but his actors help to keep Million Dollar Baby burning bright. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The Motorcycle Diaries
This is a film that should be taken for what it is: a beautifully constructed road movie with a dash of conscience on the side. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The story is a mess, the scam is a fraud, and the performances are lazy and smug, but Ocean's 12 has one major plus: the return of Steven Soderbergh's creative pulse. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The Phantom of the Opera
Even putting aside the unspeakably horrendous set design, this movie does everything wrong. Instead of exploiting the cheesy, populist songcraft of the 1986 musical, Joel Schumacher casts actors who wouldn't know melodrama if it smacked them in the face. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Shit yes! I've got it! I've come up with THE BEST MOVIE CONCEPT EVER! Listen up: It'll be a story about a zebra. A baby zebra who was abandoned by the circus in the middle of the night during a rainstorm, but then picked up by some retired and heartbroken racing horse coach guy who hasn't gotten over the fact his wife died during a horseracing accident. He'll bring the zebra home, his wannabe horseracing daughter with the bad hair will fall in love with it and raise it like a horse and everything. What's funny, though, is the zebra won't know he's a zebra! Hahaha! I know, right? Since he grew up on a farm around a bunch of racing horses, the zebra will think he too is a racing horse! Oh man! Hilarity abounds! (MEGAN SELING)
Despite a tendency to bathe in the molasses of sentimentality, Ray is a rich exponent of the biopic genre. Imposing a narrative on a life, especially one filled with so many contradictions (i.e. beloved entertainer/ abusive junkie cheapskate) may be a fool's errand, but this film is satisfying nonetheless. (SEAN NELSON)
While Sideways is a road movie, it's a lazy one; the distance traveled, both physically and emotionally, is short. Blessed with pitch-perfect performances, especially by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, Sideways is a slight film, to be sure, but it's also one of Alexander Payne's least snide efforts. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie appeals to both the easily entertained and those who appreciate the power of double meaning--i.e., an ice cream bender that cause SpongeBob and Patrick to pass out, and wake up crimson eyed and quick tempered. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
A bruising, classical tragedy about a woman whose passionate altruism brings pain and suffering upon herself and the people whom she loves. (ANNIE WAGNER)
A Very Long Engagement
I'm not saying it isn't corny. What I'm saying is that it's a fantastic movie, and unless you're the stated enemy of life and all that makes it worth living, you'll probably fall for it. (SEAN NELSON)
What the #$*! Do We Know?!
This ungainly, inane film purports to be about quantum physics but is really about the power of positive thinking. (EMILY HALL)
If kudos were awarded solely on intent, The Woodsman would be deserving of every critical hosanna in existence. As it stands, however, the combination of stupendous acting and awkward plot machinations ultimately land the film in a strange, frustrating place. It's just good enough that it should be even better. (ANDREW WRIGHT)