Coming Soon

Charlotte Gray, Dark Blue World, Gosford Park, I Am Sam, Impostor, Kandahar, Orange County

New This Week

* Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Reviewed this issue. "This is my happening and it FREAKS ME OUT!" Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert collaborated on this intentionally dizzy mess of a movie, which, as my friend recently pointed out, is the closest Hollywood has ever come to Bollywood (without going over). Beyond offers a little T, a little A, and a whole lot of "Oh!" featuring a guest appearance by the great Strawberry Alarm Clock (performing "Incense and Peppermints" and "I'm Coming Home"). (SEAN NELSON) Little Theatre

This week: Mark Cantor's Celluloid Improvisations, in which the noted jazz film archivist presents pieces featuring such jazz luminaries as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Eric Dolphy. You know the best part about jazz shorts, right? You don't have to listen to the whole record.... JBL Theater at EMP

The Finishing Touch and You're Darn Tootin' accompanied by Eric Shoemaker on the WurliTzer Theater Pipe Organ, and the full-length talkie Swiss Miss. Another fine mess courtesy of Hokum W. Jeebs. Hokum Hall

* Rushmore
See Stranger Suggests. Okay, so, last week there were a bunch of letters in response to a factual error in my Royal Tenenbaums article ["Ringing True," Dec 20], in which it was erroneously stated that Rushmore was Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson's first collaboration. As many assiduous after-the-fact checkers were delighted to point out, their first collaboration was actually 1995's excellent Bottle Rocket. Several of these friendly admonishers told me I "should see it," because "it's good." Well I have seen Bottle Rocket; not only that, I reviewed it, glowingly, for the Seattle Weekly when it came out; I interviewed Anderson, Wilson, and two of his brothers, Luke and Andrew, a.k.a. "Future Man," at the Rendezvous before anyone had heard of them, and they told me they were working on a script about a kid who gets kicked out of prep school. I remember this because I said "I went to prep school, you should give me a part in this movie," and Anderson, trying to make the best of a VERY awkward pause, said "we'll call you." Funny and charming, right? I keep a picture from that day as a reminder. I even had the movie poster up on my bedroom wall. I told everyone I know. I love that fucking movie. Watched it again last night. It's right down my alley. As you'll see in the letters page correction, the error was not my own; it was added by mistake in the editing process. The perpetrator has been chastised. Because my name is on the piece, though, it is my fault, and so I'm apologizing, and congratulating you all on your eagle eyes. Well done. I apologize, too, for wasting this space on such a diatribe of expository apologia, but the whole episode was embarrassing and I needed a little closure. Besides, if you haven't seen Rushmore by now, what the hell is wrong with you? (SEAN NELSON) Egyptian

Continuing Runs

The Affair of the Necklace
Will Hollywood never tire of mincing through the haunted halls of pre-Revolutionary Versailles? This time around Hilary Swank (with an unflattering nimbus of frizzy hair and her negligible breasts [ed note: rrreer!] smashed unconvincingly into a corset), plays a conniving countess who crosses the Queen, old "let them eat cake" herself, Marie Antoinette. With the help of a court gigolo, she contrives an ingenious blackmail scheme in order to regain her family estate. Based on a true story, this might have been a sexy and thrilling tale in more capable hands. Instead, its corny sepia-toned flashbacks, nagging narrator, and nonexistent character development render it hopelessly clunky and perfunctory. However, it might be useful for high-school history teachers to show when they have a hangover. (TAMARA PARIS) Broadway Market

I heard Michael Mann's next film would star Calista Flockhart as Mama Cass. Factoria, Guild 45th, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

* Amélie
A beautifully kinetic testament to human sweetness that has audiences lining up around the block and contrarians carping about its artificiality. I'm not saying you have to be an asshole not to like Amélie, but it would probably help.... When director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was in Seattle recently, I asked him if the criticism of the film's fairy-tale aesthetic bothered him. "In France," he laughed, "sometimes if you have too much style, they crucify you. They prefer films about men and women fighting in ugly kitchens. They think if you have style, if the film is lit well, or is poetic, then you are not making something true. The reverse is true. The style is important. I love to play with everything. I can't avoid it. You need the style to get to the emotion. It's actually more realistic, dans un certain sense. When you do a film, it's for you. Very egoist. But you can please people if you are sincere." (SEAN NELSON) Egyptian

A Beautiful Mind
Stories about the insane are an inherent paradox. Because for a story to be compelling, it has to have rules, and an inner logic, whereas mental illness doesn't have rules, and treats logic as just another way of seeing. In the case of John Nash (Russell Crowe), the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia, there is the added irony that a man of quantitative genius could lose all control of quantitative reality. With a deft directorial touch, the paradox of Nash's world could really come to life. But that would take more of a talent than Ron Howard, whose interest is to make an uplifting Christmas movie, and to provide an easily digestible tale of overcoming adversity--as if insanity was something you just get through, like a bad hair day. (MICHAEL SHILLING) Factoria, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

Behind Enemy Lines
Two of the greatest American movie actors of this young century, Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson, share the screen in this utterly irredeemable piece of complete and total shit. In case the end of that last sentence didn't spell it out, suck on this: THERE IS NOTHING GOOD ABOUT THIS FILM. NOTHING. AT ALL. EVER. AT ALL ALL ALL!!! Ugly as sin, badly lit, poorly acted, logically untenable, and possibly not even written, Behind Enemy Lines is a total fucking travesty in which even the makeup is incompetently applied. I know everyone's desperate for The Royal Tennenbaums, but this jingo fetish Wilson-Hackman pairing is no kind of substitute. Do not see it, please, for the love of all things holy. (SEAN NELSON) Pacific Place 11

* Burnt Money
The only thing better than a movie about homosexual, coke-addicted, Argentinean bank robbers working through their relationship troubles is one that's based on a true story. Sensitive Angel, who never wears a shirt, and his badassed lover, Nene, are known professionally as "The Twins" on the Bueños Aires mob scene. When Nene shoots a cop during a commissioned armored-car heist, everybody involved has to flee to Montevideo, but Angel gets seriously wounded in the scuffle. With his lover out of service, Nene hooks up with an emotionally needy whore. Meanwhile, Angel quietly goes insane. This is a beautiful film, and between the poetic narrative (derived from the book, Plata Quemada), the subtitles, and the voluptuous backgrounds, it feels more like reading a National Geographic about South America rather than watching a movie. I'd call it great, even if only from a literary standpoint. (MEG VAN HUYGEN) Broadway Market

The Business of Strangers
Stockard "Stockyard" Channing and Julia Stiles star in this reverse gender corporate revenge drama, cut from the same cloth as In the Company of Men. Though the actors, especially Channing, are excellent, the filmmaker's desire to lay bare a female variant on the archetypal male fantasy seems to expose something intrinsically male nonetheless. (SEAN NELSON) Harvard Exit

* The Devil's Backbone
A sun-baked gothic ghost story with a moving Marxist allegory buried in its gory heart. In the last death throes of the Spanish Civil War, newly orphaned Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is dropped off at an imposing school for leftist children. There is very little to eat, an unexploded bomb ticks away half buried in the dusty courtyard, and Jaime (Inigo Garces)--the ad hoc leader of these traumatized youngsters--tortures Carlos mercilessly. But worst of all, a ragged, pale apparition of a missing student haunts the school hallways, begging Carlos to bring his killer to justice. Genuinely frightening, deeply moving, and gorgeously shot, this is a horror movie that will engage your intellect even as it sends shivers of icy dread crawling down your spine. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. (TAMARA PARIS) Harvard Exit

Dinner Rush
Ever wonder what the auteur behind Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video has been up to for the last 20 years? Me neither. But somehow I'm not surprised by the revelation that in addition to cranking out music videos and commercials, Bob Giraldi has also become a big-shot restaurateur in New York City. So, I suppose his decision to make a feature film about--what else?--being a big shot restaurateur in New York City shouldn't come as a shock. Who else could so fully articulate the smug, snobby, unpleasant, and insular world of a trendy Tribeca eatery populated with degenerate line cooks, promiscuous hostesses, prima donna chefs, and underworld thugs? Like the nouveau-fusion confusion cuisine he so lovingly prepares, this movie has all the flash of a grease fire but is so sorely lacking in substance you'll leave the theater famished. (TAMARA PARIS) Broadway Market

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
A documentary of Seattle's new favorite tragic failure of a sea voyage, Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 quest for Antarctica, which wound up, as we all know, with an icebound vessel full of starving crewmen reduced to smoking penguin feathers. Lucky for this documentary that they had a camera crew with 'em.... Seven Gables

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone
Fans of the novels won't be disappointed by Chris Columbus' adaptation, which is so faithful that it often feels like they just pointed a camera at the book and said "Action!" Those who haven't read it--myself included--may fail to be captivated by what feels like an exercise in defining the difference between page and screen. I had been led to believe there was some underlying artistic merit in the stories of Harry Potter, and maybe there is, but not in the film. The actors, sets, and effects are all great, but this really is a movie just for kids. (SEAN NELSON) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Majestic Bay, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12

How High
Method Man is something of a naturopath, cultivating different strains of marijuana to treat such maladies as impotence and bad breath. He gives his good friend Ivory some weed for a big date but Ivory dies after jumping out of a window after his blunt sets his hair on fire. As a memorial, Method Man fertilizes a marijuana plant with Ivoryís ashes. When Method Man smokes the fruit of this plant Ivory returns in ghostly form to exhort him to take the college entrance exam and go to school to maximize his botanical skills. Before the exam, Method Man encounters Redman and they smoke a blunt of "Ivory weed" together and Ivory again returns from the dead to help both achieve perfect scores. Then, they go to Harvard. Both Redman and Method Man are charismatic and irreverent performers with massive vitality who consistently bring marijuana into the themes and lyrics of their music: it is natural that they'd make a movie together. The film's creative starting point is a completely goofy blend of fantasy and reality, but the stars' tremendous enthusiasm makes nearly every dumb joke funny. (RAPHAEL GINSBERG) Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Varsity

* In The Bedroom
See Stranger Suggests. This langorous, beautifully acted film about erotic and familial entanglements in a small Maine fishing town one summer builds up to three moments of utter emotional brutality so severe that the long moments in between them thrum like high tension wires. A college boy (Nick Stahl; never liked him before, but he's great here) having a fling with a townie single mother (Marisa Tomei, back from the dead and in excellent form), the boy's parents (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson, who carry the picture with a realistic melancholy gravitas), and the mistress's ex-husband (William Mapother, who is related to Tom Cruise, but a fine actor nonetheless; he recalls Eric Roberts in Star 80, the creepiest creep in movie history) form the locus of Todd Field's insidiously gripping adaptation of Andre Dubus' deeply moral short story. (SEAN NELSON) Uptown

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
This digital claymation for the under-10 set concerns a young man who likes to invent things like rocket-powered toothbrushes and what not, but whom everyone thinks is a dork. Until the aliens invade, that is. Then, come the wet-ass hour, he's everybody's fucking daddy. Well fuck you, world! FUCK YOU! Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Metro, Northgate, Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12

Joe Somebody
Instead of re-creating the minor success he had with director John Pasquin (The Santa Clause), Tim Allen has produced one of the most undercooked Everyman sketches I've ever seen. More benign than bad, the film follows the predictable journey of a freshly divorced office drone (Allen) who is casually bitch-slapped by his über-male colleague in the company parking lot. The public shame is also witnessed by his daughter (Hayden Panetiere, appearing way too winsome for a child of divorce), a context which spurns Joe to go on a loosely structured self-improvement bonanza, complete with martial arts training by the requisite comic sidekick (Jim Belushi) and romantic dalliance with his perky blond officemate (a thoroughly forgettable Julie Bowen). You'll find more creative vigor in the average infommercial. (HANNAH LEVIN) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12

Kate and Leopold
Meg Ryan plays a "career woman" in New York City. In Hollywood shorthand that means she's a bitter, frustrated spinster. Luckily, a strapping, sexy nobleman from 1876 falls through a "rip in the time-space continuum" and sweeps her off her sensible shoes. Oh, for fuck's sake, I simply cannot go on. Except maybe to say that America's Sweetheart now resembles America's Plastic Surgery and Anorexia Disaster. The poor thing looks like some mad doctor grafted Melanie Griffith's big, weird, squishy mouth onto a piece of fried chicken and left it to dry on a windowsill for about two years. God, I hated this insulting piece of shit. It was like Crocodile Dundee crossed with Sleepless in Seattle, if your mind can wrap itself around that horror. (TAMARA PARIS) Aurora Cinema Grill, Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16, Metro, Woodinville 12

A different kids' movie each showdate! Lots of surprises!!! Prizes! Tolerant adults are welcome. Pay what you can--suggested donation of $5 supports this summer's children's festival at the Little Theatre. Little Theatre

* Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Director Peter Jackson's adaptation of part one of Tolkien's tale of Hobbits, Wizards, Orcs, Elves, Black Riders, and Dwarves has finally made it to the screen with real live humans, including heavyweights like Ian McKellen (Gandalf!) and Christopher Lee (Saruman!), and middlewieght contenders like Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins) and Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn). The actors are all outstanding, and they have to be, because the film's real challenge (beyond making a credible Balrog; accomplished, btw) lies with its faithfulness to the subject of the book: It's an epic adventure about ambivalence. Right down to Frodo's face on the poster, Fellowship is all about rising above doubts (rather than stepping up to convictions), and all the special effects in the world can't convey that. Even though it's not perfect, this movie still kicks fucking ass. (SEAN NELSON) Cinerama, Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

The Majestic
It wasn't long ago that Jim Carrey burst onto the screen with the unpredictable and vaguely menacing charisma of a true trickster. But like ultimate antihero Jack Nicholson and the fantastically misguided Kevin Spacey before him, he's turned his back on difficult or even unlikeable characters in favor of a one-way ticket to Sapville. Smear the lens with Vaseline! Hire a fawning, anonymous blond actress! Trot out the weather-beaten character actors! Let the string section swell! Mr. "Where's my fucking Oscar?" Carrey is ready for his close-up! What I'm trying to tell you is that sitting through this movie was like watching a four-hour long Coke commercial or eating a pound of frosting roses or submitting to a high-fructose corn syrup enema... which is why I crept quietly out of the theater before I expired of glucose shock. It's too bad. Carrey could have been something special. But at least we still have Christopher Walken. (TAMARA PARIS) Aurora Cinema Grill, Majestic Bay, Meridian 16, Metro, Woodinville 12

* The Man Who Wasn't There
The new film by the Coen Brothers, shot in glorious black and white, recalls the low-budget, slow burning, postwar noir of directors like Edgar G. Ulmer, and features Billy Bob Thornton's uncannily Bogartlike performance (In a Lonely Place-era) as the eponymous Man. Thornton's Ed Crane is a drastically affectless man, a barber who chain-smokes his way through a sexless marriage to a bourgeois wannabe in a postwar California town. When he discovers his wife (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini), Ed hatches a scheme and soon becomes embroiled in a complex imbroglio involving blackmail, murder, and dry cleaning. The Coens' genre fetish works astoundingly well in this film, which mines noir's deeply American absurdities for rich laughs, shrewd plotting, top-flight performances from all the actors (Thornton and Gandolfini in particular), and visuals that make your eyes swell. (SEAN NELSON) Varsity

Monsters, Inc.
Sully (John Goodman) is one of Monsters, Inc.'s top Scarers, meaning that he excels at getting kids to scream in fright--and bottled screams are the fuel upon which Monstropolis, his hometown, depends. Kids, however, are supposed to be highly contagious, so when Sully accidentally brings a little girl back to Monstropolis, he's got a lot of nervous running and hiding to do. The first two-thirds of this film are pleasant to watch, though the narcotizing currents of confused cultural allegory that run through modern Disney films course just as strongly through this one. But the final third of the movie is excellent and beautiful, arriving suddenly at one of those gorgeous imaginary landscapes that legitimately become a part of a child's dream fabric. (EVAN SULT) Majestic Bay, Meridian 16, Metro

* Mulholland Drive
This new work from David Lynch is confounding and bizarre (for a change). Originally conceived as a network TV pilot, Drive takes a long time establishing its characters--an aspiring actress, a glamorous amnesiac, a luckless Hollywood producer, and a mysterious gang of Mafiosi who are dead set on making sure a certain woman gets a certain part. Like all of Lynch's post-Wild at Heart work, Drive is more concerned with atmosphere and suggestion than linear meaning. But like all Lynch, period, it's beautifully constructed, bizarre, and funny. It's just impossible to say definitively whether this is good or not. (SEAN NELSON) Aurora Cinema Grill, Broadway Market, Metro

* No Man's Land
War is--guess what?--hell in this story of the Bosnia-Serbia conflict, circa 1993. Surrounded by UN "peacekeepers," clumsy media vultures, and their warring rival factions, two soldiers cross into the zone between the bullets and clash about the war's origins and costs. Spilling over with Eastern European absurdist humor (the kind where a bullet wound is a punchline), Land is sparing on the explosions but heavy on the existential observations. And though anti-war slogans will always be platitudes (you may as well argue against rain), it never hurts to be reminded of the insane reality that violence creates. (SEAN NELSON) Meridian 16

Not Another Teen Movie
A spoof is typically the unofficial signal that studios will stop churning out films of a particular genre, but Not Another Teen Movie may simply provide studio execs with more reasons to carry on with the likes of She's All That, Varsity Blues, and anything that requires Freddie Prinze Jr. to say something idiotic and remove his shirt. The parody palette here is historically broad, lampooning every thing from Bring It On and Cruel Intentions to almost every movie John Hughes made, and, most bizarrely, Grease. While little of it is effective (save for a cheerleader with Tourette's syndrome and some clever set design touches), the sheer volume of comedic ground plowed proves teens will always find themselves bemused by homophobia, slutty girls, and hapless individuals being doused in human feces. Yes, it is another teen movie. (HANNAH LEVIN) Grand Alderwood, Metro, Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12

* Ocean's 11
Steven Soderbergh remakes the classic (though turgid) Rat Pack heist film. This time, instead of Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Angie Dickinson, we get George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, and Julia Roberts. Ain't that a kick in the head? Factoria, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

* Pornstar: The Legend of Ron Jeremy
The plump Jack Falstaff of celluloid fucking is the subject of this engaging documentary, which examines Jeremy's unique position in the humorless aggro landscape of modern porn, as well as his desire to make it as a "real" actor. Varsity

* The Royal Tenenbaums
The most important movie of the year has finally arrived. Wes Anderson's follow-up to the beloved Rushmore, the most important movie of that year, stars Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray (rocking a Professor Barnacle beard) as an extended family of neurotic geniuses whose bastard of a patriarch (Hackman) wants to bring closer together. Too bad they hate his guts. The film is hilariously funny, dryly tender, and impeccably designed. A worthy successor. (SEAN NELSON) Neptune, Uptown

The Shipping News
This movie takes place in the mediocre land of contemporary American fiction, a land where people have names like Tert and Wavey and Nutbeem and Petal and Skronk and no one bats an eyelash when they introduce themselves. It's also a land where houses magically contain the dark history of their inhabitants, and where every woman was either raped, beaten, or tricked into incest. Additionally, all the men in this land are either affectless near-retards, or delightfully quirky eccentrics. The film is full of shit on every level--every word it says is a lie. It should be avoided like fruitcake. PS: Whoever it was that told Kevin Spacey to stop playing charismatic bastards and to start playing cosmic naifs should be dipped in tar. (SEAN NELSON) Guild 45th, Meridian 16, Redmond Town Center

The Spy Game
A mass-market espionage thriller starring Robert Redford as a CIA agent on the verge of retirement and Brad Pitt as his rogue protégé. Pitt has gone and gotten himself in a jam, Chinese prison-style, and Redford has only 24 hours (coincidentally, his final day at the office) to contrive a way to free Pitt. Despite a number of crowd-pleasing moments--Redford is in charmingly smug mode, and Brad Pitt is served up just the way I like him: in chains, mullet-headed, his face beaten to a pulpy maw--Spy Game is a big nothing of a movie. Director Tony Scott's trademark visual inflections, such as the recurring TV freeze-frame that lets us know how much time Redford has left to secure Pitt's rescue, are like billboards announcing his lack of interest in the movie he's making. (SEAN NELSON) Aurora Cinema Grill, Majestic Bay, Meridian 16

Valley of the Dolls
Just... one... more.... Of the three women who star in this camp classic, only Barbara Parkins didn't have either a miserable life (like Patty Duke) or meet a gruesome end (like Sharon Tate). That doesn't mean she isn't cursed, though. Grand Illusion

Vanilla Sky
Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz star in Cameron Crowe's inferior remake of Alejandro Amenábar's nonetheless overrated Abre los Ojos. If the rather long film is shrill and largely humorless for its first two hours--during which we are subjected to all manner of unreliable narration and circuitous plotting (not to mention cloying acting from Cruise and Cruz, the criminal squandering of the great Jason Lee, and some serious filmmakerly self-congratulation from Crowe), it makes amends with an impressive final 30 minutes. The real redemption, however, comes from Crowe's decision to use a Monkees tune during the film's climactic moment. Hearing "Porpoise Song" puts any movie a few steps closer to greatness. (SEAN NELSON) Factoria, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Varsity, Woodinville 12

* Waking Life
Richard Linklater's monologue-heavy, beautifully animated opus about the quest for lucid dreaming and active living is one of the coolest, most interesting movies you'll ever see. Or you might hate it and think it's talky and pretentious. If you liked Slacker, however--wait, not if you liked it... if you GOT Slacker--and have been waiting for Linklater to return to philosophical quandary mode, don't wait another second. Go see Waking Life. (SEAN NELSON) Broadway Market