A sampling of short films produced in the Northwest as part of the International Animated Film Society. Rendezvous, Thurs at 8 pm.
Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
See Blow Up. Seattle Art Museum, Fri at 7 pm.
One of his more accomplished features, College finds Buster Keaton (surprise!) haphazardly pursuing his love interest into a glut of confusion--this time as a bookish college freshman trying his luck at sports. Hokum Hall, Fri at 7, 9 pm, Sat at 2 pm.
* Cry Baby
"He likes his women bad, Lenora, not cheap." Capitol Hill Cafe, Tues at 9 pm.
Brothers Kelly and Tyler Requa take up-and-coming actor Chad Lindberg out to Mt. Vernon to shoot this tender film about a young man who is a lover at heart but is caught up in his desire to rock the boat. Seattle Art Museum, Tues at 7:30 pm.
* I'm All Right, Jack
"Windrush, you fool!" Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas star in this dated-but-pungent comedy about class issues in Wilson-era England. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs at 7:30 pm.
"I could offer you a comfortable home, a sunny garden, a congenial atmosphere..., my cherry pies." Capitol Hill Cafe, Mon at 9 pm.
"Jesus! What a mind-job!" Egyptian, Fri-Sat at midnight.
The Muppet Movie
"Good grief, it's a running gag." Sunset Tavern, Mon at 8 pm.
* The Obsessed World of Jeff Krulik
See Blow Up. Little Theatre, see Movie Times for specifics.
The Pastry Girl
An Iranian comedy about a man, a woman, a wedding, and a sucide pact. Seattle Art Museum, Sun at 6, 8 pm.
* Pistol Opera
Tall and dangerous, "Stray Cat" is a professional killer blasting her way into the hearts of those she meets along her journey to the top of the assassin food chain. This visually intoxicating thrill-ride will not disappoint fans of Suzuki's 1967 debut, Branded to Kill. (ZAC PENNINGTON) Grand Illusion, Fri at 6, 8:30 pm, Sat-Sun at 3:30, 6, 8:30 pm, Tues-Thurs at 6, 8:30 pm.
Rockaraoke: The More You Drink, The Better You Sound
See Blow Up. Sunset, Wed at 9 pm.
* The Seventh Seal
"I met Death today. We are playing chess." Rendezvous, Wed at 7 pm.
Sex, Salmon, Secrecy
See Blow Up. 911 Media Arts Center, Fri at 8 pm.
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sat at 2:10, 4:30, 7, 9:40 pm, Sun at 2:10, 4:30, 7, 9:20 pm, Mon-Thurs at 7, 9:20 pm.
After six years of success in the Bay Area as the Camera Cinema Club, this film preview series returns as SNEAK in Seattle. For more information check out the website www.sneakfilms.com. Pacific Place, Sun at 10 pm.
* Tipping the Velvet
See Stranger Suggests. Broadway Performance Hall, Thurs at 7 pm.
Fans of Japanese kitsch or Evil Dead-style films will appreciate this yakuza-ninja-zombie B-movie, while the uninitiated who wander into the low-budget gore-fest will feel as if they've gotten stuck watching someone play Zombie Revenge for two hours. Two escaped convicts rendezvous with their Yakuza consorts and the girl they've kidnapped, only to discover that their meeting place, a burial ground for enemies of the mob, is also the Resurrection Forest. (SARAH STERNAU) Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat at 11 pm.
Agent Cody Banks
A dumb movie about a smart teenager who leads a double life as a top-secret CIA agent. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
It's unofficially recommended that one wear a helmet when viewing this Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson comedy, so as not to cause brain damage due to repeated head slapping. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
Remember when the prospect of Samuel L. Jackson and Travolta in a movie was exciting? Yeah, me neither.
* Bend It Like Beckham
Essentially a traditional coming-of-age story, though with a spicy ethnic twist: A hot Anglo-Indian teenage girl in outer London pursues her dream of professional soccer stardom against the wishes of her traditional Sikh parents--immigrants who, still steeped in Indian culture, are only concerned with her educational and marriage prospects. (SANDEEP KAUSHIK)
Better Luck Tomorrow
The story of a pack of overachieving Asian high-school students turning to crime for kicks in suburbia, the film is little more than Goodfellas and Boyz N the Hood spackled together with an Asian cast. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Opening. A teenager with family problems gets the Mr. Holland's Opus treatment when one of her instructors discovers her gift for poetry. Metro
Bowling For Columbine
For a while, Moore seems on to something--a culture of fear endemic to our country--but in the end, he shortchanges psychological complexity in favor of cheap shots. He wants to say something great, but ultimately doesn't. Can't, maybe. Because he isn't really a social critic, he's a demagogue. (SEAN NELSON)
Bringing Down the House
For the majority of its journey across the screen, it is as expert as fluff gets. (DAVID SCHMADER)
Finally, after all these years, Chow Yun-Fat has successfully translated his Hong Kong charm into the language of popular American cinema. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Some dumb schmuck is engaged to three women in three different cities, right? All right, so then, like, all of a sudden, they're all in the same city, okay?
Basically, the last hour of Chicago is a mess. Nevertheless, I recommend it for the Fosse-inspired choreography and Catherine Zeta-Jones' star turn as Velma Kelly. (DAN SAVAGE)
City of Ghosts
Matt Dillon makes his directorial debut, and the results are astounding...ly pedestrian. This dirty tale of a con man (Dillon) on the run to Cambodia after bilking hurricane victims out of money for dubious disaster insurance is attractive, but dumber than it seems. (MATTHEW SOUTHWORTH)
The story: A group of seasoned con men (led by Burns) pulls a job that, in the process, accidentally rips off a pseudo-shady L.A. underworld figure known as The King (Hoffman). To make good to The King, Burns and his cronies pitch another job, this time against The King's #1 nemesis. Unfortunately, said job is neither intricate nor exciting and, save for a performance from the always great Paul Giamatti, neither is the film. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* The Core
Is it smart? Not really. Scientifically sound? Hells no. But what The Core does offer is a perfect example of mindless, escapist entertainment--the thrill of a summer blockbuster released in the spring. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Daddy Day Care
Is Eddie Murphy just too busy counting his money to read scripts?
The Dancer Upstairs
As it slowly unfolds (key word: slowly), The Dancer Upstairs clearly paints itself as the kind of movie you want to like because of its high ambition. But unfortunately, after all the buildup, the loose ends are tied too quickly, and its hero's final sacrifice is too massive to be reconciled. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
* Down With Love
Opening. See review this issue. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16, Metro, Woodinville 12
* The Good Thief
The Good Thief is based on the 1955 French classic Bob le Flambeur by Jean-Pierre Melville, whose assured direction and cash-poor location filmmaking are widely considered precursors to the French New Wave. Neil Jordan directs the remake as a sort of tribute to the stylings associated with later New Wave films, with effects like freeze-frame cuts that make you aware that you're watching a movie and a cast of actors for whom English is not the primary language, so the dialogue is also awkward and self-aware. Jordan is commenting on Melville's film as much as remaking it, so if you can see the original first, do so--but either way you should have a good time. (ANDY SPLETZER)
Based on the popular children's book by Louis Sachar, Holes is a family drama (starring Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Arquette, and Jon Voight) about kids in the chain gang.
* The Hours
Altogether, I hoped this would be a shapeless pasticcio that would let me make cruel fun. I was so wrong. This is a really good movie. (BARLEY BLAIR)
House of a Thousand Corpses
First-time feature director Rob Zombie loads his debut with so many tricks of the music video trade, from split-screens to oversaturated video, the biggest shock is that he makes it work. It starts to drag near the end, but fans of the genre should check it out anyway. The immoral of the story? Don't make fun of inbred-looking rednecks, particularly when they're putting on a Halloween talent show for you, because they'll likely kill you. (ANDY SPLETZER)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
The film is touching in those brief minutes when Kate Hudson and Matthew McConnaughey realize they might have feelings for each other, so long as the idiot soundtrack doesn't swell in and ruin the mood. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
When a film is as close to Psycho as Identity is, you hope it will bring something new to the table. Ah, well. Identity won't go down in history as the clever spin on Norman Bates it wants to be, but because it borrows so heavily from Hitchcock, it's not without some taut suspense. Some will enjoy the thrill-kill ride. Others will easily dodge the plot twists. No one, however, will escape the shrieking music cues. (SHANNON GEE)
It Runs In the Family
It Runs in the Family features three generations of Douglases--Kirk, Michael, and Cameron--and needless to say, I bolted from the theater early. Until I fled, begrudgingly but nonetheless swiftly, I found the scenes featuring self-absorbed old coot Mitchell (Kirk) and his resentful, self-absorbed son, Alex (Michael), funny, especially when I could sense the real-life connection to the roles. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
* Laurel Canyon
A plot description might lead one to believe Laurel Canyon is a bedroom farce between hippies and yuppies, the film is in fact a smart, emotionally insightful exploration of the multigenerational consequences of the quest to live free. (SEAN NELSON)
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Disney's impeccable live-action legacy continues with a big-screen version of the impossibly saccharine children's television series. It's sort of like watching television--but you know, big. AND you get to pay for it!
* Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The film resonates so deeply, despite its potentially embarrassing fantasy trappings, because the filmmaker recognizes that violence and sacrifice are unavoidable aspects of the survival of civilizations. (SEAN NELSON)
Malibu's Most Wanted
The wigga son of a wealthy politician is introduced to C.O.M.P.T.O.N. by Juilliard-trained street thugs. Sensitive treatment of complicated racial stereotypes follows. (ZAC PENNINGTON)
A Man Apart
A Man Apart, which stars beefy Vin Diesel as a streetwise DEA agent who rolls with real niggaz, is to Traffic what crack is to cocaine. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Man On the Train
Opening. See review this issue. Seven Gables
Opening. Though any movie with Don Cheadle in it should be seen, this one strains the recommendatory muscles, as he plays a shrink in a juvie psych ward charged with tending to the loony ravings of a bunch of underfed teen actors. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Varsity
* Matrix: Reloaded
Opening. See review this issue. Cinerama, Factoria, Majestic Bay, Neptune, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12
A Mighty Wind
As with Christopher Guest's past films, the results of A Mighty Wind are alternately hilarious and flat. So much of what makes these movies enjoyable rests on the rhythm of the improv, which is why the increasingly rigid formula is both troublesome and necessary: It's the skeleton that allows these world-class performers to let loose. The problem is that it's become so familiar that, taken together, the three films feel like one long, predictable sketch. (SEAN NELSON)
* Nowhere in Africa
Nowhere in Africa follows a rich Jewish family that leaves Germany in 1938 and moves to Africa. There they can avoid the Nazis, but have to deal with some other issues like, oh, the lack of water. The hazards of humanity and the hazards of nature are not dissimilar, this movie argues, though (at two and a half hours long) not very succinctly. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
Here's a film that relies on a whole list of old clichés (marriage is a ball and chain; the school losers vs. the campus suits) to deliver comedy that's actually really funny in a dumb kind of way. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
I swear I'm just as shocked by this as you are, but dig this: Phone Booth, the new film by Joel Schumacher--yes, that Joel Schumacher--is pretty damn good. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* The Pianist
For all the possible autobiography of the story, Polanski's latest masterpiece is most personal when it stares into the abyss of the Holocaust and finds nothing looking back. And, much as I hate to say it, watching this film win its Oscars actually made me emotional with the restored faith that every so often, a really great piece of art can be recognized over and above its maker's human frailties and justly celebrated for its intellectual and moral complexities. (SEAN NELSON)
Piglet's Big Movie
From the fever dreams of Christopher Robin comes another exploration of the Jungian neuroses of Hundred Acre Wood's most unbearably anxious citizens.
Opening. The fifth Pokemon feature, and the second that I've had to blurb up in the year's time I've been at this fine paper. They shit these things out faster than I can get myself fired--and that's saying something. (Zac Pennigton) Meridian 16
The Quiet American
Michael Caine deserves all the praise he's received for his role as Fowler, while Brendan Fraser slightly overplays the wide-eyed idealism that inspired America's misguided involvement in Vietnam. The metaphor of the love triangle doesn't work here nearly as well as the more overt politics, but the movie is worth seeing if only because it shows how America can do the wrong thing with the best of intentions. (ANDY SPLETZER)
* Rabbit-Proof Fence
Director Phillip Noyce makes all the right decisions in telling what could have (justifiably) been a big slab of moist, liberal liver and onions; a tale of indomitable metaphor and sackcloth villainy. Instead it is a measured tale of a secret history, and of basic human desires asserting themselves in the most inspirational of ways. (SEAN NELSON)
Raising Victor Vargas
Victor lives on the Lower East Side and has no worldly ambitions; all he has to speak of is a crush on Juicy Judy, who wears hoop earrings and too much makeup and thinks all guys are "dogs." Neither one of them has a phone at home, which suggests a rather improbable courtship, though they manage to run into each other enough times on neighborhood rooftops and at public swimming pools, and to the surprise of no one in the audience it all works out--each character (even among the overbearing and richly caricatured families) comes to a sensitive, deeper understanding of one another's longings and insecurities, which is a clean, comforting way to end a movie, but it's never how things turn out in life. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
The Real Cancun
Sure to be a "scared straight" staple of alcoholism interventions for years to come, The Real Cancun finds MTV's Real World producers Bunim-Murray applying their trashily fascinating formula to the feature-film format, with deeply stupid results. The Real Cancun's only suspense comes from the personal musings of its unlucky audience: Did MTV keep its name off this crap for a reason? How many cast members flew directly from Cancun to rehab? And how long until that guy with the horse face asks someone else, "You wanna make out?" No fun, even if you're super high. (DAVID SCHMADER)
Rivers and Tides
Andy Goldsworthy, the subject of this documentary, makes things out of nature--icicles, shards of stone, leaf, thorn, tufts of sheep's wool--and lets nature take them apart. There is something both arrogant and humble at work here: the very Western wrestling of order out of chaos; the kind of acceptance of entropy associated with Zen. This is probably what makes Goldsworthy such a popular artist among the well-meaning; a glossy book of photographs of his work graces the coffee table of every super-liberal environmentalist you know. For the most part, director Thomas Riedelsheimer gives this wit room to breathe, although the New Agey plinka plinka music is truly awful. Silence, I think, would have been more respectful, more surprising, more Goldsworthian. (EMILY HALL)
The Shape of Things
The latest film by Neil LaBute, the laureate of sexual embarrassment, flips the script somewhat by arguing that women are just as capable of being complete pricks as men are. LaBute's climax retroactively changes the entire film, causing the troubling theatrical conceits that have gone before (Adam and Evelyn--get it?) to seem like intentional diversions, and forcing the audience to decide whether or not what it has just seen was a filmed play or some kind of Skinner box. (SEAN NELSON)
What a Girl Wants
Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, and Kelly Preston star in Girls Gone Wild: London Edition, in a film filed somewhere between "Coming of Age," "Fish Out of Water," and "Product Placement Opportunity."
* X2: X-Men United
The screenplay, by Michael Dougherty and Daniel Harris, is great; it would have been disastrous for the filmmakers not to rely on it. Forgoing excessive sweaty violence for richly imaginative narrative, X2's world is brought to life even more spectacularly than the first X-Men film, with very human elements of persecution, morality, and acceptance. (JULIANNE SHEPHERD)