Beah: A Black Woman Speaks
Lisa Gay Hamilton's 2003 documentary about the life of the film and television actor Beah Richards. 911 Media Arts, Thurs July 15 at 8:30 pm. Richard Hugo House, Sun July 18 at 4 and 8:30 pm.
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. (SEAN NELSON) U District Outdoor Cinema, Sat July 17 at dusk.
For those who like to breakdance all night long. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman star in a movie whose enigmatic title may or may not mean Whitehouse. Fremont Outdoor Movies #2, Sat July 17 at dusk.
* The Five Obstructions
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sun 12:30, 2:40, 4:50, 7:15, 9:25 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:15, 9:25 pm.
Glen or Glenda?
Oddball film legend Bela Lugosi narrates this 1953 Ed Wood film about (what else?) a boy who loves playing dress-up with lipstick and skirts. The perfect initiation into the pink angora world of Ed Wood, cross-dressing director extraordinaire. Rendezvous, Wed July 21 at 7:30 pm.
Holiday gives Katherine Hepburn one of her best roles--smart, sexy, with just the right touch of movie star martyrdom--as a dissatisfied rich girl who falls in love with her brother-in-law to-be. If it seems incongruous to focus on Hepburn while the film is screening in a Cary Grant series, just watch how generous Grant is to his leading lady, how his glow in her presence makes us love her all the more, and see if you don't agree he was the best screen partner she ever had, Spencer Tracy notwithstanding. (BRUCE REID) Seattle Art Museum, Thurs July 15 at 7:30 pm.
Isan: Folk and Pop Music of Northeast Thailand
A Sublime Frequencies picture about the unique cultural crosswinds at play in the tropics of northeast Thailand. Rendezvous, Thurs July 22 at 7:30 pm.
Juliette finds that living on a boat is boring and her husband Jean finds that roaming wives are nerve-wracking in this beloved 1934 film by Jean Vigo. Movie Legends, Sun July 18 at 1 pm.
Make Believe Day
The premiere of a short film by Todd Redenius. Rendezvous, Sat July 17 at 8 pm.
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
"Shhh! I'm listening to reason!" Fremont Outdoor Movies #1, Fri July 16 at dusk.
Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip
In 1983, Richard Pryor was still making jokes after the somber experience of sustaining third-degree burns while freebasing cocaine. Grand Illusion, Fri 5, 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm, Mon-Turs 7, 9 pm.
Secret Lives of Dentists
The Secret Lives of Dentists, Alan Rudolph's latest, is a failure of a film. Worse, it is an inconsequential failure, barely alive enough to register while you watch it. Starring Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, and Denis Leary, it attempts to be a high-minded contemplation of matrimony, damaged mental states, and cowardice, but instead ends up being a combo of Fight Club and Thirtysomething, and the result can be summed up in a single word: ouch. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Big Picture, Mon July 19 at 8:30 pm.
Linda's presents the latest installment of the Summer Movie Madness series, this week featuring a screening of a mystery film you probably won't remember by the end of the evening anyway. Linda's, Wed July 21 at dusk.
The Talk of the Town
There has always been a tendency to consider The Talk of the Town one of the spry, enjoyable entertainments George Stevens made before his films became bloated and ridiculous, but in fact it's as overlong and smugly tendentious as his worst work. (The exasperating breathless frenzy of Jean Arthur doesn't help things either.) As the decent worker framed for arson and murder, Cary Grant carries himself with an agreeable cocksureness; but he's inexplicably kept in hinding behind Arthur and Ronald Colman, who's as urbane and understated as ever, and still the poor man's Grant for all that. (BRUCE REID) Seattle Art Museum, Thurs July 22 at 7:30 pm.
"Why don't we just... wait here for a little while... see what happens." Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
Zhou Yu's Train
Scored by Shigeru Umebayashi, who also scored Wong Kar-wai's In The Mood For Love, Zhou Sun's Zhou Yu's Train is about a woman (Gong Li) who paints pretty things on pottery for a living and has two men, a writer (Tony Leung Ka-fai--not Wong's Tony Leung) and a veterinarian (Zhang Qiang), for lovers. The writer comes first. He is shy and seduces the artisan with his poetry, which is regularly published in a city newspaper. But the poet can only offer his lover beautiful words, and the artisan can only offer her lover a beautiful body. The disparity instigates an implosion. The veterinarian rushes into the ruins of that failed relationship and attempts to recover what is left of the emotionally destroyed Gong Li. But the relationship between the veterinarian and the artisan heats up too quickly and explodes into a thousand pieces. The end of this movie is very disappointing--do not attempt to find your way through the plot (it leads to nothing). Instead, get lost in the wonderful cinematography of Wu Wang. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2:10, 4:30, 7, 9:20 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:20 pm.
America's Heart and Soul
Disney's reintroduction to the documentary is a kind of catalog illustration of right-wing talking points, filled with all the best and coolest-sounding things about cute, plucky poor people who never let adversity get them down, and artists/hobbyists who perform the kinds of activities that appeal to the SUV crowd. (ADAM HART)
Why does it always have to end this way? The idea sounds so amusing at first--making fun of a '70s news anchorman (Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy) who takes advice from his dog and drinks and smokes on the set. Add in funny guy cameos from Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, and Ben Stiller as rival television personalities, and you already have the pretense for a blockbuster comedy. But whenever there's a Saturday Night Live staffer (or ex-staffer) involved, there's always the chance for the jokes to be extra sluggish, sappy, or flat out stupid, and Anchorman unfortunately chokes on all three. The storyline here is that news anchor Burgundy is a hero in his hometown of San Diego, and he and his motley crew of backasswards reporters (Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Steve Carell) welcome the future of feminism like they'd welcome a hefty case of crabs. So when a sharp female reporter named Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) gets hired on, all hell breaks loose--before and after Burgundy gets her in the sack. While Anchorman is peppered with some witty one-liners (especially in the opening and closing credits), more often than not the jokes are either too drawn out or fall flat right out of the gates--just like the Saturday Night Live skits that shove these actors into the spotlight in the first place. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
* Anchorman (Pro)
I beg to differ. Anchorman is one of the most inspired pieces of comedic surrealism ever to be released in the guise of a mainstream summer movie. Will Ferrell, unmoored from the mediocrity of SNL, has been let loose to create a film whose absurdity extends far beyond the zany '70s fashions you see on the posters. Talking dogs? Extended four-part harmony? Jazz flute? Gang warfare among rival TV journalists? Yes on all counts. And though Ferrell is characteristically hilarious, it's Daily Show regular Steve Coryell who steals the show as the retarded weatherman. There are only two problems with Anchorman. The first is the plot, which attempts to cram all the brilliant lunacy into a heartwarming, pseudofeminist framework that rings false. The other is Christina Applegate, who looks like a plastic surgery nightmare. These factors are ultimately trivial, however. And so is the film. You should see it. (SEAN NELSON)
* Before Sunset
The best romances force you to care unreasonably about their characters, and watching Jesse and Celine reunited, I couldn't help but feel a bittersweet twinge; I was 21 when Before Sunrise was released--just as dreamy and dewy as I could be--and now, nearly a decade later, their return feels like the arrival of beloved, yet somehow forgotten, friends. I fell in love with them then and, as I found out, I'm still in love with them. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
A Cinderella Story
Hilary Duff (don't people give starlets stage names anymore?) stars in this update of you'll-never-guess-what-fairy-tale.
What a waste of a slick, well-executed kidnapping. (ANDY SPLETZER)
* Control Room
Like the recent documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Control Room offers us a look from the inside of the other side. Al Jazeera has 40 million viewers in the Arab world, and it shows its part of the world things that the American networks don't show their part of the world. The future may very well recognize Al Jazeera as the first genuinely global institution of the 21st century. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Basically, the movie looks down upon the masses of people who thoughtlessly consume products made by corrupt corporations. But you know what? I identify more with the masses than I do with the filmmakers; if I want to spend 145 minutes being told I'm an idiot, I'd rather spend that time in the singles bars. (ANDY SPLETZER)
* The Day After Tomorrow
German director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla) has saved the disaster film. The Day After Tomorrow returns the spectacle back to we the people. For the first time since 2001, the spectacle of mass destruction is the source of pleasure rather than terror. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
De-Lovely is perfumed with preciousness, and ultimately suffers from the self-consciousness of its Hollywood gloss, as well as the difficult-to-swallow progressiveness of its characters. (Oddly enough, the sub rosa insinuation of Cole Porter's homosexuality in the 1946 biopic Night and Day rings much truer to the life one imagines a gay man leading in the '20s and '30s.) Still, the fine performances of Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd diminish the film's more troublesome liberties. (SEAN NELSON)
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
What happened to the good old days, when dodgeball was about throwing a ball at someone's head?
* Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
Having studied the film carefully a few times, I still can't tell if the plot's weird calculus--what actually happens, to whom, and where, and when--actually adds up to anything more than a semi-random sequence of related but unconnected events. What I can say, however, is that the film resonates with a uniquely American kind of sadness. (SEAN NELSON)
The Door in the Floor
See review this issue.
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)
* Facing Windows
Throughout the film, Ferzan Ozpetek's golden light conveys romance and elegy at once, and several times he brings striking images of great beauty and depth to the screen. The film's opening sequence depicts a bloody handprint fading over time as dawn light illuminates the wall that carries it, moving the narrative forward by 50 years. The handprint faded from the wall but replayed in my mind long after the film's screening. (MIKE WHYBARK)
* Fahrenheit 9/11
Michael Moore is a propagandist, taking the fight to the opposition on their terms, and winning. Because of his motives and his audience, this propagandist is the most important filmmaker we have, and Fahrenheit 9/11 is the best film he's ever made. (SEAN NELSON)
Garfield: The Movie
Bill Murray once starred in Stripes, Meatballs, Rushmore, and numerous other funny-as-shit classics. For those movies, we will always love him. (MEGAN SELING)
* Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Alfonso Cuarón, who has taken the directing reigns from Chris Columbus this time around, has not turned the Potterheads' god into bullshit. Early word on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was that it was the best of the series, and for once early word was correct; for the first time in the franchise's existence, a film has achieved the level of art. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
A freehand adaptation of the original Asimov story collection, starring Will Smith.
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
See review this issue.
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. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Though the film is basically crap, it's tremendously entertaining and engaging crap: beautifully photographed, edited with masterful precision, and peopled by actors (Clive Owen, Ray Winstone, Stellan Skarsg'rd) whom I would walk a mile to see stuffing envelopes. (SEAN NELSON)
* Mean Girls
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)
* Napoleon Dynamite
In this charming new film, 24-year-old writer/ director Jared Hess mines the nebulous area between popular chic and weirdo freak, where outcast attributes are both quality, subtle comedy, and a charmingly dark part of our collective high-school unconscious. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
The Notebook, which was directed by Nick Cassavetes (talentless son of supremely talented John Cassavetes), is based on a Nicholas Sparks tome, and it bears the mark of all his work. That mark is complete and utter bullshit, and the end result is a bullshit film--a weepy, obvious, and painfully unromantic romance. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
See review this issue.
This film knows exactly what it is--a teen flick with a humanist agenda--and Brian Dannelly picks his battles to suit his aims. Even with its too-pat ending (complete with syrupy underscoring--a duet of Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" sung by Mandy Moore and Michael Stipe, one of the film's producers), Saved! closes with a tableau that will leave unreformed fundamentalists gaping in horror. Score one for the good guys. (DAVID SCHMADER)
Shrek 2 can best be described with a shrug. As in: It's fine, no big deal, just what you would expect. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Graduating eighth-grade girls are BOY CRAZY! They also HATE EACH OTHER! And that's what this movie is about.
Going into a Spider-Man film we surely expect the spectacular, but even the spectacular has limits. All films, even fantasy ones, need to at least touch upon reality. It can be the lightest of touches, but there must be substance there for us to grab onto--otherwise, why should we bother watching? In Sam Raimi's vision of Spider-Man, however, his normally manic camera joins with CGI to create a work that is often completely fraudulent. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The Story of the Weeping Camel
Set in modern Mongolia, The Story of the Weeping Camel has two plots: one concerns humans, the other camels. The human side is about a nomadic family that, one day, happens to be in need of something from the city (batteries, I think). The family elders decide to send two boys to the city to buy this needed thing. The boys travel on camels, arrive in the city, and while looking for this thing (maybe it's not batteries, but a violin), they discover the pleasures of television. The human plot ends with the boys erecting a satellite dish next to their family's yurt. Considerably less interesting than the human plot, the camel plot concerns a mother camel who rejects her baby camel. The baby wants mommy to feed her but mommy refuses to open her legs and feed the starving baby. If the mother were not a camel then one would understand why she wouldn't want that ugly little creature sucking on her breasts. But she is a camel, and all camels are ugly--her rejection of her baby makes no sense at all. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
* Super Size Me
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 Morgan 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)
If an army of critics line up to heap praise upon Steven Spielberg's The Terminal, as early Internet firings hint that they will, then something has gone terribly wrong in the world. This is easily the worst film of Spielberg's career, surpassing even blemishes like Always, Hook, and A.I. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Jean-Jacques Annaud's great trick is to turn the essential, undeniable, heart-exploding adorability of the cubs into the stuff of proper drama. Annaud handily pulls off that feat by making Sungha and Kumal distinct characters--one is timid and sweet, the other ferocious--and by suffusing their plight with emotions you can only call human. Because this is a movie about animals, he also supplies an endless array of scenes in which beasts suffer and die at the hands of men. And because the animals remind you of your sweet little housecat, you cry. But somewhere in there, you also become invested in the story, which is so primary as to be almost Greek, and is told with techniques so purely cinematic as to confirm the essential power of movies. (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, with a midlife-crisis plot (starring Marlee Matlin) and some childish cartoon figures and a series of talking heads who can't stop using the word "paradigm." (EMILY HALL)
The Wayans brothers protect the hotel-heiress Hilton--err, Wilson--sisters from a heinous kidnapping plot.
I'd say I'm fairly obsessed with Scrabble--I own an Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, I play it in bars, I use words like xi and ixia and ae and hm and qat (all legal)--but the four Scrabble players profiled on their way to U.S. Nationals in Eric Chaikin and Julian Patrillo's Word Wars are sinus-infected, jobless slaves to the game. Take the friendless college dropout "G.I." Joel Sherman, so nicknamed for a gastro-intestinal disorder that causes him to spit up into cups during tournaments. (He scrapes together an income based on betting over his wins.) Or Matt Graham, whose idea of a fun afternoon is to challenge someone to a best-out-of-50-games match. What's clear is that you don't have to even care about words to be good at Scrabble, but it's advisable to spend several years memorizing the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. (Though if you try to memorize the definitions as well as the words, one champ says, "It will slowly drive you insane.") It's a shame that the narrative of this documentary is so frequently disrupted by shoddy computer graphics and unfunny jokes by the directors, because the subject (and these four subjects in particular) is fascinating. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)