The grandpappy of crossover anime hits, this 1988 film features biker gang warfare, a confusing plot, and tons of fancy visuals. Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
The Angry Breed
This week at on Linda's back patio: Every cliche foisted on humanity by the 1960s makes an appearance in The Angry Breed. Wed Aug 17 at dusk.
Following in the wake of David Fincher's Seven, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's film covers much of the same ground at a more languid pace, and without the benefit of variety in its murders. A young drifter with the ability to mesmerize is all that links a series of gruesome slayings, all committed by people who can't seem to remember their motivation—or the drifter—when the deed is done. Eventually the drifter leaves a trail of witnesses who aid in his capture. His identity, past, and modus operandi are discovered, but not before the lead investigators' good cop/bad cop act places the tediousness of the case—and the film—in sharp relief. (SARAH STERNAU) Savery Hall, Room 239, UW campus, Thurs Aug 11 at 7:30 pm.
His Girl Friday
Screwball boilerplate from Howard Hawks and Cary Grant, who plays a newspaper editor whose ex-wife and star reporter (Rosalind Russell) is threatening to marry a straightlaced insurance salesman. But Cary ain't having it, so he proceeds to destroy the couple's lives in order to prove that he still loves his ex. In the '40s, they called it love. Today they call it stalking. This film is the finest hour for all involved, and is near the pinnacle of American cinematic achievement. (SEAN NELSON) Movie Legends, Sun Aug 14 at 1 pm.
Home Movie Day
See Stranger Suggests, page 25. This celebration of amateur film takes submissions from the rabble--bring your home masterworks (originally shot on 8 mm, Super 8 mm, or 16 mm) to MOHAI at the beginning of the screening. Museum of History and Industry, Sat Aug 13, 1-4 pm.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The 1956 sci-fi classic, introduced by Seattle Times critic Mark Rahner. EMP's JBL Theater, Sun Aug 14 at 4 pm.
Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus
See "Southern Charm," page 35. Northwest Film Forum, Fri Aug 12 at 7:30 pm (Jim White in attendance), Sat-Thurs 7:30, 9:15 pm.
In writer/director Éléonore Faucher's feature debut, Lola Naymark plays Claire, a flame-haired teenage cashier who is trying with elaborate desperation to hide her pregnancy from her coworkers, friends, and family. Claire has recently moved out of her parents' house and into an artsy bohemian apartment, where she makes intricate embroideries, and she soon crosses paths with, and befriends, Madame Mélikian, a haute-couture embroiderer whose adult son has recently died in a violent accident. Mélikian is played by the regal and mesmerizing Ariane Ascaride, whose presence gives the film some emotional weight; her alternating toughness and grief adds bite and authenticity to the often-schematic story of redemption and trust. But for much of the rest of the film we are put through the paces with a precision that, like the embroidery, is lovely but ultimately little more than decorative. (NATE LIPPENS) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2, 4:40, 7, 9:15 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:15 pm.
As filmed by Sam Raimi, Spider-Man trots out a predictable (and cloyingly Victorian) boy-girl story. (JOSH FEIT) Seattle Center's Mural Amphitheatre, Fri Aug 12 at dusk.
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) Seattle Center's Mural Amphitheatre, Sat Aug 13 at dusk.
Third Eye Cinema
John Behrens and Sarah Biagini curate this quarterly film series. This edition includes Michele Fleming's "Life/Expectancy," a 16 mm film essay on maternity and middle age, featuring references to everything from The Lady from Shanghai to the Misfits. Northwest Film Forum, Mon Aug 15 at 7, 9 pm.
A 1994 animated film based on the Hans Christian Anderson story. Central Cinema, Sat-Sun noon, 2:15, 4:30 pm.
Twisted Flicks: Teenagers from Outer Space
The bad guys are all lobsters, and the dialogue is all care of Jet City Improv. Fremont Outdoor Movies, Sat Aug 13 at dusk.
Audiences at Toronto and Sundance loved this film and so will you, if you like triumphant tales of charismatic youngsters who defy the stoic immobility of old-fashioned patriarchs. I like it because it captures traditional Maori ceremonies and songs on film while also showing that New Zealand is not just a backdrop for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (SHANNON GEE) Homer Harris Park, Sat Aug 13 at dusk.
A 1939 film full of vintage catfights. George Cukor directs; Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer star. Central Cinema, Fri-Sun 6:30, 9:30 pm (late show 21+ w/ ID required).
Writer of O
This ill-advised collision between documentary (interviews with the woman who wrote the French S&M classic Story of O, her publisher, and a few pompous critics) and dramatic reenactment (a couple of pretty people rolling around on fuschia silk sheets, plus fake interviews with the young writer) makes for a lumpy, unsexy mess. The literary history of the book is mildly interesting—Story of O caused a scandal when it was published in 1954, and its author, the Gallimard editor Dominique Aury, didn't reveal her identity until about ten years ago. But Pola Rappaport's film doesn't bother to tell us much about what 1950s Paris was like, and the elderly, confused Aury isn't much help. She does, however, state very emphatically: "No, it was a written text, not meant to be spoken." Rappaport, respectful acolyte that she is, immediately launches into a reenactment of the book, complete with spoken narration. Ugh. (ANNIE WAGNER) Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.
The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D
Robert Rodriguez's latest kid movie explores the inherent sadness of childhood. Though the ending is happy, the substance of the film is sad, which is why it's the best kid's movie Robert Rodriguez has so far made. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Bad News Bears
Billy Bob Thornton coaches baseball. Now there's a bright idea.
Taking equal inspiration from Sin City creator Frank Miller's Batman: Year One miniseries and artist Neil Adams' classic grim and gritty '70s run of Adam West apologia, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer's scenario circles back to the basics and has a ball reinventing the mythos. The defining elements are still there: boy loses parents, devotes life to fighting crime, becomes creature of the night. What's new is the filmmakers' attention to the inner life of their 2-D main character, devoting fully half their time to recounting Wayne's training and motivations for spending the nights all done up in batsuit. For the first time in a live-action recounting, the title character is actually allotted more attention than the inevitably showy villains. (Fear-gas maven The Scarecrow and eco-terrorist Ra's Al Guhl, for those fanboys keeping score.) As an origin story, it holds its own against the animated Mask of the Phantasm, previously the benchmark. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
This being a Jarmusch film, patience rules the day. Unfortunately, as with the fatally inert Coffee and Cigarettes, the style can't hold. Jarmusch's best films have always been built around an amicably aimless spirit, but Broken Flowers is undermined by a lack of drive comparable to that of its main character. It's one thing to watch someone wander for 90 minutes as long as we trust that he (and we) will eventually arrive at a destination. In this case, Jarmusch appears to have no real focus, and by the time the "mystery" reveals itself to be maddeningly inconsequential, the entire film borders on a malicious prank. There's slight and there's shiftless—Broken Flowers, sadly, is the latter. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The moment Willy Wonka makes his big entrance, cheering as an "It's a Small World"-style diorama bursts into flames, it's plain to see that Johnny Depp is in a world, and indeed a film, all his own. That's fine, actually. Depp's at his best in this mode; like Bill Murray and Peter Sellers before him, he has long since mastered the secret art of being better than the films he acts in. Unfortunately, director Tim Burton either doesn't know or doesn't care that the source material is being undermined by Depp's inventions. The problem—or maybe the point—is that the chocolate factory just isn't very magical. Given the infinite possibilities of digital effects, Burton fails to invest the space with any sense of dimension. Kids still deserve better. (SEAN NELSON)
Suburbia has a dark underside, apparently. While probably not news to anybody who has caught even a few frames of Blue Velvet, American Beauty, Desperate Housewives, etc., the subject of middle-class shenanigans still proves weirdly irresistible to waves of indie filmmakers bent on stirring up the muck behind white picket fences. The subject of much buzz at last year's Sundance, the fiercely quirky The Chumscrubber attempts to put a new, heavily Prozac-ed spin on the usual cult tropes, but ultimately can't overcome its overwhelming debt to Donnie Darko. Despite a few beyond-the-call performances and an initially intriguing spacey pace, director Arie Posin's debut feels less like a fully realized movie, and more like a delivery system for an eventual domination of the T-shirt aisle at Hot Topic. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
If a gnarled creature were grown in a lab, bred and designed by unfeeling scientists to spend its soulless existence craving and consuming only Oscars... well, it would still come up short to Ron Howard's latest film. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Crash certainly doesn't want for hubris, but ultimately stands as a case of laudable ambition overwhelming still-developing narrative abilities. Although his would-be epic of race relations in Los Angeles sports a handful of genuinely searing moments, it's hard to shake the sense of someone constantly rearranging three-by-five cards behind the scenes for maximum impact. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Dukes of Hazzard
Sometimes previews lie. Preemptively clobbered by fanboys and much maligned by critics, this easygoing adaptation of Marvel Comics' oldest superhero team (Earth, Wind, Fire & Rubber) is actually sort of... neat. More explicitly kid-friendly than the rest of the recent wave of comic adaptations (no Batman Begins gravitas here), Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost's zippy origin script benefits mightily from splash panel perfect performances by Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans. The action set pieces suffer from below-par special effects (pity Mr. Fantastic), and a director (Barbershop's Tim Story) clearly out of his comfort zone, but the linking material still manages to capture the retro, slightly dorky charm of Stan Lee's squabbling nuclear-radiated family unit. 'Nuff said, true believers. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
There are no surprises in Happy Endings. It is neither great nor bad, and as such satisfies an expectation that is neither high nor low. Don Roos's third feature (like his first feature, The Opposite of Sex) is simply a pleasant sex comedy. The photography is seductive, and the score drifts over the movie's storylines—four in all—like a dreamy vapor. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Based on a play, set among the idle rich, produced by Merchant/Ivory in unfamiliar modern-day mode: the early indicators of a tendon-stretching yawn are bodacious. Still, that old chestnut about initial impressions can occasionally be true. Heights, the fiercely entertaining, hugely precocious feature debut for 28-year-old director Chris Terrio, treads on some very familiar turf, but with enough style and unusual empathy to make the trip feel, if not quite new, well worth taking. And then there's Glenn Close. Man alive, what a performance. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Hustle & Flow
You could never say Hustle & Flow glamorizes being a pimp—everything in the lives of DJay (Terrence Howard) and his girls is super depressing. And the degree to which they all band together to help DJay's dream of becoming a rapper come true is plausible, despite being fraught with a certain compound pathos (is anything sadder than seeing an abused person bend over backwards to embrace her abuser?). The songwriting scenes are super compelling; music films seldom give a convincing presentation of the means by which music is conceived and recorded, and you can see why the girls, especially Shug (Taraji P. Henson), are so enthralled just to be near it. What's tricky is that the terms of the genre--as well as the fantastic performances--demand that we also get behind DJay, and in order to do that, we either have to overlook or forgive the fact that he's basically one step up the moral ladder from a slave owner. Everyone here is a victim—of poverty, power, religion, class, race, gender—and not all victims get to rise up. (SEAN NELSON)
As derivative sci-fi plots go, things could be worse. If director Michael Bay had focused on the paranoid dread built into the cloning conceit, the film might have turned out all right. But he didn't, and the result is an ungodly creature—half musings on the role of morality in science, half preposterous stunt collage. There are some truly cool moments in The Island (one car chase involving a semi, two-ton train wheels, and numerous crashes is a triumph of bang for bucks), but the absurd spectacle we look for from a colorful hack like Bay is undermined by his ridiculous and transparent desire to be taken seriously. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Mad Hot Ballroom
In terms of scope, the first-time director and writer may have bitten off a bit more than they can comfortably chew, as the scenes of the kids' ballroom dancing contest come off as alternately long-winded and confusing. The ability to fashion anything even remotely comprehensible out of hundreds of hours of footage is admirable, but a slightly heavier hand in the editing bay could have worked wonders. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Madagascar is kiddie slop puffed and polished into a Pixar-wannabe sheen. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
March of the Penguins
I have never liked penguins, and now that I've watched this documentary I like them even less. To begin with, the creatures have ugly feet, and their awkward walk makes them look like sitting ducks. I'm surprised the penguin is not, like the dodo, extinct. March of the Penguins has one great moment: when it shows a group of female penguins going into the sea and swimming through the water in the way their featured relatives fly through the air. The water is clear blue, the surrounding ice forms a majestic architecture, and the penguins zip here and there, chasing fish and avoiding sea lions. But when they're back on the land, back on their ugly feet, all of the grace is gone and once again the penguin is a dull and clumsy creature. The only animal worth making a documentary about is the human. (CHARLES MUDEDE )
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Miranda July's feature-film debut is delicate and tense, a movie with a visual language so powerful that it seems to expand out of the movie theater and onto the sidewalk. Against a waterlogged electronic score by Michael Andrews, her characters bubble-wrap belongings, eulogize goldfish, draw ASCII tigers, tap quarters against bus stop poles, wear inspirational shirts that can only be read in the mirror, press dot stickers for good luck, flash their underwear at leering guys, and light themselves on fire. The movie is set in Portland (characters refer to Burnside Street and Laurelhurst Park) but it was shot in L.A. (witness the palm trees), and the discrepancy serves to displace the story from either setting. July's is a fantastical world where the most important contours are human shapes, where intense sexual longing collides with the paradoxical wish to escape your own skin, where those who have power try to abdicate it, and those who are powerless act out in agonizing, self-deceiving ways. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
All Mr. & Mrs. Smith does is build to a fiery conclusion it never even attempts to earn, with both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reduced to mere prop status along the way. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Must Love Dogs
This absurd movie concerns a divorcee (Diane Lane) who's moping about her state of lonely celibacy. Her family stages an intervention (actual quote: "This is an intervention"), and after a few stale jokes about the horrors of internet dating (actual quote: "Dad, what are you doing here?"), John Cusack enters, carves some wooden sculls with his manly hands, and raves about Dr. Zhivago. It's a half-assed movie, carefully focus-grouped to make women of a certain age believe that they're inherently more interesting than 24-year-olds (even if they've been teaching preschool since before their youthful rivals were born), but with nothing of value for other demographics. (ANNIE WAGNER)
No American, in right or wrong mind, could make a movie like Saint Ralph, which is about a 14-year-old boy (Adam Butcher) who abuses himself at every opportunity, and desires anything that moves with the shape of a woman. He even comes in a swimming pool when he gets a glimpse of a curvy naked woman showering in a changing room. But the movie is not about his sexual awakening; it's about him becoming an orphan, and his failure to deal with this fact. After falling and bumping his head, the boy opens his eyes and decides he needs to win the Boston Marathon, an achievement that would constitute a miracle. For reasons that are cosmic, the winning miracle will become the medical miracle his mother desperately needs. (And all of this is a comedy.) Only in Canada. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
The structure (in which four adolescent girls share a pair of miraculous pants) is a flimsy excuse to break the film into multicultural vignettes of self-discovery. Alexis Bledel as the withdrawn Lena is more endearing than her slight story of star-crossed love gives her the right to be, while Blake Lively never makes much of her daughter-of-a-suicide-driven-to-slutdom cliché of a character. Amber Tamblyn is great as a budding documentarian, at least until her pint-size sidekick is stricken with cancer and the narrative wanders off into goopy spiritual melodrama. And the story about a mixed-race kid (America Ferrera) who has to chase down the affections of her white dad is surprisingly sweet. Taken as a whole, though, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is too scattershot to make much of an impression. (ANNIE WAGNER)
A voodoo thriller starring Kate Hudson, Peter Saarsgard (!), and Gena Rowlands (!!).
In a surprisingly clever (for a kid's movie) way, Sky High comments on the retarded idiosyncrasies that happen during everyone's awkward high school years. This time, though, it's made even more awkward with the addition of villains and earth-threatening power tools. (MEGAN SELING)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Episode III will, indeed, be impossible to resist. Like it or not, the Force is with all of us, and I for one am more than happy to have seen the series through. Though the film has its truly embarrassing elements--romance, as always, remains an elusive creature to Lucas, and in the end the evil Sith lord's scheme to turn Anakin over to the dark side is hysterically obvious (who knew Darth Vader was such an easily manipulated dolt?)—at this point there's doesn't seem to be much of a reason to quibble. The epic many of us grew up with has reached its end; a moment of silence, please, for both what was and what could have been. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The hero of Stealth is Lt. Gen. Gannon (Josh Lucas), a blue-eyed, all-American flyboy. The love interest is a thick-lipped beauty named Kara Wade (Jessica Biel). The Negro sidekick is Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx). The sidekick is the first (and only one) to go, and the death of the Negro has much in common with the death of John Henry in American myth. But to go into all of that is to make this movie more interesting than it actually is. Indeed, any amount of thinking, consideration of themes, tropes, figures, Barthian connotations, or narratological deep structures, could not veil the fact that this movie sucks real bad. (CHARLES MUDEDE )
War of the Worlds
Though I usually take his side, if only for sport, the first hour of War of the Worlds had me convinced that Steven Spielberg had finally proven his detractors right. Before the bad things start happening, the stage is set for the kind of soulless, CGI-driven family redemption saga that could only happen in a grillion dollar movie. But then something happens. The supreme achievement of the effects seems to galvanize Spielberg into earning them. The drama enters some very dark territory, always motorized by the unimaginable terror of the invincible invaders—it's like the material is daring the director to show us what he's got. (SEAN NELSON)
Seemingly conceived, shot, and edited during a four-day weekend, Wedding Crashers, while occasionally amusing, is lazy enough to make '80s ass-gas-or-grass comedies like H.O.T.S. or Hamburger: The Motion Picture look like models of precision timing. In a nutshell: Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are lawyers who get their kicks by boozily infiltrating the nuptials of strangers, eventually meeting their match with a pair of Kennedyesque sisters. Christopher Walken drops by to do his thing. This is all likely to go over like gangbusters at the box office (the mere appearance of a certain super secret guest star—i.e., the guy in all these movies who isn't Ben Stiller—brought the preview audience to hysterical tears, even before he opened his mouth), but the overall sloppiness and genial contempt for the viewer is tough to ignore. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
On paper, this documentary about the five-year relationship between a gentle, sporadically homeless hippie with no visible means of support and an unruly flock of birds sounds like a recipe for instant tooth decay. Darned if it doesn't work, though. (ANDREW WRIGHT)