The Big Buy: Tom Delay's Stolen Congress

A film-noir-tinged agitdoc about Tom Delay, by Texas filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Shermbeck. Central Cinema, Wed June 21 at 7, 9 pm.

recommended Excavations in the Floating World

A discussion about the history of Japanese-language film exhibition in Seattle, with Terry Nakano, former owner of the Seattle's Toyo Cinema; Stephen Sumida, a professor of American ethnic studies at UW; and William Stake Blauvelt, a musician and film critic. Kicks off A Man, a Blade, an Empty Road: Summer of Samurai (see below). Northwest Film Forum, Fri June 16 at 7 pm.

Exporting Harm, w/Digital Dump

Two 23-minute docs about disposing and recycling electronic waste. Environmental Learning Center at Camp Long, Thurs June 15 at 7 pm.

Hammock and Sling

The indie rock/new-jazz band Kenosha Kid accompanies a video by Vancouver filmmaker Cindy Mochizuki and excerpts from other works. Rendezvous, Fri June 16 at 10:30 pm.

recommended Look Both Ways

See review this issue. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm. Through June 29.

recommended A Man, a Blade, an Empty Road: Summer of Samurai

See review this issue. All films screen at Northwest Film Forum. Samurai Rebellion, Fri 7, 9:30 pm, Sat-Sun 4:30, 7, 9:30 pm. New Tale of Zatoichi, Mon 7, 9 pm. Three Outlaw Samurai, Tues 7 pm, Wed 9:30 pm, Thurs 7 pm. Throne of Blood, Tues 9 pm, Wed 7 pm, Thurs 9 pm. Continues through July 6. For complete schedule, see

Mardi Gras: Made in China

A documentary about the transPacific life of plastic Mardi Gras beads, from factories in Fuzhou, China, to the streets of New Orleans. Keystone Church, Fri June 16 at 7 pm.


Bobbie Bresee stars as a woman haunted by an ancient family curse, which transforms her, on occasion, into a nymphomaniac killer. Marjoe Gortner (as in the former pint-size preacher-boy of Marjoe fame) plays her terrorized husband. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green

A big gay movie based on a comic strip by Eric Orner. Central Cinema, Thurs June 22 at 6:30 pm.

Omega Man

A 1971 film about Robert Neville (Charlton Heston), the lone healthy survivor of an apocalyptic war. Central Cinema, Thurs-Sun 7, 9:30 pm. (Late show 21+.)


Art School Confidential

Art School Confidential is a movie about whether it is worse to be an art poser or a serial killer. The serial killer character has a strike against him from the start, since he is strangling strangers all over campus. But, we learn, the killer is a sensitive, wounded painter who has been driven to madness by the corruption of the art world. In the end, our hero, the freshman art student, decides to adopt the identity of the serial killer. How else will he get a gallery show? Oh, Daniel Clowes. What Pratt Institute must have done to you. Art School Confidential feels like a teen flick compared to Ghost World. There are laughs, but there's no sympathetic character or relationship to cling to, and Jerome's goals are as trite as his fellow students' are contrived. (JEN GRAVES)

The Break-Up

Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston squabble toward an uplifting ending in this Peyton Reed (Down With Love) film.


With Pixar movies, you know the story is going to be bursting with loveable characters housing their own endearing little quirks. Toy Story had Buzz Lightyear, Monsters, Inc. had Mike Wazowski, Finding Nemo had Dory and those awesome stoner turtles—but who do we get in Cars? Just a bunch of stupid cars! Cars are machines. Metal, plastic, rubber... just machines. Even with a face painted on them, they're not warm. You don't wanna cuddle with a car. You don't want a car for a friend or even a pet. You kinda just want 'em all to drive themselves off of a cliff so they can be scrapped and turned into something cool. Like Transformers. (MEGAN SELING)

The Da Vinci Code

Everything about this movie is boiled until tough. The cinematography (by Cinderella Man's Salvatore Totino) is without flair; Tom Hanks is charmless; Audrey Tautou looks like a dusty china doll; and the scavenger-hunt plot is stretched out over 149 draining minutes. Only Ian McKellen wrings any fun out of the movie, but then again, he gets two crutches to play with. (ANNIE WAGNER)

recommended District B13

Clocking in at 85 minutes, District B13 serves as an ideal sampler for writer-producer Luc Besson's (The Professional) distinct flavor of Eurotrash, where the men have manly goo-goo eyes for each other; the women are gold-hearted, punked-out skanks; and even the sluggiest thug wears Gautier. What makes District B13 stand out from the pack is the incorporation of parkour, a frankly dumbfounding extreme sport involving crazy rooftop shenanigans. Whatever the pseudo-philosophical bullstuff of its origins (the Wikipedia entry expounds at length about harmony and "being fluid like water"), it makes for the most irresistibly cinematic martial art since the hallowed Gymkata. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Expiration Date

Why must so many American independent films be so cringe-worthy? Why must the cast, crew, friends of the filmmaker, producers, etc., be so gosh-darn awed at the prospect of participating in a minor motion picture that they neglect to point out that, for example, there are truly painful Asian stereotypes in the script that make no discernible contribution to the plot and whose only possible purpose is misguided humor? This (I hate to admit it) completely typical American indie is marred by numerous such missteps, most not quite so patently offensive, but still so obvious that it's hard to imagine anyone read over the screenplay before the cameras rolled. A very broad comedy—certainly not black in hue, but perhaps a mild shade of gray—set in Queen Anne, Volunteer Park, and other picturesque locations with views of the Space Needle, plus the (film insider joke!) Alibi Room, Expiration Date is about a Native dude named Charlie who is doomed to be run over by a milk truck on his 25th birthday (family curse, apparently). It's almost funny whenever a Smith Brothers milk truck is mowing Charlie down, but it's almost never funny when he's wooing the most annoying girl in the world—a cutesy, bug-eyed bohemian dancer! who might have cancer! who teaches geriatric aerobics! against whom the animal control depot has taken out a restraining order, but who still stages a puppy breakout halfway through the film! Seattle actor Brandon Whitehead plays a caffeine addict. There are several conspicuously placed copies of The Stranger. But no amount of local shout-outs is gonna make Expiration Date a good film. Opens Wed. (ANNIE WAGNER)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Drift racing in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Friends with Money

The premise is a snooze: Rich people have problems too? You can't buy your way out of a midlife crisis? Lonely Pot-Smoking Maid is an unfulfilling career choice? Yeah, that "no shit" is visible from space. But Friends with Money, Jennifer Aniston's much-touted return to the indie scene, atones for its shortcomings in the plot department by kicking unprecedented ass in the great-actress-triumvirate-of-delight department. The magical gals who save this movie, the three best actresses ever—just to get it out of the way, Aniston is not one of them, though she's okay—are Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, and Catherine Keener, who, along with Aniston, portray a quartet of Los Angeles best pals. The three tut condescendingly over Olivia (Aniston), who has achieved neither marital bliss nor financial stability, floating through her 30s in a pathetic haze—scrubbing strangers' toilets, scamming free samples at the Lancîme counter, and occasionally having sex with a detached meathead. The dialogue is sharp and the performances are flawless. But it's still a movie about the emotional pain of building an addition to one's house. (LINDY WEST)

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

It's based on a Mark Twain story, so why they gotta be messin' with Dickens?

recommended An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth is workmanlike and clumsy at times—but it's also hugely invigorating. Tracking Gore's global-warming lecture as he schleps his Apple laptop across the country and to China, it's a collection of scientific facts and correlations made urgent through human drama and low-tech slide-show magic. It should be required viewing for every American citizen. And if it kicks up a storm of speculation regarding Al Gore's political prospects in 2008? So much the better. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Keeping Up With the Steins

Keeping Up with the Steins starts like a sitcom (kid watches program in which tribal boys become warriors, makes clever analogy with upcoming bar mitzvah); coasts like a sitcom (hippie relatives, ethnic relatives, Darryl Hannah acting wacky); and ends like a stupid, stupid sitcom (worth of ritual is reaffirmed; candles are lit; Neil Diamond sings "Hava Nagila"). Is it all worth it, just to witness the spectacle of a 13-year-old cutie spreading his arms on the deck of a faux Titanic and yelping, "I'm the king of the Torah!"? Shockingly, no. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Lady Vengeance

The movie formerly known as Sympathy for Lady Vengeance concludes Park Chan-wook's loose trilogy of revenge films, which began with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and continued with Oldboy. Opens Wed.

The Lake House

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves exchange love letters. Schmoopy, time-warped love letters. You call that a movie?

recommended Mission: Impossible 3

Clearly, in retrospect, what the Mission: Impossible franchise needed was a director young and hungry enough to shoot the moon, yet humble enough to work comfortably within the system. In short, a TV guy. Enter Alias/Lost creator J. J. Abrams, whose television work displays a genuine affinity for the ol' cloak and dagger, as well as a winningly snarky knack for subverting the dustier conventions of same. His feature debut lives up to his small-screen predilections, which should please audiences and studio accountants alike. Abrams's script, cowritten with Alias cohorts Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, finds Tom Cruise's IMF hotshot semi-retired to instructor status and on the cusp of settling down with adorable nurse Michelle Monaghan. Before long, however, circumstances draw him back into the field, in the person of Philip Seymour Hoffman's sociopathic arms dealer with a grudge. Stuff goes boom. This rather A-to-B plot is fleshed out with a number of killer supporting acts, including Laurence Fishburne, Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg, and especially Hoffman, who makes for an amusingly direct, pissy supervillain. It's with Cruise, however, that the director pulls off his biggest coup. Pesky personal matters aside, there's always been something uncomfortable about Cruise's screen presence—that feeling that he's always blaringly on, giving even the quietest moments 140 percent. Abrams's solution—steadily jacking up the emotional and physical intensity to match the star—pays huge, pleasantly exhausting dividends. He's got game. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

The Omen

A remake of the 1976 horror film of the same name. Starring Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, and many creepy black-haired babies as Damien.

Over the Hedge

This movie is about cartoon animals with feelings who learn lessons about junk food and waste and suburban sprawl. There are three funny parts. 1. RJ the Raccoon teaches the other animals about big fat humans: "The human mouth is called a piehole." 2. The exterminat±or is fooled by a lawn flamingo: "Those things are so lifelike. Curse you, plastic moldsman!" 3. A cat's pick-up line: "Inside, I have a multi-leveled climby thing with shag carpet." Wait. I fucked up. Number three's not funny. The rest—despite an all-hits-no-misses cast and an awesome Ben Folds soundtrack—is a shrill combo of recycled jokes, less than hilarious mayhem, and demonic porcupine babies. But the kiddie audience loved it. In the climactic moments, when Stella the Skunk pops her anal plug and fills evil Gladys's house with skunk stank, they burst into triumphant applause. (LINDY WEST)

Peaceful Warrior

Red-lipped, doe-eyed Scott Mechlowicz is Dan Millman—a single-minded and foolhardy college gymnast (rings, specifically) who spends his hours banging chicks, guzzling beer, and burning, burning, burning for that Olympic gold. Everything seems on track for Dan, until the night he goes out to buy some milk (fortifying!) and meets a wise, flying gas-station attendant with a magical secret name (aka Nick Nolte)—the wise, flying gas-station attendant with a magical secret name who will change his life... forever! Wow, barf! (LINDY WEST)

A Prairie Home Companion

In his ballyhooed return to the environs, if not the concerns, of Middle America, Robert Altman takes on a script by Garrison Keillor about the end of his famed radio show. G. K., as the dour host is known backstage, looks rather like some heretofore-unknown breed of fleshy-lipped bulldog. To be frank, I wish I had never learned that: imaginary Powder Milk Biscuits will never taste quite the same. Such are the perils of adapting a radio program to film. A Prairie Home Companion is first a talent showcase. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin are adorable as a pair of indifferently harmonizing sisters. Lindsay Lohan, as Streep's poetry-scribbling daughter, is, like the children of Lake Wobegone, merely above average. But all this delicate chemistry is nearly ruined by the script. It's sad to see Keillor making miscalculations about the nature and appeal of his own creations. (ANNIE WAGNER)

The Proposition

Beginning with an alarmingly visceral bordello massacre, screenwriter Nick Cave wastes no time in getting down to narrative business. After notorious Irish desperado Charlie (Guy Pearce) gets nabbed in said shootout, the local sheriff offers a choice: watch his younger sibling swing from the noose, or agree to hunt down and kill his older brother, a much-feared butcher rumored by the local aboriginals to have shape-shifting powers. As his discography proves, Cave has no small gift for capturing the uneasy allure of violence. Swift, brutal, and not exactly shy about close-ups, the savagery here genuinely hurts. Unfortunately, the moments between bloodlettings are less successful, especially when they reach for a sagebrush poetics that inevitably falls flat. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

recommended Silent Hill

Until a late appeal to logic interrupts the fun, the new goth-friendly splatter flick Silent Hill delivers a freshly rancid freakout of the sort that's intelligible only to some dank level of your subconscious. Based on a video game series, Roger Avery's script cherry-picks liberally from the four installments to date. (Full wimp disclosure: This reviewer never finished the first game, having packed it in when the dead babies came out carrying butcher knives. I mean, Jesus.) The scenario here finds an increasingly freaked woman searching for her daughter in the titular mining town, a mostly deserted place that occasionally slips into a dimension chock full of acid-puking hulks, mobs of charcoal-briquette children, and, an 8-foot-tall dude with a pyramid for a head and a sword that rivals that of Johnny Wadd Holmes. Director Christophe Gans goes for broke during these nightmare sequences, delivering a succession of genuinely disturbing setpieces. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

recommended Stick It

A defiant teen with a taste for extreme sports, Haley (a smokin' if not particularly complex performance from Missy Peregrym) is, like her predecessor in Bring It On, much more hardcore than the pantywaist sport she's forced to take up. The rationale in Stick It is a little hazy—something involving a spectacular dirt-bike crash, an easily influenced judge, and a hefty cash prize in an amateur sport—but it does the trick. Haley has to train at Vickerman Gymnastics Academy with a coach from hell. Then Stick It veers off the sports-movie formula. The run-up to the big meet deemphasizes sweat and competition, opting instead for a delirious Busby Berkeley-style stretching circle against a bright red background. Routines on the uneven parallel bars are superimposed in one time-delayed sequence full of giants and releases and dismounts. And the climax isn't so much about perfect execution as it is about one ex-gymnast (Bendinger, natch) and her contradictory feelings about the alien psychology of the sport. (ANNIE WAGNER)

recommended Thank You for Smoking

As a work of satire, Thank You for Smoking is safely and securely dated. The book it's adapted from (by conservative novelist Christopher Buckley) was published in the mid-'90s, when tobacco lawsuits were flying fast and loose and the word "probe" was rampant in headlines in the Washington Post. But what the movie loses in relevance, it gains in absurd comedy. When Nick visits his kid's school for a career day, a smarty-pants kid up front announces, "My mommy says cigarettes kill." Without batting an eye, he bends to her and sweetly inquires, "Now, is your mommy a doctor?" Eckhart, a blond Mormon with a toothpastey grin, plays Nick with evident relish; Cameron Bright, of the preternaturally blue eyes, brings his baby gravitas to the role of Nick's son. There are some hilarious smaller performances by Adam Brody (as the hyperactive assistant to a Hollywood agent) and William H. Macy (as a tongue-tied liberal senator from Vermont), and one very bad performance by Katie Holmes (as a spunky reporter). It's fast-paced and fun, and if some of the movie's values seem creaky, that's because neoconservatism has won out over conservatism, and public-speaking skills have become ever less relevant. (ANNIE WAGNER)

recommended United 93

There are some difficulties when it comes to telling the story of United Flight 93, the fourth plane hijacked on 9/11, whose passengers somehow overcame the terrorists and brought the plane to the ground before it could hurt anyone besides themselves. There's no suspense; we already know what's going to happen. The dialogue drips with dramatic irony—passengers telling family members, business associates, and one another about their plans for tomorrow and the next week—which is ironic, since 9/11 was supposed to have killed irony. But there are very good reasons to sit through United 93. On the emotional register, the film hits a perfectly chosen note, neither aggressive enough to seem callous nor excessively deferential, which would have felt mawkish. Whatever dramatic inventions were necessary for the scenes on the plane, the confusion on the ground is drawn straight from The 9/11 Commission Report. With so many officials glued to their radar screens, which were designed for one purpose, it isn't hard to understand why they couldn't see what was happening. The hijackers had fitted their planes with a new meaning that didn't show up in green and black. It needed a movie, and it needed a screen. (ANNIE WAGNER)

recommended V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta is set in the near future, 2020, in London. The terrifying events that beset us today (the Iraq war, the rise of Christian fundamentalism, the war on Islamic fanatics, avian flu) have brought the American empire to its knees and transformed its once-reliable ally, the UK, into a totalitarian state. This bleak world, however, has a beacon of hope in the form of a masked superhero—a man whose body was destroyed by an evil biological experiment, a man whose heart is filled with nothing but hate for the present dictator and his iron order, a man whose name is V. As a work of cinema, V for Vendetta is no Batman or Matrix. But its timing (it opened the day before the third anniversary of the second Iraq war) is impeccable. (CHARLES MUDEDE)


Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, and Julie Walters join forces to make a big waste of time. Wah-Wah is a social, political, and artistic disaster that has Swaziland as its location and the late '60s as its era. The empire is down to its last breath, and all that's left for its subjects is booze and wife-swapping. But in the middle of this dissolution, there is a lonely white boy who needs love, who needs a country. What is going to happen to him when the empire dies? What role will he play in a world that is deracialized? It's just too horrible to imagine. How I hate this movie. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

X-Men: The Last Stand

The X-Men films have never lived up to the intelligence of the original comics, but they've never shied away—or completely ignored—that intelligence either. X-Men: The Last Stand, under director Brett Ratner's abysmal care, is too scared to tackle the big ideas. He has given us the summer blockbuster he wants to see—unfortunately, most everyone who enjoys movies has better taste. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)