About a Boy, Chelsea Walls, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Lady & the Duke, The Mystic Masseur, The Salton Sea, Some Body, Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones
* The Business of Fancydancing
Reviewed this issue. NW poet Sherman Alexie's directorial debut tackles, or rather, tangles with a series of rich contradictions. Varsity
* Come & See
The Seattle premiere of this 1985 Russian war film, about a teenage boy from Belarus (now there's a great first line for a song) who joins the partisans to fight the Nazis and loses his innocence, his hearing, and even his sanity. The film is infamous for its frank depiction of the horrors of war. Weepers, be warned. Grand Illusion
* Emerald Reels Super-8 Lounge
The cinematic nightclub returns anew, again, after a long hiatus, featuring short films by a bevy of local and national filmmakers, and music by KEXP DJ Kid Hops. To submit films, log on to www.emeraldreels.com/submit.htm. To enjoy films with music and booze, just show up. Sit & Spin
Jerusalem: An Occupation Set in Stone?
An organization called Radical Women is presenting this documentary about the Palestinian housing crisis. Yes, crisis. UW Ethnic Cultural Theatre
* The Making of 'the Green Goblin's Last Stand'
See Stranger Suggests. So this kid hears that James Cameron is going to make a movie of Spider-Man, which happens to be the chief obsession of his life. In order to attract Cameron's attention, the kid decides to quit making his amateurish little VHS Spidey shorts and make an EPIC, throwing all his resources (none) together with all his gymnastic-cinematic moxie (tons) into a movie that will eventually... be seen by no one but the lucky few who get to 911 Media Arts Center tonight for this American Movie-esque (without the sneering, or the genius) documentary. (SEAN NELSON) 911 Media Arts Center
The New Guy
Remember the scaly-but-loveable little homunculous from Road Trip? Well guess what: he's the star of this movie, playing a juvenile delinquent who uses the tricks of soul-brother cool he learns in "the joint" to liberate the teens at his new school when he gets out. Considering that Road Trip was way better (way better) than it looked, it's hard to say definitively that New Guy will be the utter garbage it seems destined to be. But then again, life is misery. Pacific Place
* Open Screening
This monthly screening series at 911 is one of the most hit-or-miss events in town: no curators here, merely willing hosts to whoever submits a film. For only $1, however, it's also one of the best deals. (BRUCE REID) 911 Media Arts Center
* Pauline & Paulette
Pauline is a mentally retarded woman who lives with one of her three sisters in a small Belgian town. This touching film is about the small nuances in the relationships between them. The potentially cloying story is acted and told with subtlety and ambiguity that is too sober to slap an easy happy ending on it. (NATE LIPPENS) Metro
* The Rules of the Game
Jean Renoir made many masterpieces, but come the wet-ass hour, this savage vivisection of the ruling, bourgeois, and servile classes is the masterpiece to end all masterpieces. There is too much to say about the greatness of La Regle du Jeu for this space, besides which, most of it has probably been said by people much wiser than I in such matters. So I'll just leave it by adding that the brutal naturalism of the hunting scene is my favorite part. (SEAN NELSON) Seattle Art Museum
* Sexy Shorts from S.O.S.
So you say you haven't found a reason to go back into the new and improved (except you can't improve on perfection so let's just say new and different) Rendezvous yet? Well, I still can't talk about what they've done to the bar area (too personal), but the Jewel Box Theater looks swell. Perhaps this evening of short films from the recent S.O.S. series will be tempting. Shorts on tap: Boobie Girl by Brooke Keesling, The Arrangement by Seattle's own Gretchen Ludwig, Undisciplined by Gym Jones, and Pillowfight by Scott Rice. The show is an hour long and will run on a loop from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. You could do a lot worse for $3. Rendezvous Jewel Box Theater
Ricki-Oh, which was made in 1992, is set in the distant year 2001. The premise is this: Capitalist societies (such as Hong Kong) have privatized all government organizations, including prisons. Ricky, a tough 21-year-old man who has five bullets in his chest, is thrown into one of these privatized prisons for killing a man who drove Ricky's lover to commit suicide. While in the corrupt prison complex, he does his utter best to kill a lot of bad people. The movie is gory and stupid. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Egyptian
* Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
Rare screening of this long-lost proto-Dogme verite document, which studies a film being made in Central Park in 1968, meanwhile being a film being made in Central Park in 1968. Dude. Little Theater
"Who do you suppose the target audience is for this film?" my fella whispered in the dark. "Movie execs who wanted to make another Into the Bedroom but couldn't escape their Fatal Attraction tendencies," I murmured back. "Hmm, pretty small audience. What is that--12, maybe 20 people?" "I agree that it's empty-headed but this sort of soft-core suburban shopping porn might appeal to a larger segment," I answered. "Yeah, anybody who enjoys flipping through the Williams-Sonoma catalogue while on the toilet," he concluded with a snort and we turned back to the screen where another brand-new black SUV sped down a street freshly hosed down to produce the perfect pointless sheen while Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez made soft-lit, glossy love and Richard Gere pined commercially. (TAMARA PARIS) Meridian 16, Oak Tree
Reviewed this issue. The new joint from Bart Freundlich wants to be a modern day Five Easy Pieces; unfortunately, it's more like Freundlich's The Myth of Fingerprints, which was a modern-day piece of poo. Varsity
* Behind the Sun
Broiling in the Brazilian badlands, a diminishing family carries out a generations-old blood feud to its logical extreme: extinction. The Breves are landowners bound to the sugarcane monoculture, with work as relentless and ceaseless as the sun beating down on the blanched earth. Their economic lifeblood, raw sugar, dwindles in value with the advent of steam-powered machinery and the abolition of slavery, just as their family members diminish because of a tit-for-tat killing feud with their neighbors and enemies, the Ferreiras. (RACHEL KESSLER)
Based on "humorist" Dave Barry's novel, Big Trouble tells the story of how a mysterious suitcase brings together and changes the lives of a motley-ass group of people played by a motley-ass ensemble cast that features Tim Allen, Janeane Garofalo, Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, and many many more.
Blade II: Bloodhunt
This sequel to the 1998 original stars Wesley Snipes as human/vampire warrior Blade, based on the Marvel Comics character. It's not the particulars or the plot that matters of course. It's the great action sequences, and Snipes looking sexy and threatening. (NATE LIPPENS)
A northern Irish boy (played by the unmistakable Yank Shawn Hatosy) gets sent to the borstal (the UK equivalent of juvie) for conspiring to bring an IRA bomb into WWII-torn London. Once inside, he dons short pants, falls for a sailor boy, and embarks on a Wildean journey of personal awakening. This adaptation of Brendan Behan's watershed memoir, while nationalistically devout (up the Republic!) and morally liberal, has a little too much dew in its eyes to do full justice to the late poet/playwright. (Sean Nelson)
* The Cat's Meow
Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon takes aim at Hollywood and its talent mill in the 1920s. Like Gosford Park, Robert Altman's excellent who-cares-who-dunnit, The Cat's Meow is less about murder than it is about the social scrimmage and class pecking order of its players. In that sense, this gossipy story of events aboard the yacht of William Randolph Hearst, is a success. (NATE LIPPENS)
Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck are involved in a fender-bender rendering Jackson immobile. Affleck speeds off, unknowingly leaving behind an extremely important document; a bitter Jackson misses an important custody hearing, and a grand old feud is born. So Affleck, from atop New York's twin-towers-less skyline, attacks Jackson's financial credibility, while down on the streets below Jackson prepares an old-fashioned smackdown. Who wins? You won't care. It has to be noted that there's a declining marginal utility to disaster in the movies; way too many things just happen to go wrong in this film, and it wears upon its feasibility. (KUDZAI MUDEDE)
A teenager accidentally activates a machine that enables him to make time stand still. So did the director when he picked up a camera.
An aging, unlucky-in-love school headmistress in an English village (improbably played by horsey cracker Andie MacDowell) finds comfort in the cackling company of her two similarly desperate girlfriends. Until their weekly bitchfest is complicated by the arrival of her true love in the age-inappropriate form of a 25-year-old hottie. Okay, this is a perfectly acceptable set-up for nice little comedy. So why the shocking lurch into Stella Got Her Groove Back and Then It Got Hit by a Truck more than 3/4 of the way through the movie? Whoa! What is this crap? No Weddings and the Funeral of the Lovable Male Lead? Pick a lane and stay in it, people, you're giving me a headache. (TAMARA PARIS)
Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, and Fairuza Balk star in this tale of two brothers trying to protect their Brooklyn neighborhood from a gang in the summer of 1958.
* Dogtown and Z-Boys
A testament to the resilience of youth in the face of urban entropy, Dogtown and Z-Boys tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes who brought skateboarding from its moribund state of flatland lameness, employing a low slung, powerful surf style that mimicked state-of-the-art waveriding. School playgrounds, hills, and empty pools became media for a new art that would ultimately send shockwaves to kids around the world. A documentary with cool, edgy editing and a rollicking soundtrack, the film traces these progenitors of modern youth culture, from the origins of "Dogtown" to the aftermath of an epiphany unwittingly granted upon youths the world over by a group of kids who just wanted to have fun. Narrated by Sean Penn. (KRIS ADAMS)
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
A wacked-out queer film set in Sodom Flats, Texas about a conspiracy to make the entire planet gay.
Bill Paxton hears God's voice, and it tells him to cut people up with an ax! His two boys reluctantly go along with the plan until, inevitably, man hands on misery to man and the young'uns go batshit loony, too. This is a small, curious movie, one that takes you on a ride whose destination is inevitable, but no less pleasing/chilling for its predictability. (SEAN NELSON)
This bad film is directed by the great Carl Franklin, who directed Devil in A Blue Dress. The movie (which stars Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd) is not horrible, just too professional and conventional. Set in an army court, it lacks sweeping shots of spectacular army helicopters, and, in the court scenes, it fails to sustain and exploit that efficient military speak ("These are the rules of engagement, sir!"). The result is a bland version of Denzel Washington's superb Courage Under Fire, which had lots of helicopters and military speak. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
* Hollywood Ending
What a relief it is to walk out of a new Woody Allen film with something to talk about besides how young his co-stars are. Not to say that Allen's latest comedy skimps on the sexy starlets half his age cast as romantic interests; there's Téa Leoni (as his ex-wife), Debra Messing (as his current girlfriend), and Tiffani Thiessen (as the requisite voluptuous hottie who really wants to get it on with him). There's no getting around the fact that seeing drastically younger women kissing Woody Allen, or even just consorting with him, is the primary visual element of many of his recent films, and that for some people, many people, it's simply a deal breaker-even though the romantic match-ups are usually played for absurdity. But Hollywood Ending has so much going for it in the way of pure laughs that it'd be a shame for the stock reading of Allen as dirty old man to prevent people from seeing it. It's simply the funniest movie he's made in years. (SEAN NELSON)
* Human Nature
The latest absurdist/nihilist comedy from the savagely funny pen of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), starring Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, and the great Rhys Ifans. Directed by music video avatar Michel Gondry. The film is funny, even though its targets consist largely of obsolete archetypes; nonetheless, these targets (the conflict between desire and manners, of nature and city, of purity and corruption), are somehow just familiar enough to register. And that's all Kaufman needs to make mincemeat out of the semi-sacred cows. (SEAN NELSON)
The recent boom in computer animation bodes well for the next generation, as their childhoods will hopefully not be squandered on lame-ass 2-D Disney musicals. Pleasant and funny, this movie is littered with enough sophisticated jokes to entertain the adults, but is really nothing more than a fast-paced, shimmering toy for kids. Which is just the way it should be. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
This film provides low-level amusement for its full 85 minutes, but is surprisingly more enjoyable in hindsight than in "Hypnovision" (one of The Independent's many movie-geek jokes). Jerry Stiller is the good-hearted but bull-headed protagonist whose daughter Paloma, brilliantly played by Janeane Garofalo, is dragged back into her father's production-company-of-ill-repute when his debts reach an impossible high. But while it was likely a liberating exercise for its creators and cast, The Independent comes off as lazy in its disregard for laypeople, and plays almost more as tragedy than comedy as opportunities for genuine laughs are neglected in favor of smug Hollywood in-jokes. Ultimately, even phony footage from the Fineman's B-movie oeuvre (featuring such titles as Herm-Aphrodite: God and Goddess of Love and Heil, Titler!) can't add enough sparkle to this oddly lackluster film. (SARAH STERNAU)
The brilliant British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench, Kate Winslet), a woman who lives most decidedly in the world of ideas, succumbs to the dementia of Alzheimer's, "sailing into darkness" as she so rightly puts it. (EMILY HALL)
* Italian for Beginners
The characters of Italian for Beginners begin in a state of despair. This being a romantic comedy, their lives begin to intersect through a series of coincidences--coincidences that could feel contrived, but due to the rough integrity of the script, performances, and direction (shaped in part by the monastic rigors of the Dogme 95 ethic), they feel like the organic waywardness of life. (BRET FETZER)
The indestructible horror staple Jason goes sci-fi as he's cryogenically frozen and thaws out in 2455.
Kissing Jessica Stein
Three things are readily apparent within the first 10 minutes of Kissing Jessica Stein: Though the film ostensibly is about two straight women who decide to go lesbo and fall in love, Jessica Stein will end up with the guy she currently despises. Also, despite both women taking a freshman crack at the girl-girl thing, one is clearly more invested in the concept than the other. Finally, the too-close camera shots, the emphasis on fast, witty banter, and the overacting will be a niggling annoyance throughout the film. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
* The Last Waltz
Martin Scorsese captures the final show of one of the most contradictory rock bands of the '70s. Scorsese shrewdly catches the players' tiny interactions onstage to highlight their supreme confidence; in the backstage interviews, they're self-conscious and posing (especially Robbie Robertson), an artifice which inadvertently sets the stage for the film's real revelation. Because of what we know about The Band, The Last Waltz is haunted by the spectre of Dylan. The power of his arrival is stunning. The band members become visibly perturbed; as he leads them through the transition from "Forever Young" into "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," you see their fear that the whole thing may fall apart. But they follow him down, and the performance achieves glory. There's no mistaking the genius in this scenario, and no mistaking the real star of the picture: the talent of the band that recognizes it. (SEAN NELSON)
Life, or Something Like It
Big-lipped brunette Angelina Jolie stars as a big-lipped blonde. The movie may not be so hot, but the star is. (AMY JENNIGES)
Another quirky British comedy in which a team of misfits overcome adversity and somehow find their better selves--in this case, a group of prisoners putting on a musical as part of a scheme to escape. But if I had to choose between formulaic British comedies and formulaic American comedies, I'd choose the Brits every time; they're better written, they're better acted, and though the quirks may be rote, at least they're about genuine human problems and not the idiocy that Hollywood trumps up. Everyone in Lucky Break is entirely charming, particularly Christopher Plummer as a prison warden with literary aspirations (BRET FETZER)
At first, it seems like Mira Nair is just doing family drama. The film is stylish, brisk, witty, and beautifully filmed. But within the patchwork of marriage melodrama, Monsoon Wedding presents a subversive argument about the insidiousness of progress and its fluid relationship with tradition. (SEAN NELSON)
Murder By Numbers
Movie by numbers. Director Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune) works very hard to give psychological nuance to yet another retread of the Leopold and Loeb case; in this case, it's two high-school students, a "cool" kid and a geeky "smart" kid, who kill a woman to demonstrate their existential freedom and moral superiority. Sandra Bullock tries to toughen her image by playing a messed-up homicide cop; the cop part isn't convincing, but the messed-up part is surprisingly layered and engaging. All to no avail; there's hardly a moment's suspense in the whole formulaic thing. (BRET FETZER)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
This romantic comedy is based on the one-woman show of Second City alumna Nia Vardalos, who also directs. It tells the story of 30-year-old Toula who searches for love and self-realization.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder
And so once again National Lampoon's attempt to reclaim those cinematic "glory days" falls miserably flat. As a comedy, National Lampoon's Van Wilder offers maybe one or two laughs--not the hearty, spazzy laughs, mind you, but slight chuckles, possibly minor snorts. A zany college romp that tries to be Animal House for a new generation, this film lacks both the zaniness and the wit that made the Delta Brothers' movie so entertaining. Stay away. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
New Best Friend
Yet another film about eye-rolling, overprivileged students who spend all of their time partying, fucking, being bulimic, and vying for Daddy's love when they should be studying, and the scheming poor girl who breaks into their clique (and may have gotten herself snuffed for it). Everything about New Best Friend is as dumb and boring as that description sounds, but the film does serve as a showcase for Mia Kirshner's (Exotica, Not Another Teen Movie) physical beauty and jaw-dropping sexiness. Whether she's demure, wasted, tripping, or in the throes of overdosing on cocaine while dressed in a black lace bra and tap pants, Kirshner's an undeniably hot woman. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
Set in Buenos Aires, this mystery involves two low-level con men involved in a scheme to forge and sell nine rare stamps. When will Hollywood stop churning out these big dumb action pictures? I mean what do they think we are, sheep?
* 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. (SEAN NELSON)
The Panic Room
The clever and tightly orchestrated twists and turns never rise above thriller formulas driven by utter clichés. (BRET FETZER)
This western directed by Fritz Lang is based on the story "Gunfight Whitman" by Silvia Richards. It was the last western Lang filmed, continuing the theme of men overwhelmed by bloodlust for revenge--like his noir classic The Big Heat.
In The Rookie, Dennis Quaid and Disney bring to the screen the real-life story of a baseball player-turned Texas high-school science teacher-turned baseball player. (SONIA RUIZ)
The Scorpion King
Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, brings his ham-fisted acting and perfectly sculpted eyebrows to the big screen for this adventure flick.
* Son of the Bride
It's no coincidence that, in your basic midlife crisis movie, a heart attack brings on epiphany. Of course you would re-examine your life after a failure of the heart. In the worst of the genre, the discovery of the heart (however flawed) is the last missing piece in a life that's come undone, and sanctity usually follows. In Son of the Bride, by Argentine director Juan José Campanella, epiphany is not the end but the beginning. (EMILY HALL)
As filmed by Sam Raimi, Spider-Man trots out a predictable (and cloyingly Victorian) boy-girl story that wastes Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) as a screaming damsel in distress, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) as a cackling villain, and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) spouting a bunch of pre-fab platitudes. (JOSH FEIT)
* Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation
The animation celebration returns for another glorious year of sick fun and whimsical gross-out.
This film, which won some prize that entitles its maker to get to know Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, presents a story of guilt and delusion among urban Catholics and Jews in 1970s Chicago. It's the kind of film in which many lessons are learned about the power of the human spirit. Oh, I'm sorry, I think I just vomited on your shoes.
The Sweetest Thing
Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate, together at last! Also, as my friend Michael is fond of saying: Someone get that Selma Blair a steak! The film is some kind of romantic comedy bullshit from the director of Cruel Intentions.
A disturbing French film about one man's elaborate deception and double life. (TAMARA PARIS)
The Triumph of Love
Mira Sorvino is cute as a bug playing a princess trying to return the rightful heir to her throne. But the movie doesn't make much of an effort to translate this play (by 18th-century French writer Marivaux) from the stage to the screen; the result is both stiff and flimsy. (BRET FETZER)
* Y Tu Mamá También
As two Mexican teenagers frantically fuck, the boy, Tenoch (Diego Luna), pleads/demands that the girl not screw any Italians on her impending European trip with her best friend. Meanwhile, that best friend is having rushed pre-departure sex with her boyfriend, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), who is also Tenoch's best friend. When the girls have left, we settle down to watch these two boys spend an aimless summer. Everything gets thrown sideways when they meet a sexy older woman (that is to say, in her 20s) named Luisa. Y Tu Mamá También is a brilliant, incisive core sampling of life in Mexico. It's both slender and profound; the movie's greatest pleasures are often its smallest ones-even the title comes from a tossed-off bit of banter. Any individual moment could be trivial, silly, pointless, even embarrassing--but the accumulation of moments has a devastating scope. (BRET FETZER)