CQ, The Mystic Masseur, The Sum of All Fears, Undercover Brother, The Young Girls of Rochefort
Balancing on Wood
Three more free films and a Q&A session, courtesy of Folklife. Insert hippie joke here. The films are Legends of American Skiing, Log Driver's Waltz, and Contest Logger. JBL Theater at the EMP
Jennifer Lopez has had just about enough of her abusive husband (Bill Campbell from The Rocketeer), so she learns how to kick ass so that she can murder him! You go, girl! Metro
Hardware Wars and Polterchrist
Two zany parodies from the old days (remember in Third grade when everyone thought Obi-Ben Doggie was the funniest thing EVER?) leap up to exploit the Star Wars moment. Jewel Box Theater
The Importance of Being Earnest
Rupert Everett looks terrible--his face appears to be sliding off his skull, and he's as neckless as a football player. And he should simply stop playing straight men, because he's the most unconvincing lover this side of Passions. Southerner Reese Witherspoon is far too California-girl to play an English lass, with her "I studied with the same voice coach as Gwyneth" accent. Even these quibbles aside, this new adaptation is revolting, too arch by half and with Everett and Colin Firth (who plays Jack Worthing as a kind of stuttering Hugh Grant-type) swallowing all of Oscar Wilde's best lines. You lose everything by method-acting Wilde; his charm lies in all the stagy absurdity of drawing-room social intercourse. Thank God for Judi Dench, steamrolling her way through a terrible situation. (EMILY HALL) Guild 45th
* Independent Exposure
This once-monthly program of rare (and sometimes wonderful) independent shorts by underground artists from around the world returns for the occasion of Satellites 2002. Vital 5
Every once and a great while, a film comes along that breaks the "remakes are always shitty" rule. Christopher Noland's Insomnia is one of those films. Not only does it match its Norwegian original, but in many ways it tops it-no minor feat when you take into account the fact that it stars Robin Williams as the villain. Also starring Al Pacino, Hillary Swank, and the great Martin Donovan, Noland's thriller takes its time to unfold, giving each performer ample scenery to gnaw on before arriving at a tight finale. Go see it. (Sidenote: And it's really fucking weird watching Mork fire off a shotgun.) (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Metro
The talents of six of the finest British actors alive--Tom Courtenay, Bob Hoskins, Michael Caine, David Hemmings, Ray Winstone, and Helen Mirren--are squandered by this moist little movie about a journey to deliver a dead man's ashes to the seaside. (SEAN NELSON) Big Picture
Pretty Vacant and Come and Take it Day
Two punk rock-related shorts by Jim Mendiola presented as part of Satellites 2002. The first concerns a Chicana zine-author's obsession with the Sex Pistols' show in San Antonio; the second is about a bunch of Texas metal dudes set out for buried treasure. Little Theatre
Satellites 2002 Opening Party
Raise a glass with the filmmakers, exhibitors, and fans who put together the Satellites festival year in and year out in the shadow of SIFF, which is also hosting a big party tonight, but theirs will be dull compared to this one! Little Theatre
* Second Circle
Second Circle extends the familial explorations of Sokurov's Mother and Son by examining a man who must confront his feelings about his father's death while arranging the funeral amidst the emotionally arid society of late-20th century Russia. Grand Illusion
Showgirls, the Paul Verhoeven/Joe Eszterhas debacle, has achieved a tremendous cult following among those who love camp 'n' catfights. So who better to narrate the film--in the tradition of Mystery Science Theatre--than The Stranger's own David Schmader? We were wondering where Dave has been lately... Showbox
* The Sin of Father Mouret
Torn straight from today's headlines... just kidding. This 1970 French film by Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face) concerns a young priest who bumps his head, and forgets his vows (and everything else) when he wakes in the arms of a comely peasant lass who nurses him back to health... and, alas, guilt. Seattle Art Museum
Singing and Gambling with a Western Twist
These two films, Hand Game and Why the Cowboy Sings comprise a free event called "Northwest Folklife Festival Fims." I know why the cowboy sings, by the way... JBL Theater at the EMP
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
A cartoon about magic horses. If you like magic horses, you'll LOVE this cartoon.
Steamboat Bill Jr.
Samuel Beckett owned a copy of this silent Buster Keaton movie on 16mm and used to screen it over and over. Freak. Hokum Hall
* Twenty Million Miles to Earth
Get your indie rock church on while you dig this 1957 sci-fi howler about an unfortunate trip to Venus, and the monster who hitches a ride back to mother Earth. Paradox
* About a Boy
Directed by Paul and Chris Weitz (of American Pie infamy), this tale of male mid-life angst centers around Hugh Grant's Will, an idler of hilarious proportions whose life is measured out in increments of time spent performing important tasks such as shopping for high-end electronic gadgets and gourmet snacks, and going to the hair salon. Living off a fortune earned and perpetuated by his one-hit-wonder musician father, Will has no idea his life is meaningless until he meets a 12-year-old boy whose depressed mother (Toni Collette) forces Will to provide guidance, except that the kid is far more mature than his begrudging father figure. Will can't conceive that his life is unfulfilled, and whenever anyone tries to inform him of what's missing, he digs in his heels and fights to stay a bastard, making his inevitable transformation all the more authentic. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
A beautifully kinetic testament to human sweetness that has audiences lining up around the block and contrarians carping about its artificiality. I'm not saying you have to be an asshole not to like Amélie, but it would probably help. (SEAN NELSON)
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)
* The Business of Fancydancing
Reviewed this issue. NW poet Sherman Alexie's directorial debut tackles, or rather, tangles with a series of rich contradictions.
* 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)
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)
Despite its compelling story--Enigma was a Nazi encryption machine that enabled the Germans to creat unbreakable codes during WWII; unbreakable, that is, until every math and science nerd in Great Britain got to working on it--and attractive cast--Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, Saffron Burrows--Enigma fails to generate much of the heroic suspense it aims at. This is mainly on account of two things: (1) the conventionality of the romantic sub-plot, and (2) the near-impossibility of knowing what the hell is going on at any given moment on account of the inherently intellectual business the lead characters are engaged in. For WWII code-cracking buffs, however, the movie is highly recommended. (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)
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)
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)
Let My Puppets Come
Gerand Damiano's 1974 X-rated musical puppet sex comedy is sure to delight young and old with its raunchy, pornographic interludes among our fabric friends. Not available on video! Fri-Sat late nights.
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)
* Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Director Peter Jackson's adaptation of part one of Tolkien's tale of Hobbits, Wizards, Orcs, Elves, Black Riders, and Dwarves has finally made it to the screen with real live humans, including heavyweights like Ian McKellen (Gandalf!) and Christopher Lee (Saruman!), and middleweight contenders like Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins) and Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn). The actors are all outstanding, and they have to be, because the film's real challenge (beyond making a credible Balrog; accomplished, btw) lies with its faithfulness to the subject of the book: It's an epic adventure about ambivalence. Right down to Frodo's face on the poster, Fellowship is all about rising above doubts (rather than stepping up to convictions), and all the special effects in the world can't convey that. Even though it's not perfect, this movie still kicks fucking ass. (SEAN NELSON)
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)
Monstrous Balls is more like it. Hank is a racist prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton, perfect), son of a retired racist prison guard (Peter Boyle, who doesn't even try an accent), and father of a young, non-racist prison guard (Heath Ledger, who tries his hardest) in a Georgia State Penitentiary death row. Hank falls into a desperate affair with Leticia (Halle Berry, semi-plausible), a black woman, after both of their sons die. (SEAN NELSON)
Sully (John Goodman) is one of Monsters, Inc.'s top Scarers, meaning that he excels at getting kids to scream in fright--and bottled screams are the fuel upon which Monstropolis, his hometown, depends. Kids, however, are supposed to be highly contagious, so when Sully accidentally brings a little girl back to Monstropolis, he's got a lot of nervous running and hiding to do. The first two-thirds of this film are pleasant to watch, though the narcotizing currents of confused cultural allegory that run through modern Disney films course just as strongly through this one. But the final third of the movie is excellent and beautiful, arriving suddenly at one of those gorgeous imaginary landscapes that legitimately become a part of a child's dream fabric. (EVAN SULT)
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.
The New Guy
Why is the obnoxious-dweeb-turned-obnoxious-chick-magnet plot still selling? Why, in this advanced age, are people still laughing at fat jokes and transvestites and dwarves getting beaten up? Why did the guy in the front row howl like he was giving birth for the entire duration of this movie? Also, why would a beautiful 21-year-old actress with a decent résumé willfully dress up like some big-booty ho outta Lynnwood and perform a raunchy striptease on camera? Without a shred of irony? Why is this POS all but guaranteed to make millions at the box office--despite the fact that its only asset is the scene where a teenage nymphet addresses Vanilla Ice as "Pukeface?" Why do people pay money for this shit? Why? Why? No. Tell me. Why? (MEG VAN HUYGEN)
Set in Buenos Aires, this mystery involves two low-level con men involved in a scheme to forge and sell nine rare stamps.
The Panic Room
The clever and tightly orchestrated twists and turns never rise above thriller formulas driven by utter clichés. (BRET FETZER)
A coming-of-age story set in 1972 New Zealand, against the backdrop of budding sexuality, crumbling marriage, and sun & surf. Based on the novel by Kirsty Gunn.
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 Salton Sea
This druggie-drama begins with broken down Danny Parker (Val Kilmer), crouched with a trumpet in a burning building, asking the audience, "Who am I?" The question is the central part of this schizophrenic, relentlessly depressing movie that never seems to find its true identity. Is The Salton Sea a dark comedy about misfit speed freaks and their half-cocked plans, or is it about yet another played-out revenge plot by one man (Kilmer, with horribly fake tattoos!) whose life mission is to kill his wife's killers? Unfortunately, Sea is mostly the latter, and not even the well-cast cameos (Buckcherry's frontman Joshua Todd as sleazy little bad guy) can save the threadbare storyline. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
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.
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)
* Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones delivers exactly what you should expect from a Star Wars movie. It is big. It is fun. It is an event. From the opening surge of John Williams' familiar score, to the final optical zooming out to the words "Directed by George Lucas," Episode II lives up to the Star Wars myth-a myth that has always meant "stupid fun." Don't agree? Go back and watch the first three. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
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.
"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)
* 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)