The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, A Hard Day's Night, His Secret Life, The Pianist, What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A., Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sun at 2:15 pm, 4:30, 7, 9:15, Mon at 7 pm, 9:15, Tues at 7 pm, Wed-Thurs at 2:15 pm, 4:30, 7, 9:15.
* It's A Wonderful Life
See Stranger Suggests. Grand Illusion, Sat-Wed 6:30 pm, 9 pm, no show Mon.
* Mulholland Drive
This work from David Lynch is confounding and bizarre (for a change). Originally conceived as a network TV pilot, Drive takes a long time establishing its characters--an aspiring actress, a glamorous amnesiac, a luckless Hollywood producer, and a mysterious gang of Mafiosi who are dead set on making sure a certain woman gets a certain part. Like all of Lynch's post-Wild at Heart work, Drive is more concerned with atmosphere and suggestion than linear meaning. But like all Lynch, period, it's beautifully constructed, bizarre, and funny. It's just impossible to say definitively whether this is good or not. (SEAN NELSON) Egyptian, Fri-Sat at Midnight.
A Night of Short Films
Films to drink yourself silly to--with works by Doug Arney, Aaron Caine, Brian Foley, Kevin Kogin, Roderick Romero, and Aaron Zuege. Sunset Tavern, Mon at 8 pm.
NEW THIS WEEK
See review this issue. Uptown
See review this issue. Guild 45th, Pacific Place
See review this issue.
See review this issue. Metro, Pacific Place
The Gangs of New York
See review this issue. Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16, Neptune, Woodinville 12
A pet project of the uniquely polarizing Roberto Benigni (Italy's idiot son acts as writer, director, and star), the live-action version of Italy's most beloved fairytale about engorging apendages.
Phillip Noyce's (The Bone Collector, The Quiet American) latest, an adaptation of author Doris Pilkington Garimara's nonfiction portrayal of Australia's dark past, tracing the lives of three aboriginal girls taken from their families by white settlers. Harvard Exit
Two Weeks Notice
Hugh Grant falls asleep in the only character he seems to fully realize (charmingly shallow, privileged, self-absorbed), is propped up next to Sandra Bullock's perennial heroine (smart, funny, self-effacing), and wheeled along the romantic-comedy conveyor belt. Factoria, Meridian 16, Metro, Woodinville 12, Redmond Town Center
The Wild Thornberrys
Nickelodeon's marginally successful animated series The Wild Thornberrys earns itself further franchise with a 78-minute episode on the big screen. Factorian, Meridian 16, Woodinville 12, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center
* 8 Mile
Directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys), the movie tells the story of Jimmy Smith Jr. (Eminem), a working-class kid who begrudgingly crashes with his jobless, trailer-dwelling mom (Kim Basinger), a woman who lives off bingo and bad men, while his predominantly black posse supports him through the underground battle halls of Detroit. It's the Marshall Mathers version of the underdog-done-good idea, a concept presented in various films over the years, from The Karate Kid to Hoop Dreams. But 8 Mile works because you believe the story behind it. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights
Adam Sandler plays a twentysomething loser with a bad temper who causes trouble, makes cracks about bodily functions, and finds redemption. Sound familiar? But wait! This time his performance will have no choice but to be animated! "Look, I'm Crazy Cartoonhead!"
Ten seconds after this film is over, it will disappear completely from your memory. Even though it was much funnier than you hoped it would be, you'll only remember how hard you laughed when Billy Crystal drooled sushi all over the table. Weighty subjects (grief, redemption) occasionally distract from humor mainstays (kicks in the balls, sushi), but at least the writers didn't stick a love interest in the way of the gags. Lower your expectations with a couple of beers and you've got an enjoyable evening of middlebrow fun. (MATT FONTAINE)
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 the psychological complexity in favor of cheap shots. He wants to say something great, but ultimately doesn't. Can't, maybe. Because he isn't really a social critic, he's a demagogue. (SEAN NELSON)
Die Another Day
After about two hours of workman-like action and suspense, and a battery of sexual innuendo about as subtle and charming as a herpes sore, the 20th James Bond film finally surrenders to its own muddled identity. Likable Pierce Brosnan has long since outlived his inevitability in the lead role, and takes a turn for the Roger Moore with this film. His heroics, his sexual bravado, his body hair--they all seem to indicate an epic disjunction between the supersmooth ultraspy we keep hearing about and the vaguely handsome tool we see onscreen playing him. Predictably, this film's only real recommendation lies in the stuffing of Halle Berry's wild bikini, but frankly, you can get to that more easily by doing a Google search. (SEAN NELSON)
Rarely do freshmen make the drumline, but thanks to his phat chops, my man Devon makes the cut. Of course we all know that you can take the boy out of the 'hood, but you can't take the 'hood out of the boy. What this film presupposes is, maybe you can? Does this ruff 'n' tumble protagonist have heart enough to overcome the obstacles? Will he and the band take top honors at the BET Big Southern Classic, or will he let his dreams and the girl slide through his fingers? I probably needn't tell you that Drumline is so predictable that it's over before you even walk into the theater, but if for some reason you make it that far, I won't say that it's unwatchable. (JONATHAN MAHALAK)
El Crimen del Padre Amaro
Stylish photography with just enough overexposure to suggest blinding sun; excellent character acting from half the beautiful people in Mexico; a fun soundtrack. But the script? The script is taken from a melodramatic Portuguese novel written in 1875. It had little to do with the actual Church of 1875, let alone today; it's a soap opera. Are you trying to tell me the Catholic Church has no sense of humor? (BARLEY BLAIR)
* The Emperor's Club
Though the first third of The Emperor's Club plays like Dead Poets Society redux--genius teacher inspires emotionally undernourished trustafarians to excellence--the picture's trajectory is far subtler, and more troubling. Where one film was a crowd-pleasing paean to personal freedom, the other is an elegy to the passing of intellectual and moral rigor as a way of life. Where one was a character study, the other is a study of Character. (SEAN NELSON)
A long-winded suspense-film setup gets neatly tied up in 20 minutes of a "we waited so long for this?" ending. What the preview promised: tough Latino drug dealer from the South Bronx, Victor Rosa (John Leguizamo), gets fucked over by white Wall Street boy named Jack (Peter Sarsgaard) when Vic tries to go legit. What the movie delivers: trite drug-dealer shootouts and karaoke-video-quality shots of romance and heartache. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
Okay, you'll want to begin with a Fahrenheit 451 stock, so take that book and boil it long and hard, until the meat of its anti-censorship screed is good and blanched, but still basically recognizable. Next, you'll be wanting to season, and though some say less is more, the makers of Equilibrium clearly disagree--so empty your spice racks of all visual and literary elements that may apply (The Matrix, Triumph of the Will, Minority Report, Ridley Scott's TV commercials, Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World--don't worry about mixing metaphors by combining these last two, the point is to touch all bases--et al.). Now add some attractive actors (Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs), an ominous cinematographic monochrome, some portentous dialogue, and simmer until the audience is either giggling or snoring. (SEAN NELSON)
Some snowboarders and a prissy downhill skiing gold medalist end up on the top of a mountain in an abandoned resort, where a big bad terrorist man just happens to be hiding out after faking his death. Now the big bad terrorist man wants the snowboarding dudes dead since they know his secret. In the midst of it all, some girls kiss, a guy gets naked, and still the movie struggles to be even remotely interesting. (MEGAN SELING)
* Far From Heaven
In both style and substance, Far from Heaven pays homage to Douglas Sirk's classic 1956 melodrama All That Heaven Allows, upping the ante by introducing intricate new threats to his heroine's true love--threats that would've landed Sirk's film in the studio censor's blender. But Todd Haynes' pitch-perfect inclusion of sexual confusion and racial bigotry into Sirk's original mix gives him the power to transcend his source material and create a melodramatic masterpiece all his own. (DAVID SCHMADER)
Frida is yet another artist's story that has been stripped of nuance and turned into a paean to something indiscriminately called "living," here with requisite Latin heat and groaning tables of erotically charged food. (EMILY HALL)
The Friday After Next
"Xmas in the 'hood," the third installment of Ice Cube's ghetto-comic empire, is a sort of Home Alone-flavored seasoning of the original Friday formula, complete with a sea of belly laughs by way of domestic violence, homophobia, racial intolerance, rape, and of course the requisite hilarity of drug abuse ("Santa's a crackheaded thief--now that shit is funny"). It's impossible for me to ask this without sounding entirely prudish, but, for god's sake, is nothing sacred? (ZAC PENNINGTON)
Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a thunderous bore. The plot is some garbage about destiny and magic and spiders and snakes--if you're planning on seeing it, you either already know the plot or won't want to. Only a kid could stand it, but no kid worth a damn is going to want to sit through a 161-minute movie in which nothing exciting or funny happens, and in which our hero is never truly jeopardized. Harry is just a charmed little guy who gets everything he wants and always saves the day. (SEAN NELSON)
The Hot Chick
It's sort of like that Disney movie with Jodie Foster and Barbara whatshername, wait, no..., more like that movie with Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore where, no, wait..., it's kinda like that movie Switch with Ellen Barkin. Man, that sure was a piece of shit, wasn't it? Yeah, but this one's got Rob "Sensitive Naked Man" Schneider, so I bet it won't be that bad, right? Right?!?!?
Almost proof that chemistry can trump originality. Almost. An update of the '60s TV show, I-Spy slaps the brilliance of Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson together and places them in a creaky, fairly inane plot. There are explosions, fights, and an invisible military jet (no, really), but what makes the flick tolerable is the humor of its stars. Murphy and Wilson's talents are wasted here, to be sure, but what little breathing room is given proves superduper entertaining. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Jackass: The Movie
Jackass is a perfect film. (SEAN NELSON)
Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie
The computer-animated version of the pamphlets you find at bus stops.
Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers
See review this issue.
Maid in Manhattan
While pretending to tell the truth about class distinctions, Maid depends too hard on the pretty American fiction that such distinctions are only a matter of money--which of course we have to humanistically believe, otherwise we'd be, uh, British. That said, it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be; Lopez and Fiennes have almost no chemistry at all, but they're pretty graceful about it, and the presence of Bob Hoskins, Chris Eigeman, Amy Sedaris, and Stanley Tucci has got to count for something. Doesn't it? (EMILY HALL)
* My Big Fat Greek Wedding
I love how this movie has been playing for like 25 years and has made 200 grillion dollars and no one I know has seen or even heard of it. Until this past weekend, that is, when a girl I really admire admitted that she not only saw, but really enjoyed it. I think that's terrific. The Stranger vows to review this film if and when it earns $300 million. That's a promise. (SEAN NELSON)
* Personal Velocity
The three short films that compose Personal Velocity are each devoted to catching women at crucial points of surrender that follow triumphant moments of success. Aside from the truly stellar acting and maddeningly perceptive writing, what distinguishes this picture is the filmmaker's refusal to connect the stories with any but the slimmest of narrative threads. As a result, each woman comes off as individually necessary--the one quality each one secretly desires above all else. (SEAN NELSON)
Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Punch-Drunk Love is a confused story--not confusing to the audience, but confused within itself. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Real Women Have Curves
A simplistic and thought-provokeless tale about one spirited teenage member of the underclass' struggle to individuate her young self in the context of her traditional, stifling, almost-poverty-stricken family. Every major scene devolves into sloganeering, a champagne socialist's daydream of life in the po' house. Real Women is a lowest-common-denominator piece of silky propaganda. (MICHAEL SHILLING)
So here it is, the trifecta for Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, and it's sure to make piles of money. But is Red Dragon any good? The answer is kinda and no--kinda, thanks to Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Emily Watson, and Ralph Fiennes; no, thanks to Sir Anthony himself, who seems so utterly bored with the role that you can almost hear him snoozing with his eyes open. Clunky and breathtakingly unoriginal, Brett Ratner's film is an absolute paint-by-numbers affair. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
There are a few jumps here and there, along with one startling image near the end involving a TV, but for the most part The Ring just sorta trudges along, rarely surprising, often befuddling. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The Santa Clause 2
The most unnecessary sequel since Silent Night, Deadly Night 4.
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee Holloway, a slightly retarded nymphet secretary just released from a loony house, who develops a subversive relationship with her employer, played by James Spader. Part of Secretary's singular quality is that the heroine's problem is never resolved. She entrenches herself deeper and deeper in her "sick" dependency, and ultimately, it becomes her virtue. (MEG VAN HUYGEN)
Like all Steven Soderbergh films, Solaris is well crafted and acted. The photography and editing, which were done by the director, are terrific. George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, and Jeremy Davies fulfill their roles. The futuristic sets and costumes are convincing. And Soderbergh successfully integrates the necessary high-tech equipment--the flat, iridescent TV screens and computer monitors, the slick black telephones, and so on--into a believable future world. But is this what Solaris is about? Soderbergh's cinematic skills? If that were the case, why didn't he go overboard and make a film that was purely cinematic? Solaris, even at 95 minutes, is slow, and there is nothing technically or artistically exceptional about it. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
In spite of its conspicuous cute deficiency, Spirited Away is by all means a striking visual composition--just make sure you're not drowsy going in. (ZAC PENNINGTON)
Standing in the Shadows of Motown
A functional if not exactly riveting documentary about the session musicians who composed the backbone of the Motown sound but whom no one has ever heard of. The Funk Brothers (a mixed-race collective of amazing players) can be heard on every Detroit-era Motown hit, but because of the way the star singers were marketed, they very often didn't even receive credit. The movie does them justice by telling the story, but slips into miscalculation by having the fellas play the old hits live, accompanied by some of today's least impressive stars (Joan Osborne, Me'Shell Ndegéocello, Levert). The performances just reinforce the star power of the original Motown stable. (SEAN NELSON)
Star Trek: Nemesis
The age of the colon continues (read: don't expect any of those awesome whales in this one) as the infinitely less deridable Next Generation cast fights with somebody somewhere in this, the purported final journey of Picard and his minion.
Sweet Home Alabama
More like Suck Home Alasucka.
When a horror film goes wrong, the result can be deadly (from an audience's point of view). In this undercooked and dreadfully boring example, some folks who were haunted by "the thing under the bed" when they were kids come to discover that the thing was real, and for some reason it's come back to get them. Why? Probably because they are clichéd characters who were born to die. It's difficult to identify with any of them, especially the cute but frighteningly skinny lead girl, which makes it hard to care if any of them live. This, of course, drains the film of any suspense. Unfortunately, the force of evil is even less developed than the main characters, which leaves you absolutely no one to root for. All you can do is chart the plot holes as they pass by. (ANDY SPLETZER)
Updating Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate classic for the space-age is a fun conceit. Unfortunately, this kid's movie, which keeps the the "aye-matie" setting in-tact while beautifully working in computer wizardry, high-tech skate boarding, space ships, and dimensional portals, is far too wholesome to thrill. Wholesome might be good for kids, but kids simply aren't going to pay attention to this well-intentioned, but truly square rendition of Stevenson's bawdy novel. (JOSH FEIT)
* The Trials of Henry Kissinger
This documentary, based on the writing of Christopher Hitchens, indicts the most famous diplomat of the late-20th century as a war criminal, and makes the demand that statesmen be held to an even higher moral standard than the rest of us, because they are supposed to be acting on behalf of the rest of us. As the evidence mounts, you can feel the creeping awareness of justice on the verge; of a political manipulator about to be called to answer for his power games. Whether or not this actually happens remains to be seen. But just the thought of it, and the measured, intellectual fervor--as opposed to stock liberal passion--with which the prosecution proceeds, lends a sense of hope to those of us who have been conditioned to expect the worst from our leaders, and to assume they will always get away with it. (SEAN NELSON)
A wonderful cast, lovely cinematography, and an almost Zenlike pace cannot overcome the fact that this story is about a 104-year-old guy who's doing it with a teenager! He is approximately six times her age! Yuck! (TAMARA PARIS)
* The Way Home
It's no surprise that this sentimental gem is the first feature film from Korea chosen for major distribution. It's a wonderfully gentle, humorous, and respectful tearjerker about an angry boy (Seung-Ho Yoo) from the big city left in the care of his mute grandmother (78-year-old newcomer Eul-Boon Kim). Will he learn to toss aside his Nintendo Game Boy and help this stooped crone carry water up the hill? In a castle somewhere in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg is wringing his hands and tossing his personal assistants into the moat because director Jeong-Hyang Lee somehow got her hands on his mojo. (TAMARA PARIS)