Blood and Sand: the Westerns of Sergio Leone
The extended English-language version of Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly arrives here next month, and to gear up for it the Grand Illusion is offering you a chance to bone up on (to use poorly constructed fake French) "Westerns de Spaghetti." This week you get Once Upon a Time in the West and Duck, You Sucker (AKA A Fistful of Dynamite, AKA Giù la Testa). I humbly suggest you go, if for no other reason than to remember that Clint Eastwood may, in fact, be the coolest man alive. Grand Illusion, see Movie Times for specifics. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Featuring the considerable talents of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Captain Lou Albano, Body Slam! unites virtually all that was good about pro-wrestling in the late '80s with everything that was great about music of the same era--namely: everything. Sunset, Mon at 8 pm.
Freedom Kiss, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the French
We all know they're filthy. So here's the proof. Consolidated Works, Fri at 8 pm.
The Good Old Naughty Days
Time heals all wounds and turns pornography into high art. This painstakingly restored compilation of French silent porn movies (girl-on-girl, boy-on-girl, dog-on-girl) made between 1905 and 1930 will make you wish they never invented video--and maybe that wah-wah soundtrack. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat at 11 pm.
Gregg Lachow Premieres
See Stranger Suggests. Little Theatre, see Movie Times for details.
Johnny To Signing
I don't really know where else to put this, so I'll just say that Hong Kong action director Johnny To (Fulltime Killer, The Mission) will be signing copies of his works this evening at Scarecrow. So, you know, if that's your sort of thing, maybe you should go. Or something. Scarecrow Video, Thurs at 8 pm.
Consolidated Works continues with the filth with a screening of Fluffy Cumsalot, Porn Star--a documentary about the social weight of choosing the name of your pornographic persona. Consolidated Works, Sun at 8 pm.
The Hitchcock classic about a woman who suspects that her husband is keeping a deadly secret from her. Rendezvous, Wed at 7 pm.
Showdown: Imperial 3 Delight
The world premiere of a new local work by the folks at Delicious 62, a self-described "kung-fu-sci-fi-comic-book digital short" featuring evil swordsmen, universal domination, and something called a "time flute." Screens with a selection of previous shorts. Rendezvous, Fri at 10 pm.
SPIT: Squeegee Punks In Traffic
"Internationally acclaimed" documentarian Daniel Cross trusts his presumably expensive film equipment with a Canadian ex-junkie street kid who, miraculously, didn't pawn it over the span of three years. Independent Media Center, Fri at 7 pm.
A reinterpretation of Takashi Murakami's Superflat movement, Conworks hosts an evening of Westernized Asian culture, for Westerners. You know, all "through the looking glass" and shit. Consolidated Works, Sat at 9 pm.
Under a Shipwrecked Moon
An absent Finnish patriarch returns to his family after a 15 year absence, and (doh!) promptly falls into a coma of feverdreams. The Northwest premiere of the latest by Antero Alli (Hysteria, Tragos). 911 Media Arts Center, Fri at 8 pm.
UW Film School Digital Shorts
The kids and their computers dazzle in an evening's screening of graduate and undergraduate short films. Rendezvous, Tues at 7:15 pm.
2 Fast 2 Furious
John Singleton directs 2 Fast 2 Furious on autopilot. Maybe he's just auditioning to make videos for the musicians he cast (Tyrese, Ludacris). Gone is the sense that anyone here has an offscreen life, that anything you see could actually happen, that anything surprising or interesting will take place in the computer-generated plot. I guess we're supposed to root for Paul Walker, but only because he was the star of the last movie. Everything is surface and nothing has substance. Hell, most hiphop videos have better plots and stronger female characters than this movie, which makes for one boring road trip. (ANDY SPLETZER)
It's unofficially recommended that one wear a helmet when viewing the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson comedy Anger Management, so as not to cause damage to the right frontal lobe due to repeated self-administered head slapping. However, the movie is so bad you'll want to die before it's over. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
Bend It Like Beckham
Essentially a traditional coming-of-age story, though with a spicy ethnic twist: A hot Anglo-Indian teenage girl in outer London pursues her dream of professional soccer stardom against the wishes of her traditional Sikh parents-immigrants who, still steeped in Indian culture, are only concerned with her educational and marriage prospects, and consequently just don't get it. Stuff happens and challenges are overcome, and Mummy and Papa come around in the end, as we know they will, but the predictable conventionality of the plot structure is expertly obscured by the pleasures of the journey. It is all charming fluff and captivating if improbable lightness, of course, but for a feel-good comedy, there is no higher praise. (SANDEEP KAUSHIK)
Better Luck Tomorrow
Evidently, this first-time film from Justin Lin caused quite a stir at Sundance, though after watching it I find whatever controversy it created a little perplexing. The story of a pack of overachieving Asian high-school students turning to crime for kicks in suburbia, the film is little more than Goodfellas and Boyz N the Hood spackled together with an Asian cast, directed with overly hyper flare by Lin, and purchased by MTV films for release to teens and tweens nationwide. Does swapping out Italians for Asians make for enough originality to create a buzz? I guess so, though it doesn't really make for a memorable picture. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Just when you thought there was nothing worse than an earnest Jim Carrey comedy, it hits you like a sack of shit in the kisser--there is something worse, and that's an earnest Jim Carrey comedy that casts the overacting, overarching comedian as God. If I wanted religion and the importance of prayer shoved down my throat like a giant morality tampon sucking up every last bit of patience until I'm suffocating on it, I'd be on my knees in a pew already. But there's no reason for me--or anyone else--to sit through crap with lines like, "Miracles are single mothers of two who take their kids to soccer practice." Are you fucking kidding me? Is this a joke? No, it's not. It's the inane story of Jim Carrey as Bruce Nolan, a loser who takes the Lord's (Morgan Freeman) name in vain until He gives ol' Bruce His job so Bruce can see the importance of prayer beads and learn why God doesn't help people win the lottery and stupid stuff like that. It's also yet another example of how Jim Carrey has failed to be significantly funny since In Living Color hit reruns (and I don't even know if he was funny on that show anymore). (JENNIFER MAERZ)
Basically, the last hour of Chicago is a mess. Nevertheless, I recommend it. You'll have to endure Richard Gere as Billy Flynn, of course, but it's a small price to pay to watch the Fosse-inspired choreography and Catherine Zeta-Jones' star turn as Velma Kelly. (DAN SAVAGE)
Daddy Day Care
Is Eddie Murphy just too busy counting his money to read scripts? Or perhaps they're all just printed on hundred dollar bills. The once-great man hits us with yet another piece of middling excrement in the form of a Mr. Mom knock-off.
Down With Love
With its retro setting and references, Down with Love not only manages to pay direct tribute to the kind of sex comedy Doris Day and Rock Hudson made memorable with Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, but proves to be the most satisfying romantic comedy I've seen in--well, decades. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
Dumb and Dumberer
Opening. Let's look at the facts for a second, folks: The Farrelly Brothers had too much dignity to involve themselves with this debacle. Read that again. THE FARRELLY BROTHERS. I'm just sayin'. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Woodinville 12
Opening. Fresh from SIFF, this Thai/Hong Kong horror flick centers around a young woman who, blind since she was wee, regains her sight thanks to a cornea operation. Things ain't all good, however, as a mysterious, gloomy figure keeps catching her peripheral vision. Scary crap ensues. Varsity
* Finding Nemo
A ridiculously gorgeous film, Finding Nemo proves yet again Pixar's current chokehold on big-screen animation. From the facial expressions of the fish and background shots of gently swaying sea grass, to expansive harbor shots of Sydney and the continual mist of plankton wisping by, every frame has been so detailed and obsessed over that the film stuns. Add in Pixar's gift for scripting, a gift that always makes their films tolerable for adults, and the end product is a flower of a movie, exceedingly well-imagined, that is more than worth the multiplex gouging. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* The Good Thief
The Good Thief is based on the 1955 French classic Bob le Flambeur by Jean-Pierre Melville, whose assured direction and cash-poor location filmmaking are widely considered precursors to the French New Wave. Neil Jordan directs the remake as a sort of tribute to the stylings associated with later New Wave films, with effects like freeze-frame cuts that make you aware that you're watching a movie and a cast of actors for whom English is not the primary language, so the dialogue is also awkward and self-aware. Jordan is commenting on Melville's film as much as remaking it, so if you can see the original first, do so--but either way you should have a good time. (ANDY SPLETZER)
Based on the popular children's book by Louis Sachar, Holes is a family drama (starring Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Arquette, and Jon Voight) about kids in the chain gang.
Opening. Han Solo and Trip Fontaine team up to fight evil--bringing justice to the lamb--like souls of a slain rap group. Featuring more snoringly customary rap cameos by the likes of Master P, Kurupt, Dr Dre, T-Bo, MC Dwight Yoakam, and DJ Martin Landau. Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Metro, Pacific Place, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12
House of Fools
Opening. Every night the mental patients gather to watch the Bryan Adams train pass by. Yep, you read that right. A train strung with lights which carries the Canadian rocker. If only the movie could have maintained that level of surrealism. Instead it's a predictable story which compares the insanity of war with every insane asylum stereotype you can think of. Making a bad situation worse, the only Adams song they could afford is the one from Don Juan De Marco. (Andy Spletzer) Metro
When a film is as close to Psycho as Identity is, you hope it will bring something new to the table. Ah, well. Identity won't go down in history as the clever spin on Norman Bates it wants to be, but because it borrows so heavily from Hitchcock, it's not without some taut suspense. Some will enjoy the thrill-kill ride. Others will easily dodge the plot twists. No one, however, will escape the shrieking music cues. (SHANNON GEE)
Albert Brooks slums along with Michael Douglas in this wickedly unnecessary remake of the classic 1979 Alan Arkin-Peter Falk kvetch-a-thon. The thing, however, is that I watched the original a week ago with an eye toward explaining why the remake is practically sacrilegious, and was dismayed to discover that it has aged about as well as mayonnaise on a countertop. Aside from Arkin's unstoppable brilliance and Falk's natural ease, there's little to recommend the film, which now feels slow, blocky, and obvious.
The Italian Job
Pompous jackass (Edward Norton) and inflection-handicapped pretty boy (Mark Wahlberg) team up in The Italian Job, a remake of the 1969 heist comedy starring Michael Caine and Noel Coward, and somehow, shockingly, the result is not completely fucked--a sturdy, if unsurprising, summer fluff piece. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The question that is deftly asked by the film's rather sitcom-style (but also frequently charming) result is one of identity and youth--how hard do you hold on to either of them?--and proves that a sweet movie can also have little pockets of depth. (EMILY HALL)
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Disney's impeccable live-action legacy continues with a big-screen version of the impossibly saccharine children's television series. It's sort of like watching television-but you know, real big. AND you get to pay for it!
* Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The film resonates so deeply, despite its potentially embarrassing fantasy trappings, because the filmmaker recognizes that violence and sacrifice are unavoidable aspects of the survival of civilizations. (SEAN NELSON)
Malibu's Most Wanted
The wigga son of a wealthy politician is introduced to C.O.M.P.T.O.N. by Juilliard-trained street thugs. Sensitive treatment of complicated racial stereotypes follows. (ZAC PENNINGTON)
Man On the Train
The French are a great people, with a great cinema; but when they stink, they really stink. This film is an utter waste of your time and mine. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
The Wachowski Brothers--two über-geeks, evidently, who surely concocted the entire Matrix universe whilst scheming in their parents' basement--have veered the series' storyline sharply this time around, as what appeared to be true in the elder sibling is not necessarily true in the younger, but even if the story is still massively underwhelming (at least to me--the Matrix obsessives will undoubtedly wet themselves, and God bless them for it), the sheer audacity the Wachowskis bring to the screen for Reloaded can only be described as brilliance. Like I stated before, you will see cool shit like you wouldn't believe--cool shit that makes the original Matrix look like The Ice Pirates--and whether you buy into the Wachowskis' massive tale or not, any film that shows you something you've never seen before--indeed, never dreamed possible, really--is worth the effort. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Opening. See review this issue. Meridian 16
A Mighty Wind
As with Christopher Guests' other films, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, the results of A Mighty Wind are alternately hilarious and flat. So much of what makes these movies enjoyable rests on the rhythm of the improv, which is why the increasingly rigid formula is both troublesome and necessary: It's the skeleton that allows these world-class performers to let loose (Fred Willard once again steals the show). The problem is that it's become so familiar that, taken together, the three films feel like one long, predictable sketch. (SEAN NELSON)
* Nowhere in Africa
Nowhere in Africa follows a rich Jewish family that leaves Germany in 1938 and moves to Africa. There they can avoid the Nazis, but have to deal with some other issues like, oh, the lack of water. Naturally, the characters all experience guilt (you just can't have a Holocaust movie without guilt), but there are also things here you never see in any movie, such as the scene in which a swarm of locusts plunder a field of maize. The hazards of humanity and the hazards of nature are not dissimilar, this movie argues, though (at two and a half hours long) not very succinctly. Thankfully, the actor Merab Ninidze, who's very sexy, is in almost every scene. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
An overwhelmingly Canadian portrait of one sweaty bank manager's gambling addiction, and the enormous fraud he perpetrates to sustain it, places the compulsively watchable Philip Seymour Hoffman at the center of a story that grows less plausible with each frame; that it's supposed to be true doesn't help--the film is portentous and humorless, and neither John Hurt as a greedy small-time casino manager, nor Minnie Driver as the frumpy, bewigged girlfriend, can elevate the proceedings. Hoffman is a great actor, but the more he appears in ugly garbage like this, the closer he comes to phoning it in. The only crucial difference between this performance and other recent ones (e.g., Love Liza) seems to be the mustache on his lip. (SEAN NELSON)
Rivers and Tides
Andy Goldsworthy, the subject of this documentary, makes things out of nature--icicles, shards of stone, leaf, thorn, tufts of sheep's wool--and lets nature take them apart. There is something both arrogant and humble at work here: the very Western wrestling of order out of chaos; the kind of acceptance of entropy associated with Zen. This is probably what makes Goldsworthy such a popular artist among the well-meaning; a glossy book of photographs of his work graces the coffee table of every super-liberal environmentalist you know. For the most part, director Thomas Riedelsheimer gives this wit room to breathe, although the New Agey plinka plinka music is truly awful. Silence, I think, would have been more respectful, more surprising, more Goldsworthian. (EMILY HALL)
Rugrats Go Wild
Opening. In Bruce Willis' triumphant return to voice-over, Nickelodeon gets the bright idea to mingle their franchises in a big screen cash cow sure to break heavy ground in the field of animation franchises. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville 12
Baltasar Kormákur, the director of 101 Reykjavík, trades slacker dysfunction for a full-on family meltdown. An aging father in a depressed Icelandic fishing village gathers his three children to tell them what's left of the family fortune. Opening with a bloody guy pouring gasoline in the fish-processing factory and burning it down, along with other scenes of mayhem and collapse, the movie flashes back a mere couple of days to show how things fall apart so completely. (ANDY SPLETZER)
Opening. See review this issue. Metro
The conflicts at play in Chen Kaige's Together are less overtly historical and political than his past films (The Emperor and the Assassin, Yellow Earth), but like his most well-known film in the U.S., Farewell My Concubine, Together puts a talented artist--here a violin prodigy rather than a Chinese opera star--at the center of a changing world. Instead of civil war or the Cultural Revolution, however, the battle this time is growing up in modern China. (SHANNON GEE)
What a Girl Wants
Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, and Kelly Preston star in Girls Gone Wild: London Edition, in a film filed somewhere between "Coming of Age," "Fish Out of Water," and "Product Placement Opportunity."
Deliverance, with breast implants.
* X2: X-Men United
The screenplay, by Michael Dougherty and Daniel Harris, is great; it would have been disastrous for the filmmakers not to rely on it. Forgoing excessive sweaty violence for richly imaginative narrative, X2's world is brought to life even more spectacularly than the first X-Men film, with very human elements of persecution, morality, and acceptance. (JULIANNE SHEPHERD)