The Black Stallion
To the delight of sexually confused horse girls everywhere, Columbia City Cinema presents a one time screening of the most striking boy-and-his-pet-horse story ever put to celluloid. Columbia City Cinema, Sat at 2 pm.
Bucket of Blood
"The last time I saw Phyllis, she exploded." Rendezvous, Wed at 7:30 pm.
* A Clockwork Orange
"Viddy well, little brother. Viddy well." Egyptian, Fri-Sat at midnight.
The Harder They Come
See Blow Up. Columbia City Cinema, Fri at 8 pm.
* Hell's Highway
Hands down one of the best documentaries I've seen in a while, Hell's Highway delves into the creepy world of government-sanctioned gore--the driver's ed films of yesteryear. Made to teach classrooms of youngsters about things like the evils of speeding, these shocking morality movies (with names like Wheels of Tragedy and Mechanized Death) did much more in the way of scaring the living shit out of kids barely past bedwetting age. This film focuses on an Ohio group called Highway Safety Films, who turned an obsession with public safety (and with filming gory, often fatal accidents at all hours of the night) into a company that was eventually racked with scandal (Porn allegations! Murder allegations! Meetings with the mob! A telethon with Sammy Davis Jr.?). Along the way, it shows footage (with audio that'll make your skin crawl) of the terrible accidents from HSF's archives, while also delving into interesting side issues like the general cultural mores and poor quality of health care of the times (the '60s and '70s). By rooting through a relatively buried piece of our collective past, Hell's Highway is an excellent balance of trivia and camp, and proof once again that our educational methods have, at times, been really, really fucked up. (JENNIFER MAERZ) Little Theatre, Fri-Thurs at 7, 9 pm, no screenings Mon.
* 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, Mon at 8 pm.
The latest installment of the Grand Illusion's favored blend of midnight (err... 11 o'clock) movie, Pieces continues the mindless gore with something about a chainsaw, a mess (and I mean mess) of nubile co-eds, and a human jigsaw puzzle. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat at 11 pm.
Though it's never had much cachet even among devotees of cult films, the 1963 exploitation feature The Sadist turns out to be a smart, surprising original. Three teachers are on their way to a ball game when a busted fuel pump requires them to pull over to an off-road gas station; there they are held captive by a sneering "thrill killer" and his giggling, baby-doll girlfriend. The villain, nakedly inspired by Charlie Starkweather (source also for Terrence Malick's Badlands), is wretchedly overacted by the legendarily awful Arch Hall Jr.; but the excellent black-and-white photography and elegant compositions can be credited to the brilliant cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (here credited as an Anglicized William), and writer/director James Landis crafted a sharp, perspective study of coincidence and chance--and the fatal results of letting them slip through your fingers. (Bruce Reid) Grand Illusion, Fri at 6:30 pm, Sat-Sun at 4:30, 6:30 pm, Tues-Thurs at 6:30 pm.
"Danny isn't here, Mrs. Torrance." JBL Theatre, Thurs at 7:30 pm.
See Blow Up. Rendezvous, Sat at 8 pm.
* SILENT MOVIE MONDAYS
See Blow Up. Paramount, Monday at 7 pm.
The serial killer, Marc Barbé, kills with his hands. He chokes his victims at the very moment they arouse him. The women, most of whom are prostitutes, scream horribly, bang the floor, knock down cheap hotel or trailer furniture, scramble and struggle with everything they've got against the growing force of the killer's grip. But he always succeeds in squeezing the existence out of their bodies, leaving them lifeless on the floor or by bushes. There are no detectives in this grim picture. There is no criminal investigation. The killer operates outside of the law, with the freedom and invincibility of Satan. Sombre is a fairytale--it takes place not in reality (or a resemblance of reality), but a pure fantasy that draws its colors, its vapors, and putrid passions from the negative sources of creation. I wanted to hate this empty and essentially amoral film, but the quality of its darkness is remarkable. Like it's handsome serial killer, one is at once repulsed and fascinated by Sombre. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Grand Illusion, Fri-Thurs at 8:30 pm.
* This is Spinal Tap
See Blow Up. "It's like, 'how much more black could this be?'--and the answer is none. None more black." Columbia City Cinema, Sat at 7:30 pm.
The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till
A film documenting the infamous 1955 lynching of 14-year-old boy Emmett Till, whose story helped to catalyze the Civil Rights Movement. Seattle University, Sat at 3:30 pm.
Wild Women Don't Have the Blues
See Blow Up. JBL Theatre, Wed at 7 pm.
* A Woman Is a Woman
See Blow Up. "It is because they're in love that everything will go wrong for Emile and Angela," or so says one of the intertitles that pops up during the movie. The story is about the unmarried live-in lovers Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy) and Angela (Anna Karina). She wants to have a baby, he dodges that issue entirely, and Jean-Paul Belmondo plays their friend who would gladly impregnate her. This being a post-modern musical by Jean-Luc Godard, the story is only one level on which the movie works. Made just a couple of years into the zeitgeist that was the French New Wave, A Woman Is a Woman not only helped define the movement, but Godard's role within it. Of all the New Wave film critics turned filmmakers, he was the one who took the most joy in exposing the cinematic tricks of the trade. He's happy to remind you that you're watching a movie by adding bursts of music, subtitles, or by having the actors acknowledge the camera and comment on their predicaments. There's a spontaneity to A Woman Is a Woman that keeps it as fresh and inspirational now as it was when it first came out. (ANDY SPLETZER) Varsity, Fri-Sun at 12:30, 2:40, 4:45, 7, 9:20 pm, Mon-Thurs at 7, 9:20 pm.
* American Splendor
As a comic-book movie, American Splendor is more like Crumb and Ghost World than like Spider Man or The Hulk. Along with a deadpan sense of humor, the focus is entirely on character and not at all on spectacle. There's also a tone found in underground comics that this movie perfectly captures. Smartly constructed and often surprising, American Splendor indulges in how artificial the filmmaking process is, and ends up with a heartfelt portrayal of a very real man. (ANDY SPLETZER)
If you're finishing a trilogy about boners, boning, blow jobs, motherfuckers, call girls, and gay dudes, who needs a plot? Just please promise this is the last one. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
The Animation Show
There is enough good work on display in The Animation Show to satisfy animation freaks (that is, if they haven't seen everything already--chances are they have). This, though, is a bit of a problem; those who aren't rabid fans (or who merely enjoy what they've seen of currator Mike Judge's work) may find themselves underwhelmed; somewhat surprisingly, Judge and Don Hertzfeldt's control over the project does not make for the greatest animation compilation ever, but just another adequate one--no matter how the package is billed. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Woody Allen's films used to radiate a luxurious nostalgia for a New York gone by; now they're just nostalgic for old Woody Allen films. Jason Biggs, as a mini-Woody, is both excruciating and interesting--excruciating when he apes Allen, down to the syntax and adenoidal whine; interesting when he gives the character a darker edge, like there's an impatient brute inside him waiting to punch his way out. But Christina Ricci is no Diane Keaton--in fact, you come out of Anything Else with renewed appreciation for Keaton's performance in Annie Hall as an infuriating woman the hero can't stay away from. Ricci, on the other hand, is just irritating. Allen, in a meta-career role, plays a teacher and writer who tries to wean Biggs off all the things--analysis, difficult women, New York--that made Woody Allen Woody Allen. Maybe he can't take the competition. (EMILY HALL)
* Bubba Ho-Tep
In an East Texas convalescent home, a penis-cancer-ridden Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) are awaiting death. The two geezers are revitalized when they band together to fight a mummy who's been sucking the souls out of old people's asses. Surprise number one is that the film, while being a complete piece of trash, is actually pretty great. Aside from its crackpot intelligence, fine acting, deadpan absurdity, and startling sweetness, however, Bubba Ho-Tep is exactly what you'd expect. (SEAN NELSON)
* Cabin Fever
There is much that is right about Cabin Fever, director Eli Roth's attempt to revive the somewhat dormant gore genre. The film is suitably disgusting, suitably cheesy, and suitably stupid. The characters copulate and perish in a proper manner, and the entire endeavor is undertaken with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. But there is one thing that is not right about Cabin Fever, and that, to put it bluntly, is the finger-banging scene. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Casa De Los Babys
Adoption is as much as a crapshoot for the adoptive parent as it is for the adopted baby--neither entity has yet to take form. And that is the heart of Casa de los Babys. Most of the central characters in the film don't matter--there are mothers all over the film, either wanting, relinquishing, or enduring children. In the end the audience is left to wonder what will happen, and I guess that's the point Sayles is trying to make: It's a crapshoot. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
Cold Creek Manor
Big-time New York snotty-snots (Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone) decide they need a change of pace after "tragedies" shake up their lives. So what do they do? They pack up their spoiled daughter and dumb-as-dirt son and move into Cold Creek Manor, a huge house in the middle of nowhere that the bank recently took from a family of crazy people who used to bash in the heads of sheep for a living. The surviving son of the family that used to own the place (who's a homicidal maniac to boot!) gets out of prison just in time to welcome the new family to town. And he wants his frickin' house back! Seeing as how he's nuts, he tries to chase them out of "his" house. But Quaid ain't goin' nowhere! So they have a falling-out, try to bash in each other's skulls, and someone ends up at the bottom of "Devil's Throat." In a word: yawn. (MEGAN SELING)
* Demon Lover
Demon Lover, Olivier Assayas' new film, tackles everything from porn to Japanese culture to corporate espionage. Any film that plays with your head as thoroughly as this one does is worth seeing--just be prepared to be frustrated, confused, and maybe even angered. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Dirty Pretty Things
I'm sad to announce that Dirty Pretty Things is a failure. True, it is a beautiful failure, as it is beautifully shot, with beautiful set designs, and beautiful actors (Amistad's Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays, with great success, a fallen but still noble Nigerian doctor, and Amélie's Audrey Tautou, who plays with considerably less success a vulnerable Turkish immigrant); but in terms of its concept, plot, and general message, the movie falls apart shortly after it starts. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
See review this issue. Uptown
Ben Stiller stars in another of his desperately middling marriages of Hollywood sub-royalty (Drew Barrymore) and cookie-cut plot in yet another Danny DeVito-directed film (in the tradition of Throw Mama From the Train, War of the Roses, and Death to Smoochy) about a murder for convenience--this time for the sake of a rent-controlled apartment.
The Fighting Temptations
Cuba Gooding Jr. continues his winning streak of zany fish-out-of-water comedies (in the now-illustrious tradition of Boat Trip and Snow Dogs) with a role as a shallow chump who must successfully champion a ragtag gospel choir or risk losing his family's inheritance. And as you might well expect, Cuba's fish-out-of-water has long since begun to smell like shit. Costarring Beyoncé Knowles' abs, the paper-thin story is unimportant--functional only in its ability to daisy-chain together a series of rags-to-riches musical sequences, of which you are assured many. (ZAC PENNINGTON)
The only thing better than a talking dog movie (in this case, talking dogs from outer space) is a talking dog movie voiced by third-tier Hollywood celebrities. The agents of Matthew Broderick, Brittany Murphy, and Carl Reiner suggest "broadened horizons," and have a good laugh at their clients in Good Boy. Factoria, Meridian 16, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12
* Holy Land
See Review this issue. Harvard Exit
House Of the Dead
The prequel to the video game series of the same name, House of th... wait, WHAT did I just say?!?! Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16,Woodinville 12
* In This World
Harrowing, I guess, would be the right word for this story of two Afghan boys making the dangerous overland journey from a refugee camp in Pakistan to London. Every stop could be the end of the road; at every turn it seems about as likely that they will be enslaved or killed as anything else. Jamal and Enayat are sent by their families on this journey with only a dim sense of what will happen when (if) they arrive, and an even dimmer sense of the consequences of such a dangerous trip. Winterbottom used nonactors for the two lead roles, and allowed the story to be shaped by their evolving relationship so that the film's natural documentary feeling is earned beyond the rather nauseating handheld jitters. (EMILY HALL)
The Coen Brothers' latest muse George Clooney stars opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones' enormous ass in a battle-of-the-sexes sort of comedy about a ruthless Hollywood divorce lawyer who falls for the equally ruthless, gold-digging ex-wife of a client. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Majestic Bay, Metro, Pacific Place 11, Woodinville 12
Jeepers Creepers 2
You'll never want to ride a school bus in a rural area again. This cheeseball horror flick is guaranteed to make you jump occasionally, but I can also guarantee that you'll laugh out loud (and disturb the other moviegoers) at the absurdity of the winged part man/part bat creature that terrorizes, chases, and tries to eat a football team and its cheerleaders. (AMY JENNIGES)
* Kill Bill Vol. 1
See review this issue. Factoria, Meridian 16, Neptune, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12
Lost In Translation
Lost in Translation is a tiny movie, as light as helium and draped upon the thinnest of plots. There is very little conflict, and even fewer twists and turns. It is as close to a miracle as you're likely to get this year. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
In Luther, which is directed by Eric Till and stars Shakespeare in Love's Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther, the German theologian is portrayed as a radical liberal, as a man who spoke for the people and openly opposed the all-powerful Roman Catholic Church--its politics, its reading of the Bible, its shameless profiteering from the suffering and ignorance of the poor. Luther is successful because it's not really about Martin Luther at all, but about the general mood of an important period in Western history. The way the film is edited, written, photographed, and directed captures, as if from a mountaintop, a wider, larger arena of events, so that what is seen is not an individual but a whole society under great transformation. Not the will of Luther but the will of the abused German masses fuels the motor of this movie's epic narrative. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
The décor at Buca di Beppo takes more of a stab at intelligent humor about Italians than this played-out "comedy" does. The premise, as if it even matters, involves an old-world Italian couple who just "can't get used to this cuckoo American world of ours" and want their two adult children to live with them forever. Mambo Italiano is aiming for the camp side of the comedy spectrum, but the film plays out more like a bad prime-time TV show than anything that'll make you laugh--ironically or not. Worst of all, it seems only Angelo's papa, Gino (Paul Sorvino), is able to keep his accent together throughout the film--the rest of the cast seem to forget at times that they're supposed to be in a bad Italian American situation comedy and not a bad just-your-average-American one. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
* Matchstick Men
Ridley Scott has never been known for a feather touch; when given the choice during his lengthy career between beauty of image and subtlety of character, image has almost always trounced. But surprisingly, subtlety is in abundance in his new picture Matchstick Men, and the result is his best film since Thelma & Louise. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
My Boss's Daughter
Much to my editor's chagrin, Ashton Kutcher spends another hour and a half desperately trying to fuck another trashy Hollywood blonde (in this case Tara Reid)--to little avail.
* Mystic River
See review this issue. Guild 45th, Pacific Place 11
Once Upon a Time In Mexico
Two things must immediately be said of Once Upon a Time in Mexico: Unlike Desperado, director Robert Rodriguez's 1995 big-budget introduction of Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is not a love story; Salma Hayek's Carolina--who sometime between the end of Desperado and the new film became Mrs. El Mariachi, and the mother of a little girl--is dead. Hayek's screen time is less than five minutes, and most of that seems to be played by a stand-in. Forget about everything the El Mariachi "trilogy" has come to represent in the past, and see Once Upon a Time in Mexico for Johnny Depp. That is the only aspect of the film that doesn't sell the audience short. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
Part standard Western, part attempted romantic epic, Open Range starts patiently and solidly, but ends up rushing through its climax; the romance, such as it is, takes it in the teeth, and what was meant to be big and important is instead messy and clumsy. Which is too bad, because it has one of the best shootouts in years. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Out Of Time
Denzel Washington gets set up again (can't America just leave a successful, sensitive, and respectable African American man alone? I mean, can't they?!?!), this time as a respected police chief, who must cover his tracks before being pinned with a murder.
* Pirates of the Caribbean
The summer's best blockbuster. And Johnny Depp gives one of the best performances of the year. Perhaps maybe Oscar will finally realize that comedy also takes acting talent? (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Prey For Rock and Roll
This Gina Gershon car wreck is a compilation of everything that sucks about the entertainment industry--bad posturing, sappy clichés, and using a big name and the right stylist to market your crappy product to the masses. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
The Rock, the guy from Dude, Where's My Car? (no, the other one), Ewen Bremner and Christopher Walken--in a cast destined for greatness--come together to fight crime or some shit in the Amazon. Most assuredly trash, but have you see the Rock's eyebrows? Hypnotizing.
Starring the young Colin Farrell and the old Samuel L. Jackson, S.W.A.T. is pure nonsense. This doesn't mean it's bad (it's not too bad), but it's as far from reality than anything you could ever imagine. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
* School Of Rock
Like Kindergarten Cop, the concept behind Rock is one of those near-hokey ones where "kids teach us more than we teach them," and where, in the end, everybody wins in some way because everybody loosens up a bit. What makes this movie different, though is that it tackles the parts of rock culture where people take themselves way too seriously, a subject that could use a little unwinding of its panties. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
Maybe I'm too cynical for Triumphant Lessons like this, but I like a little more grit under the nails of my Hollywood movies, and the manicured emotions in Seabiscuit are a bit too Hallmark for me, even if they are based on a true story. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
A film about a boy who is left by his mother to spend an indefinite amount of time with his uncles, who, upon first impression, are stubborn hicks with a big barn. Through stories told by Michael Caine, the boy soon learns that his uncles are not hicks at all, but war heroes with glorious pasts. The eldest uncle, Duvall, was in his youth a man of action, a great soldier who defeated powerful sheiks and seduced a dark woman while riding a wild horse on the shores of Arabia--a man-among-men who, even in his old age, has not lost an inch of his erection. Impressed by this example of pure manhood, Osment switches his dependency on Mommy for an even more unhealthy dependency on this violent father figure. This movie just sucks. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Jeffrey Blitz's amazing documentary Spellbound chronicles eight near-teens as they compete in the National Spelling Bee. At least, that's the film's obvious premise; the less obvious one, what the documentary really is, is a love letter to America. National pride via a national bee. The kids are the American dream, on stage, trying to remember how to spell "logorrhea." (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Written by Ronald Harwood (The Pianist), Taking Sides involves a celebrated German conductor who was beloved by Hitler, and enjoyed power, prestige, and the pleasures of numerous women during what was for many the worst 12 years of the 20th century. After the war, the doctor is questioned by Steve Arnold (Harvey Keitel), a major from the American Denazification Committee who is assigned to implicate the conductor in the orgy of evil that consumed Central Europe. The doctor claims he is an artist and his duty is only to music, not politics; the American more or less calls him a lying motherfucking Nazi cunt. Neither one moves from his position. The American yells at the German; the German yells at the American. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
That the teenage years are difficult is not news--it's something we've known for years, thanks to after-school specials and blunt and terrifying movies like Kids. But stories about teens going out of control tend to inspire more polemic than art, encouraging viewers to identify the problem--the broken home, the oblivious parents, the oversexualized media--and turn the story into a message. What makes Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen more potent is that she offers no such easy outs, but rather points out the vulnerability of the whole structure (family, school, self) that keeps a teen from self-destructing. (EMILY HALL)
Under The Tuscan Sun
Under the Tuscan Sun is based on Frances Mayes' nonfiction bestseller and stars Diane Lane, who manages to save the film from utter formula. And it is formula--the sex talk can't disguise the fact that this film is designed to make your mother feel good. Lane is the plucky divorced heroine who impulsively buys a crumbling villa in Tuscany and discovers that "family" need not conform to the customary model but can be anything one makes of it (this last bit is Hollywood's favorite beaten horse). There are cute Italian people, cute Polish laborers, beautiful wildflower-filled vistas, and the obligatory gay best friend--a stock role salvaged by the splendid Sandra Oh. The movie is pleasant anyway. (CLAUDE ROC)
Once again Romeo & Juliet is dusted off and given a refurbishing. This time the setting is the gloomiest of all gloomy cities, where vampires and werewolves wage a secret, exhausting war with one another. The experience: much Matrix-like action (save for the wire work), crackpot dialogue, and a PVC-clad heroine (Kate Beckinsale) who looks sexy as all get out, but can barely muster a sprint thanks to her garb. The result: a boring, uninspired hack work. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Whale Rider
Audiences at Toronto and Sundance loved this film and so will you if you like triumphant tales of charismatic youngsters who defy the stoic immobility of old-fashioned patriarchs. I like it because it captures traditional Maori ceremonies and songs on film while also showing that New Zealand is not just a backdrop for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Shannon Gee)