* 2004 Seattle International Documentary Film Festival
Seattle's second annual festival of documentary film continues this week with an impressive array of nonfiction movies, from Sonata for Hitler (a wordless short by Russian Ark director Alexander Sokurov) to the locally produced featurette In the Shadow of Himalayas, and from Safety Tips for Kids (a photo-animation short examining media portrayals of violence against children) to a look at economic upheaval in Cry for Argentina. All films screen at the Seattle Art Museum; for more information see Sat April 24: Sonata for Hitler and Anthology at noon, Journeys and The Followers at 1:15 pm, Cry for Argentina and What She Wants at 3:15 pm. Sun April 25: Shepherd's Journey into the Third Millennium and In the Shadow of Himalayas at 11 am, Russian shorts at 1:45 pm, Berlioz's Trip and A Symphony of Image at 3:15 pm, Safety Tips for Kids and Moscow Central at 4:15 pm, Playing House and Putin's Mama at 6:30 pm, The Last Peasants at 8:30 pm.

The Ingrid Bergman Film Festival makes an English-language exception for the most well-loved of Ingrid Bergman's films, Casablanca. Nordic Heritage Museum, Thurs April 29 at 7 pm.

* A Day in the Hype of America
Way back before 9/11, you may recall, there was a bit of a doomsday panic. Specifically, it was a panic about the (then) dreaded Y2K problem, a supposedly cataclysmic event that would, the pundits pundited, bring about the end of the civilized world. Planes would fall from the sky! Credit would be erased! Mayhem would rule! As it turned out, though, Y2K turned into no real biggie--a pain in the ass for programmers, but of little worry to the majority of us--and once midnight had passed and year 2000 had arrived, the world's hand-wringing seemed more than a little silly. So what happened? How were so many of us hornswoggled by the threat? This is just one of the questions explored in Brian Quist and T.J. Martin's well-made documentary A Day In the Hype of America. Filmed entirely on December 31, 1999, in four different locales (Arizona, New Orleans, South Dakota, and New York), A Day in the Hype.. .'s message is more pressing than ever. That message: The Media wants you to be afraid. Insightful and surprisingly flashy (for a lefty doc), A Day in the Hype of America is worthy of your time. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Consolidated Works, Sat April 24 at 7 pm.

* Dersu Uzala
Winner of the 1976 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Dersu Uzala is Kurosawa's story of the friendship between a Russian soldier and a Siberian hunter. Grand Illusion, Fri 6, 8:30 pm, Sat-Sun 3:30, 6, 8:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 6, 8:30 pm.

Diary of a Lost Girl
The lurid tale of a young single mother (Louise Brooks) during Weimar Germany's final days. Movie Legends, Sun April 25 at 1 pm.

From Silence to Sound / Western Symphony
Two filmed performances of ballets by famed choreographer George Balanchine, including La Valse, La Source, and Western Symphony. McCaw Hall, Tues April 27 at 7:30 pm.

* The Hills Have Eyes
"Baby's fat. You're fat... fat and juicy." Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.

I Exist
This screening of a documentary about lesbian and gay Arab- and Persian-Americans is a benefit for the locally produced feature film Writing Home. 911 Media Arts, Fri April 23 at 8 pm.+

The "Can't We All Just Get Along?" film series (no, I'm being serious) kicks off with D.W. Griffith's spectacular vision of pluralism and brotherly love (yeah, I'm joking), Intolerance. Seattle Art Museum, Fri April 23 at 7:30 pm.

Jim In Bold
A free screening about the tacitly accepted homophobia in this country's public schools. Kane Hall Room 130, University of Washington campus, Fri April 23 at 6 pm.

June Night
An affair with a sailor ends badly for Ingrid Bergman in this pretty 1940 melodrama from Per Lindberg. Nordic Heritage Museum, Thurs April 22 at 7 pm.

Last Holiday
Wan and twitchy Alec Guinness is living a life of quiet desperation as a farm-machinery salesman in post-war England when he is diagnosed with a disease that leaves him only weeks to live. Determined to enjoy the time he has left, he cashes in his life insurance and heads for a posh hotel to mingle with the smart set before he lapses into a coma and croaks. Of course his melancholy and decency make him tremendously appealing to everyone from the chambermaid to a visiting cabinet minister, and he is rarely without a partner for croquet. This grim fairytale is populated with jowly, mumbling aristrocrats; trim, closeted homosexuals with tiny mustaches; and stout girls in chintz dresses obviously forced by WWII rationing to subsist on sticks of margarine and hot tea, galumphing about the set doing their best Hedy Lamarr impressions. Recommended viewing only for hardcore Anglophiles and Star Wars geeks curious to see what the young Obi-Wan Kenobi really looked like. (TAMARA PARIS) Seattle Art Museum, Thurs April 22 at 7:30 pm.

Laughter in Paradise
George Cole and Alastair Sim star in this wacky story of a prankster who writes some unusual stipulations into his will. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs April 29 at 7:30 pm.

The Mark of Zorro
Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is the original swashbuckling hero with the black eye mask, the flippant wit, and quivering, ever-ready sword. This silent movie from 1920 inspired the legions of Zorro remakes of the past 80 years. Haller Lake Community Clubhouse, Sat April 24 at 7 pm.

* MC 5: A True Testimonial
It's hard to botch any story that starts around 1966, the dramatic break in the 20th Century when the world went from black and white to color (think: backwards guitars, Stokely Carmichael, and Revolver) and winds down in the depressed early '70s (think I'm OK, You're OK, Watergate, and inflation). This dramatic stretch of American history is the exact timeframe that MC5: A True Testimonial, about the legendary late-'60s hard rock band, occupies. And while the filmmakers certainly don't blow it (with live footage, culled from U.S. government surveillance films of the band playing outside at the tumultuous '68 Democratic National Convention, how could you blow it?), the movie's myopic focus on a typical rock band implosion almost misses the larger sweeping drama that MC5 represents for the counterculture generation. While the movie is definitely laced with Vietnam, FBI surveillance, pig harassment, the '67 Detroit riots, the Black Panthers, and psychedelic revolutionary rhetoric, it's also clogged with meandering modern-day interviews (guitarist Wayne Kramer, bassist Michael Davis, and two MC5 rock wives) that offer up redundant, rather than insightful commentary. If you don't know the story: MC5, the anarchic poster child for the split second in time, 1968, when rock's underground hippie culture actually threatened the status quo, gets signed to Elektra (on the same day as their "little brother band," the Stooges) and then quickly gets dropped after the band's hippie Svengali, John Sinclair, pens some pseudo Marxist pro-orgy liner notes that piss off Midwest department store record shops. The band--which specializes in wall of sound smash-ups of Chuck Berry riffs and rhythms--proceeds to unravel in a sad tale of heroin flop-houses, fist fights, and arrests. The contemporary interviews with Sinclair and Danny Fields (the tapped-in Elektra scout who signed the MC5) are touching; the photos and old footage of underrated MC5 singer Rob Tyner reveal an overlooked and poignant rock icon; and the ghost-like Super-8 footage of the band playing glorious teenage gigs in Detroit and the University of Michigan circa '67 are high points in a film that, like its subject, ultimately represents a missed opportunity. (JOSH FEIT) Little Theatre, Fri 7, 9:30 pm, Sat-Sun 4:30, 7, 9:30 pm, Tues-Thurs 7, 9:30 pm.

A Most Unlikely Hero
The subject of this documentary, Bruce Yamashita, was driven out of the Marine Corps by racial harassment; after attending law school, he won a legal and politcal battle with the military which ended in his being commissiond as a captain. Yamashita will be in attendance. Ethnic Cultural Center, Mon April 26 at 7 pm.

Northwest Film Forum Shorts
A selection of film shorts produced through the Northwest Film Forum's filmmaking arm and a couple of gems from the organization's educational archives are sprinkled throughout this Graceland rock show. You'll want to get there early so you can catch Herbert Bergel's endearingly zany musical See You In Spokane at 9:30 pm--and, of course, the young girl rockers Smoosh soon thereafter. Graceland, Fri April 23 at 9:30 pm.

* Omega Man
Central Cinema's "I Walk the Line: The Man Alone" film series turns in a remarkably literal interpretation of the theme with this film about Robert Neville (Charlton Heston), the lone healthy survivor of an apocalyptic war. Central Cinema, Fri-Sat 8, 10 pm, Sun 8 pm.

A promotional screening of the new DVD documentary about the seminal rock band. Sunset Tavern, Mon April 26 at 9:30 pm.

* Rev. Chumleigh's Late Night Films
A special screening of films from Rev. Chumleigh's private collection, including vintage erotica and rare music "soundies," caps the Saturday night festivities at Fremont's questionably named Moisture Festival. Sat April 24 at 11 pm.

Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sat 2, 4:30, 7, 9:30 pm, midnight, Sun 2, 4:30, 7, 9:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:30 pm.

True Romance
"You're a cantaloupe." Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.


13 Going on 30
See review this issue.

The Alamo
All John Lee Hancock can muster here is a B-grade picture that, though it attempts to be grand and heartfelt, is little more than a stock (and would-be) epic. This undoubtedly has much to do with the fact that Hancock has very little talent behind the lens. The Alamo has been assembled into a startlingly swift affair, ineptly cut and diced to blandness, which, coupled with Hancock's lack of flair with the camera, offers very little of interest. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Bon Voyage
Bon Voyage has a big theme (Germany's invasion of France), big actors (in terms of reputation), and big emotions (a young man's eternal love for a famous but shallow movie actress). The speed of the film's narrative is always high, and the characters are kept in constant motion, rarely stopping to rest and look at the big world around them. If this were an American movie, it would have been described as intelligent and even profound; but as a French movie, it is big, dumb, and lots of fun. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Close Your Eyes
See review this issue.

Confessions of a Burning Man
This middle-of-the-road, boring documentary is not actually about Burning Man, it merely uses Burning Man as an excuse to show a handful of uninteresting people sharing life stories on screen, while having the occasional flame-based art project or naked hippie in the background. As someone whose interest in that annual spectacle of art and hedonism is marginal at best (I have a physical reaction to New Age-y sentiments), my expectations for Confessions were understandably low. Despite the welcome relief of unintentional hilarity, it is worse than even I could have imagined. How could a movie about BURNING MAN be this boring? To start with, it's mostly about a few fantastically inarticulate friends of the filmmakers, whose "project" is to play Real World: Black Rock for a week. Not surprisingly, the film grants co-director Paul Barnett's girlfriend Samantha, who becomes his fiancé on camera, the vast majority of screen time. Also along for the ride are Kevin Epps, one of maybe three African Americans in the crowd of 25,000, and Michael, a taxi driver who, as the only person with anything worthwhile to say, is unfortunately absent for most of the film. Samantha's friend Anna, heir to the Getty fortune, flies in on her way to inspect the family will in Nevada (no, really). Not wanting to be "prejudged" for being born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she's very eager to "get raw" for a week. The subjects begin the film as outsiders and move through the crowds like tourists. Supposedly, the filmmakers decided to undergo their own blank-slate journey because they were concerned with respecting the privacy of the rest of the participants. Whether the true culprit is narcissism/nepotism or artistic laziness I leave up to you, the viewer. (ADAM HART)

Connie and Carla
Best friends Connie (Nia Vardalos) and Carla (Toni Collette), the female title characters, are not gay, but they witness a crime and (given their mutual love for dinner theater) quickly conclude that they must go into hiding as drag queens. The first 20 minutes of Connie and Carla, which attempt to demonstrate how this solution could possibly seem obvious to anyone, are awful. The rest of the movie--an inspired blend of Shakespearean gender-bent comedy, show-tunes cabaret, and vaudeville slapstick--more than compensates for those initial squirm-worthy scenes. (ANNIE WAGNER)

* Dawn of the Dead
In a surprising twist, here is a remake that, while not on par with the original, at least puts up a good fight. Directed with impressive flair by Zack Snyder, Dawn of the Dead retains nearly everything from George Romero's classic. The capitalism satire has been somewhat watered down, but in its place we are given sprinting zombies, à la Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later--an actual improvement on the 1978 version. The final result: If you must remake something, this is the way to do it. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

* Dogville
Dogville is far from perfect--Lars von Trier's insistence on stilted dialogue (translated from Dutch to English) makes a few of his actors look like amateurs, and things drag seriously in the final stretch. But for every audience groan there are numerous gasps of perverse delight, the most memorable of which are supplied by Nicole Kidman. Not to be outdone by Breaking the Waves' Emily Watson or Dancer in the Dark's Bjork, Kidman submits to von Trier's scriptural sadism with gusto, bringing a piercing humanity to a character that is admittedly a superhuman ideal. (DAVID SCHMADER)

Ella Enchanted
Ella Enchanted stars saucer-eyed Anne Hathaway as a young woman cursed with total obedience. A quasi-feminist fairy tale vaguely inspired by the story of Cinderella (Ella--get it?), the film follows its heroine's quest to remove the curse, which naturally results in the obligatory romance with the hunky Prince Charmont. As family fluff with a girl-power message, Ella Enchanted actually presents a more sophisticated argument than a "serious" movie like, say, Whale Rider. By making the restrictions placed on the heroine internal (sort of) rather than external (such as conservo-fascist parents and chauvinistic traditions), the movie inches toward a subject that has not really been dealt with in mainstream film: the subservience this society attempts to program into its women. To the film's credit, it keeps its woman on top all the way through, even at the expense of logic and narrative coherence. (ADAM HART)

* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Whereas the last Michel Gondry/Charlie Kaufman collaboration, Human Nature, eventually crumbled under its own quirkiness, Eternal Sunshine finds director and scribe fitting perfectly together. This is a film that travels far beyond most of our imaginations. It is also one of the most beautifully assembled romances you will ever see. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

The Girl Next Door
This uncredited remake of Risky Business is about a young man (Emile Hirsch) who dreams of getting into a topnotch school. His academic plans are disrupted when he falls in love with the sexy girl next door (Elisha Cuthbert). In this update of the Paul Brickman classic, the love interest is changed from a hooker to a porn star, Guido the killer pimp becomes Kelly the dangerous porn producer, and the business lessons learned from running a brothel become a story about the financial rewards of the porn industry. The whore with the heart of gold is still sweet, but this movie is a whole lot uglier. It's too bad because it starts out so charming, but when money gets involved it all goes to hell--the plot becomes clichéd, the plot twists become implausible, and the message about money being more important than moral fiber is unsavory. (ANDY SPLETZER)

* Good Bye Lenin!
Because of Christiane's exceptionally delicate condition, her son Alexander cannot inform her that East Germany is no more, that the party and the socialist ideals that consumed much of her adult life are now a thing of the past. To protect her nerves as the outside world becomes more and more like West Germany, the inside of Christiane's room is maintained in the state of East Germany. The trick, and it is a trick devised by the clever director (Wolfgang Becker), works. In other hands it would have been silly and exhausted in a matter of minutes, but Becker manages to get over an hour's worth of comedy and drama out of it. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

Hellboy features the single best lead-character makeup job I've ever seen in a comics-based movie. It boasts one startlingly good special effect involving fire, and a production design that faithfully captures the look of the comic itself. Also, the performances of Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, and Jeffrey Tambor are skillful. These are the only recommendations I can make for this movie, which in all other ways--incoherent story, uncertain tone, unconvincing action, insincere sentimentality--is just bullshit. (SEAN NELSON)

Home on the Range
Concerning three cows that live on a farm, Home on the Range is no A Bug's Life. However, it would have been in the same class (though at the very bottom of that class) as A Bug's Life if it had not been so self-referential. Instead of making smarty references to contemporary consumer predilections for healthier foods (fat-free milk, free-range chickens, and so on), it should have turned its back on our world and only referenced its historical period, the 19th century. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

I'm Not Scared
See review this issue.

Jersey Girl
Kevin Smith's lame Lifetime movie. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Johnson Family Vacation
In Johnson Family Vacation (starring Cedric the Entertainer, Vanessa Williams, Bow Wow, and sister-to-Beyonce Solange Knowles), the jokes are so tired and tame that they're made for banal TV humor, each delivered with the all the subtlety of the cement truck that drills the family's car on their way out of town. Stick to the Griswolds. (JENNIFER MAERZ)

Kill Bill Vol. 2
Lest we forget, Kill Bill, at its heart, is little more than a stock revenge flick--so why then does Tarantino waste so much of our time, and put forth so little apparent effort, in bringing the tale to a close in Vol. 2? I can hazard a guess: His desire to make something far more important than it should be trumped his ability to make something great. The resulting film is, when spackled together, one-half genius and one-half a failure. This half is the failure, and, in the end, it taints the genius. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

The Ladykillers
The Ladykillers, sadly, is a weak effort on the part of the Coen Brothers (when the pair resort to using cheesy wipes, à la Star Wars, to transition between scenes, warning flares surely begin to fire), and despite what few strokes of brilliance it may contain, the final product is far too cumbersome and far too lazy. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Man on Fire
Denzel Washington stars as a bodyguard in Mexico with a passion for vengeance.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip
"What do you think is so special about mingling with celebrities?" That question, and the failure by any of this film's many interviewees to answer it even partially, is the bleeding heart of a great documentary. Though the nominal subject of this piece is faded Los Angeles deejay Rodney Bingenheimer, the movie is a lot more interested in Bingenheimer's tattered Hollywood milieu than in presenting a simple has-been's biography. (SEAN NELSON)

The Passion of the Christ
Under Mel Gibson's direction, there is not a whiff of threat in Jim Caviezel's Jesus, and once all the blood has dried, the major villains are little more than mindless monsters, with the Jews, in the end, receiving the brunt of the blame. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

The Prince & Me
Julia Stiles falls in love with a Danish prince disguised as a college boy.

* Sacred Planet
No one who has graduated from the fifth grade ever goes to see IMAX movies. So I can't imagine that it's worth my time to tell you about the latest IMAX addition, Sacred Planet, because what do you care? You don't want to go see a beautifully filmed educational movie showing some of the most breathtaking areas of the world (like Namibia, Thailand, and Borneo). Even if it is narrated by Robert Redford, you're still not gonna go! But I went. And I'm glad I did. Because besides it being all pretty and stuff, there's this really funny part when a big dumb bear is trying to catch a slippery little fish in the shallow part of an Alaskan river. And no matter how much he paws and pounces around in the water that dumb bear just can't catch that damn fish. Hahahaha. Stupid bear. (MEGAN SELING)

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
I didn't dislike this movie nearly as much as I probably should have, which kind of makes me hate myself. (MEGAN SELING)

Secret Window
With some unusual comic flourishes from Johnny Depp, Secret Window becomes a night of good popcorny entertainment. (WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY)

Shaolin Soccer
See review this issue.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring
The five seasons are governed by very different generic conventions--meaning it's entirely possible to enjoy one and abhor the next. The opening parable "Summer" is successful, but the next two episodes (a coming-of-age vignette and a cop drama) come up short by comparison. Then "Winter"--by far the most successful segment, and the only full episode to feature director Kim Ki-duk as the main character--explodes into an astounding ode to labor and atonement. (ANNIE WAGNER)

Starsky & Hutch
Funny Ha, not funny Ha Ha. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)

Touching the Void
It is clear that just speaking about their famous climb in this drama-documentary gives Joe Simpson and Simon Yates a pleasure that is satanic in its size and intensity. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

* The Triplets of Belleville
Writer-director-animator Sylvain Chomet invokes the same absurdly entertaining nostalgia that Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro tapped into for Delicatessen and City of Lost Children. The world Chomet has created contains the same deadpan sadness that lies at the base of those films--the world may be a cold and lonely place, but with a little inventiveness you can prosper. (ANDY SPLETZER)

The United States of Leland
The United States of Leland is yet another painfully earnest attempt to bring the secret crimes of white-collar America to light. Focusing on the aftershocks of a seemingly senseless teenage murder, and told in a series of distracting flashbacks and voiceovers, the film attempts to simultaneously take a telescopic and microscopic view of its subject matter, resulting in a self- important mishmash of good intentions and stale executions. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

Support The Stranger