Errol Flynn escapes a life of servitude to become an infamous Carribean pirate. Wawona, Sat Aug 28 at 8 pm.
The Clay Bird
According to a title card at the beginning of the movie, in 1971 Bangledesh gained freedom from the Islamic state of Pakistan. The movie itself takes place in the '60s, during the time leading up to that civil war. Anu is a boy growing up in a family with a strict Islamic father and a more open-minded mother. His younger sister has a fever, and his father won't allow her to be treated with anything but faith and homeopathic medicine. Meanwhile, Anu's uncle (on his mother's side) has been giving him heathen candies and taking him to Hindu celebrations. When his father finds out, he sends Anu off to a strict Islamic school. As the tensions within the family escalate, so too do the tensions within the country, as Islamic militias begins to scour the countryside and pockets of resistance begin to form.
There's a tendency to praise movies from other countries when they bring us information we should know but don't, particularly when they're as sincere as The Clay Bird is. For me, though, this movie works better as politics than as drama. Director Tareque Masud comes from the world of documentaries, and that's evident when he captures a couple of music performances, but the actors seem like earnest nonprofessionals and their wooden performances tend to oversimplify what could have been a very complex movie. The movie reminded me of Indian director Deepa Mehta's films, especially Earth and Fire, which I didn't like but which have a lot of fans. In the same way, I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy The Clay Bird more than I did. (ANDY SPLETZER) Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.
A Closer Walk
A documentary by Robert Bilheimer about the global AIDS epidemic. Capitol Hill Arts Center, Tues Aug 31 at 7 pm.
* Festival Express
Canada's response to Woodstock was a little remembered week-long 1970 tour that brought many of the era's biggest bands--The Grateful Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, and a bunch of others--to the people (rather than vice versa), on a private chartered train, no less. Like its American counterpart, this proto-palooza was a colossal financial failure. By contrast, however, the Canadian venture was strictly first class; the artists were treated like royalty, and the fans--even those who nearly rioted because admission wasn't free--were shown respect.
There's not much movie to Festival Express. It's just (beautiful) performance footage, behind the scenes b-roll, and some modern day reminiscences from key talking heads. The concert scenes are as good as the bands themselves. The Dead are way better than you'd think, especially since they hadn't devolved into the year-round wankathon they're now remembered as. And I'm not much of a Joplin fan, but the film shows her at her peak. Buddy Guy's rendition of "Money" is astonishing, though, if only for his guitar tone, and The Band's raw, funky genius is rescued from the polish and choreography of The Last Waltz. What makes the film indelible are the train scenes, where all these amazing musicians hang out, jam, drink, and get high for a solid week, stopping only to play amazing shows and restock the liquor cabinets. The Utopian vibe casts the beginning of the end of the rock era in a light that's too sweet to be bittersweet. Best of all is an impromptu singalong of "Ain't No More Cane," featuring a very wasted Rick Danko, Janis Joplin, and Jerry Garcia, whose casual camaraderie and romantic triangulation glows with warmth. Then you realize that everyone in the frame is dead and it hits you like a freight train. (SEAN NELSON) Varsity, Fri-Sun 12:20, 2:30, 4:40, 7, 9:10 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:10 pm.
* Heart Attack Island
A series of films by Vanessa Renwick, inlcuding the award-winning found-footage short Britton, South Dakota, in addition to Ponder Yonder, a new video installation piece about cultural alienation by Bill Daniel. Consolidated Works, Wed Sept 1 at 8 pm.
* Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
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. (SEAN NELSON) Fremont Outdoor Movies #2, Fri Aug 28 at dusk.
The Princess Bride
"You mock my pain!" Sidewalk CInema, Fri Aug 27 at dusk.
* The Shining
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Fremont Outdoor Movies #1, Fri Aug 27 at dusk.
A nerdy store owner is frozen and revived in a decidedly Woody Allen future. Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
Twisted Flicks: The Giant Gila Monster / The Atomic Submarine
Comedic dubbing from Jet City Improv enhances two late '50s B-movies. Historic University Theater, Thurs-Sat Aug 26-28 at 8 pm.
* Valley Girl
A valley girl (Deborah Foreman) meets a Hollywood punk (Nicolas Cage), and they, like, you know. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
What War Feels Like
A documentary by Esteban Uyarra that explores the lives of independent reporters and photographers as they cover the Iraq war. Capitol Hill Library, Wed Sept 1 at 6:30 pm.
When Harry Met Sally
Harry and Sally meet, and then they meet again, and then they meet again. Finally, they fall in love. U. District Outdoor Cinema, Sat Aug 28 at dusk.
The World of Henry Orient
Peter Sellers stars as a concert pianist with the hots for Paula Prentiss. His attempts to woo her are complicated by a couple of teenage girls who spend the movie stalking him. Movie Legends, Sun Aug 29 at 1 pm.
Alien vs. Predator
The title says it all. Except that said personages are in Antartica. Maybe they should have called it Alien vs. Predator in Antartica. Then they could have made Alien vs. Predator in Borneo and Alien vs. Predator in Kazakhstan as sequels.
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid
The fountain of youth is actually a flower! But big, bad snakes have gotten to the elixir first.
Why does it always have to end this way? The idea sounds so amusing at first--making fun of a '70s news anchorman (Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy) who takes advice from his dog and drinks and smokes on the set. Add in funny guy cameos from Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, and Ben Stiller as rival television personalities, and you already have the pretense for a blockbuster comedy. But whenever there's a Saturday Night Live staffer (or ex-staffer) involved, there's always the chance for the jokes to be extra sluggish, sappy, or flat out stupid, and Anchorman unfortunately chokes on all three. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
* Anchorman (Pro)
I beg to differ. Anchorman is one of the most inspired pieces of comedic surrealism ever to be released in the guise of a mainstream summer movie. Will Ferrell, unmoored from the mediocrity of SNL, has been let loose to create a film whose absurdity extends far beyond the zany '70s fashions you see on the posters. Talking dogs? Extended four-part harmony? Jazz flute? Gang warfare among rival TV journalists? Yes on all counts. And though Ferrell is characteristically hilarious, it's Daily Show regular Steve Coryell who steals the show as the retarded weatherman. (SEAN NELSON)
* Before Sunset
The best romances force you to care unreasonably about their characters, and watching Jesse and Celine reunited, I couldn't help but feel a bittersweet twinge; I was 21 when Before Sunrise was released--just as dreamy and dewy as I could be--and now, nearly a decade later, their return feels like the arrival of beloved, yet somehow forgotten, friends. I fell in love with them then and, as I found out, I'm still in love with them. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Benji: Off the Leash!
The return of the lovable pooch Benji.
* The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
Although "Beat" Takeshi Kitano's attempts at inserting choreography are probably better as an idea than they are in execution, the movie is still funny and light, and deliciously gory to boot. It is also deceptive. For one thing, it's a kind of quasi-musical. There isn't much singing, and the big dance number doesn't come until the very end, but Kitano most definitely had something musical in mind. (ADAM HART)
* The Bourne Supremacy
The clock is ticking from the very first moment of this outstanding sequel, which meets the unenviable challenge of besting its predecessor, the fantastic Bourne Identity. Amnesiac super spy/assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, who is now as hard as a diamond) comes out of hiding to confront his masters, who, as fate would have it, are already scouring the earth looking for him because they think he murdered some Russians and stole some secrets. And guess what: He did! Just not the Russians they think he killed. Sorry, forget the plot. Remember the dizzying fight scenes, the indefatigable cloak and dagger in which everyone is the smartest person in the room (and Bourne is the smartest of them all), the best car chase ever filmed (fact!). Remember director Paul Greengrass's masterful handheld choreography. Best of all, remember the supporting cast: Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Franka Potente, all of whom, along with Damon--whose robotic beauty has never better served a character than this one--help to elevate the Robert Ludlum pulp into a high lowbrow masterpiece. (SEAN NELSON)
So the movie starts out with Halle Berry, Catwoman, setting the scene. She says, "The day that I died was also the day I started to live." Yawn. She also says that prior to becoming a kitty, she and her life were unremarkable. Then the movie goes on to show us how unremarkable she really was? 'Cause we need proof? STUPID. So Halle--er, wait, her name is Patience in the movie--well, she dies. Drowns. But then a cat tongue-kisses her and brings her back to life. People should never tongue-kiss cats. Then she turns into a sassy leather-clad little strumpet and says stuff like "purrrr-fect" and "meow." She fights bad guys, steals motorcycles, saves little kids, and eats sushi. But seriously. Did Catwoman look good to you? It isn't. Halle said in an interview that the role was "empowering." Now that's just embarrassing. (MEGAN SELING)
As polished and pleasant as all this scenery is (and as good as both Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx are), Collateral nonetheless fails, both as a thriller and as yet another entry into Michael Mann's brooding-men oeuvre. What may have been intended as a thinking man's thriller--patient, observant, character-driven--is thoroughly derailed by a surprising source: Mann's inability to shoot action. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Control Room
Like the recent documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Control Room offers us a look from the inside of the other side. Al Jazeera has 40 million viewers in the Arab world, and it shows its part of the world things that the American networks don't show their part of the world. The future may very well recognize Al Jazeera as the first genuinely global institution of the 21st century. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Basically, the movie looks down upon the masses of people who thoughtlessly consume products made by corrupt corporations. But you know what? I identify more with the masses than I do with the filmmakers; if I want to spend 145 minutes being told I'm an idiot, I'd rather spend that time in the singles bars. (ANDY SPLETZER)
De-Lovely is perfumed with preciousness, and ultimately suffers from the self-consciousness of its Hollywood gloss, as well as the difficult-to-swallow progressiveness of its characters. (Oddly enough, the sub rosa insinuation of Cole Porter's homosexuality in the 1946 biopic Night and Day rings much truer to the life one imagines a gay man leading in the '20s and '30s.) Still, the fine performances of Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd diminish the film's more troublesome liberties. (SEAN NELSON)
* Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
Having studied the film carefully a few times, I still can't tell if the plot's weird calculus--what actually happens, to whom, and where, and when--actually adds up to anything more than a semi-random sequence of related but unconnected events. What I can say, however, is that the film resonates with a uniquely American kind of sadness. (SEAN NELSON)
Exorcist: The Beginning
The soundtrack may be big and booming, and there may be plenty of super-gory violence, but Exorcist: The Beginning just fails to be scary. Nothing about it has an ounce of authenticity, and since nothing is believable, nothing is frightening. The only thing worth anything in the entire film is the bang-up makeup jobs done on the demon-possessed--an old-school tribute to 1970's latex. But even that's not worth nine bucks. (KELLY O)
* Facing Windows
Throughout the film, Ferzan Ozpetek's golden light conveys romance and elegy at once, and several times he brings striking images of great beauty and depth to the screen. The film's opening sequence depicts a bloody handprint fading over time as dawn light illuminates the wall that carries it, moving the narrative forward by 50 years. The handprint faded from the wall but replayed in my mind long after the film's screening. (MIKE WHYBARK)
* Fahrenheit 9/11
Michael Moore is a propagandist, taking the fight to the opposition on their terms, and winning. Because of his motives and his audience, this propagandist is the most important filmmaker we have, and Fahrenheit 9/11 is the best film he's ever made. (SEAN NELSON)
* Garden State
Zack Braff's debut film, Garden State, which he wrote, directed, and stars in, may very well be a similar act of egogasm (when you put Simon and Garfunkel on the soundtrack of your examination of disaffected twentysomethings, you're just asking for it), but it features enough odd grace notes among the rampant navel-gazing to warrant a watch. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
* Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
Those who smoke pot will laugh, those who smoke pot before the show will laugh harder, and those who don't smoke pot at all will wonder why everyone around them is laughing. Personally, I laughed hard on more than one occasion--not that I'm admitting anything. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Alfonso Cuarón, who has taken the directing reigns from Chris Columbus this time around, has not turned the Potterheads' god into bullshit. Early word on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was that it was the best of the series, and for once early word was correct; for the first time in the franchise's existence, a film has achieved the level of art. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
See review this issue.
Will Smith's seventh summer blockbuster is set in Chicago, which in the year 2035 has quadrupled its number of skyscrapers to become that same gigantic city that has been around since Fritz Lang's Metropolis. In this future world, robots have replaced software and the Internet as the commodity that produces the earth's richest man. In the first part of the movie, Will Smith is basically a blade runner in a society that doesn't want blade runners; in the next half of the film, he is blade runner in a society that desperately needs a blade runner--a talented robot killer. The movie is not bad or good; it is what it is--a big summer movie with lots of special effects. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Directed by Patrice Leconte, Intimate Strangers has a strong start and a weak finish. The opening is strong because the premise actually works. But once the accountant is exposed, the comedy dies and a drama is born. With the comedy gone for good, all that's left to enjoy are the film's set designs and the cinematography, which works hard to capture the bourgeois elegance of Sandrine Bonnaire's face. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Little Black Book
Brittany Murphy hasn't exactly earned a reputation for starring in good movies (Uptown Girls, anyone?), and Little Black Book is no exception. The premise, of a girl who snoops in her boyfriend's Palm Pilot to look up his old girlfriends, is lame enough. And the plot doesn't make it any better. (AMY JENNIGES)
* The Manchurian Candidate
The resulting film is far from flawless--silly flourishes include the painful cliché of the retired professor the hero turns to for advice, and a gross pantomime of mental illness that's lifted straight out of A Beautiful Mind--but it's just as mesmerizing and suspenseful as the original. (ANNIE WAGNER)
* Maria Full of Grace
Following an angelic (i.e., stunningly gorgeous) young woman--pregnant and sick of life in her one-factory town--who joins up with the local drug lord for a single trip across the Colombian border, this first film from writer-director Joshua Marston is an admirably restrained, even-handed debut that wisely avoids making sweeping societal pronouncements, shrinking Maria's world--whether she's in rural Colombia or big-city New Jersey--to the small circle of people who directly impact her life. (ADAM HART)
See review this issue.
* Napoleon Dynamite
In this charming new film, 24-year-old writer/ director Jared Hess mines the nebulous area between popular chic and weirdo freak, where outcast attributes are both quality, subtle comedy, and a charmingly dark part of our collective high-school unconscious. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
* Open Water
This year's Sundance bidding champ, Open Water, made with a skeleton crew and produced on a budget unfair to most shoestrings, has a central gimmick that's hard to trump: actors in the water messing around with real live sharks. Where husband-and-wife team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau excel is in creating the steadily mounting feeling that something could go terribly wrong at any moment, both in front of and behind the camera. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
In terms of display, Fox has all of the codes of a neutral network--serious-looking anchorpersons at prime time, political analysts in power suits, casual morning shows--and this is why people believe it is legitimate: It looks like the real thing. But this is old news; anyone who lives in this city knows very well what Fox News is all about--that it's staffed by absolute nutters who yell at their guests and tell them to shut up. So why is this documentary of any value to us? Because the Fox News it describes is even creepier than you imagined. The little internal memos from the top that strictly dictate policy, the micro-management of employees and information, the encouraged "us against the rest" mentality--this has added up to an institution that has completely lost contact with reality. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Princess Diaries II: Royal Engagement
The once very awkward and geeky Princess Mia is all growed up and graduated from college, and she's finally old enough to be crowned queen. Just so happens, the pretty princess' grandmother (the lady from The Sound of Music), who is currently queen, decides to "step down" (it's a Disney movie, brah, of course they're not going to kill anyone off), which would allow Princess Mia to be Queen Mia. Yippee! But there's a catch! Oh no! Mia can only be crowned queen, according to the rulebook, if she's married. And so if the very single Princess Mia can't bag a man in 30 days or less, a handsome and naíve jerk-off is gonna be crowned king! (MEGAN SELING)
* Riding Giants
This fascinating exploration of the culture of big-wave surfing by the director of the skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys is distinguished by the quality of its footage. I have no idea how Stacy Peralta and his crew managed to get on top of the water the way they do, but the actual surfing in this movie is heroic. Your heart rises and your breath leaves you as the surfers take on waves of 20, 30, 80 feet, waves that could easily kill them, then go back for more, then go back again. (SEAN NELSON)
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). (MEGAN SELING)
Seducing Dr. Lewis
See review this issue.
She Hate Me
There may be nothing more horrifying in the history of computer animation than the sequences in which a troop of big-headed sperm, each adorned by a superimposed image of the hero's face, races toward a similarly expressive egg. The rest of the movie makes very little sense, but after the fertilization derby you'll likely feel so queasy that you won't even care. (ANNIE WAGNER )
Going into a Spider-man film we surely expect the spectacular, but even the spectacular has limits. All films, even fantasy ones, need to at least touch upon reality. It can be the lightest of touches, but there must be substance there for us to grab onto--otherwise, why should we bother watching? In Sam Raimi's vision of Spider-man, however, his normally manic camera joins with CGI to create a work that is often completely fraudulent. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Super Size Me
Lest you think that this film is only for Fast Food Nation types, that it's aimed only at those who already have the information, remember that Morgan Spurlock put his own body on the line to get your attention. That's why he did it. He did it for you. (EMILY HALL)
Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2
They're smart, they've got big heads (proportionally speaking). What more do you need to know?
Ben Kingsley is a serial killer who prefers other serial killers as his victims.
If an army of critics line up to heap praise upon Steven Spielberg's The Terminal, as early Internet firings hint that they will, then something has gone terribly wrong in the world. This is easily the worst film of Spielberg's career, surpassing even blemishes like Always, Hook, and A.I. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Reese Witherspoon plays Becky Sharp in this new adaptation of the Thackeray novel, directed by Mira Nair.
Here's a twist: M. Night Shyamalan's The Village is thick-headed, obvious, and dull. Actually, thinking back on the abominations Unbreakable and Signs, that's not really a twist at all. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
We Don't Live Here Anymore
See review this issue.
What the #$*! Do We Know?!
This ungainly, inane film purports to be about quantum physics but is really about the power of positive thinking, with a midlife-crisis plot (starring Marlee Matlin) and some childish cartoon figures and a series of talking heads who can't stop using the word "paradigm." (EMILY HALL)
Without a Paddle
See revview this issue.
A dubbed version of an anime adventure tale. The imdb.com message boards are all abuzz with discussion of the scintillating topic "Which is better? Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokemon," if that tells you anything.