7 Faces of Dr. Lao
Tony Randall is... Dr. Lao, a 7,000-year-old Chinese mysterioso. Movie Legends, Sun Nov 21 at 1 pm.
Abar: The First Black Superman
Abar combats racism and makes hoodlums clean up their own graffiti! Take that! Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
It's difficult to gauge whether the picture's evolution away from timelessness has more to do with its familiarity--its centrality, even, to the contemporary sense of humor--or with the inconvenient complexity of the current state of international affairs. Either way, Dr. Strangelove has changed. Or maybe it's just gotten impossible to stop worrying. (SEAN NELSON) Varsity, Fri-Sun 1:50, 4:20, 7, 9:25 pm, Mon-Wed 7, 9:25 pm, Thurs 1:50, 4:20, 7, 9:25 pm.
* Fight Club
"I am Jack's complete lack of surprise." Egyptian, Fri-Sat at midnight.
Kids Are All Right: Mikhail Baryshnikov's Stories from My Childhood
Animated Russian fairy tales dubbed by American movie stars like Kirsten Dunst and Jim Belushi. Ivan and His Magic Pony and Pinocchio and the Golden Key, Northwest Film Forum, Sat Nov 20 at 11 am.
The F.W. Murnau vampire movie accompanied live by the Anonymous Orchestra. Rendezvous, Wed Nov 24 at 7:30 pm.
Paradise Lost w/ A Woman of Determination
A featurette by Ebtisam Maraana about the lost history of the filmmaker's hometown. Ethnic Cultural Theater, Sun Nov 21 at 7 pm.
* Peep "TV" Show
Watching Yutaka Tsuchiya's Peep "TV" Show is a lot like reading J.G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition--both are not easy to get through but are vital works of art. Peep "TV" Show is about a society (contemporary Tokyo) that is mediated to the last degree. Public, private, and commercial spaces are crammed with cameras that look into them, and (TV, video, computer) screens that look out at other public, private, and commercial spaces. Every level of life is a spectacle that aspires to become the total spectacle of the new century: 9/11. The main characters in Peep "TV" Show are morbidly, erotically obsessed with the destruction of the Twin Towers, one even admitting that he wished it had happened to Tokyo. 9/11 is to Peep "TV" Show what the assassination of JFK was to Crash (1973), another J.G. Ballard novel. Crash, however, is a work of science fiction, whereas Peep "TV" Show is about the present and the real proliferation of electronic consumer products, specifically the digital and micro-cameras with which the entire movie is shot. Peep "TV" Show is relentlessly repetitive, but it does have several unexpected moments that break the surface of the vicious pattern and peer into the dizzying depths of what all underdeveloped economies are striving to become: overdeveloped, paperless, capitalist societies. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Consolidated Works, Fri-Sun 8 pm.
The Sneak series of film previews continues its fourth season. For more information, see www.sneakfilms.com. Pacific Place, Sun Nov 21 at 10:30 am.
* Split Second
This 1953 film by Dick Powell continues SAM's film noir series. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Nov 18 at 7:30 pm.
* State of Art: The New Slovene Avant Garde
See review this issue. All films, avant-garde and otherwise, screen at Northwest Film Forum. Saso Podgorsek's Sweet Dreams (2001) w/ Tanz Mit Laibach (rock video by Podgorsek) and The Orphan with the Miraculous Voice (2003), Fri-Sun and Tues-Wed at 7 pm. Damjan Kozole's Spare Parts (2003), Sat-Sun and Tues-Wed at 9:45 pm. Maja Weiss's The Road of Fraternity and Unity (a 1999 doc about the conflict in the Balkans) w/ Glazier Blues (a short about a Slovene glass factory), Sat Nov 20 at 7 pm. Guardians of the Frontier w/ Adrian (a short about a son's jealous love for his mother), Sat-Sun 9:30 pm. Predictions of Fire followed by a panel on the Slovene avant garde, Sun Nov 21 at 7 pm. Dark Angels, Sun and Tues-Wed at 9:15 pm. Slovene Moves: En-Knap Dance Films w/ Dom Svobode (set in an abandoned factory) and Vertigo Bird (set in the mining town of Trbovlje), Tues Nov 23 at 7:45 pm. War Makes a Beautiful Art w/ (A)Torsion, Poem to My Homeland, Hop, Skip, and Jump, and You're Free, You Decide, Wed Nov 24 at 7:15 pm. Artists will be in attendance--for details, see www.nwfilmforum.org/slovenia.
Stranger with a Camera
This 2000 documentary examines the 1967 murder of filmmaker Hugh O'Connor. Capitol Hill Library, Wed Nov 24 at 6:30 pm.
* The Thin Man Series
All six of the Thin Man pictures must be watched because none departs from the essential pleasures: drinking and solving crime. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Both films screen at the Grand Illusion. The Thin Man Goes Home, Weekdays 7 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 7 pm. Song of the Thin Man, Weekdays 9 pm, Sat-Sun 5, 9 pm.
After the Sunset
In which a superthief (Pierce Brosnan, apparently laying off the Pilates) ponders retirement in paradise while his FBI nemesis (Woody Harrelson, pupils fully dilated) hovers in the wings waiting for a slip-up. There's the germ of a clever premise here--invincible man of action done in by inertia--but any initial potential is thoroughly stymied by shoddy execution and mounting narrative indifference, culminating in a final heist that makes The Great Muppet Caper look like a piece of crackerjack precision. Director Brett Ratner (Red Dragon) appears to be aiming for a genially sloppy, Rat Packish tone (St. Frank is mentioned more than once), but the shambling results come off more as a bunch of slumming actors grinning at each other while rapidly developing melanoma. (To be fair, this does mark a significant improvement over the director's previous efforts.) On the plus side, Salma Hayek wears a constant slew of severely overstuffed bikinis, which honestly may be worth a matinee. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
An Oliver Stone epic about war and hot man-on-man hugging.
Even in a picture that doesn't require him to do an accent (do people just not notice how terrible he is at doing accents?) pretty boy Jude Law remains unconvincing, even while playing a quintessential narcissist. Recasting the central character as a little boy lost, rather than a predator, director Charles Shyer squanders all the attraction and complications of the original role--you don't hate Law's Alfie; you're supposed to pity him because he's afraid of commitment, which is bullshit, because fear of commitment is never compelling. (SEAN NELSON)
Annette Bening throws herself into each dizzying emotion with abandon, but the histrionics are so grossly out of proportion with the charm or threat posed by her schoolboy lover that the emotional center of the film is hollowed out. The end is smashingly entertaining, but I'm not so sure it makes the tedious, feature-length setup worthwhile. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Nicole Kidman plays Anna, an upper-crust New York ice maiden whose imminent nuptials are rocked by the sudden appearance of a spooky-cute unblinking kid who claims to be possessed by her decade-dead husband. Laughed off at first, the visitor reveals an increasing number of intimate details that cause Anna to rethink the afterlife, family ties, and most creepily, the legal age of consent. The story may posit a slew of blather about soul transference and the world beyond, but, crucially, the film never quite comes off as believing its own pitch. One well-staged (and much hyped) bathtub encounter aside, there's nothing here that clammily lingers the way it should. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Desperate single women can be cute and funny. Moony, jealous women who obsess over their fancy boyfriends are neither cute nor funny. And that's all you need to know about this exceedingly lame movie. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Christmas with the Kranks
Tim Allen and Jaime Lee Curtis hate Christmas.
* Enduring Love
This adaptation of Ian McEwan's riveting novel is largely faithful. As a study of the often-perverse trajectory of love, it's a compelling little British independent film with a dark bent. Unfortunately, the literalization of the images serves to undermine, rather than strengthen, the novel's disturbing insights about long-term intimacy--i.e., that the people to whom we are closest are often those we know the least. (SEAN NELSON)
See review this issue.
Friday Night Lights
A working-class football movie starring Billy Bob Thornton.
* 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)
The problem with the American remake of The Grudge is that the ghost never rests. You want a moment to look at Tokyo, to observe its traffic, its bright shops and busy bars--but that pleasure must be found in another movie (see Lost In Translation), because before the setting cools into the normal rhythms of urban life, yet another victim is being pursued and devoured. The ghost in The Grudge is to horror films what Ebola is to pathology. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Initially, Yimou Zhang, the director of such intimate character pieces as Raise the Red Lantern and To Live, may seem an odd choice to successfully rekindle the flaming swords and arrows of the martial arts genre, but from the opening frames he sells you. Hero melds modern wirework effects with the director's own mastery of character to create an awesome chop-socky epic with an honestly moving emotional backbeat. This time, at least, the hype can be believed. I could watch it every night. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
I * Huckabees
While there are many characters, themes, plots, and subplots in Huckabees, the real conflicts are all dialectical--existential detectives vs. nihilist temptress, surrealistic idealist vs. empirical purist, etc. And even though these precepts are embodied by famous actors, the entire film winds up feeling like an abstraction, rather than a dramatization, of a philosophical quandary. That doesn't mean Huckabees fails to entertain; it just means that the viewer is required to discern a pattern from a seemingly random blizzard of ideas blowing across the screen. (SEAN NELSON)
* The Incredibles
The Incredibles is done in true and beautiful Pixar style, but the action sequences are far more exhilarating than anything seen in Finding Nemo or Toy Story. Plus, the humans aren't annoyingly unattractive, and it's pretty damn funny to boot. (MEGAN SELING)
Into the Deep
As a romantic comedy, Into the Deep comes up drastically short. It's neither funny nor romantic. The chemistry between the main characters (fish with almost no lines and facial expressions that can be described as stoic at best) seems nonexistent until the male is fertilizing the female's eggs, and then--BOOM! Where did that come from? There is scant character development as the camera distractedly follows first one, then another, underwater species with an attention span reminiscent of Richard Linklater's Slacker. The gratuitous squid orgy offers the only titillation. When the entire lot dies after a frenzy of blood-engorged betentacled copulation, we wish the film would die as graceful a death. Instead, it goes on for another 10 minutes while the narrator explains that in the kelp forests, the circle of life and death is infinite--a final irritating example of the lack of respect the filmmakers have for their viewers. One would think this movie was made for small children and not discerning adults who enjoy watching a little hot fish sex. (A.J. GLUSMAN)
See review this issue.
I can't say Ladder 49 is a powerful movie that does real justice to the life of a firefighter, because I'm not a firefighter. I don't even personally know any firefighters. But if it is, if this movie is even 75-percent legit... well then, shit--firefighters are amazing, courageous, and insane human beings. (MEGAN SELING )
* The Motorcycle Diaries
This is a film that should be taken for what it is: a beautifully constructed road movie with a dash of conscience on the side. There is much to despise about Che Guevara later in his life; these early adventures help us understand where the eventual fanatic was born. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* 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)
See review this issue.
Co-writer/director Dylan Kidd has retained the gift of gab that made his debut, Roger Dodger, such a welcome breeze. Laura Linney plays a stalled-in-neutral college art teacher convinced that her newest student might be the reincarnation of an old flame. (Perfectly understandable, actually, considering that the poor kid has the same name, and looks exactly like him.) To its credit--if somewhat puzzlingly--the film treats this quasi-supernatural element as more or less of an afterthought, and concentrates increasingly on portraying the superb Linney's prickly interactions with all around her. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Polar Express
Here and there, Polar Express hits on an image or mood worthy of the season, particularly during the early scenes of the magical title vehicle, but the thundering need to make a state-of-the-art prefab classic steamrolls over most of the cheer. On Donner, on Blitzen, on Tron. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Despite a tendency to bathe in the molasses of sentimentality, Ray is a rich exponent of the biopic genre. It'd be crazy not to attribute the film's success to the brilliance of its subject, the inestimably great American composer Ray Charles, and the constant presence on the soundtrack of his songs, but the choices made by the filmmakers certainly don't hurt. Chief among them, the casting of Jamie Foxx, up to now a cloying black comic, and hereafter a dazzling performer capable of inhabiting one of the most recognizable faces of the 20th century in a mesmerizing feat of impersonation. Imposing a narrative on a life, especially one filled with so many contradictions (i.e. beloved entertainer/ abusive junkie cheapskate) may be a fool's errand, but this film is satisfying nonetheless. (SEAN NELSON)
To call Saw a study in "ham and cheese" (to steal a line from director Paul Thomas Anderson) would be a massive understatement. Cary Elwes doesn't just chew the scenery here, he fully consumes, digests, and ejects it, delivering a performance that would be sheer comic genius if he weren't so obviously sincere. At the screening I attended, the audience broke into laughter during a scene when Danny Glover, playing a detective, mourns the requisite loss of his partner, and it signaled the swap of the film from a decent horror flick with a good idea, to a must-see comic debacle. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Seed of Chucky
This is the grossest movie title ever.
Shall We Dance?
In Shall We Dance?, which is directed by Peter Chelsom, an estate planner (Richard Gere) wants to fuck a mysterious dance instructor (Jennifer Lopez). His marriage is safe, dull, and very white; in a flash he sees the exact opposite of all that he is--a brown voluptuous woman. She thrives in the heart of the city (Chicago); he is imprisoned in the suburbs. She has passion; he has a pension. As always, the north wants to hump the south. He makes a cautious move toward his desire, but what he ends up with are a bunch of dance lessons instead of sex. His wife (Susan Sarandon) suspects he is having an affair; but she soon learns that he is spending his nights practicing the tango. The movie ends with the marriage reaffirmed and a return of peace to the kingdom of the petty bourgeoisie. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
* Shaun of the Dead
A sharp, clever, and gory horror-comedy that manages to be as scary as it is hilarious, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead shows all the marks of becoming a cult classic (and yeah, I know that sounds clichéd--but in this case, it's actually true). In the recent glut of financially successful zombie flicks--from 28 Days Later to the remake of Dawn of the Dead--the UK-made Shaun is the clear spiritual and intellectual winner, a film that simultaneously respects and satirizes the zombie genre. (ERIK HENRIKSEN)
While Sideways is a road movie, it's a lazy one; the distance traveled, both physically and emotionally, is short. Blessed with pitch-perfect performances, especially by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church (who really is an actor on the downslope of his career), Sideways is a slight film, to be sure, but it's also one of Alexander Payne's least snide efforts; known for rolling his eyes at his characters as much as he rolls cameras on them, the director keeps himself mostly in check here. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
See review this issue.
Team America: World Police
Heavily inspired by Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds series (which was recently bastardized by Paramount into a puppet-free "adventure"), the marionette work in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's film is truly amazing. The action sequences, and even the quiet moments, are triumphs of design, beautifully photographed by Bill Pope and far more complicated than any sane person(s) would even attempt, let alone succeed at creating. It's not just an homage to Anderson, it's a completion of the creepy world Anderson was so obsessed with. Team America's comedy may run from inspired to painfully flat, and the politics may be far too simplistic, but Parker and Stone have done one thing better than anyone has before: They've made the greatest marionette movie of all time. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The problem with Reese Witherspoon as Becky is linked to the way this film tries to reinvent her character. Thackeray's secret sympathy for his conniving protagonist--who is so bad she even hates children--always seeps through the cynical narration. Becky Sharp is great because, no matter how much we admire her pluck from the safe distance of the 21st century, she was a terrible bitch. Mira Nair does not agree. (ANNIE WAGNER)
* Vera Drake
The title character, played with impossible pathos and naiveté by Imelda Staunton, is a housekeeper, mother, visitor of shut-ins, and part-time abortionist. She is paid for polishing fireplace grates in rich people's homes, but the latter three functions--feeding and clothing her family of four, putting the kettle on in the cramped flats of various invalids, and pumping the uteruses of troubled women full of a noxious solution of carbolic soap--she performs gratis. The narrative is clearly engaged in modern political struggles, but at the same time it's a bruising, classical tragedy about a woman whose passionate altruism brings pain and suffering upon herself and the people whom she loves. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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)