The Animation Show
See review this issue. See Movie Times, page 79, for details.
Ball of Fire
Gill-packed with Hollywood royalty, the Billy Wilder-penned Ball of Fire is a screwball comedy modeled cartoonishly after the story of Snow White--substituting literary professors for dwarves and a stripper for a princess. Starring the incomparable Gary Cooper alongside Barbara Stanwyck, with Howard Hawks directing. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 6:30, 8:45 pm, Sat-Sun 2, 4:15, 6:30, 8:45 pm.
"Heineken? Fuck that shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!" Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
Cafe Flesh: The Norman McMahan Tribute Show 3
Antique smut at Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg
A 1990 narrative feature about Raoul Wallenberg, a Swede who travels to German-occupied Hungary to transport the Jews living there to Sweden and safety. Nordic Heritage Museum, Thurs Feb 24 at 7 pm.
International House w/ It's a Gift
A double-header tribute to the iconoclastic comedian W.C. Fields. Movie Legends, Sun Feb 27 at 1 pm.
See review this issue. Screenings take place at Consolidated Works. Part 1: Fri Feb 25 at 8 pm. Part 2: Sat Feb 26 at 8 pm.
A love story about Filipino workers in Italy. Allen Auditorium, UW campus, Thurs Feb 24 at 6:30 pm.
The Murder of Fred Hampton
A 1971 documentary on the rise and subsequent death of Fred Hampton and his Black Panther Party (and their impeccable fashion sense). Smith Hall Room 120, UW campus, Fri Feb 25 at 7:30 pm.
Orphans of Delirium
A video documenting a paratheater experiment by Antero Alli. 911 Media Arts, Thurs Feb 24 at 7 pm.
This 1929 film by Arnold Bennett stars Anna May Wong and Gilda Gray as a dishwasher and dancer in a London nightclub. Paramount, Mon Feb 28 at 7 pm.
The Red Shoes
Michael Powell's 1948 film about a ballet company under impressario Boris Lermontov. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Feb 24 at 7:30 pm.
Sacred Cinema: Yasujiro Ozu Retrospective
Ozu rarely moved his camera (especially later in his career), choosing instead to keep it static and close to the floor; his characters often look directly into the lens, causing each conversation to feel extremely intimate, as if the audience is itself involved. It is a clean, trouble-free vision, void of flair but so perfectly realized that its apparent simplicity can obscure just how beautiful the images really are. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) All films screen at Northwest FIlm Forum. The Inn at Tokyo, accompanied by Aono Jikken Ensemble, Thurs Feb 24 at 7 pm. Early Spring, Thurs-Sat at 5:30, 8:30 pm. Early Summer, Fri-Sun at 6, 8:30 pm, Mon-Wed at 6:30, 9 pm. Late Autumn, Sun-Wed at 6:30, 9 pm. A Mother Should Be Loved, accompanied by Elizabeth and John Falconer, Sun Feb 27 at 4:30 pm. Tokyo Chorus, accompanied by Karla Torgensen, Thurs March 3 at 7 pm. Series continues through March 10, see www.nwfilmforum.org/ozu for details.
Sacred Speed: The Films of Nathaniel Dorsky
The Experimental Film Society at the University of Washington presents three films introduced by James Tweedie. Thomson Hall Room 101, UW campus, Thurs Feb 24 at 7 pm.
Short films at Rendezvous, Sun Feb 27 at 7 pm.
The Small Black Room
This 1949 film by Michael Powell is about an man who specializes in bomb deactivation and hard drinking. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs March 3 at 7:30 pm.
Through Hell and High Water
A love story about Nancy and Archie Kelly and a daring World War II rescue. Nordic Heritage Museum, Thurs March 3 at 7 pm.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Short films, including Legend of RootBeerBoy, a local short about three con artists who triple-cross one another. Rendezvous, Wed March 2 at 8:15 pm.
This microcinematic Matrix (of sorts) involves a group of "technopagans" who worship in the titular virtual reality zone. Everything is going fine until someone assimilates, and the brothers and sisters are targeted by a fundamentalist witch hunter who deems the technopagans a Satanic suicide cult. And all they wanted to do was practice their ecstatic rites in cyberspace. A unique film by the irrepressible Antero Alli. 911 Media Arts, Friday Feb 25 at 7 pm.
A documentary by Melody Gilbert about physically typical people who are obsessed with amputees. 911 Media Arts, Thurs March 3 at 7 pm.
Are We There Yet?
Ice Cube stars as a player/babysitter. Aw.
It may be impossible to fully know Howard Hughes, but DiCaprio and Scorsese can only offer the broadest of paint strokes here. Scorsese attempts to cover up the lack of depth in The Aviator by focusing heavily on both Hughes' love life as well as his daring in the skies, but no matter how many romantic entanglements and spectacular crashes we see, the film itself remains superficial. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Bad Education announces itself with a rich melodramatic subject--Catholic clergy sex abuse--only to reject all predictable conflict for an emotional and thematic territory all its own. It's a brilliant maneuver, sending audiences traipsing down an initially recognizable path that soon splinters in directions they never could've dreamed. (DAVID SCHMADER)
Because of Winn-Dixie
A kid named Opal finds a dog in a grocery store.
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)
A man returns home to face a childhood trauma.
Born Into Brothels
Rare is the documentary that feels too short, but this wrenching, multiple award-winning look at kids growing up within the squalid red-light sector of India begs out for a more detailed exploration. Filmed in an arresting mix of handheld video and Kodachrome stills, the film follows the efforts of co-director/photographer Zana Briski to save the children of Calcutta's sex workers, initially by encouraging their photographic skills (attracting worldwide attention, and with ongoing results viewable at www.kids-with-cameras.org), and then navigating through unbelievable levels of bureaucratic quicksand in an attempt to get them out of the slums and into boarding schools. Briski's struggle is worthy of sainthood, but her resulting document, after an absolutely engrossing first reel, follows a slightly frustrating route. Unintentionally or not, as she concentrates increasingly on getting passports and HIV tests processed, the focus shifts to a more conventional individual vs. the system story, and away from the fairly miraculous day-to-day existence of the kids, where it feels like it belongs. As it stands, the glimpses we see of them and their all-too-knowing interactions with their hellish surroundings are somehow both too much, and not nearly enough. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Bride & Prejudice
I'm happy to report that adapter Paul Mayeda Berges and co-adapter/director Gurinder Chadha lose no sleep over fitting the plot of Pride and Prejudice into a Bollywood mold. The end result doesn't bear the faintest resemblance to Jane Austen, and truth be told, it doesn't cleave too closely to Bollywood conventions either. Bride & Prejudice--even the title makes me simultaneously cringe and cackle--is shorter than you'd expect, some of the colors in that big party scene look a bit washed out, and a certain character bears an unmistakable resemblance to Ali G. But who cares in the slightest? (ANNIE WAGNER)
Viewed scene by scene, the unfettered, constant venom on display in this film is bracing, thrilling, and almost as much fun to watch as it must have been to perform. Taken as a whole, however, it proves to be a bit too much of a bad thing. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
As crackpot Catholicism goes, Constantine ain't half bad--in fact, I enjoyed it far more than I expected. Keanu Reeves may struggle mightily during some of the quiet moments (if Latin wasn't already a dead language, he'd surely kill it), but his stumbles are more than made up for by the always welcome presence of Rachel Weisz (as a detective who finds herself embroiled in Constantine's religious fury), as well as the surprising work of director Francis Lawrence behind the lens. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
A werewolf movie by Wes Craven.
DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN
See review this issue.
Marc Forster's third film, Monster's Ball, was complete and utter nonsense. His fourth film, Finding Neverland, is ordinary and dry nonsense. Clearly, Forster is a director of the middling order. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Hide and Seek
So this little girl gets a bit crazy after seeing her mom laying dead in a pool of blood in the bathtub. She's eight, so of course she's gonna be traumatized. But what does Daddy do? He moves her out to the middle of fucking nowhere! She's exceedingly depressed, she barely talks, she has no friends except her dumb, ratty doll, and so her dad provides her with even more solitude by dragging her out into some creepy fucking woods in upstate New York where the closest neighbors are also pretty messed up?! That's his solution?! Anyways, soon after moving, things get weird due to Little Miss Fanning's new imaginary friend Charlie. Then there are twists and turns and Elizabeth Shue's boobs, and a good movie goes bad-but because it gets all "SURPRISE TWIST ENDING" on our asses, I can't divulge those aggravating aspects because if I did, it'd give everything away and people would write in saying shit like, "You ruined the movie! %#*$!" Well no, dumbass, I didn't ruin the movie; cheesy thriller movie clichés actually ruined the movie. (MEGAN SELING)
For the most part, the movie is dull because Smith plays a playa (a man who has all the right moves). It's only late in the film where things turn lively, as Smith finally wakes up and begins to do more of what he always did when he was as a teen rapper and a '90s TV star: comedy. Indeed, this man who bores us with his knowledge of what women want is the very same man who once made us laugh when he rapped "girls of the world ain't nothing but trouble." Unfortunately, that funny man arrives too late to save Hitch. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Unlike Spielberg's Schindler's List, Hotel Rwanda doesn't have a huge budget, which is the primary reason why it's not a great film in terms of both photography and casting (many of the extras do not look like Hutus or Tutsis). It's a film held up entirely by Don Cheadle, whose portrayal of an African is, for a black American, second only Canada Lee's in the 1951 adaptation of Cry, the Beloved Country. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
See review this issue.
In Good Company
In Good Company is a happily inoffensive, warmly predictable, wholly inconsequential comedy/drama from American Pie and About a Boy director Paul Weitz. The movie's surface-level themes--corporate takeovers, white-collar backstabbing, familial versus professional relationships, fucking people you're not supposed to--could make for interesting conflicts in the hands of a sharp satirist or incisive sociologist. But the increasingly bland Weitz is neither. (ERIK HENRIKSEN)
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)
Inside Deep Throat
It's the background of Deep Throat not as a porn landmark, but as a portrait of the cultural climate of repression and anti-obscenity laws that met it, which is the most fascinating aspect of the film. From Nixon appointing a commission on pornography and then suppressing its findings when they don't deliver the wanted political outcome, all the way up to the Meese Commission under Ronald Reagan's regime, the filmmakers give us a chilling portrait of the industry of censorship. (NATE LIPPENS)
The Life Aquatic
Long stretches of The Life Aquatic feel malnourished, as if Wes Anderson spent so much energy creating the film's distinct reality that he forgot to provide reasons for that reality to exist. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Man of the House
A movie about a sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) who is entrusted with the lives of some vulnerable cheerleaders.
Meet the Fockers
Watching Meet the Fockers started out grating and ended up grinding my flesh off the bone. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
The Merchant of Venice
You can sleep through the rest of the watery Venetian canal scenes, but Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons are fascinating. These aren't definitive performances by any means--Pacino's Shylock is so infinitely burdened he almost buckles, and that's before his daughter leaves him--but they are acute, stubbornly personal, and a joy to watch. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Million Dollar Baby
As sappy and Lifetime-y as the plot sounds, Clint Eastwood's skill with the performers keeps Million Dollar Baby afloat. Both Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman deliver graceful turns that mesh perfectly with Eastwood's grave brooding, and by the time the film takes a brutally tragic turn you can't help but find yourself yanked along emotionally. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Moolaadé opens in the village square, which is dominated by a termite mound (which is considered a spirit of some sort) and a monstrous looking mosque (a cluster of spires made of earth and spiked by dead branches). Four of six girls who have escaped a circumcision ceremony appear at an evidently prosperous enclosure pleading for protection. The girls know from gossip that the second wife of this enclosure, Collé (Fatoumata Coulibaly), prevented her daughter from being cut, and so ask this mother to do the same for them. Collé casts a good spell, a moolaadé, that prevents anyone from removing the girls from her place. At this point, the revolution begins, the old order is challenged, and the transformation that is described by Ousmane Sembene's muscular direction is painful but inevitable. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
At the end of the movie the main mystery remains unsolved: Why was so much money, energy, and talent spent realizing what is evidently a dull and dumb script? (CHARLES MUDEDE)
The story is a mess, the scam is a fraud, and the performances are lazy and smug, but Ocean's 12 has one major plus: the return of Steven Soderbergh's creative pulse. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
Compared to, say, Jackie Chan's comedic underdogging, the star can't help but come off as a bit of a cold fish. Thankfully, whatever Tony Jaa may lack in charisma, he more than makes up for in utter and total bodily self-disregard; whether skittering through a coil of barbed wire at top speed or doing the splits under a moving van, he delivers a constant stream of suicidally crazy-legged stunts that would make the Jackass crew reach for their Blue Cross cards. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Phantom of the Opera
Even putting aside the unspeakably horrendous set design, this movie does everything wrong. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Pooh's Heffalump Movie
Christopher Robin once again plays with his Pooh.
Despite a tendency to bathe in the molasses of sentimentality, Ray is a rich exponent of the biopic genre. (SEAN NELSON)
The Sea Inside
The movie is admirable and unsparing, and it's a departure for Alejandro Amenábar, a director who's only ever made thrillers and ghost stories. Still, it suffers under the weight of unrelenting ruin. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
Blessed with pitch-perfect performances, especially by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, Sideways is a slight film, to be sure, but it's also one of Alexander Payne's least snide efforts. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Son of the Mask
This atrocity was unspeakably bad! Like, the soul-sucking kind of bad. Like, I think my heart stopped about 20 minutes into it, when we got to the absurd musical number, because my body just couldn't take any more. I can't even be funny about how dreadful it was. All I can do is think of new ways to say T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E. (MEGAN SELING)
A Very Long Engagement
I'm not saying it isn't corny. What I'm saying is that it's a fantastic movie, and unless you're the stated enemy of life and all that makes it worth living, you'll probably fall for it. (SEAN NELSON)
What the #$*! Do We Know?!
This ungainly, inane film purports to be about quantum physics but is really about the power of positive thinking. (EMILY HALL)