The first film in the Northwest Film Forum's "Summer Camp" series is this curious 1959 film starring the great Eartha Kitt as a beleaguered prostitute, and Sammy Davis Jr. as her boyfriend. What more do you need? Music from Elmer Bernstein? Well it's got that too. Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Wed 7, 9 pm. (No shows Mon July 4).
The Bad News Bears
To hold you over until the remake arrives next month, here's the original Walter Matthau-starring "classic." Central Cinema, Sat-Sun noon, 2:30 pm.
Ecological Design: Inventing the Future
A documentary on 20th century ecological design, featuring names like R. Buckminster Fuller, William McDonough, and Hunter and Amory Lovins. Environmental Learning Center, Camp Long, Thurs June 30 at 7 pm.
A 217-minute, black-and-white Japanese epic that launches with the hijacking of a city bus; follows with murder, alienation, and despair; then lands somewhere near cinema's favorite destination: redemption. Savery Hall, Room 239, Thurs June 30 at 6:30 pm.
Fremont Outdoor Movies
The summer tradition of movies viewed in parking lots continues; this one is at N 35th and Phinney. This week: War of the Worlds (1953), with improvised sound courtesy of Twisted Flicks. Sat July 2 at dusk.
Happy Birthday Ray!
See Stranger Suggests. All films screen at the Grand Illusion. Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, Fri 7, 11 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 7 pm, Tues-Thurs 7 pm. The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Fri 9 pm, Sat 5, 9, 11 pm, Sun 5, 7 pm, Tues-Thurs 9 pm.
The Holy Girl
This intoxicating film by Lucrecia Martel stars María Alche, a young Argentinean actor, and I'm tempted to say she's all the reason you need to see the movie. It's impossible to take your eyes off her, not because she's beautiful, exactly—though she has the smudged, rosy looks of a particularly luscious Renaissance Madonna—but because her face registers religious and sexual conflict with an alarming intensity. Her mouth crumples at the corners and her eyes become hooded as her character tries to will spiritual ecstasy or physical arousal, and she effortlessly navigates the tough contours of a plot that might not have made sense without her. Martel's direction is equally acute; even as the cinematography becomes more and more disorienting and hazily erotic, the emotional core of the film tightens until you have to remind yourself to breathe. (ANNIE WAGNER) Varsity, Fri-Sun 1:40, 4:15, 7:10, 9:40 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:10, 9:40 pm.
Stanley Kubrick's harsh 'n' dirty crime story (1956), in which an ex-con fails miserably at masterminding a race track robbery. With Sterling Hayden and Timothy Carey. Central Cinema, Fri-Sun 7, 9 pm.
Elvis and Walter Matthau—together at last! Central Cinema, Wed-Thurs 7, 9:30 pm.
Linda's Summer Movie Madness
This week: Surprise Night! Wed July 6 at dusk.
The Man With the Screaming Brain
Jesus Christ, what a disaster. I mean, I—like anyone else who's seen the Evil Deads, or Bubba Ho-Tep—love Bruce Campbell. He's funny. But this... man, what a clusterfuck. Campbell writes/directs/stars in an ill-conceived homage to D-grade sci-fi/horror films; the plot has something to do with Bulgaria, mad science, fantastically annoying characters, and a lot of crappy physical comedy that, depressingly, seems to be ripped off from Evil Dead 2. Also, the film's budget, from the looks of it, appears to have been somewhere in the $50-$60 range. None of this would detract from the film if it wasn't so relentlessly, painfully joyless—it has all of the humor of a children's burn ward, and none of the charm. (Erik Henriksen) Egyptian, Fri-Sat at midnight.
The Marrying Kind
A marriage dramedy from George Cukor, with Judy Holliday and Aldo Ray as newlyweds. Movie Legends, Sun July 3 at 1 pm.
Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire
Talk about perspective: while most of North America was engrossed with OJ trying on gloves, Canadian Lt. General Romeo Dallaire was witness to something close to literal hell. Beginning in 1993, he and his minimal UN Peacekeeping staff found themselves in the middle of an escalating tribal conflict in Rwanda which left 800,000 dead in less than 4 months. The experience left Dallaire broken, suicidal, and unable to think of the experience as anything less than proof of the existence of biblical, absolute evil. After a decade, he returned to Rwanda to try and pick up the pieces. Based on Dallaire's book, director Peter Raymont's engrossing documentary (winner of the audience award at this year's Sundance) provides a close to indeliable document of the turmoil, with warm, fumbling, modern-day reunions providing at least a small amount of balance to the genuinely atrocious newsreel footage on copious display. Mostly, though, it has Dallaire. The loose inspiration for Nick Nolte's character in Hotel Rwanda, he makes for a fascinating focal point: God-fearing, yet likeably profane; self-lacerating, yet not averse to calling others on the carpet for their inaction; and, above all, a fundamentally decent man, cursed with a horribly total recall. He can't stop seeing it. (ANDREW WRIGHT) Varsity, Fri-Mon 2, 4:30, 7, 9:20 pm, Tues-Thurs 7, 9:20 pm.
Tora San #1
A working class comedy starring Atsumi Kiyoshi. Part one in a series. Savery Hall, Room 239, Thurs July 7 at 7:30 pm.
The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D
Robert Rodriguez's latest kid movie explores the inherent sadness of childhood. Though the ending is happy, the substance of the film is sad, which is why it's the best kid's movie Robert Rodriguez has so far made. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Taking equal inspiration from Sin City creator Frank Miller's Batman: Year One miniseries and artist Neil Adams' classic grim and gritty '70s run of Adam West apologia, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer's scenario circles back to the basics and has a ball reinventing the mythos. The defining elements are still there: boy loses parents, devotes life to fighting crime, becomes creature of the night. What's new is the filmmakers' attention to the inner life of their 2-D main character, devoting fully half their time to recounting Wayne's training and motivations for spending the nights all done up in batsuit. For the first time in a live-action recounting, the title character is actually allotted more attention than the inevitably showy villains. (Fear-gas maven The Scarecrow and eco-terrorist Ra's Al Guhl, for those fanboys keeping score.) As an origin story, it holds its own against the animated Mask of the Phantasm, previously the benchmark. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
This Bewitched, by queen-of-cute writer/director Nora Ephron, is not a remake of the television show. It's a movie about a making a remake. You'd think this would lend the film some degree of ironic distance—or at least the opportunity to comment on the cultural significance of the original—but no. In this Bewitched, Nicole Kidman plays an adorable witch impersonating a normal woman (just like Elizabeth Montgomery in the original), who is then impressed into the Elizabeth Montgomery role in a remake of the original. Dizzying, no? It's like Bewitched sprouted an extra appendage that then, sponge-like, fell off and became an entity of its own. Kidman and Will Ferrell have zero chemistry, and there are precious few moments of genuine comedy, most of which involve either a dog or a man-hating production assistant. (ANNIE WAGNER)
If a gnarled creature were grown in a lab, bred and designed by unfeeling scientists to spend its soulless existence craving and consuming only Oscars... well, it would still come up short to Ron Howard's latest film. Cinderella Man, the much-ballyhooed reuniting of the team behind A Beautiful Mind, takes a story that's almost too perfect for cinematic recounting—over-the-hill boxer Gentleman Jim Braddock's legendary comeback during the Great Depression—and goes relentlessly, ploddingly by the numbers. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Crash certainly doesn't want for hubris, but ultimately stands as a case of laudable ambition overwhelming still-developing narrative abilities. Although his would-be epic of race relations in Los Angeles sports a handful of genuinely searing moments, it's hard to shake the sense of someone constantly rearranging three-by-five cards behind the scenes for maximum impact. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Based on a play, set among the idle rich, produced by Merchant/Ivory in unfamiliar modern-day mode: the early indicators of a tendon-stretching yawn are bodacious. Still, that old chestnut about initial impressions can occasionally be true. Heights, the fiercely entertaining, hugely precocious feature debut for 28-year-old director Chris Terrio, treads on some very familiar turf, but with enough style and unusual empathy to make the trip feel, if not quite new, well worth taking. And then there's Glenn Close. Man alive, what a performance. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Herbie: Fully Loaded
Rumors of star Lindsay Lohan's overly active social life and digitally reduced cup size may have led to toxic levels of advanced snark, but the rather unfortunately titled Herbie: Fully Loaded proves to be considerably less of a disaster than the Web buzz would suggest. What's more, as with Disney's previous Lohan-led retrofits from the vault, the results are honestly pretty entertaining; while not quite on a Freaky Friday level of surprise quality, the return of the beloved possessed Volkswagen should be a more-than-acceptable timewaster for both the jungle-gym set, and their captive chaperones. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Notable more for its nation of origin than anything else, the French slasher High Tension is pretty unremarkable—an awkwardly formulaic update of the slasher genre of the '70s and '80s (complete with cartoonish gore, unnecessarily loud fluorescent lights, creepy dolls, a gratuitous shower scene, and, of course, a dubious plot twist) unsuccessfully aimed at American horror audiences' bloodlust. It's a cheap, dubbed, and largely artless affair. (ZAC PENNINGTON)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The film suffers from the same problem as planet Earth: too many Americans. Still, whenever there are at least two British actors on-screen—especially Martin Freeman, AKA Tim from The Office, or the film-stealing Bill Nighy—the movie version mines big, warm, absurd laughs alongside its hyper-imaginative graphics, and quasi-mystical pop metaphysicality. SEAN NELSON
Cedric the Entertainer, who should now be called Cedric the Bore (or Cedric the Absolute Bore), the black version of The Honeymooners is just plain dumb. Down with The Honeymooners and all that they represent. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Howl's Moving Castle
When it comes to animation gods, there's Hayao Miyazaki, and then there's everybody else. Although reportedly considering retirement after completing the Oscar winning Spirited Away, Miyazaki was apparently intrigued enough by the prospect of adapting a novel by children's author Diana Wynne Jones to return to the drawing board. Now that the collaboration has finally made its way to the States, the results show that the material might actually have been too perfect a match for the director's patented sensibilities. For the first time, the Master's wondrous imagination feels slightly...familiar. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Interpreter turns what could have been a smart and twisty political thriller—with heavy emphasis on political—into a bogged-down and bland mulling over of wounded souls and suppressed sexual attraction. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Kingdom of Heaven
The dance between carnage and faith is a delicate one, and it's to Ridley Scott's credit that he doesn't allow his film to be overcome with the thrills of gore. The spiritual tunnels the director mines are not terribly deep, but Kingdom of Heaven's refusal to take sides—condemning neither Christians nor Muslims—gives the film a startling strength. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Kung Fu Hustle
Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle, in which snazzy ax-wielding mobsters find themselves thwarted by a slum in which virtually every single senior citizen possesses mad fighting skills, is a loving send-up of seemingly every martial arts convention in the book. If you're in the mood for this sort of thing, the first 40 minutes or so are close to dead-solid perfect. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Ladies in Lavender
In this assemblage of implausible vignettes , Maggie Smith is the proper sister Janet, concerned with privacy and appearances. Judi Dench plays Ursula, a fragile little biddy stuck in a permanent state of childish desperation because—this is actually in the script—she's never been properly fucked. They like to garden and knit, and the camera likes to follow gulls as they soar majestically over the beach. Then, a hot teen boy (Daniel Brühl) washes up on the shore. Ursula goes crazy; Janet huffs and acts a little weird herself (her husband died long ago). The kid doesn't speak a word of English, and there's a brief moment when someone suspects he might be a German spy, but then that tangent trails off, and he's actually a Polish violin prodigy. Luckily, the sexy Franco-Russian girl next door has a famous maestro for a brother, and the movie ends with a rousing concert, which (like everything else in this film) is flimsy and unintentionally sad. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Land of the Dead
In the two decades since director George Romero last ventured into the realm of the undead, his original vision has been overtaken by a horde of fleet-footed, gut-munching pretenders. Big Daddy is back, and he's still got his teeth. Free of the financial stumbling block that hamstrung his previous Day of the Dead, Romero's ongoing concept of zombie evolution continues: here, the living are confined to a single Ballardian highrise (led by Dennis Hopper, of all people), with the dead folks taking up arms and organizing en masse just outside. Happily, despite adopting a leaner, action-oriented tone, Romero's genius for depicting the undead as alternately tragic, pathetic, comedic and ultimately terrifying remains intact. The shambling hordes still just want to get ya, but they also drag along the shopping carts and tubas from their former lives. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Longest Yard
Adam Sandler is never funny, Chris Rock (as another convict) is sometimes funny, Nelly (the rapper) is very funny (not intentionally, however), and Burt Reynolds is always sad. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Lords of Dogtown
Director Catherine Hardwicke's (Thirteen) thinly fictionalized film follows a tribe of ne'er-do-well skating gods as they empty pools, bust 180s, and break hearts throughout So Cal. Dueling contracts and monster egos soon splinter the group, but the mutual love of the rush remains. Hardwicke clearly idolizes the energy of these kids, possibly a little too much. Her manic hand-held style and Larry Clark-lite shirtless fetishizing runs the risk of turning off anyone not already amped to the rafters. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Mad Hot Ballroom
In terms of scope, the first-time director and writer may have bitten off a bit more than they can comfortably chew, as the scenes of the kids' ballroom dancing contest come off as alternately long-winded and confusing. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Danny Boyle has crafted a kid-friendly fable with enough sly modern-day relevance to keep adults from checking their watches. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The beginning of this movie is so horrible, so bland, so curdled, so... well, typical, as romantic comedies go, that once the prospective mother-in-law (Jane Fonda) digs her claws into the bride-to-be (Jennifer Lopez), you can't help cheering wildly. It's like watching a bad movie eat itself. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
All Mr. & Mrs. Smith does is build to a fiery conclusion it never even attempts to earn, with both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reduced to mere prop status along the way. Pretty people making pretty explosions does not a good movie make. Just ask that ultimate hack Michael Bay. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
My Summer of Love
To be perfectly frank, a filmmaker better have one hell of a good reason to infringe on the turf of Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures. With that said, full props are due to screenwriter/director Pawel Palikowski. Without ever quite hitting the operatic heights of Jackson's genuine masterpiece, the former documentarian's My Summer of Love achieves a nervy, wonderfully het up fervor of its very own. Loosely based on Helen Cross' award-winning novel, the film focuses on Mona, a lower-class lost Yorkshire soul who lives in the upstairs of a grotty pub. Languishing one day in the tall grass, she stumbles across the path of Tamsin, a disdainful upper-crust spending the summer in the cavernous mansion of her zombified parents. Emotions soon run high, to the chagrin of the straight-laced community, personified by Mona's newly born again brother (Paddy Considine), an ex-con whose dangerous, raging ape temper is never more than one ill-advised word away. Inspired largely by the director's time spent researching small town religious zealotry for an aborted documentary, Considine's wild card of a character serves to wonderfully up the illogical attraction ante. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Based on a 1995 novel by Scott Heim, Mysterious Skin is the first film by Queer Cinema bad boy Gregg Araki to come from a source other than one of his own scripts. In turning over the storytelling to a stronger narrative arc, he seems freed to explore characters and emotional resonance that his previous shock tactics wouldn't have allowed. Araki expertly balances dark humor and unflinching drama, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a tough and powerfully understated performance. (NATE LIPPENS)
A harried, bookwormy doctor's tentative attempts at same-sex romance with a free-spirited ballerina are scuttled when she becomes roomies with her newly shamed mother (Joan Chen). Seattle native Alice Wu's amiably low-key debut suffers a bit from the standard crowd-pleasing rom-com conventions, but stays afloat due to some effective wisecracks and the unforced, charming lead performance of the gorgeous Michelle Krusiec. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Though the film has its truly embarrassing elements—romance, as always, remains an elusive creature to Lucas, and in the end the evil Sith lord's scheme to turn Anakin over to the dark side is hysterically obvious (who knew Darth Vader was such an easily manipulated dolt?)—at this point there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to quibble. The epic many of us grew up with has reached its end; a moment of silence, please, for both what was and what could have been. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
On paper, this documentary about the five-year relationship between a gentle, sporadically homeless hippie with no visible means of support and an unruly flock of birds sounds like a recipe for instant tooth decay. Darned if it doesn't work, though. (ANDREW WRIGHT)