In between bouts of rocking out at the local club to the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The Dandy Warhols, a straight-laced Brit geologist and firebrand American riot grrrl meet up at his dingy flat to boink. And boink. And boink some more. Raw as all get out, director Michael (24 Hour Party People) Winterbottom's largely improvised combination of concert footage and NC-17 money shots is both seriously hot and strangely frustrating, in increasingly unstable proportions. The director is on to something major here—a graphic illustration of the tidal phases of a short-term relationship—and his damn-the-torpedoes approach occasionally pays off mightily. Ultimately, though, at a brief 69 (har!) minutes, the hugely promising synergy of overt physicality and fill-in-the-blank psyches only really registers on a theoretical level. Still, even if Ron Jeremy won't have to give up his day job any time soon, this is one of the most audacious experiments in recent memory. Props are due. (ANDREW WRIGHT) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2:15, 4, 5:40, 7:30, 9:40 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:30, 9:40 pm.
The Tim Burton comedy about a young couple—pretty, in love, and dead—who are besieged by living vermin. Mural Amphitheatre, Seattle Center, Fri Aug 19 at dusk.
A documentary about six Arab-Canadian men named Osama living in the wake of 9/11. Richard Hugo House, Sat 7 pm, Sun 9 pm.
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu
Classic horror films, with live accompaniment by Legion Within and Mortal Clay. Vogue, Thurs Aug 18 at 9 pm.
Confessions of a Hitman
A feature-length movie, presumably narrative, by a local filmmaker named Rick L. Winters. Rendezvous, Fri Aug 19 at midnight.
Drug Scare Film Night
The final 16 mm installment on Linda's patio, this screening features classic educational films about the big, bad world of illegal substances. Linda's, Wed Aug 24 at dusk.
Granito de Arena (Grain of Sand)
A film about Mexican public schools, by the director of the WTO doc This Is What Democracy Looks Like. Judkins Park, Fri Aug 19 at 8:30 pm.
HAX TV Premiere Party
A preview of the new sketch comedy TV show HAX TV, with performances by Seattle comedians Geoff Lott, Killorn O'Neill, Geoff Brousseau, and Tony Moser. Theatre Off Jackson, Sat Aug 20 at 9 pm.
Doug Pray's 1996 documentary about grunge, grungier, and grungiest. Central Cinema, Wed-Thurs at 9:30 pm.
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka
A 1988 blaxploitation parody from Keenan Ivory Wayans. Central Cinema, Fri-Sun 7, 9:15 pm.
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The 1957 science fiction film about a man who shrinks until he's tiny. Real tiny. EMP's JBL Theater, Sun Aug 21 at 4 pm.
The Letter: An American Town and the 'Somali Invasion'
A documentary about the reaction to a letter from the mayor of Lewistown, Maine, to Somali residents, asking them to tell their relatives not to move to their city. Richard Hugo House, Fri 7 pm, Sun 7 pm.
The Little Prince
The 1974 film adaptation of the classic kids' novella by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. Central Cinema, Sat-Sun noon, 2:15, 4:30 pm.
Lust for Movies: Truffaut and Tarantino
The Magic Lantern series of film talks continues with Robert Horton on François Truffaut and Quentin Tarantino. Frye Art Museum, Sun Aug 21 at 2 pm.
In this charming 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) Mural Amphitheatre, Seattle Center, Sat Aug 20 at dusk.
Silent Movie Mondays kicks off a Buster Keaton festival with this tale of love on the high seas. Paramount, Mon Aug 22 at 7 pm.
The Next Industrial Revolution
A featurette about sustainable economies, narrated by Susan Sarandon. Environmental Learning Center (Camp Long), Thurs Aug 25 at 7 pm.
Film noir set in a carnival, with Tyrone Power as a mind reader and spiritualist. Movie Legends, Sun Aug 21 at 1 pm.
Opticlash VJ Battle
Think DJ battles, but with live video feeds instead of turntables. Capitol Hill Arts Center Lounge, Lower Level, Sat Aug 20 at 8 pm.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The travails of two drag queens and a transsexual (Terence Stamp!) on a trip across the Australian outback are the basis for this fabulous comedy. Fremont Outdoor Movies, Sat Aug 20 at dusk.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Dun de DUN DUN! Dun de dun. Dun de DUN DUN, dun de dun dun dun. Dun de dun dun dun de DUUUUN. Dun de DAH Dun, de DAH dun, de DAH dun, de DAH dun de dun! Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
SEE! Eddie Vedder act his way out of a wet paper bag! HEAR! Soundgarden when they were still a band! WATCH! As Campbell Scott's dream of a "Super Train" derails much like our own monorail has! REMEMBER! What Seattle was like back in the mid-'90s! ASK YOURSELF! Was wearing shorts and longjohns really thought of as cool? Central Cinema, Wed-Thurs 7 pm.
Spend an Evening With Saddle Creek
A documentary about Saddle Creek Records, with live performances by Bright Eyes, The Faint, Rilo Kiley, and more. Triple Door, Mon Aug 22 at 7 pm.
This Divided State
Twenty-five-year-old Steven Greenstreet's entertaining, and often infuriating, documentary chronicles the god-awful ruckus that engulfed the State of Utah in the weeks before the November 2004 election. The cause of the ruckus was a paid speaking engagement from Michael Moore at the Utah Valley State College—a surefire (and surely premeditated by the school's student government) way to incite anger in the area's many conservatives (in Utah County alone, Republicans outnumber Democrats 12-1). Working as a neat encapsulation of our nationwide hysteria leading up to the election, This Divided State is a smartly constructed document, shot on the cheap and beautifully edited by Greenstreet himself. Some of it will make you laugh, some of it will make you want to weep, and most of it will make you worry about the future of our country. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Grand Illusion, Daily 7, 9 pm.
A Tout de Suite
A bored Parisian art student's (Isild Le Besco, either incredibly gorgeous or intriguingly homely, depending on the camera angle) terminal case of teen ennui is interrupted when she falls for a Moroccan wild child with a penchant for early bank withdrawals. Soon, a scheme gone wrong causes an impromptu whistle-stop tour of Europe, with the dual specters of dwindling funds and the local fuzz making things increasingly tight. Based on true events, writer/director Benoit (The School of Flesh) Jacquot's sly New Wave crime riff sports some stunningly retro B&W cinematography (and makes magnificent use of a hummably nasty Tangerine Dream '70s soundtrack), but his heroine's essential passivity quickly saps her ever-worsening plight of most of its empathic charge. In the end, opaque stares and pregnant pauses can only pull so much weight, no matter how snazzy the packaging. (ANDREW WRIGHT) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2, 4:30, 7, 9:20 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:20 pm.
This hazy dream of a film—sometimes inscrutable, on occasion almost frightening—is both lovely and terribly unsatisfying. In the first, relatively conventional half of the movie, a soldier named Keng (Banlop Lomnoi) pursues Tong (Sakda Kawebuadee), a naive rural boy with an open, gap-toothed grin. Their relationship, though certainly romantic, can't be termed reciprocal. Tong, who seems to flirt with girls at the start of the film, shrugs off as many of Keng's caresses as he accepts. Is Keng taking advantage of him? Is Tong illiterate, or just overcome with grief when the camera catches him struggling to fill out a form? Just as these narrative blanks start to feel overwhelming, the film abruptly shifts gears, and the characters take on roles in a Thai legend about a man (Keng again) who is stalked by a tiger spirit in the jungle. Perhaps the tiger is meant to be Tong, but it seems more likely that it's a deeply ambivalent representation of the threat and promise of sexual desire. Tropical Malady is part fairy tale, part X-Files episode, and all deeply, unsettlingly weird. (ANNIE WAGNER) Northwest Film Forum, Daily 7, 9:15 pm.
Twist of Faith
This Oscar-nominated, SIFF-showcased documentary follows the story of Tony Comes, an Ohio firefighter, husband, and father of two wrangling with the legacy of the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a Catholic priest two decades before. His story is amazing: After 20 years of silence, Comes—who was in his mid-teens when the abuse occured—learns that his former abuser now lives five doors down from him and his family in the Toledo suburbs. The most surprising, and perhaps valuable, element of the film is how unsympathetic Comes sometimes comes off. Cussing out his well-meaning mother, flying off the handle in rages of self-victimization, Comes is literally obsessed with what happened to him decades ago. If it occasionally makes the viewer cringe (and judge), it also drives home how horribly fucked-up it is to be exploited for sexual purposes by someone you'd been taught to regard as holy. (DAVID SCHMADER) Grand Illusion, Sat-Sun 3, 5 pm.
In The Aristocrats, a film co-directed by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette, dozens of legendary (and sub-legendary) comedians tell variations on the dirtiest joke in the world. At least, that's what the movie pretends to be. In the end, the joke is just a vehicle for allowing these humormongers the opportunity to flex muscles their entertainment careers seldom allow them to flex. Robin Williams hasn't been funny on screen in years, but he's unstoppably hilarious here. Likewise with Shelley Berman, Larry Storch, Rip Taylor, Phyllis Diller, and countless other comics from all strata of the business, who wring laughs from the sketchiest of premises. It's been at least two decades since Martin Mull has had a vehicle capable of expressing his brilliance, and he all but steals The Aristocrats. That honor belongs to Gottfried, whose performance of the joke at a Friars Club roast forms the soul of the film. (SEAN NELSON)
Bad News Bears
Billy Bob Thornton coaches baseball. Now there's a bright idea.
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. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
This being a Jarmusch film, patience rules the day. Unfortunately, as with the fatally inert Coffee and Cigarettes, the style can't hold. Jarmusch's best films have always been built around an amicably aimless spirit, but Broken Flowers is undermined by a lack of drive comparable to that of its main character. It's one thing to watch someone wander for 90 minutes as long as we trust that he (and we) will eventually arrive at a destination. In this case, Jarmusch appears to have no real focus, and by the time the "mystery" reveals itself to be maddeningly inconsequential, the entire film borders on a malicious prank. There's slight and there's shiftless—Broken Flowers, sadly, is the latter. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The moment Willy Wonka makes his big entrance, cheering as an "It's a Small World"–style diorama bursts into flames, it's plain to see that Johnny Depp is in a world, and indeed a film, all his own. That's fine, actually. Depp's at his best in this mode; like Bill Murray and Peter Sellers before him, he has long since mastered the secret art of being better than the films he acts in. Unfortunately, director Tim Burton either doesn't know or doesn't care that the source material is being undermined by Depp's inventions. The problem—or maybe the point—is that the chocolate factory just isn't very magical. Given the infinite possibilities of digital effects, Burton fails to invest the space with any sense of dimension. Kids still deserve better. (SEAN NELSON)
The Dukes of Hazzard
Sometimes previews lie. Preemptively clobbered by fanboys and much maligned by critics, this easygoing adaptation of Marvel Comics' oldest superhero team (Earth, Wind, Fire & Rubber) is actually sort of... neat. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Whatever his faults, director John Singleton has always had a touch with actors, and here he draws relaxed performances from André 3000, Tyrese Gibson, and especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, as a cartoonishly evil mastermind who occasionally forces his henchmen to eat off of the floor. On the tech side, David Arnold's score lays gloriously heavy on the wa-wa pedal, and the photography and production design favorably recall the glory days of the '70s exploitation film, when folks like Roy Scheider and Jim Brown busted up Caddys and Dusters by the score. If, as the occasional brief moment suggests, this is all a straight-faced parody of such trash classics as Slaughter's Big Rip-Off and Truck Turner, Singleton may have bigger talents than anyone has ever suspected. If serious, however, lord help us. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Great Raid
Escaping from the shelves after a two-year delay, The Great Raid commendably sheds light on one of the lesser-known conflicts of World War II, a behind-the-lines, off-the-books siege of a Japanese-held POW camp in the Philippines, which culminated in the largest rescue mission in American history. Bookended with a copious amount of striking newsreel footage and staged with an impressive degree of historical accuracy, the results are heartfelt, reverent, honorable, and, ultimately, more than a little dull. As much as this tale deserves to be told, it's difficult at times not to quibble with the execution. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Werner Herzog has always had a thing for the abyss, of both the inner and outer kind. The much-Googled true story of Timothy Treadwell, a self-fashioned nature expert who spent 13 seasons in close contact with wild bears in Alaska before he and his girlfriend were devoured in 2003 by a rogue grizzly, seems so far up the director's alley as to be a little daunting—the kind of career-defining summation that can easily tar-baby a filmmaker into submission. He nails it. For all of the film's considerable ingenuity and power throughout, the sink-or-swim moment for audiences ultimately may hinge on the late unveiling of an audiotape documenting the couple's death. Those familiar with Herzog's past tendencies toward boundary-busting may be forgiven for feeling queasy over the prospect of such a revelation entering the realm of the snuff film (see When the Green Ants Dream). The way he handles the evidence, however, proves to be one of the eeriest, oddly beautiful things I've ever seen on a screen. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
There are no surprises in Happy Endings. It is neither great nor bad, and as such satisfies an expectation that is neither high nor low. Don Roos's third feature (like his first feature, The Opposite of Sex) is simply a pleasant sex comedy. The photography is seductive, and the score drifts over the movie's storylines—four in all—like a dreamy vapor. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Hustle & Flow
You could never say Hustle & Flow glamorizes being a pimp—everything in the lives of DJay (Terrence Howard) and his girls is super depressing. And the degree to which they all band together to help DJay's dream of becoming a rapper come true is plausible, despite being fraught with a certain compound pathos (is anything sadder than seeing an abused person bend over backwards to embrace her abuser?). The songwriting scenes are super compelling; music films seldom give a convincing presentation of the means by which music is conceived and recorded, and you can see why the girls, especially Shug (Taraji P. Henson), are so enthralled just to be near it. What's tricky is that the terms of the genre—as well as the fantastic performances—demand that we also get behind DJay, and in order to do that, we either have to overlook or forgive the fact that he's basically one step up the moral ladder from a slave owner. Everyone here is a victim—of poverty, power, religion, class, race, gender—and not all victims get to rise up. (SEAN NELSON)
As derivative sci-fi plots go, things could be worse. If director Michael Bay had focused on the paranoid dread built into the cloning conceit, the film might have turned out all right. But he didn't, and the result is an ungodly creature—half musings on the role of morality in science, half preposterous stunt collage. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
A Sundance hit by director Phil Morrison and writer Angus MacLachlan (both from North Carolina), Junebug pretends to be about the South. It's really about the shame of being Southern. And because it's hard to hate oneself for an hour and a half straight, it's also about what self-absorbed assholes Yankees are. Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz), a Chicago-based dealer in outsider art, travels to North Carolina to recruit a promising painter, and her new husband tags along to introduce her to his family. The new couple can't keep their hands off each other; his sister Ashley doesn't seem to comprehend sex, but she's about to have a baby. In a stunning demonstration of the lengths to which the script goes to prove Southern ignorance, she's also cheerfully trying to lose weight. The movie is packed with these sorts of bitter "insights," and they poison the entire experience. (ANNIE WAGNER)
March of the Penguins
The only animal worth making a documentary about is the human. (CHARLES MUDEDE )
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Miranda July's feature-film debut is delicate and tense, a movie with a visual language so powerful that it seems to expand out of the movie theater and onto the sidewalk. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Mr. & 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. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The opening moments of the hugely entertaining Murderball, in which garbage-talking wheelchair rugby players beat the living hell out of each other while Ministry blares on the soundtrack, signals that, at the very least, this won't be the same old genteel take on triumphing over adversity. On any level—crowd pleaser, sports film, lowbrow character study—this approach goes over like gangbusters. Filmed over a period of two and a half years, co-directors Dana Adam Shapiro and Henry-Alex Rubin's all-access camera follows the bitter rivalry between the U.S. and Canada's quadriplegic rugby teams, culminating in the 2004 Athens Paralympics. In between tournaments, the backstory and day-to-day existence (including sex, via a hilariously square educational short) of the players is dealt with. However, both the subjects and the filmmakers demonstrate markedly less of an interest in how they got there than in where and what they are now: survivors second, beer drinkers and hell-raisers first and foremost. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Must Love Dogs
A half-assed movie, carefully focus-grouped to make women of a certain age believe that they're inherently more interesting than 24-year-olds (even if they've been teaching preschool since before their youthful rivals were born), but with nothing of value for other demographics. (ANNIE WAGNER)
No American, in right or wrong mind, could make a movie like Saint Ralph, which is about a 14-year-old boy (Adam Butcher) who abuses himself at every opportunity, and desires anything that moves with the shape of a woman. He even comes in a swimming pool when he gets a glimpse of a curvy naked woman showering in a changing room. But the movie is not about his sexual awakening; it's about him becoming an orphan, and his failure to deal with this fact. After falling and bumping his head, the boy opens his eyes and decides he needs to win the Boston Marathon, an achievement that would constitute a miracle. For reasons that are cosmic, the winning miracle will become the medical miracle his mother desperately needs. (And all of this is a comedy.) Only in Canada. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
A voodoo thriller starring Kate Hudson, Peter Saarsgard (!), and Gena Rowlands (!!).
In a surprisingly clever (for a kid's movie) way, Sky High comments on the retarded idiosyncrasies that happen during everyone's awkward high school years. This time, though, it's made even more awkward with the addition of villains and earth-threatening power tools. (MEGAN SELING)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
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 hero of Stealth is Lt. Gen. Gannon (Josh Lucas), a blue-eyed, all-American flyboy. The love interest is a thick-lipped beauty named Kara Wade (Jessica Biel). The Negro sidekick is Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx). The sidekick is the first (and only one) to go, and the death of the Negro has much in common with the death of John Henry in American myth. But to go into all of that is to make this movie more interesting than it actually is. Indeed, any amount of thinking, consideration of themes, tropes, figures, Barthian connotations, or narratological deep structures, could not veil the fact that this movie sucks real bad. (CHARLES MUDEDE )
Why the death of a father would motivate two brothers to start racing motocross again is beyond me, but that's the plot of this movie.
War of the Worlds
Though I usually take his side, if only for sport, the first hour of War of the Worlds had me convinced that Steven Spielberg had finally proven his detractors right. Before the bad things start happening, the stage is set for the kind of soulless, CGI-driven family redemption saga that could only happen in a grillion dollar movie. But then something happens. The supreme achievement of the effects seems to galvanize Spielberg into earning them. The drama enters some very dark territory, always motorized by the unimaginable terror of the invincible invaders—it's like the material is daring the director to show us what he's got. (SEAN NELSON)
Seemingly conceived, shot, and edited during a four-day weekend, Wedding Crashers, while occasionally amusing, is lazy enough to make '80s ass-gas-or-grass comedies like H.O.T.S. or Hamburger: The Motion Picture look like models of precision timing. In a nutshell: Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are lawyers who get their kicks by boozily infiltrating the nuptials of strangers, eventually meeting their match with a pair of Kennedyesque sisters. Christopher Walken drops by to do his thing. This is all likely to go over like gangbusters at the box office), but the overall sloppiness and genial contempt for the viewer is tough to ignore. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
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)