All About Eve
Joseph Mankiewicz was far from the most visually oriented of directors, but he compensated (in this film, at least) with a perfect ear for wicked conversation and a delight in having great actors ham it up delivering their verbal barbs. In this definitive portrait of backstage bitchiness and backstabbing actresses, who needs pretty shots and impressive camerawork when you've got Bette Davis at her most imperiously, wittily grotesque; deliciously deceptive Anne Baxter; and the late, great George Sanders effortlessly striking the bull's-eye with every dexterously timed remark? (BRUCE REID) Central Cinema, Wed-Thurs 7, 9:30 pm.
A documentary about indigenous women who led a grassroots effort to save the Amazon rain forest. New Freeway Hall, Thurs Sept 15 at 7:30 pm.
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sun 2:10, 4:40, 7:10, 9:20 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:10, 9:20 pm.
Black Cat, White Cat
Emir Kusturica charts three generations of corruption in the former Yugoslavia through two families of black marketeers. In a nod to nostalgia and to hope, the grandfather figures are noble in their corruption and the grandson figures have hope of living without corruption. It's that generation in the middle who muck it up for everyone else (and who presumably got the country into the war in the first place, even though the conflict is never mentioned). The whole thing builds to a marriage (are the young lovers going to get to be together?). Kusturica is brilliant at squeezing comedy out of violence, though the movie does stretch on longer than it needs to. Oh, and the music is fantastic. (ANDY SPLETZER) Central Cinema, Fri-Sun 6:45, 9:30 pm.
The Crucifiction of Hubba
I hope that DJ Hubba intentionally spelled the title of his "punk rock documentary" wrong. Rendezvous, Tues Sept 20 at 10:30 pm.
A circus of a film, starring an out-of-work clown and a nearsighted violinist. Directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie) and Marc Caro demonstrate a virtuosic flair with the camera and a fresh, irreverent wit in this cannibal farce that also commits the sacrilege of poking fun at French food. Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
Down by Law
See Stranger Suggests. Jim Jarmusch sent the Film Forum the following message: "I'm honored the Northwest Film Forum is screening Down by Law as a benefit for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. My heart goes out to all those in the Gulf area affected by this disaster. Down by Law remains a kind of love letter to New Orleans, and the irreparable damage to that great city is particularly heartbreaking for me. New Orleans has always been a magical and powerful place. Her immeasurable gifts are the consequence of place and of history, but even more so the consequence of her varied inhabitants. We should all watch the aftermath of this disaster carefully, and how our government responds to its citizens. However devastated, the indelible soul of New Orleans still has important lessons to teach us." Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Sun, 7, 9:15 pm.
Gun Crazy w/ The Big Combo
Two films by cult director Joseph H. Lewis. Movie Legends, Sun Sept 18 at 1 pm.
A documentary by Hans Rosenwinkel about the pollution of Idaho's Silver Valley. Antioch Room 100, Sat Sept 17 at 7 pm.
The Incredible Mr. Limpet
A man gets turned into a fish in this kids' matinee. Central Cinema, noon, 2, 4 pm.
Independent South Asian Film Festival
A showcase of films from all over South Asia, this festival concentrates on documentaries and dramas–you can get your Bollywood on elsewhere. The Journey is exactly the way lesbian coming-of-age films ought to be–melodramatic, atmospheric, ridiculously chaste, and frequently hysterical. There's a fever dream sequence to rival the red room in Jane Eyre, a distinct fixation on sexy ankle bones, and a visit from a transgendered soothsayer. What more could you want? (ANNIE WAGNER) All films screen at Broadway Performance Hall. The Journey (Sancharram) screens Fri Sept 16 at 7 pm. Festival continues through Sun, see www.tasveer.org for complete schedule.
Ingmar Bergman Film Festival
The Ingmar Bergman film festival continues at the Seattle Art Museum. The Magician, Thurs Sept 15 at 7:30 pm. The Virgin Spring, Thurs Sept 22 at 7:30 pm.
San Francisco director Liz Nord documents the sounds and social issues populating Israel's punk scene. While the music is your basic pop and three-chord fare, those interested in the deeper politics of the region (the fact that Israeli artists are barred from touring in Muslim countries, the effects of the Israeli army on youth culture, the few females making music) might find new insights in this low-budget film. (JENNIFER MAERZ) Grand Illusion, Sat-Sun 3, 5 pm.
Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story
Whether or not you were an avid grunge fan, Malfunkshun is a moving documentary about one of the scene's early stars. The movie focuses on Malfunkshun's beloved frontman Andrew Wood, who overdosed shortly before the big Seattle explosion. (He died in 1990 at the age of 24.) He's portrayed through old interview footage and the collective memories of his family members, former fiancée, therapist, and such famous friends as members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam (Wood sang in Mother Love Bone with PJ's Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, and was Chris Cornell's roommate). Together they weave the story of a born entertainer–a label that cuts both ways. On one hand, the KISS/Elton John fanatic realized his dreams of becoming the ultimate lead singer; on the other, Wood's need to entertain grew out of an abusive family, where his class-clown routine was the silver lining in a very dark personal history. (JENNIFER MAERZ) Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Sun 7, 9, 11 pm.
Northwest Film Forum 10th Anniversary Party
See Stranger Suggests. Northwest Film Forum, Wed Sept 21 at 8 pm.
Or (My Treasure)
Within the slums of modern day Tel Aviv, a bright, casually promiscuous teenager undergoes a domino-fall of physical and spiritual degradation, hastened by her unwavering love for her prostitute mother. Depressing? Good Lord, yes, but first-time director Keren Yedaya's film, a multiple award-winner at Cannes, more than qualifies as time well spent, with a remarkable performance by newcomer Dana Ivgy. The subject matter is grim enough already, but things are compounded by the director's penchant for long, static takes, which makes her bleak message all the more devastating. Not for all eyes, certainly, but those able to gut it out will find a worthy downer, marred only by a queasy feel of exploitation in the final frames. In Yedaya's world, nobody gets off easy, including the audience. (ANDREW WRIGHT) Grand Illusion, Daily 7, 9 pm.
In which indiegod producer John Pierson, renowned for jumpstarting the careers of Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, and Kevin Smith, turns the camera on himself, with dozy results. In 2002 Pierson, citing burnout with the Sundance scene, moved to a remote Fijian island to run a free theater for the natives, with his patient wife, preteen son, and exasperating sexpot daughter reluctantly in tow. Chronicling the last month of the family's year-long mission, this shot-on-video production flames out early, with Pierson's overlarge, constantly kvetching ego quickly overriding the potentially fascinating socio-cultural effect of exposing the Third World to the wonders of Rob Schneider and Jackass. A bit of a bummer–albeit an amiable, scenic one–especially considering the pedigree of director Steve (Hoop Dreams) James. (ANDREW WRIGHT) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2, 4:30, 7, 9:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:30 pm.
The Reid/Seacrest Olympics
The DVD premiere of a locally produced mockumentary pitting two lifelong rivals against each other in an improvised athletic competition. Jason Reid also screens his found-footage work on Super 8. Christoff Gallery, Sat Sept 17 at 10 pm.
Silent Movie Mondays
The silent movie series continues at the Paramount. This week: Buster Keaton's College. Paramount, Mon Sept 19 at 7 pm.
The Sneak series of film previews launches its new season at a new venue. For more information, see www.sneakfilms.com. Metro, Sun Sept 18 at 10:30 am.
Truffaut's Movie Lust: 'Day for Night'
A DVD screening of Day for Night, introduced by film critic Robert Horton. Frye Art Museum, Sun Sept 18 at 2 pm.
Wu Tang vs. Ninja
Kung Fu GrindHouse shows a classic kung fu film by Wu Kuo Jen at the Sunset Tavern, Mon Sept 19 at 9 pm.
2046, the long-awaited quasi-continuation of Wong Kar-Wai's swoony masterpiece In the Mood for Love, takes the director's trademark peccadilloes–women in high-necked dresses, lingering regrets, pop songs as holy writ–to what often feels like a rapturous endpoint. Set during the tail end of the '60s, the loose narrative follows Mood's once wide-eyed protagonist Tony Leung, now sporting an oily mustache and attempting to submerge his past romantic devastation with a series of caddish one-night stands. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
The trailers for The 40-Year-Old Virgin promised yet another lame romp through sexual humiliation–Losin' It with gray hairs. The trailers, however, lied. Surprisingly smart and unashamed of a little jolt to the heartstrings, it's a sly movie, happy to shock occasionally, but happier still to bless its characters with the intelligence sorely lacking from most comedies. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
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. 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)
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. For the first time in a live-action recounting, the title character is actually allotted more attention than the inevitably showy villains. (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. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
The Brothers Grimm
Matt Damon and Heath Ledger are the titular siblings, who roam the mythical European countryside bilking peasants into thinking that their villages are haunted by the very curses that befall the characters in the Grimm fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm seems tailor-made for director Terry Gilliam, yet it suffers from general incoherency, murky cinematography, and, frankly, irretrievably bad performances from the two lead actors. (SEAN NELSON)
While exploring a mysterious river system deep under the Romanian mountains, a group of foolhardy spelunkers get turned into Lunchables by a bloodthirsty pack of man-bats. That's about it, really. Debuting director Bruce Hunt has atmosphere to burn (and one lulu of a set piece involving a rock-climbing Piper Perabo), but his mixmaster editing style drains away much of the film's urgency, if not basic comprehensibility, early on. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
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. Unfortunately, director Tim Burton either doesn't know or doesn't care that the source material is being undermined by Depp's inventions. (SEAN NELSON)
The Constant Gardener
Heavily reworked by director Fernando Meirelles, the stripped-down screenplay retains John le Carré's basic thrust: following the disappearance of his activist wife (Rachel Weisz), a middle-rung foreign ambassador (Ralph Fiennes) goes proactive on a global scale, uncovering all sorts of corporate malfeasance before eventually zeroing in on illegal drug testing in the slums of Kenya. As in the best adaptations, there's a sense that The Constant Gardener is hijacking the source material in order to feed the filmmaker's personal obsessions. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
A horror movie in which high school students spread a rumor about a serial killer via the fearsome Information Superhighway.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Loosely based on a '70s German incident, the plot details the aftermath of the disastrous exorcism of a devout college student. The Exorcism of Emily Rose lacks the utter relentlessness of The Exorcist, thank God (or whatever), but it still manages to lodge under the skin. Melding sharp court procedural and flesh-crawling flashbacks, it approaches its subject with an unusual and gratifying seriousness. Until an unfortunate late morph into downright religious propaganda, it entertains suspicions of a new classic of the form. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
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. More explicitly kid-friendly than the rest of the recent wave of comic adaptations, Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost's zippy origin script benefits mightily from splash panel perfect performances by Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Whatever his faults, director John Singleton has always had a touch with actors, and here he draws relaxed performances from André 3000 and especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, as a cartoonishly evil mastermind who occasionally forces his henchmen to eat off of the floor. 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 sheds light on one of the lesser-known conflicts of World War II. 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. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Werner Herzog has always had a thing for the abyss, of both the inner and outer kind. The 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. (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. It's hard to care about the characters played by Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, since the actors seems to care very little about the characters themselves. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
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. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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. Then a hot teen boy (Daniel Brühl) washes up on the shore. Ursula goes crazy; Janet huffs and acts a little weird herself. 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)
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)
Predictably, Eugene Levy plays a geeky blabbermouth salesmen and Samuel L. Jackson plays a tough-as-shit Detroit federal agent whose motto is "Trust will get ya dead." He's so hardcore. Anyway, after Jackson's partner is found dead, supposedly killed by a bunch of stolen-gun sellin' criminals, he goes out to catch the bad guys. Levy gets caught up in the midst of his sting after a severe case of miscommunication. Hilarity then attempts to ensue as the two opposites are forced to work with one another in order to catch the criminals. Sadly, it isn't that funny, and the plot drags... had Christopher Guest directed, though, it'd have been effin' hilarious. (MEGAN SELING)
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. July's is a fantastical world where the most important contours are human shapes, where intense sexual longing collides with the paradoxical wish to escape your own skin, where those who have power try to abdicate it, and those who are powerless act out in agonizing, self-deceiving ways. (ANNIE WAGNER)
The Memory of a Killer
This tight little police procedural from Belgium spins a story of departmental rivalry, corruption, and the powerful men shielding a child prostitution ring. The cinematography is stylish and colorful, and the editing is overblown but genre-appropriate. There's nothing really wrong with The Memory of a Killer that the elimination of a few urine jokes couldn't fix, but it commits one unforgivable sin: The screenplay wastes its fantastic Alzheimer's conceit. (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. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Must Love Dogs
This absurd movie concerns a divorcee (Diane Lane) who's moping about her state of lonely celibacy. Her family stages an intervention (actual quote: "This is an intervention"), and after a few stale jokes about the horrors of internet dating (actual quote: "Dad, what are you doing here?"), John Cusack enters, carves some wooden sculls with his manly hands, and raves about Dr. Zhivago. It's 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. (ANNIE WAGNER)
At a time when the bulk of adrenaline cinema seems divvied up between high-stakes Michael Bay mega-orgasms or Sci-Fi channel exclusives starring Lou Diamond Phillips and giant CGI snakes, the lean, stripped-down pleasures of an honest-to-goodness B-picture are sorely needed. Coming in at a fairly miraculous 85 minutes, Wes Craven's Red-Eye may not quite have the propulsive clockwork ingenuity of, say, a Breakdown or Pitch Black, but its built-for-speed, no-nonsense style goes a long way towards juicing this summer's dog days. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
The structure (in which four adolescent girls share a pair of miraculous pants) is a flimsy excuse to break the film into multicultural vignettes of self-discovery. Alexis Bledel as Lena is more endearing than her story of star-crossed love gives her the right to be, while Blake Lively never makes much of her daughter-of-a-suicide-driven-to-slutdom cliché of a character. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is too scattershot to make much of an impression. (ANNIE WAGNER)
A voodoo thriller starring Kate Hudson, Peter Saarsgard (!), and Gena Rowlands (!!).
A Sound of Thunder
A cut-rate time-travel debacle from director Peter Hyams, A Sound of Thunder abuses so many basic scientific principles in its first half hour that any jerk with a passing grade in freshman biology will feel her neurons shriveling up. The special effects are laughable and the characters dimensionless, but a few all-too-familiar shots of desperate looting and waterlogged human remains cancel any possibility of B-movie yuks. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Though the film has its truly embarrassing elements–romance, as always, remains an elusive creature to George Lucas, and in the end the evil Sith lord's scheme to turn Anakin over to the dark side is hysterically obvious–at this point there's doesn't seem to be much of a reason to quibble. (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 sidekick (Jamie Foxx) 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 that is to make this movie more interesting than it actually is. (CHARLES MUDEDE )
The Transporter 2
An unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary original. Jason Statham returns as Frank Martin, the well dressed gun-for-hire who likes to drive fast and snap limbs. His car is a black Audi, his enemies are Eurotrash bent on poisoning government officials, and his means are both overblown and ridiculous–so much so that it had the audience I watched it with (all eight of them) buckled over in laughter. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Jeez, these kids today, with their exxxtreme sports and midriffs and hot car rings... The dusty "cop goes undercover in high school" chestnut gets yet another go via writer/producer/actor Nick Cannon. It's hard to fault the 24-year-old for his ambition, but this vanity project alternates between dull and synthetically hip, with the star severely overestimating his ability to imitate Eddie Murphy in motormouth mode. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
An Unfinished Life
On the run from an abusive boyfriend, a beaten-down mother (Jennifer Lopez) brings her 11-year old daughter to the remote Wyoming ranch of her deceased husband. Once there, the highly dysfunctional family must learn to coexist with her father-in-law (Robert Redford, simultaneously channeling John Wayne and Popeye), a still-grieving rancher obsessed with tracking down the highly symbolic bear responsible for mauling his ranch hand (Morgan Freeman). Lessons are learned, etc. Escaping the shelf after a lengthy holding period, Lasse (The Cider House Rules) Hallström's leisurely melodrama trods down some very familiar paths, with an overabundance of narrative convenience. However, Hallström's ease with the material (combined with some beautiful photography) makes for a fairly agreeable meander through corn country. A comfortable old shoe of a movie, given extra shine by the considerable rapport between Redford's mumbling old coot and Freeman. Those looking for an acceptable matinee with the grandfolks, go no further. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Valiant breaks down into a simple story about a bird war hero. It makes war look sorta uncomfortable (they show some cartoon bullets), but at the same time it's oh-so-cute and manageable, with happy endings all around–an army recruitment tool disguised as an adorable Disney flick. (MEGAN SELING)
A Louisana gas station attendant mistakenly opens a suitcase chock full o' voodoo snakes, only to be reborn as an evil peckerwood corpse with a penchant for crowbars. Many WB favorites get mulched. Not to discount the awesome idea of a tow-truck-drivin' zombie, but this Kevin Williamson-produced flick otherwise goes strictly by the established pseudo-slasher numbers. To be charitable, director Jim (I Know What You Did Last Summer) Gillespie does know this turf well, and manages to squeeze in some genuinely nice Bayou atmosphere between the expected truckloads of false scares, semi-revealing tank tops, and god awful nu metal. That, plus the scene where Bijou Phillips gets menaced by a sandblaster, may well be enough for those in search of air conditioning. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Vikings: Journey to New Worlds
This 40-minute documentary about the legendary Norse invaders is big on spurts of dead-end facts (Viking helmets didn't really have horns! Thursday is really Thor's Day!) and endless reenactments featuring husky Scandinavians in furs. The kid-friendly film only skims the surface of the Viking influence on world culture, and the few scenes that justify the large film format are sweeping panoramas of Icelandic geysers and the sea ice off Greenland. But those frigid green vistas are amazing, and if March of the Penguins didn't chill your ardor for polar cinematography, you'll find plenty to satisfy you here. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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. (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. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
On paper, this documentary about the five-year relationship between a gentle 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)