The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords
A documentary about black newspaper journalists from the early 1800s on. Central Cinema, Wed Oct 19 at 7 pm.
Seattle Art Museum's film noir cycle continues with this 1947 thriller starring Chester Morris. SAM, Thurs Oct 13 at 7:30 pm.
Buffalo Bill's Defunct: Stories from the New West
Crotchety, curmudgeonly Grandpa Bill leads his goofy brood in not raising a barn, but tearing down a garage. Local director Matt Wilkin's largely improvised feature is somewhat untraditional in structure, but it feels keenly real in its graceful and humorous sketches on family relationships. (SHANNON GEE) Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Wed 7, 9 pm.
The End of the Affair
Ralph Fiennes stars with the amazing Julianne Moore and the beleaguered Stephen Rea in this story about a love triangle and God. Introduced by Seattle Opera Education Director Perry Lorenzo. Northwest Film Forum, Thurs Oct 20 at 8 pm.
Cry of the City
A 1948 film noir about a cop with a conflict of interest. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Oct 20 at 7:30 pm.
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
It is of course, difficult to remember when Sam Raimi (director of the two Spider-Man movies and For Love of the Game) was one of the really important guys of the cinema. But the first five minutes of this towering classic of comedy-horror, featuring the magnanimous Bruce Campbell as a hapless shop clerk who does battle with the demons of hell, should remind us all what Hollywood does when it discovers great talent. (SEAN NELSON) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
Commissioned by turn-of-the-century traveling film exhibitors for screenings at fairgrounds, town halls, and theaters, these short films by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon illustrate everyday life in early 20th-century Britain. Restored and compiled by the British Film Institute. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.
Games of Love & Chance
This French film about growing up lower-class and tough in the banlieues surrounding Paris, and the power of theater to—well, to do nothing substantive to improve the lives of these kids—takes the coming-of-age drama and pumps it full of dirt and cuss words and police harrassment. Though the performance of Osman Elkharraz as the young protagonist Krimo is subtly moving, it's arch drama queen Lydia, played by Sara Forestier, who really steals the show. Lydia hasn't got any more talent than her peers, but her wildly mannered performance as the lead in the school play (an 18th-century comedy by Pierre de Marivaux) betrays a star quality that no inept line reading can conceal. It's no wonder Krimo is so crushed out on her—I fell in love a little myself. (ANNIE WAGNER) Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Thurs 7, 9:15 pm.
Helen's War: Portrait of A Dissident
A documentary about anti-nuclear crusader Helen Caldicott. Keystone Church, Fri Oct 14 at 7 pm.
His Girl Friday
Screwball boilerplate from Howard Hawks and Cary Grant, who plays a newspaper editor whose ex-wife and star reporter (Rosalind Russell) is threatening to marry a straightlaced insurance salesman. But Cary ain't having it, so he proceeds to destroy the couple's lives in order to prove that he still loves his ex. In the '40s, they called it love. Today they call it stalking. This film is the finest hour for all involved, and is near the pinnacle of American cinematic achievement. (SEAN NELSON) Central Cinema, Thurs-Sat 7, 9:15 pm.
Mans, a muscle-bound Swede, and Roro, a scrawny émigré from Lebanon, are best friends and co-workers at a public park, happily doing dirty work until Mans suffers an extended bout of erectile dysfunction and Roro is forced to face the fact that his family has arranged a marriage for him despite the fact that he is madly in love with another woman. Candlelit picnics, penis pumps, and foolish fistfights clip briskly by in this charming and unaffected comedy about the unavoidable crashes, not just between East and West, but also between generations. (Tamara Paris) Nordic Heritage Museum, Thurs Oct 13 at 7 pm.
Momoko is an emotionally unavailable Japanese teenager who longs for the hedonism and fashion of 18th-century France. Her schoolmate Ichigo is a moody gang-biker who will punch you in the face at the slightest provocation and is so emotive that often instead of speaking she just squawks. The plot is incidental and the dialogue occasionally descends into cheesiness, but the surreal twists keep the action moving. Early on, Momoko declares that she wants life to be like candy, and as she gets punched and dragged into friendship, the world she inhabits never ceases to be gaudily bright. The frequent close-ups and fast cuts, coupled with long, languid shots with little action allude to the story's earlier inception as a comic book and give the movie a buzz that is addictive rather than off-putting. (DAVIDA MARION) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2:40, 5, 7:30, 9:50 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:30, 9:50.
Shockingly, tonight you have two (2) choices of screenings of the F.W. Murnau vampire movie with live musical accompaniment. At Central Cinema: Metal Men ("experimental sonic mayhem"). At Triple Door: the Boston-based Devil Music Ensemble (eclectic? maybe? I can't tell). Central Cinema, Sun Oct 16 at 7 pm; Triple Door, Sun Oct 16 at 7 pm.
The Pink Panther
Starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, this flick proves that Black Edwards was once a decent director. What happened to his talent? Someone should ask his colleague Sidney Lumet—maybe their gifts went into hiding together. Central Cinema, Sat-Sun noon, 2:15, 4:30 pm.
Race Is the Place
A free screening of a documentary montage of performances by minority artists "who use words—spoken, sung, or chanted—to get their message across." Northwest Film Forum, Sat Oct 15 at 5 pm.
Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
See review this issue. See www.seattlequeerfilm.com for details.
Shoot the Piano Player
François Truffaut's classic about a former concert pianist (Charles Aznavour) who falls in with gangsters in a low-class Parisian cafe. Movie Legends, Sun Oct 16 at 1 pm.
The Sneak festival of film previews continues its season. Metro, Sun Oct 16 at 10:30 am.
Sword of Doom
A 1966 samurai film by Okamoto Kihachi. Gowan 201, Thurs Oct 20 at 7:30 pm.
Tora San #2
A boy named Tora tries to find his mother, who abandoned him at a young age. Gowan 201, UW campus, Thurs Oct 13 at 7:30 pm.
Touch the Sound
German director Thomas Riedelsheimer's documentary about deaf, Grammy-winning Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie strives to illustrate the compensatory nature of the human senses. Glennie's hearing loss at the age of 12 has amplfied her ability to construct avant-garde compositions through her senses of touch and sight. Following his subject from busking gigs in New York City to improvisational recording projects in Cologne, Riedelsheimer does an admirable job of conveying Glennie's commitment to her craft and passion for showing her audience how to "see the music." Best known in the United States for his documentary Rivers and Tides (about the artist Andy Goldsworthy), Riedelsheimer possesses a surreal, ponderous gaze, a perspective that ends up being both sensual and sleep-inducing (a fellow writer began snoring halfway through the press screening), but committed experimental music fans will find much to appreciate about Glennie's articulation of the connection between sound wave vibrations and progressive perucussion techniques. (HANNAH LEVIN) Varsity, Fri-Sun 12:15, 2:30, 4:50, 7:15, 9:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:15, 9:30 pm.
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen
For many in the punk world, the Minutemen were something of a legend. The San Pedro trio only lasted five years in the early '80s, but their chemistry, odd rhythms, clipped song lengths, and political/humorous lyrics influenced musicians for years to come. We Jam Econo is a love letter to the band—Mike Watt, D. Boon, and George Hurley, all of whom are interviewed in this film. (Boon was killed in a car crash in 1985, but there is vintage footage of the guitarist from the band's early days). Director Irwin didn't leave the perspective on the Minutemen entirely on the band, however, including interview footage from members of the Dead Kennedys, X, Wilco, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wire, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr., among others. The hardcore Minutemen appreciation society will most likely appreciate the little details that come out of the film's extensive scope—like how Boon and Watt met as kids when Boon fell out of a tree, or how Watt went into a music store not knowing what a bass was (somehow) after already starting to play the instrument. (JENNIFER MAERZ) Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
What is Film Style?
The Magic Lantern film program continues with this free event, in which critics Richard Jameson and Robert Horton converse on the topic of film style—glorious, gratuitous, and everywhere in between. Frye Art Museum, Sun Oct 16 at 2 pm.
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)
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, a middle-rung foreign ambassador 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)
Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp) is about to marry a lovely young woman named Victoria (Emily Watson). Following a strange series of accidents, Victor instead finds himself hitched to Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), a woman who died years ago on her wedding day. Victor is scared shitless, but Corpse Bride couldn't be happier. The wicked characters aren't nearly as wicked as they could've been, and the songs aren't particularly memorable, but the animation is classic Tim Burton (and absolutely stunning at moments—his use of shadow and light has vastly improved). Burton fans can finally take a deep breath. After years of waiting for a worthy follow-up, there's a good chance they'll be satisfied with Corpse Bride. (MEGAN SELING)
A grieving widow wakes up at 30,000 feet to find her 6-year-old daughter missing, along with any sign that she ever stepped on board. As far as hooks go, this newfangled locked room story has a honey. The problem with fantastic premises, of course, is that they eventually have to be backed up. Despite Jodie Foster's beyond-the-call conviction in the lead role, Flightplan can't quite deliver on its promise, squandering some major paranoia with a disappointingly mundane third act. (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. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
A History of Violence
A History of Violence looks like a straightforward mobster flick, but what keeps the film mesmerizing is Cronenberg's style—at once detached and tense—combined with the brutal beauty of Viggo Mortensen as the stoic central character. There's a horrible splendor in his performance as a man in whom will and instinct merge into a simultaneously humane and amoral machine. (SHANNON GEE)
In Her Shoes
Based on Jennifer Weiner's bestseller, the premise quickly sets up its basic conflict: Introduced with a lulu of a thong shot, Cameron Diaz's barely literate Philly party girl clashes with her type-A attorney sister (Toni Collette), as she lifts cash, boyfriends, and clothes at every opportunity. After a final transgression banishes Diaz to the Florida doorstep of her estranged grandmother (Shirley MacLaine, still possessing atomic-clock timing), the irradiated family unit must find a way to reunite. Susannah Grant's script takes its sweet time cranking up the final resolution, but it sports enough unusual character beats to offset the lengthy running time. Character arcs are broad but reasoned, plot devices are conveniently timed, yet never annoyingly so, and there isn't a single damned group sing-a-long to be found. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Just Like Heaven
The dialogue surpasses cliché to achieve total nonsense, the jokes are insultingly lazy, and even the ghost-movie inconsistencies are familiar (she can't touch a phone or a person, but she can ride in a car and stand on a floor?). (LINDY WEST)
Lord of War
Lord of War, Andrew Niccol's ambitious, blacknasty take on arms dealing, certainly has its share of niceties, most noticeably a wittily subdued performance by Nicolas Cage as Yuri Orlov, but it can never quite get a fix on the delivery of its volatile subject matter. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D
This 3D movie purports to put you into the big white shoes of a moonwalker. While having fake moon dust kicked in your face may be some people's idea of fun, the real attraction of this film is, of course, the small-scale, 2D footage from the actual Apollo landings. There's nothing like the real thing, however low-definition and staticky. (ANNIE WAGNER)
MirrorMask, Dave McKean's much-anticipated feature-length directorial debut, shows that whatever his gifts, moving pictures may not yet be his medium. Taken on a shot-by-shot basis, McKean's talents for design are more than evident, with bizarro cityscapes and oddball characters rendered even more impressive by the miniscule $4 million budget. On a whole, however, the results are less Lewis Carroll and more Labyrinth. Working again with Gaiman, McKean has crafted a curious oddity: a unique new world, crammed to the gills with invention, which comes off as almost completely static. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Roman Polanski's newest film Oliver Twist begins and ends with engravings from Gustave Doré's magnificent 19th-century travelogue London: A Pilgrimage. Crossed by dark lines and darker characters, the street scenes teem with anonymous life and work. The pictures are strange bookends, not because they're inappropriate—they instantly evoke the Victorian setting of the Dickens novel—but because the film itself doesn't match their fascinatingly dark urban atmosphere. Oliver Twist was filmed in Prague, and it quotes London landmarks instead of orienting itself by them. Painted backdrops of St. Paul's and other picturesque vistas, cloaked in mist rather than industrial haze, pop up from time to time as Oliver Twist rounds a corner or scampers out of an oddly clean alleyway. These pearlescent vistas are the stuff of storybooks. Polanski is in the business of rescuing the orphan from Doré's vision of city life, not dangling him between its jaws. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Though it's not as grossly heavy-handed as A Beautiful Mind, this film suffers from a similar failure of specificity. (ANNIE WAGNER)
It all works out in the end, but not before a barrage of life lessons, bad hair, and (of course) a skate-off. (MEGAN SELING)
Speaking as someone who never quite managed to keep up with the TV show Firefly, I'll admit Joss Whedon may very well be a genius—albeit one possibly taken best in small doses. This six-gun space oddity comes recommended, but you may want to brush up on the series before venturing into the theater. For God's sake, don't let the hardcore fans smell virgin blood. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Thumbsucker, Mike Mills's first feature film, is a sweet coming-of-age movie with a mildly Freudian catch—no more than that, but certainly no less. Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci, perfectly cast) is a high-school senior, and he still sucks his thumb. It's a quiet habit for a quiet kid, but breaking it unleashes all kinds of static on his family and friends. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Vikings: Journey to New Worlds
This 40-minute documentary about the legendary Norse invaders is big on spurts of dead-end facts. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Set within a bric-a-brac-studded theme restaurant, Waiting... aspires to be the grand champeen of the vulgar workplace comedy pioneered by Clerks, but the all-important rhythm between cast and script feels miserably off. Not to get all Joel Siegel-y or anything, but the delivery sucks. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
It's almost time for the annual vegetable fair, and the town has been taking great care in growing the very best produce possible. Problem is, a bunch of ravaging rabbits have been eating up as much of the harvest as their bunny faces can fit. This would be a problem, but luckily for everyone, Wallace and Gromit have invented the Bunny Vac 6000, a large vacuum that humanely sucks up the cutest frickin' bunnies in the whole wide world, and safely releases them to another location. Hooray! But you know how bunnies like to, ahem, breed, so of course the rabbit population keeps rising and rising despite Wallace's efforts. The humor is just as funny as the classic Loony Tunes (which were funny!) but even smarter because it's not actually American-made. (MEGAN SELING)