Another Road Home
This POV-style first-person documentary contains all the hallmarks of the genre: volatile subject matter, a personally invested filmmaker who's confused about what questions to ask and what sort of answers she's seeking, and unguarded subjects who occasionally say revealing things. From the time she was a baby through her service in the Israeli army, Danae Elon was cared for by a Palestinian man she knew as Musa. Though they lost touch when Elon's family moved to the United States, she still felt their bond deeply and was, evidently, passionately conflicted about the economic and political disparities on which their relationship was predicated. Her movie is sometimes clumsy, often fascinating, and always humane. (ANNIE WAGNER) Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.
The Black Cat
Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi star in this 1934 film, where they are totally upstaged by one fancy house. Central Cinema, Thurs-Sun 7, 9:15 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.
Darfur Diaries: Message From Home
A documentary shot in Sudan in the fall of 2004. Filmmaker Jen Marlowe will be in attendance. Holy Names Academy Auditorium, Thurs Oct 27 at 7 pm.
The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream
The surburban way of life is being threatened by the end of cheap fossil fuels. (Tear.) Environmental Learning Center at Camp Long, Thurs Oct 27 at 7 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.
Force of Evil
A 1948 film noir by Abraham Polonsky (who was eventually blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee). Movie Legends, Sun Oct 23 at 1 pm.
A film in which Norweigian Jan falls in love with Pakistani Jasmin, against the wishes of her family. (Must have been those matching silent Js that brought them together.) Nordic Heritage Museum, Thurs Oct 27 at 7 pm.
Indie Music Video Festival #4
Come on, where else are you gonna see videos featuring the adorable Smoosh and the retro-in-all-kinds-of-directions Decemberists, all in one night? Sunset Tavern, Wed Oct 26 at 8:30 pm.
SAM's film noir series continues with this 1948 George Sherman film. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Oct 27 at 7:30 pm.
A "frenetic" film about, among other things, a desperate lesbian housewife, from director Masumura Yasuzo. Gowan 201, UW campus, Thurs Oct 27 at 7:30 pm.
Milo & Otis
Silly kids, dogs and cats can't be friends! Central Cinema, Sat-Sun noon, 2:15, 4:30 pm.
New Digital Video and Computer Music
A program of new films and music from the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media at the UW. Meany Hall, Tues Oct 25 at 7:30 pm.
See review this issue. Northwest Film Forum, Daily 7:30, 9 pm.
Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
For its 10th anniversary the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival has expanded from its traditional weeklong run to 10 days. That's a lot of lesbian and gay film. Fortunately, the festival's ambition also extends to its programming.The festival ends in territory that may have been covered a decade ago, but never so piercingly. The closing-night film, Transamerica, moves across country and gender in its moving study of emotional dislocation. Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives gives one of the festival's best performances as a transgendered woman who's about to undergo gender-reassignment surgery when her very troubled son tracks her down. (NATE LIPPENS) For complete schedule and details, see www.seattlequeerfilm.com.
Sword of Doom
A 1966 samurai film by Okamoto Kihachi. Gowan 201, UW campus, Thurs Oct 20 at 7:30 pm.
This Japanese movie about a kid saddled with the American name Tony is exactly the sort of glacially paced bullshit that gives foreign film a bad name. Adapted from the Haruki Murakami short story of the same title and told almost completely through lazy narrational voiceover and cold, single-camera pans, the film is almost completely devoid of plot and character. What little there is: Tony grows up lonely and becomes a lonely man. He marries a shopaholic (no, literally, she's addicted to shopping). He tells her to stop shopping, and she gets killed. He hires another woman to dress in her clothes, but she breaks down crying in the dressing room. Tony is, once again, alone. Pretentious, obvious, and dull, Tony Takitani wants to be a fairy tale about big themes (fantasy, consumption, etc.). But the subtext easily bludgeons the characters, and the results are completely flat. (ANNIE WAGNER) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2:45, 5, 7:10, 9:10, Mon-Thurs 7:10, 9:10.
Truth or Dare Sing-Along with Peaches Christ
The Madonna movie with on-screen lyrics! Egyptian, Sat Oct 22 at midnight.
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.
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. As Andy, Steve Carell may be the star of the film, but his performance is little more than the eye of the storm, with a stellar supporting cast (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, and Seth Rosen as his co-workers; the great Catherine Keener as his would-be love interest) shouldering much of the comedic load around him. The result is a film that, for the time being at least, wrestles comedy from the pimple-faced masses and hands it back to the adults. It's also the funniest movie you will see all year. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
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, the scenario circles back to the basics and has a ball reinventing the mythos. 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. 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. 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, 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)
Keira Knightley stars as Domino Harvey, a real-life fashion model turned Los Angeles bounty hunter who found herself embroiled in a scheme involving $10 million of stolen mob money, an FBI investigation, and a needlessly hacked-off arm. At least, that's her claim—one of the charms of Richard Kelly's script is that Domino's version of events routinely proves unreliable. It's a neat trick, allowing Domino (and Kelly) to mangle events into a confusing but considered timeline. Unfortunately, director Tony Scott seemed not to have gotten the memo, as he senselessly piles on more confusion, firing at us with every visual gimmick in his arsenal. Domino's story should have made for fireworks—the end result, unfortunately, is a film so buried under tomfoolery that it bludgeons you into not caring. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Cameron Crowe's latest is shapeless, overstuffed, and frequently maddening. The director, as always, clearly loves his characters, but what was once endearing now suggests a filmmaker so enamored by his creations that he refuses to sacrifice a single frame for the greater good. While traveling to Kentucky to retrieve his father's corpse, Orlando Bloom's disgraced shoe designer discovers an adorable stewardess (Kirsten Dunst). This basic love story occasionally recalls some of Crowe's old magic, particularly an impromptu all-night cell-phone conversation (complete with recharge), but the film's insistence on giving full attention to even the smallest quirk or emotional beat soon knocks things completely off-kilter. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
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)
As far as can't miss premises go, zombie ghosts (zombie PIRATE ghosts, to boot) should rank waaaay up there. More scorn due, then, to those responsible for this miserable remake of John Carpenter's 1981 B-picture classic, in which undead mist torments an island community. While no masterpiece, Carpenter's film benefited mightily from its bare-bones storytelling and realistically weathered cast, virtues which this new telling, with scads of useless backstory and the presence of Smallville's Tom Welling as a crusty fisherman, completely pisses away. As the final insult, the filmmakers have eliminated the trusty dry ice machine completely, in favor of fast-moving, noticeably fake CGI cotton-candy murk. What is there to say about a film whose titular weather condition can't even be bothered to show up? (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Documenting the Red Scare clash between Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and Joseph McCarthy, George Clooney's second trip behind the lens is a largely terrific picture: a scathing social document submerged within a deeply pleasurable entertainment.Movies about people simply doing their jobs can be fascinating in ways that are hard to define, to the point where a guy laying bricks can trump a fleet of star fighters. Through the eyes of Clooney and Strathairn, the newsroom becomes, variously, a shrine, a confessional, a torture chamber, and the best place in the world to hang out. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Another entry in the burgeoning black gospel genre, this Rob Hardy movie is about an R&B singer/prodigal son who has strayed from the flock of a his father, a bishop. Unlike the genre trailblazers Woman, Thou Art Loosed and Diary of a Mad Black Woman, however, this film does not star Kimberly Elise.
The Greatest Game Ever Played
The old corn still sometimes has a place. Barring the occasional ripple, Bill Paxton has fashioned an all-ages movie with an admirable lack of pretense. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Werner Herzog has always had a thing for the abyss, 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)
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)
Played with striking emotional maturity by Carlos Padilla, Chava is a dark-haired young man who loves trucks and is about to turn 12. He is a young man forced to grow up early, first by the departure of his father, who leaves El Salvador for America at the start of the civil war, and then by the shooting, child conscription, rape, and intermittent bedlam that encroaches on his small town. As Chava searches for a way to embark on his own version of the classic young man's journey away from family and toward heroic risk, he finds that he is living in a land with no heroes to join up with-not the state, and not the Salvadorian Marxist guerillas either. (ELI SANDERS)
Into the Blue
A John Stockwell action flick with Jessica Alba as a deep-sea diver in a teeny bikini.
Kids in America
A high school comedy by Josh (Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show) Stolberg, featuring same-sex smooching.
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. When the film deals with the nuts and bolts of the weapons business, it carries a nifty, amoral charge. Where it falters is in the larger rags-to-riches-to-rags framework, which comes off as both moldy and maddeningly condescending. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Content to perform several times a day before his adoring fans, Alex has no desire to leave his cozy confines—until his best friend, a zebra named Marty (Chris Rock), hits the road in search of freedom. Cue a lame movie tagline: "Someone's got a zoo loose!" Alex and annoying friends give chase, find Marty, end up on a ship, arrive on the shores of Madagascar, and lessons about the wild vs. captivity, hunger vs. friendship, and how to build a plush tiki bar without opposable thumbs ensue. Too bad none of it is funny in the least. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
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)
March of the Penguins
The only animal worth making a documentary about is the human. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
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)
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
Director Jane Anderson isn't interested in realism; she's far more eager to reproduce the era's sunny vision of its own progress. The film is packed with pastels and good cheer, and there are almost enough bells and whistles to distract you from the truly distasteful plot. The Ryan family is Catholic and poor as dirt. But their home is always scrubbed clean—thanks to Evelyn's superlative homemaking skills and no thanks to her rat of a husband, who tends to do messy things like hurl bottles of milk to the floor and watch as his wife tips headlong into the bed of glass. When a priest from the local parish stops by after her husband throws a particularly violent tantrum, he reminds Evelyn that "it's up to you to make him a good home." Though the irony runs thick as sludge, it is powerless against the film's impulse toward hagiography. (This is a true story, the screenplay based on a worshipful memoir by one of the Ryan kids.) Especially offensive is the syrupy final scene, in which the real-life offspring awkwardly gather to celebrate their mother. In their eyes, Evelyn is a martyr to their own successful rearing, and the film doesn't permit us any other view. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Though it's not as grossly heavy-handed as A Beautiful Mind, this film suffers from a similar failure of specificity. Of course Jake Gyllenhaal isn't convincing as a math graduate student—but it's not because he's sexy. It's because his character never talks directly about math. Proof resonates emotionally, but the real achievement would have been sneaking some real math into a math movie. And no, name-dropping Sophie Germain doesn't count. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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)
The directorial debut from screenwriter Julian Fellowes, Separate Lies is an intriguing meeting of genres. There's a canny whodunit and a helping of gloomy romance, and Fellowes imports unmistakable tropes of Los Angeles noir to disturb his groomed English countryside. The first two-thirds of the movie are largely satisfying. But late in the game, when the mystery is over and the screenplay sputters into a (literally) cancerous coda, there's nobody left to identify with. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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. Whedon's concepts and riot grrrl tendencies are killer, but his hyperliterate, pop-slangy style wears thin after a while. The film's scenario makes only the barest effort to include those not already up on the characters: building on plot threads developed through the series, Whedon's script catches up mid-quest with a ragtag bunch of outlaws searching for the origin of their youngest crewmember. 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)
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." 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)
Two for the Money
Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey star in this movie about the sleazy world of sports betting.
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)
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)
The War Within
The first movie since 9/11 to deal explicitly with the subject of Islamic terrorism on American soil, The War Within is a potent thriller, an imperfect analysis of the motivations behind terrorist activity, and an intriguing but overwritten family drama. It alternates curiously between smart ideas marred by simplistic execution and boilerplate plot twists enlivened by perfect pacing. There isn't a scene in The War Within that couldn't be improved in some way, but it's a fascinating cultural document and one that shouldn't be missed. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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)