Arsenic and Old Lace
"I'm not a cab driver. I'm a coffeepot!" Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 7 pm.
The Boogie Man Will Get You
A spoof of the play Arsenic and Old Lace, The Boogie Man Will Get You stars Boris Karloff as a mad professor. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 9:15 pm, Sat-Sun 5:15, 9:15 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.
"That's my mother you're pissing on." Central Cinema, Fri-Sun 7, 9:15 pm.
Earshot Jazz Films
This jazz series runs the gamut from vintage films to brand-new work-in-progress screenings. All films screen at Northwest Film Forum. Jazz Jukebox Films from the 1940s (including "soundies" from Nat "King" Cole, Fats Waller, and more), Wed Oct 26 at 7 pm. My Name Is Albert Ayler (about the free jazz saxophonist; director in attendance Wed), Wed-Sun Oct 26-30 at 9 pm. This Is Gary McFarland (a local film about the autodidact musician and composer), Thurs-Sat 7 pm. Animation + Syncopation: Swinging Cartoons for the Whole Family, Sat Oct 29 at 1 pm. Jazz on the West Coast: The Lighthouse (a documentary about the Hermosa Beach club), Sat-Sun 5 pm. Jazz Women on Screen (clips presented by music historian Joe Vinikow), Sun Oct 30 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.
"That's a big Twinkie." Central Cinema, Sat-Sun noon, 2:15, 4:30 pm.
Hana and Alice
A Japanese film about two young girls who convince a male peer that he has forgotten his love for one of them due to a bump on the head. Gowan Hall #201, UW campus, Thurs Nov 3 at 7:30 pm.
The Hollow Triumph
Film noir from 1948 about a con man and a botched scarification. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Nov 3 at 7:30 pm.
House on Haunted Hill w/ The Tingler
Two William Castle horror classics from 1959. Movie Legends, Sun Oct 30 at 1 pm.
It Came From Outer Space
The sci-fi classic (in three-fucking-D!), with an introduction by film critics Robert Horton and Mark Rahner. EMP's JBL Theater, Fri Oct 28 at 7 pm.
Set in the '50s, Kitchen Stories follows a group of researchers from Sweden's Home Research Institute as they travel to Norway to study the kitchen habits of bachelors. Director Bent Hamer throws in an assload of beautiful landscape images and some charming visual jokes into a movie that is ultimately very slight. (ANDY SPLETZER) Nordic Heritage Museum, Thurs Oct 27 at 7 pm.
SAM's film noir series continues with this 1948 George Sherman film. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Oct 27 at 7:30 pm.
The Little Shop of Horrors
The black comedy about the bloodthirsty plant—no, not the singing one. Central Cinema, Fri-Sat 11:30 pm.
A screening of short films by women, hosted by Women in Film-Seattle. Includes Backseat Bingo, a film about the love lives of senior citizens, and One Weekend a Month, a film about a single mother and member of the National Guard whose unit is deployed to Iraq. Henry Art Gallery, Sat Oct 29 at 1 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.
Ms. Films Festival Highlights
Short films from the North Carolina festival showcasing the work of women filmmakers from Vancouver to Iowa City. For a complete schedule, see www.msfilms.org. 911 Media Arts, Fri Oct 28 at 8 pm.
Kaneto Shindo's 1960 silent tone poem on the difficulties of human (and plant) life on a remote Japanese archipelago is still unavailable on Region 1 DVD. See it this weekend on 16 mm with a live music and sound score by Aono Jikken Ensemble (An Inn in Tokyo, The Lady and the Beard). Northwest Film Forum, Thurs-Sun 8 pm.
Nick Stagliano Lecture
Northwest Screenwriters Guild hosts director Nick Stagliano (The Florentine) in this lecture, which is free to members and also open to the public (tickets $10). Clear Channel Building, Fri Oct 28 at 7 pm.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Beautiful and twisted, The Nightmare Before Christmas remains one of the greatest holiday flicks ever created. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
The Asian horror genre gets the triptych treatment in this collection of stories directed by three different directors: Japan's Takashi Miike, Hong Kong's Fruit Chan, and Korea's Park Chan-wook. Miike's spooky and elegant Box is about sibling rivalry and a dead twin, Chan's Dumplings is a grossly predictable but memorable tale about a nasty secret to youth and beauty (and it's shot by Christopher Doyle), and Park's Cut takes an idea straight out of Stephen King's Misery or Scorsese's King of Comedy to gory, operatic heights. (SHANNON GEE) Varsity, Fri-Sun 1:50, 4:30, 7:15, 9:45, Mon-Thurs 7:15, 9:45.
Twisted Flicks: Horror Express
A frozen monster unthaws and speaks with the voice of Jet City Improv. Historic University Theater, Thurs-Sat 8 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.) 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
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, dozens of legendary (and sub-legendary) comedians tell variations on the dirtiest joke in the world. 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)
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)
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
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)
Capote is a restrained film about a man whose life and work were anything but. Despite its limited scope—it addresses only the years that Truman Capote was writing his groundbreaking In Cold Blood, about a Kansas robbery turned quadruple murder—you want to call the film, after the fashion of ambitious biographies, "A Life." Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Truman Capote, and his is an enveloping performance, in which every flighty affectation seems an invention of the man rather than the impersonator. His pursed lips and bons mots and the ravishing twirls of his overcoat become more and more infrequent until all that's left is alcohol and a horrible will to power. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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)
Video game becomes movie becomes ballet... no, wait. Just movie.
As Kurt Russell (the smartest man alive!) surveys an injured horse shaking on the track, a heartless and beady-eyed bastard (who also happens to be a RACIST!) demands that they kill Horsey Horse: "She's broken! Kill it!" But creepy Dakota Fanning (Russell's daughter) doesn't want to see Horsey Horse die, so in a desperate attempt to avoid teaching a kid a painful lesson about life (which is: Everything dies, bitch), they let Seabiscuit... uh, I mean Horsey Horse, live. And after a couple of months of rest and a lot of strawberry popsicles, Horsey Horse can not only walk again, but she can run again, too! (MEGAN SELING)
Cameron Crowe's latest is shapeless, overstuffed, and frequently maddening. 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)
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. Melding sharp court procedural and flesh-crawling flashbacks, The Exorcism of Emily Rose 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)
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)
While no masterpiece, John Carpenter's film benefited mightily from its bare-bones storytelling and realistically weathered cast, virtues which this new telling 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)
Hiphop goes to the Hamptons in this movie about a young man whose ideal girl gets herself unhappily hitched to a Wall Street bigshot. Ah, avarice! Ah, authenticity!
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, 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
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. 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)
Into the Blue
A John Stockwell action flick with Jessica Alba as a deep-sea diver in a teeny bikini.
Just Like Heaven
Über-pert Reese Witherspoon plays Elizabeth, a frigid, workaholic doctor (note to kids: don't go to medical school unless you want to be lonely and unfulfilled forever) who crosses paths with a careening truck and winds up in a coma. While her mortal shell lies vacant in the hospital, Elizabeth's stylish and sassy spirit heads back to her apartment, only to find studly subletter David (Mark Ruffalo) failing to use a coaster. Hijinks (and ghost sex) ensue. Just Like Heaven is the most recycled of movies. 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)
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. 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)
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)
As a miner who endures constant sexual harassment, Charlize Theron rarely makes it through a scene without her eyes filling with bravely suppressed tears, and the film keeps flashing forward to the courtroom drama that will bring her vindication. Unfortunately, the film blows its trial-by-jury conceit early, with a truly climactic showdown in the miners' union hall. The actual court dramatization (involving wanton witness-badgering, spectators rising in unison, etc.) is melodramatic and contrived. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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. 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. 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. (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 is great. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
This six-gun space oddity comes recommended, but you may want to brush up on the Firefly series before venturing into the theater. For God's sake, don't let the hardcore fans smell virgin blood. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
A hotshot psychiatrist (Ewan McGregor) bumps both elbows and ids with a college student (Ryan Gosling) tormented by visions of the future—including, apparently, his own demise. As patient and subject get closer, the persona swapping begins in earnest, with the shrink's girlfriend (Naomi Watts, slumming) soon thrown into the mix. Ultimately, the director's over-emphatic presence takes its toll. Marc Forster's overpowering use of symbolism (you've never seen so many doubles) goes from clever to exasperating to, finally, sort of klutzily endearing-the work of a gifted, potentially great art student who can't resist piling on the glitter. (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)
Two for the Money
Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey star in this movie about the sleazy world of sports betting.
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. 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 Weather Man
Chicago news fixture Dave Spritz (Nicolas Cage) is living out an existence that might make Ziggy weep: bitter, soon-to-be-ex wife, space-case kids, and a disdainful Pulitzer-winning dad (Michael Caine). Things get worse. Despite an ad campaign stressing the wacky interactions between Cage and his adoring, trash-flinging fans, this is an odd, slowly simmering little character study, with a tonal palette that wavers somewhere between About Schmidt and Taxi Driver. (In one of the more worrying subplots, the main character develops an intense interest in archery.) Cage and director Gore Verbinski (The Ring) deserve credit for going all the way into their subject's doldrums, but their commitment doesn't exactly make for a fun view. Worth a look, but have booze handy. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Seemingly conceived, shot, and edited during a four-day weekend, Wedding Crashers 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)