The 10th District Court: Moments of Trial
In this simple but compelling film, several court cases are argued before a Paris judge named Michèle Bernard-Requin. It isn't trial played for TV—Bernard-Requin may be tough, but she ain't Judge Judy, and 10th District Court is only fitfully amusing. What's nice (and depressing) about the movie is the way it argues, without forcing the point, that justice isn't a weighing of facts so much as a battle of unequal wits. I can only hope, for the good of the French legal system, that the defense attorneys who appear in the film are among the worst in the country. But I have my doubts. (ANNIE WAGNER) Varsity, Fri-Sun 2, 4:30, 7, 9:20 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:20 pm.
The 39 Steps
Alfred Hitchchock's mid-thirties film about counterespionage. Museum of History and Industry, Thurs Jan 26 at 7:30 pm.
Afro-punk: The Rock and Roll Nigger Experience
James Spooner's documentary is about African Americans in punk culture. With a live performance by the Infernal Noise Brigade. ArtWorks, Fri Jan 27 at 7:30 pm.
Back To the Future
"Why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here?" Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
See review this issue. Thursday screening benefits the local film Diggers. Central Cinema, Thurs Jan 26 at 6:30 and 9 pm (late show 21+). Starts at the Metro Fri.
Children's Film Festival
Because there is so much going on in this year's Cinema K: Children's Film Festival (47 shorts in total), I shall focus on two that made the biggest impression on me, The Elevator and Binta and the Great Idea. The first, The Elevator, is part of the Animated Genius: The Films of Koji Yamamura series, and concerns a boy who enters an elevator in his apartment building and is magically transported to a weird world where little people are conducting cruel experiments on forest birds. As with most of Yamamura's shorts, the narrative in The Elevator twists and turns like a dream in the head of a sleeping child. Binta and the Great Idea, on the other hand, is realistic and political. Set in Senegal, the story is about a girl whose desire to attend school is repressed by her sexist father. But the village youth will have none of it: They put on an outdoor play that exposes the father's ignorance. The short is beautifully shot and its story, though simple, has a sound humanistic foundation. In general, the festival is made up of shorts that communicate real family values, rather than the phony ones that are disseminated in Sunday schools all across America. (CHARLES MUDEDE) All films screen at Northwest Film Forum. See www.nwfilmforum.org for details.
This 1956 film about the downswing of the geisha industry stars Kinuyo Tanaka (Ugetsu) and other leading Japanese actresses. One of Mikio Naruse's most highly esteemed films, Flowing, like others in this series, is not available on video. Northwest Film Forum, Sun Jan 29 at 7 pm.
SAM@MOHAI's Hitchcock series continues with this 1940 film about an American reporter assigned to cover Europe during the runup to World War II. Museum of History and Industry, Thurs Feb 2 at 7:30 pm.
Live Freaky! Die Freaky!
Members of Green Day star in this post-apocalyptic horror musical about bad trips, the Manson Family murders, and world domination. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
Nightly Dreams w/ Flunky, Work Hard!
Northwest Film Forum's Mikio Naruse series continues with this 1931 silent film about a single mother working as a hostess in a Tokyo bar. The short Flunky, Work Hard! is a slapstick tragedy about an insurance salesman, to whom the derisive title is addressed. Aono Jikken Ensemble will accompany the films. Northwest Film Forum, Fri Jan 27 at 7 pm.
Northwest Asian American Film Festival
A festival of shorts and features by and about Asian Americans. For details, see www.nwaaff.org. Unless otherwise noted, films screen at Theater Off Jackson. The Grace Lee Project (about women named Grace Lee), Thurs Jan 26 at 7 pm; Shorts Program: Northwest, Fri Jan 27 at 7 pm; Cineoke and comedian Ali Wong, Fri Jan 27 at 10 pm; Shorts Program: Animation, Sat Jan 28 at 1 pm; Shorts Program: Documentaries, Sat Jan 28 at 3 pm; Shorts Program: Narrative, Sat Jan 28 at 7 pm; Shorts Program: Extreme (18+), Sat Jan 28 at 10 pm; In Time of War (a documentary about the Japanese-American experience during WWII), Sun Jan 29 at 11 am; Grassroots Rising (about Asian immigrant working families), Sun Jan 29 at 1 pm; What's Wrong with Frank Chin? (about the writer), Sun Jan 29 at 3 pm; Sorceress of the New Piano (about avant-garde pianist Margaret Leung Tan, who will perform before the screening) at Poncho Theater, Sun Jan 29 at 7 pm.
Peep "TV" Show
PRO: Watching Yutaka Tsuchiya's Peep "TV" Show is a lot like reading J.G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition—both are not easy to get through but are vital works of art. Peep "TV" Show is about a society (contemporary Tokyo) that is mediated to the last degree. Public, private, and commercial spaces are crammed with cameras that look into them, and (TV, video, computer) screens that look out at other public, private, and commercial spaces. Every level of life is a spectacle that aspires to become the total spectacle of the new century-9/11. The main characters in Peep "TV" Show are morbidly, erotically obsessed with the destruction of the Twin Towers, one even admitting that he wished it had happened to Tokyo. 9/11 is to Peep "TV" Show what the assassination of JFK was to Crash (1973), another J.G. Ballard novel. Crash, however, is a work of science fiction, whereas Peep "TV" Show is about the present and the real proliferation of electronic consumer products, specifically the digital and micro-cameras with which the entire movie is shot. Peep "TV" Show is relentlessly repetitive, but it does have several unexpected moments that break the surface of the vicious pattern and peer into the dizzying depths of what all underdeveloped economies are striving to become: overdeveloped, paperless, capitalist societies. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
CON: Peep "TV" Show is a deliberately abrasive DV feature whose main appeal, if it can be said to possess any, is the opportunity to gawk at Japanese youth subcultures. Want to see a young woman dress up as a "Gothic Lolita," a sort of cross between Little Bo Peep and a riot grrrl (as featured in the Phaidon book Fresh Fruits)? Want to get a gander at the hikkikomori, the "socially withdrawn" men in their late teens and twenties who venture out of their rooms only to buy food in the middle of the night (as featured in the New York Times)? Want to see a live cat being placed inside a plastic bag and... never mind. If the movie were smart, it would indict you for the voyeurism of the main character, Hasegawa, who likes to tote around a tiny camera and film from the ground up on busy Tokyo streets. Instead, the characters offer the tepid excuse, "It's not us, it's reality that's messed up," and the movie gets lost in junk analysis of the appeal of 9/11 footage. (ANNIE WAGNER) Grand Illusion, Fri 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9 pm.
A 1935 Henry Hathaway film about a romance that lives on in dreams. Movie Legends, Sun Jan 29 at 1 pm.
As anyone who's seen a Hayao Miyazaki film will attest, the story you follow is secondary to the sights you behold. The craggy reality of his twisting tree trunks capped with windblown tufts of leaves; the weighty presence of the rocks, whether rough or slicked smooth by water; the breathtaking vividness of light when the clouds part; the crouched expectancy of animals at rest—all of these are rendered as gorgeously as any animation I've ever seen, and in fact make a better plea for ecological sanity than the sometimes heavy-handed script. (BRUCE REID) Central Cinema, Sun Jan 29 at 3:30, 6:30, 9:30 pm (late show 21+).
A Canadian film about a passionate argument between two friends, both Holocaust survivors. Temple Beth Am, Sun Jan 29 at 7 pm.
Something for Nothing
This locally produced comedy is about two average guys dreaming of ways to make it rich. Then they find some money. Hooray! Rendezvous, Wed Feb 1 at 6:30 pm.
Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family
See review this issue. Northwest Film Forum, Fri 7, 9 pm, Sat 9 pm, Sun-Thurs 7, 9 pm.
Valley of the Dolls
During the 6:45 shows, Ron Anders provides live commentary during the entire length of this camp classic. Central Cinema, Fri 6:45, 9:30 pm, Sat 4, 6:45, 9:30 pm.
Wife! Be Like a Rose!
A 1935 Mikio Naruse film about a young woman whose mother is attempting to lure her odious husband back by writing poems of love and devotion. Northwest Film Forum, Sat Jan 28 at 7 pm.
Call it An Officer and a Gentleman Jim: A small-town welder with a major chip on his shoulder makes it into the exclusive Naval Academy of the title, clashes with a tough but fair instructor, becomes a man in the boxing ring. Now is probably a ticklish time to release any sort of rah rah military agitprop, but this resolutely square film is further hamstrung by a lead performance by James Franco that's too broodily Method to inspire much empathy. Director Justin Lim (Better Luck Tomorrow) proves that he can handle his faux-Bruckheimer corn, but the film's bland big-league polish comes at the cost of any personality. Save for a brief cameo by '70s Russ Meyer-mainstay Chuck Napier as the school's top brass, there's precious little here to snag the eye, or noggin. Oh, and that rad exploding battleship featured in all of the commercials? Not in the movie. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Big Momma's House 2
Breakfast on Pluto
Sure, it's a movie about a tranny sex worker whose father is a priest and whose foster mother is heartless and abusive. But the tone is all Mary Poppins. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Brokeback Mountain achieves an elegant hybrid between the "masculine" genre of the Western and the "feminine" genre of melodrama. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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)
Casanova treats 18th-century Venice as a place where spit-takes graced every meal, mandatory pie-fights broke out on the hour, and even the filthiest urchin possessed bullwhip comedic timing. In its sheer desire to entertain, the film takes whimsy to levels normally outlawed by the Geneva Convention. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is decent entertainment—epic and scary and icily pretty. If only it were safe enough to send your freethinking children to. (ANNIE WAGNER)
The Constant Gardener
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)
The Family Stone
In its attempt to be all things to all viewers, the holiday-themed smorgasbord The Family Stone hits every conceivable chord, no matter how much of a stretch. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Within the sports movie genre, Glory Road couldn't be more typical. It's Hoosiers with a Marcus Garvey book inserted here, a Martha and the Vandellas song tossed in there, and a historically accurate starting lineup in the final game. (ANNIE WAGNER)
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. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The fourth Harry Potter: In which Harry takes off his shirt, learns the value of altruism, and discovers that Lord Voldemort has no nose. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Kids may have learned from video games how to tolerate multiple simultaneous perspectives (or so say the press notes) but I doubt they've learned to tolerate a boring story told four times over. Besides, the 3-D animation is worthless. (ANNIE WAGNER)
A trio of moronic, partying backpackers are lured to a hostel in Slovakia, which is said to be stocked with nubile women. Before the trio meets its fate, there's a smidgen of humor that recalls Roth's far-superior debut splatter flick, Cabin Fever. But these are fleeting moments, and soon the hoses of blood are turned on full blast. (ADAM BREGMAN)
Jarhead follows a third-generation marine (Jake Gyllenhaal) on his downward slide toward would-be killing machine. Once he arrives in the desert, boredom quickly sets in, as he and his fellow roughnecks find themselves wandering around looking for something to shoot at. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
As genuinely touching as the final New York scenes are, the true heart of the film lies in the insanely sustained second act, in which Kong, his gal, and her supposed rescuers come into contact with an army of dinosaurs, angry villagers, and seemingly every creepy thing ever to walk the earth. Throughout, Peter Jackson manages to simultaneously convey the sense of a filmmaker at the absolute top of his technical game, and a kid deliriously hopped up on Poprocks, going nuts with his favorite action figures. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Georgia (Queen Latifah) has only three weeks to live. She quits her job and heads to Prague for some pampering, strutting, and extreme sporting. The only funny part of this movie is, surprisingly, Gerard Depardieu. (LINDY WEST)
Looking for Comedy in the Muslim Word
Albert Brooks plays, well, Albert Brooks, an underemployed actor who is enlisted by the government to deliver a 500-page report on the Muslim sense of humor. When it comes to hysterical self-laceration, Larry David ain't got nothing on Brooks. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Sporting a gold chain, a sleazy moustache, and an unfortunate haircut, Pierce Brosnan is amusingly weird as professional assassin Julian Noble. But all the eccentricities in the world can't save this preposterous pseudo-comedy. (ADAM BREGMAN)
Woody Allen's Match Point is a light and brutal thriller about the opposing forces of contempt and desire. Marriages are consummated, vows are broken, women are discovered to be fertile or infertile in inverse proportion to their social class, and the social order is upended. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Memoirs of a Geisha
The film is a confused mess—part chick flick drowning in silk brocade, part crass appeal to male voyeurism, and all woefully insubstantial. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Mrs. Henderson Presents
It's the very definition of melodrama, and it's awfully dumb. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Steven Spielberg has discovered a damning parable about America's post-9/11 strategy. He just hasn't turned it into a good movie. (JOSH FEIT)
The New World
Q'orianka Kilcher, a 14-year-old beauty who looks far older than—though exactly as naive as—her age would suggest, plays Pocahontas as a child attracted to John Smith (Colin Farrell) through a chaste but insatiable curiosity. Farrell is more opaque. It's hard to tell whether he's transfixed by this persistent girl or merely bewildered. And when he freaks out and leaves Jamestown, your sympathy for Pocahontas feels more like pity for an abandoned child than identification with an adult woman. (ANNIE WAGNER)
In April, 2002, a middle-aged, Midwestern father suddenly woke with an idea to make a documentary, interviewing dozens of people, famous and otherwise, about the meaning of life. Neither he nor his friends were filmmakers, but they made One, a tour of the world's spiritual clichés: be here now, accept Jesus Christ, every man for himself, meditate, serve Allah, enjoy yourself, etc. There's an awful fictionalized thread about some dude waking up in a flophouse hotel and eventually canoeing to a beach, but the interviews are occasionally interesting. (BRENDAN KILEY)
Pride & Prejudice
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy aren't so much in love as they are erotically enthralled. Their famous clash of wits isn't the cause of their affection; it's sublimation at its most sublime. In other words, forget stuffy: This Pride & Prejudice is totally hot. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Over the closing credits, Matthew Broderick sings "There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway," which features the couplet: "Movies drag/Their endings sag." There's your self-written capsule review. (PAUL CONSTANT)
Syriana wades deep into the muck of the worldwide oil industry. The usual suspects will no doubt squawk about anti-Bush bias and the Blame America First syndrome, but anyone willing to look past the pundit noise will find a beautifully constructed and patient thriller. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Felicity Huffman clearly aced her homework, and her exceptional performance as a transsexual woman is the reason to see Transamerica. Huffman deftly shows us the stress that results from constantly working to conceal the past. (KALEY DAVIS)
Tristan and Isolde
Tristan & Isolde is not only boring, it's also just kind of goofy. The film's Irish and English locations are gorgeous, but in a too-slick, airbrushed sort of way; the shallow characters and soapy emotions feel the same. (ERIK HENDRIKSEN)
All Underworld Evolution has to offer is hairy folks in tight vinyl, squeaking and vogueing through the outskirts of Prague. Only those who habitually spell vampire with a y need apply. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Walk the Line
Joaquin Phoenix is a damn fine Man in Black. The interplay between Cash and June Carter is fiery, and watching their tenderness grow through time and tribulation makes for a powerful story, even if its main subject feels larger than any one film could ever encapsulate. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
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 Looney Tunes (which were funny!) but even smarter. (MEGAN SELING)
The White Countess
All smoke and velvet and jewel tones, The White Countess is as pretty as a painting, and about as dynamic. (LINDY WEST)