See review this issue. Varsity, Thurs Feb 9 at 7 pm (benefit for Innocence Project), Fri-Sun 2, 7, 9:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:30 pm.
Amnesty International Film Festival
A series of documentaries about human rights, both here and abroad. All films screen at Northwest Film Forum. El Inmigrante Wed Feb 15 at 7 pm; De Nadie Wed Feb 15 at 9 pm. Series continues through Feb 18, see www.amnestyusa.org/filmfest for details.
A movie by Frank Zappa about people doing weird things. Sunset Tavern, Mon Feb 13 at 7 pm.
Being Caribou is a documentary following a husband-and-wife team as they spend half a year following a herd of Caribou from Yukon, Canada to Alaska. Hoping to raise awareness about the animals (so George W. Bush and his cronies won't drill for oil in their habitat), Leanne Allison and Karsten Heuer filmed their trek as they made themselves part of the porcupine caribou herd, forging rivers, climbing mountains, and struggling through snow and heat just as their four-legged friends did. Though admirable, the film doesn't offer enough to fully hold your attention. (MEGAN SELING) Ballard Re-Store, Wed Feb 15 at 7 pm.
The Black Cat/The Raven
A Bela Lugosi double feature. Movie Legends, Sunday Feb 12 at 1 pm.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Northwest Film Forum's Truman Capote series continues with Audrey Hepburn's iconic turn as Holly Golightly. Northwest Film Forum, Daily 7, 9:15 pm.
The Marx Brothers are the firmament of verbal and physical comedy, of high wit and low brow, the one thing you can always go back to and be assured of a life-affirming laugh. Duck Soup--by any measure their best, and easily one of the 10 funniest of all time--is a testament to the absurdity of the human race and the sheer, jubliant ridiculousness of being alive. Hail Freedonia! (SEAN NELSON) Grand Illusion, Fri 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9 pm.
Harry Smith: Connections and Transformations
See Stranger Suggests. All films screen at Northwest Film Forum. Early Abstractions, Mirror Superimpositions (short jazz films program, many featuring innovative direct animation), Fri at 8 pm; Early Journeys: Harry Smith in the Northwest (a lecture about Smith's childhood in Bellingham), Sat at 4 pm; Revisiting the Anthology of American Folk Music Sat at 5:50 pm; Heaven and Earth Magic (an hour-long animated epic featuring bizarre Victorian cutouts, with score by Seattle musicians Scientific American and Erik Blood of the Turn-Ons), Sat at 8 pm; Audio Alchemy Live (Climax Golden Twins perform an "aural experience" consisting of samples from Smith's ethnographic collection), Sun at 5:30 pm; Mahagonny (a fasicnating four-quandrant epic set to Brecht & Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny), Sun at 8 pm. For details, see www.nwfilmforum.org.
Mighty Peking Man
Made in 1977 by Hong Kong's prolific Shaw Brothers, Mighty Peking Man was inspired by Dino de Laurentiis's massive remake of King Kong, and is also the touching story of a giant ape and his human girlfriend. The movie has all the low-budget charm of Roger Corman's drive-in horror cheapies from the '50s: the tanks look like toys, the giant ape looks like nothing more than a man in an ape suit, and the effects combining the actors with the destructive events taking place could not look less convincing. It's great. What makes this movie a true camp classic is the fact that, even though the filmmakers obviously knew how cheap the movie was going to look, they never acknowledge it. Everybody is sincere. (ANDY SPLETZER) Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Leon, w/ The Knock-Out
A double feature of docs about noteworthy lesbians. Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center, Sat Feb 11 at 7:30 pm.
Not to be confused with
Shadow of a Doubt
The 1945 Hitchcock film about a murderer who comes to visit a sunny California town. Museum of History and Industry, Thurs Feb 16 at 7:30 pm.
The original Night of the Living Dead, plus old-school horror trailers and more. Josh Feit says, "Zombies are a rich metaphor." Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
McKenzie Brothers Bob & Doug (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), are cast as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this very Canadian 1982 reading of Hamlet. Sunset Tavern, Thurs Feb 9 at 7 pm.
The blaxploitation classic. Sunset Tavern, Wed Feb 15 at 7 pm.
There's Something About Mary
Ben Stiller stars as the archetypal high school dork who grows up to be an archetypal grown-up dork, still pining for his high school sweetheart Mary (Cameron Diaz). Unable to move on with his life, he vows to track her down with the help of shady insurance claims investigator Matt Dillon, who also falls for her omnidirectional charms. In the paws of the Farrelly brothers this film becomes a plethora of jokes aimed at the homo, animal, geriatric--not to mention physically and mentally disabled--communities, ladled over a bland Hollywood story. It's obvious the Farrelly brothers (creators of Dumb and Dumber) are proud as a peacock over their "anti-PC" image, but I can't help but feel it's pretty goddam cowardly to make fun of the handicapped, and then distance themselves from the joke by putting it in the mouth of the film's "villain." (Wm. STEVEN HUMPHREY) Central Cinema, Thurs-Fri 6:45, 9:30 pm, Sat 4, 6:45, 9:30 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
Did you know that fat people are huge and fat? And that also they will sometimes wear a bathing suit, or even do a dance? Oooooooooooooooooooo!!! Big Momma's House 2! (LINDY WEST)
Brokeback Mountain achieves an elegant hybrid between the "masculine" genre of the Western and the "feminine" genre of melodrama. (ANNIE WAGNER)
The Austrian director Michael Haneke, best known for the shock-masochism of his 2001 film, The Piano Teacher, now gives audiences the far subtler and more politically engaged CachÈ (which won him the Best Director prize at Cannes). Unnerving surveillance videotapes keep showing up at the home of a Paris couple and the road leading back to the culprit is cluttered with bloody chicken heads, imperialist xenophobia, and red herrings--if you've heard that the final scene solves the mystery, you've been misinformed. (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)
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)
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)
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)
Imagine Me & You
I guess you could say that Imagine Me & You is like Brokeback Mountain, except with more vaginas and less crushing of the soul. It's the story of Rachel and Hector, a charming pair of British newlyweds whose domestic bliss is shaken up by a hot florist in adorably mannish outfits. I don't want to get all serious and say that this movie trivializes the real-life difficulties of those struggling with sexual identity, but, um, I think this movie trivializes the real-life difficulties of those struggling with sexual identity. Just a bit. These are gorgeous, successful, upper-middle-class people with supportive, liberal families. Everyone loves everyone. There's little struggle, few tears, and almost nothing at stake. (LINDY WEST)
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)
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. Chris (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a former tennis pro with scheming Irish eyes and a permanent frown. While coaching at a tony London country club, he meets a rich young man named Tom (Matthew Goode), who bizarrely appears to be coming on to him. The drinks and box seats at the opera are not in fact invitations to bed, but invitations into the family. In no time at all Chris is engaged to Tom's perky and annoying but equally rich sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer), and another sort of love triangle has developed. 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)
Emma Thompson is running a vicious gambling ring, and Derek Jacobi, Angela Lansbury, Adam Godley, and Colin Firth owe her more than their combined net worth. How else can we explain their willingness to stoop so low? There is nothing to recommend this Thompson vehicle (she stars and wrote the screenplay) except for the bit when an old biddy gets hit in the face with a chunk of wedding cake. An adaptation of the well-loved Nurse Matilda books, the movie is a predictable riff on the nanny-as-savior theme: There are seven ill-behaved children who chew up their caretakers, a distracted widower/mortician father, a magical nanny who teaches everyone the true meaning of love, filial piety, citizenship, etc. Despite all this (and a dancing donkey!), the movie is uninspiring and dull. (BRENDAN KILEY)
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)
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)
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)
Transamerica, the debut film from writer/director Duncan Tucker, features Bree Osbourne, a pre-operative transsexual woman played with abundant humanity by Desperate Housewives's Felicity Huffman. Huffman clearly aced her homework, and her exceptional performance is the reason to see Transamerica. With deft skill, she shows us the stress that results from constantly working to conceal the past. Bree is intensely self-conscious about her behavior, always doubting her ability to mingle unnoticed. Slight movements belie her efforts-she sticks her pinky stiffly in the air while sipping tea and torques her limbs tightly as she sits. Yet often, Huffman lets the stealth mask slip to reveal the delightfully witty nerd that Bree has always been. (KALEY DAVIS)
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 needapply. (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)
When a Stranger Calls
I'm sure, for most of us, the title When a Stranger Calls rings some childhood bells. Nubile babysitter alone in secluded house. Stranger calls; is creepy. Police trace calls to upstairs bedroom. Yikes! And... scene. It's one of our most popular and plausible urban legends (pimple filled with spider babies? Come on)--but how could anyone possibly turn these 17 words into a full-length movie? The answer is, no one can. And I will never get that hour and a half back. (LINDY WEST)
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)
The World's Fastest Indian
For a film about a speed freak, Indian has a pleasantly loose, rambling quality. Anthony Hopkins plays Burt Munro, a sixtysomething New Zealand coot who overcame both financial and medical difficulties on his quest to break the land-speed record with his prize souped-up 1920 motorcycle (the Indian of the title). As he makes his way toward Utah's Bonne-ville Salt Flats, he comes into contact with a slew of well-meaning oddballs. These interactions occasionally err on the side of cheesy (a long sequence in L.A. where Munro pals around with a transvestite hotel clerk feels downright Gump-ish), but most generate a feeling of goodwill that's tough to resist. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Cheaper by the Dozen 2
Not funny enough for kids, or anything enough for grown-ups, this movie is forlornly pointless--but fans of Eugene Levy's leg hair won't leave disappointed. (LINDY WEST)
Yours, Mine & Ours
For want of a Trojan, a genre was born: From The Brady Bunch to Just the Ten of Us, excessively multi-child families have long been a mainstream staple. Adapting a 1968 Lucille Ball/Henry Fonda vehicle (which at least had the diverting element of a clench-jawed Lucy being forced to interact with hippies), director Raja Gosnell (Scooby-Doo) and his writers have done little to update the original: Tight-assed military widower (Dennis Quaid) finds wedded bliss with a loosey-goosey artist widow (Rene Russo), forcing their legion of adorable spawn to intermingle. The leads try their best: Quaid retains some of his old roguish charm, and the wondrous Russo continues to defy the myth of middle-age unemployability. Even with their mighty efforts, the surrounding film remains so utterly, triumphantly white-bread that it fades out even before the lights come up. (ANDREW WRIGHT)