The nearly comprehensive Louis Malle extravaganza continues with his 1986 documentary about being an American. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 7 pm.
See review this issue. Varsity, Fri-Sun 1:15, 3:15, 5:15, 7:15, 9:15 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:15, 9:15 pm.
Luis Buñuel's 1967 psychoanalytic film about the fantasy life of a beautiful French housewife (Catherine Deneuve) who goes to work in a brothel in the afternoons. Big Picture, Fri-Tues 6, 8:30 pm, Wed 8:30 pm, Thurs 6, 8:30 pm.
An Eddie Romero movie from 1973 featuring clam shells, cat fights, and exploding grass huts. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
A gay urbanite returns to the quaint country home of his youth, where a cast of lovable, quirky locals are all too eager to help him get laid. Who will it be? The old high-school buddy? Or the guy who runs the general store? This movie will teach you how to love. (JASON PAGANO) Central Cinema, Sat-Sun 6:30, 9:15 pm. (Late shows 21+.)
An academic conference about the representation of new urban spaces in Asian film. Free to the public. UW campus, see www.simpsoncenter.org/cinema for schedule and details.
This 1992 film by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City) about an itinerant musician who's mistaken for a killer, was legendarily cheap to produce. Central Cinema, Wed May 3 at 6:30, 9:15 pm. (Late show 21+.)
A 1963 Louis Malle film starring Maurice Ronet as a recovering alcoholic. Museum of History and Industry, Thurs April 27 at 7:30 pm.
A documentary on small-town life initially commissioned by PBS in 1979, Louis Malle's God's Country eventually turned into a portrait of Glencoe, Minnesota before and during the 1980s farm crisis. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 9 pm, Sat-Sun 5, 9 pm.
Northwest FIlm Forum's spring auction. See www.nwfilmforum.org for tickets and more information. Knights of Columbus, Sat April 29 at 6:30 pm.
A kitschy monster movie based on Bram Stoker's last novel, starring a young Hugh Grant and a big white worm. Central Cinema, Thurs-Fri 7, 9:15 pm. (Late shows 21+.)
A documentary about Timothy Treadwell—oops, I mean Jaime and Jim Dutcher—who go to live with a Sawtooth wolf pack. Environmental Learning Center at Camp Long, Thurs April 27 at 7 pm.
In 2001, the U.S. government permitted 4,000 child refugees from Sudan, then in their late teens, to settle in the dismal suburbs of cities across the country. This documentary follows two of the boys, Peter and Santino, from a refugee camp in Kenya to the outer sprawl of Houston, Texas. From what we can tell from the film, the boys are introduced to individually wrapped pats of butter, the garbage disposal, and the grocery store in quick succession, and are then promptly abandoned to their night-shift factory jobs and monthly rent. It's wrenching to watch Peter struggle to access the high school education he has been promised. As he navigates roadblocks from standardized test registration to alien courtship rituals (in one scene, he catches wild birds in an abandoned lot and presents them to a confused girl), the film's aloof style works well. But the filmmakers' reluctance to engage their subjects directly gives some issues—particularly the way the boys relate to the forms of Christianity they encounter in the U.S.—short shift. (ANNIE WAGNER) Capitol Hill Library, Thurs May 4 at 6 pm.
A 1955 comedy about a WWII cargo ship floating around in the middle of nowhere. Starring Henry Ford, James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon. Movie Legends, Sun April 30 at 1 pm.
Two films by Bosnian director Benjamin Filipovic, who will be in attendance for the screening. Foster High School Performing Arts Center, Sat April 29 at 6 pm.
A starkly beautiful film by Robert Bresson (Pickpocket), Mouchette is the story of the saddest, most unfortunate girl ever. Dirty strings secure her hair in pigtails, and alcoholism and illness grip her family in degrading poverty. Once (in a sequence that does not appear in the book by Georges Bernanos), a kind woman gives Mouchette a coin to ride bumper cars, and when a boy flirtatiously crashes into her car, her face lights up adorably. Mouchette doesn't really smile after that. I love the film until this point; I believe in but don't love the rest. Mouchette would make a good double bill with Hard Candy. (ANNIE WAGNER) Northwest Film Forum, Fri 7, 9 pm, Sun-Thurs 7, 9 pm.
Documentaries about the anti-Communist movements in Yugoslavia and Poland. Bitter Lake Community Center, Wed May 3 at 7 pm.
The Story of Ricky, which was made in 1992, is set in the distant year 2001. The premise is this: Capitalist societies (such as Hong Kong) have privatized all government organizations, including prisons. Ricky, a tough 21-year-old man, is thrown into one of these privatized prisons for killing a man who drove his lover to commit suicide. While in the corrupt prison complex, he does his utter best to kill a lot of bad people. The movie is gory and stupid. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
Short films by local filmmakers, including one about the dark world of Wicca and another about speed dating. Alibi Room, Sat April 29 at 7 pm.
The Langston Hughes film festival continues through this weekend with films about hiphop, multiracial families, Brazil, and more. For details, see www.langstonblackfilmfest.org. Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. Thurs April 27: The Fronterz and The Rodnees: We Mod Like Dat! at 2 pm; Resistance, She Rhymes Like a Girl, and Mujeres de Hip-Hop Cubana at 7 pm. Fri April 28: Seoul to Soul, Outside Looking In: Transracial Adoption in America, and One Drop Rule at 4 pm; Half-Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks at 7 pm. Sat April 29: The Body Beautiful and Bringin' in da Spirit at 1 pm; My Fight Too: KL Shannon, Shades of Orange, and Shorty at 5 pm. Bullets in the Hood: A Bed-Stuy Story, The Cleansing, and Urbanworld at 7:30 pm. Sun April 30: A Negação do Brasil at 2 pm; Daughters of the Wind at 7 pm.
A 1965 Louis Malle film starring Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot as early 20th-century Mexican vaudevillians. Museum of History and Industry, Thurs May 4 at 7:30 pm.
A documentary about a "democratic school," whose pedagogical model basically amounts to "the kids are all right." Central Cinema, Sun April 30 at 1 pm.
American Dreamz spoofs American Idol and the pathetic spectacle of an entire nation banding together to pick some half-talented blockhead to be the next C-list superstar. The film also spoofs real life by presenting the idea of an America run by a complete idiot who's so dumb he has to wear a bug in his ear so his staff can tell him what to say. HAHA! Truth is funny. Based on the material reality gave the writers of this film to work with, it should've been fucking hilarious, right? Not so much. (MEGAN SELING)
If you thought Napoleon Dynamite was heeee-larious (like me), you're probably gonna love Benchwarmers' endearing geekiness. (MEGAN SELING)
Brick is a hardboiled detective narrative retrofitted to high school, where homeroom lockers fill in for smoky offices, assistant principals (Richard Roundtree!) apply police-commissioner levels of heat, and everyone talks in a knowingly archaic, Miller's Crossing-ish rapid-fire patter. As a premise, it sounds cutesy-horrible, but the conviction and earnest wit involved carries it well past the conceptual experiment stage into a genuinely effective reinterpretation of classic noir. The film might still sputter out, were it not for the astounding central performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as a bespectacled, shaggy-haired loner whose quest to find a tardy ex-girlfriend drives the plot. Whatever the genesis, his dogged, world-weary demeanor does the old-time gumshoes proud. So does this weird, glorious freak of a movie. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
An adaptation of the 1990s New Age novel about the search for an ancient Peruvian scroll, this movie was rushed to production in 2004, presumably so it could ride the Da Vinci Code buzz. Hey, it worked for the Gospel of Judas...
This documentary about Daniel Johnson, a singer-songwriter whose mental illness is as legendary as his music, is both hopeful and disturbing—part celebration of Johnston's achievements, part warning to keep your delusional bipolar friends off acid. It's hard not to mourn Johnston's singing voice, which is totally shot, but it's also hard to resist the apocalyptic Casper imagery in his highly profitable new medium: the slapdash drawing. (ANNIE WAGNER)
The great thing about an action movie set in Antarctica is that very little happens there, and it's pointless to try to pretend otherwise. The residents of the National Science Foundation research station deal hands of solitaire, collect rocks, play chess, and sleep. Then there's a storm and everyone has to evacuate. Head musher Gerry must leave his beloved huskies behind. The rest of the film is a slow, weirdly enjoyable story of the dogs' feral existence, interspersed with Gerry's tormented efforts to hitch a ride back and save them. The dogs hunt some birds. The dogs settle in for the night. A dog dies. The dogs scavenge some orca blubber and have a nasty run-in with an animatronic leopard seal. Ice shards sparkle, and the sky is wide, and it's impossible not to get caught up in the camaraderie of the pack. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Oodles of nonsense, a horribly unfunny series of slapstick animal attacks, and several full minutes of Terry Bradshaw's gleaming, bare buttocks. (LINDY WEST)
The premise is a snooze: Rich people have problems too? You can't buy your way out of a midlife crisis? Lonely Pot-Smoking Maid is an unfulfilling career choice? Yeah, that "no shit" is visible from space. But Friends with Money, Jennifer Aniston's much-touted return to the indie scene, atones for its shortcomings in the plot department by kicking unprecedented ass in the great-actress-triumvirate-of-delight department. The magical gals who save this movie, the three best actresses ever—just to get it out of the way, Aniston is not one of them, though she's okay—are Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, and Catherine Keener, who, along with Aniston, portray a quartet of Los Angeles best pals. The three tut condescendingly over Olivia (Aniston), who has achieved neither marital bliss nor financial stability, floating through her 30s in a pathetic haze—scrubbing strangers' toilets, scamming free samples at the Lancôme counter, and occasionally having sex with a detached meathead. The dialogue is sharp and the performances are flawless. But it's still a movie about the emotional pain of building an addition to one's house. (LINDY WEST)
You know what rules!? Ice Age: The Meltdown rules! A bunch of famous people did the voices (Denis Leary, Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Jay Leno...), and the animation is infinitely better than the first installment, with vivid colors and far more detail. Plus, that little acorn-loving squirrel guy is back. He's funny. (MEGAN SELING)
Denzel Washington plays Keith Frazier, a New York Police detective, and when a bank holdup turns into a complex hostage situation, he's called to put his silk 'n' granite conversation skills to the test. The film is a long 129 minutes, but that's fine by me. Not only does it allow Spike Lee (working from a silly/smart script by Russell Gewirtz) to take lightweight detours into racial profiling, violent video games, and the exceedingly unfortunate names lovers give to each other's genitalia, but it gives you plenty of time to hypothesize about the hostage-takers' motives. (Is that anti-capitalist speech in Albanian a clue?) The plot has spongy spots, like the amorphous Aryan evil that both the good and bad guys ultimately have to contend with, but it's never less than fun. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Charlie (Joel Edgerton), a square, inherits his father's factory, where squares make boots all day. Industrial England has been in decline for ages, so Charlie isn't too shocked when he finds out the business is failing. Still, something must be done! Charlie tries firing people, but that doesn't suit his charming facial features. Then, thanks to the prodding of a sweetie named Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts), Charlie goes cool-hunting in London and stumbles across Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a damsel in distress who just happens to be a man. Not just any boots will satisfy Lola: You know, they have to be strong enough for a man, but stilettoed for a woman. Over the mild protestations of the factory workers (conveyed primarily through Nick Frost's boyish facial contortions), some satisfactory boots are fashioned. What a climax, eh? That's why there's an obligatory Milan fashion show at the end. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Casey Affleck's character, Jim, is afflicted with chronic despair and, life-wise, he's run out of options. So he runs home to rural Indiana where he meets Anika (Liv Tyler) in a bar. She's wearing her nurse's uniform. He's wearing his Brooklyn haircut. He's sheepish about failing in Manhattan; embarrassed, he mentions he worked at an Applebee's. Without irony, she says, "I love Applebee's." They both identify as writers. The first time they have sex, it's in the hospital where Anika works. The second time, it's in Jim's bedroom, his walls covered with portraits of Hemingway, Parker, Richard Yates, Woolf, Plath—a who's who of suicidal literati. There's a side story about a drug mix-up, there's a fat guy on a motorcycle, there's a moment when Affleck starts singing along to "If You Leave Me Now," but there's nothing very daring in this movie. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
This frenetic pastiche of a movie is about a pudgy-cute dude named Slevin (Josh Hartnett) who inadvertently wades into an all-out race war—excuse me, noble blood feud—between The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and The Rabbi (Sir Ben Kingsley). But most of the time Lucky Number Slevin looks like a feature-length advertisement for Target home décor. It's a good thing there's so much to look at, because it's hard to care much about the convoluted tease of writer Jason Smilovic's plot. There are lots of murders and double-crossings and mistaken identities and novel terms for bloody sleights-of-hand, plus one reference each to North by Northwest and James Bond. But if you get bored, you can always imagine the grisly proceedings are actually taking place in some heretofore-uncharted corner of IKEA. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is a not-very-good movie about old ladies: cute ones, nice ones, grumpy ones, dead ones. (LINDY WEST)
There's vampire-fighting, an attempt to forestall a world-ending prophecy, and a guy who likes to use his own spine as a broadsword. I'm not sure what the hell I saw, but I wouldn't mind watching more of it. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
For all you rockabilly dolls dying to see the origin of your aesthetic in all her cinematic glory, go ahead and queue up now—you'll love this movie. The set design, cinematography, and costumes capture the Eisenhower era with affectionate accuracy, from the furnishings in Page's tidy New York apartment to the postcard-worthy boardwalk shots on Miami Beach and Coney Island. With a smooth mix of documentary footage, saturated color, and periodic interludes of soft black and white, writer-director Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho) creates the ideal backdrop for the much-romanticized legend of Page's life and career. Unfortunately, Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner limit themselves to cursory observations about the conservative mores of the '50s and perfunctory stops along the timeline of Bettie's rise to "notoriety." (HANNAH LEVIN)
Sissyman Bob Munro (Robin Williams) is a big dumb jerk who can't say no to his germaphobic asshole boss, so instead of taking his selfish family on vacation to Hawaii, where he was finally gonna have the time to sex up his attention-starved wife), he rents a giant RV, and drags Snootypants and his two jerky kids to Colorado where he'll secretly attend a business meeting his boss is requiring him to go to. Catch is, Dude doesn't know how to drive the RV or work the poop-emptying machine. You can imagine the hilarity that ensures. (MEGAN SELING)
Scary Movie 4 is just as entertaining as all the previous Scary Movies (something tells me that if you're reading this, you found the preceding flicks at least mildly amusing), and due to some lucky timing, it's actually even funnier. See, last year was full of movies and moments that practically spoof themselves, and the writers of Scary Movie 4 take care to touch on every single one. Jokes about homosexuals, thanks to Brokeback Mountain? Check. War of the Worlds and a lot of "Tom Cruise is crazy" jokes? Check. Self-mutilation gags thanks to Saw? Carmen Electra in a tight and busty little corset that makes boys in the audience go "Woo! Boobies!"? Amy Farina being hilarious? Check, check, and mate! Hooray! (MEGAN SELING)
A disgraced former Secret Service agent (Michael Douglas) tries to save the President.
A Twelfth Night update set on the prep-school soccer field (from the screenwriters of Ten Things I Hate About You).
Until a late appeal to logic interrupts the fun, the new goth-friendly splatter flick Silent Hill delivers a freshly rancid freakout of the sort that's intelligible only to some dank level of your subconscious. Based on the video game series, Roger Avery's script cherry-picks liberally from the four installments to date. (Full wimp disclosure: This reviewer never finished the first game, having packed it in when the dead babies came out carrying butcher knives. I mean, Jesus.) The scenario here finds an increasingly freaked woman searching for her daughter in the titular mining town, a mostly deserted place that occasionally slips into a dimension chock full of acid-puking hulks, mobs of charcoal-briquette children, and, an 8-foot-tall dude with a pyramid for a head and a sword that rivals that of Johnny Wadd Holmes. Director Christophe Gans goes for broke during these nightmare sequences, delivering a succession of genuinely disturbing setpieces. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Written and directed by James Gunn (who also did the screenplay for 2004's Dawn of the Dead), Slither lives up to all expectations: It boasts an onslaught of blatant gore, a tentacle rape scene, and the complete understanding that it's a total joke. (MEGAN SELING)
Based loosely on the life of ballroom-dancing revivalist Pierre Dulaine, Take the Lead is the familiar tale of teenage redemption via fox trot. The story arc is soothingly predictable: Latin dandy Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) shows up at a New York City public school, inexplicably yearning to teach merengue to the snarling masses. The beleaguered, no-nonsense principal (Alfre Woodard), after laughing in his ignorant face ("Life for these kids is like a fight to stay alive and a hustle to make ends meet, not ballroom dancing"), wearily agrees, and Dulaine's delinquents montage, montage, montage their way right into the Big Competition. Take the Lead is neither as charming nor as satisfying as its documentary predecessor, 2005's Mad Hot Ballroom. The scripted progression of professional actors and dancers can't touch the exhilaration of watching spazzy preteens master it for real, but TTL's dancing is polished and entertaining nonetheless. It's the rest of the movie—vaguely racist, enthusiastically sexist, and weirdly anticlimactic—that stinks. (LINDY WEST)
As a work of satire, Thank You for Smoking is safely and securely dated. The book it's adapted from (by conservative novelist Christopher Buckley) was published in the mid-'90s, when tobacco lawsuits were flying fast and loose and the word "probe" was rampant in headlines in the Washington Post. But what the movie loses in relevance, it gains in absurd comedy. (ANNIE WAGNER)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is a masterpiece, flat out. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
As a work of cinema, V for Vendetta is no Batman or Matrix. But its timing (it opened the day before the third anniversary of the second Iraq war) is impeccable. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
A Disney movie about escaped zoo animals.