American Outlaws, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, The Deep End, Lumumba, Rat Race, The Wide Blue Road


American Pie II
The original American Pie was a surprise not because it was good, exactly, but because it wasn't as screamingly awful as you assumed it had to be. The story--knowingly based on the Porky's school of blatant vulgarity blended with dewy comings of age--managed to sneak a few poignant observations about friendship in among the poo jokes, and offered a number of actually funny lines. This sequel seems destined to try and have it both ways again, milking the gratuitous nudity for adolescent boners and repeating variations on the famous jokes of part one, while waxing nostalgic about growing up and so forth. Metro

* Bitches in Heat
The Northwest Film Forum's retrospective of films whose central characters are beautiful, powerful, oversexed, ball-stomping maneaters, takes a strong, well-programmed look at the semi-conscious male terror of strong women that continues to dominate American film. This week's entries include Billy Wilder's (only?) great work, Sunset Boulevard, starring Gloria Swanson, who packs Amazonian ego into her wee little frame, and Jospeh Mankiewicz's All About Eve, in which even the bitch on wheels splendor of Bette Davis is overmatched by the insidiously unassuming social climber, Anne Baxter. Grand Illusion

A series for parents who aren't that excited to pay 30 bucks for two hours of multiplex television (where the commercials are built right into the movie), this program provides diversion that nourishes. This week, we get two radically different animation programs. First, "Appreciating the Universe--A Hubley Studios Jamboree." Abstract and joyous, the animation of Faith and John Hubley (who walked away from Disney lucre to go the independent route long before such a path was fashionable, much less thinkable, in '50s America) bops and dances to a jazz beat, spilling over with buoyant, celebratory humanism, awash with color and narrative smarts. Then, Cartoon Craziness, a retro-cavalcade of cartoons from the '70s, heyday of the mainstream hippie animator, the only time a stoner like Shaggy coupld be voiced by a square like Casey Kasem. The program includes bits of The Groovie Ghoulies (remember Wacky and Packy? Those loveable mutts from M*U*S*H?), Josie and the Pussycats, and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Far out. (Sean Nelson) Little Theatre

* The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivières Pourpres)
See Stranger Suggests. Though this film takes its cues from American thrillers of the most manipulative variety, being French, it does so with a certain élan. The plot follows two detectives, Jean Reno as a gruff Parisian and Vincent Cassel as the hippest of provincials, whose separate investigations dovetail at an elite school high in the French Alps. Someone is torturing and brutally (but beautifully--the cinematography's gorgeous!) murdering key school administrators and planting the bodies to force discovery of first the motive then the identity of the vengeful killer. Tension builds and story accelerates as the trail of frozen corpses turns to fresh kills and the detectives themselves are caught by the slippery murderer. (Sarah Sternau) Opens Fri. Broadway Market

The summer tradition of movies viewed in parking lots continues; this one is at N 35th and Phinney (across from Redhook Brewery). This week--Forrest Gump, the unconscionable tract of neoconservative social engineering which posited that the ideal state for 20th century Americans--the one certain to enable a body to elude the slings and arrows of AIDS, cynicism, and free-thought--was mental retardation. Sat Aug 11.

This is a bland British comedy about a bunch of murderers and thieves who become gardeners in prison. They get so good at planning and planting gardens that, in the end, they get to have tea with the queen. All told, it's a pretty good reflection of the confused state of mainstream British cinema--predictable, cloying, and non-funny in every way. Even Helen Mirren is bad in it. The one thing Greenfingers has going for it is Clive Owen, star of last year's brilliant Croupier, who plays the lead thug horticulturalist. Owen is so good, so convinced and convincing in certain scenes, that you can only assume he thought he was in a different movie than the rest of the cast. Harvard Exit

The King is Alive
Reviewed this issue. The vestiges of Dogme '95 are once again aired in this all-star tribute to artistic asceticism. Varsity

Back again for a seventh season, Linda's Summer Movies is the original outdoor drinking/film-watching extravaganza, presented, as always, FOR FREE!! By the time the plot falls apart, you'll be too drunk to care!! This week: Hemo The Magnificent. Wed Aug 15.

Monkey's Mask
Strangely schizophrenic Aussie whodunit in which a dyke private dick investigates the mysterious disappearance of a tragic teen girl "poet" ("your cock has all the words/you ram them into me till I can't stand up") by diddling around with her professor, played by Kelly McGillis, who, 15 years after Top Gun, is looking a bit like Jan Michael Vincent with breast implants (sad). The film looks good and there's a lot of sex, but the mystery simply isn't one, and more than that, the literary world portrayed is a total embarrassment to anyone who's ever read a book. What really kills it, though, is the pseudo Sam Spade voice-over. Broadway Market

* Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
A troika of old-time Hollywood greats--Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Melvyn Douglas--star in this all-time sweetheart of screwball comedy that tells the story of a New York couple who decide to move to the country, thinking life will be simpler. They soon discover that hell is where you find it. An utter gem. Seattle Art Museum

Osmosis Jones
The Farrelly Brothers, avatars of le cinema d'ordure, return with this half-animated tale of the biological denizens that dwell inside the comedically abused corpus of one Bill Murray. Chris Rock provides the voice of the cartoon hero, whose job it is to fight disease and, one assumes, navigate the onslaught of fart jokes the script hurls his way. The picture looks to land somewhere between Innerspace and The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Metro

* The Others
Reviewed this issue. A well-executed gothic horror film in a Jamesian vein from Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar. (Sean Nelson) Metro, Pacific Place 11

An ongoing retrospective of the films of Africa's greatest director. This week: Sembene's first feature film, Black Girl (1966), is based on his novel of the same name, and derives its beauty from Sembene's trademark efficiency and exactness. Black Girl details the terrible loneliness and humiliation an African immigrant, Mbissine Thérèse Diop, experiences while working as a maid for a wealthy French family. The film is elegantly thin, with very little waste of time or space. (Charles Mudede) Little Theatre

* The Short Attention Span Film and Video Festival
See Stranger Suggests. This popular touring festival showcases works in film, video, and animation, each no longer than two minutes. (Some works are NOT suitable for children.) Bring your own Ritalin. Thurs and Fri, Aug 9 and 10, 8 pm, $4/$6. 911 Media Arts Center

Showgirls, the Paul Verhoeven/Joe Eszterhas debacle, has achieved a tremendous cult following among those who love camp 'n' catfights. Mysteriously, inexplicably even, it has now been booked for midnight screenings without the benefit of David Schmader's brilliant stoner disquisition on the finer points of the film that failed to make Elizabeth Berkely a star. Though the movie itself is at times howlingly funny (the Kyle MacLachlan swimming pool sex scene leaps to mind), it's mainly just howlingly bad, and, like the neon city in which it is set, desperately sad, to boot. Egyptian

Spy Kids
A director's cut of Robert Rodriguez's wildly successful franchise mustard seedling. Spy Kids Redux boasts 20 minutes of new footage, including several new scenes of Marlon Brando improvising, and a long sequence set in a French plantation that never made the original cut. Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16


* A.I.
A word of warning: The film is LONG, and features multiple endings. Another warning: If you like this film, you will be the only person you know who does, so prepare yourself for some abuse. (Sean Nelson) Aurora Cinema Grill, Metro, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center

America's Sweethearts
This film is a total gyp. (Kathleen Wilson) Factoria, Guild 45th, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center

* The Anniversary Party
Though it skirts the edges of a dozen poisonous pitfalls (vanity production, written and directed by actors, movie about movie people, et al.), this party actually winds up being a very good, maybe even great examination of the inner life of a gaggle of rich, famous, and beautiful people who spend a day and night at the titular celebration. P.S. The extended sequence where all the characters take ecstasy contains the most accurate on-screen drug consumption of any movie I've ever seen. (Sean Nelson) Uptown

This ninth film by Takeshi Kitano--his fourth in the gangster genre--is an awkward tale of brotherhood, real and/or symbolic. Beat Takeshi must flee Tokyo when his ruthlessness and impassivity begin to creep out his yakuza clan. He joins his half-brother in L.A. and quickly turns little sib's small-time drug operation into a pan-gang turf war, forcing the naïfs to bond in the face of all the trouble that soon rains down on them. Sluggish pacing and an oppressive piano soundtrack tip the scales toward a rating of dull. (Sarah Sternau) Meridian 16, Varsity

Highly recommended to those who love to masturbate to images of oversexed, underfed, shirtless teens, this is the latest installment in Larry (Kids) Clark's ongoing cinematic exploration of the moral vacuum which surrounds contemporary youth, and the murderous, drug-addled, emotionally bereft impulses that sprout there. If the film is a metaphor for what society does to kids, and what kids do to kids as a result, it fails, mainly because it's really about what Clark wants to do to kids (the boys especially), which is light them luxuriantly and then fuck them blind. Bully operates in a hollow sphere where the deck is so stacked against reality that all you can do is pray for the credits. (Sean Nelson) Egyptian

Cats and Dogs
For once, a film centered around cats waging holy war against dogs breaks the mold, and makes the cats dumb and the dogs smart. Aspects of popular espionage films (most notably Mission: Impossible and The Matrix) are woven into this computer-enhanced, live-action film, and for the most part, it's pretty funny--much more so than one would expect from a cats-against-dogs story line for kids and dog lovers. (Kathleen Wilson) Aurora Cinema Grill, Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16, Metro

The Closet
An accountant at a condom factory realizes he's about to be fired. Divorced, alienated from his 17-year-old son, he contemplates suicide, but is instead given some rather odd advice from his neighbor, a retired psychiatrist: Announce at work that you are gay, and the powers that be will be too frightened to fire you, lest they get slapped with a nasty lawsuit. The accountant takes his neighbor's advice, and, well, hilarity ensues. Or, if not hilarity, at least a few laughs here and there. (Bradley Steinbacher) Guild 45th

* Enlightenment Guaranteed
This super-engaging story of two German brothers waylaid in Tokyo on their way to a Japanese Zen monastery is a study in unclassifiability: elements of farce (their travel fiasco lands them in lederhosen before long) mingle with serious human drama and an abiding desire for spiritual credence, though the hapless brothers are basically foolish, a Teutonic Laurel and Hardy. The video photography gives the film a guileless quality, not unlike a demo recording, that lends immediacy to the proceedings which, in hands less skilled than those of director Doris Dörrie, might have grown tendentious. Hurry to see it. (Sean Nelson) Broadway Market

Female Trouble
I can't remember if this is the one where the giant lobster fucks Divine or the one where Divine rapes him/herself. I do know that it's not the one where he eats a poo. That's Pink Flamingos. Still, if you like John Waters films, this is one. (Sean Nelson) Grand Illusion

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Fantastic worlds, crackpot mysticism, and spectacular animation--Final Fantasy may, at first glance, seem like just another cartoon blockbuster, but upon further inspection the film's true colors come to life: The end of acting is near. Call me an alarmist, but the animated characters in Final Fantasy are such a leap forward that the future may actually be visible. (Bradley Steinbacher) Meridian 16

* Ghost World
Fans of Daniel Clowes' epochal comic novel about the listless inner teen life have been awaiting this adaptation by Crumb director Terry Zwigoff for years now, and the film delivers, though not in the direct way you might have anticipated. Clowes' super-detached geek queens Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have graduated from high school, and, bored, they answer a personals ad placed by über-dork vinyl junkie Seymour (an R. Crumb surrogate played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi) responds. As an experiment, Enid decides to educate Seymour in the ways of love, and her world begins to crumble. (Sean Nelson) Neptune

* Hedwig and the Angry Inch
With its charming pop-art magical realism, cinematic flashbacks, and the ability to present intimate documentary-style footage of Hedwig's misfit band on tour with their charlatan business manager (an excellent character addition), the movie version of Hedwig emphasizes the rich plot far better than the stage version did. Although, admittedly, the movie's ending--a Christlike nude walking across a city street, with a close-up on Mitchell's ass--is still wildly obscure. (Josh Feit) Egyptian

From the makers of Twin Falls Idaho comes this gritty tale of a would be country troubadour and his manager (played by former SNL also-ran Garrett Morris), in which the road--in all its rustic brutality--is "bery bery good" to no one. A side note: karaoke haters, consider yourselves warned. Puttin' on the Hits fans take heart: host Allen Fawcett makes a rare screen appearance! Other stars include Daryl Hannah and Peggy Lipton. Harvard Exit

Jump Tomorrow
Much more than just a multiethnic Forces of Nature, Joel Hopkins' feature debut concerns a Nigerian New Yorker whose prearranged nuptials are contravened by the interposition of a sensual Latina, her limey beau, and, most troublingly of all, a Citroën-driving Frenchman, hell bent on playing cupid. Broadway Market

Jurassic Park III
I don't know if part three, directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) is genuinely better than parts one and two (mainly because I still can't tell if those movies were good--I just know they had big-ass dinosaurs in them, and that's enough), but it clearly raises the dino stakes, delivering the ferocious predatory business of the monsters themselves more convincingly than Spielberg ever could. (Sean Nelson) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Majestic Bay, Meridian 16, Oak Tree

Kiss of the Dragon
An incomprehensibly plotted, ultraviolent bloodstorm nearly redeemed by the elegance and inexplicably potent moral gravity of Hong Kong superstar Jet Li, who seems to be playing a frustrated acupuncturist turned government agent. (Tamara Paris) Pacific Place 11

Legally Blonde
In Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon plays a Southern California Barbie doll named Elle Woods. Elle possesses charming, asexual, lobotomized good cheer and an encyclopedic knowledge of shoes and hemlines. When her boyfriend dumps her (she's "not serious enough"), she decides to win him back by attending Harvard Law School, getting in even though her brain operates, with the savantish exception of matters of fashion, at the level of a 10-year-old. The movie isn't much, but Witherspoon, before whom all living young actresses should cower, owns every frame of it. (Michael Shilling) Grand Alderwood, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11

Walking out of Made, I tried to conjure the perfect phonetic sound to properly describe it. The winner: "nyeh," as in "whatever." Here is a film that exists for no other reason than to revisit the "magic" between Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, and your admiration for Made may depend on just how brilliant you found Swingers, their first project. If you thought it was great, then by all means go. But, if like me, you found it vastly overrated, only marginally entertaining, and more than occasionally annoying (especially that Vaughn fucker), you'd be better served elsewhere. That said, it's a comedy about the mob, and there are some good moments. (Bradley Steinbacher) Broadway Market

* Memento
Telling the backwards tale of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a vengeful investigator suffering from short-term memory loss trying to hunt down his wife's murderer, Memento effectively mines the rich soil of the film noir mystery with universally corrupt characters and a watertight, intricate plot. (Jamie Hook) Aurora Cinema Grill, Metro, Uptown

* Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The funniest movie ever returns with a pristine new print, in anticipation of the forthcoming DVD, with "23 seconds of never-before-seen material." Harvard Exit

Original Sin
This psychoeroticsexualogical thriller starring Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas isn't half as bad as early press reports led one to believe. That said, it's still pretty goddamn bad, with its sweaty, swarthy tale of revenge, lust, and obsession ultimately masking the real movie underneath: a tone poem about Jolie's lips, forever in tight close-up. Banderas is a believable hero/dupe, and both leads are easy on the eyes, but the would-be erotic luster remains largely theoretical, subsumed under the heavy pastiche of Cubano iconography. (Sean Nelson) Aurora Cinema Grill, Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Metro, Redmond Town Center

Planet of the Apes
At first glance, Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake has everything you could wish for in a summer blockbuster--i.e., massive budget, marginal script, entertaining result. But, upon further inspection (a.k.a. actually watching it), it turns out to be the stupidest film of the year. Sure, sure, it's fun to watch good actors frolic about in brilliant chimp makeup, but the story--which the credits list as being based upon a book by Pierre Boulle (although I doubt the book was nearly as stupid as this film)--is so ridiculous, so unnecessarily convoluted to the point of inanity (not to mention poorly thought out), that the end result actually becomes an insult to the audience. (Bradley Steinbacher) Cinerama, Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Majestic Bay, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11

* The Princess and the Warrior
Somewhere between dream and reality is Wuppertal, Germany, whose buildings, streets, and stairs form the stage for the story of Sissi and Bodo--the shy princess and the sad warrior. Sissi works in a mental institution, the home for those who cannot "bear too much reality." Bodo (Benno Furmann) is an unstable and unemployed ex-soldier who lives with his brother Walter (Joachim Król). Walter and Bodo are planning to rob a bank and flee to Australia (the land of the dream time, according to native Australians). Fate brings the princess and the warrior together; they're a match made in heaven. But there are numerous knots and plots to sort out before the pure beings (air, the princess; water, the warrior) can fuse into a perfect and complete whole. (Charles Mudede) Varsity

The Princess Diaries
In this G-rated Pygmalion, bespectacled, curly haired, Doc Martens-sporting wallflower Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) discovers she's heir to the throne of Genovia and, courtesy of "princess lessons" from her queenly grandmama (Julie Andrews), blossoms. When will Hollywood learn that girls with glasses aren't ugly? Diaries suffers the flaw that makes teen transformation flicks such as She's All That unbelievable: The swan looks worse than the ugly duckling. Even her best friend (Heather Matarazzo) shouts, "Who destroyed you?!" when she sees the new look. Mia, however, still has trouble fitting in, thanks to a bitchy clique led by Lana (pop princess Mandy Moore). The nine-year-old in your life will breathe a sigh of relief when Mia gets to have her tiara and wear her Docs too. (Heather Muse) Factoria, Majestic Bay, Meridian 16, Metro

* The Road Home
Yusheng's mother Di has called him home with an ancient request: He must gather a party of villagers to walk the body of his dead father home. Over the snowy mountains and all the way to their remote village, the bearers must tell the dead Mr. Luo, "This is the road home," so that he will always know. Some love stories could have happened anywhere. Others, like The Road Home, belong to their settings like the view from a particular hillside. The story of Di and Luo is communal territory, like the schoolhouse, and as necessary to the life of the village. Where director Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern was sweeping, The Road Home is tiny--and it's still completely overwhelming, especially when staring into Zhang Ziyi's doe eyes. (Evan Sult) Harvard Exit

Rush Hour 2
Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan reteam as a black cop and a Chinese cop in this sequel which, being exactly as funny and entertaining as its predecessor, transcends all critical inquiry. Zhang Ziyi, from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is in it, though. (Bradley Steinbacher) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Northgate, Redmond Town Center, Varsity

Scary Movie 2
As a champion of the uneven but undeniable comic brilliance of Scary Movie--a film I stumbled into stoned and staggered out of sore from shock and laughter--it pains me to tell you that Scary Movie 2 sucks. (David Schmader) Meridian 16

* The Score
Though it's legitimately sad to see Brando (who now makes Sydney Greenstreet look like Kate Moss) as enormous as he is, the comic grace with which he glides through this otherwise inferior work--and again, it's totally watchable and entertaining--makes you remember that he really is the best of all time. (Sean Nelson) Factoria, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center

* Sexy Beast
Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired gangster living high on a hill in the Costa del Sol, enjoying a lethargic existence. But he is as out of place here as the heart-shaped ceramic tiles on the floor of his pool. Bad news arrives in the shape of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, so great), there to coax Gal back to England for a job. Gal resists, but Don won't take no for an answer, setting in motion a verbal boxing match so artful and intense it turns the sprawling Spanish vista into a pressure cooker in which Gal is forced to reckon for his ill-had comforts. A voice buried deep within Gal tells him and us that this can't last. Don is that voice, given brutal, relentless human form. In the fallout of their confrontation lies one of the finest films in recent memory. (Sean Nelson) Seven Gables, Uptown

* Under the Sand
While on holiday at their summer home in western France, Jean vanishes during a swim, leaving his wife Marie, played by the indefatigably beautiful Charlotte Rampling, ravished by loneliness. Upon her return to Paris she is encouraged to begin dating again, but can't shake the feeling that Jean is still alive, refusing to come to terms with the "closure" her friends demand of her. (Sean Nelson) Varsity

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