HOORAY FOR BEER! Lord knows we love the Clinton St. Theater, but now we have one more reason: Beer. Opening this weekend is the Clinton St. Brewpub, which is attached to the theater and will be serving up beer and a full menu of culinary delights. Even better? You can enjoy the beer in the theater as you watch the Clinton's films. The official grand opening is Friday, July 1--so head on over to the Clint, check out Gimme Shelter and/or You So Crazy, and drink some beer.
FEELIN' CULTY? In what's been described as "a New Age sensation!", "a cult-tastic phenomenon!", and "the dumbest film in the history of civilization," those behind the film What the Fuck Do We Know are throwing a big fat New Age convention (okay, fine, it's officially called a "Prophets Conference," which is way more creepy) from Friday-Sunday (July 1-3) at the Benson Hotel. The "Prophets Conference" will feature actors, scientists, and philosophers from the film (including motivational speaker/punchline Deepak Chopra), and doubtless many confused, possibly hypnotized followers. For more info, hit whatthebleep.com.
EXTRA! EXTRA! Do you want to be barely glimpsed in a flick from the guys who blessed/cursed us with Napoleon Dynamite? Are you anything on Sunday, July 3? Of course you do, and of course you aren't--so go to actorsinaction.com to find out how you can be an extra.
Batman Begins Greatly influenced by the Batman comics of Frank Miller, director Christopher Nolan (Memento) and screenwriter David S. Goyer (the fun but stupid Blade movies) forge a reimagined story of how a lost Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) becomes a badass vigilante. Underlying Nolan's entire film are decidedly un-Hollywood themes of fear and vengeance; the film is so good and so much fun because it embraces Batman's inherent creepiness rather than trying to hide it. (Erik Henriksen)
Regal Cinemas, etc
Bewitched To say that director/writer Nora Ephron's new incarnation of the TV show Bewitched is the worst piece of shit I've ever seen is an insult to the other movies I've accused of being big pieces of shit. Poor Nicole Kidman stars as Isabel Bigelow, a real-life witch who wants a shot at living life the way mortals do. Poor Will Ferrell stars as Jack Wyatt, a has-been actor who's starring as "Darren" in a TV remake of Bewitched. After discovering the untrained Isabel, Jack shoves her into the Samantha role, and promptly falls in love with her. Complications ensue when you discover you're sitting through the worst movie ever made, and you forgot to bring along a knife with which to slit your wrists. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Regal Cinemas, etc
The Brother From Another Planet Joe Morton is an alien and a slave on another planet, and he escapes and lands on Harlem. The locals think he's just another "brother"--get it? He's literally a brother... from another planet! One of John Sayles' earliest works.
PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
Born Into Brothels Rare is the documentary that feels too short, but this wrenching look at kids growing up within the squalid red-light sector of India begs for a more detailed exploration. The film follows the efforts of co-director/photographer Zana Briski to save the children of Calcutta's sex workers, initially by encouraging their photographic skills, then by navigating through unbelievable levels of bureaucratic quicksand. (Andrew Wright)
Crash Crash, the directing debut of Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis, certainly doesn't want for hubris, but ultimately it's an exhibit of laudable ambition overwhelming Haggis' still-developing narrative abilities. Although Haggis' would-be epic portrayal of race relations in Los Angeles sports a handful of genuinely searing moments, it's hard to shake the sense of someone constantly rearranging 3 by 5 cards behind the scenes for maximum impact. (Andrew Wright) Fox Tower 10 , Westgate
The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream
Alright. You're not stupid. You know that we're running out of oil, and that oil is really expensive, and that basically the way that we Americans think of transportation is doomed. So get together with a bunch of like-minded folks and check out this documentary, which is about all that stuff.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room This is more than just a play-by-play look at the rise, fall, and impact of Enron--the film also asks why people act immorally, and (perhaps more damningly) why others allow it to happen. Surprisingly, all of this makes for dark comedy rather than a muckraking expos; rather than pushing its political agenda, Enron simply confronts you with the worst of human nature. (Andrea Chalupa) Hollywood Theatre
Gimme Shelter Arguably the Maysles Brothers' greatest achievement from a period that also birthed classics like Grey Gardens and Salesman, Gimme Shelter is also perhaps the single greatest argument both for (the mind-blowing "breakfast show" performance at Madison Square Garden that begins the film, featuring a beautiful, young Mick Jagger still in his physical prime) and against (the many moments of unrestrained vanity and supreme indifference to the plight of others) the Rolling Stones. Tracing 1969's largely triumphant U.S. tour, the film focuses primarily on the trip's bloody conclusion at the infamous Altamont Music Festival--a free concert modeled after Woodstock, with an aftermath that has been regularly lumped in alongside the countless other "end of innocence" milemarkers of the decade. The tour's doomed trajectory is expertly shot, paced, and edited, but what really sets Gimme Shelter apart from other great rock documentaries of the era is the sheer dumb luck of it all--the Maysles Brothers just happened to capture some of the most unbelievable footage (Mick Jagger getting clocked as he exits his rock star trailer, the brutal stabbing death of a fan, etc.) in the Stones' sordid history, and in the process, made what very well could be the ultimate rock documentary. (Zac Pennington) Clinton Street Theater
THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT A Jayne Mansfield flick in which a gangster hires an alcoholic agent to make his talentless girlfriend a star. Fifth Ave. Cinemas
Heights Heights is completely indefensible as a genuinely quirky or intelligent film, despite its pretensions to the contrary (which are legion). This does not, however, keep it from being totally awesome. Premise: In preparation for an exhibit in New York City, a famous gay photographer asks his assistant to interview all of his former models. Said photographer, who never actually appears in the film, is notorious for fucking all of his subjects, so these interviews open a big ol' can of hot, slutty worms. There's a little too much screen time devoted to Elizabeth Banks' bland, blonde rich-girl character (Banks is, essentially, Parker Posey lite), but otherwise this is a fun film, full of pretty people doing trashy things. (Alison Hallett) Fox Tower 10
Herbie: Fully Loaded In the year's time since Lindsay Lohan committed her masterstroke in Mean Girls, the world (which is to say, mostly just the staff of this paper) has lived solely in anticipation of the formerly buoyant actress' next masterpiece. But Herbie is, as those less feverish might have already imagined, utterly joyless in most every sense--and not just because Disney digitally reduced Lindsay's ample assets by as much as two bra sizes. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc
Howl's Moving Castle The latest from genius Japanese anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. A young girl, Sophie, is transformed into a hunched, wrinkled old woman--confused and frightened, she hobbles out to the misty countryside, hoping to find Howl, an enigmatic young wizard who might be able to help her. To proselytize: Go see it, right now. To use what sounds like hyperbole, but isn't: It's amazing. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
The Ice Capades Film Tour Chicago's Ice Capades Film and Video Series presents work from Chicago film and video artists--and this here is their "best of" show, followed by music from Velvetron. The Know
The Interpreter Nicole Kidman plays a U.N. translator who accidentally overhears an ominous assassination plot; paranoia perfunctorily sets in, and she's paired with a reluctant FBI agent (Sean Penn). In The Interpreter's best moments, director Sydney Pollack channels the verve and momentum of his excellent Three Days of the Condor--but more often than not, the otherwise solid Pollack, Kidman, and Penn trust in a tepid, uneven screenplay that's neither fluid nor convincing. (Erik Henriksen) Avalon , Laurelhurst , Bagdad Theater
Kung Fu Hustle The latest from Hong Kong's superstar director and star Stephen Chow, Kung Fu Hustle is all over the map: It's part slapstick, part hokey drama, part action extravaganza, and part cartoon--and Chow blends all of these seemingly disparate parts to make a nearly perfect comedy. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10 , Avalon , Laurelhurst
Ladies in Lavender Ladies in Lavender has Judi Dench and Maggie Smith playing two dames sharing a house in lovely Cornwall. One morning, the sisters spy a body splayed out on the rocks. Discovering a young man (Daniel Brühl), they nurse him back to health. The most interesting moments come when Ursula (Dench) reveals her unrequited romantic fascination with the young man, and when snippets of subtext-heavy dialogue result between the sisters. In terms of plot, there's a whole lot of light stroking along these lines, yet the film never quite gets to the soap opera-like climaxes that seem inevitable. (Evan James) Fox Tower 10
Land of the Dead Land of the Dead isn't that great compared to George A. Romero's previous zombie classics. Here, Romero imagines a zombie-infested world where the richest survivors (led by a happily amoral Dennis Hopper) live in safety and luxury, while the poor live in ground-level slums, fetching supplies for the rich and fending off the undead. There's fun, and there's gore, and there's Romero's usual mix of horror and biting social commentary. But throughout, there's something more distressing: Optimism. It's a sensation at odds with Romero's typical nihilism, and even his intense fright sequences and pitch-black humor can't counteract a too-easy plot and a sappy ending. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc
Layer Cake Neophyte director Matthew Vaughn doesn't steer too far from the neo-British gangster/heist film genre with this one, and considering I'm the only person under the age of 31 who didn't like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, I wasn't expecting to enjoy Layer Cake. But I did. Daniel Craig stars as an unnamed London dope distributor (he's credited as "XXXX") who's hoping to retire. His last assignment, of course, is a snafu waiting to happen, and XXXX soon discovers that you can never leave the business--or if you do, it won't be when or how you decide. What distinguishes Layer Cake is that it avoids making its characters caricatures. As a result, the film escapes becoming a Ritchie--or even a Tarantino--knockoff and is content for what it is: A good crime thriller. (Will Gardner) Fox Tower 10 , Westgate
The Longest Yard Taking over Burt Reynolds' role from the awesome 1974 original Yard is an increasingly tubby Adam Sandler, playing ex-NFL quarterback Paul Crewe. After a drunk driving escapade, Crewe is sent to a penitentiary where a pigskin- lovin' warden forces him to put together a team of inmates to take on his cruel semi-pro guards in a football game. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Lords of Dogtown Lords of Dogtown, the mass-marketed dramatization of the excellent skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, isn't a bad film so much as an unnecessary one. Sure, the human elements of the Z-Boys' story get more room to breathe than they did in the doc, but there's no new viewpoint added to the Z-Boys mythos; the super-slick, Sony-produced Dogtown just feels like a retread of the documentary, and one written as if it were a tween-targeted pilot for the WB. (Erik Henriksen) Westgate , Mission Theater
Lost in Translation In less delicate hands, Lost in Translation could easily have been a dull, pretentious disaster, but Sofia Coppola has two cards tucked up her sleeve. One is the city of Tokyo itself, which has never looked so mysterious and engaging in an American film, and the other is Bill Murray, the bulk of whose part comes across as having been improvised. Why someone has not thought of dropping Murray among the citizens of a strange foreign city before remains a mystery, but without him--and despite the fine work of Coppola and Scarlett Johansson--Lost in Translation would surely fail. (Bradley Steinbacher) Pix Patisserie
Machuca An outstanding film set in the final days before Pinochet's coup in Chile, told from the point of view of two young boys (Matías Quer and Ariel Mateluna). It's a singularly moving story--seething with hatred, but at least temporarily transcending it. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood Theatre
MACTARNAHAN'S OUTDOOR SUMMER CINEMA SERIES Every Friday and Saturday this summer, Mac's presents free films, plus "BBQ, beer, wine, and outdoor libations" in Pyramid Breweries' Taproom parking lot! This Friday: The Big Lebowski. This Saturday: This is Spinal Tap. Awesome. Oh, and bring your own chairs. Pyramind Brewing
Mad Hot Ballroom Enjoy watching this documentary about Puerto Rican children who compete for first place in a do-or-die ballroom dance competition between New York public schools. Witness a little kid who can't speak English woo the crowd with his scandalous Cuban motion. See elementary schoolers dance. Feel simultaneously proud and jealous. (Evan James) Fox Tower 10
Madagascar Madagascar is kiddie slop puffed and polished into a Pixar-wannabe sheen. Ben Stiller, unfunny even while animated, stars as a lion named Alex, who's the star attraction at the Central Park Zoo. Content to perform several times a day before his adoring fans, Alex has no desire to leave the cozy confines of the zoo-until his best friend, a zebra named Marty (Chris Rock), hits the road in search of freedom. Joining Alex in his rescue of Marty are two zoo neighbors: Melman (David Schwimmer), a hypochondriac giraffe, and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), a hippo. They give chase, find Marty, end up on a ship, arrive on the shores of Madagascar, and learn lessons about the wild vs. captivity, hunger vs. friendship, and how to build a plush tiki bar without opposable thumbs. Too bad none of it's funny in the least. (Bradley Steinbacher) Regal Cinemas, etc
Major Dundee Major Dundee, Sam Peckinpah's first big-budgeted film, kicked off his career-long squabble with fearful producers. Ferociously entertaining, it features newly restored footage of Chuck Heston stumbling through a Mexican brothel which suggests that the dissolute anti-heroes of The Wild Bunch were perhaps never far from the director's mind. (Andrew Wright) Guild
Make It Funky! Michael Murphy's film about New Orleans' music and its legendary musicians. Presented as part of the Waterfront Blues Festival. Waterfront Park
Me and You and Everyone We Know See review this issue. Cinema 21
Monsoon Wedding At first, it seems like Mira Nair is just doing family drama. The film is stylish, brisk, witty, and beautifully filmed (marigolds are so vibrant they would leave bright orange dust on your fingers if you touched them). But within the patchwork of marriage melodrama, Monsoon Wedding presents a subversive argument about the insidiousness of progress and its fluid relationship with tradition. Of course, it all comes out right in the end, but in getting to its satisfying resolution, it passes through so many uncomfortable revelations and unthinkable confrontations that it almost feels like watching history unfold. (Sean Nelson) PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
Monster-In-Law Jane Fonda is old, and J.Lo is a terrible actress. Despite all that, Monster-In-Law isn't quite as bad as you'd expect. You'd think it's just pure, cheesy, horribly titled garbage, when it's really more like pure, cheesy, horribly titled leftovers than actual garbage. (Katie Shimer) Avalon , Vancouver Plaza, Kennedy School , Mt. Hood Theater
Mr. and Mrs. Smith Watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith is exactly like spending two hours with two gorgeous-ass boring people, without even a chance of lackluster eye-candy sex. For shit's sake, the super-hunky Brad Pitt (John Smith) and perfectly pouty Angelina Jolie (Jane Smith) don't even bother to hump onscreen. If you've seen the preview, you get the joke. John and Jane Smith are both assassins, although neither knows their spouse is one, too. It's stupid, boring, and totally predictable. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc
My Summer of Love Ordinarily, I hate teenagers. But when they're two fascinating/evil/sassy/silly British chicks who're caught up in red wine, Ouija boards, and a lesbian love affair, well... that's a different story. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10
Mysterious Skin Mysterious Skin is about pedophilia, a topic which is about as played as Columbine. Neil (the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun) and Brian (Brady Corbet) have both been victims of sexual abuse by their creepy baseball coach. Neil is morose because of his past, and goes for a life of clichd and boring hardship. Brian reconciles what happened by believing he's been abducted by aliens. Eventually, the two boys come together and reach some weird sort of peace. (Katie Shimer) Hollywood Theatre
Nina Simone: Love Sorceress A film about Nina Simone, singer, pianist, composer, and the "High Priestess of Soul." Presented as part of the Waterfront Blues Festival. Waterfront Park
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Set in depression-era Mississippi, George Clooney stars as Everett Ulysses McGill, a suave and well-groomed petty criminal doing hard time on a chain gang. Shackled to Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), he convinces them to join him in escaping by promising to split a fortune in buried treasure with them. (Andy Spletzer) PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
Oldboy Min-sik Choi stars as the utterly unextraordinary Dae-su Oh, who, without warning or reason, is abducted and imprisoned in a tiny room. Inexplicably waking up on the roof of an apartment building 15 years later, Dae-su discovers he has only five days to unravel the knotted mystery of his imprisonment. Chan-wook Park's brutally euphoric film is an appropriately surreal, bloody, and surprisingly moving story of vicious revenge and shocking mystery. It's not an easy film to watch, but it is a great one. (Erik Henriksen) Hollywood Theatre
The Perfect Man Exhibit #453 in the now totally moot Lohan vs. Duff debate: At a mere 96 minutes, The Perfect Man is perhaps the longest movie I've ever seen. Let me count the ways: Number One: Because the film takes place in Brooklyn, every native character has affected an accent so over the top, they might as well be from Germany. Number Two: As Duff's mother, the instantly pathetic Heather Locklear plays a character with the emotional maturity of a 12-year-old. Number Three: Because it's a movie for teenage girls, the filmmakers seem to think it necessary to manufacture an incredibly transparent device by which its lead actress can narrate the entire film's every annoying nuance; The Perfect Man chooses blogging. (Jesus!) Number Four: Hilary Duff's only emotion is constipation--which is, last I checked, not an emotion. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Polyester Prince Film Tour Short films from Los Angeles' Echo Park Film Center. The Know
Rebound See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc
Ride the High Country Sam Peckinpah's western about friendship, loneliness, ex-marshals, and double-crosses. Guild
Saving Face Seattle native Alice Wu's amiably low-key debut suffers a bit from the standard crowd-pleasing rom-com conventions, but stays afloat due to some effective wisecracks and the unforced, charming lead performance of the gorgeous Michelle Krusiec. (Andrew Wright) Fox Tower 10
She Gods of Shark Reef Hot chicks on a tropical island, sharks, and a "hideous stone god," all circa 1958 and courtesy of Roger Corman. Preceded by an episode of the 1950s' detective drama Dragnet. Cafe Nola
Sin City A brilliantly creative, enormously cool piece of pop art; a film that has bigger balls, more fun, and a bigger heart than a year's worth of standard blockbusters. Based on Frank Miller's dark, pulpy, neo-noir graphic novels, and co-directed by Miller and action master Robert Rodriguez, the film isn't flawless (it's unerringly faithful to the comic, and at times, Rodriguez and Miller unintentionally demonstrate that what works in literature doesn't always work in cinema), but what Sin City gets right, it gets really fucking right. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants seemed to have all the comfortable trappings I've come to expect in vapid tween fodder. Imagine my surprise, then, when halfway through this episodic coming-of-age story a rather startling sentiment began to emerge in my mind: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is fucking delightful--it's a perfectly contrived teen heart-tugger, and a surprisingly enjoyable watch. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc
Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith Unquestionably the best of the prequels, Revenge of the Sith is even better than 1983's Return of the Jedi. With the Clone Wars raging across the galaxy, cue two great Jedi generals: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). As Anakin's wife, Padm (Natalie Portman), discovers she's pregnant, Anakin's friendship with Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) takes a sinister twist--Palpatine, it turns out, knows the ways of the dark side, and is more than willing to teach them to Anakin. It's the strong characters and tragic plot that differentiate Sith from its predecessors: Finally, here are the visual nods to the originals, the answers to Lucas' dangling plot threads, a shit-ton of lightsaber fights. Sometimes Sith--mostly in its uneven first act--resorts to the painfully cutesy stuff that alienated many from the prequels, but visually, emotionally, and mythically, this prequel finally feels as epic, as touching, as cool as the original Star Wars films. Better late than never. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc
Stolen Childhoods It's true: Bad things happen to good kids. So unless you're in total denial about certain aspects of the global economy, you've got nothing to learn from this tedious and sanctimonious documentary about how kids in developing countries would be better off in school than working in factories or picking tobacco. Skip the movie and donate the cost of admission to UNICEF--both you and the children will be better off. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
The Upside of Anger The Upside of Anger makes an all-too-blatant grab for the award-friendly glory road well-plowed by the likes of American Beauty and Terms of Endearment, yet is nearly redeemed by a cast that wrings out every last bit of potential from the formula. After being abandoned by her husband, a brittle housewife (Joan Allen) strikes up a boozy relationship with the scruffy ex-jock next door (Kevin Costner). Since you're going to eventually end up seeing it anyway, best to shrug off the flailing stabs at higher meaning and enjoy it for what it gets right: Two fine, yet often neglected, actors teeing off on a series of telegraphed pitches and repeatedly knocking the damned cover off of it. (Andrew Wright) Laurelhurst
War of the Worlds See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen An unequivocally great music documentary on the SoCal punks the Minutemen. Between archival footage of late vocalist/guitarist D. Boon and the loving recollections of a now-grandfatherly Mike Watt, it's nearly impossible not to be smitten with the subjects, whose insular language fueled the impenetrably personal politics of the band's discography. Ultimately, We Jam Econo is a warm, earnest, easily lovable tribute to one of punk's most earnest and easily lovable bands. (Zac Pennington) Clinton Street Theater
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is a feature-length documentary with all the depth of a human interest story on the nightly news. Parrots follows a patently dull, quasi-homeless hippie who tends to a flock of wild parrots in an old San Francisco neighborhood. Here's my impression of the film: "SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK!" "I really think the parrots have come to love me. I know I've come to love them." "SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK!" "That's Connor! He's my favorite of all the parrots." "SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK!" (Cue cheesy montage of parrots in trees with laughably bad, bluesy New Age music.) "Some people love dogs. Some people love horses. I happen to love these parrots!" "SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK!" (Chas Bowie) Cinemagic