3:10 to Yuma
See review. Various Theaters.
All My Loving
An hour-long, BBC-produced film about "music and its effect on pop culture in the late '60s," featuring the Beatles, Hendrix, Cream, etc. Bagdad Theater.
Balls of Fury
A ping-pong comedy with a genital pun for a title? A no-name protagonist (Dan Fogler) who manages to be both unlikable and heroically unfunny? A squandered Christopher Walken guest-spot? There's got to be something nice to say about this movie, hasn't there? But as much as I would like to be charitable, the only thing Balls of Fury's 90 laugh-less minutes really has going for it is its merciful brevity. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Based on the early life of Jane Austen, this charming, inoffensive little movie stars a surprisingly likeable Anne Hathaway as the headstrong young Austen. The film's highlight, though, is hottie James McAvoy, who is perfectly cast as Tom Lefroy (Austen's love interest and the inspiration for everyone's favorite literary crush, Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy). ALISON HALLETT Roseway.
Bicycle Film Festival
See Film Feature. Cinema 21.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Jason Bourne's been skulking around for a while—2002's The Bourne Identity and 2004's The Bourne Supremacy were okay thrillers that fancied themselves to be smarter than they really were. Long story short: Government assassin Bourne (Matt Damon, glaring intently) doesn't know jack about his past, and various political stooges don't want him to remember. And so Identity and Supremacy played out: Bourne ran around, outsmarting G-men and inhabiting two forced thrillers in which the action largely consisted of people walking around faster than usual and scowling at computer screens. Which was fine, if forgettable. But thankfully, The Bourne Ultimatum goes balls-out, confidently making itself into a solid action flick. Director Paul Greengrass (who also helmed Supremacy and United 93) cuts loose with Ultimatum's action sequences, and—from a brutal fistfight in a Moroccan apartment to a stunning Manhattan car chase—they're rough and visceral. If Greengrass' action sequences have a flaw, it's that the director insists on shaking his camera about as if he were a coked-out schizoid—but whatever his sequences lack in clarity, they make up for in sheer adrenalin. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Reasons to see this movie: Parker Posey is excellent as a neurotic, slightly spoiled thirtysomething looking for love in the big city. Melvil Poupaud is incredibly sexy as the charming, free-wheeling Frenchman with whom she finally finds it. Reasons not to see this movie: Writer/director Zoe Cassavettes awkwardly treads the line between conventional romcom and indie arthouse, shooting for both edgy realism and a fairytale ending. In trying for the best of both worlds, she frequently misses the mark on both. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
The Brothers Solomon
Not screened in time for press; see Film Section for our review. Various Theaters.
Casino Royale (1967)
"You can't shoot me! I have a very low threshold of death." Laurelhurst.
"I goddamn near lost my nose. And I like it. I like breathing through it." Pix Patisserie (North).
The Draughtsman's Contract
Peter Greenaway's 1982 drama. Not screened for critics. Living Room Theaters.
A very unfunny film designed for those who love both animals doing wacky things and the fantastic fables of the Old Testament. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Ghosts of Cité Soleil
In Cité Soleil, a region of Haiti's Port-Au-Prince, scrawny, filthy toddlers run naked in the trash-covered streets. The town resembles an enormous, nightmarish labyrinth, with grim, narrow stone corridors winding endlessly past citizens dazed by the strife of a merciless struggle for survival. Danish director Asger Leth's Ghosts of Cité Soleil captures this traumatized locale with astounding, 16mm vibrancy. At the time of the film's creation, Haiti's president was the corrupt Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who hired local gangs to assist his police force in staving off the advances of violent political rebels. Somehow, Leth's camera team forged intimate relationships with two of the most notorious of these gangsters, a pair of brothers named Bily and 2Pac. Leth could have depicted the horrors of Cité Soleil from afar; instead, he chose, at the risk of his own life, to zoom in. JUSTIN W. SANDERS Living Room Theaters.
A blend of John Waters' original 1988 film and the 2002 Broadway musical. Shiny, colorful, and cheerful, the new version is all about the energy and good times—even the segregation issues at the story's heart are treated as little more than a pesky buzzkill. Still, its enthusiasm is infectious, and the campy satire is in full swing. MARJORIE SKINNER 99W Drive-In.
To his credit, Rob Zombie's remake of the greatest slasher film of all time is clearly a labor of love—it winks, nods, and bludgeons its way through the source material in a surprisingly satisfying fashion, giving fans of the original film more than enough hyper-stylized meat to sink their teeth into. Realizing that the arguably feminist fable of the original could scarcely be outdone, Zombie wisely explores a storyline typically reserved for prequel fare—laying out the recipe for Michael Myers' "perfect storm," as well as fleshing out his relationship with Dr. Loomis (played awesomely by Malcolm McDowell). The move isn't entirely successful, to be sure: Senseless slaughter is less effective when there's some convoluted sense in it, and by the time the film catches up to the original's familiar narrative, there's little room for the patient suspense that film depended on—and Zombie's left to clean house in a more economical way. Still, there's a surprising lack of sacrilege throughout—a pleasant treat considering the legacy marring of some other recent horror "reimaginings." ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
In this writer's opinion, Order of the Phoenix is by far the most stressful Harry Potter book so far: When Harry arrives at Hogwarts at the beginning of year five, it's to find that no one believes that Lord Voldemort has returned, Professor Dumbledore won't speak to him, the horrible Dolores Umbridge is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and Harry himself has the biggest case of teen angst since Christian Slater in Pump Up the Volume. Plus he's trying to get a piece of hottie Cho Chang. In one of the most satisfying Harry Potter films, director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg (both new to the franchise) do a fair job deflecting some of the anxiety inherent to the plot. The movie is surprisingly funny, and the special effects and magic tricks of the Potterverse are as impressive as ever—more importantly, the 870-page novel is pragmatically abridged, the pacing is quick, and all of the important plot points are touched upon. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The latest comedy from Judd Apatow (Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Freaks and Geeks), Knocked Up is—and there's really no other way to put this—fucking hilarious. Starring the great Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl as two singles who unexpectedly find themselves pregnant, I'd be shocked if a funnier or sweeter movie comes out this year. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Kurt Cobain About a Son
A documentary about Kurt Cobain, featuring interviews with the musician gathered by writer Michael Azerrad and music from Steve Fisk and Ben Gibbard. It wasn't screened for press, but it sounds promising. Mission Theater.
Jesus fucking Christ. Aren't you people sick of this goddamn thing yet? Hollywood Theatre.
LA VIE EN ROSE
Even if you're like me and find most musical biopics depressingly formulaic, you might think Oliver Dahan's Edith Piaf movie is a slight cut above. Sure, it checks off all the genre's requisite ingredients (childhood trauma, drug addiction, troubled relationships), and is about as consistent as its heroine's mental and physical health. But stretches of the film, which traces Piaf's rise from Parisian poverty to international stardom, feel uncommonly—even thrillingly—intimate. JON FROSCH Various Theaters.
Lights in the Dusk
I'm not sure if the ministry of tourism in Finland has seen Lights in the Dusk, but if I were them I'd have it banned. Director Aki Kaurismäki's desperately bleak story takes place in a plain, ugly Helsinki: ugly buildings, ugly people, and ugly personalities. Our loser protagonist, Koistinen, is an isolated, socially impotent security guard for whom things go from bad to worse. Effective enough in its conjuring of misery, spackled with pathetic glimpses of hope, Lights in the Dusk is for the film fan for whom things must be going too well—those who would seek gross desolation in their free time. For nearly the film's entirety I felt knotted up and queasy, which I assume was the desired effect. Congratulations? MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Live Free or Die Hard
The good news about Live Free or Die Hard: Despite being the oldest person in the cast by about 20 years, BRUCE WILLIS IS STILL AWESOME. Here, Willis has some great action sequences and a few killer jokes—at his best, he makes this entry as fun as the previous three. But now for the not-so-good news: Live Free or Die Hard, with its annoying PG-13 rating and light, funny tone, isn't nearly as intense or cool as the series' earlier, better movies. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Gus Van Sant's first feature, from 1985, presented in a new 35mm print. Clinton Street Theater.
A look at the work and philosophy of photographer Edward Burtynsky, who captures the weird, horrible, and sordidly beautiful ways humans have changed the planet—he focuses on piles of rotting computers, on carved-out mountainous holes of mining operations, on never-ending expanses inside Chinese factories. Stunning imagery can only go so far, though; those with short attention spans will want to look elsewhere. But otherwise: Pretty excellent stuff, this. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinema 21.
Mr. Bean's Holiday
This movie is all that you Americans deserve! Yet I am still ashamed of my countrymen for flogging it to you. Where once was class and intellect, now there lies cultural ruins. MATT DAVIS, WHO IS BRITISH Various Theaters.
The Nanny Diaries
The Nanny Diaries is essentially 2007's answer to The Devil Wears Prada, both being film adaptations of popular "guilty pleasure" chick-lit. Comparing the two is a no-brainer—Prada is better, with better wardrobes, a bitchier matriarch, sharper satire, and more charming supporting characters. But if you're hungry for a chick-lit-to-flick fix, Diaries will tide you over long enough for Prada to arrive via Netflix. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
If nothing else, director Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's films have been throwbacks, tributes to a different era in cinema. It's not like we've had a shortage of those of late, but while Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez selected a painfully obscure genre to glorify in their Grindhouse, Soderbergh picked a mega-popular one, harkening back to 1960's original Ocean's Eleven, which brought together Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. Just as 1960's Ocean's Eleven succeeded by giving audiences a roll call of that era's biggest stars, Soderbergh's reprisal of the formula—bringing together Clooney, Pitt, Matt Damon, and a slew of other A-listers—made his 2001 retread just as appealing. Fourty-seven years, a remake, and two sequels later, the formula still works. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
There's not a lot to hate about Once, a little Irish film about a downtrodden vacuum repairman/street musician who meets and falls in love with a Czech immigrant, and then spends a weekend recording an album with her. The story is a tad trite and overwhelmingly cutesy—it's the kind of film where everyone has good intentions and becomes fast friends, no one is wary of strangers, and a hit album can be written and recorded in a weekend. The unnamed lead characters' cute-as-a-button accents salvage what would otherwise have been an insufferably saccharine film—you'd have to be a robot (or irredeemably burned by love gone bad) to not enjoy it. SCOTT MOORE Various Theaters.
Those who make their living putting words down on a page are loathe to admit it, but nevertheless, it's true: Sometimes, words aren't enough. Merely describing the appeal and beauty of Satoshi Kon's Paprika can't quite be done—sure, I can tell you about the stunningly detailed animation, the overwhelming colors, the way that Paprika's hand-drawn characters convey their weight and personalities and movements as effortlessly as if they were real-life actors, and about how there are a few sequences in which music, movement, and color align as beautifully as they have in anything else I've seen. But it's not quite enough. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END
The final (yeah, right) installment in the ridiculously profitable series is overlong, overwritten, and not that satisfying—but okay, yeah, it's still a pretty solid popcorn flick. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Punk's Not Dead
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
For its first third, there's little to separate Werner Herzog's latest from the plethora of "based on a true story" flicks about noble American servicemen surviving under dire circumstances, from the Buckheimer-approved bombast of Black Hawk Down to the rah-rah patriotism of Behind Enemy Lines. But this is Herzog, so give it the benefit of the doubt: Dieter Dengler (Bale) is a pilot who gets shot down over Laos. Quickly captured and stuck in a POW camp, Dengler meets a bunch of disheartened captives—including the batshit crazy Gene deBruin (Jeremy Davies) and the psychologically fragile but loveable Duane Martin (Zahn). Taking a dangerous risk, Dengler plots a breakout. It's here, in Rescue Dawn's characters, that Herzog really gets going. What unfolds is a sometimes funny, sometimes tense, sometimes moving story about men attempting to survive their captors, allies, and selves. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst.
Rush Hour 3
I'm sure you know the ridiculous formula: Chris Tucker sings falsetto; Jackie Chan tries to stay awake through the final stage of his career; and the two of them close the movie by singing the song "War (What Is it Good For?)" at the base of the Eiffel Tower. But taken with just the most rudimentary level of analysis, Tucker, the movie's "loveable" star, is the embodiment of America's crass, violent arrogance. Early in the movie, we learn that he's in trouble with his police sergeant for illegally imprisoning American doctors of Iranian descent. His defense? "You know they looked like terrorists! Just because they cured cancer in a bunch of mice doesn't mean they aren't planning to blow shit up, too!" (Big audience laugh here). Later, when Tucker and Chan run into some surprisingly well-articulated anti-Americanism in Paris, Tucker's character puts a pistol to a Frenchman's head and makes him sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at gunpoint. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
Shoot 'Em Up
Not screened in time for press; see Film Section for our review. Various Theaters.
If I tell you that this is a documentary about four Broadway musicals, you'll know exactly what to expect: A peek at four productions from all angles, from the producers to the cast, and from all ends, from pre-production to opening night, and through the Tony awards show. Show Business completely and simply delivers on your expectations, drawing back the curtain to dish the dirt on 2004 productions Avenue Q, Wicked, Caroline or Change, and Taboo. AMY J. RUIZ Living Room Theaters.
There's no question that Sicko is a brilliant documentary. Michael Moore outdoes himself—largely by stepping aside, keeping his usual "gotcha!" pranks to a minimum, and personalizing a complex issue. The question, however, is how effective Moore's public shaming of the US health care industry will be. He's recast the debate in terms we can all understand—explaining the problem as "[here is] what the greatest country ever in the history of the universe does to its own people, simply because they have the misfortune of getting sick." But will Americans listen? And if they do, will they join Moore in demanding a solution? AMY J. RUIZ Hollywood Theatre.
The Simpsons Movie
As any fan worth his weight in Squishees knows, The Simpsons has been in a holding pattern for nearly a decade. Sunday nights are no longer dominated by The Simpsons' presence, and while it hasn't fallen off completely, its finest days are long past. So the only question about The Simpsons Movie is: What took so damn long? Unfortunately, the film doesn't have an answer for that one. Instead, The Simpsons Movie is the equivalent of one really long episode—87 minutes long, to be exact—and while it's not horrible by any means, it's far from the quality of the landmark early years of the series. Longtime producer David Silverman, who's been with the show since the Tracy Ullman days, directs the film, doing everything in his power to keep it close to the standard Simpsons template: Homer gets hurt by things, Bart is bad, Lisa is a know-it-all, Marge worries, and Nelson says "Ha-ha." The end, roll credits. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
More My Little Pony than The Lord of the Rings, Stardust is a lighthearted comic fantasy romance apparently made by and for 12-year-old girls. There's plenty of heart and humor to be found in Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' illustrated novel, on which Stardust is based; problem is, director Matthew Vaughan can't quite balance the tricky job of gently mocking the clichés of the fantasy genre while simultaneously making a film that's crammed full of them. From a narrative perspective, the film stalls for a good hour in the middle, with dubious character motivations, goofy romance, and the schemes of an eeeeevil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) never quite gelling together. Just for good measure, there's also an all-too-brief appearance by Ricky Gervais, a slew of slapsticky ghosts who're friendlier than Casper, and—in surely the biggest "what the fuck?" moment in a film with more than its fair share—a prancing, cross-dressing, lisping, fabulously gay sky pirate played by Robert De Niro. (No, really—the fuck? Can someone please explain any of this to me? Anyone?) ERIK HENRIKSEN Sandy Cinema.
Steal a Pencil for Me
Holocaust documentaries are nothing new. That's not to say the world doesn't need as many as can be produced; given humanity's proven inability to learn from our colossal mistakes, we need to be reminded of our own monstrosities frequently, especially in light of continuing ethnic battles being waged around the globe. Steal a Pencil for Me, however, does bring an interesting angle to this packed genre. Jack Polak ended up in a Dutch concentration camp, Westerbork, living in a barracks with his wife and his girlfriend. There's a certain nutty European libertinism overlaying the tragic elements of the story, and it's a testament to filmmaker Michèle Ohayon's abilities that the elements work together in an organic way without being a celebration of infidelity. SCOTT MOORE Hollywood Theatre.
Like Freaks and Geeks, Superbad smartly manages to capture all the excitable, desperate awkwardness of adolescence; like Arrested Development, it handily makes trivial events and throwaway dialogue into sidesplitting jokes. (Both accomplishments are helped by the awesome performances of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill.) But maybe most impressively, Superbad just feels a lot like high school. Except (barely) less awkward, and way, way funnier. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Talk to Me
Talk to Me opens in 1966, when Greene (Don Cheadle) is the "drive time" DJ at Lorton Reformatory, where the inmates have made a hero out of Greene, thanks to his sly humor and sharp tongue on the prison's PA system. Straight from the penal system, Greene hustles and cajoles his way into the morning slot at DC's top R&B station, WOL, where he captures the hearts and minds of black Washington by "keeping it real" with straight talk about his own life, politics, and the intensifying climate on the streets. This first half is fantastic: Cheadle brings a gleeful relish to the role, the dialogue is fast and filthy, and the entire production is swollen with a smart liveliness and grin-inducing charm. But after the film's emotional climax—when Greene matures behind the mic and eases the city through the riots following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination—director Kasi Lemmons starts painting in enormously broad strokes, and the movie veers into standard (and overlong) Behind the Music territory. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
The Fall '01 & Punishment Park
Here's the way to spend 9/11—watching The Fall '01, a "choreographic multimedia drama on terror, war, and torture," and Punishment Park, about Nixon's actions during Vietnam. Ah, good times. Good times. Central Library.
"My dear girl, don't flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for queen and country." The Press Club.
Action fans are not a demanding bunch—aside from the rare Kill Bill or The Matrix or Hero or (old school) Die Hard, we've largely resigned ourselves to watching crappy movies, hoping there'll be a few flashes of coolness buried somewhere within. That's not the case with War, which sucks all the way through. It stings a bit, too: As action movies go, War's concept—full of double-crosses, secret agents, creepy assassins, and angsty grumpiness—is a step above most, but director Philip G. Atwell renders it all with such sloppy ambivalence and crummily-shot action that none of it matters. On the acting side, Jet Li gets to do hardly any martial arts (huh?), Jason Statham just shouts a whole lot, Luis Guzmán cashes a paycheck for what amounts to a cameo, and almost every plasticine woman in the film is Botoxed within an inch of her life. Action fans don't ask for much, but we deserve better than this. ERIK HENRIKSEN Forest Theatre.