Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
Can you believe they didn't screen this for critics? Various Theaters.
Charlie Wilson's War
Hollywood loves nothing more than a "____ with a heart of gold" story, and the phrase "corrupt congressman" fits that empty spot pretty well. It fits even better when the film's based on a true story, and when said congressman is played by Tom Hanks. Kind of predictably and kind of lamely, though, Charlie Wilson's War sticks to the Hollywood playbook: Sure, there's a montage of war casualties and a somber coda, but the film is largely content to show charismatic characters doing good and entertaining things. Like the film's titular character, Sorkin's script and Nichols' direction are funny, and personable, and are grand company for a few hours—but beneath the surface, there's not a lot going on. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A documentary about a hoax perpetrated in Prague, which used the idea of a nonexistent supermarket to mock "capitalism, globalism, and advertising." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Distant Journey
"Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'/I dont know where I'll be tomorrow/Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'..." Oh, wait. What? This is a 1949 Czech film about the Holocaust? Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
This happens at Guantanamo. Cinema 21.
The Great Debaters
A based-on-a-true-story film about another selfless teacher who changes the lives of his students through the good old-fashioned values of perseverance and hard work. Debaters has its fair share of eye-rollingly contrived moments, but it's also surprisingly clear-headed when it comes to the historical reality of its material. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Great World of Sound
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
There's a perfect little gem of a movie buried inside of Juno, an offbeat-yet-honest portrayal of a precocious high school girl, Juno (played by an acerbic Ellen Page), who gets pregnant, finds herself unable to go through with an abortion, and decides to give the baby up for adoption. Unfortunately, it's not enough that Juno is funny, well written, and perfectly acted; director Jason Reitman seems determined to get his piece of the saccharine twee-cinema pie, and the film has a too-precious lacquer that can distract from its best moments. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Kite Runner
For a film concerned with violent violation—from the metaphorical rape of Afghanistan at the hands of the Soviets, the US, and the Taliban, to some all-too-literal exploitation of children—The Kite Runner sure is optimistic. Based on the bestselling debut novel by Khaled Hosseini, director Marc Forster's adaptation manages to impose the pale shadow of hope over the appropriately dour subject matter. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Kurt Cobain About a Son
Director AJ Schnack and co-producer Michael Azerrad make good use of audio recordings from Azerrad's interviews with Kurt Cobain, conducted for Azerrad's excellent book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. The resultant tapes ramble: There's talk of music, celebrity, misanthropy, and other "brooding and bellyaching," and yes, both heroin and Courtney make their ominous appearances. The most tasteful example of Kurtsploitation yet. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
Book of Secrets
Before the screening of National Treasure: Book of Secrets had even started, a dude a few seats away from me announced to no one in particular: "This is like The Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones!" Great point, dude! He's sort of right, though—it is like The Da Vinci Code in that Nicolas Cage is wearing Tom Hanks' exact terrible hairpiece. And it's like Indiana Jones in that it's a shitty rip-off of Indiana Jones. LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
Primo Levi's Journey
Italian director Davide Ferrario retraces Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi's long road home to Turin, Italy. Chris Cooper weirdly narrates passages from Levi's memoir The Truce as Ferrario compares a modern Eastern European culture to it's violent, wartime pa...zzz...zzzzzzzzz. KIALA KAZEBEE Hollywood Theatre.
P.S. I Love You
While director Richard LaGravenese's chick flick isn't bad, per se, he's definitely trying his darnedest to make you both laugh and cry, and he doesn't really succeed at either. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Siblings Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) are quietly unhappy adults whose dysfunctionality is traceable to their disturbed childhood, thanks to an absent mother and abusive father (Philip Bosco). As their father's health declines, Wendy and Jon—despite years of estrangement from the volatile old man—relocate him to a nursing home near Jon's house. The Savages is bleak, but it will likely resonate strongly with the boomer crowd, who are starting to deal with these issues themselves. The film's impact is somewhat diminished by a tacked-on, redemptive ending (which will also probably resonate strongly with the boomer crowd), but there are enough small, powerful insights here to forgive a little happily-ever-after. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Soldier's Tale
Director Penny Allen will introduce her film about a traumatized American soldier. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Cinema 21.
Essentially a Polish Silkwood, Strike tells the true story of a female shipyard worker whose firing provokes Poland's Solidarity movement in the '80s, as well as the rise of Polish human rights activist Lech Walesa, and, so the film contends, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Though easily likeable, the film's marred by a Hollywood ending. WILL GARDNER Hollywood Theatre.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Bursting with red blood and black humor, Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd starts out rough. As in: "Ah, shit." Or: "Oh, right—this is why I hate musicals!" Nice one, Tim: By starting Sweeney Todd with one of the film's worst musical numbers, you've ensured that a ton of people are going to ask for their money back five minutes after the opening credits. Like much of Stephen Sondheim's music for Sweeney Todd, the first number is terrible, but give Burton some time: The film eventually transcends its goofy Broadway roots to become Burton's best film since Ed Wood. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Three Stooges Mini-Marathon
See My, What a Busy Week!. Clinton Street Theater
The Dewey Cox Story
In a nutshell, Walk Hard is a parody of every ridiculously overblown music biopic produced within the last 20 years. Whether it's La Bamba, Ray, or Walk the Line, Walk Hard hilariously skewers every cliché these screenplays trot out. Perhaps most slyly, the film brings attention to how Hollywood mythologizes musicians in a manner that's almost rote: terrible childhood, early stardom, divorce, drug habit, rocky new marriage, fall from stardom, creative block, self-discovery, and finally, redemption. (Oh, and then death. I always forget death.) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
The Water Horse
Armed with modest goals and a surprisingly capable cast (Emily Watson, Brian Cox, and Ben Chaplin among them), The Water Horse succeeds where most contemporary family adventure films fail so miserably: It at least manages to paint a reasonably convincing world before succumbing completely to obligatory, mediocre CGI. Your standard a-boy-and-his-[insert fantastical creature] fable, The Water Horse concerns young Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel), a servant's son growing up in WWII-era Scotland who's shouldered with raising the Loch Ness Monster—which is, frankly, the most burdensome magical best friend I can think of. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.