* 48-Hour Movie Project
See the results of 2003's 48-hour movie project, wherein folks run around like maniacs and shoot a movie in one weekend. The results are off the cuff, fun, and as varied as the moles on your butt. If you want to make a 48-hour movie of your own, this is a good chance to talk to the organizers and get on board; 2004's 48-hour projects will be shot August 20-22, and you need to register by Aug. 6. Check 48hourfilm.com for more details. The Know
* Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
It's got the most threadbare of plots, yet has more out-loud laffs per capita than any other movie in recent memory. It's the mid '70s, and Ron Burgundy (SNL's Will Ferrell) is San Diego's top local news anchorman who gets more ass than a toilet seat. However, his idyllic life is shattered when anchor woman Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) starts gunning for his seat. Written by Ferrell and SNL scribe Adam McKay, Anchorman plays like an extended sketch that actually works. While most comedies elicit three to five out-loud laughs from me at best, Anchorman provided a whopping 31. I know. I counted. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc
Melvin Van Peebles' third feature film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971), is a very strange but also very important film. The controversial story of a sexed-up black man who kills two corrupt cops and gets away with it, the movie's unlikely but inevitable success ushered in the era of blaxploitation films. Melvin wrote a book about the experience of making that film, and now his son Mario has created an independent film based on that book, and it's really good. (Andy Spletzer) Fox Tower 10
* Before Sunset
Once you resign yourself to being on a horribly pretentious date with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and you suspend disbelief long enough to accept them as real characters and former lovers, this movie becomes better than okay. Their stories are spiked with believable elements of real life--they're both depressed, deflated, and have other lovers--and what happens to them now becomes a legitimate concern. The film evolves into something more compelling and romantic than trite, and in the end a sweet and complex love story finally gets its ending. (Katie Shimer) Fox Tower 10
* Best of "it" (independent tuesdays)
Nocturnal hosts a retrospective of its monthly homemade film and video event, showcasing the best pieces of footage they've seen so far. Not to be missed. Nocturnal
* Blind Shaft
While this film would first appear to be a hilarious follow-up to Shaft, Shaft's Big Score! or Shaft in Africa, this Chinese film is actually about two men working in a illegal coal mine. The two workers kill a man, then claim he was their relative and threaten to tell the government about the mine if the employers don't pay up. The scheme works well, but when they choose their next victim--a 16-year-old boy--they are stricken with a bout of conscience. Guild Theater
The Bourne Supremacy See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Catwoman See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Chronicles of Riddick
The good news? This sequel to Pitch Black is almost worth admission price for the set decoration and special effects alone. Unfortunately, effects can't make up for the fact that Vin Diesel sucks and the script is pure crap. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Avalon , Edgefield, Laurelhurst, Mt. Hood Theater, Valley Theater
A Cinderella Story
Hilary Duff's new vehicle is yet another heavy-handed rehash of the fairytale, and one supposedly "benefited" by clunky modernizations and socially relevant subplots. All of the junk store archetypes are present and accounted for, from the asexual best friend with a last name for a first name to the seemingly tacked-on villainy of the school's cruel head cheerleaders. What's suspiciously missing from the film, however, is even the vainest attempt to twist the Cinderella paradigm into something vaguely memorable. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc.
At the opening of The Clearing two men are shown to be living very different lives. Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe) eats cereal for breakfast and is obviously just scraping by, while Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford) eats a fancy breakfast by the pool. As Wayne pulls out of the driveway, Arnold talks his way into Wayne's fancy car and kidnaps him. When it comes down to it, Arnold's crime is very impressive. It's quite complex, very well thought--out, and goes off without a hitch. If the movie were about the crime, then Arnold would have been the main character. Instead, this is an art-house film where the kidnapping triggers different ruminations on how hard it is to keep a marriage fresh, making Wayne the central character. It's all very depressing. What a waste of a slick, well-executed kidnapping. (Andy Spletzer) City Center 12, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place Stadium 6
* The Control Room
According to Jehane Noujaim, the director of Control Room (which concerns Al Jazeera's coverage of the early stages of the Iraq War II), the idea of setting up a satellite news agency in Qatar came from an American think tank that believed it would help modernize the Arab world, and that a modernized Arab world would be less hostile to America and its interests. The thinkers were correct in the sense that the news agency--Al Jazeera--has helped modernize the Arab world, but not in the way they imagined. (Charles Mudede) Fox Tower 10
This fascinating biography of songwriter Cole Porter does more than trumpet his gift for stunning sentimentality: the story revolves around Cole's (Kevin Kline) relationship with his wife (Ashley Judd), an engagement that grows tense as he carries out homosexual affairs with a dancer and several hunky Hollywood actors. The plot drags at times, but the film overflows with enough Porter musical numbers to maintain a strong emotional pull. (Evan James) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Woody Allen does his Woody Allen thing, but with a vaguely postmodern twist--as Allen's character, a writer, interacts with people from his life, he also starts to interact with characters from his writing--including his own alter-egos. (So I guess a more accurate description would be "Woody Allen does his Woody Allen thing... now with even more Woody Allen!") (Erik Henriksen) Fifth Avenue Cinemas
* Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Vince Vaughn tries to save his hometown gym, Average Joe's, from the evil clutches of corporate gym owner White Goodman (Ben Stiller) by beating him in a dodgeball tournament. Some pretty funny jokes and a psychotically intense performance by Ben Stiller ensue. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Door in the Floor
Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger play a husband and wife who have encountered a horrible tragedy which is destroying their marriage. The film is based on the John Irving novel, although it strays wildly from the text, but not to its advantage. Also not working to the film's advantage are the annoying lisp Bridges picked up somewhere and Kim Basinger's overly morose performance. The scenes I did enjoy involved Basinger fucking a teenager, and Basinger walking in on the teenager jerking off. Overall, not a terrible film, but not all that good either. (Katie Shimer) Fox Tower 10
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler
In this Fritz Lang classic, Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) uses mind control to build his eeeeevil empire. Old Town Pizza
* Fahrenheit 9/11
While Bush triple-bogies the Iraq situation, Michael Moore hits a hole in one. Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The God of Cookery See Destination Fun. Blind Onion
* The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 masterpiece about family, the mafia, and slamming doors in Diane Keaton's face. Laurelhurst
* Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (Sneak Preview)
Two stoned dudes make it a mission to get their hands on those delicious mini hamburgers. This film raises an important issue: Why is White Castle so inconveniently located? Lloyd Mall
* I, Robot
While the film adaptation of I, Robot might be a really dumb version of Isaac Asimov's book, it's still probably the smartest action movie of the summer. The film opens in 2035, with robots thoroughly engrained in society and accepted by everyone except Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith). Spooner's misgivings are validated when the designer of the robots ends up dead, apparently killed by his latest robotic creation. Director Alex Proyas' fluid inventiveness and the astonishing integration of vividly portrayed robots hoist the film above standard summer fare, and while it's hardly the epochal sci-fi event that Asimov had with his book, I, Robot succeeds as an enjoyable, slyly intelligent action movie. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Independent Filmmaker Lecture Series
The latest in a series of independent filmmaker lectures, featuring an open format screening, discussion, and a Q & A. This week's featured guest: Vanessa Renwick, who's made a ton of films, from "semi-narrative montages" to a documentary about an artist recently released from a psychiatric ward. She's also hitchhiked across the country for nine months while barefoot, which should probably count for something. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
* King Arthur
The story: Arthur (Clive Owen) is the legendary leader of a ragtag band of knights who defend the British countryside. On the eve of their freedom from conscription, this merry group is hoodwinked into going on one last mission. If you're going to accept this film (and you are), it's going to have to be on its merits as a dumb action picture. Director Antoine Fuqua really knows his way around the epic battle sequences, conferring dimension, strategy, and suspense on scenes that could have easily wound up as mere melees. The other saving grace is, of course, the cast. The knights are winningly rugged and convincingly fraternal, the villain (Stellan Skarsg'rd) is appropriately brutal, and all the Romans are good and nasty. (Sean Nelson) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Life of Brian
Having seen Monty Python's Life of Brian at least 10 times prior (but not for at least five years), I wondered if the film would still ring true to my atheist ears. Well, my brothers and sisters, I am here to testify that Brian still has many things to say. (Michael Svoboda) Laurelhurst
* Mean Girls
When you think about what sort of crap is out there for teenagers, about how teenagers live and interact and what Hollywood thinks is at stake for them (Chasing Liberty, anyone?), Mean Girls starts to look great. It's funny, lively, and smart, with a couple of characters who seem realer than not, and had I seen it as a teenager it might have changed something for me. (Emily Hall) Laurelhurst
Director Haskell Wexler tells the story of a cameraman (Robert Forster) as he's swept up in the chaos of Chicago's 1968 Democratic Convention. Wexler intertwines his fictional characters and storylines with real events and examines the impact of television on Americans and the media's attention (or lack thereof) to minority voices. Whitsell Auditorium
* The Muppet Movie
Funny story: I once got fired from a movie theater for putting "Muppets On Crack" up on the giant marquee when the theater was playing Muppets In Space. While that teenage attempt at wit was undeniably piss-poor, what isn't piss-poor is The Muppet Movie, a fantastic film featuring all of your favorite muppets, some kickass songs, and classic Fozzie/Kermit dialogue. And I don't care how tough you think you are, hotshot. You do have favorite muppets. (Erik Henriksen) Pix Patisserie
* Napoleon Dynamite
There are plenty of laughs to mine from the pseudo-tortured lives of realistically nerdy, unpopular, and just plain odd 14- to 18-year-olds, and as Napoleon Dynamite proves, young geek alienation is just as fun to parody as its grownup counterparts. (Jennifer Maerz) Fox Tower 10, Movies on TV, Vancouver Plaza
The Notebook is based on a book by the biggest hackasaurus scribbling today, Nicholas Sparks. Directed by Nick Cassavettes (talentless son of supremely talented John Cassavettes), this film is utter bullshit--a weepy, obvious, and painfully unromantic romance. The anorexic story: Allie Nelson (Rachel McAdams) and Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) meet cute, date cute, break up not-so-cute, and re-unite cute. Along the way, there are stints in WWII, flings with widows, proposals from wealthy gentlemen, and family strife. And framing this bluster (since all romances following Titanic must have a frame)? A backstory involving an eldery man (James Garner) reading the tale of Allie and Noah to an Alzheimer's patient (Gena Rowlands) in a nursing home. Ugh. (Bradley Steinbacher) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Orlo Video Slam
The first heat in Orlo's annual video slam showcases local films having to do with the theme "Mad Cow(s)." Local film geeks have been working on their four-minute Mad Cow-inspired opuses for a few months now, but feel free to run out and shoot one yourself (four-minute time limit strictly enforced!). See orlo.org for rules and regulations, and if you're not all that ambitious, just show up and watch. The Know
A film that follows Bear (Julio Chávez), a man who's been in prison for seven years after being convicted of robbery and murder. When Bear gets out, he discovers that his wife has found a new man and that his daughter barely remembers him. Chances are good that Bear will be disappointed by these developments, and chances are even better that you don't want to disappoint a guy named Bear who just got out of prison. Whitsell Auditorium
* Riding Giants See review this issue. Cinema 21
Rock 'n' Roll High School
In this 1979 cult classic, the rock 'n' roll lovin' kids of Vince Lombardi High School team up with The Ramones to stick it to their music-hatin' principal! Yeah! Up with rock! Down with The Man! Clinton Street Theater
* Spider-Man 2
Picking up two years after the first film, Spider-Man 2 plays to the comics' inimitable strength: nerdy Peter Parker's (Tobey Maguire) daily balancing act of school, part time jobs, and wooing Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), even as he pulls on tights every night as Spider-Man. Unlike its banal predecessor, though, Spider-Man 2 feels lifted right out of the comics--this is great for comic fanboys, who will spend two hours in orgasmic glee, but mainstream audiences will be rewarded as well. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Story of the Weeping Camel
A fascinating look at modern life in the Mongolian desert, framed by the slightest of stories about camel relationships. Some of the staged animal interactions can get a little Disneyfied--you can almost hear Phil Collins wailing on the soundtrack--but this combination of narrative and documentary is otherwise irresistible. (Andrew Wright) Fox Tower 10
* Super Size Me
In an inspired bout of artistic commitment, Morgan Spurlock set aside a month during which he ate nothing but McDonald's. The effects of this endeavor were astounding. He put on 30 pounds in 30 days, suffered periods of intense chest pain, shortness of breath, and was told by multiple doctors that if he continued at his unorthodox eating he would die from liver failure within six months. As the movie progresses, a palpable sense of dread mounts, as Spurlock continues to stuff McNuggets and French fries in the face of terrible health reports. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10
Tom Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski, a traveler from the phantom country of Krakozhia who arrives at JFK airport only to discover that, while in the air, his country has fallen into revolution. Because of this, he is officially without a country--which means he must stay inside JFK until matters are settled, eking out a life among weary travelers while battling sloth-like bureaucracy. This is an intriguing premise, I suppose, but it has been thoroughly squandered by Spielberg and his over-eagerness to reach for the sugar. (Bradley Steinbacher) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Toxic Avenger
A 90-pound wimp falls out the window of a health club into a vat of toxic chemicals, thus turning him into Toxie, a hideous but good-natured crime-fighting monster. Director Lloyd Kaufman has drummed up a huge fanbase with his cult classic, and continued Toxie's saga in subsequent Toxic Avenger sequels. Sabala's Mt Tabor Theatre
A documentary that attempts to delve into the issues surrounding the US Army's Umatilla storage facility, where enough nerve gas is stored to kill 99% of America's population. That statistic alone makes it fairly infuriating that Umatilla is one of the worst documentaries ever made. Director R.J. McHatton's awkward film follows his half-assed investigation using a maudlin framing story, unintentionally hilarious reenactments, and even some Bowling For Columbine-inspired animation. McHatton's interviews with Umatilla's residents prove them to be either blissfully ignorant or ill-prepared for possible disaster; McHatton's not any better, swallowing flawed explanations from Army PR reps and only questioning them later via amateurish voiceover. (Erik Henriksen) Guild Theater