Quite possibly the worst idea in the history of film: take two established and respected sci-fi/horror franchises and toss them in a blender, then let the utterly incompetent director of such classics as Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat randomly punch the "puree" and "dice" buttons. Oh, and there's a love story between one of the human protagonists and one of the Predators. I shit you not. (Erik Henriksen)
American Beer See review this issue.
An Evening with Sam Green
Activist/documentarian Sam Green will introduce and discuss his films The Weather Underground, The Rainbow Man/John 3:16, and Pie Fight. Will actual pies be thrown at the event? Well, that's up to you, isn't it?
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid
I only ask two things from scary movies about giant snakes: a) they're scary, and b) they feature a lot of giant snakes. Anacondas fails to deliver on both of my admittedly simplistic criteria. Not only is it never scary, but, more importantly, there are not nearly enough man-eating snakes. Once the fake-looking snakes come out in the last ten minutes, however, Anacondas actually gets kind of fun: snakes attack, snakes get stabbed, there's a snake orgy, one snake gets set on fire, and it's especially rad when this one snake gets stuck in a hole, Winnie the Pooh-style, and then a chick lops off its head with a machete. (Erik Henriksen)
* Annie Hall
The Oscar-winning Woody Allen classic, featuring Diane Keaton, plus Woody Allen's best line ever: "Don't knock masturbation--it's sex with someone I love." Presented as part of the Portland Monthly's Dive-In Theater series.
Bright Young Things See review this issue.
Mirroring its stupid title, Cellular's premise is insipid: A woman (Kim Basinger) is kidnapped, managing to make one phone call to a random cell phone (owned by Chris Evans), and she'll die if he loses the signal. The supporting cast, including William H. Macy and Jason Statham, are passable, playing themselves playing cops and robbers. Written by Larry Cohen as the flip-side of the coin to his 2002 pulp-fest Phone Booth, this film does just what you expect it will, twisting its plot semi-predictably in the hot summer wind. Cellular wouldn't be able to jump an Oscar statuette using a ramp, but it could be your last chance to squeeze some dumb summer fun out of the theater before the artsy holiday juggernauts come lumbering down the aisle. (Lance Chess)
Jamie Foxx stars as Max, a cab driver in the hellish sprawl of Los Angeles. Max picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise), a hit man who needs to be shuttled around the city to make five messy appointments. As good as both Cruise and Foxx are, Collateral nonetheless fails, both as a thriller and as yet another entry into director Michael Mann's "brooding men" oeuvre. (Bradley Steinbacher)
An NBA star signs a massive deal with his hometown team, but he wants to show he's still a neighborly guy--so he decides to throw a barbecue! Boy, that's gotta be one exciting barbecue!
Criminal follows Rodrigo (Diego Luna), a petty conman who teams up with Richard (John C. Reilly), a conman who's equally petty, but far more skilled. Through various complicated connections, the duo becomes embroiled in a deal involving a counterfeit print of an extremely valuable piece of collectors' currency. The deal could net them hundreds of thousands of dollars... unless they fuck up. Reilly is terrific, Luna is as charming as ever, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, as Richard's vengeful sister, is the most gorgeous, elegant actress in Hollywood. These three could pitch hay for two hours and I'd be interested. (Justin Sanders)
The Aussies make comedies like IHOP makes pancakes: big, fluffy, and swimming in syrup. Rhys Ifans plays Danny, who catches wind of a plot by his girlfriend to ditch him; he then decides (with little explanation) to tie enormous balloons to his deckchair and float away, eventually drifting to a perfect little town far from the city, where he fits right in. The problems come with the film's tired, heavy-handed "appearances are deceiving" moral, which falls pretty flat after a while, even though a wacky sort of sweetness and lush scenery still manage to keep Deckchair buoyant. (Michael Svoboda)
* Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
If you're only going to see one movie this year--or ever, really--about vaguely sinister men in bunny costumes, teenaged superheroes, and warping the space/time continuum, make this the one. (Erik Henriksen)
A Dream in Hanoi
Portland's Artists Repertory Theater traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam, to stage the first-ever performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream in that country. This is the documentary that was produced during the production and rehersal.
A budding cult classic, with Reese Witherspoon as the infuriatingly perfect high school student who runs for student body president and wrecks her teacher's (poor schlumpy Matthew Broderick) life in the process.
Onboard the Festival Express, groups like the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, and The Flying Burrito Brothers rode across the Canadian countryside; ostensibly, they were there to put on a series of concerts, but more truthfully, they were onboard the rolling hippie paradise to party. One would hope that such a happy-go-lucky spirit would translate into an enjoyable film via the footage captured during the trip. Instead, Festival Express' flaws echo those of the music and time it wholeheartedly venerates; those wanting more substance than can be provided by a protracted jam from Sha Na Na will want to look elsewhere. (Erik Henriksen)
First Annual Northwest Film Festival for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Films for the deaf and hard of hearing, all of which are captioned or signed, and are either produced or directed by deaf people, star deaf people, or have deaf-related themes--so if you like deaf people (or movies about them), then this is the event for you! Hit www.pnwfilmfestivals.com/schedule.htm for the complete schedule; festival runs Sept. 21-23 and 25-26.
* Garden State
First time writer/director Zach Braff plays Andrew "Large" Largeman, a struggling L.A. actor who returns to his New Jersey home for his paraplegic mother's funeral. Large's less than cheery homecoming is uplifted by Sam (Natalie Portman), a compulsive liar who lives with her mother and a house full of hamsters.
George Catlin: Painter, Preservationist & Ethnologist
George Catlin was an artist who lived with Native Americans in the 1830s. Did he sensitively preserve their vanishing way of life, like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves? Or did he find himself in hilarious culture clash shenanigans, like Pauly Shore in Son In Law?
The Chinese martial arts drama Hero blows away everything else currently playing--and possibly any other film released this year. Hero's story is deceptively simple--before China united as one empire, warring kingdoms fought for power. One of those areas had a king (Daoming Chen) intent on unifying China--a goal that was met with dissent. Enter Nameless (Jet Li), who has done what many thought impossible: killed three deadly assassins--Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung), and Sky (Donnie Yen). As the king questions Nameless, Nameless' deeds unfold in flashbacks that prove far more complex than they first appear. (Erik Henriksen)
The premise of a troubled woman meeting with a mild-mannered accountant to reveal her dark secrets is intriguing, but Intimate Strangers fails to find the right note with it. Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire), starts talking to the accountant, William (Fabrice Luchini), when she walks into his office by accident. William, out of loneliness and curiosity, plays along, but he's clearly out of his element, and these early scenes should have been mildly funny in a fish-out-of water kind of way. But director Patrice Leconte handles them with shimmery seriousness, as if the lives of two innocents are about to be forever changed. (Justin Sanders)
The Manchurian Candidate
War sucks, dude. There's no Ricki Lake never enough peanut butter, and your dick can get shot off. Even worse, the enemy might capture you and brainwash you into thinking that the unpopular coward in your platoon saved your life. This seems to be the case for Capt. Ben Marco (Denzel Washington). Having recommended Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) for a medal of honor because of his supposed heroics during the first Gulf War, Marco's nightmares about Shaw tell a different story. (Will Gardner)
Manhattan Short Film Festival See review this issue.
Maria Full of Grace
There are a lot of reasons to appreciate Maria Full of Grace not the least of which are its subtly beautiful cinematography and its impeccable performances. Unfortunately, the film--which follows a 17 year-old Columbian girl, Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno), as she decides to become a "mule," ingesting pellets full of heroin and smuggling them into the U.S. --doesn't really have much to say, other than being a mule really sucks. Profound, that. (Erik Henriksen)
Mean Creek See review this issue.
Bernie Mac plays Stan Ross, a baseball player who retires from the game after scoring his 3000th hit--only to return years later, when it's discovered that he was actually three hits short of the record. The plot follows a predictable course, as the hubristic Ross overcomes the obstacle of his age, tames his egomania, and comes to serve as a mentor for other players on the team. Throw in a romantic subplot featuring Angela Basset's reptilian cleavage, and even the likeable Mac's best efforts couldn't render this film watchable. Movies can be formulaic and still be funny--this one just isn't. (Alison Hallett)
National Lampoon's Gold Diggers
Brand names that have suffered radical depreciation: Ford Pinto, Firestone Tires, Willamette Week, and National Lampoon's.
* Open Water
Open Water is less of a horror movie than a tense and fascinatingly fatalistic philosophical treatise. With sharks. Susan and Daniel are your all too average 21st-Century couple, so beleaguered by their high powered lives that they're unable to relax, even while vacationing in the Bahamas. Things perk up, however, when the two take a crowded scuba boat to the middle of the ocean--and due to a very unfortunate series of accidents, are left floating alone in the briny blue. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism
Reiterating the fact that the Fox News Network proclaims itself to be "fair and balanced" before demonstrating that it most definitely isn't, Outfoxed uses sarcasm and comic setups to keep the heady material punchy and engaging, with the result approaching high-minded slapstick. For more info, see page 27. (Phil Busse)
Property Is No Longer Theft
A film about a bank clerk who's allergic to money! Geez--Let's hope he doesn't win the lottery! Part of the Northwest Film Center's Elio Petri series.
A Quiet Place in the Country
A painter goes on a trip with his mistress-turned-manager, only to be haunted by the thought of a dead woman. Part of the Northwest Film Center's Elio Petri series, and featuring music by the totally awesome Ennio Morricone.
* Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Is that a star next to fucking Resident Evil? Damn straight it is! Considering it's the sequel to one of the shittiest movies ever made, it's pretty shocking that Resident Evil: Apocalypse ain't half bad. Okay, it is--more than half, really--but unlike its deplorable predecessor, it's also damn fun, reveling in a pulpy, self-aware insignificance that makes it impossible to not enjoy. Director Alexander Witt directs a script from Alien vs. Predator hack Paul W.S. Anderson, but Witt knows exactly the sort of crap he's making; instead of trying to justify or disguise it, he just runs with it. Apocalypse is a film that's about nothing more than hot chicks (Milla Jovovich and Sienna Guillory) running around and shooting zombies, with some kickass action sequences and--here's the kicker--a lovable cyborg zombie that carries around a rocket launcher. You're a goddamn liar if you say that that's not the coolest thing ever. (Erik Henriksen)
* Riding Giants
This fascinating exploration of the culture of big-wave surfing by the director of the skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys is distinguished first by the quality of its footage. It's a cliché to say that surfers live to surf, but after seeing this film, it's a lot easier to understand why. (Sean Nelson)
* The Search for Animal Chin
Okay, so this will totally kick ass. Stacy Peralta--who went on to direct Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants--directed this 1987 skateboarding film that features Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk, Tommy Guerrero, Mike McGill, and Lance Mountain. Not only will you be able to witness plenty of skateboarding badassery, but the mere $3 suggested donation goes to the fund to redesign St. John's Pier Park skatepark. (Erik Henriksen)
Shaun of the Dead (Sneak Preview)
A bloody brilliant zombie comedy from Britain. Watch for our review next week, when the film opens.
* Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow See review this issue.
Three O'Clock High
Nerdy Jerry (Casey Siemaszko) is a writer for his high school paper. When he profiles Buddy (Richard Tyson), Buddy goes crazy and decides that he's gonna beat Jerry's ass after school. Oh no, Jerry! Whatever will you do?
* THX 1138
George Lucas' smart first film about a man (Robert Duvall) attempting to survive in a dystopic future. Not only is this film clever, daring, and jarring, but it also features a ton of bald people! (Erik Henriksen)
Time-Based Art Festival
Man, have you seen the TBA's lineup for film stuff this week? It's jam-packed, yo. There's the group Joanie 4 Jackie, which archives and distributes women's films in a sort of VHS chainletter format; Guy Maddin's Cowards Bend the Knee, a "roiling, sexually perverse melodrama" featuring a "lascivious hockey player" in a "hair salon/brothel/abortion clinic"; Janie Geiser's The Emotional Lives of Inanimate Objects, created using dollhouses with antique figurines and paper cutouts, plus a selection of her other work; and cut and paste animator Lewis Klahr, whose Engram Sepals promises to "lead the viewer through a rich and dense cloud of pop culture dreams." See www.pica.org/tba2004/ for specific showtimes.
A documentary about one of those art installations by that crazy bastard Christo.
Reese Witherspoon plays cartoon-faced social climber Becky Sharp in this shallow, highly uninteresting screen rendition of the classic novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. If you care about a cunning woman's class struggle in 19th-Century Europe, then for chrissakes exercise a brain cell and put Thackeray's book on hold at the library. (Katie Shimer)
* War Games
A young, adorable Matthew Broderick thinks he's playing a videogame--but he's really starting WWIII! Wackiness/global tension ensues, yet no one ever thinks to bring in the one guy who might be able to solve the fiasco--Ferris Bueller.
We Don't Live Here Anymore
Mark Ruffalo is Jack, a college professor on summer vacation, living an awful life with his wife (Laura Dern) and two kids somewhere in an undisclosed East Coast location. Peter Kraus is a nearby colleague with more accolades, a better body, and a much hotter wife, Edith (Naomi Watts). Affairs/arguments ensue; We Don't Live Here Anymore is never a boring film, but it's never really fascinating either--largely due to the fact that these characters are so realistically despicable, it's just impossible to enjoy watching them. (Justin Sanders)
* Wicker Park
Wicker Park is the best, most deliciously twisty romantic suspense thriller you'll ever see. Granted, the whole movie is completely implausible (although revealing any of this implausibility would ruin it), but regardless, its an assload of stomach twisting, anxietous, mysterious fun. There are flashbacks, flashforwards, missing persons, and nothing is quite what it seems. Plus, the film has the added bonus of tons of footage with the adorable Josh Hartnett looking pained, and confused, and sad, and loving, and dashingly handsome. (Katie Shimer)
Wimbledon See review this issue.
The Working Class Goes to Heaven
A bored factory worker finds his motivation from sexual fantasies, but his life takes a drastic turn for the self-aware when he's injured in a job-related accident. Part of the Northwest Film Center's Elio Petri series.
While Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano)--a blind samurai who can take out ten 20/20-blessed thugs with a few thunderous swipes of his combo walking stick/samurai sword--is a badass, his movie (also directed by Kitano) isn't quite as cool. An awkward combination of Kurosawa's ponderous Japanese samurai epics and the desperate schizophrenia of an early Jackie Chan flick, Zatoichi attempts too much: It's at once a moving, thoughtful drama, a kickass action movie, and a borderline slapstick comedy... with a few dance routines thrown in. It's not that this makes for a bad film, per se, just an exceedingly uneven one. (Erik Henriksen)