"We should have come here ages ago," one vampire says to another in 30 Days of Night, and he has a point. Apparently, vamps have been too busy swooning around for Anne Rice to, you know, take a sec to really think about things: "Hey, so we've got that allergy to the sun, right? So maybe we should go somewhere where the sun isn't an issue? Maybe instead of hanging out in, oh, I don't know, fucking SUNNYDALE, we should go to Barrow, Alaska, where the townsfolk are delicious and the sun goes down for a month once a year, and we could have a big fucking party?!" That's pretty much what happens here, as vamps descend upon an Alaskan town have the vampire equivalent of a drunken spring break. Based on a fairly overrated graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, the film version of 30 Days of Night is pretty goddamn cool. Most of this is due to director David Slade—by loosely swiping the graphic novel's plot, Slade creates an intense, creepy, and gorgeously shot horror/survival flick that follows Eben (Josh Hartnett), the town's badass but overwhelmed sheriff, as he herds a small band of endangered survivors through their vampire-infested town, hoping to do nothing but stay alive for 30 days. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
3:10 to Yuma
Director James Mangold's last film was the Johnny Cash tribute Walk the Line, a perfectly serviceable entry into the genre of the cheesy biopic, and one that handily accomplished its twin goals of (A) tugging on heartstrings, and (B) snagging an Oscar or two. Walk the Line wasn't anything extraordinary, but it worked out just fine, I guess; likewise, Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma doesn't have any delusions of grandeur. It just sets out to be a decent enough Western, and it pretty much succeeds. Based on Elmore Leonard's short story, 3:10 features an impressive cast (Christian Bale and Russell Crowe), some gorgeous New Mexico scenery, and a veritable checklist of Western standards/clichés: mopey and leather-faced men, dusty shootouts, a bloody holdup. And that's about it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A bunch of local home-brewed horror films—all under six minutes and 66 seconds in length, and all made in 66 hours and 6 minutes. The event promises "shits and giggles for all who are not murdered," which sounds like a pretty good deal to us. The Know.
Across the Universe
Across the Universe hits you like a ton of Fab Four bricks, as Liverpudlian Jude (my new boyfriend, Jim Sturgess) sings about "a girl you want so much it makes you sorry"—a girl named Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). And what follows is a thin love story that spans the '60s. The "plot" centers on Jude traveling to America to find his father, and befriending Max (Joe Anderson) and his sister, Lucy. And as the clean-cut '60s get harrier, the trio moves to New York to enmesh themselves in the psychedelic scene. But the plot is just an end to a means—to set the stage for a full-on bombast of Beatles songs that soundtrack the decade. When Across the Universe is on—boy howdy, is it on. But the good is overwhelmed by the clichéd and the embarrassingly bad—there's the inappropriate bursting into song every two seconds, the psychedelic swirly freakout of riding on Dr. Roberts' (played by the butt-cringing Bono) prankster bus, and a the reliance on cutesy in-jokes. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert
The much-anticipated revisionist western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as evidenced by its chewily purple title, has a lot on its plate—too much, possibly. The result is a film with sustained passages of eerie, Malickian beauty (an early sequence involving a train robbery feels like one of the reasons that film was invented), mixed with increasing stretches of self-conscious artiness. Whether you should see it or not may ultimately depend on your tolerance for shots of windswept wheat and time-lapse clouds. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Marco Williams's documentary about how white Americans drove African Americans from their land between the Civil War and the Great Depression, and the lasting repercussions thereof. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Runner: The Final Cut
See review. Cinema 21.
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.
A film about a "boob-squeezing werewolf loose in a feminist all-girl college." Hollywood Theatre.
Colma: The Musical
A few miles south of San Francisco, three recent high school graduates (played by much older actors) struggle to get out of their vapid hometown. After a promising beginning, the musical's songs all start to sound alike and, eventually, become replaced by bogs of theatrical dialogue. Can you really call it a musical if over half isn't set to music? WILL GARDNER Hollywood Theatre.
A spoof of inspirational sports movies. Thankfully, it was not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Crossing the Line
A doc about James Dresnok, a former member of the US Army who went AWOL and has been living in North Korea since the 1960s. Living Room Theaters.
Dan in Real Life
See review. Various Theaters.
Wes Anderson's films have grown increasingly farfetched and precious, and even the change of scenery to a romanticized India doesn't change the fact that Darjeeling is yet another of his stories about children with daddy issues. On a stronger note, other and less tired Andersonisms—a beautiful soundtrack, breathtakingly gorgeous cinematography, sharp and bittersweet performances—are solidly in place, and while the film occasionally exemplifies Anderson's annoying tendency of quirkiness for quirkiness' sake, the more constant and important thing is the film's heart. Throughout all of The Darjeeling Limited's rambling, there's a core of earnestness, a sense that these characters and their scant story genuinely matter. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Devil Came on Horseback
There's no way to sugarcoat a documentary about the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Made using the testimony and photographic evidence collected by former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle, The Devil Came on Horseback is a shocking and sorrowful portrait, yes, and it's compounded by the realization that the western world has refused to do anything meaningful about the genocide. After all, China's already got dibs on the oil produced in Sudan, so... yeah. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
This was not a good idea. The courtly bravado of 1998's Elizabeth had a purpose: to show Cate Blanchett tearing up the scenery as England's "Virgin Queen" as she dallied about with the Earl of Leicester and spouted feministic jingo. It was sumptuous, kinda sexy, and complex. But its sequel, the clunky, sloppy Elizabeth: The Golden Age, has no purpose whatsoever. In fact, it's kind of the equivalent of treating yourself to a nap in a rusty iron maiden. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
An Evening with Karl Krogstad
Seattle filmmaker Karl Krogstad presents some of his new works. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Dusk Till Dawn
"Alright, vampire killers. Let's kill some fucking vampires." Laurelhurst.
Gone Baby Gone
Gone Baby Gone is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote Mystic River, and similarities abound between the two films: There's a child abduction, a strong focus on Boston regionalisms, and amateur private dick-style investigations. But while Clint Eastwood's Mystic River felt tough in a very polished, Oscar-baity way, director Ben Affleck's (!) film is grittier than sandpaper, and feels, at times, like little we've ever seen in a mainstream film (thanks in no small part to the casting of countless down-and-out South Boston regulars rather than SAG extras). Unfortunately, the pacing stutters and drags throughout the film, and the plot is marred by an ending so preposterous that even Scooby-Doo's writers would have deemed it ridiculous. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
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.
The Heartbreak Kid
Like most Ben Stiller movies, The Heartbreak Kid is just a series of unpleasant things happening to Ben Stiller. This time around, though, his torture regimen seems totally phoned in: sprayed in eyes with perfume, hit in head with dinner roll, emasculated by teenage twins, skull cracked by champagne cork, accidentally cuddles with Mexican rat, has chili pepper shoved into brain, stung by venomous jellyfish, peed on by annoying whore, enters building advertising "Ballet Folklorico" to find a donkey raping a woman (viva Mexico!), hoodwinked by many of Carlos Mencia's tricks, beaten by border guards, beaten by drifter, beaten by guy in gay turquoise pants. Ta-daaaah! LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
A Sigur Rós concert film. It'll be Iceland-riffic! Hollywood Theatre.
In the Valley of Elah
Based on his back catalog (including Crash and the scripts for Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, and the superb short-lived TV series EZ Streets), Paul Haggis comes off as a filmmaker with a genuine knack with actors, a taste for big, significant themes, and a near-to-total inability to figure out when to say when. Unfortunately, Haggis' shelf full of awards hasn't exactly inspired him to curb his more excessive tendencies. In the Valley of Elah, the writer/director's Oscar-bait follow-up to Crash, boasts an honorable, provocative premise and a towering no-bullshit performance by Tommy Lee Jones. It just doesn't know when to quit. Based on a true incident, Haggis' script follows a retired military policeman (Jones) spurred into action when his son is reported AWOL soon after his return from Iraq. The premise packs an undeniably timely gut punch, but the film's plodding, overstated style comes off as both needlessly busy—the central mystery feels drawn out, with new clues introduced at strategic intervals—and dumbed-down preachy. ANDREW WRIGHT Academy Theater, Laurelhurst.
The backstory of Into the Wild comes from Jon Krakauer's book, which recounts the true tale of Christopher McCandless—who drops out of life after college, gives his entire savings to charity, and becomes a nomad, wandering the country in search of... well, nothing really. With a worn copy of Thoreau firmly in hand, McCandless is determined to live in each moment, and eventually his travels push him farther and farther from civilization and into an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilds. This film is more about the trip than the destination, and it's to director Sean Penn's credit (and that of Emile Hirsch, who plays McCandless) that the audience is brought to a better understanding of this young nomad's often baffling actions. Penn uses pointed, elegiac imagery of Americana to punctuate McCandless' journey, and the supporting cast of Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, and (in a particularly devastating turn) Hal Holbrook play believable, sympathetic characters who are both influenced by and eventually lead the young traveler to his road's end and hard-won epiphany. As for Hirsch, he plays McCandless with such an open-faced likeability, one can't help but be as conflicted as everyone else who witnesses him walking headlong into destruction, while realizing he has no other path to choose. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Whedon Television Night
Be prepared for some hardcore Whedon geekery. These nerds are intense, man. Intense. Mission Theater.
King of Kong:
A Fistful of Quarters
Our villain in the hilarious documentary The King of Kong is one Billy Mitchell—born in Massachusetts in 1965, he currently owns a restaurant chain and has a passion for both patriotic neckties and, one assumes, hair conditioner for his flowing, carefully coiffed locks. Mitchell has set records in Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Burgertime, and achieved a "perfect score"—3,333,360 points—in Pac-Man. He has been called the "Gamer of the Century," and he is an insufferably arrogant dick. Our hero, meanwhile, is Steve Wiebe, a painfully earnest Redmond, WA man who lost his job at Boeing at age 35—on the same day he and his wife had signed the papers for their new house. Wiebe, now teaching junior high school science, found solace and direction in Donkey Kong, at first playing when his children went to sleep, and then aiming at the impossible—beating Mitchell's record score of 1,000,000, which had gone unchallenged since 1982. The resulting battle is nothing short of epic. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst.
Preying on Americans' two greatest fears—Muslims with explosives and paying more than three dollars a gallon for gasoline—The Kingdom tries to be a lot of things. There are the mystery elements, the thriller elements, the police procedural elements, and the social commentary elements. By the time it all wraps up, all are overwhelmed by the film's action elements, which boil the entire Middle East situation down to Jamie Foxx firing off rounds from an assault rifle while running from rocket-propelled grenades. You can make solid, intelligent, and entertaining movies about controversial topics and current events; instead of doing so, The Kingdom mashes and twists those events into a trashy, pulpy popcorn flick. The result is questionably intentioned, messily executed, and loud and boring and ignorant. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I'm not giving The Kingdom enough credit—all those things might, in fact, make it the perfect film about America's role in the Middle East. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
and the Real Girl
See review. Fox Tower 10.
A painful, disturbing romance and thriller, and a story of desperation, dependence, and the sometimes brutal consequences of emotion. Ang Lee's Lust, Caution will probably be heralded as one of the best of the year, and for good reason. It's a slow film—one that patiently builds, with Lee's shots lingering on details, meditating on the briefest of nuances and shadows. Beautiful and impressive is Tang Wei, who plays Wang Jiazhi, a young student in Shanghai. World War II is on, Japan occupies the city, and soon, Wang is caught up with a few naïve friends who fancy themselves rebels. Aiming to assassinate Mr. Yee (Tony Leung)—a government official who's cooperating with the Japanese—the group soon uses Wang as part of a scheme to seduce and kill him. Various Theaters.
Massacre at Central High
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
On paper, it's nothing that we haven't seen before: A stereotypically villainous corporation hurts the little guy; our conflicted protagonist (George Clooney) has to figure out what to do. But that's where all the impressive names behind Michael Clayton—Clooney's, Steven Soderbergh's, Anthony Minghella's, Sydney Pollack's—come into play: An impressive cast, a good sense of production, and writer/director Tony Gilroy's solid direction allow Michael Clayton to take a John Grisham-y concept and amp it up. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Could Paint That
See review. Fox Tower 10.
See My, What a Busy Week. Mission.
Of Love and Isolation: Five Short Films by Chris
That title pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Cinema 21.
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 Hollywood Theatre, Moreland Theatre.
About midway through Oswald's Ghost, a new documentary about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a remark is made that there have been thousands of books published about who really killed the president. The implication is that none of them have anything new to say—too bad director Robert Stone didn't listen to his own film. It's not that there's anything wrong with the film, exactly, but after Oliver Stone's JFK, what's left to say? Maybe Oswald acted alone, maybe he didn't. But after an hour and a half, I stopped caring. SCOTT MOORE Hollywood Theatre.
Saul Bass' 1975 sci-fi flick about ants overthrowing humans. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Much like the publishing world's bottomless capacity to churn out nonfiction tomes on the evils of the Bush administration, Hollywood foresees no saturation on the "current events" movie market. Every week another hunky star slowly explains "Iraq for Dummies" to a soundtrack of Middle Eastern vocalists chanting over pounding drums, and another director hopes to capture some Syriana magic in a bottle. This time it's Tsotsi director Gavin Hood, who brings along Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal. As he demonstrated in Tsotsi, Hood tells stories very well: He works with great cinematographers (here it's Dion Beebe) and he keeps his action moving at a brisk pace. Unfortunately, he's addicted to happy endings where characters learn and grow in the corniest sense, and his propensity for sentimentality is topped only by cheesemaster Lasse Hallström. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
Resident Evil: Extinction
While I suppose one could make the argument that you really haven't experienced all that modern cinema has to offer until you've seen zombies climbing the replica of the Eiffel Tower in post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, I think one could also make the argument that if you're in the mood for stupid, stupid zombies-vs.-supermodels action, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is the film to rent. (Yes. I just recommended Resident Evil 2 over Resident Evil 3. I don't know how I feel about that, either.) ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
"I'm just here for the gasoline." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A sweet, dark film about a stuttering high school student—but be warned: You're going to hear inevitable and angry comparisons to Election, The Squid and the Whale, and every Wes Anderson film ever made. But don't let that bother you. Director Jeffrey Blitz (who previously made the spelling bee documentary Spellbound) knows how to make a good film, and while it resonates with quirky Andersonisms, it's still immensely fresh, likeable, and genuine. COURTNEY FERGUSON Laurelhurst.
Saturday Morning Cartoon Extravaganza
A whole bunch of cartoons with a Halloween theme, with old commercials and public service announcements. Plus: cold cereal! The Waypost.
The annual installment torture porn; not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
The Simpsons Movie
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
The latest from director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland (who previously collaborated on the mostly awesome 28 Days Later and the pretty crappy The Beach), Sunshine takes place 50 years from now, with a barren Earth frozen by a solar winter: The sun is dying, and humanity finds itself staring down a cold, dark death. Humanity has just one plan, and it is desperate and flawed: Loading a huge bomb onto a spaceship, the Icarus II, a small team of scientists will attempt to jumpstart the sun. To give away more of the plot would be a disservice; suffice to say that (A) things go wrong, and (B) Boyle and Garland use their relatively simple concept to delve into themes ranging from religion to sanity to sacrifice. But mostly, Sunshine is a tense, drawn-out thriller. Despite a strange spell in which Boyle decides to briefly turn the smart Sunshine in to a dumb slasher flick, he's patient and clever, and the film plays out with a sense of both inexorable doom and dumb hope. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst.
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.
Syndromes and a Century
Directed by Apichatpong "the Pongster" Weerasethakul, Syndromes is "a film in two parts which sometimes echo each other." Living Room Theaters.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments: THE MOVIE. Christian Slater is Moses. Elliott Gould is God. (Because everyone knows that kids fucking looove Elliott Gould—Justin Timber-who?). LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
Things We Lost in the Fire
Things We Lost in the Fire's fantasy is somewhat reprehensible, as good fantasies usually are: When Audrey's (Halle Berry) husband dies, she tracks down Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), her husband's best friend from childhood. A former lawyer, Jerry's heroin addiction has dragged him down to the lower echelons of society, although he retains his integrity and other charms. Soon, Jerry's filling the void left by her husband. And I mean, come on, he's Benicio. So yeah, while this film deals well with issues of grieving and addiction, what I enjoyed best was fantasizing I was Audrey: beautiful, financially independent, and about to take on Del Toro. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney
The same movie you've seen a thousand times—now in 3D. Hooray? Cinetopia, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?
The latest from Tyler Perry, starring Janet Jackson(!). Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Warren Miller's Playground
Ski porn. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
We Own the Night
We Own the Night could've gone either way. Granted, the "two brothers on opposite sides of the law" storyline is formulaic and uninspired, but the presence of lovable freaks Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg and Joaquin "It's Not a Harelip!" Phoenix offers faint hope. Alas, mediocrity wins the day, and writer/director James Gray's underwhelming cops 'n' robbers flick is as disappointing as its slipshod premise. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Zach & Avery
A dramedy from Vancouver comedian Sean Devlin. Cinema 21.