24th Reel Music Film Festival
All films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. For more info, see Film on pg. 40.
BOB MARLEY & FRIENDS
Calling all Trustafarians! Calling all Trustafarians!
Fire in the Water
One of a whole slew of films from Peter Whitehead at this year's Reel, Fire in the Water is "an alchemical allegory set in the Highlands of Scotland," which we're guessing means "like Highlander, but kinda boring."
THE HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS: BOUND TO LOSE
See Film on pg. 40 and Music on pg. 18.
Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation
A portrait of jazz pianist Keith Jarrett.
New Orleans Music in Exile
See Film on pg. 40.
"Proto music videos" from filmmaker Peter Whitehead.
Tonite Let's All Make Love
This movie documents London in 1967, with director Peter Whitehead gaining access to the likes of Mick Jagger, Michael Caine, and David Hockney for interviews, then asking what amounts to "Why is this town is so swinging?" Music by Pink Floyd and some trippy editing make for an upbeat experience, but there are moments where it all feels direly pretentious—whatever Whitehead is trying to say about the '60, he just manages to make "liberation" look like a marketing gimmick much of the time. Think Austin Powers, without the irony. MATT DAVIS
Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?)
See Film on pg. 40.
Peter Whitehead's doc about a Beat poets' reading in 1965. Featuring Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gregory Corso.
Blood Diamond—which feels as if it's roughly 18 hours and 26 minutes long—is crammed to the gills with the now-familiar horrors of non-America: Innocents get their brains blown out, brainwashed pre-teens blast both hiphop and AK-47s, blood spurts against white walls and brown earth, downtrodden refugees and vicious rebels shriek. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio valiantly leads Djimon Hounsou through stylized explosions, and Jennifer Connelly tries to use her smoky eyes to look shocked at refugee camps' squalor, but nothing in Blood Diamond has any visceral impact whatsoever. All of these things are real, yes, and they're important, but according to director Edward Zwick, they're just hackneyed background noise. At best, the film's manipulative, sordid tourism is insulting; at worst, it's simply boring. ERIK HENRIKSEN Regal Cinemas, etc.
In the life, legacy, and death of Robert F. Kennedy, actor/director/son-of-Martin-Sheen Emilio Estevez has the ultimate American story right at his fingertips. Unfortunately, that's not the film Estevez made. Instead, we're presented with Bobby, a sprawling ensemble piece, obviously attempting to emulate multi-story films like Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Estevez, though, is no Altman, and none of the individual stories carry much weight. SCOTT MOORE Laurelhurst.
Cave of the Yellow Dog
Ostensibly a feature film, Yellow Dog is more a moving-picture postcard. The plot (girl finds puppy) is simple and unimportant. The main attractions are the long, slow shots of the Mongolian countryside and its residents as they make cheese, herd animals, dismantle a yurt, etc. It also contains the following mother-daughter exchange: "Could you collect some dung for curing the meat?" "But I've never collected dung before!" "Well, you can try." BRENDAN KILEY Cinema 21.
CHILDREN OF MEN
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
CODE NAME: THE CLEANER
Cedric the Entertainer is a funny man, but he doesn't make funny movies. Lucy Liu is a hot woman, but the only good thing she's ever done is Kill Bill. And Nicollette Sheridan—will somebody please remind me who this horseface is? The poster for this movie shows Cedric holding what appears to be a blow-dryer. Or a vacuum cleaner tube. Or an umbrella. Or a goose neck. Whatever the hell it is, we're just happy they didn't screen this one for critics. Regal Cinemas, etc.
I like Beyoncé. I like musicals, too. So naturally, I was stoked to see Dreamgirls—I was already anticipating how great it would be to see Boo-yonce let loose on the big screen with the best voice in pop music. So you can imagine my immense disappointment when I wanted to bolt for the exit not a quarter of the way through Dreamgirls—and that's coming from someone who will contentedly sit through just about anything. Of course, I didn't leave the theater, and for the good of this review, subjected myself to crushing boredom and a musical score that equates "good singing" with "screaming as loud and as often as possible." MARJORIE SKINNER Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Empire in Africa
It's necessary to forgive director Philippe Diaz for the spaghetti bowl that is his documentary The Empire in Africa, because the film's task is to tell the long, complex tale of the conflict in Sierra Leone. While it includes some graphic footage of executions and amputees, Africa is also heavy on interviews, making it very talky and requiring a rather determined concentration to follow. Timed to coincide with Blood Diamond, Africa claims to reveal the truth behind atrocities committed in the civil war-torn country, taking the side of the rebel forces that are generally blamed for much of the country's violence. In the end, Africa is so opinionated and overexcited that you have the distinct feeling of being manipulated and talked in circles—but however void of objectivity it may be, Africa is a good companion to Blood Diamond, if only because it offers a complex point of view on a grim, remote disaster. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
Yea, verily, the Sword and Sorcery genre doth toe the line of self-parody more than most. Subtract the passion of Peter Jackson, or the bristly machismo of John Milius (Conan the Barbarian) from the equation, and you're left with a bunch of hairy dudes rambling through the forest, talking about Kobolds. Eragon, the first in a projected trilogy of kid-friendly fantasy epics, can barely muster enough energy to work on a cheese level. Debuting director/effects vet Stefen Fangmeier manages to pull off a few decent visual coups, particularly with a nicely animated blue-eyed dragon, but without the rich conceptual texture of the LOTR series (or, hell, even the goofy exuberance of The Beastmaster) to draw on, what remains is a load of generic mush perhaps best served as a piece of bitchin' '70s van art. ANDREW WRIGHT Regal Cinemas, etc.
For Your Consideration
Christopher Guest making a mockumentary about Hollywood is kind of like if I were to make a comedy about the restaurant I used to work at: Waitresses across America would love it, and everyone else would be hard pressed to give a shit. ALISON HALLETT Academy, Hollywood Theatre, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Mission Theatre & Pub, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
Hilary Swank stars in what appears at first glance to be a remake of 1995's Dangerous Minds: An uptight white lady takes a job teaching high school in the 'hood (Long Beach in the wake of the Rodney King riots, in this case), and everybody learns a few life lessons about cultural diversity and respect. Freedom Writers is a far more intelligent film, however, that gives complex issues their due—the film doesn't shirk from depicting the institutionalized racism and segregation plaguing the California public school system (or society at large, for that matter). Swank turns in a nuanced performance, and the rest of the young cast does non-cheesy justice to the true story of a group of kids who refuse to be written off. ALISON HALLETT Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Good Shepherd
A tense Yalie named Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) is recruited to join the fledgling CIA. As imagined by director Robert De Niro, Edward's covert CIA activities consist of a series of passwords and trapdoors and secret underground intelligence lairs, but thanks to flat dialogue by Eric Roth, a studiously internal performance by Damon, and a palette consisting largely of murky beige, it's impossible to get invested in the film. I'm all for learning about the birth of the modern nation, but this spurious history class will put you straight to sleep. ANNIE WAGNER Regal Cinemas, etc.
Happily N'Ever After
When it comes to fairy tales, we do not spend enough time talking about Rumpelstiltskin. Everyone's all like, "Oh, Cinderella! Sleeping Beauty! Rapunzel! Boo hoo I hate ugly people!" But hey assholes, let me ask you a question: What's not to like about a creepy weird dwarf who spins straw into gold and then extorts babies from lying queens because he just wants someone to love him? Happily N'Ever After hasn't yet screened for critics, but the trailer features a little goblin guy screeching, "I STOLE A BAY-BAY!" Could it be anyone else? (I love you, Rumpy!) Oh, and also this movie looks fucking awful. LINDY WEST Regal Cinemas, etc.
The History Boys
The History Boys—which follows eight teenagers who are studying to apply at Oxford and Cambridge—is based on Alan Bennett's play of the same name, and the film's roots in the stage are revealed in its arch, hyper-literate tone. The transition from stage to screen could've been smoother—parts of the movie feel stiff and contrived, perhaps because many of the actors used were also in the original theatrical production. For the most part, though, the cast makes it work; the film is undeniably entertaining, and deals thoughtfully with some heady, engaging ideas. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Late Night Shopping
2001's "quirky urban comedy set in Glasgow." Not screened for critics. Living Room Theaters.
NOTES ON A SCANDAL
See review this issue. Fox Tower.
The Painted Veil
They say that love can make you do stupid things. Indeed, The Painted Veil serves as an extraordinary demonstration of that adage. The third film incarnation of the novel of the same name by M. Somerset Maugham, it tells the story of Walter Fane (Edward Norton), a research scientist who specializes in bacteriology, and Kitty Fane (Naomi Watts), a spoiled, petulant society girl. Veil doesn't credibly explain why Walter would want to marry Kitty, or why, when he discovers her adulterous affair, he would want to remain lovelessly married to her (but only if she will follow him to a remote village in China that is being wracked with a cholera epidemic). And further, why neither one of them will condescend to being vaccinated against the illness, seemingly just to spite each other. Most of us have done some pretty wacky and dramatic things when we are having girl/boy problems, but I doubt many would attempt revenge in the form of self-exposure to a disease that makes you shit yourself to death. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc. Power of the Sun
"A new documentary on solar electricity." Also: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bagdad Theatre & Pub.
If you caught last year's The Exorcism of Emily Rose, you're familiar with the case of Annelise Michel—a young German woman who believed, along with her parents and local priests, that she was possessed by demons. Michel died while undergoing a series of Roman Catholic Church-authorized exorcisms, and both priests and parents were charged with manslaughter. While Rose is primarily focused on the court trial, the German Requiem tells a seemingly less sensationalized version of the events leading up to Annelise's (here she is called Michaela) death, revealing a gradual, human, and non-judgmental depiction of an epileptic girl from a small town, raised with strict parents and a devout faith, who tries and fails to lead a normal life at a university. She falters and unravels at an increasingly rapid pace, but her story here is a drama, not the quasi-horror film that American cinema commemorated her with. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles
Hey! Something even dorkier than Eragon! Not screened for critics. Hollywood Theatre.
In this inept and highly unnecessary finale, the 60-year-old Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is a small restaurant owner, still moaning over the death of his wife (ADRIAAAAAAN!). Estranged from his businessman son, he decides to teach the whippersnapper a lesson in following one's dreams... by fighting the current heavyweight champion in an exhibition match?!? Action fans will bemoan the fact that the first hour and 10 minutes are filled with a bunch of mumbling sissy-talk, and that even the big fight itself is strangely bloodless and underwhelming. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Regal Cinemas, etc.
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 17. Clinton Street Theater.
Slomo Video Festival
The back of Slomo Video's DVD case has a list of "medications/substances one should avoid while experiencing slow motion video," which includes, but is not limited to: Robitussin AC, Percocet, Methadone, Doriden, Marinol, Laudanum, and Vicodin. This, of course, is reverse psychology. In fact, these things are necessary for sane people to enjoy 100 one-minute-long slow motion videos. As a big fan of weird and trippy video art, I figured this'd be good times; instead, it's a mindless torture session of amateur video wanking and cheapo psychedelia. Dear artsy fucks: STOP WASTING OUR TIME. ADAM GNADE Clinton Street Theater.
A sexy little love story that offers a slightly unusual take on the classic "opposites attract" formula: In this case, the opposites are a shy pre-op transsexual and her brassy blonde upstairs neighbor. The relationship between the women unfolds in fits and starts, as they struggle to reconcile their feelings with their preconceived notions about themselves and each other. Spare, emotionally loaded dialogue and complex performances from both leads make this Danish film powerful, original, and pretty damn cute. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
In the tradition of Terrence Malick's Badlands, Sweet Land lovingly portrays its characters and, most importantly, its landscape with tenderness and beauty. A love story set in 1920 rural Minnesota, the film features the brilliant and beautiful Elizabeth Reaser as Inge, a woman who travels from Europe to marry a Norwegian man she has never met. Unbeknownst to Olaf she is German, and that sticks in the craw of her future husband and the narrow-minded community, who are still smarting from the end of WWI. What follows is a touching saga, filled with beautiful wheat fields and sweeping skyscapes. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
So who determines what ratings films receive—and thus decides what films get shown? The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) does, and it turns out they're dicks. With its stranglehold on Hollywood and theaters, the MPAA's process is so influential—yet so secretive—that it's the perfect subject for a documentary. Half of Not Yet Rated is great: Director Kirby Dick speaks with a fraction of the filmmakers who've been screwed by the system, deducing that the ratings system amounts to censorship. Alas, Dick insists on throwing himself—and his film—into the MPAA clusterfuck, even going so far as to hire a clueless "private eye" to track down the anonymous raters. Not Yet Rated will change the way you watch and think of films—unfortunately, it'll also make you wish it was a better movie. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
A bunch of C-level actors (Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Joe Pantoliano, that poor bastard from The Passion of the Christ) wake up in an abandoned warehouse, without their memories and with a whole lot of pouting and posturing. They try and figure out who's who, where they are, etc., all while ripping off Reservoir Dogs and about a billion other, better movies; it's all about as interesting and deep as one would imagine being stuck in an actual warehouse would be. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.