On the surface, jealousy is the combative common ground the film's eight women share in the home of a murdered man who is a husband, a father, a brother, a son-in-law, and a philanderer in relation to the various characters. The women candidly sing and dance to their inner feelings, while hiding away their jealousies or hurling bold suspicions at one another. Costume adjustments--buttons coming undone as emotions burst forth, layers stripped to reveal softer underpinnings--speak as loudly as the women do, becoming a narrator for the film and demonstrating once more the silent language that bonds the eight very different personalities as they rage and roil, desperate to prove their innocence. (Kathleen Wilson)
Katie Holmes stretches her enormous talent once again by playing a young, nubile college student who has to deal with the mysterious disappearance of her boyfriend. Benjamin Bratt plays a detective.
Short films about the human journey from birth to death, including Age 13 about an at-risk teenager, and Social Class in America, about three boys growing up in a small company town.
Battle For Soviet Ukraine
Part of the Northwest Film Center's spotlight on the Soviet filmmaker, Alexander Dovzhenko. This one was made in 1943 and is the first of his wartime documentaries. The thrust of it covers the invasion of the Ukraine by the German army.
The tagline goes, "Brown Sugar is a love story about hiphop." But before you run away screaming with thoughts of its stars, Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan (and Queen Latifah and Mos Def), getting buttery and busy to some cracky Ludacris joint, don't worry: Brown Sugar is REALLY about hiphop--real hiphop, and real love, and clarifying the two when there are so many fakers out there posing as both. Sanaa Lathan plays Sidney, an editor at XXL magazine who's been in love with hiphop ever since she saw Dana Dane and Doug E. Fresh battling on a street corner when she was a kid. Magically, that very same day, she met her best friend, Dre (Taye Diggs). (Julianne Shepherd)
Dada Dada Dada
Dada and Surrealist films including Symphonie Diagonale (1924), Anémic Cinéma (1926), Entr'acte (1924), Ballet Mécanique (1924), etc. You are encouraged to bring your musical instrument and score the films.
The good news is, this movie's about a journalist who takes part in an interesting scientific study of power dynamics. In the study, half of the volunteers play guards and the other half play prisoners. The bad news is, this study was done in real life, and they had to stop the experiment because the "guards" got too violent. If you believe that humans have a core of decency within them, you may want to skip this one.
Evocations of Place: The Films of Peter Hutton
Short black and white silent films showcasing landscape beauty. Filmmaker in attendance.
Eyes Without A Face
Billed as a "post-war euro chiller," this 1959 French film tells the story of a brilliant surgeon, Professor Genessier, who kidnaps nice young girls, removes their faces, and tries to graft them onto the head of his beloved daughter.
In his fourth unconscionably shitty film released in the last year (and yes, that includes that Yoda bullshit), Samuel L Jackson stars as Elmo McElroy, a kilt-wearing chemist (?) who stumbles upon the recipe for a new and exciting illegal substance--the titular formula. Traveling to Liverpool in hopes to hawk his creation in the heart of the city's rave scene, McElroy's "one last score" goes (surprise!) horribly awry. Featuring token Brits Robert Carlyle and Rhys Ifans.
The Four Feathers
After turning tail at the brink of war, a branded Brit coward goes deep undercover in the Sudan hoping to save his friends and regain his honor. Premises don't come much more crackerjack, but this initially ambitious version of an oft-told tale unfortunately seems to have undergone severe trimming late in the game, scattering both character motivation and important plot points to the desert winds. (As it stands, the only clear marker of time's passage lies in star Heath Ledger's amazing Chia hair.) An intermittently engaging study in derring-do, nudged along by director Shekhar (Elizabeth) Kapur's sense of grandiose scale and some indecently lovely camerawork, this may have not been a great movie at epic length, but it would surely have resonated better than this plucked, wandering concoction. Kate Hudson glows, as always. (Andrew Wright )
Takashi Miike, the blood thirsty director of Audition, gives us another round of action and gore... this time with hermaphrodites. See review this issue.
A funny, short documentary about freaky people and their freaky abodes.
How I Killed My Father
This Oedipal drama concerns a handsome, successful gerontologist (Jean-Luc), who has a beautiful home and a beautiful mistress to supplement his beautiful, refined, pill-popping wife. The plot takes off when Jean-Luc's long-absent father, Maurice, pops up at his party for an extended visit. Jean-Luc takes a while, but ultimately decides that he's super duper pissed, especially when pops gets chummy with the missus. The acting is excellent, all the characters are entirely believable, but it is eye-buggingly slow, without a dramatic thrust to maintain a healthy level of interest. It starts kicking a bit more towards the end, but those brief episodes of mild excitement can't penetrate the anesthetic fog induced by their setup. (Marjorie Skinner)
Hysteria is the latest addition to Antero Alli's video legacy. It tells the story of an obsessive Croatian boxer, Ikar (Jakob Bokulich) who comes to America to fulfill a religious mission that he believes was assigned to him by the Virgin Mary while he was camped out in an old church during the Serb-Croatian War. One of the first movies to be set post-9/11, Hysteria achieves the nifty feat of addressing the paranoia that surrounded that day without exploiting it. Ikar is a terrorist who wishes to do harm in the name of religion, but who has arrived at that conclusion internally, with no influence or pressure from outside groups or causes. How do you stop someone like that? How do you find them? All the technology in the world won't trace a person who doesn't leave any tracks. Hysteria drives this point home with slow, meticulous grace. The development of its protagonist's horrific plan is not maniacal, but careful, even gentle. Alli's movie will prove to the skeptics that though video may be ass-ugly, it can also reach a kind of elegance, and it can definitely profoundly disturb. (Justin Sanders )
I am Trying to Break Your Heart
I fucking love Wilco. I collect the band's bootlegs, know all of their names and former bands by heart, and even chat online with other Wilco fans. I am a Wilco nerd and this film was made for me, not you. And that's why it's such a mighty letdown. The majority of I Am Trying to Break Your Heart consists of footage of the band as they laboriously create and record songs for their recent Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album in their posh Chicago loft. Surrounded by an awe-inspiring amount of musical equipment and technology, the five-piece band drops down to a quartet after multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett gets the boot for being a passive-aggressive little baby. But it's not the firing that makes up the plot twist in this film; that comes later when the band's label, Reprise (owned by über-conglomerate Warner Bros), doesn't like the recordings and insists the band re-record them. The band refuses and instead takes the story to the media, where dorks like myself are up in arms over the fact that such a popular and credible band is getting the shaft. Fearing more bad press, Reprise/Warner drops the band--picking up the hefty recording tab in the process--only to have one of their offshoot labels (Nonesuch) re-sign the band for another mighty sum. Basically, they paid for the record they didn't like--twice. (Ezra Caraeff)
If These Walls Could Talk 2
If These Walls Could Talk 2 deals with three decades of lesbianism between different couples in the same house.
Igby Goes Down
A melancholic comedy that captures the privileged heartbreak of Salinger far better than The Royal Tenenbaums ever could. Igby, a preppie with a punk streak, gets kicked out of his last boarding school and takes to Manhattan, where he squats purposelessly, has sex with junkies and JAPs, and basically seethes until life more or less insists that he make a move. A sharply-observed film down to the upturned collars and half-Windsor knots, Igby gets to the heart of its characters without either indicting or apologizing for its cultural framework. (Sean Nelson)
Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave star in this 1961 British creepfest about a young nanny who gets charged with some possessed kids.
Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie
The computer-animated version of the pamphlets you find at bus stops. Those backwards-assed Christian fundamentalists are spreading their demon-seed again, this time using produce as their minions. Oh, those devotion-drunk fools--don't they know that any reasonable child is never, ever, going to listen a vegetable? Never trust a five-year-old who heeds the teachings of a cucumber.
See Check it Out Biznatch
The Kid Stays in the Picture
The Kid Stays in the Picture is the kind of True Hollywood Story that E! network executives have filthy dreams about. Robert Evans' enchanted rise to the top of the Hollywood food chain as an actor (sort of), and then as a maverick producer was followed by failed marriages with glamorous movie stars, and an abrupt downfall that included drug abuse and murder. (Adam Hart)
The Knockaround Guys
Matty (Barry Pepper) is the son of high-ranking mob boss Dennis Hopper, who's having trouble convincing the old man he's ready to step up and take a larger role in the organization. After a great deal of whining, Matty convinces Benny's second-in-command (John Malkovich) to give him a chance by making a cross-country money pickup. Matty hires cokehead Seth Green to fly out and retrieve the half-mill, but trouble ensues when Green lands to get gas in a podunk Montana town, and the money is stolen. While this flick sure as shit ain't no Sopranos, it's nonetheless engaging in a trifling way. As Matty, Pepper has the dead-eye charm of a young Chris Walken, and Vin Diesel is convincing as the thuggish pal. However, believing Malkovich and Hopper as mob bosses? Give me a fuggin' break. "Sweatsuits and gold wrist bracelets do not a goombah make." The other problem is a lack of character development. While it's really fun to watch a bunch of New York wiseguys go nose to nose with tobacco-chewing hicks, this is a story about Matty's supposed growth from puss to Mafioso. Matty stays pretty much the same throughout, and therefore, the ending is a letdown. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
The Man from Elysian Fields
Much like Hickenlooper's previous films, The Low Life and The Big Brass Ring, Elysian Fields takes an intriguing premise and mangles it beyond recognition. Andy Garcia plays a novelist with a well-reviewed debut book currently gathering dust in the remainder bin. Because he is eager to keep his pregnant wife (Julianna Margulies, ugh) happy and homebound, he becomes desperate for extra money, but is too vain to get a job. Enter Mephistopheles, in the crenellated form of Mick Jagger (looking every inch the menopausal woman), playing Luther Fox, proprietor of a tony escort service for lonely rich women. So our hero becomes a gigolo; lucky for him, his first client just happens to be a super-hottie (Olivia Williams), who just happens to be married to an aging, impotent literary giant (James Coburn), who just happens to be stuck on his farewell novel. Unfortunately, the Faust trope runs out of gas, because everyone starts playing this ludicrous scenario so completely straight that all you can see are the wires. (Sean Nelson)
Stories surround Fritz Lang's film about how the original version was chopped up by the producers because it was too long. Supposedly, some of what was cut has even been lost forever. So what does that mean? Just that we'll never get to see Lang's true vision, which is frustrating, but hey, at least we get to see a new film group put out a "definitive" version of the damn thing every two years or so. This latest attempt is a digital restoration of the old footage. There's also much more footage than in past versions, and the soundtrack is the same music that was played at the film's premier in 1927. The result looks and sounds great. Lang's aesthetic vision, with its towering buildings and frantic machinery, is still as gorgeous and thrilling as any 100-million dollar epic. Watching the extended segments, though, you start to sympathize with the people who originally cut it. All the new segments do for the movie is drag out the story, which nobody ever cared much about to begin with. This movie is all about the sensory stimulation, but no senses need to be stimulated for two-and-a-half hours.
All right, what am I going to say about this movie? Sappy, kinda pointless, stars one of those Rene Zell-whatever look-alike chicks that does zany things like kiss old men on the cheek. Jake Gyllenhaal (aka Donnie Darko) is in it and does a pretty good job, despite the molasses script. He's pretty cute, too, especially when his eyes are welling up with tears. Jake is living with his fiancée Diana's parents, played by Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman. He gets along with them well; trouble is, his fiancée is dead. Uh oh, though. Five minutes after Diana's corpse cools off, Jake runs into Bertie McCuterson at the post office while trying to reclaim his now-expired wedding invitations. He shouldn't really be dating so soon, but he's lonely, she's cute, and the cosmic force of destiny is at work. (Katie Shimer)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
A frumpy diamond in the rough (Nia Vardalos) goes against the wishes of her lovingly oppressive family and falls for a hunky WASP (John Corbett, coasting on his Sex & The City vibe) in this intermittently amusing Grecian yarn. The refreshingly unconventional Vardalos adapted from her one-woman play, and the best material springs from her sporadic narration, goofing gently on such eccentricities as her dad's Windex fetish and the many permutations of cousins named Nick. Unfortunately, her presence and a sharp supporting cast (including the ever-prickly Andrea Martin) can't wholly mitigate the myriad of Memorexed gags, well-trod life lessons, and director Joel Zwick's flat, sitcomish presentation. There's precious little here that hasn't been seen a gazillion times before, but Vardalos' earthy charisma and a few stray bits of off-kilter wit make for an amiable saunter into the matrimonial breech. 'N Sync-er Joey Fatone cameos as a bearded guy. (Andrew Wright)
Nomad Travelling Film Fest
A touring festival of experimental short film and video, curated by Antero Alli.
A chronicle of Jim Morrison's only student film project, First Love. Pittman adds a soundtrack by The Incredible String Band and Eric Matthews. DJ Gregarious spins, too.
Olympia Film Fest
Romeo Carey presents the work of his father, Timothy Agoglia Carey and Peter Hutton presents his film Looking at the Sea, plus more.
One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo is an armchair psychologist's wet dream. And, like most pop psych and self-help programs, it's sorta cliché, sorta predictable, and not exactly snooze-inducing--but not riveting or illuminating either. The premise: Robin Williams plays Sy the Photo Guy, a balding control freak who manages a one-hour photo shop. Sy's longtime customers, The Yorkins--Will, Nina, and little Jake--are this picture-perfect, hottie yuppie family. He is utterly obsessed with the Yorkins; Nina and Jake in particular. Through processing their photos, he's followed their seemingly happy lives; and, because he's so lonely, he also pasted copies of nine years' worth of their photos to his wall in unabashed stalker fashion. Creepy. Like any stalker story, the film's fate lies in the hands of the director. And Mark Romanek does a good job setting up and unfolding the story. Unfortunately, as Romanek is also the scriptwriter, he only has himself to blame for the slow pace of the dialogue. (Julianne Shepherd)
No director in the universe (with the possible exception of John Waters) could save a bad novel like Possession, which was authored by A. S. Byatt. It's the one novel Hollywood should have left in its original condition: a bad book. Now it has a second life as a bad movie. (Charles Mudede)
In an attempt to make a money-losing musical, failed producers Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel come up with a sure-fire Broadway flop: Springtime for Hitler. A hilarious parody of Broadway, commerce, and of course, those dirty stinking rat Nazis.
Is Red Dragon any good? The answer is kinda and no--kinda, thanks to Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Emily Watson, and Ralph Fiennes; no, thanks to Sir Anthony himself, who seems so utterly bored with the role that you can almost hear him snoozing with his eyes open. Not that director Brett Ratner, best known for Rush Hour and its sequel, would know what to do with the flick even if Sir Anthony had shown up awake and ready. The prequel to Silence of the Lambs (when Hopkins was still creepy), Red Dragon so wants to be its Oscar-winning predecessor that entire sections seem to be snipped straight from Jonathan Demme's opus. Clunky and breathtakingly unoriginal, Ratner's film is a paint-by-numbers affair. (Bradley Steinbacher)
There's nothing better than a fresh, piping hot, doughy-in-the-middle, good ol' fashioned horror movie. Word on the street says The Ring will fit the bill. It certainly has a cool-sounding premise: a video tape circulates that kills whoever watches it. It also has strong roots: it's a remake of the Japanese classic, Ringu.
Rules of Attraction
Rules of Attraction centers around a fucked-up love triangle between devil-in-the-flesh Sean Bateman (the Beek), the bewitching Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), and svelte pretty-boy Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who are all students at upper-crust Camden College, somewhere in New England. Love triangles are tricky things anyway, but throw in the influences of director Roger Avery (writer of Pulp Fiction) and novelist Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero, American Psycho), upon whose 1987 novel the film is based, and the triangle gets very messy indeed. We watch the characters fuck, drink, lust, puke, bleed, and do drugs. Which sounds like fun, right? And it might have been, but the satire gets lost in the glam. I was left either wanting a full-on fuck party or a requiem for college angst, but what you get is an uneven movie with good performances, a tacked-on '80s soundtrack, and a lot of blood and vomit. (Brian Brait)
Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has just been released from a mental institution; she's a cutter, slicing up her skin and neatly placing Band-Aids over the wounds. To integrate herself back into society (and to escape from her flawed home life), she decides to look for a job. Luckily, anal-retentive lawyer E. Edward Gray (James Spader) is hiring. He needs a secretary; judging from the permanent help wanted sign outside his office, he has pretty tough time keeping them around. Lee can type and is not pregnant or trying to get pregnant (three of Gray's requirements for employment), so she gets the job. Everything goes along beautifully--until she makes a typo and, as punishment, Gray bends her over his desk and spanks her silly. (Julianne Shepherd)
Shadows of Sundance
The Shadows of Sundance is a collection of short pieces that run the gamut from animation to a cheesy cop show spoof. Detective Kent Striker Film and Me & The Big Guy are aggressively humorous in that "if I laugh hard enough, maybe they'll stop" kind of way, because the joke isn't funny or complex enough for a feature film and is too long for a sketch comedy skit. Here is by far the most effective in using its length to an advantage. It's a quick but rapt study of a hit-man (Lee Majors) and his floundering save for purpose. Window is a sort of sad, droning cartoon about a paper-stamper and his decision between security and "the window" of the unknown. Scarfmania is silly, about a guy in a town where everyone wears scarves, but he can't seem to wear one without getting it wrapped around his ankles. (Marjorie Skinner)
Chris Eyre's second feature film, Skins, is not as well made or acted as his first feature film, Smoke Signals, but it is like Sherman Alexie's recent film, The Business of Fancydancing, more fascinating. Skins is set on the most impoverished reservation in America, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, and describes the day-to-day world of a reservation cop (Eric Schweig) who has an eccentric understanding of the law and how it should be administered. He is not a "bad lieutenant," but his sense of right and wrong is complicated by the maze and layers of misery that he encounters while on and off duty. At the end of Skins, we don't so much have a story or a clear idea of the cop than an impression of the deep sorrow that suffocates him and his fallen community. (Charles Mudede)
One of the last remaining directors of animation to truly capture the strange, subtly contented spirit of childhood (and, for that matter, one of the only directors of animation with any sense of singular recognition), Princess Mononoke director Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service) follows his 1997 masterpiece with his latest--an Alice in Wonderland-inspired fable about a little girl whose parents are transformed into pigs.
Survival of the Fittest
Short films on the conflict between man and nature, including Ant City, about the social life of ants, and Freedom Highway, about a special cross-country Greyhound Bus tour.
The Sweet Hereafter
A lawyer tortured by the loss of his daughter to drugs, goes to a small town where a recent bus accident has killed many of the town's kids. He encourages the parents to sue for the loss of their children and represents them in the case.
Sweet Home Alabama
If you're thinking about watching Sweet Home Alabama-and I assume the thought crossed your mind if you're reading this review--I'd like to suggest some alternative uses of your time. Sharpen all the pencils in your collection and stick them through your eyes. Pull out every last nose hair with a pair of fingernail clippers. Use an electric drill to impale your eardrums. Any of one of these activities would be a better use of two hours than this shit-on-a-stick waste of a lesson that's already been taught in one hackneyed comedy after another--namely, that poor white Southern folk are fat, dumb, and wear Jaclyn Smith, but the boys are hot and they ain't as stupid as city folk think, 'cause they have heart. (Jennifer Maerz )
A super-stud driver-for-hire mangles a vast assortment of skeevy Eurotrash in order to protect his incessantly shrieking, Lolita-esque Chinese hostage. Many things explode. Not quite smart enough to qualify as acceptably mindless, this multinational, heavily accented testosterone Big Gulp baldly aims to combine the worlds of J. Woo and GQ, with sputtering, cortex-croggling results. Occasionally rousing, with a smattering of ace chop-socky (particularly a delirious mega-fight marinated in Texas Crude), but ultimately torpedoed by writer/producer Luc (The Professional) Besson's patented brand of synth-poppy fromage. Lead Jason Statham is the very definition of Cockney badass, but should refrain from ever wearing a buttoned-to-the-neck baby blue polo shirt again. (Andrew Wright)
Fuck Everlasting is more like it! Disney has gotten its hands on the award-winning young person's book by Natalie Babbitt with gorgeous but creepy results. Set in 1915, the story concerns Winnie, a tightly corseted girl quivering on the cusp of maturity (played by luscious crumpet Alexis Bledel). When her parents threaten to send her to a "School for Young Ladies," she tears off into the forest and right into the arms of Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson), a strapping young lad slurping straight from the Fountain of Youth. In fact, his whole family done drunk from it, more than 80 years before! The Everly Hillbillies (played by Sissy Spacek and William Hurt) gently kidnap Winnie in order to keep her from spilling their secret and also presumably to give her and Jesse plenty of time to frolic through fields of daisies in slow motion. Meanwhile, an oily fellow dressed in yellow (played by Ben Kingsley--having a ball, as usual) lurks in the forest. A wonderful cast, lovely cinematography, and an almost Zen-like pace cannot overcome the fact that this story is about a 104-year-old guy who's doing it with a teenager! He is approximately six times her age! Yuck! (Tamara Paris)
As everyone knows, what makes a kung fu film great is that sooner rather than later they get to the point: the dazzling dance of attack and defense. The Tuxedo is a bad kung fu film because it spends too much time and energy developing its sorry plot (a spy spoof), and the fight scenes are worth shit. The Tuxedo sucks like nobody's business. (Charles Mudede)
The Way Home
A film dealing with gender inequalities in different cultures.
If I were a woman, I would be deeply offended by a movie like White Oleander, which posits that female strength is necessarily tied to violence, control freakery, and frigid sexuality, and furthers the insulting notion that being an artist means being an inscrutable, pretentious hypocrite. Since I am not a woman, however, I will say that Oleander is a waste of talent (Michelle Pfeiffer and Renée Zellweger may not be great actresses, but they're better than this movie lets them be) as well as time. When the main character (a teenage girl whose artist mother goes to jail for murdering her boyfriend) is adopted by white-trash Christians, the film comes momentarily alive, but only to stereotypes that can't outstretch the cast's valiant efforts to transcend them. (Sean Nelson)
Just how bad is XXX? Worse than you've imagined. Seriously. I would rather be catheterized by a Parkinson's-afflicted nurse than sit through it again. It's that bad. Don't believe me? Then go see it. Flop down the $10 at your neighborhood multiplex and slouch your way through the picture. You'll see-and afterward you'll say, "Shit, man, I wish I'd listened to that chump from the Mercury." (Bradley Steinbacher)