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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 10, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 37
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Bloody Machete goes back to the grindhouse
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Ah, fall. It's the time of year when Hollywood begins to back off from all of the pointless sequels, remakes, and comic book and/or video game adaptations and actually gets a wee bit serious in hopes of earning an all-important Oscar. They assume audiences actually have a brain and program serious-minded films for the serious-minded filmgoer, and the last months of the year are a triumph of cinematic quality.

Yeah, right. While those aforementioned statements aren't exactly false, it isn't like there aren't a ton of low-aiming pictures dotting the release schedule. Milla Jovovich is back for another round of zombie killing - this time in 3D - in Resident Evil: Afterlife, while MTV's famously flatulent fall guys return in three dimensions as well, unleashing Jackass 3D upon an unsuspecting populace. The makers of Alien vs. Predator: Requiem return with the Independence Day ripoff Skyline, while horror-thriller Case 39 starring Renée Zellweger somehow manages to get a wide release even though it apparently stinks so bad it's been sitting on Universal's shelf for almost three years.

Also in 3D is Disney's 28-years-later sequel Tron: Legacy, 300 director Zack Snyder's foray into digital animation The Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, the Hayden Panettiere- and Christina Ricci-voiced Alpha & Omega, Jigsaw's reportedly final killing spree Saw 3D, Dreamworks' Will Ferrel/Brad Pitt-led animated Megamind, the latest trip into author C.S. Lewis' religiously inspired fantasyland The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the pic-a-nic basket-loving Yogi Bear and the golden-haired animated adventure Tangled.

As if that weren't enough (and trust me, as tired as I am of 3D, this is more than enough), the final adventure of everyone's favorite boy wizard Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I will also be presented in the format on both regular and IMAX screens everywhere. In all honesty, this kind of blows my mind as the reactions to Warner Bros. 2D to 3D conversions of both Clash of the Titans and that awful Cats & Dogs sequel met with almost total disdain. It's flabbergasting that they're willing to risk the same kind of backlash on their biggest cash cow (and, I almost hesitate to say this, a potential Academy Award nominee).

There are plenty of bright spots, of course. Dotting the release schedule are major releases from Clint Eastwood (Hereafter), David Fincher (The Social Network), Danny Boyle (127 Hours), James L. Brooks (How Do You Know), Zhang Yimou (A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop), Sofia Coppola (Somewhere), Woody Allen (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Tourist), Julian Schnabel (Miral), Edward Zwick (Love and Other Drugs), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David O. Russell (The Fighter), Julie Taymor (The Tempest), Stephen Frears (Tamara Drew), Davis Guggenheim (Waiting for "Superman"), Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go), Mike Leigh (Another Year), and the Coen brothers (True Grit). As to whether or not any or all of these will prove to be worthy of their ticket prices, your guess is sadly as good as mine.

The following is a list of what is scheduled to be hitting Seattle screens from now until the end of October. Next week, we'll list the movies opening through the end of the year. As always, release dates are tentative and subject to change.

September 17
Alpha and Omega - Another 3D animated effort, this one coming from Lionsgate and featuring the voice talents of Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci, Justin Long, Danny Glover, and the late, great Dennis Hopper about a pair of wolves making a dangerous cross-country trek.

Catfish - Creepy yet highly entertaining documentary about a New York artist making friends with a talented 8-year-old artist on Facebook while potentially falling for her sexy older sister at the same time.

Devil -M. Night Shyamalan (in producer/writer mode) and Quarantine director John Erick Dowdle (sharing credit with his brother Drew) team up for a fable about a group of strangers trapped in an elevator, with one of them secretly being Satan - yes, Satan (and no, the Church Lady is not involved in any way whatsoever).

Easy A - Emma Stone's star continues to rise as she plays a wise-beyond-her-years teen who decides to help her school's most unfortunate by pretending to be the woman who took their collective virginity. The all-star cast includes Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow, Stanley Tucci, Malcolm McDowell, Patricia Clarkson, and Thomas Haden Church.

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel - Fine documentary chronicling the life and times of the notorious Playboy founder and living legend. Far more interesting (and with much less nudity) than I anticipated, both of which are plusses as far as I'm concerned.

Mademoiselle Chambon - French dramedy about a mild-mannered family man who becomes increasingly more and more obsessed with his son's sexy teacher Mademoiselle Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain of Alias Betty).

The Town - Ben Affleck's follow up to his grand directorial debut Gone Baby Gone is the gritty story of a team of Boston thieves who slowly fall apart at the seams when their leader professes a desire to go straight after falling in love with the one woman who could send them all to prison for the rest of their lives.

The Virginity Hit - the description in the production notes for this film is as follows: "It's four guys, one camera, and their hilarious experience chronicling the exhilarating and terrifying rite of passage - losing your virginity." Consider yourselves warned.

September 24
Bran Nue Dae - Australian musical-comedy hybrid starring the great Geoffrey Rush involving the 1969 love affair between two aboriginal teenagers partaking in their fair share of youthful rebellion.

Heartbreaker - Saga of professional break-up artist Alex Lippi (Romain Duris) who accidentally falls in love with his latest target Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), a beautiful, young, and free-spirited heiress.

Jack Goes Boating - Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this brilliantly acted (if dramatically uneven) tale of a shy New York limo driver (Hoffman) who is pushed by his best friend (John Ortiz) into dating an equally quiet woman (Oscar-nominee Amy Ryan) who is just as afraid of romance as he is.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - Look! In the sky! It's another 3D CG animated movie! This one about owls! Fighting for survival! Directed by 300 and Watchmen mastermind Zack Snyder! With extremely loud trailers that continually shout at us! Aren't we excited?!

The Romantics - Drama about seven friends who reunite for a wedding, an old rivalry between the bride (Anna Paquin) and her maid of honor (Katie Holmes) jeopardizing the nuptials.

The Sicilian Girl - Acclaimed Italian effort about that country's continuing problem with organized crime as viewed through the prism of this fictional tale of Rita Atria, the 17-year-old daughter of a slain mob boss.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - Strong, stirring, and unbelievably timely sequel to Oliver Stone's 1987 original marking the return of Gordon Gekko (still played with glorious smarmy bravado by Michael Douglas) to the New York City street he lusts to be master and commander of. Greed - for him, at least - remains very, very good.

October 1
Buried - Ryan Reynolds is a U.S. contract worker stationed in Iraq who is kidnapped and then buried alive inside a coffin with only a low-on-power cell phone to help him escape. Obviously, his cell provider is not AT&T.

Case 39 - The first time I saw a trailer for this Renée Zellweger horror effort was all the way back in 2008. Universal is now giving it a release. I don't think anything more needs to be said.

Cell 211 - Sensational Spanish import about a prison riot gone horribly wrong and the guard who poses as a prisoner in order to hopefully survive.

Freakonomics - Acclaimed documentary filmmakers Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki, and Morgan Spurlock attempt to look at the "hidden side of everything." What that exactly means I'm not entirely sure. Maybe they'll do an exposé on why people are so fascinated with Jersey Shore or continue to think voting Republican is a good idea.

Hatchet II - The sequel nobody asked for but that we're all going to get is being released unrated by its distributor because, you know, that's what all the fans of the first blood-soaked slashfest were screaming for. Wait. The first Hatchet actually has fans? Who knew?

Let Me In - Cloverfield director risks the wrath of fanboys everywhere with his remake of the freaky and sinister vampire in child's clothing Let the Right One In. Kick-Ass darling Chloe Moretz and The Road wanderer Kodi Smit-McPhee star.

The Social Network - Acclaimed director David Fincher takes on the world of Facebook with this look at its birth as seen through the eyes of its controversial co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Waiting for "Superman" - An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim turns his attentions to the state of the Public School System in the United States and does not like what he finds. Leave no child behind, indeed.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Woody Allen returns for another darkly comedic merry-go-round and he's brought along Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, and Slumdog Millionaire beauty Freida Pinto for the ride.

October 8
Breathless - Jean-Luc Godard's timeless classic is back in theatres looking better than ever. Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg rule. One of fall's can't-miss cinematic events.

It's Kind of a Funny Story - Half Nelson writer and director tandem Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck return for this quirky comedy about a clinically depressed teenager who checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward.

Life as We Know It - Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel hate one another but find themselves forced to live in the same house after a tragedy leaves them the caregivers for a recently parentless baby. There are poop jokes. Lots and lots of poop jokes.

My Soul to Take - Horror master Wes Craven's latest is another 2D to 3D conversion about a serial killer stalking seven teens whose birthdays are the same day as he was supposedly executed.

Never Let Me Go - In the movie I am looking forward to seeing this fall more than any other, director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) tackles author Kazuo Ishiguro's amazing novel about three friends reuniting to face an uncertain destiny, hopefully doing it justice in the process.

Nowhere Boy - Biopic about a young pre-Beatles John Lennon starring Aaron Johnson, a.k.a. Kick-Ass. Missed this at this year's SIFF, but the buzz regarding it wasn't exactly euphoric.

Secretariat - Disney goes to the inspirational sports story well one more time, this time offering up the tale of the famous titular horse and the woman (a supposedly quite good Diane Lane) who defied the odds, guiding him to the 1973 Triple Crown.

October 15-24
The Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival - Everyone's favorite independent LGBT flavored film festival returns for its 15th go-around. As always, the SGN will be your go-to source for reviews and information just as soon as the folks at Three Dollar Bill Cinema disclose the schedule.

October 15
Conviction - Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell Oscar fodder based on the true story of Betty Ann Waters, a working mother who tirelessly puts herself through law school in order to defend her brother, wrongfully accused of murder.

The Freebie - Independent effort about a young married couple who decide to give one another the night off from their normal lives, apparently unaware of the normal rom-com consequences of doing just that very thing.

Jackass 3D - Do I really need to say anything about this one? I didn't think so, as it sort of speaks for itself.

Red - Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren - yes, that Helen Mirren - team up as retired CIA assassins brought out of retirement against their wishes when someone deep inside the agency marks them for death. To no one's surprise, this thriller is based on a comic book.

Stone - Edward Norton is a killer on the verge of parole. Robert De Niro is the parole officer brought out of retirement to hear his case. Milla Jovovich is the woman who will make things very, very interesting for the both of them.

October 22
Hereafter - Clint Eastwood's latest is described as an emotional drama of loss and regret with supernatural undertones written by Peter Morgan (The Queen), starring Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard. As it's directed by Eastwood, I couldn't care less what it's actually about, as I'd be first in line to see it even if he were making an exposé on underwater basket-weaving.

Inside Job - If one weren't already furious about the current economic situation facing the U.S. at the moment, it goes without saying that Charles Ferguson's documentary looking at the meltdown will make a person even more so.

Last Train Home - Supposedly heart-wrenching documentary chronicling the yearly journey of 200 million Chinese peasant workers as they return home to their families for a brief period of rest.

Paranormal Activity 2 - What, you thought Paramount would be satisfied to have an underground horror hit last year that they never expected would make over a $100 million and then leave well enough alone? Think again. The requisite (and probably pointless) sequel opens just in time for Halloween.

October 29
The Company Man - Drama about recent economic events and effects it has on the lives of various corporate workers and their families as played by Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck, Maria Bello, and Kevin Costner.

Douchebag - Two brothers on a quest to find the whereabouts of the younger one's fifth-grade girlfriend, even though he's about to be married to the supposed love of his life. I can feel the yawns coming on already.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - The final chapter in the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy finds Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) recuperating from her injuries and plotting her revenge while journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) struggles to get her off the hook for three different murders.

Monsters - After an alien invasion has left parts of the globe off-limits, a journalist escorts a tourist through the infected portions of Mexico to the safety of the U.S. border. The trailer is pretty good, other than that I've got nothing much to say.

Saw 3D - Jigsaw's supposed last trek around the mousetrap will apparently wrap up all of the loose ends left by the previous six installments in the bizarrely popular torture-filled series.


Nebulous I'm Still Here flawed, but fascinating
by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

I'm Still Here
Opening September 10


I'm Still Here is many things. One thing it's not: a conventional documentary, regardless of the straight-faced claims by the filmmakers. But let's talk about what I'm Still Here is.

I'm Still Here is an interesting attempt at social satire. This is a film about the viewer as much as it is a film about Joaquin Phoenix. This is a film about how much we relish watching stars fall, how much we revel in the failure of others. We've collectively viewed the Letterman video millions of times, vainly trying to figure out what went wrong with the handsome young star. These days, by the time you get to the "q" in Joaquin's name while searching YouTube, "joaquin phoenix letterman" pops right up. Whether it's Britney going cue ball circa 2007 or Fatty Arbuckle crushing a starlet to death in flagrante circa 1921, we like our celebrities to go large and fall hard.

I'm Still Here is also a film about celebrity and all that celebrity entails. Unfortunately, the celebrity in this instance, the character of the narcissistic actor capriciously turned wannabe rapper, seems slightly cliché at times, which makes a fairly clever little movie feel a tad less clever. The boys, director Casey Affleck and Phoenix, are going for urbane but come off smug. Joaquin opens the film by whining about being known as an emotional, tense, and complicated artist. Really? It must be quite a cross to bear.

As we know celebrities aren't just misunderstood and tortured. They're also egotistical and debauched. Joaquin doesn't let us down. This version of Joaquin, self referenced in the film as J.P., is a bloated, chain smoking, cocaine snorting, hooker fucking snot without an ounce of effective introspection or restraint. J.P. screams at his friend and personal assistant (don't they know this will end poorly?), Anton, "I'll shit on your face!" at one point - a tortured metaphor that J.P. lives to keenly regret.

Successful celebrities are also impulsive and arrogant. J.P. feels artistically constrained by his acting career lamenting that he is nothing more than a doll being dressed up, told where to stand, and told what to say. This prompts him to quit acting and pursue a career as a rapper. He chats up Mos Def about his desire to be "epic" and actually gets a meeting with Sean Combs (speaking of ... never mind). The climax comes as J.P. is heckled off the stage and ends up barfing into a toilet while his assistant dutifully holds his tie out of the puke-stream.

There's also an unfortunate allusion, intended or not (it doesn't matter), to the title of I'm Not There, the avant-garde Bob Dylan bio pic by Todd Haynes (a much better film). Both films purport to be biographical, yet are not, in fact, documentary (that's my opinion in the case of I'm Still Here, though I'm quite sure folks will be arguing about this for years to come, as if it were Mulholland Drive).

And calling something documentary brings up another problem: What is documentary, and how much theater is involved when you turn the camera on? We use the term "documentary" to describe movies that are about real subjects. We document reality; we create fiction. But documentary films are usually narrative and often somewhat fictional. Certain elements of most documentaries incorporate cinematic devices, recreations, and flawed recollections to draw their subjects. Simply turning the camera on changes reality into ... something else. So, in the fading (we hope) era of reality television with its manufactured stars and with the advent of digital landscapes and ubiquitous internet journalism, reality itself seems to be in a state of flux. I'm Still Here takes a talented guy with real star power and turns him into a reality show hack about one step below Spencer Pratt. That's good satire.

Mostly, I'm Still Here is a fascinating attempt at a satirical take on the notion of celebrity. Satire is tough to get right, and it's high praise to say Affleck and Phoenix get it right a good 80% of the time. There are some truly hilarious moments and you can't help having some emotional response to the bloated and filthy shade of a former A-lister. Either Joaquin has gone batshit crazy, or he has dedicated two years of his life collaborating with his talented brother-in-law to make a fascinating, if flawed, little film.




Scissor Sisters, Dierks Bentley, Arcade Fire top September concerts
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

It's back to school for some and back to the ticket counter for the rest of us who follow great live shows. The month of September has an abundance of anticipated performances, and here are eight that emerge from the pack.

Bumbershoot Music
and Arts Festival
September 4-6
Seattle Center

Mary J. Blige is the biggest reason to attend Bumbershoot, now celebrating its 40th year anniversary as Seattle's premiere arts festival. While the overall lineup is below par compared to 2008 and 2009's rosters - when Franz Ferdinand, Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, and Katy Perry thrilled mainstage audiences - you'll still be treated to great performances this time by Neko Case, Angelique Kidjo, and local outfit The Moondoggies.

Smashing Pumpkins
September 10
The Showbox SoDo

If only a handful of rock bands mattered in the early '90s, Smashing Pumpkins - along with Nirvana and R.E.M. - would be among them. Billy Corgan is not a genius, but he is a compelling songwriter and vocalist, as both a solo artist and collaborative member of this Grammy-winning quartet. Can the group restore its one-time dominance in a new decade? Probably not, but that doesn't erase the fact that they're one of the most influential alternative acts ever.

The National
September 11
Marymoor Park

One of indie music's most hyped bands is The National, whose 2007 album The Boxer landed on multiple year-end critics' lists but struggled in its bid for mainstream attention. High Violet, the Brooklyn act's follow-up release, again has only managed to excite the media and maybe a diehard KEXP listener here and there. Regardless of success level, The National will prove their worth at Marymoor Park.

Scissor Sisters
September 15
The Showbox SoDo

If you ask me - and I'm glad you did - Scissor Sisters own one of 2010's strongest releases with Night Work, a grittier and more developed effort than the group's previous two albums combined. Lead singer and former Seattle resident Jake Shears penned most of the CD's material from his late-night exploits in Berlin - he nails the ambiance of the city's dingy, promiscuous dive bars on "Sex and Violence" and "Invisible Light."

Dierks Bentley
September 18
Puyallup Fair

No one should be surprised that Dierks Bentley nabbed an Album of the Year nomination by the Country Music Association (CMA). His venture to authentic bluegrass, Up on the Ridge, is among the best-reviewed CDs of the entire year and is well on its way to a Grammy nod later in 2010. Fans get the opportunity to hear these songs live when Bentley plucks at the Puyallup Fair in mid-September, as part of a charity event that benefits Seattle Children's Hospital - yee-haw to that!

Adam Lambert
September 21
Puyallup Fair

The eyeliner-dabbed reality series star-turned-recording artist had no problem filling The Showbox SoDo to capacity in July, but can he draw his loyal faithful to the land of battered corndogs and funnel cakes? Probably, and Lambert will give them a concert that's nothing short of glam, glitter, and gushy pop. Here's hoping he omits his wonky version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."

The xx
September 25
Paramount Theatre

The frontrunner for the 2010 Mercury Music Prize, a prestigious award handed out by a British panel of artists and media, is the self-titled debut by South London's ambitious newbies, The xx. From the opening chords of "Intro," you just know this album is going to be a cut above the rest. The band sold out its previous concert in Seattle at The Showbox SoDo - hence the bigger venue. Don't miss The xx, they're on a bullet train to rock stardom.

Arcade Fire
September 29
Key Arena

Though not as brilliant as Neon Bible (SGN's Album of the Year, 2007) or even 2004's Funeral, this year's release by Arcade Fire, The Suburbs, is another example of their superiority in the alternative music scene. On a sad note, the days of seeing them live in intimate theaters are gone - for now - as they've upgraded to sports arenas, which stands to diminish the experience just a bit.


Seattle's Lily Armani crowned La Femme Magnifique Int'l 2010
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High-octane Weezer performance closes out Bumbershoot
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MTV Video Music Awards could be a monster of a night for Lady GaGa
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Cyndi Lauper's blue and loving it!
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A Dyke About Town: Jessica Williams comes out Zoo Tunes
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Accessible Wagner with plenty of eye candy
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Bloody Machete goes back to the grindhouse
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Nebulous I'm Still Here flawed, but fascinating
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Scissor Sisters, Dierks Bentley, Arcade Fire top September concerts
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Scissor Sisters' Del Marquis talks Tokyo shopping, tour details
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Northwest News
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Letters
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