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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 6, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 18
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
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SGN's 2011 Summer Movie Preview: Part I
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

The summer movie season - Hollywood's favorite time of year - is back, and it's packed with more sequels, spin-offs, and reboots then any year in recent memory. In May and June alone, there's a part five, a part four, and three part twos. We've also got the first of two Marvel Comics superhero debuts, both of which follow on the heels of last year's Iron Man 2 and also serve as preludes to next year's The Avengers.

Thankfully, there is some originality to be found. Saturday Night Live veteran Kristin Wiig makes her screenwriting debut with Bridesmaids while Jodie Foster attempts to resurrect Mel Gibson's acting career with The Beaver. The most talked-about title might just be one of the least well-known: writer/director J.J. Abrams will pay homage to the early works of Steven Spielberg with his sci-fi 1970s adventure Super 8. There's also another superhero making his way to theaters as Warner Bros. sets DC Comics star Green Lantern up as a potential tentpole title they can sequelize for many summers to come.

There's more, including the return of the Seattle International Film Festival and Three Dollar Bill Cinema's annual Translations Film Festival. Plenty of foreign imports and independent titles are sure to get the more adventurous moviegoer excited, and it's a given some Hollywood also-ran will wow us all and make a mark at the box office.

Here's what's expected to hit Seattle area screens in May and June. As always, release dates are subject to change, so please keep that in mind when planning your summertime schedule.

May 6
The Beaver - Director and star Jodie Foster's valiant attempt to revive the career of Mel Gibson. His performance as a clinically depressed business executive who learns to communicate by using a hand puppet is one of his all-time best, and while the movie isn't perfect, it's still a moderately profound treatise on family, fatherhood, and aging I thoroughly enjoyed.

Jumping the Broom - A comedy about two African American families - one from the downtown streets, the other from the uptown suburbs - coming together in Martha's Vineyard for a wedding.

Meek's Cutoff - Director Kelly Reichardt's (Wendy and Lucy) latest effort is a sparse, brutal, and emotionally barren Western starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, and Will Patton where nothing much happens and yet everything is achieved. A startlingly beautiful film (although not without its problems), this is an elegantly restrained effort finicky audiences should be on the lookout for.

Queen to Play - Kevin Kline (in a French-speaking role) and Sandrine Bonnaire star in an idyllic feel-good comedy set in sunny Corsica.

The Robber - Based on the life of Johann Rettenberger, this wonderful thriller chronicles how a renowned marathon runner moonlighted as one of Germany's most notorious bank robbers.

Something Borrowed - Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, and John Krasinski star in a matrimonial-themed romantic comedy that has an awful lot in common with My Best Friend's Wedding.

Thor - Director Kenneth Branagh brings his Shakespearean flare to the world of Marvel Comics, helping bring God of Thunder and Asgard outcast Thor to life.

May 12 - May 15
The 6th Annual Translations Film Festival - Three Dollar Bill Cinema's popular weekend Transgender film fest returns with a series of panels, shorts, documentaries, narrative features, and retrospective works spotlighting the Trans community. It all kicks off with the Chaz Bono documentary Becoming Chaz at Pacific Place. For more information and tickets, go to

May 13
Bridesmaids - An exceedingly foul and funny adult R-rated comedy about matrimonial carnage co-written and starring Saturday Night Live dynamo Kristin Wiig that has all the earmarks of being one of the summer's biggest successes.

Everything Must Go - A change of pace effort for star Will Ferrell, the comedian portraying a relapsed alcoholic who loses his wife and his job and decides to sell everything he has in a yard sale in an attempt to start over from scratch.

Forks Over Knives - Documentary that examines the claim that most, maybe even all, degenerative diseases can be controlled if we all just made the conscious effort to stop eating meat and processed food.

Hesher - Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, and the great Piper Laurie in an independent drama about a depressed pyromaniac who lives in a van only to see his life change when he runs into a young boy with even bigger problems than his own.

Le Quattro Volte - Italian import about an elderly shepherd living out his final days amidst the peace and quiet of the medieval, mostly abandoned village in which he has lived all his life. This meditative little picture has been a favorite of international critics and an award-winner at festivals all over the world.

Priest - Director Scott Stewart and star Paul Bettany follow up their 2010 suspense-thriller dud Legion with a new tale, this one presented in 3D and concerning a fanatical religious order, a post-apocalyptic wasteland ravaged by vampires, and a lone theological warrior who believes he can wipe the world clean of this undead menace. I'm already yawning.

The Princess of Montpensier - The latest from acclaimed director Bertrand Tavernier (Coup de Torchon, Captain Conan) and starring the luminous Mélanie Thierry, this 16th-century political romance was the love-it/hate-it attraction at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

May 19-June 12
The 37th Annual Seattle International Film Festival - The largest film festival in North America returns, opening with The First Grader, a British import from director Justin Chadwick, and ends 24 days later with a picture still to be announced. The SGN will be covering all the wonderfulness start to finish. Keep checking the front page for details.

May 20
13 Assassins - A Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) actioner about a group of warriors who join forces to kill an evil feudal lord.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Johnny Depp is back as Jack Sparrow, and whether or not you think that's a good thing probably depends on if you didn't feel like the two previous Pirates of the Caribbean flicks strangled all affinity for the series right out of you (I did). Geoffrey Rush also returns, while Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane join the proceedings as a pair of fellow swashbucklers searching for the fabled Fountain of Youth.

May 26
The Hangover Part II - The year's most pointless sequel promises to deliver more of the same as the 2009 Las Vegas-set original, only this time the action has been moved to Thailand and reshoots have apparently plagued the production from the get-go. Stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms all return, as does director Todd Phillips.

Kung Fu Panda 2 - In Memorial Day weekend's second major sequel, everyone's favorite kung fu fighting panda bear Po (voiced by Jack Black) returns to face a new menace who harbors a terrible secret and brandishes an ancient and powerful weapon.

May 27
Hobo with a Shotgun - A homeless Rutger Hauer blows away evildoers in this gleefully over-the-top and bloody grindhouse thriller.

The First Grader - SIFF's opening-night feature goes into its general theatrical run. Director Justin Chadwick tells the true story of Kenyan villager and ex-Mau Mau freedom fighter Charles Obinchu and his fight to attend school and obtain an education even though he's 84 years old.

Incendies - One of the nominees for last year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Incendies is a searing import revolving around two twins honoring their mother's dying wish and heading to the Middle East to research their roots.

Skateland - An audience favorite at the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival, this retro John Hughes-style 1980s coming-of-age dramatic comedy is a light and bouncy winner starring Ashley Greene, Shiloh Fernandez, and James LeGros. Definitely worth a look.

True Legend - A big-budget Hong Kong import directed by the great fight choreographer Woo-ping Yuen (The Matrix), featuring the awesome Michelle Yeoh in a key supporting role.

June 3
Mia and Magoo - An Animated French import about a young girl's journey across perilous mountains and treacherous jungles in search of her missing father.

Midnight in Paris - Fresh off its Cannes Film Festival premier, writer and director Woody Allen's latest is set in the City of Lights and stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody, and Kathy Bates.

X-Men: First Class - The fifth film in the X-Men series, this one goes back to the beginning to chronicle how Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (a.k.a. Magneto) became the hero and the villain they are today. The second film of the summer's crowded superhero field to see a release, it is also somewhat surprisingly the one with the most positive buzz, as people are apparently curious to see what director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) can do with the material.

June 10
Beginners - Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Mélanie Laurent star in a tale about a 30-something roustabout who must deal with two startling announcements: that his elderly father has terminal cancer and - maybe even more astonishing - that he also has a young male lover.

Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer - Based on the award-winning literary series by Megan McDonald, third-grader Judy Moody (newcomer Jordana Beatty) goes to extremes to make sure she has the best summer ever.

Super 8 - The summer's must buzzed-about title, this highly secretive thriller comes from the mind of Star Trek and Lost impresario J.J. Abrams and is a homage to the early works of Steven Spielberg (who just so happens to produce).

The Troll Hunter - A Norwegian import about a group of college students who think they are investigating a series of mysterious bear killings, only to discover the creature responsible for all of the bloody carnage is a giant troll - and now it's hunting them! OK, I admit that this is one title I just can't wait to see.

June 17
The Art of Getting By - Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts star in a Sundance Film Festival favorite about a teenager who suddenly realizes he's made it to his senior year in high school without doing a single ounce of work.

Green Lantern - Am I the only one who thinks the trailers for this DC Comics adventure look incredibly awful? I can't be, right? Of all the superhero flicks hitting theaters this summer, this is the one I am dreading the most.

Mr. Popper's Penguins - Jim Carrey. Six dancing penguins. I'm not sure anything more needs to be said. Well, Angela Lansbury costars - that's something, I guess.

June 24
A Better Life - A melodrama set in Los Angeles about a down-on-his-luck landscaper who will do just about anything to keep his son away from gangs, drugs, guns, and the immigration agents who would separate them.

A Little Help - Great googly moogly! This dramatic comedy is bad. Screened at last year's SIFF, I'm kind of in shock that this unbelievably awful effort (starring the otherwise enchanting Jenna Fischer of The Office fame) is even getting a release. Stay away at all costs.

Bad Teacher - Cameron Diaz stars as a foul-mouthed, sexually provocative middle school teacher who attempts to woo the school's most eligible bachelor (Justin Timberlake). Director Jake Kasdan made both Zero Effect and Orange County, which were awesome, but the trailer for this one is highly suspect to say the least.

Cars 2 - The 2006 movie Cars is the only Pixar film in recent memory to lose the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and one of the few almost no one over the age of 12 was asking for a sequel of - but we're getting one anyway. Granted, we are talking Pixar, so my reticence to embrace this sequel is probably going to come back and bite me in the butt and this will end up being one of 2011's best.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop - A behind-the-scenes doc following comedian, writer, and talk-show host O'Brien as he deals with all the hullabaloo and hubbub over Jay Leno retaking the reins at The Tonight Show.

Cracks - A British boarding school drama with Eva Green, Juno Temple, and Imogen Poots that got decent reviews when released in the U.K. back in 2009 but hasn't faired near as well with U.S. critics as it has made the festival rounds over the past year.

Grab next week's SGN for part two of the 2011 Summer Movie Preview!

SGN's 2011 summer movie preview: Part II
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

As the summer movie season continues, July and August are filled with their fair share of familiar faces. The months feature four sequels, one prequel, a return to the 100 Acre Wood, two remakes of cult '80s classics, and another Marvel Comics icon gets the spotlight to help set up next year's The Avengers. Superstars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts team up for the second time, Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig ride the range and shoot it out with invaders from another world, and Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman trade lives in a body-switching comedy.

With that in mind, here's what's on tap at the multiplex during the second half of the summer. As a reminder, release dates are tentative and subject to change, so don't come crying to me if something listed here ultimately doesn't get a release.

July 1
Larry Crowne - Tom Hanks tries his hand at directing a second time (That Thing You Do was his first attempt) and he's brought Julia Roberts to help him in this story of a middle-aged man who gets downsized and subsequently goes back to college, reinventing himself in the process.

Monte Carlo - A mistaken identity comedy with Leighton Meester, Selena Gomez, and Katie Cassidy as three students traveling in Paris who suddenly find themselves living the life of royalty and whisked to Monte Carlo when one of their party is mistaken for a British heiress.

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times - Exactly what it sounds like. Director Andrew Rossi gets unprecedented access inside the Times newsroom to document a year in the life of the reporters and editors who make the paper click.

The Perfect Host - A small-time criminal on the run manages to talk his way into a dinner party hosted by the outwardly charming David Hyde Pierce, only to discover he's picked the absolute wrong place to hide. Pierce received rave reviews at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival for his supposedly devilishly unsettling performance.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - The Autobots and the Decepticons continue their fight. This time, it has to do with the events surrounding the 1969 moon landing. Now ask me if I care.

July 8
City of Life and Death - One of the standouts from the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival, this rough, uncompromising, and at times devastatingly depressing drama chronicles the rape of Nanking by the Japanese in 1937. Not for the faint of heart, this is a sensational effort for those who have the stomach to witness it.

Horrible Bosses - A pitch-black comedy about a group of three friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis) who conspire to murder their bosses, whom they believe are holding them back. Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, and Jennifer Aniston costar.

The Last Mountain - A documentary pitting a small Appalachian community against the corporate coal industry as both vie to take control of Coal River Mountain. The movie has its local premiere during the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival.

Zookeeper - New York City zookeeper Kevin James talks to the animals to get some help wooing the lovely Rosario Dawson.

July 15
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II - After 10 years and seven previous motion pictures, Harry Potter and Voldemort finally face off, bringing to a conclusion the most financially successful motion picture fantasy series of all time.

Pianomania - This documentary follows Steinway piano tuner Stefan Knüpfer as he tunes the pianos in some of the world's most prestigious concert halls.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) directs this drama split between the 19th and 21st centuries following two sets of female friends bound together by circumstance and fate.

Winnie the Pooh - Disney returns to the 100 Acre Wood for a new hand-drawn animated adventure following everyone's favorite 'silly ol' bear' and his friends as they all try to find a replacement for Eeyore's lost tail. This film will have its local premiere during the Seattle International Film Festival.

July 22
Another Earth - A strange, surreal drama about an MIT student and a famous composer who tragically cross paths the same evening that a duplicate Earth is discovered in the night sky. The film will have its local premiere during the Seattle International Film Festival.

Captain America: The First Avenger - Marvel's second comic book feature of the summer (Thor being the first). This one depicts the origins of the famed red, white, and blue superhero as he battles Nazis and the Red Skull to help turn the tide for the Allies during WWII.

Friends with Benefits - A comedy with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher about & no, wait, that was No Strings Attached. Sorry. Friends with Benefits stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as two friends who decide to sleep with one another but not pursue a romantic relationship. Yeah. I know. It sounds just like No Strings Attached.

If a Tree Falls: The Story of the ELF - A behind-the-scenes doc chronicling the Earth Liberation Front. Filmmakers Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman apparently got unprecedented access to the group that the FBI calls 'the number-one domestic terrorist threat.'

Sarah's Key - An apparently stunning drama with Kristin Scott Thomas as a modern journalist investigating the truth behind the French Vichy government's roundup of Jews in 1942 and the startling discovery she inadvertently makes about her own family's part in this historical tragedy. It got rave reviews at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, and this is one summertime drama I can't wait to see.

July 29
Cowboys & Aliens - Based on the graphic novel, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde draw their six-shooters and form a posse to combat an army of invading interstellar marauders with designs on taking over Earth.

Crazy, Stupid Love - An awesome-looking comedy about love, sex, and marriage with Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, and Kevin Bacon directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the minds behind last year's intelligently transgressive I Love You Phillip Morris.

The Devil's Double - Based on fact, this dramatic thriller stars Dominic Cooper as a man forced to become the body double of Saddam Hussein's sadistic son Uday.

The Future - Miranda July's follow-up project to Me and You and Everyone We Know revolves around a couple who decide to take in a stray cat - and how doing so nearly destroys their lives and disrupts the space-time continuum.

Good Neighbors - A serial killer thriller set in 1995 in a small Montreal neighborhood on the eve of the second referendum on the separation of Quebec. Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, and young Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan (Heartbeats) star.

Point Blank - A French thriller about a nurse who inadvertently saves the life of a master criminal whose henchmen subsequently take his pregnant wife hostage and force him to spring their boss from the hands of the police.

August 5
Bellflower - A drama about a pair of friends who prepare for the apocalypse by building flamethrowers and other weapons of destruction in hopes they'll be able to rule the coming wasteland. Things change when one of this pair falls in love and begins to mature, leaving the other to let his apocalyptic fantasies spiral out of control.

The Change-Up - A body-switching comedy with Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds as a pair of best friends who both imagine their lives would be far more fulfilling if they could spend some time in the shoes of the other.

Dirty Girl - A road trip comedy set in 1987 with Juno Temple, Milla Jovovich, Mary Steenburgen, William H. Macy, Tim McGraw, Dwight Yoakam, and Brian Baumgartner (yes, that Brian Baumgartner) about a pair of teens (one the supposed school slut, the other its requisite closet case) who join forces to escape the mundane normalcy of everyday life.

The Man Who Fell to Earth - An anniversary re-issue of the 1976 Nicolas Roeg classic about an alien (David Bowie, in arguably his most iconic cinematic role) who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet and finds himself becoming more and more human in the process.

Mysteries of Lisbon - A jealous countess, a wealthy businessman, and a young orphaned boy race across Portugal, France, Italy, and Brazil, finding adventure and mystery along the way.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - A Planet of the Apes prequel (that apparently completely discounts Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) with James Franco as a visionary scientist whose discoveries in genetic engineering inadvertently lead to the simian revolution.

August 12
30 Minutes or Less - A comedy-thriller hybrid with Jesse Eisenberg as a nebbish pizza delivery guy kidnapped by criminal Danny McBride who straps a bomb to his chest forces him to rob a bank within the next 30 minutes.

Final Destination 5 - Remember how The Final Destination was, you know, supposed to be the actual final destination for this horror franchise? Surprise! Thanks to that film's surprising box office success, here comes another one, with more silly teenagers and 20-somethings attempting to cheat Death, even though Death won't have it.

Glee Live! 3D! - Really? A concert film featuring the cast of Glee? Singing songs from the show? In 3D? Can't this phenomenon just die already?

The Guard - Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle in a thriller about an unorthodox Irish policeman and an uptight FBI agent who team up to smash a team of international drug smugglers.

The Help - Based on the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, Emma Stone stars as an aspiring writer just home from college in 1960s small-town Mississippi. Viola Davis costars as a local maid who spills the beans on the secrets her white employers have been hiding through the years.

The Tree - An Australian drama about a family grieving over the loss of one of their own and the child who comes to believe he's been reincarnated as the gigantic fig tree growing in their backyard.

August 19
Circumstance - A drama about two female Iranian best friends who share a secret, clandestine relationship that, if revealed, could threaten both of their families. The film will have its local premiere during the Seattle International Film Festival.

Conan the Barbarian - A new version of the 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger classic directed by gory remake king Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th) and starring unknown Jason Momoa as the titular Cimmerian. Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan costar.

Fright Night - A remake of the awesome 1985 favorite about high schooler Charley Brewster, who discovers his next-door neighbor is a vampire and calls in horror movie legend Peter Vincent to help him rid the neighborhood of this undead evil. Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, and Toni Collette star.

Life, Above All - This South African import is based on the acclaimed novel Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton, about a young girl and her mother who must reconcile their differences in order to fight against the fear and shame that have poisoned their community.

Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World - Eight years after the fact, a sequel from director Robert Rodriguez reunites almost grown-up stars Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara as the titular characters are once again drawn into the spy game.

August 24
Higher Ground - Actress Vera Farmiga makes her directorial debut with this story about a woman struggling with her Christian faith over three decades.

August 26
Apollo 18 - A low-budget 'found footage' thriller about an aborted Apollo mission NASA never told us about.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is an incredibly creepy suspense thriller about a young girl who discovers there really are monsters under the bed and in the closet, and they want to claim her as one of their own.

Griff the Invisible - An independent comedy about a mild-mannered office worker who moonlights as an invisible superhero and the woman who changes his life forever.

Our Idiot Brother - Paul Rudd stars as the estranged, idiosyncratic brother who barges back into the lives of his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer), wrecking havoc and creating chaos every step of the way.

Pride Idol sizzles on pop music night
Wildly talented Hal Sparks talks to SGN
A touch of magic : An interview with Mary Poppins' Nicolas Dromard
The gentleman in the jacket: An interview with Ramiro Orellana-Guzman
Pinetop Perkins: A tribute to a legend
Fleet Foxes keep it simple and sublime
Seattle Symphony offers shocking program of utter genius
Mike Daisey puts audiences through unforgettable Agony


Guys, dolls, and gangsters and Damon Runyon
A brief history of Guys and Dolls

SGN's 2011 Summer Movie Preview: Part I
SGN's 2011 summer movie preview: Part II


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