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Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker SEE REVIEW, PAGE 77. (PG)
49 Up SEE REVIEW, PAGE 79. (NR)
The Grudge 2 REVIEWED MON. OCT. 16 ON OUR WEB SITE. Takashi Shimizo continues to spin off English-language versions of his J-horror originals; here Amber Tamblyn is the girl in trouble. (PG-13) Alderwood 16, Factoria, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12, Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6, Metro, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Crossroads 8, Issaquah 9, Mountlake 9
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints SEE REVIEW, PAGE 77. (R) Uptown Cinema, Varsity
Infamous SEE REVIEW, PAGE 78. (R)
Lunacy SEE REVIEW, PAGE 78. (NR)
Man of the Year SEE REVIEW, PAGE 78. (PG-13) Factoria, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12, Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6, Metro, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Alderwood 7, Crossroads 8, Issaquah 9, Mountlake 9
The Marine REVIEWED MON. OCT. 16 ON OUR WEB SITE. Following the Rock out of the ring, former pro rassler John Cena stars, yes, as a Marine whose wife has been kidnapped. (PG-13) Alderwood 16, Factoria, Woodinville 12, Pacific Place 11, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Crossroads 8, Issaquah 9, Mountlake 9
Nearing Grace SEE REVIEW, PAGE 78. (R) Redmond Town Center, Uptown Cinema, Metro, Lincoln Square
Oddballs, Events, & Rep
The Amazing Colossal Man New dialogue is ad-libbed for this cheesy 1957 sci-fi flick, in which an A-bomb test turns an Army officer into a brooding hulk wearing what looks to be an enormous diaper. (NR) Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center, 400 S. Second St., 425-204-3455. $10-$14. 7 p.m. Fri. Oct. 13.
The Breaking Point SAM's noir series continues with this lesser-known 1950 adaptation of Hemingway's To Have and Have Not. (The Bogart-Bacall version had been made six years earlier, but maybe people had forgotten by then?) John Garfield and Patricia Neal star, Michael Curtiz directs. On an interesting note of current political relevance: Garfield's skipper/smuggler is here convinced to ferry a load of illegal Mexican immigrants along the California coast. (NR) Museum of History and Industry, 2700 24th Ave. E., 206-654-3121. $58-$65 (series), individual ticket price not provided. 7:30 p.m. Thurs. Oct. 12.
Broken Limbs: Apples, Agriculture, and the New American Farmer Refreshments and discussion follow this documentary screening about Eastern Washington apple growers struggling in the face of big agribusiness and other evils familiar from Fast Food Nation. (NR) Queen Anne Manor, 100 Crockett St., 206-285-2452. Free. 7 p.m. Sat. Oct. 14.
Democracy on Deadline With Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya recently assassinated for her critical reporting on Chechnya, this documentary offers a sad but timely look at other embattled agents of the press in Afghanistan, Israel, Nigeria, and the U.S. (NR) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 206-267-5380. Free with RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. 4 p.m. Sat. Oct. 14.
Ebony Chunky Love Preceded by dinner (at 6:30 p.m.) and followed by discussion with the director, Lonnie Renteria looks at the plight of gay black comedians in her short documentary—asking why such performers "can't get a date" in comedy clubs or in real life. (NR) New Freeway Hall, 5018 Rainier Ave. S., 206-722-2453. $6.50 (includes dinner). 7:30 p.m. Thurs. Oct. 19.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch With his Shortbus opening next week, you owe yourself another look at John Cameron Mitchell's 2001 adaptation of his off-Broadway show, a rollicking, funny, near-classic movie musical. Teetering on high heels, Hedwig never outruns its origins, nor does it pretend to. Born a boy in East Berlin, young Hansel grows up to suffer a botched sex change operation and a twofold sense of loss. We learn Hedwig's life story in stops along her band's desultory U.S. tour as she pursues her former lover to claim songwriting royalties and reclaim a piece of her heart. In its debt to Tommy, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Toni Tennille (believe it), the movie is almost impossible not to enjoy. Hedwig takes a simple song of hope and makes it sound like an arena-filling anthem. (R) Egyptian, 801 E. Pine St., 206-781-5755. $6-$9. Midnight. Fri. Oct. 13-Sat. Oct. 14.
High Score The curious tale of one man's attempt to capture the No. 1 world ranking at Missile Command, played on original Atari hardware, High Score follows Oregonian Bill Carlson on his quest. He needs over 80.3 million points to unseat the champion, who set the score 20 years ago, a feat that will take at least two days. (How does he pee? We never find out.) Score begins philosophically with Carlson recounting the advice given to him during his youth by a local gamer-hero: "Be good at any one thing, and it'll be easier to be good at something else later." Useful wisdom to be sure, but it leaves one wondering if mastering Missile Command at age 38 is worth the 15 minutes of fame and improved hand-eye coordination. It's a case of geeks gone wild as Carlson's coterie of enthusiasts supports his weekend-consuming challenge. Then technical problems lend extra drama as the vintage game keeps resetting prematurely. Unwilling to give up, fearing a life of regret, he doggedly persists. NOTE: Carlson is expected to attend the screening. (NR) NEIL CORCORAN Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $5. 7 & 9 p.m. Fri. Oct. 13.
Independent Exposure No advance information provided, but this monthly compendium of short films is usually worth the ticket, and you can wash them down with a few beers. "Halloweird" is the theme. (NR) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $5. 7 & 9 p.m. Wed. Oct. 11.
Kitchen Stories If you're one to savor the contours of vintage Saabs and Volvos as they pull a procession of identical pea-green teardrop-shaped campers across a snowy white Scandinavian landscape, this is your movie. It's set in the early '50s, when a band of Swedish home-economics consumer researchers caravans into Norway in order to study how solitary male farmers deport themselves in the kitchen. I'm not kidding: That's the plot, although the real point to Kitchen's rural drollery is how one of the researchers gradually befriends the solitary subject of his study, undermining his entire faith in the "positivistic method" of his increasingly ridiculous endeavor. In a dry, meandering, and quietly rewarding fashion—strong emphasis on the "quiet"—the two men eventually bond. The drama in Kitchen, such as it is, comes in the form of misplaced salt shakers, a sick horse, and shared pipe tobacco. When winter ends, it comes as a shock. (NR) Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 N.W. 67th St., 206-789-5707. $5. 7 p.m. Thurs. Oct. 12.
Lagos/Koolhaas Four weeks of architecture-related documentaries (sponsored by the UW and AIA) begin with our favorite Seattle Central Library designer driving around the teeming capitol of Nigeria, visiting for a Harvard study on how cities modernize. The hour-long doc dates to 2002, not long after Nigeria's military passed the reins to an elected and somewhat less corrupt regime, though political details are sketchy here. Rem Koolhaas, whatever his virtues as an architect and theoretician, is a less-than-compelling presence on camera. Lagos/Koolhaas is more interesting in its aerial shots of the sprawling, uncoordinated metropolis (projected to become the world's third-largest city) and in interviews with the decidedly pragmatic nationals on the ground. As a trim TV hostess gripes about traffic and shops for Prada shoes, as a boy sells bags of drinking water amid choking traffic, or as a yellow-suited evangelical pastor preaches prosperity in his megachurch, these ordinary Nigerian voices speak most eloquently about their city's needs. (NR) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $2.50-$5. Fri. Oct. 13-Thurs. Oct. 19.
Movies at the Sunset Bruce Lee is present in spirit, if not in body, in this evening of kung fu movies. First is They Call Me Bruce?, a 1982 comedy about a bumbler constantly being mistaken for Lee. Next (at 8 p.m.) is the 1976 Dragon Lives Again, in which a guy with the name Bruce Lee (actually another actor, of course) goes to hell and must fight a host of rivals. Finally (at 9 p.m.), Game of Death is the real article, sort of, cobbled together with Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar using footage filmed five years earlier, just prior to Lee's 1973 death. This one, of course, features the famous black-and-yellow track suit Quentin Tarantino revived for Kill Bill: Vol. 1. 21 and over. (NR) Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., 206-784-4880. Free. 6 p.m. Mon. Oct. 16.
Pressing On Local filmmaker and journalist Ralph Braseth follows five Gulf Coast newspapers as they try to respond to the deluge of Hurricane Katrina. A Q&A follows this benefit screening for the local Operation Hands On relief organization. (NR) Green Bean Coffeehouse, 210 N. 85th St., 206-706-4587. $5. 7:30 p.m. Sat. Oct. 14.
Reel Grrls Young filmmakers unspool their shorts, followed by discussion. (NR) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $5. 7 p.m. Wed. Oct. 18.
Rituals Instead of teenagers stalked in the woods by a psycho killer, this 1977 Canadian horror flick has Hal Holbrook and some other vacationing doctors stalked in the woods by a psycho killer. After Deliverance, it seems, you took the script you had and did your best to play up the parallels. (R) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. 11 p.m. Fri. Oct. 13-Sat. Oct. 14.
Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival SEE PREVIEW, PAGE 77. (NR)
When the Levees Broke Spike Lee's four-part HBO documentary is screened over two evenings. In it, though Katrina couldn't have been prevented, Lee makes a damning case that our leaders failed on every level to respond both before and after that catastrophic storm struck the Gulf Coast. (NR) Revolution Books, 1833 Nagle Pl., 206-325-7415. Free. 7 p.m. Fri. Oct. 13 and Sun. Oct. 15.
The Ant Bully This computer-animated film is based upon a very short children's book by John Nickle, which tells how former insect tormentor Lucas gets cut down to size. Director John Davis has made small alterations to Nickle's 1999 story in order to render it a feature; he's also cast the voice talent with the requisite big names, among them Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Paul Giamatti. Bully isn't meant to play grown-up; it's a kids' movie for kids. (PG) ROBERT WILONSKY Admiral Twin, Crest
Cars A baby-boomer retro road trip from Pixar. A brash red racecar (voiced by Owen Wilson) gets stranded in a desert hamlet. There we've got a gruff old-timer (Paul Newman), a sexy Porsche (Bonnie Hunt), and various four-wheeled stereotypes. It's all a little uncanny; there's something bizarre about love-struck hotrods stopping to smell the roses. (G) BRIAN MILLER Bellevue Galleria 11
The Departed Martin Scorsese's remake of Infernal Affairs stars Matt Damon as a rogue cop and Leonardo DiCaprio as his undercover counterpart. Towering over both youngsters, Jack Nicholson has the meaty role of the patriarchal crime boss. Neither a debacle nor a bore, Departed works—but only up to a point, and never emotionally. Nicholson boasts at the onset, "I want my environment to be a product of me." Yeah, yeah, and that's the problem. Too bad the bottom line meant Scorsese had to sell that hambone Mephistopheles his soul. (R) J. HOBERMAN Alderwood 16, Factoria, Oak Tree, Woodinville 12, Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6, Neptune, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Majestic Bay, Crossroads 8, Issaquah 9, Mountlake
The Devil Wears Prada This adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's best-selling roman à clef about working for Anna Wintour at Vogue magazine breaks its first stiletto heel in the metal subway grate of reality when its heroine (bland Anne Hathaway) gets the job by daring to talk back to the famously feared editor (the excellent Meryl Streep). Devil never advances beyond a book that was fundamentally about making appointments, processing complicated orders at Starbucks, and bitching about it. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER Crest
Employee of the Month Comic Dane Cook works at a Costco-type warehouse store, lacking any significant character traits beyond his groomed designer stubble; far more interesting is his arch-enemy (Dax Shepard), a petty, egomaniacal cashier. Efren Ramirez, Harland Williams, and Andy Dick round out the cast, though any one of them should have switched roles with Cook, who is a more natural comic jerk than a sympathetic or romantic figure. As for Jessica Simpson, her character is virtually irrelevant, as is her acting ability. (PG-13) LUKE Y. THOMPSON Alderwood 16, Factoria, Woodinville 12, Metro, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Crossroads 8, Issaquah 9, Mountlake
Flyboys In this elaborate, computer-generated fantasy, the plucky volunteer pilots of the World War I Lafayette Escadrille are once more cast as dashing knights of the sky. As for that other, less glamorous side of WWI—embodied in the grim, futile slaughterhouses of Verdun and the Marne—well, there's no point in revisiting that old mess. You won't find much All Quiet on the Western Front-style despair vexing these flyboys (James Franco, Martin Henderson, and Abdul Salis among them). (PG-13) BILL GALLO Bellevue Galleria
Gridiron Gang Former pro wrestler Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, who always made a good show of selling fake violence, stars in this well-meant trifle as an idealistic corrections officer who starts up a football team at a juvenile detention center in L.A. Never mind the obvious parallels to Remember the Titans; what we get here is one huge, indigestible sports-movie platitude. That the movie's based on "a true story" makes little difference. (PG-13) BILL GALLO Alderwood 16, Bellevue Galleria
The Guardian This wading-pool knockoff of An Officer and a Gentleman posits Kevin Costner as Lou Gossett and Ashton Kutcher as Richard Gere, but fatally lacks a strong woman in the Debra Winger role—the same problem with American movies in general. As the cocky Coast Guard rescue swimmer being mentored/humbled by the authoritative Costner, Kutcher actually has a weepy "I got nowhere else to swim!" scene, but the script just turns it into a Teachable Moment: Get over your talent, sailor, and learn to be a team player. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER Alderwood 16, Factoria, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12, Pacific Place 11, Columbia City Cinema, Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Majestic Bay, Crossroads 8, Issaquah 9, Mountlake
Half Nelson A movie about a guy falling to pieces, Half Nelson sometimes resembles its hero, Dan (Ryan Gosling), an eighth-grade Brooklyn public schoolteacher and crack addict. He keeps his double life a secret until 13-year-old Drey (Shareeka Epps) finds him with a pipe. Dan teaches his pupils dialectics, and here collide his addiction and Drey's efforts to reform him. There can be no neat resolutions to these social pathologies, and filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden don't present any. Instead they offer three strong characters—including Anthony Mackie's dealer—that are marvelously well played. (R) BRIAN MILLER Harvard Exit
Hollywoodland Glamorously adult, Hollywoodland purports to part the veil on the circumstances by which George Reeves, the actor who embodied Superman on '50s television, wound up with a bullet in his brain. Suavely self-satisfied Ben Affleck is typecast as the unfortunate Reeves. Scenes from his life alternate with the investigation into his death conducted by private eye (Adrien Brody). Hollywoodland has an easy, sleazy appeal that half camouflage the unconvincing Rashomon riffs on Reeves' demise. (R) J. HOBERMAN Pacific Place 11, Big Picture Redmond
The Illusionist Wandering magician Eisenheim (Edward Norton) returns home pre-WWI Viennato confront evil Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), a proto-Hitler figure who raves about "mongrels" in the streets. With his new name, Eisenheim conceals his Jewish ancestry while also wooing childhood sweetheart Princess Sophie (Jessica Biel). The best thing about The Illusionist is its gaslight-and-sepia patina, like a vintage postcard come to life. As the corrupt cop assigned to spy on Eisenheim, there's Paul Giamatti—always a saving grace. Otherwise, the plot is transparent. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER Alderwood 16, Pacific Place 11, Metro, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Issaquah
An Inconvenient Truth You can agree with every point Al Gore makes in this sobering global-warming documentary, but a stage lecture with bits of campaign-bio padding doesn't fit my definition of cinema. You're going to walk into the movie believing one thing, then walk out believing exactly the same thing—only more firmly. A multimedia wonk extravaganza with a likeable and well-rehearsed host. (PG) BRIAN MILLER Admiral Twin, Bellevue Galleria 11, Crest
Invincible In the formulaic, feel-good tradition of other Disney-produced sports movies (see: Remember the Titans and The Rookie), Invincible concerns everyman Vincent Papale (Mark Wahlberg), a 30-year-old part-time bartender and substitute teacher who tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles during that squad's mid-'70s nadir. It's a true story juxtaposed with the arrival of new head coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear, looking like an Anchorman reject in his retro getup). (PG) TIFFANY WAN Bellevue Galleria
Jackass: Number Two If your face doesn't immediately light up at the thought of Johnny Knoxville launching himself airborne on the back of a giant rocket, or Chris Pontius slipping a sock puppet of a mouse on his dick before inserting it into a hungry snake's lair, then JNT is definitely not for you. As for me, I can't wait to see it again. Like the TV series and the first movie, JNT consists of Knoxville and company testing their dude-worthiness by way of increasingly absurd and/or dangerous stupid human tricks. It's as if they've discovered the fountain of youth, and its name is Jackass. (R) SCOTT FOUNDAS Oak Tree, Woodinville 12, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Alderwood 7, Mountlake
Jesus Camp It may shock some naive blue-staters that Missouri evangelical pastor Becky Fischer and her fundamentalist Christian cohort are training preteens with summer camps and special programs to proselytize in what's repeatedly called "God's army," but that's not what's so dismaying about Jesus Camp. The way the movie lumps together these Jesus campers, Bush's White House, and the organized political right as a collective menace makes the film's warning suspect. It feels like a documentary produced by Todd Solondz. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER Uptown Cinema, Metro
Jet Li's Fearless Jet Li plays real-life martial artist Huo Yuanjia (1868-1910), whose defiance of colonial powers is here given the Paul Bunyan treatment. The film's long central flashback relates how asthmatic child Huo eventually became a wushu master, defeating all comers until pride (and the bottle) got the better of him, leading to bloody revenge and a contemplative period of self-exile. Eventually he returns to kick imperialist ass, of course, and none too soon for Li's impatient fans, who'll suffer the didactic melodrama and wall-banner slogans just to see the guy fight one last time. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12, Bellevue Galleria 11, Big Picture, Majestic Bay, Alderwood
Keeping Mum Exactly the sort of coy, patronizing pap you'd imagine actors like Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith take merely to pay debts or mortgages, Keeping Mum involves a country vicar (Rowan Atkinson), his sexually frustrated wife, and a dotty busybody maid (Smith) who seems to solve the family's various problems with just a twinkle of her watery eye. (Thank Christ for Patrick Swayze, playing a seductive-lech golf pro.) Obvious, simplistic, and never funny, the movie may be useful only as real-estate porn—Cornwall and the Isle of Man never looked so super cute. (R) MICHAEL ATKINSON Big Picture Redmond, Metro
The Last King of Scotland An adequate thriller redeemed by Forest Whitaker's sensational turn as Idi Amin, Scotland also stars James McAvoy as a callow young Scot who becomes the dictator's personal physician and close adviser, and lives to rue the day. The movie feels awkwardly derivative of Under Fire, Salvador, and other superior thrillers of Westerners entangled in the legacy of imperialism. But McAvoy gracefully cedes the limelight to Whitaker, whose cunningly chameleonic performance humanizes Amin without in any way excusing his manipulative seductions or his appalling brutality. (R) ELLA TAYLOR Pacific Place 11, Guild 45th
Little Miss Sunshine A contemptible example of flyover ridicule. Sunshine plunks us down among the Hoover clan (which includes Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, and Steve Carell). Sunshine's condescension finally gives way to outright hostility at the big California pageant, which ends in a jaw-dropping musical number. (R) BRIAN MILLER Alderwood 16, Pacific Place 11, Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6, Guild 45th, Lincoln Square Cinemas
Miami Vice Michael Mann has drained the sun, fun, and pastels out of his own old TV series. Forget the flamingos, alligators, and bikinis: Colin Farrell (as Crockett) and Jamie Foxx (Tubbs, but why?) are all business in this process-oriented narco noir. The plot boils down to whether Crockett will compromise an undercover sting operation by falling for the Cuban-Chinese banker/mistress (Gong Li) of a Colombian drug lord. (R) BRIAN MILLER Admiral Twin
Monster House A giant monster house threaten to eat any children who dare to cross the lawn. It's hardly an outlandish premise for this CG-animated kid flick: What's more normal than cursed real estate and the return of the repressed? House is an anti-Miyazaki movie, where genius loci spirits need exorcising, not befriending. (PG) BRIAN MILLER Bellevue Galleria
Open Season A pleasantly restrained Martin Lawrence voices the likable grizzly bear hero of this computer-generated feature. Raised by a ranger, he's lost when exiled to the woods, thanks to a wild-eyed mule deer (Ashton Kutcher, channeling Donkey from Shrek). As is usual in computer animation, the film's look is overbright, its green world appearing as natural as supermarket produce under fluorescents. On the plus side, Open Season enjoys a clear narrative, real rooting interest, and good interspecies rapport. (PG) GREGG RICKMAN Factoria, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12, Pacific Place 11, Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6, Metro, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Alderwood 7, Crossroads 8, Issaquah 9, Mountlake
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Filmmakers Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer learned the wrong lessons from the first Pirates' unexpected success three years ago. Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) is now faced with a scaly school of adversaries bristling with fins and gills and claws. No matter how funny Depp is, he's got to contend with enemies who closely resemble the starter menu at your favorite sushi bar. The entire movie is like a 140-minute trailer for Pirates Part 3. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER Alderwood 16, Bellevue Galleria
A Prairie Home Companion Considered purely as a musical, I'm quite prepared to accept Robert Altman's mishmash treatment of Garrison Keillor's venerable radio program. No Altman fan will even raise an eyebrow if half the backstage scenes don't work. Even then, they—like the songs performed by Altman's typically teeming, talented cast—put a smile on your face. With Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Kline, and others. You can tell—as in every Altman movie—that they're all having a marvelous time. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER Crest
Renaissance In Paris in 2054, a cop named Karas (voiced by Daniel Craig) is investigating the disappearance of a woman named Ilona, a scientist involved in genetic research at a pharmaceutical company. You have never seen anything like Christian Volckman's film; his set-in-the-future sci-fi police procedural is entirely monochromatic, a film noir that's too noir for its own good. (R) ROBERT WILONSKY Varsity
School for Scoundrels This remake from Old School director Todd Phillips concerns a man of little confidence who enrolls in a class he believes will teach him self-reliance; in short, it's Bad Santa meets Napoleon Dynamite, quite literally. Jon Heder plays an N.Y.C. parking-enforcement officer like a kindly simpleton. A friend suggests he enroll in a class taught by Billy Bob Thornton to help other neutered man-children learn to score with the ladies. Heder and Thornton spend the film's final half fucking with each other until the inevitable scream of "Uncle!" (PG-13) ROBERT WILONSKY Alderwood 16, Pacific Place 11, Bellevue Galleria 11
The Science of Sleep True to the duality of its title, Michel Gondry's fantastically imagined film is poised at the dreamy intersection between the rigidly ruling physical laws of our waking lives and that nighttime realm where emotion has its revenge on logic. Gael García Bernal's artist character, Stephane, returns to the Paris of his childhood, sleeping among the toys of his youth. Across the hall lives Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), much more of an adult. His infatuation with her takes the form of handcrafted gifts and programs enacted in the TV studio inside his head. (The latter is a kind of Pee-Wee's Playhouse with blue screens and cardboard cameras seemingly assembled by a 7-year-old out of the family recycling bin.) Reality and unreality are painstakingly stitched together in Gondry's wondrously handmade universe (virtually a children's pop-up book on the big screen), even if the cruel truth—that love can go unrequited—threatens to slice them apart again. (R) BRIAN MILLER Alderwood 16, Bellevue Galleria, Egyptian
Superman Returns Okay, it's not as good as the Christopher Reeve original, nor does newcomer Brandon Routh quite fill the original cape, but this new Superman is a pleasant, welcome summer surprise. Like its hero, Bryan Singer's treatment of the DC Comics myth has an agreeable sincerity to it. Superman has to sort out his relationship with Lois (Kate Bosworth, adequate) and battle Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey, relatively unhammy), but the film is mainly about his being an emissary of virtue, an example for us ordinary mortals. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER Admiral Twin, Crest
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby There are two kinds of scenes in TNTBORB: The short ones that advance the storyline (superficially to do with NASCAR racing); and the prolonged sequences in which Will Ferrell and/or John C. Reilly (as Ricky's best friend) and/or Sacha Baron Cohen (as Ricky's French fancyboy rival) make shit up and crack one another up and stop cameras and start all over again. (PG-13) ROBERT WILONSKY Bellevue Galleria, Big Picture
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Now we flip back through the Leatherface family album all the way to 1939, when the badly disfigured future chain saw–wielder crawls out of his mother's womb on (where else?) a slaughterhouse floor. Then it's on to the Summer of Love, when Leatherface turns his attention from bovine to human pursuits. Few surprises await connoisseurs of torture cinema, though unlike the 2003 remake, this Massacre owes less to producer Michael Bay's own attention-deficient aesthetics than to the more measured, Georgia O'Keeffe-on-acid sensibility that guided the 1974 original. (R) SCOTT FOUNDAS Cinerama, Factoria, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12, Pacific Place, Metro, Lincoln Square, Alderwood 7, Crossroads, Issaquah, Mountlake
The U.S. vs. John Lennon This generic VH-1 rock-doc is snazzy, mawkish, and practically Pavlovian in recycling all requisite late '60s images. Yet it's not only poignant, but even topical. In 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were recruited to appear at a political rally; then they planned to attend the 1972 Republican Convention. A memo from Sen. Strom Thurmond to Attorney General John Mitchell suggested Lennon be deported; a month later, the INS refused to renew his visa. The film establishes its protagonist as the most quick-witted of public figures. You needn't be half as sharp to grasp the parallels made to Bush's America. (PG-13) J. HOBERMAN Uptown, Metro