Brief Encounters

ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN

Meridian

Friends' Matt LeBlanc plays a smart-alecky World War II American soldier leading the requisite ragtag bunch of British losers into German territory to steal an Enigma code machine—in drag! They have to infiltrate an all-women factory, get it? Oh, the hilarity. You know a movie's up to no good when Udo Kier shows up as a lecherous Nazi masochist begging the disguised LeBlanc to slug him. Men wants to come off as a jaunty, thrilling Hollywood war adventure without actually having to be jaunty or thrilling. The movie thinks it can get by with a heroic musical score and a few smirks—though not from LeBlanc, who has the same staunchly dumb look on his face we've seen for the last 10 years on TV. British comedian Eddie Izzard (The Cat's Meow) tries to resemble a human while stuck playing a drag diva who, of course, is hired to give the boys advice on lipstick and high heels. (NR) STEVE WIECKING

GHOST SHIP

Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Varsity, and others

Like nearly all of its predictably ill-fated characters, Ship is doomed from the start. Director Steve Beck, who graced us with Thirteen Ghosts, essentially exhumes his visuals from The Shining (a ghostly little girl, bucketloads of blood from unlikely places, a haunted ballroom) and his basic premise from Titanic (ocean liner faces catastrophe, then is explored decades later by motley crew of treasure hunters). Pretty much everything about Ship is pure retread. Its only two signs of life are the sardonic title sequence—before the gore-fest begins, you might think you're about to watch an Esther Williams movie—and the presence of Katie, the ghost of a young English girl, played with touching restraint by Emily Browning. Amidst crass music video-style death sequences, empty dialogue, and jagged, ineffective editing, this secondary character is the only thing about Ship that stands even the slightest chance of haunting you. (R) NEAL SCHINDLER

NAQOYQATSI

Harvard Exit

"Life as war" goes the Hopi translation of the third Philip Glass-scored qatsi trip movie. "Life as clich颠would be more like it. If there hasn't been a more fatuous collection of stale images, recycled ideas, and cheap dichotomies on screen this year, well, Tom Green isn't trying hard enough. How's this for Editing 101? Juxtapose Hitler and JFK, Osama bin Laden and Marilyn Monroe, Columbine and violent video games, smiling babies and mushroom clouds—something's outta whack with our planet, people! No, it's just this movie that's messed up. Animated sequences make Tron look like genius. The rest of Naqoyqatsi's CGI-tweaked pastiche is borrowed from Triumph of the Will, newsreels, sporting events, and TV. (Look! There's Lady Di! Awwww!) Glass may be a minimalist composer, but Godfrey Reggio is a reductivist director, tritely scaling the globe's vast problems to the depth and color of a Benetton ad. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

PAID IN FULL

Meridian

For those of us who enjoy recalling our days selling crack in 1980s Harlem, Full sure brings back the memories. The fade haircuts, the gold, the cash, the cars, the skeezers. And who can forget those wacky, gigantic cell phones? Ah, good times. Directed by the guy who did the "Whassup!" Bud commercials, this "based on a true story" tale from the hood follows the predictable Scarface downfall of three notorious dealers. (One of them's since been murdered; another's imprisoned and unhappy with his portrayal as a "flunkie"; and the third—whose character starts vending rock almost by accident—wrote the preliminary script.) Full does offer more meat than your typical rap-sploitation flick, earnestly explaining how kids don't just become hustlers overnight. Wood Harris (from HBO's cool Wired series), Mekhi Phifer (E.R.), and rapper Cam'Ron (doing a dead-on Joe Pesci) all turn in respectable performances. But this story's been told better a dozen times before. (R) PAUL HUGHES

STRANGE FRUIT

Little Theatre, Sun., Oct. 27

The anti-lynching song that became an anthem of the civil rights movement was first published in a union newsletter as a poem by a white Jewish Communist from the Bronx, then performed at a schoolteacher cabaret. Billie Holiday's publicist heard it in 1939, and the rest is history. In the Seattle premiere of this hour-long documentary, director Joel Katz has done just what a documentarian should do: find a small story with fascinating characters that touches on big themes—the role of art in social protest, black-Jewish relations, historical revisionism. There's just enough learned commentary, one shockingly raw performance from Billie on BBC, and lovely reminiscences from the composer's adopted sons (orphaned when their parents, the Rosenbergs, were executed in 1953). Sadly, the tail end of the film is given over to a superfluous, and trivializing, effort to prove the song's continued "relevance" with contemporary news references—Diallo, anti-Muslim incidents, etc.—and weak-ass vocalizing from Cassandra Wilson. (NR) MARK D. FEFER

 
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