June 28-July 5, 2006

Toshiro Mifune, Parker Posey, outdoor movies, and more!

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The Big Lebowski The Coen brothers' 1998 stoner-noir is Raymond Chandler filtered through dirty bong water, where almost every line of dialogue is a hazy, hilarious non sequitur. My favorite is when accidental P.I. Jeff Bridges (the "Dude") is ambushed in his tub by nihilists bearing a ferret. "Hey, nice marmot," he greets them, with his usual unflustered amiability. Nothing rattles Bridges' Dude, not a leering Tara Reid, not a lisping John Turturro, not a raving John Goodman, not a simpering Steve Buscemi, and not even shrieking performance artist Julianne Moore, who joins Bridges in a Busby Berkeley-style bowling fantasy that sums up the movie's silly, sweet spirit. (R) Egyptian, 801 E. Pine St., 206-781-5755. $6-$9. Midnight. Fri. June 30-Sat. July 1.

Don't Panic A cursed Ouija board somehow unleashes a serial killer in this 1989 slasher film knockoff that borrows, unsuccessfully, most of the conventions of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. The poor kid (Jon Michael Bishof) who releases the demon (named Virgil) is soon implicated in his bloody crimes. Will he be able to clear his name? Viewers may find a more compelling question in why he didn't play Scrabble instead. (NR) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. 11 p.m. Fri. June 30-Sat. July 1.

Jim Henson Fest Relive your geeky, puppet-filled childhood—or mine—in a darkened room full of strangers with this fantastic double-bill. First up is 1979's The Muppet Movie (G), the first and still the best Muppet adventure, with Kermit and the gang trekking across America to seek fame in Hollywood. Sing along proudly if you like to Kermit's legendary, wistful opening number, "The Rainbow Connection." Everything about the film is perfection. No, really, it is. Second up is 1986's Labyrinth (PG), the adventure of a girl wandering through a big maze full of endlessly bizarre and delightful creatures. Starring a 16-year-old Jennifer Connelly (!) and David Bowie as the Goblin King, the film comes from a glorious alternate universe teeming with life; your DVD player won't do it, or Muppet Movie, the justice they deserve. FRANK PAIVA Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 206-267-5380. $5-$8. Continues through Sun. July 2.

Outdoor Movies at Linda's An omnibus of old classroom films includes our favorite subject, sex ed. 21 and over. (NR) Linda's Tavern, 707 E. Pine St., 206-325-1220. Free. Dusk. Wed. June 28. Then it's surprise night, with the program a secret until the lights, or sun, go down. Dusk. Wed. July 5.

Overlord "Dying in battle, dying of boredom—what's the difference?" asks one character in this 1975 WWII drama. It's not an inappropriate question given the current situation in Iraq. Winner of the Berlin International Film Festival's Silver Bear, this stunningly-edited film blurs the line between documentary and fiction, incorporating old newsreels into its story. Overlord expounds upon (surprise!) the pointlessness of war, as a bumbling soldier (Brian Stirner) meets his untimely demise on the way to Normandy Beach, not on the bloody shore. Archival and new footage flow together seamlessly, and the overhead shots of cities being bombed are oddly captivating. For all the overproduced, emotionally manipulative war flicks shoved into our consciousness recently (Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, etc.), Overlord defines what a war film should be: subtle, visually assaulting without being a gore-fest, thought-provoking, and questioning of our rationale for going into war in the first place. (NR) TIFFANY WAN Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 206-523-3935. $5-$7.50. Fri. June 30-Thurs. July 6.

Party Girl This cute 1995 comedy follows a charmless Holly Golightly for the '90s, an orphaned Manhattanite (Parker Posey) who's making it all up as she goes along—voguing with club divas, showering with her disc jockey roommate—and getting nowhere fast. Broke, she takes a gig working at a library that teaches her stability and self-respect, and meets a transplanted Lebanese teacher who likes her but won't put up with her crap. This is hardly the stuff of New York dreams are made of, but who's dreaming anymore? Director and co-screenwriter Daisy von Scherler Mayer bestows, Warhol-like, instant star status on the willow, impish Posey (currently on view in Superman Returns), though the effect is hardly decadent or ironic. This film's passable entertainment even though it feels like neutered Paul Morrissey. (R) TOM KEOGH South Lake Union Discovery Center, 101 Westlake Ave. N., 206-342-5900. $5. Dusk. Fri. June 30.

Shrek 2 The filmmakers painted themselves into a corner in the first one by having Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) hook up with Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz). Deprived of their sparring courtship, this 2004 sequel saga lacks focus. The opening scenes are alarmingly aimless: the couple go on honeymoon, pause to parody various movies—the From Here to Eternity beach scene, Frodo's ring toss, Charlie's Angels—and then get summoned to meet Fiona's parents, the King and Queen (John Cleese and Julie Andrews). The King hires an Hispanic kitty, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to assassinate Shrek. Inexplicably, Puss decides to join Team Shrek. It makes no sense, but it works—Puss is reliably funny, and keeps the sidekick shtick of Donkey (Eddie Murphy) from getting old. In technical respects, the animation here is better than the 2001 original. But the writing still lags way behind the animation, as Shrek 2 descends into a reductio ad cartoonum of pop-culture references. (PG) TIM APPELO Fremont Outdoor Movies, N. 35th St. and Phinney Ave. N., 206-781-4230. $5. 7:30 p.m. (doors open); show at dusk. Sat. July 1.

6ixtynin9 "I'm lucky," says Tum (Lalita Panyopas), an attractive young Bangkok secretary, but she's being ironic, having just been fired from her job. Returning home, however, she discovers a box full of cash that changes her fortunes and creates a growing number of corpses in her apartment. Who's the killer? Surely not the meek, mousy Tum, right? Well—let's just say the girl discovers some hidden resources while caught between two incompetent criminal gangs. This low-key 1999 black comedy by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang recalls Into the Night and Apartment Zero as Tum is led into darker and darker territory over the course of one long day. It's "just like a movie" exclaims one friend, and 6ixtynin9 does indeed feel assembled from other films. (The title of this SIFF '01 favorite refers to Tum's flipping apartment number, not to your smutty thoughts.) The leisurely film does maintain an amusingly drab, deadpan comic tone throughout, plus a wealth of colorful supporting characters. (NR) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $5. 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Thurs. June 29-Sun. July 2.

Strawberry and Chocolate In this intermittently charming 1995 friendship study, a gay Havana sophisticate falls for a naïve younger man who, unfortunately, is neither gay nor sophisticated. Sex is out of the question, but the idealistic young buck, recently dumped by a woman, finds plenty to learn from his self-appointed mentor. Also, this being Castro's Cuba, he's being encouraged to spy on his benevolent tutor. (A cute next-door neighbor provides further incentive.) Screened on video; discussion follows. (NR) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 206-686-6684. $5. 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Wed. June 28.

Summer of Samurai The NWFF's samurai salute concludes its final week with four titles including The Sword of Doom, Harakiri, and Bandits Vs. Samurai Squadron. The standout, of course, is Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Seven Samurai. One of the great pleasures in revisiting this action-filled masterpiece is how the seven different samurai will consider the odds and adversity against them, then simply throw back their heads and laugh. They don't look so grim and anguished as certain latter-day action heroes, although they're both a product of and influence upon Hollywood. Toshiro Mifune stars as Kikuchiyo, an unwashed 16th-century peasant masquerading as a samurai, only grudgingly tolerated by the six real ronin defending a village against 40 bloodthirsty bandits just "for the fun of it." Kikuchiyo entertains the village children with his mimicry, connects with its adults with his earthy humor, and wins the audience with his insecurities and bluster. And, of course, he fights like "a wild dog" when the time comes. (NR) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 206-267-5380. $5-$8. Continues through July 6.

 
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