In Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 21 Grams, tragedy is finally given the respect it deserves. The story is told in a series of fragments. Flashing forward and back, the audience is given glimpses of its three main characters; Paul (Sean Penn) is on the cusp of death, waiting for his heart condition to finally claim him. Cristina (Naomi Watts) is a suburban wife with two children and a doting husband--who is soon to be scarred by an accident of epic proportions. Jack (Benicio del Toro) is an ex-jailbird turned fundamentalist Christian who can't escape the tragedies of his past which, like the repeated scenes of this film, keep returning as his future. The previously mentioned accident binds these three into an unwanted triad, sending each on a skidding path with their pasts, and sealing what seems to be a predestined fate. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Cinemagic, Regal Cinemas, etc.
50 First Dates
Adam Sandler isn't as funny as he used to be, but 50 First Dates still has a few good jokes. Drew Barrymore is pretty terrible but wears totally cool outfits and bitching turquoise eyeliner, there is a cute penguin, and Adam Sandler still adorably laughs at himself. All in all, it's worth $3 at the second run. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Against the Ropes
Based on a true story, Meg Ryan plays Jackie Kallen, the first successful woman boxing promoter. But just because a story is true doesn't necessarily make it worth telling. As Jackie and her diamond-in-the-rough boxer (Omar Epps) struggle up the ladder of success, they succumb to the very evils (greed and fame) they once disavowed. What you have here is a classic Lifetime-style movie riddled with endless clichés, which only comes to life when the brilliant Tony Shalhoub (as Jackie's shady competition) walks into the scene. Even worse? It ends with a "crescendo clap"--you know...when the hero makes a big speech at the end and everyone slowly starts clapping, building to a thunderous crescendo? Yeah, that kind of shit. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Clackamas Town Ctr.
* Along Came Polly
Reuben (Ben Stiller) is an insurance risk assessor so caught up in his knowledge about the dangers that lurk in the world, he can't appreciate the thrills of life. Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston), a flaky bohemian, challenges his fail-safe world by taking him out for spicy food, salsa dancing, and other acts of spontaneity. All told, the story is about as intellectually challenging as an episode of Frriends, but Along Came Polly is nothing more than it pretends to be: a simple, charming, and silly love story complete with Charlie Chaplin slapstick and laughable one-liners. (Phil Busse) Avalon, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, St. Johns Pub
* The Barbarian Invasions
A Canadian dramedy about a man dying of cancer who reconnects with his son, ex-wife, and old lovers before he kicks the bucket. Fox Tower 10
Broken Lizard's Club Dread
With jokes that are purposefully stupid, but not dumb enough to be funny, Broken Lizard's Club Dread has all the plot of a slasher film but none of the suspense. It's an unfunny "comedy" with long stretches of boring plot twists. Trying desperately to become a pale imitation of Scary Movie, it turns out to be a pale imitation of Volunteers. As created by the sketch comedy group Broken Lizard, the characters are nothing more than cardboard cutouts, with only the new island masseuse Lars (Kevin Heffernan) coming close to being likeable. Oh, and Bill Paxton puts more energy than needed into Coconut Pete (a Jimmy Buffett knockoff), but all for naught. (Andy Spletzer)
The Butterfly Effect
Dude, where's my chaos theory? The latest feature-length advertisement for Ashton Kutcher's bone structure, this film is so stultifyingly poor on every level that unless you're (a) 12 years old, (b) a sadly desperate gay man/straight woman with a thing for hunky morons, or (c) 13 years old, you really have no business watching. (Sean Nelson) Kiggins Theater, Movies on TV
* City of God
City of God chronicles gang warfare in one of the most impoverished and depraved slums in Rio de Janeiro. It revolves around a young man named Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) as he struggles to get high, get laid, and finally get a real job in photography so he can get out of the slums. He narrates the film in a dazed, almost aloof tone as waves of drugs, guns, and murder swirl around him. Lush mounds of twisting story lines and visual treats pile up, your eyes greedily devouring them like candy, but never seeming to quite get full. (Justin Sanders) Hollywood Theatre
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
The story of Mary (Lindsay Lohan) clawing her way to the top of the ranks of the New York City pop music megastar echelon while simultaneously enduring the daily doldrums of high school is basically retarded, and the actor playing Mary's high-school love interest is clearly a fag-in-waiting, but this quasi-musical (it's for kids) is riveting because Lohan's breasts are really, really big. (Christopher Frizzelle) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Cooler is a small, unremarkable film that's watchable due to one thing: sex. Specifically, a sex scene between William H. Macy and Maria Bello. Director Wayne Kramer has managed to give audiences something all too rare in films these days--a sexy scene that not only causes the audience to flush, but makes sense as well. The coitus in The Cooler is refreshing, fun, and the tangling of bodies helps elevate the entire endeavor above its somewhat middling quality. (Bradley Steinbacher) Fox Tower 10
What with Mad Cow and Foot-and-Mouth and Ebola and Chlamydia, everyone is going to have to refrain from eating beef. But whatever will the carnivores of the world do? This post-apocalyptic film maps it out for you: EAT PEOPLE! It solves the population problem, Texans can turn it into an industry, and everybody's happy. Directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro were far ahead of their time with this brilliant, artful precursor to City of Lost Children. (Julianne Shepherd) Laurelhurst
* Dirty Dancing
The original Dirty Dancing hits the screen at the Mercury/Clinton Street Prozac Film Fest. Patrick Swayze's package is featured prominently, as is Jennifer Grey's adorable pre-plastic surgery face. Heckle away folks, and don't forget to drink beer. See My What a Busy Week pg 13. Clinton Street Theater
* Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights pales in comparison to the original (see above), but it's still a delicious, guilty pleasure. This film is basically a remake of the Swayze version, but this time it stars a boring blonde chick and a smoking hot "Cuban" guy, played by Mexican actor Diego Luna. Diego and the blonde meet when her family moves to Cuba. He's a waiter at the swanky hotel she's staying at, and she's a studious, non-racist honky with something to prove. The two hit it off immediately, absconding to a Cuban club to get dirty on the dancefloor. Then, conveniently enough, they discover there's a big dance contest that pays big money, and conveniently again, Diego could really use the dough to help his poor Cuban family. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Dreamers
Dreamers begins when Matthew, an American cinemaphile living in Paris, meets twins Theo and Isabelle on the day of the historic 1968 protests outside Paris' Cinematheque Française. The trio winds up living in the twins' ridiculous library-as-labyrinth apartment while their parents are away, using movies as a way to connect, seduce, and ridicule one another. Despite director Bernardo Bertolucci's nostalgic bent, the film is sexy. The trio's desire is played out honestly and openly, and it's refreshing to see sex that doesn't always look comfortable--and bodies that haven't been waxed or pumped with silicone. Their menage-à-trois is a shifting kaleidoscope of emotions, and the possible incestuous nature of Theo and Isabelle appears nave rather than grotesque. (Steven Lankenau) Fox Tower 10
Like the rough draft of a college paper, this film is a goulash of postmodernist academic preening. The topic is the relationship between psychoanalysts and their patients, an interesting subject explored in the most tolerable points of the film through simple documentary interviews. The rest of the movie convolutes itself with a fictional narrative about a depressed woman, Lia, and her analyst, as well as some coverage of Jennifer, the actress playing Lia who is actually played by a real actress. Puff, puff, pass. There are other documentary moments that go over the history of the Eames chair, modernism, and the influence of psychoanalysis on architecture. These segments that are most valuable, but unfortunately they are bookended by the tedious smoke and mirror of the narrative. Clinton Street Theater
Both homophobic and homoerotic (there are more penises in this movie than you'll find in a straight porno), this playful teen comedy is actually funny at times, throwing a bevy of gags at the wall (incest jokes, Hitler jokes, Pope jokes, fag jokes, S&M jokes, and even a little mime skit). Some stick and keep things moving at a pleasant clip. (Josh Feit) Clackamas Town Ctr., Evergreen Parkway, Movies on TV
Yasujiro Oxu's film about a travelling Japanese theater group that arrives in a small seaport town. While there, the troupe leader goes to visit his old flame. One of the women in the group then becomes jealous and sets out to deceive him. Guild Theater
* The Fog of War
From World War II through the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara was everywhere and wrapped up in some of the most destructive aggressions by the U.S. military. It was his brainstorm to firebomb cities in Japan, so that bombs would not just destroy what they impacted but would set fire to entire towns. Under his guidance, U.S. forces in Vietnam relentlessly dropped Napalm. (Oddly, also, in a foray into the private sector, under his direction, the Ford Corp. insisted on seatbelts and other safety measures that have saved countless lives!) Interspliced with historical footage, the interviews are simple and sober. Parallels to current political leaders are never touched on, but are nonetheless poignantly present. Directed by Errol Morris. (Phil Busse) City Center 12, Fox Tower 10
Girl with the Pearl Earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring is stuffy to a fault, no matter how many shots of Scarlett Johansson's pout director Peter Webber can fit in, and the final tally falls somewhere between the best of Merchant Ivory and the worst of Merchant Ivory. Which is to say this: It is a well-made but nonetheless empty and, quite often, outright dull affair. (Bradley Steinbacher) Fox Tower 10, Movies on TV
Cult director John Waters tips his hat to the dance shows of the early '60s (as well as the Civil Rights movement!) in this singin' and dancin' extravaganza starring Ricki Lake and Divine. Pix Patisserie
The Haunted Mansion
Eddie "Anything-for-a-Buck" Murphy stars in a traditional haunted house movie (based on the Disneyland ride), playing smarmy real estate agent Jim Evers. Jim misses all his kids' soccer games and cello recitals, which we know because the screenwriters kindly give his wife Sara a whole scene to explain it. Beyond that, there's a heck of a lot of un-comic relief from Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota, playing a head in a crystal ball. (Dan Howland) Avalon
Remember when the cool kids made fun of your perm and treated you like shit... Well it's time for revenge. With the help of Christian Slater, Winona Ryder shows the popular girls where to stuff it by coaxing them to drink Drano. Blind Onion
Rumor has it that Viggo Mortenson was cast in this bloated desert adventure before he became one of the most famous actors ever via Lord of the Rings. I find it hard to believe, however, that the producers of Hidalgo weren't just trying to cash in on a bankable star... because Mortenson STINKS in this movie. I can't imagine any casting agent in their right mind listening to his dismal cowboy accent and observing his nonexistent comic timing and not throwing him out on his can. Aside from Mortenson, though, Hidalgo could almost be cool. It tells the story of a cowboy at the turn of the century who entered a race in Saudi Arabia across a vicious desert. It's supposedly a true story, but regardless, it's a neat premise. Too bad the script is tepid, meandering, and loaded with stupid family friendly Middle Eastern stereotypes. Pretty scenery, though. And horses. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The House of Sand and Fog
When a recovering addict/slacker (Jennifer Connolly) temporarily loses her family's house on a technicality, a disgraced Iranian officer (Ben Kingsley) dives through the loophole and refuses to budge, resulting in mounting levels of righteous obsession for all concerned. (Andrew Wright) Laurelhurst
When an Algerian woman accompanies her husband to France she becomes isolated and lorded over by his mother. Soon enough, however, she gets word that another Algerian family lives in town and adventures out to meet them with comic results. PCC Cascade Campus
The Last Samurai
The year is 1876, and Tom Cruise plays Civil War hero Nathan Algren, who has been reduced to a drunken, carnival sideshow attraction. To make a quick buck, he accepts a post overseas training Japanese soldiers to battle samurai insurgents, and bring the country's military machine into the modern age. The directing/producing team of Edward Zwick and Marshall Hersovitz (Glory, Courage Under Fire) are well adapted for encapsulating war down to the internal struggle between a man's honor and his duty. The downside is their use of pretty boy Tom Cruise, and their insistence on painting their pictures in colorful, overly romantic tones. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Avalon, Kennedy School, Kiggins Theater, Laurelhurst, St. Johns Pub
Mama Africa Part II
Three films from the Mama Africa series, showing the complexity, depth, and day to day life of African women. Included are Bintou, Riches, and One Evening in July. PCC Cascade Campus
* Martin & Orloff See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre
* Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
The year is 1805 and Napoleon is running roughshod over Europe. The only thing stopping France from infecting the whole of the continent is the tiny island of England, which may be lacking in ground forces, but kicks ass on the high seas. Russell Crowe plays Cap'n "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, one of Britain's finest seamen, who runs afoul of a Frenchy frigate boasting twice the guns and manpower. Barely escaping with their lives, Cap'n Jack becomes obsessed with the Froggie warboat, and vows to send ship and crew to the bottom of the briny blue. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Lloyd Mall
The U.S. hockey team upsetting the seemingly indestructible Soviets at the 1980 Olympics was truly one of the great moments in sports, when politics, teamwork, and pride all met in one supernova nexus. A chimpanzee with a camcorder and skates could make an exciting film based on this true story, but Disney nearly blows it. They would have been better off simply showing footage from the 4-3 upset over the Soviets. That game had more tension in a single power play than the movie Miracle has in its whole two-plus hour running time. Long drawn-out moments where players wrap their sticks or stare blankly at the ice rink hardly substitutes for raw emotion. Moreover, Disney's nod to the historical context is so dismissive it's insulting to a third-grader. Please! Showing one headline about the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan hardly imports the fear and hatred of the Cold War. Go back to the Mighty Ducks, Disney! (Phil Busse) Regal Cinemas, etc.
In an amazing feat, Charlize Theron not only manages to look like complete crap, she does a spectacular job of playing notorious serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Mimicking her telltale mannerisms perfectly, Theron plays the part with total believability. Her performance--and the smart direction of the film--evoke sympathy, anger, disgust, and an overwhelming emptiness. Granted, seeing a movie about a woman whose life went from child abuse to prostitution to rape to murder to betrayal by her lover to execution isn't a fun time; but it effectively makes you ponder the immense good and evil in humanity, and quite possibly, it will make you cry. (Katie Shimer) City Center 12, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower 10, Lake Twin Cinema, Milwaukie 3 Theater
* My Architect See review this issue. Cinema 21
Julia Roberts stars in this coming-of-age tale about girls falling for guys, girls ditching guys, and some hella addictive pizza. Enjoy Nocturnal's Atari/Game night plus this free flick. Nocturnal
For all the "inexorability" and "meditation" of its violence, Mystic River feels desperately contrived. Whether director Clint Eastwood has some deep understanding of the nature of violence remains unclear. What is certain is that he knows how to make a movie, even a dumb one, well worth watching. I only wish someone would send him some better books. (Sean Nelson) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Passion of the Christ
Jewish theologians have made a lot of hay recently about the anti-Semitic overtones of Mel Gibson's biblical drama, The Passion of the Christ--and they're right. The film is anti-Semitic. Even more surprisingly, it's hugely anti-Christian, as well. In fact, it's just about anti-EVERYTHING, except anti-blood, guts, and gore. This is the story of Christ as told by Quentin Tarantino's evil twin, and to sum it all up? It's the world's first Christian snuff film; two full hours of Jesus Christ getting his ass KICKED. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Peter Pan
After being chastised by her parents to be more "adult," Wendy and her brothers are whisked away to Never Never Land by a tow-headed boy and his pet fairy. As young love/lust begins to bloom, the fairy gets pissed and narcs out the pair to the evil Cap'n Hook, whose almost pedophilic obsession with Peter (and more pointedly, "youthfulness") drives him to murderous intentions. While the special effects are spot-on, this Peter Pan is a slooooooow starter. Though it takes a good 45 minutes to get going, Pan is still visually pleasing enough to maintain interest. Besides, the slow sections give you plenty of time to fill in the psychological/sexual subtext. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School
* Public Housing
Frederick Wiseman belongs to a generation of documentary filmmakers whose fly-on-the-wall approaches seem to have gone the way of the dodo. Along with documentarians like D.A. Pennebaker, the Maysles Brothers, and Richard Leacock, these practitioners of cinema verite acted as silent witnesses to their subjects, doing everything they could to become invisible to the world around them and to let life unfold naturally in front of their cameras. This stands in stark contrast to the cartoon interludes of Michael Moore, the engrossing montages of Errol Morris, and the no-cred guerilla tactics of Nick Broomfield. Wiseman's Public Housing from 1997 is an engrossing and comprehensive (i.e. looong) study of a South Chicago government housing project. One thing you can say about Wiseman is that he always resists the urge to edit for the juicy moments of life. Instead, realism is achieved with prolonged episodes of visits from the exterminator, one-sided phone calls to HUD, evictions, and policemen telling loiterers to move on. Wiseman is the master of invisibility, and the project's drug dealers, children, landlords, and homeless people glide by the camera as if it weren't there, creating the illusion of lives that have been totally uninterrupted. By the end, we are taken not with the sensationalism of the ghetto, but with the banality and suffocating routine born of poverty and hopelessness. (Chas Bowie) Cinema Project
* The Revolution Will Not be Televised
Even if you're well versed in the events that occurred in Venezuela on April 12-13, 2002--the two-day failed coup d'etat against democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias--nothing will prepare you for the footage in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The Irish filmmakers, Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain, were allowed intimate access to the presidential palace before, during, and after the coup, yielding chilling footage, and a possibly unprecedented cinematic look into the political machinations of overthrow. (Julianne Shepherd) Laurelhurst
Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's portrait of a poverty-stricken but determined girl who tries to find independence and a better existence. Obstacles, of course, ensue. PSU Smith Memorial Union Rm 225
As in slammer. An urban slacker, Ray Joshua, gets caught in a rooty poot marijuana bust and ends up facing 10 years in a DC jail. Director Marc Levin's affecting feature garnered international attention because it took the clichés of independent cinema (improvisational ensemble acting, handheld camera) to plea the plight of the nation of incarcerated millions. Because the aforementioned slacker is also a wordsmith, the movie has the added burden of transposing situations of despair into prose and rhyme. The entire cast is dead on authentic in all roles; even the mayor Marion Berry's cameo rings true. Afterwards there will be a discussion of the film. (Riz Rollins) AJ Java's Internet Cafe
Something's Gotta Give
Here is a movie so filled with unappealing, uninteresting people, inane, pandering dialogue, and contemptuous pop psychologizing that it is humiliating to watch. I spent most of the film doodling on my notebook, in the dark. Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton spoof their on-screen personas--his cad, her compulsive nervous wreck--so thoroughly that they may very well erase years of good work in the process (and never mind that in this token bone tossed to the elderly among us who are apparently longing for a romantic comedy of their own, the lady is still a good 10 years younger than the gent). And do you really want to see Nicholson's bare ass? (Emily Hall) Avalon, Clackamas Town Ctr., Edgefield, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, Mt. Hood Theater
* The Song of Umm Dalaila & The Beat of Distant Hearts
Both films give insight into the lives of the Saharawi people of West Sahara, who were displaced for almost 30 years by their struggle for independence from Spain. The Song chronicles the women's role in the struggle while The Beat shows the importance of art in the expression of the Saharawi people's plight. PCC Cascade Campus
Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation
The impressarios of independent animation return. As always, if you're really, really high, it will be the funniest shit you've seen all night. Cinema 21
Starsky & Hutch See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Station Agent
Fin McBride (Peter Dinklage), The Station Agent's protagonist, was born a dwarf, and has built up a stone-faced resistance to the stares and slurs directed at him daily. When he inherits a small abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, he leaves the city and makes the shack his home. Within a day, the locals notice him and are banging on his door. (Brian Brait) Hollywood Theatre
Yasujiro Ozu's sad tale about an older couple's visit to their children, where they are treated with complete indifference. Guild Theater
* Touching the Void
Have you heard the one about the two English men who tried to climb an icy mountain in Peru? One slipped, fell, and broke his leg. The other left him for dead. Now they've made a movie that would make make Ansel Adams blush! City Center 12, Fox Tower 10
* The Triplets of Belleville
An animated French film that speaks nary an intelligible word throughout its entire 80-minute running time, Les Triplettes de Belleville's jaw-dropping artwork alone could have kept me riveted for hours. Physically exaggerated characterizations and dark, dank urban landscapes give the film a particularly strong noir sensibility, and in the void of spoken word, layered sound effects add to the ambience. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10
Uh oh--all the murder victims Officer Ashley Judd has been coming across lately happen to be her old boyfriends. What could possibly be at the bottom of this monstrous coincidence? Regal Cinemas, etc.
Welcome to Mooseport
Gene Hackman and Ray Romano face off in a movie that would be more aptly titled, Welcome to Crapsport. Hack, man, what are you doing? Regal Cinemas, etc.
Who knew that Corvallis could look so much like Middle Earth. A once famed and brave knight has fallen on hard times, carousing with gypsies and playing dice. But after he loses, yes, his valuable and magical ring, he is aroused to kick some medieval ass and reclaim what's his. Northwest director Brock Morse filmed his odyssey in Oregon, just off I-5. Hollywood Theatre
What the Fuck Do We Know?
Mark Vincente's What the #$*! Do We Know?, is a tidy, slick, and thoroughly compelling documentary-infused narrative, which attempts to break the ice of quantum physics without putting us to sleep. The dramatized portions follow a few days in the life of Portland photographer Amanda, affectionately played by Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, as she deals with her separation from a cheating husband. These scenes were filmed at various sites around Portland, which adds a certain resonance to the action. Interspersed throughout the narrative, noted quantum physicists break it down, posing huge questions about reality, and our perceptions thereof. They touch on deliciously radical and heretical topics, but stop short of simple explanations, which gives the film a lovely, meditative feel, while simultaneously making you smarter. (Brian Brait) Bagdad Theater
You Got Served
You Got Served wouldn't be a boring movie if it weren't for the hour and 20 minutes of crappy dialogue between scenes of badass breakdancing. (Megan Selling) Lloyd Mall