Air Pollution and Exposure
Air Pollution is an animated short about creating a pollution-free car, while Exposure has host Olivia Newton-John looking at how toxins in the environment contribute to breast cancer. (Originally, that was the subplot to Grease--before the studio decided it was too much of a "downer" for Rizzo to get a mastectomy halfway through "Summer Lovin'.") Selections of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
The new remake of the '60s free-love classic Alfie is also moderately fun while it lasts, but only because of the juggernaut charm of its leading stud, Jude Law. Jude plays the titular, tit-loving Alfie, a chick-bagging cad in modern day Manhattan. A part-time chauffeur, Alfie cares little for the monetary pleasures of life, as he is intent on boning every beautiful woman in NYC. But while the script bubbles with a certain witty repartee, the story seems entirely geared toward cheering for Alfie's downfall. Unfortunately, the kind of comeuppance women audience members are praying for never really comes, which leaves one wondering, "What exactly was the point of this movie?" (However, if the point is "Jude Law is hot," then I'll allow it.) (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
An experimental film--filmed in the first-person perspective--of a man who encounters a woman who's pissed at those she thinks are fucking up the planet. A selection of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film festival. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Annette Bening gives a high-decibel performance as a whorey London stage actress who learns how to love, then forgets how to love, and then remembers again, courtesy of some late afternoon "teas" (nudge, nudge) with a callow young American (Shaun Evans). Bening can be entertainingly malicious--particularly in the latter scenes--but for the most part, the costumes are hotter than the actors in this lackluster period piece. (Alison Hallett) Fox Tower 10
* Best of the Northwest Awards and Evil Cult
The awards ceremony for the Northwest Film & Video Festival is followed by Evil Cult, a sidesplitting B-movie horror flick that's more entertaining than a year's worth of Hollywood crap. The hero is Neil Stryker (Neil Taylor)--a skinny cross between Snake Plissken and Steven Segal--who has just rescued a beautiful girl from the clutches of a squeaky-voiced time-traveling scientist. On his way home, this two-fisted loner stumbles into a remote religious cult who have a decidedly EVIL secret. Anyone who doesn't want to join finds himself "brain-melted, mangled, and stuffed in a cage." Therefore it's up to the heroic and salty-talking Stryker to permanently solve the problem, using guns, pruning shears and a swiftly swung ax. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Guild Theater
Nicole Kidman plays Anna, a New York aristocrat who's engaged to Joseph (Danny Huston). 10 years ago, Anna's husband, Sean, died--and a decade later, Anna's beginning to move on. But then a brooding 10-year-old boy (Cameron Bright) walks into Anna's home, insists that he's Sean, and that he doesn't want Anna to remarry. As the boy shares jarring details about Sean and Anna's life together, issues of loss, love, belief, and sex become unavoidable. While Birth uses its possibly metaphysical plot to bait viewers, it hooks them with the heaviest of emotions, refusing to shirk from the dark depths of its characters. Director Jonathan Glazer handles it all with a subdued intensity--those looking for a tidy answer to all of Birth's issues will likely be disappointed, but for viewers willing to invest in the themes and emotions that are clearly designed to take precedence, it's an extraordinary film--insightful, moving, and unsettling. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Children of the Storm
A filmmaker who profiled six teenagers--living in places from Papua New Guinea to Tokyo--in a 1970s documentary series tracks them down 25 years later. A selection of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. Hollywood Theatre
Assorted wackiness and shorts from digital cinema collective Cinema Queso. Sabala's Mt Tabor Theatre
* Dazed and Confused
1976 high school insanity, complete with sex, drugs, booze, Foghat, and... Matthew McConaughey! Laurelhurst
Sexy Ann Savage offers hitchhiker Tom Neal a ride in this stylish 1945 drama. Neither one anticipates where their journey will take them... or where it will end! Old Town Pizza
In DiG!, a completely engrossing documentary tracing the surreal connection between the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, documentarian Ondi Timoner pieces together the scraps of a relationship fashioned in mutual respect, distrust, and jealously from over 1,000 hours of unbelievable archival footage. (Zac Pennington) Mission Theater
* A Dirty Shame
John Waters uses his usual subtlety and nuance to take on the world of sex addiction. If you're a Waters fan, you won't be disappointed. If you're not, well... you've been warned. (Michael Svoboda) Laurelhurst
Echo of Water Against Rocks and Inheritance
Echo examines the Dalles Dam's effect on Celilo Falls, and Inheritance has a Romanian fisherman goin' for vengeance after a dam bursts, releasing 100,000 tons of cyanide into the Tisza River. Selections of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Fest. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Enduring Love See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
Eyes on the Prize
While the bulk of this shorts program is bland, pretentious and/or completely inaccessible, highlights include creepily beautiful segments of Vanessa Renwick's overlong "Hope and Prey" and a charming, fast-paced exploration of Portland by night in Sam Brosnan's "Cycle." A selection of the Northwest Film & Video Festival. (Alison Hallett) Guild Theater
* Forest Film Festival DVD Fundraiser
Three short films--My Days of Awe & Grief, Part One: Dirk and Me, Stall, and City Repair--will screen as a fundraiser for the Forest Film Festival's compilation of 2004's winners and participating filmmakers. Even better, kickass brewery Full Sail will be on hand, so there'll be good beer! Clinton Street Theater
Julianne Moore plays Telly, a woman who can't get over her young son's sudden disappearance--especially when everyone around her starts telling her that her son never existed. Faced with being put in an institution, J.MO starts running. She runs through the streets of New York, through airplane hangers, through dream sequences, and right on through this bland, convoluted mess that's more of a recycled X-Files episode than a feature film. (Michael Svoboda) Avalon, Century Eastport 16, Movies on TV
* Friday Night Lights
With a good deal of trepidation, I went to Friday Night Lights expecting a cleaned-up, Disneyfied version of H.G. Bissinger's book about high school football in a suckass Texas town. But as directed by Peter Berg, the film is just as compelling as the book; Instead of being a dorky, feel-good film, Friday Night Lights revels in its rough 'n' tumble narrative. (Phil Busse) Milwaukie 3 Theater, Movies on TV, Sherwood 10
If you don't love this movie with all of your heart, you don't deserve to live. It's that simple. Pix Patisserie
Go Further See review this issue. Cinema 21
Takashi Shimizu redirects his Japanese hit Ju-On into The Grudge, but this haunted house tale stumbles by shifting to a mostly American cast, and the original's pervasive sense of tension has been lost in translation. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Northwest Film Center offers this "incisive experimental adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play." Because if classic Ibsen plays demand one thing, it's incisive experimental adaptations... right? Right? A selection of the Northwest Film & Video Festival. Guild Theater
* I ♥ Huckabees
Jason "That Kid From Rushmore" Schwartzman plays Albert Markovski, a hipster/hippie whose experience with strange coincidences inspires him to hire two "existential detectives," Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian (Lily Tomlin). A lackadaisically twisting, manically intellectual examination of any and all pop philosophic concepts follows, as enacted through a veritable all-star cast (most notably a perfectly cast Jude Law, plus Mark Wahlberg, who's at the top of his underestimated game). (Erik Henriksen) City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Cinemas
If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home By Now and Subdivide and Conquer
If You Lived Here explores conflict over land use, while Subdivide is a documentary about the growing concerns of suburban sprawl in the West. While the overly folksy narration and forlorn harmonica riffs can be pretty taxing, humans' inability to stay confined and instead take over open land with developments and strip malls is fascinating, and more than a little disturbing. Selections of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. (Erik Henriksen) Fifth Avenue Cinemas
In God's Own Country and Alternative Agriculture
In God's Own Country is an enlightening documentary about the use of pesticides on state-owned cashew plants in the Kasargode district of India. The chemicals contaminate the source of drinking water for all the neighboring villages, and result in widespread health problems. Alternative Agriculture examines the organic food movement. Selections of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. (Evan James) Fifth Avenue Cinemas
* The Incredibles
For those who haven't seen the pervasive marketing on every cereal box and soda can, the Incredibles are a family of superheroes. Problem is, superheroes have been forcibly retired, and the Incredibles have to pretend they're a normal, boring family, acting decidedly un-incredible in the sprawl of suburbia. All of this is just expository setup, of course; with teasing glimpses of super powers, it all leads up to the predictable but exhilarating moment when the Incredibles ditch suburbia and save the world. There's so much to like here: The jaw-dropping animation, the retro-futuristic production design, the self-aware script and fully-realized characters, the relatively dark tone, and the flawless voice acting. In fact, writer/ director Brad Bird and Pixar have made a film so good that criticizing it becomes an exercise in nitpicking. (Erik Henriksen) Everywhere. Resistance is futile.
Indie Film Fest for Children
Zonker Films--the folks behind PISS Fest--produce a film fest for children that'll take place as part of the Fox Chase Family Artwalk. Hit www.zonkerfilms.com for more info. Portland Film Project
Having not seen any of these films, the Mercury still posits that they sound excruciatingly boring. According to Cinema Project, In Progress is an 18-minute-long time-lapse film about changing seasons; 50 Feet of String has a filmmaker only filming things within 50 feet of his Iowa home; and Fog Line--we're not making this up--is 11 minutes of "a fixed shot of clearing fog in a valley in upstate New York." No, seriously. We're not making this up. Cinema Project
* Libby, Montana
This thoughtful and wrenching documentary painstakingly details the history of Libby, Montana, once the world's largest exporter of the asbestos-containing ore vermiculite. Hundreds of miners and their families died after years of exposure to toxic dust, while mine owners were aware of the dangers posed by asbestos and did nothing. The second half of the film focuses on the more recent efforts of Libby residents to have the town designated a Superfund cleanup site. A selection of both the Northwest Film & Video Festival and the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. (Alison Hallett) Fifth Avenue Cinemas, Guild Theater
Lightning in a Bottle
A film about a 2003 night at Radio City Hall which gathered an astounding array of musicians playing tribute to the blues: B.B. King, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Keb' Mo, Natalie Cole, India.Arie, and the Neville Brothers. Plus, all of it's wrapped up by producer Martin Scorcese and director Antoine Fuqua! Shit, a lineup like that is almost enough to make you forgive them for including Macy Gray, Bonnie Raitt, and Steven Tyler. Whitsell Auditorium
Live Flesh See My, What a Busy Week! on page 19. PSU Smith Memorial Union
The Manson Family See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater
Meatrix and Animals
Meatrix is an astonishingly unfunny, pro-vegetarian, Flash-animated Matrix spoof, while Animals is a documentary about a man who decides that if he's going to eat meat, he should raise and kill the animals himself. Sea Monkeys never tasted so good. Selections of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Moulin Rouge is filled with clever contrivances: Dizzying choreography and sets, a script loosely based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, and co-mingling modern songs by Madonna, Elton John, Nat King Cole and even Nirvana. All extremely clever ideas--however, it's these same contrivances that turn Moulin Rouge into an overwhelming visual mess, and the only impression it leaves is viewers scrambling through their medicine cabinets for the bottle of Aleve. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Fifth Avenue Cinemas
My Mother Likes Women
So what? Oh... you mean she likes women that way! Three sisters panic when their mother hooks up, homo-style. Hollywood Theatre
* Napoleon Dynamite
There are plenty of laughs to mine from the pseudo-tortured lives of realistically nerdy, unpopular, and just plain odd 14- to 18-year-olds, and as Napoleon Dynamite proves, young geek alienation is just as fun to parody as its grownup counterparts. (Jennifer Maerz) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Polar Express See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
This $7,000 debut from director/writer/editor/composer/actor/egghead Shane Carruth may very well be one of the best American movies of the year... and I'll be damned if I understood more than 40 percent of it. Set within a buzzing, florescent-lit labyrinth of garage labs and self-storage complexes, the film follows two aspiring hackers as they inadvertently invent an ominously humming box that seems to combine the most worrisome aspects of both time and Xerox machines. (Andrew Wright) Cinemagic
The Private Life of Pablo Escobar
A film portraying the history and familial connections of Pablo Escobar Gaviria, who was killed in 1993 while he was in the midst of running a $20 billion cocaine business. While the American "War on Drugs" paints him as a heartless drug lord, his family and those who lived in his home town feel very differently. Whitsell Auditorium
The familiar warm fuzzy that is Ray is pretty much exactly what one has come to expect from the biopic genre: a breezing over of the moments in an extraordinary person's life, all cut-up and mixed about to form some semblance of a "happy ending," with enough tips of the hat to allow every member of the audience a knowing nod of recognition. Other familiar biopic conventions you've got to look forward to: bad visual metaphors and enough loose ends to suggest that the director's cut DVD will add about three hours to its already bloated running time. The only real surprise comes in Jamie Foxx, whose solid performance as Ray Charles was enough to make me reconsider my long-standing disdain for the man. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Ridin' & Rhymin'
A documentary about cowgirl poet Georgie Sicking, who, according to the press release, "pens tough rhymes for hard times." Hey! Even the press release rhymes! A selection of the Northwest Film & Video Festival. (Erik Henriksen) Guild Theater
Sacrifice and Redemption
Some of these shorts fall short of their mark, but the ones that make it are perfect little morsels of film. The worst of them try to pack a full narrative story into 15 minutes, and usually end up overdramatic and very quiet--these ones are too long to be shorts, too short to be longs. Highlights include a meticulously arranged puppetry work about a contortionist, a frenetic animation with a lot of sports images and gamelan music, a mini-doc about a guy who reacted to a shopping-mall lawsuit with a contentious website, and still-startling footage of a San Francisco film student shooting a hole in his foot in protest of Vietnam. A selection of the Northwest Film & Video Festival. (Evan James) Guild Theater
First time director and sicko James Wan's Saw is in the same vein as Seven, about an evil, maniacal fuck who's out to teach people a lesson. While the film succeeds in scaring the living shit out of you, it does have some failures--including a bunch of characters you don't care about, a predictable if not entirely obvious ending, and a tendency to take the carnage so far that you might end up laughing. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Seed of Chucky
The killer doll Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) and his bride Tiffany (voiced by Jennifer Tilly) meet up with their offspring, Glen (voiced by Lord of the Rings' adorable hobbit Billy Boyd), and the real-life Jennifer Tilly (the real-life Jennifer Tilly). And then--just when you think things can't get any worse--John Waters shows up. Shockingly, this film wasn't screened for critics, but watch for our film short next week. Regal Cinemas, etc.
An installation-based video showcase, brought to you by the Northwest Film & Video Festival. Backspace
Shall We Dance?
A good dancing movie is like a porno you can watch with your mom--hot young things dry hump to sexy music, usually followed by a makeout session that tastefully fades to black, allowing your dance-fevered imagination to fill in the blanks. Shall We Dance?, however, substitutes "washed-up actor" and "singer with more ass than talent" for "hot young things," resulting in perhaps the most un-watchable dancing movie ever. As far as emetics go, next time I'll just shove my finger down my throat. (Alison Hallett) Regal Cinemas, etc.
While the unfunny, clumsy, and migraine-inducing Shark Tale is sure to rake in countless billions in tickets and merchandise, it's more useful as a punishment for children: "Well, I was going to take you to The Incredibles... but since you didn't clean your room, I guess it'll have to be Shark Tale." "Nooooooo! Anything but that, Mom!" (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Shaun of the Dead
A sharp, clever, and gory horror-comedy that manages to be as scary as it is hilarious, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead shows all the marks of becoming a classic (and yeah, I know that sounds clichéd--but in this case, it's actually true). (Erik Henriksen) Broadway Metroplex, Century Eastport 16, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, Movies on TV, St. Johns Pub
Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a would-be writer who accompanies his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a weeklong trip through California's wine country for a final bachelor's hurrah before Jack's upcoming wedding. While the week begins idyllically enough, glaring character flaws are soon revealed--wine connoisseur Miles' pedantic ranting about pinot gris hardly conceals his deep dissatisfaction with life, and Jack is an immature man-child determined to get laid one last time before tying the knot. While Sideways is enjoyable, it's ultimately unsatisfying--we watch as Miles and Jack are stripped of all their illusions, but we never find out what they're replaced with. (Alison Hallett) Fox Tower 10
* Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
The year is 1939, and Jude Law is Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan--an aerial ace called into action when gigantic, clanking robots invade downtown New York. He soon learns the robots are part of a larger plan involving the disappearance of world famous scientists--a case that's being investigated by Joe's former love, plucky reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow). At its core, Sky Captain is a story of innocence and connection, as Joe and Polly reignite the flame of their former love--okay, while fighting 100-foot robots. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Century Eastport 16, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst
A dense testimony to the struggles of family, mental illness, secrets, being queer, and a multitude of other weighty topics. Appropriately enough, "testimony" is a term director/subject Jonathan Caouette uses often; by successfully combining autobiography, fiction, experimental oddity, vintage photography, and video footage, he's created a highly personal masterwork. (Michael Svoboda) Hollywood Theatre
* Team America: World Police
If you possess an extra ass, you'd better bring it with you to the theater, because you're going to laugh at least one of them off. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have not only created a meticulous homage to the terrific Gary Anderson Thunderbirds series of the '60s (in which a globe-trotting team of marionettes save the world), but also a biting commentary on the very modern "war on terror" that gleefully cuts both ways. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Broadway Metroplex, Hilltop, Lloyd Cinemas, Milwaukie 3 Theater, Movies on TV, Westgate
Temperate Rain Forest and Yuri Vella's World
Temperate Rain Forest examines the Pacific Northwest's coastal rainforest, while Yuri Vella's is a documentary about a hermit who chooses to herd reindeer instead of living with his fellow Siberians. Man... Siberia must suck. Selections of the Portland International Natural and Environmental Film Festival. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
They Made Me a Criminal
A boxer (John Garfield) thinks he killed someone while he was drunk... so he does what any sane murderin' boxer would do, and runs off to Arizona. Cafe Nola
Two By Two and Under the Surface
Two By Two is an animated retelling of the Noah's Ark story, told by the animals; Under the Surface is an exploration of Brazil's São Francisco River Valley, complete with a talking canoe. Yep. A talking canoe. Selections of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
* Tying the Knot
As much as the idea of entwined phallic ice sculptures at some Versace-esque commitment ceremony on Fire Island sets my teeth on edge, I still think gay marriage is a good idea. Like abortion, I support it but I'm never going to have one. But the excellent documentary Tying the Knot posits very real arguments for gay marriage or civil unions. The film asks a simple question with very tangled answers: What happens to the surviving half of a same-sex couple after a partner dies? The director, Jim de Seve, introduces us to Mickie Mashburn, a cop in Tampa whose fellow cop and partner was killed in the line of duty, and we watch as she battles for the pension that is part of the benefits package for surviving spouses. There's also Sam, a rancher in Oklahoma, whose partner of 25 years, Earl, has died. Sam has lost their home to Earl's cousins, who contested the will, sued for the land, and won. Interspersed with these profiles are footage from C-Span and rallies and interviews with very tiresome pundits such as gay conservative Andrew Sullivan that give context but add nothing when compared to the quiet heartbreak of the real people whose lives have so obviously been touched by grave injustice. (Nate Lippens) Hollywood Theatre
* Vera Drake
Besides working as a maid, factory worker, and homemaker for her husband and two grown children in '50s London, the beatifically portrayed Vera (Imelda Staunton) performs illegal abortions. When disaster strikes a teenaged patient and Vera gets pinched, the devastation she faces puts the finishing touches on the film's masterful, horrifying recreation. Vera Drake is a remarkable film, with gripping (if occasionally frustrating) acting, and my god is it scary. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10
Water Thieves and The Never, Never Water
Never, Never Water is a documentary from Italy on the shortage of water and the role of corporations in controlling the water supply. Water Thieves is an ineffectual, clumsy "what if" story about Montreal running out of water. Who cares? Can't those Canadians just drink all of their goddamn maple syrup? Selections of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. (Erik Henriksen) Fifth Avenue Cinemas
A Wild Dog's Story and Walking with Ghosts
Wild Dog's Story looks at the life of an African wild dog, while Ghosts is about a predator biologist who studies "the intricate relationship between the elusive lynx and its prey, the horseshoe hare." Go, lynx! Go! Selections of the Portland International Nature and Environmental Film Festival. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
* The Yes Men
Artist activists Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum--AKA the Yes Men--specialize in what they call "identity correction." Armed with suits from thrift stores and cleverly rendered PowerPoint videos, the Yes Men crash lectures and conferences around the world, sarcastically representing what they feel are the true motives of the organizations--like the WTO--they impersonate. Astonishingly, they're met with overwhelming approval by the business elite, despite the absurd and horrendous statements they make (for instance: that third world hunger could be solved by recycling feces into hamburgers, or that corporations should reinstate slavery to help their bottom line). (Marjorie Skinner) Laurelhurst
* Young People's Film & Video Festival
Film, video, animation and dramas--all by kids in grades K-12! This sort of thing is always a hoot, and probably better than half the films showing at Regal Cinemas. A selection of the Northwest Film & Video Festival. Guild Theater