3-Iron This odd, dreamy love story steps completely outside the realm of both linear time and normal human interaction. A young man breaks into houses while the owners are away, sleeps in them for a few nights, does the laundry, and leaves. On one such visit, he encounters a beautiful woman who has been badly beaten by her husband. This beautiful and eerie romance challenges and expands conventional notions of perception and human connection. (Alison Hallett)
The Amityville Horror 1979's original Amityville suffered from a stupid family that withstood the antics of the terrifying house when anyone else would have run for the hills within the first week of living there. The new Amityville's characters are equally moronic, but it has better special effects. (Justin Sanders)
Assisted Living This film has a fascinating concept: A day in the life of Todd (Michael Bonsignore), a pothead orderly in a nursing home. Living was shot in a real nursing home using real residents of the home. The result is a fairly remarkable straddle between fictional cinema and documentary. There are funny parts, like when Todd pretends he's one resident's father, calling from Heaven. Not meant mean-spiritedly, the film contains much of Todd's marijuana odyssey moments, and he's got a real heavy head-trip going with one of the residents (Maggie Riley). The film seems to have a lot to say about the elderly condition, compassion, filmmaking, and whether or not it's a bad thing to get high at work, but it all somehow manages to be heavy handed and unabsorbing at the same time. The film does, however, make you feel old. (Marjorie Skinner)
Bad Education If Hitchcock's Vertigo collided head-on with a drag queen variety show, the brilliant wreckage would be Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education. (Ryan Dirks)
Best of Youth Clocking in at a staggering total of six hours, Best of Youth plunges viewers into the intimate labyrinth of an Italian family and the many intersecting relationships that comprise its drama. Progressing from the 1960s to the present, the story follows three generations of overlapping relationships. Much of the plot centers on the crises of two brothers in the middle generation. One, a remarkably gifted student of literature and poetry, unexpectedly joins the military, becomes a crime-scene photographer, and ends up committing heartbroken suicide by rolling over his balcony; and the other, a psychiatrist who, along with many other serpentine twists, is led to the woman who his brother impregnated before killing himself. To retell the plot would be a monumental task; suffice it to say that Best of Youth masterfully seduces the attention, guiding it through a seamless tapestry of emotionally complex relationships and revelations that are consistently interesting enough to merit its marathon length. Furthermore, the stories are set against a series of historically significant events that took place over the past several decades in Italy, including a devastating flood in Florence and violent student riots in Turin. Jaw-dropping, epic Italian drama at full throttle. (Evan James)
Crash Crash, the directing debut of Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis, certainly doesn't want for hubris, but ultimately it's an exhibit of laudable ambition overwhelming Haggis' still-developing narrative abilities. Although Haggis' would-be epic portrayal of race relations in Los Angeles sports a handful of genuinely searing moments, it's hard to shake the sense of someone constantly rearranging 3 by 5 cards behind the scenes for maximum impact. (Andrew Wright)
Desperate Housewives Season Finale Jesus, I've never even seen this show, but I feel like I know every goddamn thing about it. There's that really hot brunette who's in Maxim, and that not-so-hot redhead who used to be on Everwood, and that weird old chick from that old Superman show, and they have sex with younger men and scheme and stuff on somewhere that's called Wisteria Lane or something. Does that about sum it up? (Erik Henriksen)
Dot the I What hath The Usual Suspects wrought? Dot the I, a highly touted Sundance fave, begins well, yet fatally clevers itself into a hole in its quest to leave the audience gasping at the fade-out. The set-up: On the eve of her wedding to a snotty blueblood, a woman with a mysterious history and a serious temper has a chance romantic encounter with a tech-geeky starving actor (Gael García Bernal, charming as always, yet nearing toxic Jude Law levels of overexposure). But isn't their bachelorette party meeting maybe just a tad too convenient? And what's with Bernal's fetish for surveillance cameras? To be fair, the initial love triangle/who's stalking whom scenario has a decent amount of open-ended promise (including a potentially fascinating digression about the nature of filmed reality versus video), but ultimately dumps it all in favor of an increasingly ridiculous series of third-act twists, culminating in a final whopper that would have even Keyzer Soze and M. Night Shyamalan calling bullshit. Debuting writer/director Matthew Parkhill has visual chops to spare, and proves himself a capable handler of actors (especially with the ludicrously hot Natalia Verbeke), but his narrative could really stand to lose some tinsel. (Andrew Wright)
Downfall An epic film taking place in Hitler's Berlin bunker, in the last days before the end of the war and his suicide. Much like taking a short trip into one of the circles of Hell, it's a cement-filled world teeming with Nazis who know they have lost, who are getting drunk, planning their suicides, and painfully watching their Fuhrer descend further into failure, frailty, desperation, and rage. (Marjorie Skinner)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room This is more than just a play-by-play look at the rise, fall, and impact of Enron--the film also asks why people act immorally, and (perhaps more damningly) why others allow it to happen. Surprisingly, all of this makes for dark comedy rather than a muckraking expos; instead of pushing its political agenda, Enron simply confronts you with the worst of human nature. (Andrea Chalupa)
Fearless Freaks In Fearless Freaks, documentarian Brad Beesley shoulders the enviable task of making a movie about the Flaming Lips--easily one of the most visual, likeable, and well-respected rock bands of the last quarter century--and somehow, however admirably, fails. With a focus on the now-withered visage of Wayne Coyne and Co., Beesley somehow manages to make over 20 years of one of the American Underground's most brilliantly bizarre bands seem positively boring. (Zac Pennington)
The Flower of My Secret Pedro Almodóvar's film about a romance writer (Marisa Paredes) who starts a new life when she realizes her husband isn't in love with her anymore.
Forest film festival See review this issue.
Gigi 1958's musical romantic comedy, set in Paris, with music from Lerner and Loewe.
Hairspray 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.
Head-On See review this issue.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy When Earth is destroyed by alien bureaucrats, there's only one survivor: A very perplexed Brit, Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), who's suddenly alone in a very bizarre galaxy. Thanks to a breezy (if wildly uneven) script, strong characters, and relentlessly witty visuals from director Garth Jennings, Hitchhiker's isn't as good as the book--but as a film adaptation, it's mostly harmless, succeeding at capturing the manic, hilarious spirit of Adams' work. (Erik Henriksen)
Hotel Rwanda Even if the acting is stiff and the plot a bit too tidy, you're obligated to see Hotel Rwanda. In 1994, over the course of 100 days, nearly one million Rwandans were slaughtered with machetes and clubs. Hotel Rwanda tells the true story of a hotel manager (Don Cheadle) who gave refuge to 1200 Rwandans in the midst of that hell on earth. (Phil Busse)
House of Wax Everybody knows Paris Hilton's going to die in this, so the real question is if her death is going to be good. It is--and she's wearing red lingerie when she goes. In Ms. Hilton's cinematic death, at least, you won't be disappointed. Which is good, because the rest of House of Wax is pretty lame. (Erik Henriksen)
The Interpreter Nicole Kidman plays a U.N. translator who accidentally overhears an ominous assassination plot; paranoia perfunctorily sets in, and she's paired with a reluctant FBI agent (Sean Penn). In The Interpreter's best moments, director Sydney Pollack channels the verve and momentum of his excellent Three Days of the Condor--but more often than not, the otherwise excellent Pollack, Kidman, and Penn trust in a tepid, uneven screenplay that's neither fluid nor convincing. (Erik Henriksen)
Kicking & Screaming Unlike its very funny star, Will Ferrell, Kicking & Screaming isn't very funny. Kicking offers family friendly jokes and trite morals--there's hardly ever an excuse for Ferrell to indulge in his madcap, absurdist, self-deprecating comedy. No, here Ferrell has other priorities: Namely, trying to invigorate a tired clich of a plot, which has a coach making a bunch of adorable loser kids into adorable winner kids. (With its bland suburban setting, whitewashed characters, and annoying kids, Kicking was apparently made only so Beaverton's families can take a two-hour break from their real life existences of bland suburbia, whitewashed neighbors, and annoying kids.) (Erik Henriksen)
Kingdom of Heaven Every "epic" film I can remember pits the underdog against an unbeatable enemy: A hero of purity and conviction against a giant blob of brute force. Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven monkeys with the formula a little--its enemy is a bit more complicated and compassionate than most--but in the end, the film fits the standard: Big, expensive, theatrically violent, thrilling, sad, and overall, worth the eight bucks. (Katie Shimer)
Kung Fu Hustle The latest from Hong Kong's superstar director and star Stephen Chow, Kung Fu Hustle is all over the map: It's part slapstick, part hokey drama, part action extravaganza, and part cartoon--and Chow blends all of these seemingly disparate parts to make a nearly perfect comedy. (Erik Henriksen)
La Petit Lili A modern adaptation of Chekhov's play-within-a-play The Seagull, La Petit Lili is a film-within-a-film (within a film) which involves a successful actress, her famous director husband, and her budding filmmaker son on holiday in the country. The anti-establishment son creates oblique films that are the antithesis to the mainstream rubbish his mother and stepfather produce, and he's not convinced his stepfather was once like him--until dad absconds with the son's girlfriend. The second half of Lili is more interesting than the first, but director Claude Miller's film feels too much like Miller imitating Woody Allen imitating Ingmar Bergman imitating Chekhov, rather than just a film based on Chekhov. (Will Gardner)
Lo-Fi Sci-Fi Indie sci-fi, you say? Well, that could either be really cool or really lame. We'll wager on the latter, based on these two films' awkwardly tongue-twisting titles: The Fantastics: Tales of the Tele-Gods: Infestation and Jeff Steele and the Lost Civilization of Noynac. Ha! Try to say that three times fast! Or, actually, just try to say that once. Slowly, even. Yeah. It's still hard.
Masculin Fminin See review this issue.
Melinda and Melinda Woody Allen's latest has a promising premise: Two playwrights (Larry Pine and Wallace Shawn) discuss the situation of Melinda (Radha Mitchell), an unstable, travel-worn woman who unexpectedly arrives at her friends' Upper East Side apartment. One playwright envisions Melinda's background as a tragedy, while the other invents a comedy. Allen looks at both, and the film delineates the playwrights' respective takes, essentially making two films. Since he's been toying with comedies and tragedies for decades, Allen here has the perfect chance to capitalize on his proficiency in both genres. But while Melinda and Melinda is theoretically two Allen films for the price of one, its sum is far less than even one of Allen's past masterpieces. (Will Gardner)
Million Dollar Baby Boxing combines the romantic idealism of a nobody fighting his way to becoming a somebody with the gut-churning realism of broken noses, brain damage, and detached retinas. And perhaps better than any boxing movie to date, Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby captures this complicated dichotomy. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Millions Danny Boyle's tale of two young brothers (Alexander Nathan Etel and Lewis Owen McGibbon) who find a duffel bag stuffed with cash. Ultimately, Millions becomes less about the money and more about the boys' splintered family; despite a retarded subplot about a criminal looking for the cash and some unforgivably sappy moments, Millions is definitely worthwhile. (Erik Henriksen)
Mindhunters I don't need every movie I see to be cinematic genius, and Mindhunters certainly isn't. That said, there are quite a few reasons to like it. Number One: LL Cool J is one of the stars, and he flexes his huge, sexy, bulging muscles a lot. Number Two: The film is set on an abandoned army-training island filled with creepy, shot-up mannequins and thousands of feral cats. Number Three: This is a whodunit film, and I didn't figure out who the killer was until the end. Number Four: There's a good deal of ridiculously gory death. (Katie Shimer)
Mondovino Mondovino is a documentary about wine. And it's over two hours long. Now, here's why you should go see it: Filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter is either a genius or an extremely lucky drunk, but either way, his documentary about wine somehow gets to the heart of globalization without being boring or pedantic. Turns out the wine industry is a perfect lens through which to view globalization: It's strongly rooted in tradition and craft, yet it's newly subject to the whims and pressures of the global economy. There's enough levity here to sustain the film's momentum, and enough insights into globalization to make this a film worth watching--whether you're a wine drinker or not. (Alison Hallett)
Monster-In-Law Jane Fonda is old, and J.Lo is a terrible actress. Despite all that, Monster-In-Law isn't quite as bad as you'd expect. You'd think it's just pure, cheesy, horribly stilted garbage, when it's really more like pure, cheesy, horribly stilted leftovers than actual garbage. (Katie Shimer)
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. Screening at XV, with complimentary tater tots. (Jennifer Maerz)
Pacific University Student Films These are the senior projects from the film majors at Forest Grove's Pacific University, and that should pretty much tell you what to expect: A slew of films, ranging from documentaries to dramas to animation, some of which are fine and some of which are pretty horrible. But even in the bad ones, there's something that's important, yet is sometimes lacking in student film: A respect for the medium and a sense of genuine excitement to be working in it. It's a vibe that makes even the clunkiest of these films somewhat enjoyable. (Erik Henriksen)
The Pacifier Poor Vin Diesel. There was promise, once upon a time: Pitch Black, Boiler Room, The Fast and the Furious--for a moment, he had a glimmer of hope. Not as an actor, mind you, but as a presence--a meaty, menacing figure whose voice could launch a thousand threats. Now, however, that promise has been devoured by a need to "expand," that dreaded delusion that inflicts many a young bulging stud. Vin Diesel belongs as a villain, not as a Navy Seal who moves in with a suburban family (the specifics are unnecessary; all you need to know is that the plot, such as it is, is utterly idiotic). (Bradley Steinbacher)
Palindromes Todd Solondz's Palindromes chronicles the adventures of 13-year-old Aviva, who, after getting knocked up by her cousin and forced into an abortion by her creep-tastic mom (Ellen Barkin), embarks on a quest to get impregnated again. As always, Solondz pulls no punches in dealing with his heavy material, and as always, the results are hilarious, unsettling, and endlessly thought provoking. (Justin Sanders)
Paper Clips Paper Clips follows what happened when staff members at Whitwell Middle School in Tennessee decided to teach their almost exclusively white, Protestant students about tolerance. Teachers developed a curriculum that used the Holocaust as an example of unchecked intolerance; after finding it difficult to conceptualize the number of Holocaust victims, students set out to collect one paperclip for every Jewish death--six million paperclips. This well-meaning but schlocky documentary follows the project from its inception to the final creation of a Holocaust memorial in Whitwell. (Alison Hallett)
A Place in the World: Robert Frank See "Arts Rodeo," page 37.
Random "B" Movie The folks at XV present--you guessed it--a random "B" movie.
Reefer Madness "The reefer" is far, far more dangerous than it first appears, and according to this 1938 anti-"the reefer" propaganda film, it's the single most dastardly and life-ruining substance to ever threaten God's green earth with its cursed blight. (Erik Henriksen)
The Ring Two I really shouldn't recommend The Ring Two, because it's neither good nor scary. That said, it does have a hilarious scene in which a bunch of CG deer attack a Volkswagen Jetta--and you can bet your sweet ass you aren't going to see that in Million Dollar Baby or Hotel Rwanda. (Erik Henriksen)
Robots It'd be too easy to proclaim that the only mainstream animation that's worthwhile is Pixar's--but if their rivals don't start kicking it up a notch, that statement isn't just going to get easier, it's also going to gain credence. Robots is just lazy; as easily as you can foresee its boring plot, you can predict its characters. (Ewan McGregor voices Rodney Copperbottom, who's a sweet, by-the-numbers mechanical protagonist, while with Robin Williams' Fender, the filmmakers have managed to create a character who's as annoying and unfunny as Williams himself has become.) (Erik Henriksen)
Roxanne Steve Martin riffs on Cyrano de Bergerac.
Sahara It's never a good sign when all I can remember about a movie is the leading actor's mustache. But... there you have it. Sahara is one of those wisecracking, adrenaline-pumped thrill rides that Hollywood consistently makes, and consistently makes incorrectly. But ohhh... that mustache. That pervy, prickly, sexy-lookin' mustache. It's why Burt Reynolds works, it's why Tom Selleck works, and now that Matthew McConaughey wears one, we can finally forget about his ceaseless string of awful movies, which naturally includes this one. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Schultze Gets the Blues Gently funny, this film is full of the sort of geriatric humor that ensues from putting a fat old German guy in an unfamiliar environment. (Marjorie Skinner)
Secret Cinema Saturday Cafe Nola shows a secret film. Aaand... that's about all there is to say about that.
Sex Madness This 1938 film warns that if you have sex, you'll get an STD and your life will be ruined forever.
Sin City A brilliantly creative, enormously cool piece of pop art; a film that has bigger balls, more fun, and a bigger heart than a year's worth of standard blockbusters. Based on Frank Miller's dark, pulpy, neo-noir graphic novels, and co-directed by Miller and action master Robert Rodriguez, the film isn't flawless (it's unerringly faithful to the comic, and at times, Rodriguez and Miller unintentionally demonstrate that what works in literature doesn't always work in cinema), but what Sin City gets right, it gets really fucking right. (Erik Henriksen)
Special Advance Screening I have a pretty good tip from my top secret sources (i.e. the internet) that this "special advance screening" is of an eagerly anticipated movie that's not officially coming out until next fall. Said movie might also be the feature directing debut of Buffy creator Joss Whedon, and said movie might just be based off of his brilliant-but-short-lived TV show, Firefly. Said TV show might also happen to be my favorite show of, like, ever, and if you were lucky enough to get tickets to this screening when they sold out online in about two seconds, then you should let me come with you. Seriously. Call me. (Erik Henriksen)
Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith See "Lucas Strikes Back" on page nine. Or, you know, basically turn to any other page in this issue, which contains entirely too much Star Wars-centric content. We might have gotten a bit carried away. And yes, we realize that a good portion of the Mercury's readers don't give two shits about Star Wars, and for those people, some of this issue's content will be nothing more than a great big nerdy snore-fest. For that, we apologize. (Erik Henriksen)
The Times of Harvey Milk Perhaps more than any event, the assignation of San Francisco City Commissioner Harvey Milk politicized the west coast's gay movement. Elected to the Board of City Commissioners, Milk gave a voice to San Francisco's burgeoning gay population in the mid-'70s. When he was assassinated in 1978 by an ex-fireman, the event coalesced a lifestyle into a political movement. This spell-binding documentary weaves together a cross-section of testimonies to tell an intriguing tale about Milk's life, the birth of a political movement and even, yes, the changing American psyche.
Trailer Trash Tuesdays Cafe Nola serves up an all-night-long program of vintage movie trailers and ads.
Unleashed Elsewhere in the world, Jet Li's amazing Chinese action epics have made him one of the most famous actors around. To Americans, though, Li's merely that guy in lame-ass flicks like Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave. And of all the many injustices of modern cinema, that's one of the biggest--because Li's a great actor, and he's an even better action star. Unleashed does a kickass job of showing both sides of Li; it's as much a drama as it is a kung fu demo reel. And that ungainly combination is pulled off well enough that it's easy to forgive the film's occasional oversights. (Erik Henriksen)
The Upside of Anger The Upside of Anger makes an all-too-blatant grab for the award-friendly glory road well plowed by the likes of American Beauty and Terms of Endearment, yet is nearly redeemed by a cast that wrings out every last bit of potential from the formula. After being abandoned by her husband, a brittle housewife (Joan Allen) strikes up a boozy relationship with the scruffy ex-jock next door (Kevin Costner). Since you're going to eventually end up seeing it anyway, best to shrug off the flailing stabs at higher meaning and enjoy it for what it gets right: Two fine, yet often neglected, actors teeing off on a series of telegraphed pitches and repeatedly knocking the damned cover off of it. (Andrew Wright)
Valley Girl The 1983 flick starring Nick Cage as a punk badboy from LA who busts in on a party in the Valley and gets the attention of Julie, a sweet goody-goody who just broke up with her boyfriend.
XXX: State of the Union The ludicrous XXX: State of the Union begins with a tranquil farm scene--and then, before you've even been able to decipher whether or not what you're watching is another preview--it blasts into action as suddenly as the bullet trains, souped-up sports cars, and helicopters that star in the movie. The effect is somewhat like being on a jerky rollercoaster with bad one-liners, clichs, a couple of killer-fast loops--all brought to you by your host, Ice Cube, who pulls off the laugh-out-loud hilarious stunts with the same amount of brow-furrowing most people use to execute a tricky shot in billiards. (Marjorie Skinner)
Zinat The tale of a woman doctor in Iran, and the issues that erupt when a relative decides to continue her work. In Farsi!