Hark! Deadlines! Get your stuff in for the Northwest Film Center's 32nd Northwest Film & Video Festival--which is seeking "submissions of any length and genre" from Northwest filmmakers--by Monday, August 1; check nwfilm.org for more info. And the innovative 48 Hour Film Project is returning to Portland next weekend--August 5-7--during which teams of filmmakers will scramble to make a film in a mere two days. Hit 48hourfilm.org to register.
Another Road Home If you're not already saturated with depressing documentaries that take place in the Middle East, or if your understanding of the "situation" over there is a little glossy, Another Road Home might be worth checking out. Taking as its subject Israeli filmmaker Danae Elon, it follows her on her quest to find the babysitter she grew up with--a Palestinian father of 11. Her journey stirs up conflicts and emotions of class, belief, politics, and family, making it a lot more personable and heart tugging than, say, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Middle East Conflict. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood Theatre
The Bad News Bears Richard "Dazed and Confused" Linklater's remake of the 1976 classic. Sure, the original tale--revolving around pubescent little league losers and their drunken coach who learn what winning is all about--is a dry, almost naturalistic comedy that's brilliantly underplayed. But in this version, I'd be hard pressed to believe Linklater even gives a shit. Is it unfair to compare it to the original? Tough shit. Linklater is directing a paint-by-numbers carbon copy--except his film is hobbled by kids who can't act, and an amateurish inability to build both tension and tone. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Beautiful Country See review this issue. Cinema 21
Buster Keaton A Buster Keaton movie, screened outside, with live improvised music from Michael Papillo and Joe Powers. And it's free! Mississippi Studios
The Calamari Wrestler See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory In terms of sheer spectacle, Tim Burton's never been stronger and the film never drags, though it never quite thrills either. Johnny Depp's androgynous, purple-gloved fop of a Wonka is just too discomforting to completely embrace as a main character, and the narrative never builds to any satisfying resolution. On the upside, though, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory does inflict unapologetic, cruel punishment on four very obnoxious children. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke Some things truly are timeless, transcending generational and cultural barriers to express their message subtly, purely, and earnestly. Like Up In Smoke, in which Cheech and Chong smuggle a van made of dope from Mexico to L.A. I was watching this one night at my mom's place, drunk and laughing my ass off, when my mom came in and--kind of shockingly, knowing my mom--started laughing her ass off too. It was one of the few bonding moments we've ever had. Wait--maybe we were watching that other one, Still Smokin', where they go to Amsterdam. Whichever one it was, my point is that Cheech and Chong are fucking funny. (Erik Henriksen) Clinton Street Theater
Cinvardaphoto Okay, that's just a ridiculous title. It doesn't matter if it's in a foreign language or whatever--still ridiculous, and impossible to say. Also, this ludicrously titled film is a conglomeration of three short films from Agnès Varda. Whitsell Auditorium
Crónicas A yawningly cursory psychological thriller set in Ecuador, Crónicas tells the tired tale of an exploitative celebrity journalist (a particularly flat John Leguizamo) on the trail of a serial child slayer. Were it not for the subtitles, Crónicas is the sort of film you'd expect to see filling time in syndication on Sunday afternoon--poor in both performance and execution. (Zac Pennington) Fox Tower 10
The Devil's Rejects In Rob Zombie's latest horror flick, a team of God-fearing cops attack the home of the Devil's Rejects, a group of Satan-worshipping murderers. Gratuitous pagan violence ensues; in the end, however, Zombie takes the plot in a surprising direction: Utterly decadent dissolution. The killers are betrayed by their closest ally; a cop regresses to a state of self-serving bloodlust, and the remaining murderers escape--only to be gunned down by police backup. That much impressed me, and struck me as evidence of a surprisingly sophisticated artistic vision. But the rest of the film just comes off like an extended branding campaign for Zombie's slimy, scraggly, troll-shaman persona. (Evan James) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Happy Endings Lisa Kudrow plays an uptight counselor for women considering abortion. Her life is disrupted when Nicky (Jesse Bradford), a young aspiring documentary maker, claims knowledge of her long lost son. Nicky then blackmails her into helping him make a documentary on her lover, Javier (Bobby Cannavale). Happy Endings' ability to shift from being hilarious to tear jerking to absurd keeps it not only interesting, but true to life. (Marjorie Skinner) Cinemagic, Westgate
Heights Heights is completely indefensible as a genuinely quirky or intelligent film, despite its pretensions to the contrary (which are legion). This does not, however, keep it from being totally awesome. Premise: In preparation for an exhibit in New York City, a famous gay photographer asks his assistant to interview all of his former models. Said photographer, who never actually appears in the film, is notorious for fucking all of his subjects, so these interviews open a big ol' can of hot, slutty worms. There's a little too much screen time devoted to Elizabeth Banks' bland, blonde rich-girl character (Banks is, essentially, Parker Posey lite), but otherwise this is a fun film, full of pretty people doing trashy things. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
Hustle & Flow Hustle & Flow tells the story of DJay, a pimp in the throes of a midlife crisis. Realizing that pimping isn't all it's cracked up to be--there's a lot more carpooling involved than you might think--he decides to launch a career as a rapper. Despite a tremendous performance by Terrence Dashon Howard as DJay, Hustle & Flow is ultimately a transparent, casually misogynistic attempt to capitalize on middle class white Americans' fascination with the hiphop world. By way of some snappy camera angles and a few strategically allocated hearts of gold, writer/director Craig Brewer has created a glossy, simplistic actualization of a clich that white people are all too eager too embrace. (Alison Hallett) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Island I've been frightened of Michael Bay's The Island all summer, knowing I'd get lured in by its sci-fi premise (Clones! Explosions! Scarlett Johansson!), and also knowing that it'd probably just make me bored, angry, and filled with even more distaste for Bay, one of the biggest hacks of all time. But here's the thing: The Island is totally fucking rad. No, seriously! After a cleverer-than-expected sci-fi setup, Ewan McGregor and Johansson start running and things start exploding, and even though the script's hardly brilliant, plot holes gape ever wider, and clichs grow increasingly shameless (and Bay's still a hack), The Island maintains a slick, fun, and (somewhat) intelligent tone. But it mostly doesn't want to be anything more than a big, kickass summer action flick--which it is, and marvelously. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Kids Are Alright Daltrey! Entwistle! Moon! Townshend! They're the Who! And this is a documentary about them! Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Last Days Gus Van Sant's molasses-paced film based on one of the last remaining mysteries of the Kurt Cobain fable. Officially only "inspired" by the events of Cobain's death, Van Sant does little to specifically alter the known facts of the story--the setting is slightly altered, e.g., "Kurt" becomes "Blake." Van Sant's shallow "inspired by" qualifier is, then, either a thinly veiled sidestep around the notoriously litigious arm of Courtney Love, or just a means to indulge the director's creative license. Whichever the case, the responsibility Van Sant dodges from the onset in Last Days is but the first of several shots fired squarely at his film's foot. (Zac Pennington) Fox Tower 10
Layer Cake Neophyte director Matthew Vaughn doesn't steer too far from the neo-British gangster/heist film genre with this one, and considering I'm the only person under the age of 31 who didn't like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, I wasn't expecting to enjoy Layer Cake. But I did. Daniel Craig stars as an unnamed London dope distributor (he's credited as "XXXX") who's hoping to retire. His last assignment, of course, is a snafu waiting to happen, and XXXX soon discovers that you can never leave the business--or if you do, it won't be when or how you decide. (Will Gardner) Laurelhurst
March of the Penguins If there's one lesson to be learned from March of the Penguins, it's that the adorableness of penguins is underrated. Penguins are cuter than kittens, definitely cuter than baby people, and possibly as cute as those little harp seal things that're always getting eaten by polar bears. Penguins follows these bundles of cuteness as they trek for days across Antarctica in search of a safe place to hatch their even-more-adorable babies. Unfortunately, the filmmakers enlist Morgan Freeman as narrator, and force him to talk about the penguins' "Journey of Love" and to intone insipid phrases like, "They're not so different than we are, really." (Alison Hallett) Century Eastport 16 , Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing , Evergreen Parkway , Fox Tower 10 , City Center 12
MACTARNAHAN'S OUTDOOR SUMMER CINEMA SERIES
Every Friday and Saturday this summer, Mac's presents free films--plus "BBQ, beer, wine, and outdoor libations"--in Pyramid Breweries' Taproom parking lot! This Friday: There's Something About Mary. This Saturday: Risky Business. Enjoy, and bring your own chairs. (And the movies are free, but the beer isn't--so don't go demanding free alcohol. That's just annoying.) Pyramid Brewing
Me and You and Everyone We Know A wildly heartbreaking movie that manages to be both sweet and dark in the same breath. Written and directed by ex-Portlander Miranda July (who also stars), Me and You has been on my mind almost nonstop since I saw it. At the heart of the movie are all-too-human individuals creating their own private rituals, rules, and architectures that allow them to create meaningful relationships with other people and the world around them. With nearly every scene packing a dazzling emotional punch, Me and You and Everyone We Know is one of the richest, most delicate, and rewarding movies I've seen in years. (Chas Bowie) Fox Tower 10 , City Center 12
Murderball See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
Must Love Dogs See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Night Sun Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's "haunting spiritual drama based on Tolstoy's story 'Father Sergius.'" Guild
Northeast Passage As a resident of N/NE Portland, I was thrilled that a documentary film has been made allegedly looking at gentrification in Portland--made by local filmmakers! It's truly a fascinating and anxious time in these neighborhoods. Unfortunately, Northeast Passage is largely a disappointment. The filmmakers essentially use one do-gooder woman as their vehicle for issues of gentrification and housing displacement. Although this woman and her young daughter are compelling and heroic, at the end of the day, her perspectives on these massive issues are just one person's slim vantage point of the neighborhood. (Phil Busse) Cafe Nola
Off Road to Athens Want to see an action-packed, inspirational mountain bike documentary? This ain't it. Couch potatoes and Lycra-clad outdoor geeks alike will be disappointed in Off Road to Athens, unless they enjoy endurance of another sort--boredom. The movie over-dramatizes the saga of some elite US mountain bike racers' quest for the Olympics through embarrassingly long personal interviews and scant race footage. The filmmakers spend most of their time trying to make the girls cry on camera, and also do their best to lose the audience by bombarding them with overly mathematical points calculations--who needs to see the culminating Olympic race, anyway? (Alyce Pearce) Hollywood Theatre
Over the Edge Matt Dillon stars in this film from 1979 about a bunch of rebellious kids in a planned community. Following the screening, the art-punk sextet Drats!!! will play a 30-minute rock opera based on the film. Berbati's Pan
Padre Padrone Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's drama, based on the autobiography of Gavino Ledda, won a whole bunch of awards at Cannes--like the Palme d'Or and the International Critics Prize. Nice work, Bros. Taviani! Guild
Radical Black Panther Films A selection of Black Panther films shot by Barb Payne. The films will screen as part of a book signing with Elbert "Big Man" Howard, with a Q&A as well. Clinton Street Theater
Risky Business Burgeoning Scientologist Tom Cruise overcomes his post-pubescent ennui the old-fashioned way: By peddling the flesh of whores. Hot as fire Rebecca DeMornay stars as the head whore, who entices young Cruise into opening up a house of prostitution while his parents are away. A searing indictment of contemporary mores, as well as the hottest on-train sex scene ever committed to celluloid. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Laurelhurst , Pyramid Brewing
Sky High See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Sleeper Anti-government radicals defrost Woody Allen after a long time spent in cryostasis. A super funny classic, and one of Allen's best. Mallory Hotel
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan This movie KICKS ASS. Let's say you don't even like Star Trek. First, good for you, because a lot of it sucks. Second, you'll still love this movie, dammit. It's great--fun, smart, and intense--plus it has a bare-chested Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner screaming "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNN!" (Seriously. It sounds just like that. Except longer. And louder. It's awesome.) (Erik Henriksen) Bagdad Theater
Stealth See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Student Film Screening Students of the Northwest Film Center show their stuff. Old Town Pizza
Twist of Faith We all know that most priests suck, right? (And, with the recent flood of sexual abuse cases, we know they blow as well.) Twist of Fate documents the tale of Ohio firefighter/sexual abuse-by-priest survivor Tony Comes, who goes public with his plight after the Catholic church (surprise!) tries to cover up the story. It's a tale of repressed anger, guilt, and frustration--not just towards his abuser, but towards the church Comes has respected his entire life, blah, blah, blah. Marginally compelling, Kirby Dick's doc gradually becomes Tony's whine-fest, and Tony soon starts seeming less like an abuse victim and more like a bad actor playing an abuse victim. (Will Gardner) Hollywood Theatre
Watermarks There really are Jewish sports heroes! Watermarks traces the history of a Jewish women's swim team in 1930s Vienna to their reunion 65 years later. The women, now in their 80s and each living in different countries, return to gather, reminisce, and flutter kick. Focusing on their lives after fleeing, the film never gets mushy-Holocausty, and is pretty fascinating--I mean, how many documentaries on Jewish women swimmers have you seen lately? There are inevitable parallels to the reunion scene in A League of Their Own, but if that's not your bag, rest assured there's footage of 80-year-old women in swimsuits. (Will Gardner) Hollywood Theatre
Wedding Crashers I'm not sure how often actors get ripped on cocaine while filming a movie, but it's my suspicion this was the case when Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, and the hilarious Bradley Cooper (Wet Hot American Summer) were filming Wedding Crashers. All four look like shit (Vaughn wins the prize for shittiest looking; Cooper has a broken blood vessel in his eye), and they all seem to be flying off on speed rants every time they talk,. I'm not complaining, though--this bizzaro, jacked-up, off-the-cuff quality is what makes the film so hilarious. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.