Man, you really like to cut it close, don't you? The 48 Hour Film Project is this weekend--starting Friday, going through Sunday--during which teams of filmmakers will scramble to make a film in a mere two days. Interested? Hit 48hourfilm.org to register. Quickly, now.
1941 Steven Spielberg's only ginormous flop, 1941 is a "comedy spectacular" about Californians preparing for a Japanese attack after Pearl Harbor. Stars John Belushi, Ned Beatty, Dan Aykroyd, Christopher Lee, John Candy, and (bizarrely) Toshirô Mifune. Laurelhurst
The Beautiful Country There are actually two beautiful countries in this quiet film: Vietnam and America. The former is where Binh (Damien Nguyen), half-Vietnamese and half-American, has grown up ostracized by his community. The latter of his origins is where Binh treks in search of his lost GI father. In Vietnam, Binh's life is miserable, and his journey to America isn't pretty either. Gorgeously photographed, and patiently directed by Norwegian Hans Petter Moland, The Beautiful Country refuses to hold your hand and lead you along; it wanders, but always with an ultimate destination in mind (be it physical or spiritual). (Bradley Steinbacher) Hollywood Theatre
Broken Flowers See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock As far as I'm concerned, Burning Man, like Rainbow Gatherings and Phish shows, might as well have a huge "kick me" sign on its back. Far, far too much of this documentary is wasted on statements like "Burning Man is just... you can't explain it. It's like nothing else." Which, alright, sure--that may be true, but if you're going to take me on a two-hour cinematic journey to the "heart of Burning Man," you'd better effing try to explain it. The cinematography is as drug addled and annoying as the interviewees--but to be fair, there's some great footage of the festival itself, including spectacular artwork, loads of pyrotechnics, and the requisite naked hippies. (Alison Hallett) Crystal Ballroom
The Calamari Wrestler The Calamari Wrestler (Osamu Nishimura) is a giant, rubbery squid who wants to be a pro wrestler. His love interest, Miyako, has concerns ("I can't love a squid! How will he support me?"), but they're nothing compared to the prejudice of Japan's pro wrestlers. And so it goes: The Calamari Wrestler goes grocery shopping (sardines). He prepares for his matches (meditation and NordicTrack). And he searches for himself in a country that wants to squash his individuality. In other words, this is a movie about a giant wrestling squid, and it's awesome. (Erik Henriksen) 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. But 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.
The Chumscrubber See review this issue. Century Eastport 16 , Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing , Fox Tower 10
Current: A Night of Videos About Water Yeah! Water! If there's one thing that should make for a fascinating series of short films, it's... water! And if that's not... uh, watery enough for you, DJ Josh Herr will also be spinning music... music inspired by water! Seriously. Not kidding. East Bank Site
The Dukes of Hazzard See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
El Leyton Gonzalo Justiniano's comedy/tragedy about a love triangle on the Pacific coast. Guild
The Eye See Go to Hong Kong! on pg. 53. Whitsell Auditorium
Free Form Film Festival Portlanders flock to short film fests like junkies to heroin, which will explain your attendance at tonight's Free Form Film Fest, an endlessly touring exhibition of experimental and outsider films. Saturday night at the Know is the 2005 new shorts program, plus live music from the impossible-to-pronounce Inlake'ch. Tuesday, at the Clinton St., features The American Astronaut, a so-called "musical space western"! (Justin Sanders) The Know, Clinton Street Theater
Fulltime Killer See Go to Hong Kong! on pg. 53. Whitsell Auditorium
Gumby: The Movie See My, What A Busy Week! on pg. 19. Clinton Street Theater
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
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) Century Eastport 16 , Lloyd Mall , Vancouver Plaza, Broadway Metroplex , Westgate
The Hustler Robert Rossen's 1961 film about a pool hustler, starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
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. What distinguishes Layer Cake is that it avoids making its characters caricatures. As a result, the film escapes becoming a Ritchie--or even a Tarantino--knockoff and is content for what it is: A good crime thriller. (Will Gardner) Laurelhurst
Liberated Zone A surprising little gem of a German film that juxtaposes issues like adultery, interracial relationships, and small-town narrowness with whimsical camerawork and a campy visual aesthetic. When a town in Germany recruits a black player to its soccer team, the community is shaken by the challenge to their cultural and sexual mores--and invigorated by a new sense of hopefulness that comes when the team actually starts to win. The use of upbeat cinematic devices (to tell a story that is, at heart, fairly depressing) lends a soulless, post-modern quality to the film--resulting in a picture that is both entertaining and unsettling. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
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) Regal Cinemas, etc.
MACTARNAHAN'S OUTDOOR SUMMER CINEMA SERIES
Every weekend this summer, Mac's presents free films--plus "BBQ, beer, wine, and outdoor libations"--in Pyramid Breweries' Taproom parking lot! This Saturday: Steve Martin's classic The Jerk. Enjoy, and bring your own chairs. (And the movie's 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. The characters, all marvelously acted, include a recently divorced shoe salesman, two shy brothers who spend time in adult chat rooms, a young video artist whose day job is driving senior citizens around, and a pair of teenage girls toeing the line sexually with an older man. Every character in the film is flawed and beautiful, lonely and graceful. (Chas Bowie) Fox Tower 10
The Meadow Isabella Rossellini in a film about a love triangle in Milan. Directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Guild
Murderball Screened at Sundance--and gathering steam ever since--Murderball documents the unlikely sport of "quad rugby," or, as it was formerly called, "murderball." Played on basketball courts in wheelchairs equipped with bumpers and steel hubcaps, the game is like a wicked cross between chariot racing and arena football--fast moving and exciting. But most importantly, the men who play the game are rough-and-tough desperados, men who have overcome extreme neck-breaking, life-changing accidents. But Murderball is hardly an after-school Special Olympics movie--instead, it's a brash, mature, in-your-face extreme sport profile that travels into a captivating subculture. (Phil Busse) Fox Tower 10
Must Love Dogs Sarah (Diane Lane) is mopey and depressed, an older woman who shops for groceries alone, putters around an empty house, and endures constant abuse and ridicule from everyone. Jake (John Cusack) is also damaged goods--he's a guy who spends afternoons in strip clubs with his horny buddy, chases pipe dreams, and obsessively watches Doctor Zhivago. And while Sarah and Jack are clearly meant for each other, Must Love Dogs doesn't easily wrap up their relationship in a tidy package--its debaucherous and unexpected elements are refreshing in a romantic comedy, and elevate Must Love Dogs above the expected level of crap. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Polyester John Waters and Divine do their damnedest to be outrageous. Sigh. Mallory Hotel
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
Rosemary's Baby Oh, great. It's bad enough that Mia Farrow gets knocked up--but by the Dark Prince SATAN?!? Clinton Street Theater
Saint Ralph Through precocious and circuitous logic, Catholic school 9th grader Ralph (Adam Butcher) is convinced that if he miraculously wins the Boston Marathon, his ailing mother will wake up from her coma. Though the film does its best to pluck out your bleeding heart, the bulk of it is a light, endearing comedy about the ultimate underdog and the power of stubborn perseverance. Exceedingly likeable, Ralph is a young cad who struggles with chronic masturbation, bad grades, and the other trappings of lovable, unruly, wiry little fellows like himself. A bit of a dork at school, his sincere efforts to woo a girl who wants to be a nun, and his attempts to wake his mother with strong scents (like dog shit) are endlessly charming, if a bit of a sucker punch. (Marjorie Skinner) Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing , City Center 12 , Fox Tower 10
Saraband See review this issue. Cinema 21
Screen 360: Films for the Children of the World Two programs of short films from around the world, aimed at kids and hoping to "offer young viewers a special window on the world." Awwww. Guild
Sky High Hey! I've got an idea! What if there were these super-powered teenagers, right? And then what if they went to this secret school, where they learn to use their powers? And then what if a super villain showed up, and the kids would have to team up and defeat the bad guy? Yeah! That movie would rule! Or, rather, it already did--back when it was called X-Men. Sky High--in which Disney rips off and retardifies all things X-Men--is painless, and stupid, and unnecessary, and not even glorified cameos from Bruce Campbell and Kids in the Hall Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald can make it even halfway interesting. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Stealth What do you get when you combine Knight Rider, Top Gun, and The Fast and the Furious? Give up? Okay, me too. But that unseemly conglomerate of recycled flotsam is exactly the formula I imagine Sony Pictures used to conjure up Stealth. When the Navy greenlights a new jet--one imbued with artificial intelligence--lighting hits the robo-plane, it goes rogue, and globe-threatening chaos ensues. Oh, and the jet speaks, in a milquetoast-y voice. (Lance Chess) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Subversives Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's film about the 1964 death of Palmiro Togliatti, the leader of the Italian Communist Party. Guild
Undead When a movie's titled Undead, is about zombies and aliens, is written/directed/produced/edited by a pair of Australian brothers, and features a song by a band named "Buttkrak," I think you pretty much know what to expect. And Undead delivers, I guess, what it promises: Zombies, aliens, a lot of gore, a surprising number of well-done CG effects, an equal number of poorly done CG effects, a few solid laughs, and... I mentioned there's a lot of zombies and aliens, right? Undead proves to be a fairly enjoyable bit of dumb, lighthearted fun, though I suspect you'll enjoy it far more if you Netflix it and get stoned rather than if you spend money on it at the theater. As a side note, it has an actor in it who's named Mungo McKay, which might be the coolest name ever, and he says what might be the funniest line in the flick: "Crazy has come to town for a visit!" (Erik Henriksen) Cinema 21
Under the Sign of Scorpio From the NWFC's press release: "A product of the political uprisings that roiled Europe in 1968, this film marked [Paolo and Vittorio] Taviani's definitive break with neorealist orthodoxy. Described as a work of utopian realism, and offering an unsettling take on revolution, power, and violence, the film is a mythological allegory set in an indeterminate time." Phew. Them NWFC folks sure is smart! Guild
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.