Act of Violence
You know what happens to scumbag commanding officers who squeal in Nazi POW camps? They get tracked down by their soldiers years later—and then they have to pay! 1953's film noir starring Robert Ryan and Van Heflin. Guild
I'll admit I only have a vague, pot-hazed remembrance of Aeon Flux as an early-'90s MTV animated serial. I recall lots of futuristic hyper-violence and the scantily-clad title character's ram-horn hairstyle. The live-action version, starring Charlize Theron, has most of that, minus the hairstyle: Aeon is a member of a secret resistance organization in the last city on earth. She's sure of her mission to assassinate the city's leader after the death of her sister, but nothing, of course, is what it seems. Aeon Flux plays a bit like an extra-long Outer Limits episode, with a more complex plot and lots more CG. It's filled with weird technology, cool costumes, and hair-raising action. The best part? Aeon's best friend Sithandra has hands for feet! Call me weird, but I'd see it just for that. (Brad Buckner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Big Lebowski
Jeff Bridges bowls, says "Hey man," in a whiney voice, spills White Russian all over himself, and squirts White Russian up Julianne Moore's coot. Clinton Street Theater
A documentary about "the long-term consequences of war in Cambodia" that includes footage of "rural villagers as they search for and dismantle war munitions in order to survive." Narrated by Carrot Top. Hollywood Theatre
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre
It's easy enough to make a good documentary about interesting things, like fat people or penguins. Dutch Light accomplishes the far more difficult task of taking a subject that sounds uninteresting—nay, sounds MIND -NUMBINGLY BORING—and rendering it watchable: in this case, the particular quality of light that characterizes Dutch landscape paintings. Dutch Light is surprisingly absorbing as it chronicles the history of Dutch painting, and it's filmed with an artist's attention to light and staging, resulting in an unexpectedly compelling and beautiful film. (Alison Hallett) Guild
Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell and Kenyon
"An unparalleled visual record of Edwardian Britain," courtesy of newly found footage from "showman-entrepreneurs" Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon! Whitsell Auditorium
If Stacy Peralta and Dana Brown have dominated subcultural sports docs for the past few years, two first-time directors—Kemp Curly and Kevin Harrison—should be watched for the next few. With First Descent, the duo offers a badass look at the history and current state of freestyle snowboarding. Focusing on a small group as it explores the gorgeous and treacherous slopes of Alaska's backcountry, Curly and Harrison splice in backstory from snowboarding's still fresh, often troubled history. But aside from the personable snowboarders, Henry Rollins' sporadic narration, and the all-over-the-place soundtrack compiled by Mark Mothersbaugh, the real reason to check out First Descent is the jaw-dropping imagery. First Descent boasts footage like you've never seen—and each turn, wipeout, and jump is captured by Curly and Harrison's stunning mix of aerial and close-up cinematography. (Erik Henriksen) Pioneer Place Stadium 6
Forevermore: Biography of a Leach Lord
"A highly distinctive pseudodocumentary by Eric Saks"? You mean a mockumentary, homie? Yeah, sure you did. Now, if you want to see a good mockumentary, check Zelig or Spinal Tap. Or if you want to roll the dice, player, peek this "haunted portrait of an alienated drifter's existence" that features a "dry recitation of ecological facts." Your call, baller. 40 Frames
A German drama about two college students, one of whom might be one of the 9/11 TERRORISTS. Da-da-dum! Hollywood Theatre
The Future of Food
I admit, I'm a sucker for conspiracy theories—but this shit is real! Because assholes like Dan Quayle, George Bushes I and II, John Ashcroft, and even the Food and Drug Administration are in cahoots with profoundly evil corporations like Monsanto, the company has never been required to test the safety of the genetically altered seeds or food they create. The Future of Food deals with all this, and it's profoundly horrifying. (Katie Shimer) Guild
The Goebbels Experiment
Rather than simply turn Nazi leaders into monsters (or try to overly humanize them), The Goebbels Experiment takes the simplest of approaches; presenting archival footage from pre-war Germany and Nazi home movies, accompanied with excerpts from Joseph Goebbels' letters and journals (read by Kenneth Branagh). In his correspondences, the Nazi Party's Propaganda Minister talks about his supportive wife, his adorable children, his doubts about his career, and his reviews of then-current cinema. It'd all be quite normal—if Goebbels hadn't been responsible for brainwashing the German population, vilifying Jews, and crafting the notion of Aryan Race supremacy. (Phil Busse) Clinton Street Theater
Good Night, and Good Luck
George Clooney's excellent film follows Edward R. Murrow as CBS airs his exposés on McCarthy's rampageous anti-communist crusade. As a director, Clooney continues to impress; here, with help from charged performances and gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, he utterly immerses the audience in the uncertain era of Murrow's exploits. But what's so powerful about Good Night isn't how authentically it depicts an antiquated era in responsible reportage—as outdated as Murrow's TV programs feel, the film is disconcertingly relevant when one considers the gap between what Murrow worked to make news into (smart, objective, and daring) and what it has become (the prosaic, sound-bite-centric CNN and the simplistic sermons of Fox News and Air America). (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
For 13 straight summers, Timothy Treadwell really did go up and camp out in Alaska's Grizzly Maze, home to thousands of burly, wild grizzly bears. At close range, Treadwell really did coo baby talk at these vicious, hungry creatures, and he really did stroke their fur with his bare hands. And in October of 2003, Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, really were killed and eaten by a grizzly bear. For Grizzly Man, Werner Herzog dug into more than 100 hours of film footage that Treadwell shot while living among the bears—footage that is frequently hilarious, occasionally profound, and sometimes terrifying. (Justin Sanders) Laurelhurst
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
You'd think J.K. Rowling's fourth book would make for a hell of a movie—maybe even a worthy successor to last year's excellent, heartfelt, and otherworldly Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which was deftly crafted by Y Tu Mamá También auteur Alfonso Cuarón. So it's disappointing that the latest Potter feels less like Cuarón's effort and more like the overstuffed, lackluster films that director Chris Columbus kicked off the series with. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Zézé Gamboa's "subtle exploration of the tormented social and economic political situation in a country ravaged by war." Narrated by Pauly Shore. Whitsell Auditorium
How to Fix the World
In the late '20s, only one out of every 50 people at the edges of the Soviet Union knew how to read and write. This film shows the cognitive changes experienced by those people who were put into literacy programs. I know it sounds clichéd, but it really is amazing to see how much being able to read and write changes how we view the world. (Christine S. Blystone) Guild
The Ice Harvest
Harold Ramis' dark comedy/heist film/existential angst drama (starring John Cusack, Oliver Platt, and Billy Bob Thornton) The Ice Harvest tries to have it all ways. Comedy director Harold Ramis is out of his element—he's great when it comes to the script's dark humor, but when it comes to the plot's emotional elements, The Ice Harvest just feels meandering and inconsequential. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
El Salvador in the 1980s was the site of one of those civil wars about which Americans tend to have only a vague understanding—even if our government did happen to have a hand in the war, preferentially supplying money and training to one side. Played with striking emotional maturity by Carlos Padilla, Chava is a dark-haired 12-year-old forced to grow up early, first by the departure of his father, who leaves the family for America at the start of the civil war, and then by the shooting, child conscription, rape, and intermittent bedlam that encroaches on his small town as the civil war spreads. This, as you may have guessed, is not a date movie. (Unless, perhaps, you and your date are both refugees from the war in El Salvador.) It is, however, one of those movies that shouldn't be ignored just because it's unpleasant to watch. Through Chava's disappointed eyes we see the tragedy of war and the death of the truly heroic. (Eli Sanders) Fox Tower 10
It's a Wonderful Life
Good friends, clumsy angels, and a suicidal banker who learns that the world does, in fact, revolve around him. Ooh! Ooh! And Zuzu petals! Don't forget Zuzu petals! Laurelhurst
Based on Portlander Anthony Swofford's experience in Desert Storm v. 1.0, director Sam Mendes' Gulf War flick is a highly worthy, if flawed, addition to the war film genre. (Chas Bowie) Lloyd Mall
During this new abortion of a movie, I was shocked at how many times a PG-13 film could use the word "pussy." In less exciting news, here's a brief synopsis: Chris (Ryan Reynolds) is a big pussy who, in high school, used to be fat. Now his job is to babysit a bitchy teen recording idol, and when the two of them are forced to spend Christmas with Chris's stupid mother, the once-fat pussy realizes that his old high school friend Samantha (Anna Faris) is the only girl he's ever loved. In even less exciting news, Just Friends' main selling point is seeing Reynolds in a fat suit. (Chas Bowie) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Some small, low-budget indie pic about man's animalistic tendencies, or something. Opens Wednesday, December 14. Check Thursday's Mercury for our review. St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub
NW Documentary Showcase
Graduates of the NW Documentary workshops screen their work. Likely to contain a lot of old people talking and slow, Ken Burns-y pans over somewhat interesting photographs. Mission Theater
On Dangerous Ground
After beating up one too many suspects, a city cop with violent tendencies (Robert Ryan) is sent to solve a case in the country. There he finds love and redemption in the arms of the blind but beautiful Ida Lupino, and the noir elements of the first half of the movie wrap up in a hazy love story. For all the cheesiness of the plot, Nicholas Ray's direction keeps things moving, and Ryan is lantern-jawed and stoic as anti-hero turned hero Joe Wilson. (Alison Hallett) Guild
Directed by Italian neorealist Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975's The Passenger is a brilliant, brooding film about alienation in modern society. Jack Nicholson's character, David Locke, is in Africa, researching a guerilla element for a television documentary. In a fit of existential fancy, Locke assumes the identity of a dead gunrunner named Robertson; then, he and his unnamed companion (Maria Schneider) traverse across Europe, trying to make contact with Robertson's old associates. The film culminates in a breathtaking seven-minute-long single take, and we're left pondering the enigmatic answers to some very deep questions. (Mike Filtz) Hollywood Theatre
Pride & Prejudice
The umpteenth retelling of Pride & Prejudice remains faithful to the plot, if not entirely to the spirit, of Jane Austen's late 18th-century social satire. The real star here is, of course, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), a woman so uncorrupted by her contemporaries' restrictive ideas of what a woman should be that she seems utterly familiar and modern. Yet this spirited, independent, and intelligent woman, like the author who penned her, is 200 years our senior. Director Joe Wright's greatest accomplishment may have been in showing why this old lady—or both of them, actually—are well worth a respectful visit. (Kip Berman) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Warren Beatty's passionate story about journalist John Reed, the perfect vehicle for a story about the turn of the last century. A bohemian and revolutionary, Reed chronicled the socialist revolution in 1917. PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
If you are ever going to see a musical—even if it's just to indulge in a post-ironic hipster mock-fest—you need to make it Chris Columbus' screen adaptation of Rent. If you already love musicals, and in particular, Rent, stop reading and get to the theater. With its exhilarating exploration of alternative lifestyles, AIDS, and general bohemia, no theatrical production has had more impact on the public consciousness than Rent. Period. And though its leather-clad tales of drugs and cross-dressing are not nearly as edgy as they once were (thanks in part to the influence of the show itself) and its faux-grunge rock ballads are pretty darn dated, Rent still possesses an undeniable vitality. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic
See review this issue. Cinema 21
The Secret of NIMH
Mice run around and do cute stuff in 1982's much ballyhooed animated film from Don Bluth. TRIVIA! Features the voice of Wil Wheaton, who would later go on to be loathed by millions as "Wesley Crusher" on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and then to annoy millions more as a professional blogger on www.wilwheaton.net. Pix Patisserie
Kurosawa's masterpiece tells the story of a small village at the mercy of bandits who hires seven professional soldiers to whack their asses off with samurai swords! PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
A sweet and tender love story that eschews irony and sarcasm as well as treacly Hollywood sentimentality. (Chas Bowie) Fox Tower 10
Sissyboy Live: A Bush Family Christmas
"Drag queen terrorists" Sissyboy strike out at George W. Bush and his family. Clinton Street Theater
The Squid and the Whale
An insightful, affecting, and darkly funny film that's rooted in the human element, in the simple recounting, with no judgments and no clichés, of a family falling apart. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Walk the Line
Everyone wants to know if Joaquin "It's Not a Harelip" Phoenix can pull off Johnny Cash. Physically, the resemblance is striking enough. Likewise, Phoenix's mannerisms are more than convincing. But when Phoenix opens his mouth, things get dicey. It's not that his accent is bad, and he's a credible drunk. What nags are the times his interpretation comes off as... well, sorta developmentally disabled. (Marjorie Skinner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Yours, Mine & Ours
What the hell? You were seriously going to read a review for Yours, Mine & Ours? BUSTED! Nobody wants to see a review for Yours, Mine & Ours! I mean—look at it! It's got Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo in it! It's some crappy family comedy! It's directed by the guy who did the live-action Scooby-Doo! BUSTED! Regal Cinemas, etc.