Bruce Willis stars as a brain-addled time traveler in this movie, which barely has one monkey in it, let alone 12! (Wm. Steven Humphrey-Humphrey) PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
95.5's "The Playhouse" DVD Release
[Insert shudder here.] Mission Theater
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 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-Buckner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Four grating British children discover an enchanted closet that serves as a doorway to Narnia (a fantastic world of talking beavers, stunning magic, and loads of plasticine CG). The four soon meet a majestic lion, Jesu—er, Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson)—and start waging a war against the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton). Narnia feels smallish and artificial; it's neither as vast as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, nor as interesting as one of J.K. Rowling's musty classrooms. Indeed—more than any line of dialogue or any theme from the Enya-ish score—the thing that sticks throughout is what Tolkien, C.S. Lewis' friend and colleague, reportedly said after reading a draft of Lewis' novel: "It really won't do, you know." Dubious at the time, now that line's self-referentially damning: After Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings and at least one decent Harry Potter adaptation, moviegoers are used to better fantasy films than this. (Erik Henriksen-Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Jodie "Peaked with Taxi Driver" Foster stars in this middling adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel about contact between aliens and humans. Also starring Matthew McConaughey, whose naked cavorting and free spirited bongo rhythms provide the base for Foster/E.T. dialogue. PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
Okay. It goes a little something like this. In order to control the universe in the year 10991, you gotta get the spice drug of Arrakis. The problem is that the evil Harkhonens are in control of Arrakis (aka Dune), and it's up to the heir of the Atreides family, Paul, to lead the revolt. After that I don't have the slightest goddamn idea of what's going on in this movie. Good luck! PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
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-Hallett) Guild
In short, cue the soundtrack-enabling emo events: Drew's (Orlando Bloom) awkward/heartwarming reunion with his extended family, Drew and Claire's (Kirsten Dunst) budding romance, Drew's very Jerry Maguire-ish awakening, and long sequences that exist for no other reason than to celebrate filmmaker Cameron Crowe's encyclopedic knowledge of, and boundless love for, pop music and rock 'n' roll Americana. Together, all of Elizabethtown's style and vibe has just enough weight to justify the film's plot, but none beyond that; you have to respect a guy who can include both suicide and death as major plot points yet make both come across as moments of mere inconsequential whimsy. (Erik Henriksen-Henriksen) Laurelhurst
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
Jim Henson's tale of a poor otter family that teams up with Kermit the Frog and starts a jug-band to save Christmas... only to face opposition from the spoiled rich kids of the Riverbottom Gang. Boo! Hiss! Down with the Riverbottom Gang! Pix Patisserie
Cronenberg's is a world where virtual reality games have become so commonplace that most people think nothing of drilling a "bioport" directly into their spine in order to plug in. Once a game starts, the player becomes a cast member in an artificial world where everything looks and feels "real," where some actions are preprogrammed and others are not. The biggest celebrities of the day are game designers, and none is bigger or more brilliant than the reclusive Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), whose latest, greatest achievement, eXistenZ, has inspired somebody to put a death sentence on her head. David Cronenberg is working from his first original script since Videodrome, and what he's come up with is, in some ways, a revisitation to that movie's themes, and this is one of the wittiest, most perceptive movies about movies and how we think they affect us since Videodrome. (Bruce Reid-Reid) PSU Smith Memorial Student Union
The Family Stone
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
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 footage. First Descent boasts imagery 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-Henriksen) Broadway Metroplex
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-Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
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-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
History of the World: Part I
Mel Brooks' comedy from 1981, screened by Food Fight! as a benefit for Salem's Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary, which helps abandoned and abused farm animals. Featuring Dom DeLuise! Hollywood Theatre
I Am Cuba
Mikhail Kalatozov's 1964 film, which the Northwest Film Center is billing as "a wildly schizophrenic celebration of Communist kitsch mixing Slavic solemnity with Latin sensuality." Presented in "English, Spanish, and Russian with English subtitles." Um... awesome? Whitsell Auditorium
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-Henriksen) Tigard Cinemas
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-Bowie) Broadway Metroplex
During this 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-Bowie) Regal Cinemas, etc.
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Shane Black's (the writer of Lethal Weapon) violent and funny tip o' the hat to the pulp fiction genre. Unfortunately, the one talent Black lacks is subtlety. His writing is perhaps more clever and precocious than ever, and the acting by all involved—especially Robert Downey Jr.—is spot on. But there's not an ounce of heart underneath, and the film has the overriding feel of watching a very funny meth addict tweak out. (Wm. Steven Humphrey-Humphrey) Fox Tower 10
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-Sanders) Tigard Cinemas
Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic
Everyone in the world wants Sarah Silverman to be a star—and no one so much as Silverman herself. It's just unfortunate that this wellspring of support had to coincide with the release of such a frustratingly uneven product. Jesus is Magic is hardly the breakout hit the world was clamoring for—a mercifully brief 72 minutes of what amounts to little more than a pay-channel comedy special regrettably bloated to the big screen. I want Sarah Silverman to be a star as much as the next guy—but that doesn't mean I want to hand it to her. (Zac Pennington-Pennington) Cinema 21
A sweet and tender love story that eschews irony and sarcasm as well as treacly Hollywood sentimentality. (Chas Bowie-Bowie) Fox Tower 10
Anthony Mann's 1950 film about a postman (Farley Granger) who finds an envelope crammed with cash. So of course he takes it, and of course gangsters then try to kill him. Guild
Sissyboy Live: A Bush Family Christmas
"Drag queen terrorists" Sissyboy strike out at W., et al. 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-Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
Wading deep into the muck of the worldwide oil industry—from the dark complexions manning the fields to the pasty and smug faces reaping the profits—Syriana raises a number of troubling questions—then refuses to answer them, leaving the audience tasked with sorting solutions out for themselves. Is it the Western World's dependence upon oil or religious fanaticism that fuels terrorism? Is corruption within the industry a necessary evil when keeping the world humming? Syriana leans heavily toward the left in such matters, but in the end, leaves it up to your conscience—and shades of red or blue—to provide you with any real answers. It's to the film's credit that it rarely preaches; it also slaps your hand away when you ask it to hold it, something never found in American films nowadays. (Bradley Steinbacher-Steinbacher) Regal Cinemas, etc.
This adaptation of a Haruki Murakami's short story is an incredibly delicate and melancholy study of loneliness, grieving, and emotional relationships with material objects. Tony (Issei Ogata) is an effectively parentless boy who grows up introverted, and eventually finds wealth and success as a technical illustrator. Long after his features have begun to wither, he meets and marries a woman 15 years his junior, Eiko (Rie Miyazawa). Eiko's fatal flaw is an addiction to shopping for designer clothes, so much so that a warehouse-like room in the house has to be devoted to her collection. While the film is utterly poker-faced about her shopaholism, the heavy handed bummer of the film's mood makes the dramatization of her consumerism an unintentional source of comedy, especially the absurdness with which it culminates in tragedy. Still, the film maintains its mood, and executes itself gracefully as a simple, poignant meditation on solitary existence. (Marjorie Skinner-Skinner) Hollywood Theatre
Vincent Minnelli's 1946 "romantic thriller noir" starring Katherine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, and Robert Mitchum. Guild
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-Skinner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
When I Die
See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater
Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney whoop it up for charity at a failing Vermont inn. Because, really, who cares about cancer research or injustice when you can bail out a small business? Laurelhurst
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.