PDX FILM FEST 2006
For more info, see "Firing on All Cylinders" on pg. 48. For specific films and showtimes, hit peripheralproduce.com. Guild
The Northwest Film Center wraps up their screenings of the UCLA Film Archive's Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film, Part II. This week: King Boxer (better known as Five Fingers of Death) and The Magic Blade. Guild
GLOBAL LENS 2006
The Northwest Film Center's internationally flavored film fest starts Friday and rolls until May 1. For more info, hit nwfilm.org. Guild, Whitsell Auditorium
A Brazilian drama that "covers 50 years of Brazilian history" through a long-lasting friendship between two boys.
It's no secret that Iran makes films about as well as it makes global enemies—that is, effectively and with long-lasting consequences. Border Cafe is the engrossing story of Reyhan, a widow with two daughters who betrays traditions and refuses to marry her brother-in-law. She reopens the roadside cafe (near the border with Turkey) that she ran with her husband, attracting an international array of customers who are all transitioning from one place to another. The familial conflict then becomes a metaphor for the battle between narrow-minded, patriarchal tradition and worldly, sex-blind adventurism. Deep shit for a place like Iran. The performances are captivating, even if the film's production is lackluster. (Scott Moore)
CINEMA, ASPIRIN AND VULTURES
A young German peddles aspirin in Brazil after WWII and hires a local man in this road-trip film.
IN THE BATTLEFIELDS
This film's about a 12-year-old girl in Beirut in 1983 as she becomes friends with an 18-year-old girl from Syria. Together, they ask what war is good for. The answer? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
MAX AND MONA
A South African film that combines "love, tears, death, and comedy" in a story about a wannabe doctor who stumbles through South Africa.
See review this issue.
Adam & Steve
What happens when Steve (Malcolm Gets) realizes that the guy he embarrassed himself in front of back in 1987 (the event involved coke, laxatives, and explosive diarrhea) was Adam (Craig Chester), the same guy he's been dating for the last year? Well, that's the question this heavy-handed romantic comedy asks—but do we really want to know the answer? Cliché-ridden and uninspired, Adam & Steve does have its moments, but they're few. Appearances by Parker Posey and the inexplicable, inexcusable Chris Kattan do nothing to help stir up this cheese fest—and don't even get me started on the gay cowboy dance routine. (Brad Buckner) Fox Tower 10
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Yes, ATL is yet another teen-targeted, thinly veiled vehicle for a rapper-turned-actor. And yes, ATL predictably plays it by the numbers: You've got your drugs and violence subplots, the obligatory "wrong side of the tracks" love story, and even a dollop of class contention, all set to a heavingly brilliant soundtrack that plays like a central character. (Did I mention the fact that the main characters happen to be orphans? No, seriously.) And yet, for some reason, no volume of endless cliché can sink ATL. Effectively helmed by music video director Chris Robinson, ATL is a totally enjoyable celebration of the now familiar (read: heavily commodified) filth and flash of the Dirty South, starring likeably scrawny rapper Tip "T.I." Harris. And though it strays occasionally into mediocre attempts at teen melodrama, its overall lightness and distinctly Southern charm—weekends at the community pool, roller skating competitions, etc.—keep ATL from succumbing to the familiar failings of like-minded productions. The result is something akin to a PG-13 update of Saturday Night Fever—but this time with grills. (Zac Pennington) Lloyd Mall
A film noir set in a high school, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt from 3rd Rock from the Sun. Brick-ville's a hardboiled wonderland; senior year is fulla dead dames and double-crossers, but instead of the coppers, we've got vice principals, and instead of smoky jazz clubs, we've got the basement in some kid's house. First-time director Rian Johnson never lets up on the tough-guy tone or the pace, and for a while, it's fun to see 'roided-out jocks play the dumb muscle, and to watch teenager Nora Zehetner as a femme fatale with a great pair of getaway sticks. After the first 45 minutes, though, you'll begin to feel like you're watching the cast of Peanuts trying to act cooler and smarter than they'll ever be in real life. (Chas Bowie) Fox Tower 10
The Day After Earth Day
"Some cautionary tales" shown to "celebrate the subversive side of Earth Day." Includes The Killing Ground (groan) and The Lorax (groan). Fucking hippies. Clinton Street Theater
Don't Come Knocking
Sam Shepard plays Howard Spence, a washed-up Western star who spent the better part of his life knocking back booze, pills, women, and handcuffs. One day on the set of a cheesy, generic Western, Howard takes off into the sunset to make peace with his personal history—and an odd, starchy detective (Tim Roth) hired by the film company hunts Howard down in the dusty streets of Nevada and Montana. While not a flawless movie, you'd be hard-pressed this month to find another that's this intelligent, cool, and fun. (Chas Bowie) Fox Tower 10, Cinemagic
Friends with Money
Jennifer Aniston plays Olivia, a woman who used to be a teacher, but currently cleans houses, smokes pot, crank calls a former lover, and considers becoming a personal trainer. Olivia hangs out with her three married gal pals, who are all wealthy in an annoying L.A. way. Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, and Frances McDormand play Aniston's friends; given the raw talent in those women, Friends with Money should be a passable film. Unfortunately, McDormand is the only bright spot, and the rest of the film comes across as contrived, leaving too many unanswered questions (Why are these women all friends? What derailed Olivia's life?), and instead honing in on the friends' superficial (and condescending) obsession with Olivia's simple life. Yawn. (Amy Jenniges) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Ice Age: The Meltdown
Well, there are these two possums, and this elephant girl, and there was a boy one too, one of the mammoths? And the ice was breaking, so they had to find a new home, and in this one part, there are these two animals that wanted to kill them? So they found a new home. But my favorite part! There was this sloth, in just Ice Age, plain Ice Age—but in Ice Age 2, there's a whole group of sloths! And they kidnap the sloth because he can make fire, and they call him The Fire King, and 'cause he can make fire, and then he made fire! I like it better than the first one—I liked it better, this one had more of my favorite parts. And there were some parts with a squirrel. Those parts were my favorite. (Kayla, the Mercury's resident six-year-old.) Regal Cinemas, etc.
A film "about the horrors the youth in Uganda face every single day." Narrated by Alf. Mission Theater, St. Johns Pub
IT (Independent Tuesdays)
Nocturnal's homemade film and video event—now at Acme! Acme
The Jackpot Records/Clinton Street Video Film Festival
Running through Sunday April 23, the Jackpot Records/Clinton Street Video Film Festival boasts seven nights of programming, featuring rare films and Jandek's first ever West Coast performance. (Another unusual treat: The Beaver Trilogy, Trent Harris' one-of-a-kind film that was made from 1979 to 1985—the film's one part documentary, one part Sean Penn reenacting the documentary, and one part Crispin Glover reenacting the documentary again.) For more info, hit jackpotrecords.com. Hollywood Theatre
Knitflix: My Man Godfrey
1936's film, screened with the lights halfway up so that attendees can knit as they watch. Anyone who goes to this deserves to be beat up. Clinton Street Theater
Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, this drama opens with a young mother returning home from the maternity ward to her barren flat, only to find that the father of her child has sublet it in her absence. Accepting the situation with what appears to be familiar resignation, she finally tracks down Bruno—the boy's father and our unconscionable protagonist—in the midst of a petty theft. Within a week, Bruno's sold the child on the black market. Through all of Bruno's absurdly remorseless transgressions, the film's title seems to refer both to the newborn and to his ridiculously negligent father—a difficult protagonist for a largely compelling film. (Zac Pennington) Fox Tower 10
In The Libertine, Johnny Depp plays a syphilitic nobleman whose condition deteriorates until he is barely recognizable as human. Depp is malicious and delicious in the first half of the film, but the film's second half is devoted to painstakingly following his increasingly gross deterioration—the fun seeps out of the film like pus from Depp's oozing face, until all that's left are the tired, common sense reminders that too much drug use makes you ugly, and that you should always use a rubber if you're going to sleep with whores. (Alison Hallett) Mission Theater
What if someone decided Garden State—that cinematic Bible for disaffected hipsters everywhere—was neither hip nor disaffected enough to convey the true plight of discontented hipsters? Well, then we'd have something like Lonesome Jim—a film that's essentially a Garden State remake, but one that cranks up the dial on "mopey," and damn near blows the speakers on "angst." Jim tries hard to capture a uniquely American variety of twentysomething angst—unfortunately, that angst keg has already been tapped by that dude from Scrubs, and with a better soundtrack. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
Lucky Number Slevin
In any synopsis of Slevin, spoilers lay like landmines, so I will tell you nothing. And the reason I'm hot on keeping the plot twists secret is that when they come, they snap like wet towels to the face—Slevin is a constant series of smacks, contoured around the kind of smart, funny screenwriting action films and thrillers usually don't employ. (Unless you're Snatch or Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and movies like that are too stylized to be truly great.) But Slevin is great—not because it's deep or artsy, but because it delivers and does so intelligently. (Adam Gnade) Regal Cinemas, etc.
On a Clear Day
There's a scene in the Scottish film On a Clear Day in which Frank Redmond, the rugged hero, questions his decision to swim the English Channel. His family doesn't understand, and the Channel is pretty wide, and he's feeling discouraged. He's at swim practice, moping, when he sees a little retarded kid swim across the pool, all by himself. And Frank thinks, "Hey. If the retarded kid can swim across the pool, then by god, I can swim across the Channel!" So he does. As uplifting and inspirational as the film may be, it crosses the line with the retarded kid. It's time to "just say no" to uplifting, inspirational movies out of the UK—before things really get out of hand. (Alison Hallett) Fox Tower 10
Portrait & Love Bavarian Style
The Clinton St.'s "Smut Night Double Feature"—with 35 mm prints of classic pornos. Rad. Clinton Street Theater
"The newest extreme mountain bike movie from The Collective." What's The Collective? We don't know! But mountain biking sure is EXTREME! Clinton Street Theater
Scary Movie 4
Even forgiving the fact that roughly half of Scary Movie 4 purports to parody films that only vaguely qualify as "scary movies" (War of the Worlds and The Village among them), it sort of goes without saying that the franchise has long worn out its rather thin initial welcome. Despite the filmmakers' desperate dependence on the audience's familiarity with the last 18-or-so months of pop culture, 90 percent of the gags feel like they could have fit perfectly well in any of the franchise's preceding films—or for that matter, any issue of Mad magazine circa 1998. All of which begs the question: how is it that even the fucking Wayans Brothers had the good sense to bail after the first sequel, yet America still hands this bullshit the number one spot at the box office? (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Apparently, this thriller starring Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, and Eva Longoria was screened only for "daily press"—e.g. The Oregonian. Us lowly weekly papers weren't even told about the screening. What the fuck's up with that, huh? Go to hell, Twentieth Century Fox. Not inviting us to screenings and shit. Like we'd even want to see your movie anyway. Even if Jack Bauer and that hot chick from Desperate Housewives are in it. 'Cause we don't. We don't care at all. Go hang out with your buddy The Oregonian, Twentieth Century Fox. We're through. You suck. Regal Cinemas, etc.
This movie is based on a videogame. Wait! Don't stop reading! Hold on a sec! While Silent Hill wasn't screened in time for us to review it—hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, April 21 for our online review—the early buzz on it is good, and maybe—just maybe—this'll be a decent scary movie based on the shit-yer-pants-scary videogame. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Sophie Scholl—The Final Days
In 1943, 21-year-old Sophie Scholl was guillotined by the Nazi government for her participation in the White Rose, an underground student group that organized against the regime. This German film follows the events leading to her arrest, trial, and subsequent execution. Despite repeated attempts by the filmmakers to smother the action in drippy music and melodramatic pacing, Scholl's story is powerful and inspirational enough to transcend its schlocky packaging. (Alison Hallett) Cinema 21
Tobi (Robert Stadlober) and Achim (Kostja Ullmann) are best friends and on the same rowing team at summer camp. Then Achim gets a girlfriend, Tobi becomes jealous, and we witness his quest to come to terms with the fact that he is in love with Achim. This beautifully done German flick is ultimately about growing up and finding out about your own sexuality. But before you groan and say, "Oh jeez! Not another one of those movies!", know that the film succeeds in being heartbreaking, beautiful, and hilarious, the cinematography is absolutely stunning, and pretty much the whole cast is totally hot—you'll be drooling at all the bare skin of both the men and women on the screen. So it's definitely one of those movies to check out. (Christine S. Blystone) Hollywood Theatre
Take the Lead
If I asked you to guess what would happen in a film about an uptown ballroom dance instructor and a detention classroom's worth of inner city high school kids, I'd bet you'd lay out the events of Take the Lead with 80-90 percent accuracy. (Marjorie Skinner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Thank You For Smoking
Smoking's great premise has the delightfully unscrupulous Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart)—a spin doctor for Big Tobacco—sparring and sneaking his way through activists and accusations. But like all wannabe cynics, director Jason Reitman can't maintain a vicious tone for long—midway through, Smoking takes a turn for the banal, the razor-sharp satire of the first 45 minutes giving way to a more scattershot type of comedy. Sure, this neutering of Smoking's amorality is better for its characters' consciences and lungs, but it kills Smoking's smart fun faster than a three-pack-a-day habit. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre
See review this issue. Whitsell Auditorium