ZOMPIRE FILM FESTIVAL
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 23. Hollywood
PDX FILM FEST
Portland has enough film fests, twee retro film nights, half-baked amateur movie competitions, and ass-numbing exercises in avant-garde tedium to choke a flock of large donkeys. Luckily, we also have the Portland Documentary and eXperimental Film Festival (AKA the PDX Film Fest), which excels at showing less-than-mainstream films that are simultaneously challenging and entertaining. Think of it as a mix tape from a friend who knows all the best underground shit before you do. For more info, hit peripheralproduce.com. (Chas Bowie) Guild
GLOBAL LENS 2006
The Northwest Film Center's internationally flavored film fest. 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.
CINEMA, ASPIRIN AND VULTURES
A young German peddles aspirin in Brazil after WWII in this road-trip film.
Getting bitten by poisonous snakes, wrestling a hungry Kodiak bear, and looking at nude pictures of your grandma: These are just about the only things that are worse than this assortment of foreign shorts. (Christine S. Blystone)
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 film that combines "love, tears, death, and comedy" in a story about a wannabe doctor who stumbles through South Africa.
THE NIGHT OF TRUTH
A "darkly satirical parable" about the hatred between two tribes in an African country.
A film that "suggests the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without actually depicting it," Thirst is about a father who moves his family to an abandoned military outpost.
Bruce Willis plays drunky, washed up cop Jack Mosley, who's supposed to transport petty thief Eddie (Mos Def) 16 blocks to the courthouse. That short trip turns into a long one when the two figure out that Eddie is the target of dirty cops who want to stop him from testifying. Though I wouldn't dare spoil the surprises to come, let's just say Jack has to put down the bottle and call forth some of the old stuff. 16 Blocks hearkens back to the great, gritty crime dramas of the '70s, and director Richard Donner captures that sweaty claustrophobia in a tight as a drum action flick that never disappoints. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Avalon, Milwaukie Cinemas, Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Edgefield
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, laxative, 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
This hour-long drama—about a nerdy kid whose dad kills himself, so he goes all mute, and spends all his time getting teased at school and dealing with his cloying, unintelligent mother—was filmed in Portland, which makes me want to give it some props, token or otherwise. But I can't. It's horrible. David Waingarten's film is shot in a supposedly artsy black and white that just looks washed out and bland; it also has a boring story, laughably poor acting, and enough sap to put Canada out of the syrup-making business. Plus, there's a scene in which the silent Addison writes out a note to his mom that says "Want to cuddle?" Then the note has boxes for "yes" and "no." This is cinematic ipecac. (Erik Henriksen) Clinton Street Theater
For as many characters as Paul Weitz's slapstick satire has (roughly 50,000, including everyone from a Bush-y president to American Idol-style reality show stars), it wants to say even more: Weitz wants to talk about everything from America's vapid obsession with TV to the Middle East. To call Dreamz half-assed might be accurate, but that's a bit too easy—Weitz is clearly trying hard, even if it's impossible to tell what he's trying so hard at, exactly. What he has done, though, is create one of the messiest, unfunniest films in recent memory. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
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
Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Block Party's unbelievable roster goes like this: Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Kanye West, Common, Erykah Badu, the Roots, Dead Prez, and Jill Scott. And then there're the Fugees, and then there's host Chappelle, who liberally scatters his comedy throughout, and then there's Ohio's Central State University Marching Band. Is the music fucking amazing? Of course it is; to call this some of the best music of the past decade seems, weirdly, like an understatement. And is the comedy great? What do you think, Sherlock? (Erik Henriksen) Laurelhurst, Mission 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 LA 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.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
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.
The premise behind this documentary is that the mainstream media has silenced opposition to the Iraq war. That's funny, because every time I turn around, I'm hit square in the dome with a pile of anti-war documentaries and propaganda. Independent Intervention wants to believe that it's something new, but—trust me—you've already seen this film a thousand times. It even prominently features the triumvirate of crappy documentaries: Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Amy Goodman. Look, I hate shit-talking people with whom I share the same political beliefs, but for the love of Christ, if you're going to spend the time and money to make a movie, at least try to come up with an original idea. (Scott Moore) Clinton Street Theater
A film that asks if we "really know the truth about 9/11." Snore. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
From Night Watch's opening battle, which could be mistaken for a scene in The Two Towers, to the familial plot twists and the inner good versus evil turmoil of the Star Wars saga, this Russian fantasy action film is full of familiar themes—but it presents them in an unmistakably post-Communist Russian light. But best of all, the movie actually has a soul—it's refreshing to see an effects-driven movie that has moments of humor as well as compelling characters. (Steven Lankenau) Laurelhurst
The Notorious Bettie Page
See review this issue. Cinema 21
As you may have gathered from the commercials, the new Robin Williams vehicle RV (is that a pun?) is the latest in a long line of films attempting to ape the elusive magic of National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise. Let’s compare, shall we? Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines makes the best of what she’s given, perhaps bettering the one-dimensional Beverly D’Angelo role in the Vacation pictures—but largely because D’Angelo was a weird casting decision to begin with. Tween pop star JoJo tackles the Audrey archetype, but with little of the nuance achieved by either of Vacation’s original Danas (Hill and Barron) before her—though I think it’s fair to say that she effectively smokes Juliette Lewis. Clearly there’s no fucking with either Chevy Chase or Anthony Michael Hall in their respective father and son roles—and much to no one’s surprise, Robin Williams embarrasses himself at every turn. But the most glaring pratfall? They went for the PG rating. So weak, dudes. So weak. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc.
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.
The best videogames I've played (and Silent Hill certainly ranks) are like drugs: a unique, compulsive, ugly sort of pleasure totally different from the kind of pleasure films provide. Most videogames, when signature qualities like gameplay are removed, have feeble plotlines and cardboard characters. The kind of strong story elements that should inspire a feature film are rarely present, and the 30-plus hours of interactive experience can't be reproduced in a two-hour movie—a point that's made repeatedly in the excruciatingly bad film version of Silent Hill. So what gives, Hollywood execs? Why keep bludgeoning us with this kind of shit? Oh yeah, I forgot: You're a bunch of greedy assholes. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
This mind-blowingly awful adaptation of Chekov's Three Sisters, a psychological drama about a dysfunctional family, features not only some of the worst directing, writing, and cinematography I've ever seen, but also the worst casting. Will from Will & Grace (Eric McCormack) as a straight guy embittered by hopeless love? Sorry dude—once a TV fag, always a TV fag. Chris O'Donnell as a philosophy professor? Since when does he still have an acting career? These are just a few of the more fragrant turds in the heaping, half-digested pile of shit that is this movie. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
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) Hollywood Theatre
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
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's 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 My Eyes
Take My Eyes depicts a couple whose passionate love will never outrun the seething anger of the male. Absolutely refusing to take sides, director Icíar Bollaín portrays luminous Pilar (Laia Marull) and her husband Antonio (Luis Tosar) with masterful evenness and precision. Antonio's awareness of his own violent jealousy is heartbreaking, but his bouts of insecure rage are uncontrollable and dangerous. Bollaín paints domestic rage not as a personality flaw, but as a disease as harmful and devastating as cancer—we'd hate Tosar, if only we didn't know how badly he yearns to be healed. (Justin Sanders) Hollywood Theatre
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. Regal Cinemas, etc.