At first, Arctic Tale looks like a down-market March of the Penguins retread, with indifferent cinematography and a cheesy pop soundtrack. But once Arctic Tale gets around to introducing its second set of protagonists—a baby walrus guarded by her mother and another adult female that narrator Queen Latifah dubs an "auntie"—you start to see the point of yet another inspiring movie set on the shrinking polar ice. With some over-the-top assistance from Sister Sledge's gay-friendly feminist anthem "We Are Family," Arctic Tale actually celebrates alternative parenting structures. In fact, the most heroic moment in Arctic Tale is also its most "unnatural": The walrus "auntie" risks her life to save someone else's calf. From an evolutionary standpoint—which, again, March of the Penguins was loath to embrace—that act ranks as a heartwarming instance of altruism. More importantly, Arctic Tale is frank about the danger posed by global warming to the lives of arctic creatures. ANNIE WAGNER Various Theaters.
Stanley Kubrick's 1975 adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Battle of Algiers
Stop me if you've heard this one: A wealthy, powerful country invades a much smaller, poorer, defenseless country, and occupies it for its own uses. The residents of the invaded land can't compete with the wealthier one on the battlefield in traditional warfare, so they resort to guerrilla tactics—assassinations, suicide bombings, etc. The occupying country brands these freedom fighters as terrorists, calling their tactics savage, cruel, and criminal. Even though the colonial powers win militarily, they ultimately lose the strategic war. Sounds familiar? It's a scenario that has played out over and over throughout history, and is currently taking place in Iraq and Palestine. But one of the bloodiest insurgencies in recent history was the 1954-62 Algerian War, in which Algerians engaged in terrifying tactics to kick out the French. 1966's The Battle of Algiers, shot in Italian neorealist style, rips through this war, showing both sides for what they were. It's not an easy film to watch, but maybe more important now than ever. SCOTT MOORE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Based on the early life of Jane Austen, this charming, inoffensive little movie stars a surprisingly likeable Anne Hathaway as the headstrong young Austen. The film's highlight, though, is hottie James McAvoy, who is perfectly cast as Tom Lefroy (Austen's love interest and the inspiration for everyone's favorite literary crush, Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy). ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Best of the 48-Hour Film Fest
The best films from the 48-Hour Film Fest, in which filmmakers had only two days to make films. Hollywood Theatre.
The Boss of it All
See review. Living Room Theaters.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Jason Bourne's been skulking around for a while—2002's The Bourne Identity and 2004's The Bourne Supremacy were okay thrillers that fancied themselves to be smarter than they really were. Long story short: Government assassin Bourne (Matt Damon, glaring intently) doesn't know jack about his past, and various political stooges don't want him to remember. And so Identity and Supremacy played out: Bourne ran around, outsmarting G-men and inhabiting two forced thrillers in which the action largely consisted of people walking around faster than usual and scowling at computer screens. Which was fine, if forgettable. But thankfully, The Bourne Ultimatum goes balls-out, confidently making itself into a solid action flick. Director Paul Greengrass (who also helmed Supremacy and United 93) cuts loose with Ultimatum's action sequences, and—from a brutal fistfight in a Moroccan apartment to a stunning Manhattan car chase—they're rough and visceral. If Greengrass' action sequences have a flaw, it's that the director insists on shaking his camera about as if he were a coked-out schizoid—but whatever his sequences lack in clarity, they make up for in sheer adrenalin. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Reasons to see this movie: Parker Posey is excellent as a neurotic, slightly spoiled thirtysomething looking for love in the big city. Melvil Poupaud is incredibly sexy as the charming, free-wheeling Frenchman with whom she finally finds it. Reasons not to see this movie: Writer/director Zoe Cassavettes awkwardly treads the line between conventional romcom and indie arthouse, shooting for both edgy realism and a fairytale ending. In trying for the best of both worlds, she frequently misses the mark on both. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
Daddy Day Camp
Cuba Gooding Jr. has won an Oscar, yet he's been reduced to the guy you call when Eddie Murphy isn't available. In this sequel to 2003's Daddy Day Care, Gooding takes over for Murphy as babysitting entrepreneur Charlie Hinton, who acquires a summer camp after learning that a hated childhood rival runs a hugely successful camp down the road. We're supposed to root for Hinton against the eeeeevil Camp Canola, but I can't sympathize with anyone who's stupid enough to buy a rundown POS because he got second in a foot race. However, I do pity Gooding for attempting to imitate Murphy's previous performance with neither Murphy's comic timing nor expressiveness. I also pity director Fred Savage, who probably wonders how he went from "childhood superstar of The Wonder Years" to "hack director of mediocre fart joke movie." THOMAS LUNDBY Various Theaters.
Death at a Funeral
Imagine, if you will, a 7-year-old child who's been educated exclusively by DARE officers and otherwise confined to a tiny closet with a pit toilet and a TV on which two awful BBC sitcoms are playing on a continuous loop. Such is the stunted mind (belonging to writer Dean Craig) that conceived Death at a Funeral, a puerile, scatological farce in which the most memorable characters include (a) a man who ingests a pill that looks like Valium but causes him to pull all kinds of funny faces and crawl on the rooftop naked; and (b) a dwarf, played by Peter Dinklage, who's also a cruel, blackmailing homosexual. ANNIE WAGNER Fox Tower 10.
I'm not gonna lie to you—recreational drug use is pretty damn great. But what happens when "recreation" turns into "occupation"? When one is so ill-equipped to handle normal life that they retreat so far into a haze of intoxicants that they can't emerge, and life becomes little more than a frantic, incoherent stumble from fix to fix? That's when people like the fine folks at Central City Concern (CCC) step in to help guide addicts back to a life of normal. That process—at once ugly, frustrating, and hopeful—is at the heart of Finding Normal, a quiet documentary shot last year by local filmmaker Brian Lindstrom. With no narration and no expository text, Lindstrom tells the personal stories of addicts and counselors at CCC's downtown Portland rehab center. SCOTT MOORE Hollywood Theatre.
Full Metal Jacket
If Stanley Kubrick is one of film's greatest directors (he is), and if Full Metal Jacket is one of his best films (it is), then that pretty much sums up how this movie is required watching. Sure, at times it can be awkwardly heavy-handed, but overall, Kubrick balances stunning action sequences, gorgeous cinematography, a killer soundtrack, amazing dialogue and characters, and hard-hitting emotional resonance in a way that pretty much no one else can. This 1987 story of a few poor fucks stuck in Vietnam is as entertaining as it's ever been, and now, perhaps, even more relevant than it's ever been. Go. ERIK HENRIKSEN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Francisco Goya was one of the greatest painters of all time—no hyperbole. Best known for his nightmarish paintings of drowning dogs and Saturn eating his young, Goya was an absolute visionary—but by no means does this predicate an interesting biopic. Director Milos Forman apparently agrees, and instead, uses the backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition to craft a dark and gripping film about the painter (Stellan Skarsgård), his teenage harlot muse Inés (Natalie Portman), and Brother Lorenzo (Javier Bardem), a duplicitous member of the Inquisition's torture committee. Early in, it becomes clear that Goya's Ghosts has a lot to say about what's going on in the world today: Debates are waged over the credence of confessions induced by torture, and when Napoleon's army invades Spain, the soldiers are told they will be greeted as liberators. (My favorite political jab: casting doofus Randy Quaid as the roguish head of state.) But it's not all ham-fisted political parable—the plot moves along briskly, and never wallows in Girl with a Pearl Earring cheesy indulgence. CHAS BOWIE Hollywood Theatre.
A blend of John Waters' original 1988 film and the 2002 Broadway musical. Shiny, colorful, and cheerful, the new version is all about the energy and good times—even the segregation issues at the story's heart are treated as little more than a pesky buzzkill. Still, its enthusiasm is infectious, and the campy satire is in full swing. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages
If real-life Wiccans looked like Willow from Buffy, this screening would be the place to be! Sadly, they do not.Tin Shed Garden Cafe.
I fucking hate it when people use the word "random" to mean "weird." Sometimes it refers to a person ("He is totally random!") or becomes an adverb ("I randomly ate some frozen yogurt!"). At the screening of Hot Rod, a loud idiot sat behind me. He declared the movie to be "so random!" at least five times. He loved it. Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg), aspiring stuntman, yearns to win the respect of his dying stepdad, Frank (Ian McShane), through hand-to-hand combat ("Ultimate punch!"). Samberg's faux-stache and shaggy bravado are charming, and his cronies have their moments. An excellently douchey Will Arnett is squandered—oh, heartbreak!—with only about 15 seconds of screen time. But the silly kills the funny. Every time things get rolling, some guy starts doing a ridiculous dance for no reason. Or Rod and his brother incessantly repeat the words "cool beans." Or Ebenezer Scrooge appears. "What the fuck is Ebenezer Scrooge?" yelled the loud idiot behind me, "That is SO RANDOM!" Ugh. Shut up. (But I can't disagree.) LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Despite sounding like the plot to the best gay porn you never rented—two firefighting buddies (one of whom is a bear) turn up the heat at the firehouse when they reveal their true feelings for each other—I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is just another in a long line of mainstream comedies that specialize in gay jokes for people who, most likely, hate gay people. Much like last year's horrific Wild Hogs, this latest film from Adam Sandler—and to a lesser extent Kevin James, a man forever typecast as the fat friend—is a limp parade of wacky gay jokes aimed at a target market who prefers their gays to be played by a pair of goofy straight guys. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
Kansas City Bomber
During the height of roller derby—back in the '70s—there were piles of cheesy films documenting the craze. Most were B-movie fare, banking on cat fights, skimpy roller girl outfits, and daring spills on the racetrack. Kansas City Bomber—about a skater with the same nickname, AKA K.C., played by Raquel Welch—honors that derby-film tradition by showcasing K.C.'s torrid affairs and bitter rivalries, but steps it up a bit to make it worth watching. The acting isn't nearly as awful as most derby flicks (even a teeny Jodie Foster makes an appearance as K.C.'s daughter), and part of it is set in 1970s Portland, Oregon! AMY J. RUIZ Hotel deLuxe.
Strictly speaking, this film isn't a re-creation of Lady Chatterley's Lover—D.H. Lawrence wrote three versions, the last being the most famous, and this film is based on the second (John Thomas and Lady Jane). Still, you couldn't ask for a more tender or elegant take on Lawrence's story than French director Pascale Ferran's film Lady Chatterley: The achingly slow build, beautiful camera work, and stark sensuousness make this adaptation a quiet thing of beauty. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
The Last Legion
Says IMDB.com: "As the Roman empire crumbles, young Romulus Augustus flees the city and embarks on a perilous voyage to Britain to track down a legion of supporters." Why do we have to rely on IMDB.com's synopsis? 'Cause The Last Legion wasn't screened for critics, that's why. Various Theaters.
Live Free or Die Hard
The good news about Live Free or Die Hard: Despite being the oldest person in the cast by about 20 years, BRUCE WILLIS IS STILL AWESOME. Here, Willis has some great action sequences and a few killer jokes—at his best, he makes this entry as fun as the previous three. But now for the not-so-good news: Live Free or Die Hard, with its annoying PG-13 rating and light, funny tone, isn't nearly as intense or cool as the series' earlier, better movies. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Seven applicants for a high-profile corporate job are isolated in a room and subjected to a divisive series of tests designed to wean out the weakest candidates. The shifting matrix of alliances and betrayals recalls a reality TV show, only with a better script and more compelling characters, and the film is made all the more interesting by the juxtaposition of these backroom corporate machinations with a massive street protest taking place outside the building. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
No End in Sight
You're forgiven for being fatigued by the unrelenting incompetence of the Bush war machine, and especially fatigued by the redundant reiterations of that incompetence by ever-multiplying documentarians. Given the obviousness, ubiquitousness, and hopelessness of the situation, does the world really need another Iraq War documentary? As it turns out, it may have only needed one. No End in Sight hardly unveils any information that hasn't been covered in countless documentaries, and feels largely like a solid primer on the invasion. But it is the first that has relied extensively, almost exclusively, on intelligence officials, military commanders, and former members of the Bush administration. Not long into the film, one gets the sense that these people are speaking to director Charles Ferguson as a way to atone for their participation in the bungled mess that has turned a nation into a sea of chaos. SCOTT MOORE Fox Tower 10.
Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is an uptight chef who becomes guardian of her young niece after her sister is killed. She has no idea how to take care of a kid—but when free-spirited, opera-singing Nick (Aaron Eckhart) is hired as her sous chef, trite and predictable things ensue. All of this relies on the supposed charm of Zeta-Jones, who's about as personable as a brick of raw tofu. Meanwhile, Eckhart gives one of the most stomach-churning performances in recent memory. (Advice to all aging, leather-faced leading men: Feathered hair does not a heartthrob make.) There is an undeniably sensual element to eating that can lend itself well to films about food—but here, food is simply the plot device that allows Zeta-Jones to smoosh her face against Eckhart's. So unless that's the direction your sensual pleasures lie, stay away from this one. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Those who make their living putting words down on a page are loathe to admit it, but nevertheless, it's true: Sometimes, words aren't enough. Merely describing the appeal and beauty of Satoshi Kon's Paprika can't quite be done—sure, I can tell you about the stunningly detailed animation, the overwhelming colors, the way that Paprika's hand-drawn characters convey their weight and personalities and movements as effortlessly as if they were real-life actors, and about how there are a few sequences in which music, movement, and color align as beautifully as they have in anything else I've seen. But it's not quite enough. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
Cru Jones (a dead ringer for Luke Skywalker, and just as whiny) wants to win a BMX race called Helltrack in order to win the heart of Full House's Becky Katsopolis. It's the kind of movie where people applaud when some asshole bursts into senior prom and starts dancing on his bike to "Send Me An Angel." It's hard to believe a generation of 10-year-olds didn't kill themselves from embarrassment in 1986. SCOTT MOORE Clinton Street Theater.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
There might be a better movie to watch outdoors on a nice summer night, but if there is, I sure as hell can't think of it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Park.
The Real Dirt on Farmer John
The last in his line, "Farmer John" Peterson works the Illinois land that's been family-owned since the Depression. But he's not your average farmer: After his father died in the '60s, Farmer John came back from college with his hippie friends and turned the place into a commune. Now middle-aged, he's a real-deal, hardworking farmer, but still a freak, doing whatever the fuck he wants. Of course, his intolerant neighbors in the farm community want him GONE. And The Real Dirt on Farmer John details this epic struggle, and the fight when his business tanked in the '80s, but it also tells the story of American farming's slow death, and of determination, and how old values can actually jibe well with weirdness. Beautifully shot. Heartbreakingly sad. Funny as shit. A+. ADAM GNADE Hollywood Theatre.
For its first third, there's little to separate Werner Herzog's latest from the plethora of "based on a true story" flicks about noble American servicemen surviving under dire circumstances, from the Buckheimer-approved bombast of Black Hawk Down to the rah-rah patriotism of Behind Enemy Lines. But this is Herzog, so give it the benefit of the doubt: Dieter Dengler (Bale) is a pilot who gets shot down over Laos. Quickly captured and stuck in a POW camp, Dengler meets a bunch of disheartened captives—including the batshit crazy Gene deBruin (Jeremy Davies) and the psychologically fragile but loveable Duane Martin (Zahn). Taking a dangerous risk, Dengler plots a breakout. It's here, in Rescue Dawn's characters, that Herzog really gets going. What unfolds is a sometimes funny, sometimes tense, sometimes moving story about men attempting to survive their captors, allies, and selves. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Rush Hour 3
I'm sure you know the ridiculous formula: Chris Tucker sings falsetto; Jackie Chan tries to stay awake through the final stage of his career; and the two of them close the movie by singing the song "War (What Is it Good For?)" at the base of the Eiffel Tower. But taken with just the most rudimentary level of analysis, Tucker, the movie's "loveable" star, is the embodiment of America's crass, violent arrogance. Early in the movie, we learn that he's in trouble with his police sergeant for illegally imprisoning American doctors of Iranian descent. His defense? "You know they looked like terrorists! Just because they cured cancer in a bunch of mice doesn't mean they aren't planning to blow shit up, too!" (Big audience laugh here). Later, when Tucker and Chan run into some surprisingly well-articulated anti-Americanism in Paris, Tucker's character puts a pistol to a Frenchman's head and makes him sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at gunpoint. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
Hitchcock's 1942 film about a man (Robert Cummings) on the run. The Press Club.
"Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my concentration. You're distracting me. And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. You understand?" Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Simpsons Movie
As any fan worth his weight in Squishees knows, The Simpsons has been in a holding pattern for nearly a decade. Sunday nights are no longer dominated by The Simpsons' presence, and while it hasn't fallen off completely, its finest days are long past. So the only question about The Simpsons Movie is: What took so damn long? Unfortunately, the film doesn't have an answer for that one. Instead, The Simpsons Movie is the equivalent of one really long episode—87 minutes long, to be exact—and while it's not horrible by any means, it's far from the quality of the landmark early years of the series. Longtime producer David Silverman, who's been with the show since the Tracy Ullman days, directs the film, doing everything in his power to keep it close to the standard Simpsons template: Homer gets hurt by things, Bart is bad, Lisa is a know-it-all, Marge worries, and Nelson says "Ha-ha." The end, roll credits. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
Stand by Me
Watch Stand by Me again and marvel at the latent homosexuality between Gordie (Wil Wheaton) and Chris (River Phoenix). These two troubled tweens spend the whole movie hanging back from the gang, whispering secrets, crying on each other's shoulder, sharing long, meaningful glances, and willing themselves not to pick leeches off each other's wangs—no matter how badly they want to. CHAS BOWIE Pioneer Courthouse Square.
More My Little Pony than The Lord of the Rings, Stardust is a lighthearted comic fantasy romance apparently made by and for 12-year-old girls. There's plenty of heart and humor to be found in Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' illustrated novel, on which Stardust is based; problem is, director Matthew Vaughan can't quite balance the tricky job of gently mocking the clichés of the fantasy genre while simultaneously making a film that's crammed full of them. From a narrative perspective, the film stalls for a good hour in the middle, with dubious character motivations, goofy romance, and the schemes of an eeeeevil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) never quite gelling together. Just for good measure, there's also an all-too-brief appearance by Ricky Gervais, a slew of slapsticky ghosts who're friendlier than Casper, and—in surely the biggest "what the fuck?" moment in a film with more than its fair share—a prancing, cross-dressing, lisping, fabulously gay sky pirate played by Robert De Niro. (No, really—the fuck? Can someone please explain any of this to me? Anyone?) ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Stepford Wives
1975's bizarre, unsuccessful flick about suburban malaise, gender roles, and, yes, robots. Still, it's better than Nicole Kidman's 2004 remake. ERIK HENRIKSEN Pix Patisserie (North).
The latest from director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland (who previously collaborated on the mostly awesome 28 Days Later and the pretty crappy The Beach), Sunshine takes place 50 years from now, with a barren Earth frozen by a solar winter: The sun is dying, and humanity finds itself staring down a cold, dark death. Humanity has just one plan, and it is desperate and flawed: Loading a huge bomb onto a spaceship, the Icarus II, a small team of scientists will attempt to jumpstart the sun. To give away more of the plot would be a disservice; suffice to say that (A) things go wrong, and (B) Boyle and Garland use their relatively simple concept to delve into themes ranging from religion to sanity to sacrifice. But mostly, Sunshine is a tense, drawn-out thriller. Despite a strange spell in which Boyle decides to briefly turn the smart Sunshine in to a dumb slasher flick, he's patient and clever, and the film plays out with a sense of both inexorable doom and dumb hope. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
Every girl I've ever known really, really likes 1995's Tank Girl, and I guess as a sort of post-punk, comic book- and anime-influenced, post-apocalyptic sort of statement on teenage grrrl power, I sort of get where they're coming from. But perhaps because of my gender, I've never been able to get past the supreme annoyingness of Lori Petty, nor the fact that Ice-T spends the entire film in heavy prosthetics as some sort of humanoid kangaroo. This movie always just irritated/weirded me right the fuck out. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
See review. Cinema 21.
Walter Hill's classic 1979 action flick about NYC gangs, killin', and, naturally, survivin'. It is excellent. ERIK HENRIKSEN Clinton Street Theater.
Young, Jewish, and Left
A film that "goes beyond" the issues of Israel and Zionism, "providing a fresh and constructive take on race, spirituality, queerness, resistance, justice, and liberation." Not screened for critics. Liberty Hall.