Akeelah and the Bee
Akeelah and the Bee is the first Hollywood film (surely there are more coming) to get a huge push from a new entertainment arm of Starbucks, so it should come as no surprise that the multinational corporation that produces creamy, inspirational, supposedly virtuous drinks has chosen to back this creamy, inspirational, supposedly virtuous movie. It is so crammed with sticky-sweet virtue that the stuff is practically coming out through the straw hole and sliding down the side. (Christopher Frizzelle) Laurelhurst, Kennedy School, Bagdad Theater, Academy Theater
An American Haunting
Surprise, surprise. Another crappy-looking horror movie that wasn't screened for critics. Avalon, Milwaukie Cinema, Bagdad Theater
Art School Confidential
Director Terry Zwigoff and comic artist/writer Daniel Clowes explore post-adolescent ennui in this adaptation of Clowes' frequently hilarious (and uncannily accurate) satire of art school pretension. I spent the first half of the movie thinking that this would certainly be the best comedy of 2006—and then, the second half struck. There's no accounting for how far off the tracks Confidential gets; instead of hilarious satire, Clowes and Zwigoff serve up bad subplots and histrionic protagonists. Seems like these two need to go back (wait for it) to the drawing board! (Chas Bowie) Fox Tower 10, Cinemagic
The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress
Brought to you by the people who made Outfoxed, and... uh, that other one about Iraq, this agitdoc's about Tom DeLay and the Republicans in Texas. The minutiae of DeLay's indictment for money laundering are woven together here, making it clear just how damaged his political goods are these days, while also asking how many more laws Texas Republicans will have to flout before they all get sent to jail. After half an hour, you'll get the idea—but the ridiculous accents, outfits, and some intriguing plastic surgery are enough to keep you watching. Texas is frightening—did you know they don't recycle anything there?! (Matt Davis) Clinton Street Theater
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) Laurelhurst, Academy Theater
The Century Plaza
Here's what reality TV should really be about: A cinematic tour of a down-and-out hotel and interviews with the forlorn residents (sort of like a big-screen version of Street Roots). The fact that the hotel, the now-closed Century Plaza, happens to be in Portland only makes their stories more acute and immediate—perhaps you've bumped into the redheaded stripper or the blubbery sex offender or the drug-addled Mormon. At times, the interviews are tedious and wandering, but overall the film is an important, unblinking look at our city's most needy. Director in attendance at both screenings. (Phil Busse) Clinton Street Theater
See review this issue. Cinema 21
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
CSA: The Confederate States of America
Shot like a PBS or History Channel special, CSA shows an alternate American present, where the south won the Civil War, African Americans are still held as slaves, and abolitionists are treated as enemies to freedom. CSA is darkly funny, uncomfortable, and infuriating all at once—meaning I recommend it wholeheartedly. (Scott Moore) Hollywood Theatre
The Da Vinci Code
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Nerd Edition. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
A documentary about Tanzania's Lake Victoria, and how the lake's native stock was quickly wiped out after the introduction of the predatory fish the Nile perch. Darwin's Nightmare examines both the far-flung effects of this move as well as the ways that the perch have affected the daily lives of those living next to the lake. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Days of Heaven
A new print of Terrence Malick's 1978 film about itinerant workers, love triangles, and cons. Hollywood Theatre
District B 13
France's District B 13 is probably the first film to combine George Orwell, parkour, and kung fu, but what's more surprising than that unlikely amalgamation is how well it works. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
The Face of Another
Hiroshi Teshigahara's "chilling psychological thriller" about a horribly disfigured man who gets a new face. C'mon, snobby art film lovers! Just watch Face/Off already. Whitsell Auditorium
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Tokyo Drift is a giggly videogame of a flick, with hot CG, tight direction, Sonny Chiba as a menacing Yakuza boss, and plenty of sweet cars and sweet ass. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Essentially a film about a film, Following Sean revisits the original Sean—a 1969 film that director Ralph Arlyck made during his brief residence on Cole Street at Haight, with the famous hippie renaissance in full swing around him. Arlyck took footage of Sean, a four-year-old boy who lived upstairs from him in a quintessential hippie pad; the film went on to garner a great deal of attention because of how the tot casually spoke about his marijuana use, made anti-cop statements, and expressed a dislike for speed addicts. Following Sean revisits the footage, the scene, and the subject 30-some years later, as well as turning the camera on Arlyck's own story over the years. What results is far more interesting than a narrow view of the era itself: a sociological study of families and generations that span the American coasts, and that contain both the averages and extremes of cultural politics and lifestyles. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood Theatre
Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties
It's funny how sometimes just looking at a title can cause physical pain. Regal Cinemas, etc.
An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth is workmanlike and clumsy at times—but it's also hugely invigorating. Tracking Al Gore's global-warming lecture as he schleps his Apple laptop across the country and to China, it's a collection of scientific facts and correlations made urgent through human drama and low-tech slide-show magic. It should be required viewing for every American citizen. And if it kicks up a storm of speculation regarding Al Gore's political prospects in 2008? So much the better. (Annie Wagner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
IT (Independent Tuesdays)
Nocturnal's homemade film and video event—now at Acme! Acme
The awesome Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Lola, a brassy transvestite who teams up with shoemaker Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) to save a small English shoe company—by creating a line of boots that have transvestite-y style but are strong enough to support a man's weight. It's all pretty hackneyed (even though it's ostensibly based on a true story, it all feels painstakingly contrived), but the performances of Ejiofor and Edgerton save it. (Erik Henriksen) Academy Theater, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater
See review this issue. Cinema 21
The Lake House
Based on the 2000 South Korean film Siworae, The Lake House follows Alex (Keanu Reeves) and Kate (Sandra Bullock), both of whom live in a beautiful, Frank Lloyd Wright-esque house that's made almost entirely of glass, and sits, perched on stilts, above a lake. Weird thing is, Alex and Kate aren't living there at the same time—they communicate through letters, and as far as they can tell, Kate's living in 2006, while Alex is in 2004. The Lake House's first act is surprisingly solid and interesting, something that the filmmakers desperately try to remedy halfway through by turning the thing into an embarrassingly stupid and syrupy mess. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Lost City
Andy Garcia's drama about a man who gets caught up in Fidel Castro's Communist Revolution. Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10
MySpace Indie Film and Music Festival
A screening of The Quality of Life, a drama about two friends "facing the prospect of doing hard time for graffiti writing in San Francisco," followed by a performance from the band Delinquent Monastery. Shit--MySpace is everywhere. Bagdad Theater
Napoleon Dynamite's director, Jared Hess, teams up again with his wife, Jerusha, and Mike White for Nacho Libre, in which everything feels exactly like Napoleon Dynamite: There's the semi-retarded but loveable titular character, the semi-retarded but loveable sidekick, the constant tone of deadpan weirdness, and—just as in Napoleon—one's never sure if the Hess duo is mocking or sympathizing with their protagonists. Scene by scene, Nacho feels like a south-of-the-border version of the tired, annoying Napoleon, a formula that could be a lot worse, but could also be a lot better. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Neil Young: Heart of Gold
This is Jonathan Demme's first concert film since the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, one of the greatest live music movies ever. But Sense was a visual film, with amazing slideshows, props, and a singer who pioneered the post-punk spaz out. Heart of Gold? A bunch of old dudes standing in place, singing harmony. (Chas Bowie) Laurelhurst, Cinemagic, Academy Theater
The Notorious Bettie Page
Shot almost entirely in black and white, this biopic—starring Gretchen Mol as Bettie Page—lets you tag along with the infamous pin-up girl as she ventures from Nashville, Tennessee to New York City, where she begins her modeling career in the 1950s. Though the film portrays Page as a naïve girl who didn't quite understand what her racy bondage poses really meant (she thought she was just having fun in costumes, the film argues), it's still an engaging peek into the life of a pop culture icon. (Amy Jenniges) St. Johns Pub, Kennedy School
John Moore directs this remake of 1976's horror masterpiece. Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) is a child who's born into a family of influence—but as the creepy kid grows older, his satanic origins become apocalyptically apparent. Usually, the issue with these remakes is that they stray from the original, cramming in cheap scares and CGI wizardry. Amazingly, this Omen achieves both a stale approach and insulting jump frights/voyeuristic gore—at best, there's about two new lines of dialogue and some more animal violence. Oh, I guess there's one other new thing here: pathetic performances. As Damien's mother, teen heavyweight Julia Stiles is roughly as convincing in her motherly convictions as Britney Spears. (Jenna Roadman) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Point Blank (1967)
No, not John Cusack. Yes, Lee Marvin! Laurelhurst
Here's another one for the Mercury conflict-of-interest file: Loosely based on a long-running column of the same name in our sister paper to the north, The Stranger, the Sundance-screened Police Beat is the story of a lovelorn, Africa-born bike cop responding to a series of crime vignettes based on actual Seattle police reports. Mercury contributor Charles Mudede wrote the film and he also happened to be my editor when I worked at The Stranger; furthermore, some years ago I briefly dated the film's female lead, recent Portland-import Anna Oxygen. Now that that's all out of the way: Directed by Robinson Devor (who also directed the masterful The Woman Chaser), Police Beat works best as a visual love letter to the city in which it takes place—a beautifully shot exploration of Seattle's secret beauty. When it comes to narrative, the film flounders as often as it succeeds—its subtle humor often falls flat in the hands of its seemingly untrained cast. The film's many pretensions (primarily the choice to narrate virtually all of the film in subtitles) can be endearing and off-putting in equal measure, but as a whole, it's pleasantly uneven. How's that for impartial? (Zac Pennington) Whitsell Auditorium
A Prairie Home Companion
Back when The Simpsons was funny, they had a great gag about PBS' A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Garrison Keillor. Homer, et al., were sitting on the couch, watching Keillor tell his supposedly comedic stories. Stone-faced, the Simpsons couldn't figure out why the TV audience was in fits over Keillor; finally, Homer stood up and banged on the TV: "Be more funny!" he shouted, confused and angry. So let's give Homer the benefit of the doubt: If broken technology is why A Prairie Home Companion is so dull on PBS (and equally so on NPR), then that means there are a whole bunch of lousy projectors in America's movie theaters—because Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion film is even duller. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Puffy Chair
An amalgamation of Garden State and... well, any road-trip movie you've ever seen, The Puffy Chair is a late-20s quarter-life crisis journey. Which, I know, sounds like it'd be awful to sit through. Okay, let me start over: This film is cute, yet bittersweet, pulling off twentysomething angst in a genuine, lighthearted (yet not irreverent) fashion. (Amy Jenniges) Fox Tower 10
See Film on pg. 49. (Erik Henriksen) Cinema 21
Warner Bros.' mega-budgeted film about a space alien who's terrified of green rocks. Opens on Wednesday, June 28—at which point you can hit portlandmercury.com for our review. Regal Cinemas, etc., OMSI IMAX
Third Annual One-Minute Film Festival
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 19. Holocene
Twelve and Holding
You think you get it at first: a standard snooze of a summer coming-of-age story, complete with bullies, bikes, a tree house, and a fat kid who loves Cheetos. But five minutes in, Twelve and Holding takes a turn for the macabre and you realize you have never been more wrong. Conversational and smooth, heightened but not cartoony, the film accelerates firmly and joyously toward the fucked up at every juncture, in a string of beautiful, failed catharses. (Lindy West) Hollywood Theatre
If every work of art is an emotional manipulation (one that we invite in willingly, hoping to be changed for the better, to have our view of life expanded, or to have our imagination stretched), then United 93, which divides its time between the 9/11 flight that crashed near Shanksville, PA and the air traffic control workers in New York and Boston, is the dirty player at the party—the one who forgoes the rules of engagement, courtesy, or boundaries. Shot with a handheld immediacy, United 93 succeeds at every goal director Paul Greengrass sets out to accomplish—but he doesn't have any thesis or point, besides "Watch this. Don't look away. Don't blink." The biggest question, though, is this: Why do we collectively invite this storyteller into our homes? (Chas Bowie) Laurelhurst, Avalon, Milwaukie Cinema, Academy Theater
Tyrese Gibson plays an ex-con whose son gets kidnapped. Not screened in time for press; check next week's Mercury for our film short. Century Eastport 16, Division Street
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10