All the President's Men
1976's excellent film about those crazy dudes who broke Watergate. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two reporters almost single-handedly responsible for bringing down Nixon; not only is this film more tense and frightening than any thriller out there, but its ramifications are as powerful as ever... nah, never mind. Like that Watergate/conspiracy/deceiving the American public sort of shit could ever happen again! (Erik Henriksen) Laurelhurst
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) Academy Theater, Laurelhurst, Bagdad Theater, Mission Theater
Bandits vs. Samurai Squadron
Samurai hijinx! Whitsell Auditorium
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert collaborated on this intentionally dizzy mess of a movie, which, as my friend recently pointed out, is the closest Hollywood has ever come to Bollywood (without going over). Beyond offers a little T, a little A, and a whole lot of "Oh!" featuring a guest appearance by the great Strawberry Alarm Clock (performing "Incense and Peppermints" and "I'm Coming Home"). (Sean Nelson) Fifth Avenue Cinemas
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre
Click is a movie about what happens when Adam Sandler gets a remote control that lets him control his life—he can fast-forward through fights with his wife, or turn down the volume on his barking dog. I can hear critics' lame swipes already: "You'll wish you could fast-forward through this movie!" "If only we could rewind to when Adam Sandler was in good movies!" "You'll want to change the channel as soon as this movie starts!" Stupid as they are, all those comments are true. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Devil Wears Prada
First, the clothes: The Devil Wears Prada's costume designer, Patricia Field, sails in on her Sex and the City cred to whip up a populist but appealing parade of sartorial eye candy (which, interestingly, turns out to be very much in the vein of what Teen Vogue was doing in last year's "Back to School" issue, but with higher heels). As for the film itself, it's as fresh faced and middling as you would imagine, given its basis in a chick-lit story by Lauren Weisberger, whose novel is a pseudo-biographical tell-all about Condé Nast-y's queen bee, Vogue Editor Anna Wintour (Meryl Streep). Regal Cinemas, etc.
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) Laurelhurst
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) Division Street, Movies on TV
The Flowers of St. Francis
Due to the aftershocks of watching the World Cup for days on end, Roberto Rossellini's 1950 The Flowers of St. Francis smacked of football to me. Sure the film's a crude reenactment of the life and tribulations of St. Francis and his brotherly followers, but wait a minute, there's 11 Italians cavorting around a field in funny outfits. Sound familiar? Then there're the loving facial caresses and brotherly hugs. And that's followed by sissified crying fits when something doesn't go right. But the pièce de résistance is when St. Francis delivers a vicious head butt to his opponent... okay, that didn't happen, but there was a scene where a bunch of heathens played jump rope with a limp-as-a-noodle monk. That was cool. (Courtney Ferguson) Whitsell Auditorium
Buster Keaton's 1927 film, with live organ accompaniment. Hollywood Theatre
Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 samurai flick starring Tatsuya Nakadai. Whitsell Auditorium
The Heart of the Game
The Roosevelt Roughriders—a Seattle high school girls' basketball team—spent seven years under quirky new coach Bill Resler, trying to win the state championship. They faced plenty of adversity along the way: A tough cross-town rival, the Garfield Bulldogs, crushing first round losses in the championship tournament, intra-team squabbles, and a state interscholastic association that tried to bar the team's star player, Darnelia Russell, from rejoining the team after she skipped a year of school to have a baby. A sports documentary that bears a striking resemblance to Hoop Dreams, The Heart of the Game is amazing, thanks to the obvious dedication of Resler and the talented band of kickass young women he inspired. (Amy Jenniges) Fox Tower 10
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.
Gael García Bernal plays Elvis, a young man fresh out of the Navy. Heading to Corpus Christi, Texas, he tracks down someone he's never met: his father, David Sandow (Hurt). But David is now a pastor, and he callously blows off Elvis' hopeful gestures, claiming he fathered Elvis "before I became a Christian." Content, David retreats back to his family and his routine—unaware that the single-minded, fervent Elvis can't let things go so easily. Fifteen minutes into The King, I realized I was probably watching one of the best films I'd see all year. That resolution didn't quite hold up—The King squanders a bit of its potential with a final act that doesn't quite click—but regardless, it's still one of the most riveting, intense, and disquieting films in recent memory. (Erik Henriksen) Hollywood Theatre
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.
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man
See review this issue. Cinema 21
This Oscar-contender wasn't screened in time for our print edition—but hit portlandmercury.com on Thursday, July 13 for Chas Bowie's review. Regal Cinemas, etc.
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.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Second verse, same as the first: Just like the first Pirates, this is big, messy, loud, nonsensical, pretty, fast, fun stuff. I mean, there's a fucking awesome giant sea monster! And: There are undead pirates who sail underneath the waves, who—thanks to some pretty amazing CG and make-up—have physically melded with creepy sea creatures. And: Ludicrous, Looney Tunes-worthy action sequences, Johnny Depp's inimitable charm, and a balls-out, near-perfect mix of action and comedy. Yeah, not all of it works, but that's kind of the point. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
A selection from the Northwest Film Center's press release for this event: "Exposé has little claim on the real facts (or great cinema) but its nostalgic vistas, local references, and low-budget melodrama provide a curious, if not amusing, glimpse of Portland 50 years ago." Wow. Sounds like they're pretty stoked about the movie, huh? Hotel deLuxe
If you like watching people bonk their heads and drown for 90 minutes, then stop reading now, race to the theater, stuff your fat face with popcorn, and enjoy the shit out of Poseidon. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
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 Wild Bunch set in the Australian outback, The Proposition is a grisly, fly-infested nightmare of violence and revenge. Though unrelentingly dour, the acting and cinematography is reason enough to see the "anti-feel good movie of the year." (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Academy Theater
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 20-something angst in a genuine, lighthearted (yet not irreverent) fashion. (Amy Jenniges) Fox Tower 10
After Otto's (Emilo Estevez) life takes a quick tumble into the crapper, he gets a job repossessing cars. Craziness ensues in this 1984 comedy. Clinton Street Theater
A Scanner Darkly
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break them for no one. Clinton Street Theater
Strangers with Candy
For those just joining us, Strangers was a wickedly funny show that ran on Comedy Central for three seasons. It featured the talents of David Sedaris' funnier sister, Amy, as ex-crack whore Jerri Blank who returns after a stint in prison to finish high school. A clear parody of the ABC After-School Specials, Strangers put a hilarious spin on such heavy teen issues as drug abuse, body image, and mental retardation. Though barely watched by mainstream America, Strangers was an absolute hit on the fringe, with pickle-jar tight direction, and an average of three laugh-out-loud jokes per minute. Which makes it really uncomfortable for me to relay the news that the Strangers with Candy movie... well... kind of sucks. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Fox Tower 10
There are some unforgettable, breathtaking moments in Bryan Singer's mega-expensive, mega-hyped redux of the Man of Steel—all the pieces are here, and in bits, Superman Returns works quite well. But when Singer combines these elements, his film never manages to gel: The script ebbs and flows with lame plot devices and needless characters; it's easily 15 minutes too long; and it ends with an unsatisfying whimper. And, when all's said and done, Superman remains a distant, untouchable outsider—like Singer's film, he fails to summon much enthusiasm, in spite of all his unforgettable, breathtaking feats. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
V for Vendetta
Based on Alan Moore and David Lloyd's dark, powerful comic book series, V's the story of a terrorist who wears a stylized Guy Fawkes mask as he sows dissent in a fascist Britain. The cynical, deceptively simple story—which is adapted here via a screenplay by the Wachowski Brothers, recovering nicely from their Matrix sequel stumbles—was impressive when published in the '80s, and has only gained more relevance—a thought that's at once terrifying and enlightening. (Erik Henriksen) Laurelhurst
Tyrese Gibson plays an ex-con whose son gets kidnapped. I swear to god: I tried to send like 15 different people to review this movie, but nobody would touch it. Maybe that's because this movie looks retarded. Maybe my writers are lazy. Maybe I'm a horrible editor. I don't know. What I do know is that Waist Deep is giving me way more grief than it should, and thus I have grown to hate it. (Erik Henriksen) Lloyd Mall
The latest result of Larry Clark's seemingly endless fascination with the underbelly of teenage life, Wassup Rockers concerns a cadre of charming Latino skate punks from South Central (played, naturally, by a cadre of Latino skate punks from South Central). What at first seems to be what one would expect—a Kids-eque verité meets Boyz n the Hood meets skateboarding Ecuadorian kids—becomes much more complicated, as it veers into a lighthearted adventure, with the boys blazing a trail of destruction through Beverly Hills, horny rich people and cops in constant pursuit. Suddenly, Clint Eastwood shows up for a surreal cameo, authentic tragedy ensues, almost immediately followed by absurd tragedy, then back to adventure, etc. The jerking around from mood to mood is more discomfiting than any of the content, but it sure is an entertaining ride. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10
Who Killed the Electric Car?
Have you ever cried over a car, one that wasn't even your own? You might, if you see this movie. Evil forces—General Motors, "big oil," consumers, the media, politicians, Hummers, etc—conspired to kill off the cute, zippy, and ultra-green electric car, the EV1. The slaughter was merciless: Every last (perfectly useful) car is pulled off the streets and junked, despite protests of proud owners. This smart documentary explores the EV1's demise, and takes a look at the new technologies (hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells) that don't come anywhere close to fillings its short-lived shoes. Director in attendance. (Amy Jenniges) Hollywood Theatre
There's no other way to say it: Crossword fanatics are some of the biggest nerds to ever walk the Earth. Which makes them the perfect subjects for a documentary. And that documentary is Wordplay, a shockingly entertaining film about the phenomenon of crossword obsession—featuring celebrities, puzzle writers, and world champions. (Scott Moore) Fox Tower 10
X-Men: The Last Stand
Bryan Singer's X-Men films were clever, heartfelt, and laced with disquieting social and political undertones. But Brett Ratner, who directs this, the third film in the franchise, seems to think that if he makes this X-Men faster and louder than its predecessors, maybe the audience won't notice that it's a whole lot dumber. (Erik Henriksen) Division Street, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV
You, Me, and Dupree
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Young People's Film & Video Festival
Film, video, animation, and dramas—all by kids in grades K-12! This sort of thing is always a hoot, and probably better than half the films showing at Regal Cinemas. A selection of the Northwest Film & Video Festival. Whitsell Auditorium