All About Eve
In this hilariously cynical satire of Broadway theater, Anne Baxter stars as an aspiring starlet who claws her way up the ladder on the back of aging starlet Bette Davis. (Don't worry! Straight people will like it too!) Fifth Avenue Cinemas
The Ant Bully
Another CG kids' flick, with another slew of famous actors (Nicolas Cage, Paul Giamatti, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep)providing voices. This one, though, also boasts the buttery-smooth voice of the one and only Ricardo Montalban, whose name must always be written and said in italics: Ricardo Montalban. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Army of Shadows
This 1969 film is centered around the French resistance during the German occupation of WWII. Reflecting the fact that the people who made up this "army of shadows" were ordinary folks, there's no glamour or 007-type gadgetry—the film is bleak and slow, but the moments of drama, when they come, are all the more exciting. (One particularly excruciating scene involves the execution of a traitor, carried out by three bumbling operatives who don't know what they're doing. It's a scene reminiscent of someone's first crack at killing a chicken: They unnecessarily draw out the unpleasantness, haplessly torturing the victim out of ignorance.) While sometimes tediously slow, Army is a worthwhile reminder of a time when films were more ponderous than frenetic. It's a pseudo-educational specimen of historical fiction that doesn't go overboard to sensationalize the era—which could be repellent or attractive, depending on how your tastes run. (Marjorie Skinner) Cinema 21
The Mercury's learned critic of fine children's cinema, Kayla, declined Paramount Pictures' offer to see an early screening of this new CG kids' flick. We'd fire her, but she's six years old. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Below Sea Level Stories
A scattershot collection of short films dedicated to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina on people and property in New Orleans. It's a mixture of sorrow and rejuvenation, showcasing the resilient spirit of the residents of the city. Unfortunately, it's also a mixed-bag, quality-wise—with pointless photo collages mixed in with rather poignant film poems. (Scott Moore) Clinton Street Theater
The best and funniest film Smith's made since the first Clerks. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul
"A fascinating journey through the music and cultural scene in modern Istanbul." This better have that one song by The Might Be Giants in it. Whitsell Auditorium
Dead Man's Shoes
This shit is beautiful. It is a gorgeously shot film—all shaky hand-cams for the sketchy, aging drug dealers and long, diffused green, slow-panning pastoral shots as the vengeful Richard (In America's Paddy Considine) and his retarded-ish brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) ramble through broken-down Irish farmland and navigate grey, scarred city-scapes. Totally un-Hollywood, it's a film that loves the look of Ireland, but doesn't idealize anything. Instead it shows all the weeds and cracks and grease, as Richard reigns down holy hell on the men who wronged his brother. Richard's no hero, and his victims aren't really evil. It's a conflicted, quiet, disturbing story that defies revenge film stereotypes—and holds your attention right to the brutal, sudden end. (Adam Gnade) Hollywood Theatre
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
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) Laurelhurst
From Beijing with Love
If you're a fan of Stephen Chow's work (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer), don't miss this comedic spy-thriller/James Bond knock-off. Chow plays Ling Ling Chat (literally translated, that's "007"), a pork butcher who gets recruited to find a stolen dinosaur skull. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Chow proceeds to hilariously lampoon the spy genre, all while simultaneously feeding your need for overt violence and nonstop action. In spite of the cheese factor one comes to expect from Chow films, From Beijing with Love is great entertainment—and gives you a chance to check out one of Hong Kong's best director's early work. (Lance Chess) Hotel deLuxe
The new comedy from Ed Burns. Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10
Local animator Bill Plympton's film about high school in the '50s (and zombies) will be preceded by two of Plympton's short films, "Guide Dog" and the Oscar-nominated "Guard Dog." Mission Theater
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. 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, Cinemagic
See My, What a Busy Week!, pg. 19. Pioneer Courthouse Square
John Tucker Must Die
Where most teen movies delight with humor and quirks, and characters with at least a small amount of depth, John Tucker Must Die just doesn't cut it. It's a shell of the prototype, the bare minimum, hardly scraping by. If you feel like seeing some fine teen fun, do yourself a favor and rent Mean Girls instead. In fact, I own Mean Girls, and I think I'll go watch it right now. (Kaitlyn Burch) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Lady in the Water
Lady in the Water is, by all measures, a fairy tale, a story for kids; following a stuttering super at an apartment complex, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), the film wastes no time introducing its fantasy elements. There's the water nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard) who shows up in Cleveland's swimming pool, talking in annoying half-riddles about "the blue world" and asking if Cleveland feels "an awakening." Soon, there're enough fantastical elements to make a Dungeons & Dragons dweeb blush: evil dogs made out of plants, magical monkeys in nearby trees, giant eagles swooping through the sky. But writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's storytelling here is so cluttered and clunky and self-conscious that Lady in the Water is also, by nearly all measures, a failure. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Last Atomic Bomb
The last remaining survivors of America's WWII atomic attack on Japan talk about their experiences. The sadness and gore of it can be summed up by this line, spoken by a man who found his mangled, burned friend, who had something on his face: "I thought it was garbage, but it was actually an eyeball stuck to his face." Director Robert Richter in attendance; screens as a benefit for the Portland Alliance. (Scott Moore) Clinton Street Theater
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man
A superfluous big-screen tribute to the enigmatic croaker that vacillates between compelling Cohen interviews (the good), banal, somehow self-congratulatory musings from Bono (the bad), and live performances from a well-meaning, if questionably executed, 2005 Australian tribute concert (the unnecessary). These disparate elements are given thread by first-time director Lian Lunson's awkwardly heavy-handed editing choices, and conclude in a strangely anticlimactic (and clearly lip-synched) studio performance featuring Cohen backed by the members of U2. (An aside: How fucking arrogant does a person have to be to wear sunglasses when you're backing Leonard Cohen? Answer: Bono arrogant.) (Zac Pennington) Hollywood Theatre, Academy Theater
More like Miami NICE! (Adam Gnade and Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
So there's this woman and her husband and they build a house, but then she dies in the heart of it so the house is scary and it has a heart, and a chimney with smoke that comes out of it, and a big mouth. It has legs and arms and walks around, and these kids go in with a key but then it's pretty scary. Yeah, I liked this movie! You should go see it! But it was pretty scary. I had to hold my dad's hand for a lot of it. (Kayla, the Mercury's resident six-year-old) Regal Cinemas, etc.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Uma Thurman plays "G-Girl," AKA Jenny Johnson, nerdy assistant art curator by day, ravishing superhero by night. Jenny falls hard for easy-going Matt (Luke Wilson); problem is, Jenny is a total wack job: jealous, insecure, and controlling. When Matt dumps her, Jenny flips her shit in true Hell Hath No Fury style (she throws a great white shark through an apartment window, for chrissakes). The script teeters between superhero spoof and romantic comedy, and while I can't imagine anyone will be too surprised by the ending, the plot isn't really the point. The point is this: If you fuck with Uma Thurman, she will kill you. Possibly by throwing a shark into your apartment. (Alison Hallett) Century Eastport 16, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing
The Night Listener
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
In Only Human, a family comedy that's set in Lisbon, the multitude/people dynamic is set in the context of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. But the results are unsatisfying, with no moments or performances that redeem even a small part of it. (Charles Mudede) Hollywood Theatre
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
BMX sweetness! Clinton Street Theater
A Scanner Darkly
Philip K. Dick's writing is some seriously wacked-out stuff, happily walking a tightrope between comprehension and confusion, and veering into philosophic acrobatics as comfortably as it does visceral blows. Richard Linklater's note-by-note screenplay adaptation of his novel and inspired visuals nail Dick's fascinating plot and unsettling tone—throw in some dead-on performances, a soundtrack that flows with the prickly, urgent, and moving strains of Radiohead, and, for all its otherworldliness, A Scanner Darkly feels damningly prescient and tangible. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
Woody Allen's older, great comedies had an edge to them fueled mostly by his unrelenting anxiety and self-loathing. Now, he's comfortable in his skin, he finally likes himself, and the tension is gone. Remember how funny grandpa thought it was when he asked you to pull his finger? Scoop is like 90 minutes of that. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Shadowboxer has a number of startling sights. There's the sight of Cuba Gooding, Jr. bedding Helen Mirren in the middle of a forest. Of Stephen Dorff's flaccid and condom-bedecked sausage dangling post-coitus. Of a broken pool cue being plunged, sharp end first, into an unwilling cornhole. That last sight, thankfully, is snipped away from our eyes before it gets too grisly. But it speaks to just the sort of film Shadowboxer is: brutal, irrational, and unafraid of offending. The plot, paper-thin as it is, finds contract killers Rose (Mirren) and Mikey (Gooding, Jr.) at a crossroads in both lives and career; she's dying of cancer, he's little more than a killer robot in need of constant direction. When they're hired by lunatic Clayton (Dorff), via a third party, to kill off Clayton's family, things start to get silly. First-time director Lee Phillips employs and arsenal of visual gimmicks—everything from saturated colors to jelly on the lens—but no amount of gussying up can cover the fact that the story he has to tell lacks imagination. The tale of the hitman struggling to go legit is one we've seen a number of times (Grosse Pointe Blank, Panic, et al.), and even with Phillips's bizarre casting choices (don't get me started on Joseph Gordon-Levitt making out with Mo'Nique), Shadowboxer can't survive its own unoriginality. (Bradley Steinbacher) Fox Tower 10
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
Sword of Doom
Samurai hijinx! Whitsell Auditorium
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
See My, What a Busy Week!, pg. 19. Clinton Street Theater
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. Director Chris Paine explores the life and tragic death of GM's EV1, a zero-emission electric vehicle that hit the streets in the late '90s to meet California's tough new emissions standards—only to have nearly every car scooped up by the automaker a few years later as the California standard was rolled back. The sporty, perfectly useful cars were inexplicably corralled and crushed at the junkyard. (Amy Jenniges) (Amy Jenniges) Fox Tower 10
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
World Trade Center
Oliver Stone's entry into the inevitable (and recently burgeoning) genre of films about 9/11. For our review, pick up next week's Mercury—or, if you can't wait that long for your 9/11 fix, hit portlandmercury.com on Wednesday, August 9. Cinetopia
You, Me, and Dupree
Generally speaking, I can find something good to say about any movie—no matter how profoundly it may stink. But You, Me, and Dupree is such a fetid morass of mediocrity that it's beaten even me—Mr. "There's a Rainbow Around Every Corner." Wait... You know what? Goddammit, I'm not gonna let this film beat me. I'm going to push my optimism to its limit to locate one iota of worthiness in this reeking sieve. Why? Because in my heart, I refuse to believe a studio would put out something this bad without including at least one sliver of entertainment. Hold on... I GOT IT. Kate Hudson prances around in her underwear—TWICE. Whew. I thought for sure I'd completely wasted my time. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.