25TH REEL MUSIC FESTIVAL
When the deluxe DVD edition of the classic Bob Dylan documentary Don't Look Back was released last year, it was packaged with a bonus film: 65 Revisited. Forty years after rewriting the rules of documentary filmmaking with Don't Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker returned to his unused footage and cobbled together this decidedly lesser movie. Pennebaker foregrounds Dylan's performances more in the newer film, but the "rescued" fly-on-the-wall tour footage (the stuff that made Don't Look Back so great) should have been left on the cutting room floor. CHAS BOWIE
AMAZING JOURNEY: THE WHO
A film that chronicles the band's "continuing evolution." (SPOILER ALERT: One of them has evolved into a connoisseur of child pornography!)
THE LIFE OF A JAZZ SINGER
Anita O'Day was as good a jazz singer as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, yet her career went up and down like a private eye's blood pressure—thanks largely to a heroin addiction lasting 15 years. Despite a knockout voice and a mention in Kerouac's On The Road, O'Day languished in relative obscurity for most of her life. Asked about her various trials over the years—including booze, jail, rape, constantly being broke, and of course, her penchant for the brown stuff—O'Day simply responds: "That was just the way it went down." MATT DAVIS
BOB DYLAN LIVE AT NEWPORT
With oh so few exceptions (the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, R. Kelly's Light it Up Tour), nothing triggers my ADD faster than concert films. The Other Side of the Mirror compiles Dylan's best moments from the 1963-65 Newport Folk Fests, allowing us a time-lapse view of his transformation from earnest folkie to sneering rocker. Yep, the infamous show in which he went electric is included, and it does provide a certain historical thrill; unfortunately, you have to sit through way too many Joan Baez duets to get there. CHAS BOWIE
A documentary about Brazil's urban music, choro.
IN SEARCH OF MOZART
"An engaging biographical portrait and a master class in Mozart's collected works." Finally.
Noisy People, a documentary profiling experimental noise musicians in San Francisco, surprisingly manages to overcome its mediocre production values to provide an insightful, accessible portrait of a music scene that to most people is at best esoteric, and at worst, skin-crawlingly awful. Limiting its focus to the San Francisco scene, as opposed to other active hubs like Chicago and New York, the film makes a point about that city's dedication to a purely playful, improvisational spirit. That some consider any form of experimental improv anywhere overly regimented may seem like splitting tiny hairs, but when you enter the highly nerdy world of these musicians, who have one foot in jazz and the other in punk rock (but who get laid 100 percent less than the stars of either genre), you can—remarkably—appreciate the difference. MARJORIE SKINNER
THE OLD, WEIRD AMERICA & KNOWING ALL OF YOU LIKE I DO
A fascinating look at Portland-born Harry Smith and his vast influence on music and American culture. The stylish documentary features live footage from the likes of Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Beck, Steve Earle, and numerous others who were influenced by Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. Tickets to The Old, Weird America will also get you into Ivy C. Lin's short documentary on the final days of Music Millennium NW, Knowing All Of You Like I Do, which can be a little painful to watch at times. I suppose it all has to do with your previous relationship with the store: If you loved the place, the footage of its gradual dismantling during the final hours are a bit like watching the autopsy of a family member. But if you are eager to eat at the new overpriced tapas place that will most likely take the famed locale's spot on NW 23rd, then the final shots of the gutted store will make you salivate, you gentrifying bastard. EZRA ACE CARAEFF
ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA
As the inventor of free jazz, Ornette Coleman spent much of his early career watching rhythm sections and audiences alike walk out on him, rolling their eyes. Shirley Clarke's 1985 film opens with Coleman being given the keys to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, heralding the end of a 30-year journey to acceptance as a legitimate jazz genius, albeit one who still remains controversial 23 years later. MATT DAVIS
THE POWER OF SONG
Director Jim Brown's biography of folk legend Pete Seeger, featuring interviews with the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and a Dixie Chick.
THE STAX RECORDS STORY
The rise and fall of Stax Records is told in the typical format of talking heads and archival footage, with over-the-top narration by Samuel L. Jackson. Truly exhilarating performance clips illustrate the Memphis label's rapid ascension. It didn't last, though; the death of Otis Redding in a '67 plane crash was followed by repossession of Stax's masters by Atlantic Records. The independent label recovered by cultivating a progressively black identity and delving into the gauzy swank of '70s funk (and all its accoutrements; footage of Isaac Hayes' pimped-out Caddie is priceless). But the label was soon bled dry by its creditors. Self-congratulatory pronouncements at the end don't rinse the familiar feeling that this started as a story about music, but ended up being all about the money. Screens with In a Day's Time, a look at prisoner musicians. NED LANNAMANN
A look at renowned Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane, who are named after an obscure character from The Empire Strikes Back.
Abel Raises Cain
Director Jenny Abel's documentary about growing up with her father, "professional prankster" Alan Abel. Living Room Theaters.
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
Fuck. I should have known better. When my post-Xmas flight back to Portland got canceled, I found myself with 12 hours to kill in Salt Lake City. (Thanks Delta!) So I called my buddy Dave, and we ate at a weirdly disconcerting Taco Bell in Draper, Utah, and then we purchased two tickets for Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. Yes, both actions probably indicate fairly severe breakdowns of our most basic decision-making skills, but onward: The preposterously titled Requiem is, somehow, even worse than its predecessor. This time around, the two titular monsters invade a generic Colorado town (incredibly, they manage to make even an alien invasion seem boring), and quickly start spraying various bodily fluids, both human and extraterrestrial, all over the place. Just about everything on display here, from the dumbshit plot to the clumsy cinematography to the once-cool-but-now-pretty-much-just-embarrassing creatures, strongly indicates that Requiem was made by and for mentally handicapped preschoolers, and never before has Gate D8 at the Salt Lake City International Airport looked so inviting. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The first hour of Atonement, based on the book by Ian McEwan and set in a pre-war English country house, is faultless: a pungent stew of pleasure and dread, shrill suspicions and pouting revenge. The film's casting is brilliant, the production design impeccable, the point-of-view switchbacks beautifully turned. Sloughing off the novel's pretentious narration, the film nonetheless bows to his conceit by weaving the sounds of a typewriter into the score. And even if the second half of the film is disappointing, relative to the first, it's not entirely wrongheaded. ANNIE WAGNER Various Theaters.
Autism: The Musical
This excellent documentary follows five kids with autism as they join The Miracle Project, a musical theater production designed to give these kids an environment where they can be themselves—as opposed to their everyday lives, which are constantly under the strain of being manipulated to conform them into the status quo as best they can. But this film is, naturally, more about the kids and their parents than the production itself. With alarmingly high rates of autism, it's bittersweet to see how these children cope with their condition. More harrowing are the emotional journeys of the parents, who see marriages ripped apart, struggle with depression, and suffer from constant anxiety over how to maintain their children's dignity and safety in a world that undervalues their very existence. MARJORIE SKINNER Clinton Street Theater.
Ballot Measure 9
A screening and reception for the DVD release of Ballot Measure 9, 1995's Sundance-approved doc that chronicles the controversial anti-gay initiative that polarized Oregon in 1992. Q Center.
The Bucket List
See review. Various Theaters.
"Oh, this your wife, huh? A lovely lady. Hey baby, you must've been somethin' before electricity!" Laurelhurst.
Chronicle of an Escape
Argentina's horrifying "Dirty War" of the late '70s and early '80s—in which the paranoid militaristic government made thousands of civilians "disappear"—has served as ripe fodder for native filmmakers ever since. Chronicle of an Escape does little to advance the genre, though it is lushly shot and well acted. The tale of a soccer goalie who gets arbitrarily kidnapped and tortured by a gang of government-sanctioned thugs, Escape middles between suspense thriller and gritty historical drama. The promised "escape" comes too late to justify its silly title. JUSTIN W. SANDERS Living Room Theaters.
More obsessed with mood than factual realism, Control, the much-talked-about Ian Curtis story, doesn't have an immediately striking emotional impact, but rather a lingering, haunting effect. Perhaps director Anton Corbijn's greatest success in adapting Curtis' story to film is in Control's stylistic similarity to Joy Division's music, which on the surface is stubbornly simplistic yet moodily compelling. Likewise, the film's look is stark and almost old fashioned, but quietly, darkly powerful. MARJORIE SKINNER Laurelhurst.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Not screened in time for our deadline, First Sunday follows two thieves (played by Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan) who decide to rob a church... only to (and here we cut to the official synopsis) "end up spending the night in the presence of the Lord and are forced to deal with much more than they bargained for." Oh... wow. Hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, January 11 for our review. Various Theaters.
The Holy Modal Rounders:
Bound to Lose
Emerging from the West Village folk scene of the early '60s, the Holy Modal Rounders took a shitload of drugs, landed a tune on the Easy Rider soundtrack, and made generally awful music for years and years. This documentary brings us up to date with the burned-out hippie-comedian-folksinger-pranksters. Sounds unbearable, right? It's actually fascinating. The Rounders' two primary members diverged in the '70s: Peter Stampfel redeemed himself with work and family, while Steve Weber persisted with drugs and booze. (His grizzly, beer-bloated carcass becomes a remarkably compelling screen presence.) The film builds to their 40-year reunion show at the Crystal Ballroom, at which point Weber literally vanishes into the ether. It's a story of how so many things can stay the same over the years, and how some things absolutely need to change. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
In the Name of the King:
A Dungeon Siege Tale
The latest videogame-inspired film from the worst director of all time, Uwe Boll. (Seriously, check out the dude's page on rottentomatoes.com.) Shockingly and kind of disappointingly, it was not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
There's a perfect little gem of a movie buried inside of Juno, an offbeat-yet-honest portrayal of a precocious high school girl, Juno (played by an acerbic Ellen Page), who gets pregnant, finds herself unable to go through with an abortion, and decides to give the baby up for adoption. Unfortunately, it's not enough that Juno is funny, well written, and perfectly acted; director Jason Reitman seems determined to get his piece of the saccharine twee-cinema pie, and the film has a too-precious lacquer that can distract from its best moments. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Looking for Cheyenne
A drama about a Parisian teacher, sex, and politics. Living Room Theaters.
One Missed Call
I'm sorry, but voicemail is not scary. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie
Fact: We live in a world in which anthropomorphic vegetables who act out Christian morality tales are media superstars. Try to fall asleep thinking about that. Various Theaters.
The idyllic scene of Mirjam (Marina Gedeck) and André's (Peter Davor) coastal summer home is disrupted by the arrival of their 15-year-old son's 12-year-old girlfriend, Livia (Svea Lohde) in this deceptively mild-paced German film. Prematurely sexual, perceptive, and frank (to a rather unlikely extent, actually), Livia bewitches Bill (Robert Seeliger), a handsome man in his 30s who lives nearby, nurturing his grudges against Americans. At this point you can't help but think, "Lolita!" though the similarities essentially end there, and Summer '04 becomes much more focused on the emotional pitfalls of Mirjam than anything else. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Bursting with red blood and black humor, Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd starts out rough. As in: "Ah, shit." Or: "Oh, right—this is why I hate musicals!" Nice one, Tim: By starting Sweeney Todd with one of the film's worst musical numbers, you've ensured that a ton of people are going to ask for their money back five minutes after the opening credits. Like much of Stephen Sondheim's music for Sweeney Todd, the first number is terrible, but give Burton some time: The film eventually transcends its goofy Broadway roots to become Burton's best film since Ed Wood. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
There Will Be Blood
See review. Cinema 21.
The Water Horse
Armed with modest goals and a surprisingly capable cast (Emily Watson, Brian Cox, and Ben Chaplin among them), The Water Horse succeeds where most contemporary family adventure films fail so miserably: It at least manages to paint a reasonably convincing world before succumbing completely to obligatory, mediocre CGI. Your standard a-boy-and-his-[insert fantastical creature] fable, The Water Horse concerns young Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel), a servant's son growing up in WWII-era Scotland who's shouldered with raising the Loch Ness Monster—which is, frankly, the most burdensome magical best friend I can think of. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
"Benjamin is nobody's friend. If Benjamin were an ice cream flavor, he'd be pralines and dick." Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Youth Without Youth
See review. Fox Tower 10.