25TH REEL MUSIC FESTIVAL
All screenings take place at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
LET'S GET LOST
A look at jazz musician Chet Baker.
NINA SIMONE: LA LEGENDE
& LA LUPE, QUEEN OF LATIN SOUL
A documentary from the fierce chanteuse's adopted home of France, Nina Simone: La Legende captures some valuable interviews with Simone's family members in North Carolina, and better yet, with the lady herself. Footage of live performances takes the cake, of course, and the raw emotion in her delivery is underscored by the film's ability to put the songs in the context of history. Still, one gets the sense that there is a much better documentary to be made here, one that's less scattershot and meandering. Nina Simone is followed by La Lupe, Queen of Latin Soul, a doc about Lupe Yoli, who came from an obscure town in Cuba to become one of the most striking figures in America's Latin soul scene. A whirling dervish of false eyelashes, manic performances, and frenetic speed, the woman known as La Lupe was enigmatic and exciting. This film benefits from the undeniable fascination of its subject—La Lupe is impossible not to watch, and her story is funny, sad, and awesome in equal parts. MARJORIE SKINNER
NOUBA OF GOLD AND LIGHT
A documentary about nouba, "a traditional Algerian song with five movements."
CIVILIZATION: PART II
The second chunk in an epic four-part look at jazz musician Slim Gaillard.
AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
The 18th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films begins Friday, February 1, and runs until Saturday, March 1. Films weren't screened for critics, but they're all free and open to the public. More info: africanfilmfestival.org.
Jean-Marie Teno's documentary about a polygamous marriage ceremony. Director in attendance. PCC Cascade Campus.
I don't know if Bono was somewhere behind this film, but it sounds like it. Bamako asks, "Are Western financial institutions responsible for African poverty? Is globalization the cause or the solution of economic injustice?" And I mean it literally asks: The film plays out as a mock trial set in a Mali village, judging the impact of World Bank policies on Africa. As such, it moves along just like a mock trial, with heady, policy-specific diatribes from both sides. Overall, it's tedious, and its slowness defies all laws of physics. But if you're looking for a date movie for that hottie you met at the anti-globalization protest, have I got a movie for you! SCOTT MOORE PCC Cascade Campus.
A young woman working in Senegal moves to France, finding "dashed hopes in the realm of neo-colonialism." Preceded by the short film Borom Sarret. PCC Cascade Campus.
Another Jean-Marie Teno documentary, this one examining German missionaries in Namibia. Director in attendance. PCC Cascade Campus.
A revenge film set in "the aftermath of Chad's bloody 40-year civil war." PCC Cascade Campus.
Ousmane Sembène's film about clashing Muslim and Catholic communities. PCC Cascade Campus.
A WWII drama about the war's "indigenous soldiers." Hollywood Theatre.
A rage-inducing waste of Knocked Up's lovely Katherine Heigl. Ripping off nearly every moment from My Best Friend's Wedding, this crappy rom-com storms your sensibilities with a blitzkrieg of clichés. (Sing-along? Check. Annoying blonde bride? Check. Unrequited love? Check.) Designed for walking stereotypes, 27 Dresses will only bring enjoyment to treacly tweens and husband-hunting sorority girls. COURTNEY FERGUSON 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 McEwan's 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.
Before the Devil Knows
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead has a lot going for it: a sinfully exciting story, an all-star cast, and veteran director Sidney Lumet (Network). A crime thriller, it centers on two brothers, Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke). Andy, the older of the two, concocts a scheme in which the two knock over their own parents' suburban jewelry store; needless to say, things go wrong. Devil has an underlying pulse on what hurts about middle-class American life, and its action is like a clusterfuck symphony of family gone the worst kind of wrong. It's a wild, grimy ride, but you'll be able to get off without looking back. MARJORIE SKINNER Academy Theater, Laurelhurst, Living Room Theaters, Mission Theater.
The Bucket List
The Bucket List? Seriously? Who fucking green-lit that title? Can you imagine actually walking up to the box office and being all, "Yes, um, I would like two tickets for The Bucket List, please"? I'm embarrassed just typing it. Surely this isn't meant to be a review of a movie title, but The Bucket List's very name is strangely indicative of the kind of awkward misfire clearly behind the boardroom gavel drop that set this mess out to spawn. "All right, so we got this sort of morbid, geriatric Odd Couple thing going, okay? So we need like one guy to convey the sage wisdom of the humble poor, but the thing is, he's got to be old, too. Hmmm... I got it! Morgan Freeman! And we'll get him to do that cool voiceover thing he always does at the beginning and the end of every movie he's in. This is shaping up nicely." Soon they've got rich asshole Jack Nicholson (who, frankly, looks like he might actually be dying) coughing blood into a handkerchief like he's one of the Brontë sisters or something, and then rattling off Nicholsonisms that lost their cool about the time that he started to look like Mickey Rooney. There is also a mind-blowingly ill-conceived skydiving scene. If you have even a marginal interest in paying to see this film, you deserve what you get. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
A short, punchy, exhilarating riff on the Godzilla flicks of the '50s and '60s and the disaster epics of the '70s. But Cloverfield's decidedly personal and postmodern, too: Unlike the polished bluster of Bruckheimer or the popcorn thrills of Spielberg, director Matt Reeves' film is messy and clunky, thanks to its gimmick of shooting epic-sized disaster with digital camcorders. It's a contrivance, sure, but what impresses is how well it's done: I've seen countless monsters demolish countless New York landmarks, but I can't think of any time it's felt as fresh and fun as it does in Cloverfield. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various 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.
Starlet Jessica Alba has said in interviews that she hopes this remake of a 2002 Hong Kong horror flick will help establish her as a serious actress. Which is weird, because The Eye wasn't screened for critics. We bet it's because Alba's performance was so good that the studio wanted to keep it secret! Oh, wait. That doesn't make any sense. At all. Sorry, Jess. Various Theaters.
Getting Out Alive
A benefit screening of Shani Heckman's "documentary on foster child success," accompanied by music, prizes, a silent auction, and a screening of the short film Wrong Bathroom. Zaytoon.
Hannah Montana Concert
Tour in 3D
Apparently, regular ol' 2D Hannah Montana just isn't enough. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
I'm Not There
Six different films in at least as many styles weave through I'm Not There, and after the opening credits announce that the movie was "inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan," we never hear the singer's name again (although his music is used to maximum effect throughout). Each of the film's fictionalized Dylan characters, including those played by Cate Blanchett and 14-year-old African American actor Marcus Carl Franklin, come with their own names (including "Woody Guthrie" and "Billy the Kid"), and represent a unique strand of Dylan's creative path, career, or persona. As a whole, I'm Not There is one of the smartest, most innovative, and beautiful films of this era. CHAS BOWIE Clinton Street Theater, Hollywood Theatre.
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.
Fans of semi-geriatric Diane Keaton gettin' randy with semi-geriatric Ted Danson, of Mrs. Tom Cruise's uncontrollable Play-Doh face, and especially of excessively rapturous money-throwing sequences: Your ship officially has come in. For the rest of us, Mad Money stands to offer little more than the potential "formatted to fit your television" sort of diversion you'll need whilst nursing that Sunday morning hangover sometime around 2011. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Meet the Spartans
Another spoof movie from the unfunny douchebags who're culpable for Epic Movie and Date Movie. This time, 300, Spider-Man 3, and Borat get parodied. Guys, just... please stop. Just... fucking stop. Various Theaters.
Millions: A Lottery Story
Millions follows six lottery winners, including Phylis Breth, a dishwasher in a Minnesota high school who won a 16th of $95 million on Powerball along with her fellow canteen workers. Breth keeps her job, but buys a fridge with an ice-maker, asking with tears in her eyes, "Who would have thought I could have gotten the things I want?" There's also Louis Eisenberg and Curtis Sharp, the first New Yorkers to win $5 million from the lottery in the '80s. Both are now broke, although Eisenberg doesn't regret it, and Sharp found God at rock bottom. He visits prisons as a pastor these days. It's well-told, existential stuff. MATT DAVIS Hollywood Theatre.
Over Her Dead Body
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis and Persepolis II, are reimagined in an excellent animated treatment that condenses the events of the two books into a frank, poignant coming-of-age story that surpasses its source material in both visual elegance and storytelling economy. ALISON HALLETT City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead
Admittedly I'm only a casual fan of Troma films (The Toxic Avenger, Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, Tromeo and Juliet), but I found Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead to be especially grating. Even with good production values, it's extremely hard to sit through over 90 minutes of shit, blue ooze, zombie sodomies, and racism—all for a send-up of the horrors of fast food (yawn). Tromaville's Native American burial ground gets 'dozed for a new fried chicken joint and the result is an influx of zombie chicken people. Gore and songs ensue. It's sure to leave a fowl taste in your mouth. COURTNEY FERGUSON Mission Theater.
Rambo, Stallone's attempt to keep ringing the retro cherries after the success of last year's Rocky Balboa, stays on the verge of being a rousing dumbass flick at all times—you've never seen so many mid-air organs—yet its combination of outrageous bodily trauma and beagle-eyed moments of reflection never quite makes it go over the top. Stallone's script finds our hero recovering from the events of 1988's Rambo III (AKA "the one where he drove a tank into a helicopter") by catching cobras in Thailand. Said idyllic life is disrupted, however, with the arrival of a bunch of clueless do-gooder Americans attempting to cross the border into Burma. When they get captured by a cartoonishly evil platoon of soldiers, Rambo reluctantly teams up with a stereotyped bunch of mercenaries to stomp righteous ass. It's only in this final act, particularly when Stallone gets the chance to go ape-shit with a Jeep-mounted machine gun, that Rambo starts to approach the kind of idgit Valhalla that it's been promising all along. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
From the official synopsis: "It sounded like it would be great fun. Now that they are tripping, things don't seem so funny." We did not subject any of our critics to this film. Living Room Theaters.
Starting Out in the Evening
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
So speaketh IMDB.com: "With the ratings dropping for a wilderness-themed TV show, two animal fans go to the Andes in search of Bigfoot." Not screened for critics, and produced by Adam Sandler. Various Theaters.
See Film, pg. 43. Bagdad Theater.
Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a sexually repressed high school student who, unbeknownst to her, has vagina dentata—i.e., her red snapper has really, really sharp teeth. Calling Teeth an emotionally charged fable would be the understatement of the year. Combining black humor, monster-movie horror, and the best of '70s sexploitation flicks, writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein's fascinating film manages to avoid the Fatal Attraction cautionary tale pitfalls and successfully aims for a message of female sexual empowerment. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fox Tower 10.
There Will Be Blood
"I have a competition in me. I do not wish to see anyone else succeed," confides Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in a moment of rare candor. "I hate most people." This is Plainview's secret, which emerges slowly from his veneer of confident sophistication until it becomes a misanthropic force too large for any man to harness. Plainview's greed and loathing is at the heart of There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson's new film of astounding depth, intensity, and brutality. Based loosely on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil!, Blood finds Anderson with a refined vision and cinematic maturity that not even his best films could have prepared us for. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
Filmed and based in Portland, Untraceable—in which a maniacal, kitten-killing computer hacker uses the web to murder people—manages to easily surpass both Feast of Love and The Hunted as the single worst movie to ever take place in our fair city. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.