On a scale of one to 10 "Fuck you Roland Emmerich"s, with one "Fuck you Roland Emmerich" being Independence Day and 10 "Fuck you Roland Emmerich"s being Godzilla, Roland Emmerich's latest, 10,000 B.C., is an 84. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
2001: A Space Odyssey
"This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye." Living Room Theaters.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
See review. Cinema 21.
Admiral George Dewey:
A Monarch of the Seas
Directed by former Oregon Historical Society director Thomas Vaughan, Admiral George Dewey: A Monarch of the Seas painstakingly documents the life and times of obscure Admiral George Dewey (1837-1917), the very man who coined the infamous naval phrase, "You may fire when ready, Gridley." In 1898, the noble Dewey engaged a flotilla in Manila Bay and... and... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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.
The Band's Visit
A film about a visit to Israel by Egyptian policemen in which nothing really happens. But this examination of Arab/Israeli tensions and the frustrated romance that perhaps lies beneath them is remarkable indeed. The policemen are in an orchestra, and their brooding chief (Sasson Gabai) is fighting cutbacks to continue performing. Thanks to the chief's inept, Chet Baker-loving son (Saleh Bakri), the band ends up stranded overnight in an Israeli town, at the mercy of a sexy, alluring, and Jewish restaurant owner (Ronit Elkabetz). There are no Egyptian actors in the film—those playing the Egyptian policemen had to learn a new language to act the parts. But to an international audience, their acting is convincing, and one is left thinking how nice it would be if the two sides of the Middle East conflict would just get a room and be done with it. MATT DAVIS Fox Tower 10.
The Bank Job
As the title suggests, The Bank Job is exactly that—a caper flick about a ragtag bunch of knuckleheads who knock off a London bank at the urging of a shady government organization. Turns out that a certain British royal was caught on film graphically partaking in a tropical ménage à trois (don't worry, it's not Prince Charles) and the photos are hidden away in a safety deposit box. Cue the scrappy, loveable gang of robbers who must retrieve the photos—while simultaneously outsmarting hoards of porno-making thugs, crooked cops, black nationalists, and the British government itself. If a solid bank robbery based on a true story isn't enough for you, the film is peppered with plenty of gratuitous nudity, torture, and more than a few sets of scary British chompers. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
Be Kind Rewind
The man who gave the world the wonderful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind directs Be Kind Rewind. The story is about a video store in Passaic, New Jersey. The store only rents VHS tapes. Mos Def works in the store; Jack Black hangs around the store. Believably, the old building is about to get knocked down for a new condo. Believably, Jack is electrocuted while trying to sabotage a power plant. Unbelievably, Jack becomes magnetized. Unbelievably, his magnetized body erases all the VHS tapes in the video store. To stay in business, Mos Def decides to make homemade versions of the films that were erased by Jack Black's magnetized body. No, a human cannot be magnetized. Yes, Jack's electrocution would have killed a normal human being. No, we can never imagine Mos Def and Jack Black as best friends. None of this makes sense, none of it is bad, and none of it is as impressive as Eternal Sunshine. CHARLES MUDEDE Various Theaters.
A post-menopausal road-trip romp in which the still-breathtaking Jessica Lange plays Arvilla, a woman whose husband of 20 years has just passed away. Unfortunately, Arvilla can't seem to find the will she knows her husband must have updated when they got married—so, flanked by her two closest friends, Margene (Kathy Bates, who as per usual is the sturdy one, in both frame and constitution) and Carol (Joan Allen, as a sheltered, fretful Mormon housewife), Arvilla embarks on a road trip in the deceased's convertible, going from Idaho to California, ashes in tow. Overall, Bonneville's a fine family outing, brought to you by actors who just seem to enjoy growing old in their careers. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Charlie Wilson's War
Hollywood loves nothing more than a "____ with a heart of gold" story, and the phrase "corrupt congressman" fits that empty spot pretty well. It fits even better when the film's based on a true story, and when said congressman is played by Tom Hanks. Kind of predictably and kind of lamely, though, Charlie Wilson's War sticks to the Hollywood playbook: Sure, there's a montage of war casualties and a somber coda, but the film is largely content to show charismatic characters doing good and entertaining things. Like the film's titular character, Aaron Sorkin's script and Mike Nichols' direction are funny, and personable, and are grand company for a few hours—but beneath the surface, there's not a lot going on. ERIK HENRIKSEN Kennedy School, Laurelhurst.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
A short, punchy 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.
College Road Trip
When Chas Bowie, the Mercury's acclaimed scholar of the cinematic works of Martin Lawrence, was approached about reviewing College Road Trip, he drafted his refusal in an email. "Haha," he wrote. "Thanks but no thanks. I believe we have found the limit of my love for Martin Lawrence, and it has something to do with a chubby-chub named Raven-Symoné and the words 'Disney family comedy.'" He then added, "There's a pig on the poster." Various Theaters.
Don't let the fact that The Counterfeiters is yet another Holocaust film deter you: It's based on the true but infrequently examined story of the Nazis' counterfeiting operation, the largest in history. Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is the best forger in the world, but after his arrest in Berlin and the onset of the war, he finds himself in a concentration camp. Intent on survival, he schemes to make his talents known to his captors, and winds up as the key expert forced to work on Operation Bernhard. In this top-secret arrangement, special treatment is given to prisoners who in exchange produce counterfeits of the English pound and the American dollar. Excellently told, The Counterfeiters is a fascinating examination of one of history's dark corners. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Writer/director Tom DiCillo's film winds effortlessly between the inner lives of celebrities and the inner lives of bottom-feeding paparazzi. The charming Toby Grace (Michael Pitt) is our guide, a homeless yet adorable young man who begins his journey with Les Galantine (Steve Buscemi), a photographer who gets excited when he's paid $700 for a shot of the fictitious celebrity Chuck Sirloin's crotch bulge. Impressed with Galantine's bravado, Toby becomes his assistant. While his ineptitude as an assistant becomes quickly apparent, his social skills are unmatched, and soon he's flirting with a sexy casting director (Gina Gershon) and attending parties at the apartment of mega-pop-star K'Harma Leeds (Alison Lohman). Predictably, it's not long before he's left Galantine in the dust of his path to stardom. JUSTIN SANDERS Living Room Theaters.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Movies that are "based on a true story" are usually dismal affairs—extraordinary human experiences flattened into pseudo-inspirational morality tales. An emphatic exception is Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the autobiography of the completely paralyzed Jean-Dominique Bauby. Diving Bell is that rare case where an amazing story and amazing filmmaking collide, a rich and beautiful film that does full justice to its source material. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Dog Day Afternoon
"Look, I'm here with my partner and nine other people, see. And we're dying, man, y'know? You're going to see our brains on the sidewalk, they're going to spill our guts out. Now, are you going to show that on television? Have all your housewives look at that? Instead of As The World Turns?" Living Room Theaters.
A post-apocalyptic horror film not screened for critics. Yep, this sounds like a good investment. Various Theaters.
For a film about embracing life's possibilities, this German film is surprisingly predictable. When a free-spirited young Bosnian woman, Ana (Marija Skaricic), gets a job working at a cafeteria in Germany, her devil-may-care attitude rubs off on her uptight boss, Ruza (Mirjana Karanovic), as the two form a tentative friendship. The characters are not without their demons, and it's to the film's credit that it doesn't overexplain their motivations—but strip away all the haunted-by-the-past moodiness and what's left is a trite, unoriginal little film. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
A documentary about Portland's Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls—a musical finishing school that's less about keeping your ankles crossed and more about telling the world to suck it. Camp counselors like Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and the Gossip's Beth Ditto teach the girls to scream, sweat, and, possibly, make wicked hash brownies. (Okay, calm down. Not really on the hash brownies.) By deconstructing the now-clichéd "girl power" idea—which has become wholly embarrassing over the years—and building it back up into something meaningful, Girls Rock! succeeds as both a documentary and entertainment. KIALA KAZEBEE Hollywood Theatre.
Robert Altman's 2001 murder mystery that makes everyone fall asleep. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Horton Hears a Who!
See review. Various Theaters.
I Am Legend
I Am Legend is at its best when it's poetic or frightening: An unabashed horror flick, the film's strongest moments, aside from director Francis Lawrence's painterly shots of a decomposing New York, are the Fresh Prince of Bel Air's genuinely frightening encounters with hives of vampires. And then it all kind of goes to shit, with labored Bob Marley references (?!), rubbery CG bad guys, and sloppy deus ex machinas. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Martin McDonagh's uneven but entertaining dark comedy follows two hit men (perfectly played by the often terrible Colin Farrell and the always excellent Brendan Gleeson) stranded in a tiny Belgian tourist town. Dealing with midgets, Euro trash, and a fair amount of blood, both men crack wise, get fucked up, and make increasingly poor decisions. Awkwardly teetering between melodrama and slapstick, In Bruges never finds its footing, and it all goes shamefully and irrevocably to shit in its final act (despite Ralph Fiennes' fantastic attempt at a last-minute save, playing Farrell and Gleeson's disgruntled boss). But up until then: Great characters, and certainly a fun enough way to kill a few hours. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Inlaws & Outlaws
A documentary about gay marriage, screening as a benefit for Basic Rights Oregon. Hollywood Theatre.
Robert Altman's companion piece to 1996's Kansas City features contemporary jazz musicians. Wait—aside from contemporary jazz musicians, does anyone listen to contemporary jazz? Anyone? Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Combining the goofiest parts of The O.C., Star Wars, and any movie in which a shouting Samuel L. Jackson acts all crazy, Jumper is kind of great. I mean, not for everyone—in order to enjoy the film, you need to like at least two out of the three things above. Or you need to be a 12-year-old boy. If that applies, though, have I got a movie for you! And me! ERIK HENRIKSEN 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 (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.
The Kite Runner
For a film concerned with violent violation—from the metaphorical rape of Afghanistan at the hands of the Soviets, the US, and the Taliban, to some all-too-literal exploitation of children—The Kite Runner sure is optimistic. Based on the bestselling debut novel by Khaled Hosseini, director Marc Forster's adaptation manages to impose the pale shadow of hope over the appropriately dour subject matter. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
The Last Man on Earth
Vincent Price stars in this 1964 adaptation of Richard Matheson's sci-fi horror novel I Am Legend. Matheson's book would go on to be adapted a few more times—first with Chuck Heston, and then with the Fresh Prince. Screens as part of a double feature; also see the film short for The Omega Man. Hollywood Theatre.
"A man who wouldn't cheat for a poke don't want one bad enough." Pix Patisserie (North).
On paper, it's nothing that we haven't seen before: A stereotypically villainous corporation hurts the little guy; our conflicted protagonist (George Clooney) has to figure out what to do. But that's where all the impressive names behind Michael Clayton—Clooney's, Steven Soderbergh's, Anthony Minghella's, Sydney Pollack's—come into play: An impressive cast, a good sense of production, and writer/director Tony Gilroy's solid direction allow Michael Clayton to take a John Grisham-y concept and amp it up. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst, Valley Theater.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
The title Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is reminiscent of having high tea with your ancient spinster aunt as she fondly recalls when Eustace Tilley drank champagne out of her shoe right before she lost her fortune in the crash of '29. But unlike your real aunt who gets all weepy after her second glass of cherry cordial, Miss Pettigrew hitches up her knickers and delivers an entirely forgettable yet totally entertaining romantic comedy. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Never Back Down
See review. Various Theaters.
No Country for Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen's unforgettably stylish paean to risk, violence, and resourcefulness, based on the throbbing, violent thriller by Cormac McCarthy. No Country's conflict is as lean and primal as they come: one badass chasing another through the the unforgiving landscape of Southwest Texas. Few contemporary directors are as well suited to the task: Through meticulous editing, sound design, and cinematography, the Coens pace and manipulate the narrative tension to masterly effect. When that tension's relieved, it's through the two channels that they know best: violence and humor. They've teased out the wry, deadpan pathos from McCarthy's novel, and use it mostly to decompress the audience, only so they can begin the process again. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
The Omega Man
Charlton Heston fights zombie vampire creatures in post-apocalyptic LA! Highly recommended, obviously. Screens as part of a double feature; also see the film short for The Last Man on Earth. Hollywood Theatre.
The Other Boleyn Girl
Having already spawned four published sequels and a BBC television adaptation, Philippa Gregory's historically questionable novel about the dabblings and diddlings of Tudor England graduates to what it was seemingly made for: a dripping Hollywood production, complete with requisite American flesh. The Other Boleyn Girl's sordidly fictionalized account of the love triangle between Anne Boleyn, her sister Mary, and Henry VIII (played by adequately sumptuous Natalie Portman, ScarJo, and Eric Bana, respectively) seems perfect for a gleefully trashy Hollywood period piece—all ripped bodices, knowing glances, chamber clothes, and that looming, inevitable axe drop. Unfortunately, The Other Boleyn Girl can't bring itself to completely embrace its damp, salacious undercurrent—it's too concerned with the preposterously arrogant notion that it has, within itself, some kind of serious period drama. ZAC PENNINGTON 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 Various Theaters.
Robert Altman's 1992 comedy/thriller is deservedly one of his most beloved films. Tim Robbins plays Hollywood exec Griffin Mill, Hollywood plays itself, and after watching The Player, you will never, ever want to go to Los Angeles ever again. ERIK HENRIKSEN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Praying With Lior
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
Siblings Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) are quietly unhappy adults whose dysfunctionality is traceable to their disturbed childhood, thanks to an absent mother and abusive father (Philip Bosco). As their father's health declines, Wendy and Jon—despite years of estrangement from the volatile old man—relocate him to a nursing home near Jon's house. The Savages is bleak, but it will likely resonate strongly with the boomer crowd, who are starting to deal with these issues themselves. The film's impact is somewhat diminished by a tacked-on, redemptive ending (which will also probably resonate strongly with the boomer crowd), but there are enough small, powerful insights here to forgive a little happily-ever-after. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Semi-Pro isn't bad so much as it's just the exact same movie that Will Ferrell's been remaking ever since Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. But while Anchorman was funny thanks to its loose, clever, and improvised humor, almost every comedy Ferrell's made since has lazily relied on his "goofy dumb guy" routine, and shit's starting to get seriously old: In Semi-Pro, we watch him flail around his arms, shout/sing/drunkenly mumble, and generally look confused and enthused, all while winking to the camera about how wacky it is that he's wearing a big fur coat or a papier mâché mascot's costume. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A drama not screened in time for press. Hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, March 14 for our review. Fox Tower 10.
Starting Out in the Evening
A movie about books for people who don't actually read them, and the closest thing the "writers rediscovering themselves" film genre has to a Scary Movie-style spoof. But Starting Out has no intention of sending up corny author-themed movies like Wonder Boys or Winter Passing. Instead, it's content to mine and rehash every cliché about literary inspiration, carpe-ing the diem, and vintage typewriters that clove cigarette-smoking wannabes have imagined as their destiny since the invention of the printing press. (Especially the part of the fantasy in which they get to boink grad students 40 years their junior.) CHAS BOWIE Living Room Theaters.
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.
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. 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 Clinton Street Theater.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Spiderwick Chronicles has a few things going for it that other recent kids' movies haven't: Seth Rogen as a CG hobgoblin. A lack of an overt religious agenda. Some genuinely tense moments. It doesn't sound like a lot—but hey, with cinematic pickings for the future leaders of this country (dear Christ) as slim as they are, a little goes a surprisingly long way. Some elements of Spiderwick are refreshingly grounded, while others are predictably overwrought and terrible. But hey, it could be worse! It could be Bridge to Terabithia. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
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.
In the first five minutes of Vantage Point, KA-BANG! President William Hurt (William Hurt) gets shot! Twice! And then, just when everybody's like, "Whew! Thank Christ that's over, that was cra—" KA-BOOM! There's a huge explosion! Then, REEEEE-WIND! We see the whole catastrophe from a different point of view. (And yes, literally with the rewinding—Vantage Point's footage plays back in reverse, like they're editing this thing on a VCR.) And it happens over and over, since we end up seeing the bombastic event through seven different real-time perspectives, including those of a grumpy ol' Secret Service Agent (Dennis Quaid), Hurt, and Forest Whitaker, who plays the film's very own bumbling Zapruder, capturing the assassination on his camcorder. Sigourney Weaver, Lost's Matthew Fox, and some less famous people show up, too, and their one unifying thread—other than their shared presence at the event—is that individually, all of their stories are pretty boring. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
West Side Story
Hey, it's that one movie really lonely people like! Laurelhurst.