On a scale of one to 10 "Fuck you Roland Emmerich"s, with one "Fuck you Roland Emmerich" being Indepen-dence 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.
See review. Various Theaters.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
An inquisitive camera follows Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) through the dorms, hotels, and backstreets of Communist Romania in the 1980s as she conspires to arrange an illegal abortion for her friend Gabita (Laura Vasiliu). By the end of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, friendship, family, and romantic love have all been quietly eviscerated. What's left is an ambiguous tribute to strength of character, a critical but not unsympathetic depiction of the lengths to which one young woman goes to help a friend. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
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 hordes 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.
"I've seen The Exorcist about 167 times, and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it." Pix Patisserie (North).
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.
Named for the hot, gooey candy used to wax body and facial hair in a dingy Beirut beauty salon, the Lebanese Caramel is the story of the women who work and congregate there. In an environment where merely being alone with a man you are not wedded to is asking for trouble, the salon provides a sanctuary for them to be open about their particularly feminine travails: an affair with a married man, the terror that a soon-to-be husband will discover his bride is not a virgin, the insecurities brought on by aging, the shyness of being a lesbian in a conservative society, and the sacrifices of happiness one must sometimes make to fulfill familial responsibilities. Caramel succeeds in pointing out the universalities of being a woman, but it's also this quality that makes it less than extraordinary: You've already seen a million you'll-laugh-you'll-cry films about sisterly friendships and female bonding; this one just happens to be in a different language. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
This is vital, fascinating stuff: Pairing incredible, expertly edited footage from the riots of the 1968 Democratic National Convention with animated re-enactments of the chaotic trial that followed, director Brett Morgen creates an extraordinary film about our freedoms of speech and dissent. With voice acting from the likes of Hank Azaria, Jeffrey Wright, Nick Nolte, and Mark Ruffalo, plus an adrenalin-soaked soundtrack featuring Rage Against the Machine, Black Sabbath, and Eminem, Chicago 10 is an urgent, razor-sharp take on one of the most murky and important events in American history. Exhilarating, funny, and terrifying. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
Come Hell or Highwater
The premiere screening of a revenge flick from Todd E. Freeman (Two Fisted, Reynard the Fox). Not screened for critics. Clinton Street Theater.
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.
A post-apocalyptic horror film not screened for critics. Yep, this sounds like a good investment. Various Theaters.
No one really needs a PG-13 version of Superbad, but that's what Drillbit Taylor is. For a totally unnecessary movie, it's still pretty enjoyable—albeit in a "Sure, I guess I'd watch that if it was on TV" sort of way. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Faux Film Festival
Like your annoying uncle who still thinks the "I Stole your nose!" trick is hilarious, the Faux Film Festival returns for its fourth(!) year, with its usual shtick of oh-so-wacky "spoofs, satires, parodies, and mockumentaries." Sigh. More info and specific showtimes: fauxfilm.com. Hollywood Theatre.
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.
Jeremy Podeswa's 2007 film about a man (Stephen Dillane) who's haunted by his experiences in WWII. Fugitive Pieces is the opening night film for the 16th Portland Jewish Film Festival; more info at nwfilm.org and in next week's Mercury. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Years ago I reviewed Funny Games, an Austrian thriller written and directed by Michael Haneke. One of the most psychologically brutal films I've ever encountered, it presents an unflinchingly cruel challenge to the viewer to examine, and perhaps justify, the entertainment value of violence. I adore it. Now Haneke brings us Funny Games yet again, repackaged as an exact duplicate of the original film, with two key modifications made to specially appeal to American audiences: Naomi Watts, and the absence of subtitles. There's little reason to recommend this newer version over the older version, unless you're averse to reading. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
George Catlin: Painter, Preservationist, and Ethnologist
A three-hour-long documentary about George Catlin, "the first major artist to travel west of the Mississippi and live with Native Americans." Original soundtrack by Fred Durst. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Clinton Street Theater.
Horton Hears a Who!
Kids like ANYTHING. As proof I offer "green apple bubble gum tape." In fact, most kids would happily eat dog crap if you sprinkled a tablespoon of sugar on it. That's not to say, however, that Horton Hears a Who!—the latest animated feature from Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age), and based on the classic Dr. Seuss book—is sugar-sprinkled dog crap. It's more like green apple bubble gum tape... after a good chewing. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
According to the press release, local filmmaker Mike Shiley's film "tells many uplifting stories of hope and survival" that resulted from over 50,000 pets being abandoned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Not screened for critics. Space is limited; call 219-8627 for reservations. Hotel deLuxe.
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.
Live and Become
An expansive look at the sometimes un-resolvable problems with institutionalized cultural assimilation, Live and Become follows the story of Schlomo (played, at different points in his life, by Moshe Agazi, Moshe Abebe, and Sirak M. Sabahat), a nine-year-old refugee living with his mother in a horrifying Sudanese camp. It is the mid-'80s, and Israel has opened its doors to Ethiopian Jews fleeing persecution in their own country. Schlomo is not one of them, but his mother, desperate to save him, forces him to assume the identity of a dead Jewish boy of the same age. It is thus that he becomes one of the thousands rescued in "Operation Moses," a covert airlift that brought these brutally tested people to Israel. But by escaping near-certain death in his own country, Schlomo is cursed to live a lie, under constant pressure from racist white Israelis in his new Tel Aviv home to prove the legitimacy of his "Judaism." Though uneven, the film effectively covers an astonishing amount of emotional and historical ground. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
The Long Goodbye
In one of Robert Altman's very best films (I know, I say that every week), Raymond Chandler's private dick masterpiece is restaged in 1970s Los Angeles, where the only "dames" in Philip Marlowe's life are the jazzercising, pot-brownie-munching pieces of eye candy who live in the apartment across from the schlumpy detective. Elliott Gould turns in one of my favorite film performances of all time as the world-weary PI who evidently didn't get the memo that 1953 was two decades behind him. CHAS BOWIE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Manchurian Candidate
It's hard to believe, but Angela Lansbury used to be tolerable. In this—likely the finest Cold War thriller ever—Lansbury's (dare I say it?) stunning as she plays one of cinema's iciest villainesses. Released right before (and shelved immediately after) JFK's assassination, 1962's The Manchurian Candidate demonstrates how war veterans can return fucked up not by battle, but by their own government. Frank Sinatra's dream sequences involving a Garden Club meeting attended by an entire corps of soldiers are among filmdom's most memorable. WILL GARDNER Laurelhurst.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Mysterious Objects: The Short Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Two nights of short films from acclaimed Thai filmmaker Apichatpong "The Pongster" Weerasethakul. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Neutrino Project
A "theatrical movie experience" in which a film is shot, edited, scored, and projected in front of the audience. More info: curiouscomedy.com. Hollywood Theatre.
There is nothing new in the horror flick The Orphanage. There is a haunted house. There are ghosts. There are deformed kids, there are masks, there are unsettling old/young people, there are flickering video screens filled with grainy night vision, and there are—totally unironically—things that go bump in the night. In short, screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez and director Juan Antonio Bayona are content to dig up and exploit every worn-out horror cliché they can think of—which'd be a problem if The Orphanage wasn't so goddamn scary. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst.
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.
Let's just get this out of the way: Portland audiences will love Paranoid Park simply for its beautiful and unaffected depictions of the city. Opening with a gorgeous shot of the St. Johns Bridge, the film works its way through the Burnside skate park, Lloyd Center, Half & Half, the Pearl, and more, accompanied by a soundtrack that includes Ethan Rose, Cool Nutz, and Menomena. In this sense, Paranoid Park might be the quintessential Portland movie of the decade. That alone does not a great movie make, however. Taken on its own merits, Gus Van Sant's latest is as evocative and elusive as his recent films, Elephant and Last Days, although Paranoid Park is not so glacially paced. It's the story of a local teen skater who drifts through middle-class high school life before a murder by the Burnside skate park turns his world upside down. Audiences expecting a fast-paced, straightforward skate/murder movie will be stumped by Van Sant's elliptical storytelling, but those who wanted to like Gerry, only to crumble under the film's never-ending action-less sequences, should be happy that Van Sant has struck a great balance between art and intrigue. CHAS BOWIE Cinema 21.
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.
Run Fatboy Run
See review. Various Theaters.
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. 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.
Is it just me or does it seem really racist to assume that any window reflection of an Asian person is a ghost? COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Standing Silent Nation
A documentary about what happened when federal agents raided South Dakota's Native American Pine Ridge Reservation and found hemp being grown. Q&A with filmmaker Courtney Hermann after the screening. New Columbia Education Center.
Step Up 2: The Streets
Step Up 2: The Streets is all about sitting back and watching some crazy kids spin on their heads. It doesn't get much more entertaining than that—besides, the climatic splashy dance-off (yes! a dance-off!) has a troupe of rain-drenched hotties shaking their stuff. 'Nuff said. COURTNEY FERGUSON 99W Drive-In.
See review. Various Theaters.
Infused with almost as much sex as dramatic angst, Summer Palace chronicles the young adulthood of Yu Hong (Lei Hao), a student at the Beijing University in the late 1980s. There she meets Zhou Wei (Xiaodong Guo), a fellow student and the love of her life. Much unhappiness, nudity, and cigarette smoking ensues. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Another "not screened for critics" spoof film from the genius behind Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4, this one parodying Spider-Man, Fantastic 4, X-Men, et al. It'd be nice to think that at some point, lazy and/or terminally unfunny filmmakers are going to stop slapping "movie" on the end of whatever genre they can think of and cease churning out cheap, sub-Mad TV spoof films—alas, it's infinitely more likely that Hollywood will just continue to eat itself, shitting out resultant waste like this into theaters. Which is depressing. Various Theaters.
Taxi to the Dark Side
See review. Cinema 21.
Thieves Like Us
Robert Altman's 1974 Depression-era drama. Kind of like Spies Like Us, but without the spies! Or the Chevy Chase jokes! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A psychodrama of unsettling subtlety, Three Women is carried by Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall, two of the '70s' oddest actresses. The dreamy, symbol-heavy film explores the psychic shifts, power imbalances, and chirpy conversations of these two roommates, all of which grow more sinister as the film progresses. Three Women isn't as "fun" as a lot of Altman's other films, but shows the director exercising some of his more esoteric tendencies in the art-cinema vein. CHAS BOWIE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns
Tyler Perry returns—once again draggin' it up as his popular Medea character, and once again refusing to show his movie to critics. Various Theaters.
Set in the midst of the peasant revolts that wracked Mexico during the 1970s, The Violin is an excellent portrayal of one man's dangerous decision: Taking advantage of his unthreatening status as an old man and violin player, he embarks on a mission to supply ammunition to the guerrilla forces that have been kicked out of their village by the government army. Filmed in black and white, the film is as beautifully shot as its story is suspenseful. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Voices of Cabrini
A documentary about the effects of the City of Chicago's decision to tear down Cabrini Green, a high-rise public housing development. Screening followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Ronit Bezalel and New Columbia representatives. New Columbia Education Center.
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
Mauro (Michel Joelsas) is an adorable 11-year-old moppet whose parents drop him off at his grandpa's house in São Paulo so they can "go on vacation." When his grandpa turns out to be dead, Mauro is taken in by the local Jewish community, who aren't quite sure to make of the young "goy" with the absent folks. It's clear that his parents have gone into hiding for political reasons—the repressive military regime of 1970s Brazil lurks around the fringes of Mauro's days, which are spent watching World Cup soccer games and running around with neighborhood kids. Subtle, sweet, and genuinely charming. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.