With an exceptional performance by Carla Ribas as Alice, Alice's House centers around one working-class family in Brazil. Alice's family—an underemployed husband, three sons in their early twenties, and a blind grandmother who sees more than she is willing to admit—all live together in a modest home. Theirs is not the Brazil of Carnivál fame, but instead one of quiet desperation and distant dreams. Extra-marital affairs and dark motivations create tension as each of them reach outward, seeking independence—only to find that they are fated together by blood and circumstance. LANCE CHESS Hollywood Theatre.
The best—actually, the only—word I can think of to describe Baby Mama is "cute," which is kind of good and kind of bad. Let's focus on the good first: Baby Mama is the sort of "cute" that's perfectly enjoyable, comfortingly predictable, and fairly entertaining. But Baby Mama is also the sort of "cute" that's totally disposable and largely forgettable and doomed to inevitably start rerunning on the Oxygen channel in a year or two, and its stars, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, deserve to be in far better movies than ones like this. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See review. Living Room Theaters.
The Chronicles of Narnia:
The dubious return to the magical land of Narnia, where lions are even more Jesus-y and those four Pevensie kids get on your last good nerve. With nearly an hour of tacked-on battles, sword fights, and overly long journeys, Prince Caspian is bloated and lacking in all sorts of magic that it purports to have. In shooting for Lord of the Rings-scale epic scope, Narnia just comes off as the Shire's unsophisticated backwoods cousin—desperate to please, and without a clue how to do so. COURTNEY FERGUSON 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 Clinton St. Theater, Livingroom Theaters.
Patrick (Ron Livingston) is a down-on-his-luck poker player, and when a chance layover in a Cambodian brothel leads him to befriend young Holly (Thuy Nguyen)—a Vietnamese girl sold into prostitution by her parents—he becomes fixated on the idea of rescuing her from a life of sexual servitude. And even if his interest in the girl borders on the prurient, he does a bang-up job resisting her underage charms, devoting himself instead to the idea of buying and freeing her. While there are some interesting and chilling moments, Holly is hamstrung by a simple problem: There are just too many white people in it. White guilt is explored from every tedious angle. We can all agree that that selling kids into sexual slavery is shitty, I'm sure; but instead of making a movie about the sex trade, writer/director Guy Moshe has made a far less interesting film about one American awkwardly confronting his feelings about the sex trade. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
See review. Various Theaters.
Here's the deal: Billionaire playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., awesome as usual) invents high-tech weapons and sells them to the US Army. But when he's unexpectedly captured by the Taliba—er, some generic, eeeeevil Middle Easterners who just so happen to hide out in caves in Afghanistan—Stark builds himself an armored suit and escapes. Soon, he has the familiar realization that with great power comes great responsibility, and within no time, he's zooming around in his flying tank suit, making wiseass comments and beating up evildoers. Light and fun and loud, Iron Man often feels just like the best, poppiest superhero comics. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Journal of Short Film Vol. 11
The Portland premiere of the eleventh volume of the Journal of Short Film, a quarterly DVD that spans short works in all genres. This edition "highlights the filmmaking hotspot that is Portland, Oregon." Yay us! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A throwback in every sense of the word, Leatherheads aims to capture the sharp, earnest spirit of Howard Hawks classics like His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby. Instead of Hepburn and Grant, though, we get Clooney and Renée Zellweger, as well as Jim Halpert from The Office and the goofy, bumbling music of Randy Newman. It's a hodgepodge, unsurprising crowd-pleaser, but it works. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Little Dieter Needs to Fly
I prefer Werner Herzog's documentaries over his dramas, and Little Dieter, which Herzog later fictionalized into Rescue Dawn, is a perfect example why. It's not that Rescue Dawn isn't good—it is, and sometimes it's great—but Little Dieter is just so much better. Both tell the story of Dieter Dengler, a pilot shot down and imprisoned in Laos at the beginning of the Vietnam War; in Little Dieter, Dengler is played by Dengler, in Rescue Dawn, he is played by Christian Bale. In both films, Herzog manages to capture the horror of Dengler's crash and torture, and the remarkable ways in which he survived, and in Rescue Dawn, he coaxes an incredible performance out of Steve Zahn, as Dengler's troubled cohort. But there's simply no comparison between hearing Dengler tell his own story while Herzog observes, listens, and subtly tweaks the truth to fit his own goals—Little Dieter is astounding and riveting and amazing. As a dramatic filmmaker, Herzog's good; as a documentarian, nobody can touch him. ERIK HENRIKSEN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Made of Honor
Tom (the charmingly broken-nosed Patrick Dempsey, from Grey's Anatomy) is super-duper rich and doesn't even have to work (he invented coffee cup sleeves!). Tom gets laid constantly, with beautiful women circling him like horny sharks—it's kind of annoying, really. Meanwhile, Tom's platonic best friend, Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), goes on a business trip to Scotland, and in her absence, Tom realizes he's in love with her—a realization that's a bit dampened when she returns with a Scottish fiancé, Colin (Kevin McKidd), who is even wealthier, bigger, stronger, etc. What follows is a competent enough romcom goose chase in which Tom, who's been emasculated in his gender-defying role as the wedding's "maid of honor," attempts to steal the bride for himself. About half of the film takes place in New York, and the other half in the gorgeous Scottish countryside. This backdrop is one of the only distinguishing things about this cute but disposable movie—but when you're dealing in candy pap like this, a single spin on the formula is all you really need to earn a pass. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
New Year Baby
A documentary about filmmaker Socheata Poeuv's journey to Cambodia to learn her family's history. Followed by a panel discussion.
The little fat girl from Little Miss Sunshine went on a diet, and now they're trying to cram her once more into to the hearts of Americans. I saw Nim's Island so you don't have to. Close your heart and keep it closed. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Nosferatu the Vampyre
Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski's homage to the 1922 classic Nosferatu. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
After saving the Allies' bacon in WWII, a strapping French superspy goes undercover in Cairo on a mission complicated by slumming Nazis, henchmen in fezzes, and ridiculously leggy dames. Oh, and an assassin who wields chickens. Bond spoofs may be old hat, but director Michel Hazanavicius generates such a rolling comedic momentum—and a few genuinely ace retro action sequences—that the thing feels like the first of its kind. The rare spoof that actually improves as it goes, due in large part to the increasingly hilarious deadpan machismo of star Jean Dujardin. Even his goddamned teeth are funny. ANDREW WRIGHT Cinema 21, Hollywood Theatre.
It's an unlikely place to find a kung fu movie: Redbelt is written and directed by revered playwright/filmmaker David Mamet, shot by There Will Be Blood's Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit, and features a cast so impressive that the film's opening credits feel sort of braggy: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joe Mantegna, Emily Mortimer, David Paymer (and, uh, Tim Allen?). But all the same, the ghosts of the Shaw Brothers haunt this tale of Mike Terry (Ejiofor, awesome as usual), a painfully noble Los Angeles jiu-jitsu instructor who, through a series of increasingly unlikely occurrences, gets sucked into a world of sketchy movie producers and unethical mixed martial arts fighters. Like every kung fu movie, Redbelt follows the familiar template of a fighter with honor finding/beating his way through a mass of those without it, and also like most films in that genre, Redbelt's villains are a simplistically evil lot. Those other characters are where Redbelt starts to get creaky, actually: While much of the film focuses on the troubled, earnest Mike, things fall apart when Mamet brings in a slew of less interesting characters, forcing everyone together with increasingly strained plot devices. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See short for Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Roman de Gare
A literary thriller in which truth is subjected to constant manipulation, Roman de Gare centers around a man (the famously fish-lipped Dominique Pinon) who is either the ghostwriter to a famous author of pulp novels (Fanny Ardant), an escaped child rapist and murderer, or a runaway husband who has inexplicably departed his humdrum life. Joining him is Huguette (Audrey Dana), herself a character with creative attitudes toward reality. The film's pace is mild, and more wickedly playful than nerve-wracking, so that the audience is curious and charmed by what's happening with these eccentric French liars, with their wine cellars and rural farms and yachts docked in the south, but not nervous or scared by them. I'm tempted to say that Roman is "more style than substance," but that sounds like an insult to style. So instead I'll say that it's substantially stylish. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
"I'm a little bit lonely these days." Broadway Metroplex.
Chris Marker's artsy-fartsy 1983 documentary. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Smart People's cast is solid and understated, with strong turns from Dennis Quaid, Thomas Hayden Church, and Ellen Page; in painting a portrait of an unhappy, literate, and too-clever family in suburban Pittsburgh, writer/director Noam Murro hits several choice moments of sweet and melancholy humor. The problems kick in during the third act: As Murro guides his subjects, one by one, toward happiness, he loses sight of their acerbic and believable characterizations, softening up their wry, weary dialogue and patching over their witty discontent with too-easy solutions. (I'm pretty sure this is the first time The New Yorker has served as a deus ex machina.) ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Son of Rambow
Despite the fact it's directed by Garth Jennings—the same guy who helmed the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy adaptation a few years back—Son of Rambow is nothing at all like Hitchhiker's. (They don't mention Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters once!) Instead, Rambow is about two young boys and the remake of Rambo that they put together during an idyllic English summer (is there any other kind?). The boys are Lee Carter (Will Poulter), a neglected bad boy with a majorly dickish older brother (who's played by Chuck from Gossip Girl! Eeeee!), and Will (Bill Milner), the sensitive, sheltered one living in a repressed Amish-ish community. Will's not allowed to watch TV or see movies, so he's often cast out of the classroom and forced to sit in the hallway next to a goldfish whenever a movie is played, while Lee is also often cast out into the hallway for things like, oh, I don't know—maybe punching girls in the face and an unfortunate incident of fish murder. Anyway, the boys end up bonding in front of the dean's office and becoming instant best friends, and what follows is a sweet, funny, and romantic film about two boys remaking the original Rambo in its entirety. KIALA KAZEBEE Various Theaters.
Standard Operating Procedure
See review. Cinema 21.
Akira Kurosawa. Toshirô Mifune. Film noir. Like you need to know anything else. The Press Club.
Though much more subdued than his other collaborations with Klaus Kinski, Stroszek is a compelling departure for Werner Herzog. Stroszek depicts a cast of miscreants banding together and leaving Germany to find a better life in Wisconsin. This new life, once full of promise, eventually disintegrates—leaving an impression of American decay, and one depicted through a uniquely Herzogian point of view. LANCE CHESS Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Supertrash 48 Hour Film Fest
See Film Featurette. Bagdad Theater.
Then She Found Me
Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the guy's face gets all melty and you can see his skull behind it? That is exactly what Helen Hunt looks like now. And while it should be refreshing for a woman in Hollywood to direct herself "au naturale" with nary a hint of rouge, this was just—oh my god—not refreshing. Hunt plays a 39-year-old (okaaaayy) woman whose husband, played by Matthew Broderick, has second thoughts about being married—presumably to a dried-up corn husk—and leaves her. Next, her adoptive mother dies and her real mother (Bette Midler!) shows up, hoping to establish a relationship with Hunt. Meanwhile, she begins dating Colin Firth, which makes total sense as he's all charming and dreamy and Helen Hunt is a rusty ironing board with hair. A very unfunny, untouching movie. KIALA KAZEBEE Fox Tower 10.
The Wedding Weekend
See review. Fox Tower 10.
What Happens in Vegas...
The absurdity at hand is that opposites Jack (Ashton Kutcher, not as funny as expected) and Joy (Cameron Diaz, looking like a piece of beef jerky wearing lip gloss—when did that happen?!) and their much-abused sidekicks, Hater (Rob Corddry, who is persecuted for premature hair loss) and Tipper (Lake Bell, who goes undefended when summarized as "kind of a disgusting skank") all meet up in Vegas. Everyone gets hammered, and Joy and Jack wake up married, and then they accidentally hit the jackpot on a slot machine while discussing their annulment, and THEN they're sentenced by a highly partial judge to six months of marriage in order to recover the funds! Would it spoil anything if I told you they ended up falling in love? MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.