An American Carol
From IMDB: "An anti-American filmmaker who's out to abolish the July Fourth holiday is visited by three ghosts who try to change his perception of the country." From us: This wasn't screened for critics, but it's a comedy targeted at the Fox News crowd. Sounds depressing, right? Well, it gets better: It stars Chris Farley's brother! Nope. Nothing fucked up about that. Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
See review. Various Theaters.
David Lean's 1945 adaptation of a play by Noel Coward stars the inestimable Rex Harrison as a writer who invites a psychic medium to a dinner party for research on his latest novel. When the medium accidentally brings back the ghost of his first wife, his second wife takes exception. Harrison soon finds himself doubly henpecked: Both dead wife and living wife strive to make his life a misery. The movie's silly, stage-y, and misogynistic, but it's charming and still funny, with a truly black streak that keeps it from being a mere time capsule. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Burn After Reading
Like a Jason Bourne flick filtered through Dr. Strangelove, the Coen Brothers' great Burn After Reading more or less serves as an excuse for the Coens to play around with the clichés and charms of the espionage genre, while also having fun with the same sort of sad, aimless, and fantastically funny characters that usually populate their films. Also, the plot involves a self-powered dildo machine. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
By day, sex addict Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) slaps on a goofy wig and works at a town that recreates what life was like for 18th century colonists; by night, he goes to restaurants, intentionally chokes on food, and takes financial advantage of whatever good Samaritan/sucker Heimlichs him. While Choke is fun, and while it thankfully retains Chuck Palahniuk's cynical, self-deprecating, hyper-testosteroned tone (this is, after all, the sort of film where heart-to-heart conversations are had over illicit handjobs), it also comes across as a bit self-satisfied, a bit too straightforward, and a bit overly neat. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 1991 surrealist exploration of romance, cannibalism, and musical saws. The Press Club.
Don Hertzfeldt Animation
Acclaimed animator Don Hertzfeldt hits town for a one-night only screening of his short films and a Q&A. Laurelhurst Theater.
X-treme snowboarding, brah! Clinton Street Theater.
In the hype surrounding The Duchess, much has been made of the parallels between the film's subject, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, and her real-life direct descendant, Princess Diana. But Georgiana (played by period piece habitué Keira Knightley) does not need the Diana hook, and her story is very much her own. Advantageously married at 17 to the Duke of Devonshire (a cold, complicated Ralph Fiennes), Georgiana became famous for her style and charisma. Though there's no shortage of drama at play here, there are long stretches that move very slowly—fortunately, it's a handsome film (and at times impressively racy). Besides, it pays off, gradually becoming a surprisingly substantial and anguished damning of the gilded cages in which women of Georgiana's ilk were kept—used as baby machines, manipulated with threats of separation from their children, and forced to endure humiliation. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Eagle Eye takes your deepest fears and turns them into a horrifying (and largely ridiculous) morality tale of overbearing governmental control. In a nutshell, Shia LaBeouf and that chick from Made of Honor find themselves forced to follow the whims of a mysterious woman's voice, who not only has control over their cell phones, but anything digital: flashing roadside signs, GPS systems, video monitors at McDonalds. The technological cat-n-mouse premise may start out as unbelievable, but by the final reel Eagle Eye reaches an astounding level of implausibility that is both eye-rollingly bad and—luckily for the audience—unintentionally hilarious. WM.™ STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Plot-wise, Elegy is meditatively uneventful, even aimless. The occurrences are un-extraordinary: sex, fights, breakups, aging, and death. But they're compelling all the same, if only because such events are happening in the lives of such interesting and beautiful people—people who are entrenched in art and poetry, and who seem to move through life at the same thoughtful pace one might use to stroll through a museum or ruin. (It doesn't hurt that they're played by the likes of Penélope Cruz and Ben Kingsley.) Based on a Philip Roth novel, the slow dance of Elegy doesn't seem to lead anywhere as profound as it hints at its onset: When the end comes, it's anticlimactic and a bit cold, and it doesn't resonate the way one might hope. It sure is a languorous, romantic road, though. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
A not-screened-for-those-heathen-critics Christian flick starring the born again Kirk Cameron. Originally slated to be the closing night film at the Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. Division Street.
Flash of Genius
In this true story, Greg Kinnear tones down the smarminess in the role of Bob Kearns, the engineering professor who came up with the idea for intermittent windshield wipers. After Kearns showed his invention to Ford Motors, they stole the idea and put it in their cars; Kearns spent subsequent years fighting them in court, losing his friends, family, and sanity in the process. Surprisingly, Flash of Genius has heart and momentum; I'd guess it's as good a movie about windshield wipers as we're ever gonna get. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Flow: For the Love of Water
Serving up a big ol' glass of depressing, Flow is a well-made cautionary documentary about the nigh-on-horizon scarcity and privatization of the world's clean water supply. Basically, the third biggest way to get rich is to sell drinkable water to really poor people. It's like a longer (and much better) version of that commercial where the old, white-haired dude goes to slums and tries to guilt you into donating $2 to the Christian Children's Fund. But if you can get over the guilt and depression (hint: dry swallow a pill... washing it down with water will just made you sadder), then Flow: For the Love of Water is a wake-up call—water might not be free tomorrow, especially if corporations like Nestle keep draining Michigan's streams dry so you can have bottled water, making millions off of free water they take from public waterways. COURTNEY FERGUSON Cinema 21.
Okay, Ricky Gervais. I get it. Nobody wants to be remembered for only one thing; just ask Sir Mix-a-lot, or Monica Lewinsky. But sometimes things work out that way, and sometimes the things that people remember you for are actually really amazing things. Like for you: The British version of The Office is, pretty arguably, the apex of television, and it casts a massive shadow. Probably one you aren't ever going to escape, frankly, no matter how funny Extras was, or how great your standup routines were in Grand Theft Auto IV. But that's no excuse to do stuff like Ghost Town. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
See review. Various Theaters.
Peter (Jeremy Strong) is an awkward, uptight medical student who joins the mysterious Bogart (Fairuza Balk) on a visit to her home in northern California, where everybody grows—and smokes—the sticky green stuff. Indeed, there is scarcely a frame of the movie that doesn't contain a plume of smoke or the glowing ember of a cherry. Despite good supporting performances from Brad Dourif and Peter Bogdanovich, Humboldt County is a bird-brained, oddly gooey mess, where all of Peter's problems are quickly solved by puffin' a bit of mother nature, man. By stealing its opening shot from The Godfather and its closing shot from Five Easy Pieces, this weirdly sentimental movie only demonstrates its lack of ideas. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
I Served the King of England
Jan Díte (played by Oldich Kaiser as the elder Díte, and by Ivan Barnev as the younger) is a waiter with lofty ambitions—he longs to be surrounded by millionaires and, eventually, to become one of them. (Hey, me too!) When we first see Díte, he's being let out of a Czech prison where he's been incarcerated for almost 15 years. As a condition of his parole, Díte is sentenced to pour gravel roads in an abandoned village, where at least he has plenty of time to muse on his past via flashbacks, which represent the bulk of the movie. Although the plot sounds pretty dramatic, it's all handled with a light, old-timey, Chaplinesque touch by director Jií Menzel—even though Díte's character is pretty unsympathetic, the movie itself is thoughtful, and Díte's childlike bumblings are innocent enough to forgive any unintended transgressions. KIALA KAZEBEE Living Room Theaters.
An animated kids' flick in which John Cusack voices the hunchbacked lab assistant. Mary Shelley, we're sure, would be delighted. Various Theaters.
In Which We Serve
David Lean's first film as a director saw him share the credit with Noel Coward, who also wrote, starred, and produced. Filmed in 1942, it's an ostensibly accurate depiction of life aboard a British destroyer during World War II, but the story relies on flashbacks to the sailors' lives on shore for all of its dramatic thrust. It's a full-fledged eruption of pure British spunk—-you're going to need a stiff upper lip. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Jazz on a Summer's Day
Shot over a long weekend at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, this film not only captures some remarkable jazz performances, but—perhaps more than any other movie of its time—the visual essence of an age too early to be captured on color film. Director Bert Stern was a successful advertising photographer who managed to get 70,000 feet of 35mm Kodacolor film from somebody... God knows what it must have cost. He shot what he saw: a rich, liberal town in Northeast America on the cusp of the 1960s. Apart from the photography, highlights include Anita O'Day's remarkable rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown," Thelonius Monk, Louis Armstrong (whose agent demanded $25,000 to let the man appear in the picture), Chuck Berry doing "Roll Over Beethoven," and legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson singing "The Lord's Prayer." It's really incredible footage, and the 90 minutes fly by. MATT DAVIS Hollywood Theatre.
I feel sorry for the "quirky" film genre: It's taken such a drubbing over the last few years that it might be impossible for an even slightly flawed example to succeed. Writer/director Scott Prendergast's Kabluey is a likeable, if not loveable, case in point of the browbeaten genre, with its sunny, oddball characters and over-arching need to make the audience laugh. Doltish slacker Salman (Prendergast) moves in with his sister-in-law (Lisa Kudrow) to help take care of her two hellion kids, because her husband is fighting in Iraq. Salman gets a part-time job with a corporation as their flier-distributing mascot—a huge, bubble-headed blue blob—and he's driven out to a barren wasteland every day to stand by the side of the road, where he holes up for hours and watches cars go by, his fliers blowing in the wind. With a semi-star cast and a general, amiable aesthetic, Kabluey is a decent bet for those of you who can still stand a bit of whimsy rammed down your windpipe. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
A French movie without Gerard Depardieu? No thank you. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Come on: Is it really so unbelievable that Samuel L. Jackson is so vehemently opposed to miscegenation that when an interracial couple moves in next door, he slashes their tires, vandalizes their air conditioning unit, instigates a shrubbery fight (!?), and hires a thug to trash their house? What if you knew that he was an LAPD officer? Then would it make a little more sense? It doesn't even seem necessary to actually write the words, "This movie is terrible," but just in case: This movie is terrible, albeit in kind of a hilarious way. If a glowering, shrieking Samuel L. Jackson shaking shrubbery at you isn't comedy, I don't know what is. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Lucky Ones
A dramedy about three soldiers (Tim Robbins, Michael Peña, and Rachel McAdams) on leave from Iraq. Someday, someone is going to make a great movie about the soldiers fighting in Iraq right now. This isn't it. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Within the first five minutes of Mad Detective, Hong Kong Police Department's Inspector Bun (Ching Wan Lau) stabs a dead pig, stuffs himself into a duffel bag, rolls down the stairs, solves a murder, and cuts off his own ear, handing it to his boss in resignation. (This is exactly how I plan to resign from all future employment.) Five years later, after Van Gogh-ing himself into an early retirement, Bun is contacted by another officer, who's in need of Bun's special sort of crazy to solve a crime. What follows is a refreshingly weird take on the psychological crime genre, and a gentle wink and a nod at Roman Polanski's Chinatown. KIALA KAZEBEE Living Room Theaters
Man on Wire
In August of 1974, Frenchman Philippe Petit—not content with having walked a tightrope between the twin towers of both Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbour Bridge—decided to try his luck rigging a tightrope between the big daddies of all the world's twin towers, the World Trade Center. James Marsh's new documentary brings Petit's feat to life—an accomplishment that is either breathtakingly stupid or brave. And while I'm usually skeptical of documentaries that switch between B-roll and interview footage, the B-roll in this case is so outrageously implausible that it's more than enough to keep any viewer gripped. If you suffer from vertigo, for example, this movie will make you feel sick. Hell, I don't, and it still did. MATT DAVIS Living Room Theaters.
Fritz Lang's surreal sci-fi classic from 1927. Jace Gace.
Miracle at St. Anna
In 2006, Spike Lee kicked some ass with the thriller Inside Man, a pretty killer piece of genre filmmaking. St. Anna is a genre flick too—but now the genre is "tear-jerking war epic," and Lee's execution is terrible. There are barking Nazis, a cheesy orchestral score, clumsy racial polemics, leftover severed limbs from Saving Private Ryan, plot developments that a magical realist would call "Bullshit!" on, and end credits that play over a choral version of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) befriends a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton) who takes him to live on a commune in Scotland populated by other celebrity impersonators: the Pope, Charlie Chaplin, James Dean, etc. We're treated to images of Abe Lincoln tending sheep and Buckwheat cuddling with chickens. Meanwhile, in an unrelated parallel story, legendary film director/tyrant Werner Herzog plays a missionary in Central America who coaches a team of skydiving nuns. Mister Lonely is the latest from oddball Harmony Korine (Gummo), and yeah, it's a total mess. NED LANNAMANN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
My Best Friend's Girl
The latest not-screened-for-critics film starring Dane Cook. (Confidential to "D.C.": Stop making movies, you smug asshole.) Various Theaters.
New World Disorder 9
Mountain bike porn. Clinton Street Theater.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
See review. Various Theaters.
Night of the Hunter
Robert Mitchum plays a homicidal preacher in this 1955 American gothic classic. Laurelhurst Theater.
Nights in Rodanthe
Nights in Rodanthe finally helped me understand why some men recoil so violently from romantic films. It's because they will never live up to Richard Gere: Their personality flaws can't be cured by a weekend on a stormy beach with soon-to-be-divorced devoted mother of two Diane Lane. Their estrangements from their handsome sons are too complicated for Diane Lane's love alone to solve; their own failed relationships are more than blurry, distant images; they are unlikely to risk their lives preserving precious medical supplies from floods in remote Ecuadorian villages; and they are fucking lousy at conjuring grief-relieving wild ponies on the islands of North Carolina. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
On the Wing
This documentary about the swifts that roost every summer in the chimney of Northwest Portland's Chapman Elementary is gently educational and only faintly self-congratulatory. The swifts are a local institution and it's about time they got their own movie. Did you know that swifts mate while in flight? True! ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
This scrappy little documentary follows filmmaker Karney Hatch as he delves deep into the myriad ways that major national banks screw poor people. Including interviews with folks ranging from Ralph Nader to a former vice president at Bank of America, Overdrawn paints a pretty dismal picture of the current state of affairs, while providing enough optimism to keep the film from being a total downer. For those of us living paycheck to paycheck, documentaries like this one are a sobering but not entirely unwelcome reminder of how important to be smart about where we put our money. ALISON HALLETT Clinton Street Theater.
Rape in the Congo
An "unflinching look at the plight of women and girls caught in the Congo's intractable conflicts." In other words, a lousy date movie. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Various Theaters.
A cheesy supermarket paperback in movie form, Righteous Kill stars Robert De Niro (Meet the Fockers) and Al Pacino (Gigli) as two septuagenarian NYPD cops. Throw in some easy exploitation of women, 50 Cent (who daringly plays against type as a hiphop producer/drug dealer), some cheap, last-minute plot twisting that invalidates everything that's come before it, and bingo: Righteous Kill, a movie that would've gone direct to DVD if it hadn't been for those two all-important, formerly meaningful names above the film's title. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
For a film so audaciously titled, you'd think this documentary would hold actual ideas about what to do with the clusterfuck that is the illegal immigration issue. Or that it would at least focus on a few people who potentially hold the answer. Nope. Solving Immigration would have been more accurately titled Histrionic and Tired Arguments about Immigration, Followed By a Few Title Screens Offering Lame "Solutions" Like "Secure the Border." Local director Mike Shiley fills his disjointed hour-long film with rambling interviews, from people like the Minutemen patrolling the border to "border angels" who set out water for those trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico desert. He tosses in long clips of cartoons from South Park and Current TV's Super News! (both clips make smarter points about immigration than Shiley's film does), and after making your head spin, he spends all of 10 minutes on the shallow "solutions" part. Lame. AMY J. RUIZ Laurelhurst Theater.
That dude is so not Spartacus. Poseur. Pix Patisserie (North).
This Happy Breed
Plucky Brits drink tea in between the two World Wars in David Lean's 1944 film of Noel Coward's stage play. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Dorky American tourist Roy (Woody Harrelson) drags along his wife, Jessie (Emily Mortimer) to China on a church-sponsored charity trip; afterward, the two hop onboard a train from Beijing to Moscow, and soon enough, shit hits the fan: Roy disappears, there's murder and drug smuggling and a snoopy Russian cop (Ben Kingsley), and all of Transsiberian's characters start behaving in ways that only people in sub-par thrillers behave (e.g., like total dumbasses). The end result is a Lifetime Channel "woman in peril" movie with a bigger budget and a better cast. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections
Need even less faith in your government? Here you go! Clinton Street Theater.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen's three previous movies took place in London, and it seems he's finally left Manhattan behind altogether. Vicky Cristina Barcelona functions well as a fluffy bit of tourism, but even more so than as a Spanish travelogue, the movie works—as with much of Allen's work—as escapism into the world of mysteriously wealthy people. As for the much-ballyhooed kiss between Scarlett Johansson and Penélope Cruz, it's pretty tame. The real fire comes from Cruz's performance; she's riveting and hilarious as a passionate, possibly insane firebrand, and whenever she shares the screen with Johansson, it's easy to forget that Johansson has all the charisma of a wet paper bag. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
Vortex 1: A Biodegradeable Festival of Life
A documentary about the rock festival staged just outside of Estacada in 1970 by Governor Tom McCall. The crafty McCall was trying to distract Oregon's hippies from an upcoming visit by Richard Nixon, and it largely worked. It was just good thinking, on McCall's part: Hippies are easily distracted by both rock 'n' roll and shiny objects (such as tinfoil, or your jingling keys). Clinton Street Theater.
Culturally, it's an awkward moment to be a chick. The Republican Party's pandering selection of an appallingly under-qualified vice presidential candidate rightly offended many of us, but far too many Democrats are embracing talking points straight out of 1957 in declaring Sarah Palin unfit for the presidency because she's a mother. (There are enough reasons to dislike Palin without making one of them the fact that she's a woman.) Were you inclined, though, to dislike women merely for being women, Diane English's unasked for and profoundly unnecessary remake of 1939's The Women is just the fuel for your misogynist fire. I happen to enjoy the company of women quite a bit—and am pretty cool with being one—but this histrionic est-fest made even me want to claw out my own vagina. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Working Class Rock Star
A doc about the "lives and struggles of touring musicians." Not screened for critics.Clinton Street Theater.