Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are convincingly badass as a couple of hired guns who come to the aid of a small town in New Mexico territory that's threatened by a corrupt, murderous rancher. Jeremy Irons oozes menace as the bad guy, and the hatchet-faced Renée Zellweger isn't completely awful as the default love interest, the only woman in this tiny shit-town who isn't a whore. (...Or is she?) Adapted from one of Robert B. Parker's eleventy-thousand novels, Appaloosa contains enough guns, horses, and billowing clouds of dust to populate every Western for the next 10 years. You've seen this movie before, but it's a really good one. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
A Tunisian drama that wasn't screened for critics. Fox Tower 10.
Battle in Seattle
Written and directed rather ambitiously by actor Stuart Townsend and jammed with an all-star cast, Battle in Seattle tells a true story but gives us no reason to care about the people, their lives, or their political causes. The protests that occurred at the World Trade Organization meeting in 1999 may well have been historically significant—but you wouldn't know it from this self-serious dud, which insists on TELLING us how important the issues are rather than SHOWING us. The laughably generic dialogue doesn't help, either. ERIC D. SNYDER Fox Tower 10.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Beverly Hills Chihuahua is not as terrible or as racist as I thought it would be. I laughed out loud more than a few times. But then again, I also laugh at YouTube videos of cats falling into toilets. SAHAR BAHARLOO Various Theaters.
Blindness, directed by Fernando Meirelles (who also directed The Constant Gardener and City of Men), is not technically a zombie movie. For one thing, it was based on the book of the same name written by Portuguese author José Saramago—something that can't be said about many zombie movies and no, Diary of the Dead does not count (not a real diary, people). But intentionally zombie-ish or not, Blindness is a stunning and terrifying film about a mysterious plague infecting the citizens of a nameless European city as one by one they lose their ability to see. The government (Oh, it's always the government effing things up, isn't it?) decides to quarantine the newly sightless in an abandoned mental hospital and eventually, as the entire city goes blind and society quickly deteriorates, the inmates are left running the asylum (this is never good). KIALA KAZEBEE Various Theaters.
Body of Lies
See review. Various Theaters.
David Lean's 1945 adaption of a Noel Coward play, Brief Encounter sees a British suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) begin an extramarital affair with some dude she meets at a train station (Trevor Howard). The film is a very dated study of guilt and stifled passion against the backdrop of trains pulling in and out of stations. It's supremely melodramatic, with way too much of the housewife's quavering voiceover; the silly woman's misery is entirely a product of her own cowardice. Still, the film is enchantingly dreamlike, and the parallel to Coward's own concealed proclivities gives it emotional heft. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Call and Response
Justin Dillon, lead singer for the late '90s Christian rock band Dime Store Prophets, is on a mission to save young Thai girls (among other things). In his nonprofit documentary Call and Response, Dillon has managed to gather an impressive cast of beautiful people to champion his cause. Julia Ormond and Ashley Judd (so pretty!) speak with empathetic authority about the plight of human trafficking, particularly the sexual slavery business overseas and here, in America. If you can get past the boring and longwinded musical performances (I'm looking at you, Switchfoot and Five for Fighting), the message is moving and thought provoking. Princeton professor Cornel West makes a good argument for music being part and parcel to this world's long history of slavery, but I could have done with less (read: no) terrible music and more in-depth reportage on the trickle-down economic atrocities which pervade everything, including my own Forever 21 habit. KIALA KAZEBEE Hollywood Theatre, Living Room 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 Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Fox Tower 10.
City of Ember
See review. Various Theaters.
Classic Concert Series:
A very special presentation for the inner white-guy-with-stinky-dreadlocks in all of us. Clinton Street Theater.
Death Note II: The Last Name
Otaku alert! Various Theaters.
The Dictator Hunter
A doc about Souleymane Guengueng, a former civil servant in Chad, and Reed Brody, a human rights advocate, who attempts to bring Chile's tyrant Augusto Pinochet to justice. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 McDonald's. 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.
An inspirational, family-friendly football movie starring Dennis Quaid? No way! Various Theaters.
Yet ANOTHER look at the traditional folk music of Sephardic Jews. Clinton Street Theater.
Filmed by Bike
Forty-five minutes of "favorite movies from the past six years" of the Filmed by Bike festival. Weiden and Kennedy.
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. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, 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, and 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.
An unlikely pair (played by Misty Upham and a pitch-perfect Melissa Leo) skirts the law and forms a tenuous bond. Writer/director Courtney Hunt masterfully keeps up the subtle suspense throughout, and it's easy to see why Frozen River won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. AMY J. RUIZ Laurelhurst Theater.
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.
Dickens' novel contains one of the most egregious Jewish stereotypes in English literature—that of Fagin, the leader of a band of ragamuffin pickpockets. David Lean's 1948 film stars Obi-Wan Kenobi—er, I mean, Alec Guinness as Fagin, who chews up the scenery with a ridiculous prosthetic nose and a scratchy voice. (There's a scene where the miserly Jew literally covets a box of jewelry.) Lean's film is a feast of 19th century London, with some kid named Oliver at the center of the action, but he's almost irrelevant. There's a bit too much plot, with some incomprehensible motives and much of the narrative relying on deathbed confessions, but it's a surprisingly dark and sadistic story, and Lean stays true to its spirit, unlike some other movies we could mention—say, for instance, Oliver and Company, the 1988 Disney cartoon featuring the voice talents of Billy Joel and Joey Lawrence. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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.
Watching John Waters' 1972 midnight classic Pink Flamingos is a life-changing experience. With a singing asshole and Divine performing the very first version of "Two Girls, One Cup" (er, maybe that should be "One Dog, One Woman, One Cup," or rather "One Dog, One Man Dressed as a Woman, One Sidewalk"?), this awesome gross-out film is the ultimate in bad taste. (Ha! That's probably what Divine said!) COURTNEY FERGUSON Broadway Metroplex.
PLAFF: Postcards from Leningrad
The opening night film in the Portland Latin American Film Festival (PLAFF), Postcards from Leningrad takes a stylistic cue from Amelie, incorporating multimedia, photographs, and drawings on film—though in this film, the whimsy of those devices is clouded by the dark subject matter. Interpretations of war are told through a girl's sweet voiceover, making Venezuela in the '60s seem lovely and frightening at the same time. For instance: A man getting waterboarded on screen is a teeny bit less terrifying with the girl explaining that all is well because he is a frog. Pretty, interesting, sad, and lovely. For more on PLAFF, which runs through October 23, see Film Featurette, and pick up next week's issue of the Mercury. LOGAN SACHON
Now, I aint sayin' she's a gold digger... oh wait. Yes, I am. Irene (the intoxicating and magical Audrey Tautou) would tell you the same—unless you inhabit the sparkling world of caviar, couture, and getting drunk in the daytime, you're not getting a piece. In five-star hotels of the French Riviera, Irene is every busboy's dream... until one of those busboys (the likeable everyman Gad Elmaleh) fools her into thinking he's a guest. What follows is a soft, light, and modern take on love and sex, and how the two can indeed be separate. Priceless is funny and cute (we won't use the term "romantic comedy," because this film is smart and genuinely engaging), and plus, there's a glimpse of Tautou's boobs, which is worth the price of admission alone. ANDREW R. TONRY Living Room Theaters.
What? A crappy-looking horror flick that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
Reel Rock Film Tour
A selection of films about "dangerous and committing climbs," "adventurous first ascents," "the world's best sport climbers and boulderers," and "the purity of on-site climbing." Hey! Wait a minute. Are "boulderers" even real? What the fuck does that even mean? Anyway: Here's the rock-climbing porn you ordered, sir. Hollywood Theatre.
For atheists accustomed to the one-way street of religious acceptance (on which I will respect your right to believe what you want to believe, and you will attempt to limit my access to birth control), there is something refreshing about Bill Maher's Religulous, in which the unflappably egomaniacal Maher travels the country interviewing people about their faith, in order to: (A) point out the errors of logic, fact, and history inherent to their worldview, and (B) make fun of them. Alas, the film suffers from two things: a lack of focus, and an abundance of Maher. ALISON HALLETT Century Clackamas Town Center, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
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 Vancouver Plaza 10.
Rules of the Game
One of those canonical "greatest movies of all time" that, while dry at times, is obviously influential (just about every drama that's ever taken social class as its subject owes a debt to this film). Guests at an estate in the French countryside fall in and out of love with one another, oblivious to the army of servants who rush about oiling the gears of the elaborate social mechanism. The brilliance of a few scenes stands out undeniably—the hunt scene alone, in which rabbits are chased toward well-dressed ladies and gentleman who stand waiting, guns at the ready, justifies sitting through the rest of the film. ALISON HALLETT Clinton Street Theater.
That's It, That's All
"Dedicated to everything snowboarding, Travis Rice and a dream team crew set out on a seek-and-destroy operation for the new zone, the new trick, and the new perspective on the sport." Whoa. Roseway.
Todd Haynes As Avant-Garde Filmmaker
An interview with director Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven, Velvet Goldmine, I'm Not There), conducted by professor and film writer Scott MacDonald. The event will include clips from Haynes' rarely screened early films. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Ben Stiller plays Tugg Speedman, a depressed, lonely action star whose best years are well behind him. Meanwhile, Jack Black is Jeff Portnoy, a maniacal drug addict/actor who's best known for movies like The Fatties Fart 2, and Robert Downey Jr. dons blackface as Kirk Lazarus, an award-winning white method actor who, while playing a black man, can't break character. Ever. The three are on location in Vietnam, filming an adaptation of a memoir by war veteran Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte, with hooks for hands, literally) that's being directed by some British guy (the ordinarily marvelous Steve Coogan, whose sole qualification for this job is an English accent). They're all watched over by an overweight, disgustingly hairy bulldog of a studio exec who's so foul that you can practically see stink lines wafting off the screen. Tom Cruise plays the studio exec. If you can't tell already, there's entirely too much going on here: Tropic Thunder wants to be a comedy and a slam-bang action ride, but the violence is too grisly to be funny, and the concepts keep folding in on each other. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Year of the Fish
So in the supposedly gritty modern fairy tale Year of the Fish, Cinderella is a submissive Chinese daughter tricked into indentured servitude at a New York "massage" parlor, Prince Charming is an accordion-playing hipster, and the Fairy Godmother is a homeless creeper with long fingernails. At some point during filming, director David Kaplan must have realized that his film was turning out to be excruciatingly boring and irrelevant—so in post-production, he had the live action combined with what's obviously PhotoShop's "paint daub" filter, making the whole thing look like a cheap, shitty Waking Life ripoff. SARAH MIRK Hollywood Theatre.