In theory, Bad Words should be a lot of fun—it's a dark comedy about a spelling bee, and it follows an adult (Jason Bateman) who bends the rules in order to enter the kids' contest for his own nefarious ends. But the ratio of mean spiritedness-to-cleverness is off, and Bad Words leaves a bad taste. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
A crime drama starring Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, and James Caan. Not screened for critics, and for a second I thought James Caan might be dead, but nope! The star of Thief, Brian's Song, and Las Vegas is a sprightly 73 years young. Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue; director in attendance. Hollywood Theatre.
A Portland-set drama written and directed by Portlander Steven Doughton. The bulk of the film is a single telephone conversation between a glum mom, T.C. (Tina Holmes), and Danny (Matthew Del Negro), her estranged brother. ELINOR JONES Clinton Street Theater.
Classics from Studio Ghibli
The word "genius" gets batted around with regard to filmmakers with a numbing, reductive frequency. But if Hayao Miyazaki doesn't qualify for that title, who does? As a NW Film Center retrospective (featuring new, subtitled, 35mm prints) demonstrates, nobody else can balance exhilarating weightlessness with moral gravity in quite the same proportions. ANDREW WRIGHT Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
She's a Broadway legend and a veteran theater actress, but to younger folk, Elaine Stritch is best known for playing Jack Donaghy's exhausting mom on 30 Rock. Lesser known is that she pretty much plays herself in the role: Stritch is brassy and demanding, but lovable... kind of. Shoot Me traces Stritch's steps as she prepares for a one-woman show while in her 80s: there's a lot of conversations about her prunes and where they are, and she gets in a heated argument with the cameraman about how to shoot her when she is opening a bag of muffins; all the while, she never wears pants. JENNA LECHNER Living Room Theaters.
Far From Vietnam
The 1967 film about Vietnam by Jean-Luc Godard, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Chris Marker, and Alain Resnais. Narrated by Kevin James. Clinton Street Theater.
Fashion in Film
FEATURING THE MERCURY'S OWN MARJORIE SKINNER!!! See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
The NW Film Center's month-long retrospective of cinema's second greatest Burt continues. This weekend's Lancaster-tastic selection is 1960's Elmer Gantry. NED LANNAMANN Whitsell Auditorium.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The excellent phrase "a glimmer of civilization in the barbaric slaughterhouse we know as humanity" is used twice in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Those words could refer to 1) the Grand Budapest Hotel, a pink and white and pristine resort that, like a colossal, obnoxiously ornate gâteau, sits high in the mountains of the Republic of Zubrowka. Or they could refer to 2) M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the revered concierge of said establishment. With his sharp purple jacket, crisp black bowtie, and immaculate mustache, Gustave rules the Grand Budapest with enchanting grace and fastidious obsession, ensuring everyone is doted on—particularly the guests he takes a liking to. And there's one final thing those words might refer to: 3) Wes Anderson's latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinema 21.
Grindhouse Film Festival
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
If You Build It
A documentary that "follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they work with local high school students." Living Room Theaters.
Muppets Most Wanted
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
"Stick around." Academy Theater.
A film series sponsored by In Other Words Feminist Community Center. This month: Maria in Nobody's Land. More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
Legendary schlockmeister William Castle (13 Ghosts) knew it best: when it comes to putting butts in seats, you just can't beat a good gimmick. Russian Ark is far too respectable to ever stoop to the likes of dumping a rubber skeleton in the audience's lap, but there's no denying that its considerable buzz quotient depends solely on one dilly of a stunt; namely, a single 96-minute Steadicam shot. Whether this amounts to anything more than an empty high-wire act is open to personal interpretation; however, its technical bravura is impossible to deny. ANDREW WRIGHT Whitsell Auditorium.
A documentary that follows a quirky inventor, Tim Jenison, who attempts to recreate a painting by Johannes Vermeer. Jenison is a techie; he invents a device to assist with his painting and engineers an elaborate diorama to mimic the scene in the 17th century masterpiece. The journey is funny, the results are impressive, and Tim's Vermeer is one of the most entertaining art documentaries I've seen (and I watch a lot of 'em... a lot of 'em being boring). JENNA LECHNER Cinema 21.
Nicolas Cage in the '80s-riffic romcom. Hollywood Theatre.
Attending your 10-year high school reunion is rarely a good idea, and neither is reuniting the cast of a defunct TV series. But the Veronica Mars movie makes the best of both situations, giving fans of the show what they crave while being accessible for newcomers who want a glossy, mid-grade whodunit with a sense of humor. ERIC D. SNIDER Living Room Theaters.
Seattle's Scarecrow Video presents "a molotov cocktail of ninjas, bad one-liners, 'roid heads, spandex, sex scenes, and straight-to-video excessive violence." God bless you, Scarecrow Video. Hollywood Theatre.
Video Time Machine
Videos from MTV's first year on the air, from 1981 to 1982, with "the entire year condensed into 90 minutes from the purest sources possible (in this case, Betamax recordings in excellent condition)." Hollywood Theatre.