All the President's Men
Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who exposed the Watergate coverup. Their story is played as suspense, and it's absolutely thrilling, although the wordy script's rapid-firing of names might confuse viewers too young to have lived through the scandal. What's astonishing, though, is how a mere two years after Nixon resigned, All the President's Men tells its story plainly, with plenty of perspective and a near-total lack of shrill liberal bias. Also, Jason Robards is a badass. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Ashes and Diamonds
Andrzej Wajda's 1958 drama is the final film in his war trilogy, following A Generation and Kanal. Wajda would go on to direct Pauly Shore's 1996 smash hit Bio-Dome. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Battlestar Galactica: The Final Episodes
The Black Hole
What? A Disney-funded ripoff of Star Wars? Nah! What's that? Battlestar Galactica, you say? Never heard of it! Saturday screening preceded by old trailers and short films. Bagdad Theater.
Michelle Pfeiffer karate-chopped her way into the hearts of her inner city students in Dangerous Minds. Hilary Swank's enormous incisors beamed the white light of hope into her post race-riot Los Angeles classroom in Freedom Writers. So how does the white teacher François Bégaudeau win over his ethnically diverse class of urban hoodlums in the French flick The Class? He doesn't, and that's why it's the best movie about a contemporary classroom made to date. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Crips and Bloods: Made in America
Damien Hirst: Addicted to Art
What's fascinating about this film is not its bland structure but how easily British art star Damien Hirst is able to reveal the interior workings of his mega-empire without the slightest bit of pretense or grandstanding. This is a rare, insightful glimpse into the mind of an artist whose buying power has allowed him to continue making the kind of groundbreaking art for which he's famous. Screens with Andres Serrano, a film about the dude who made the controversial "Piss Christ" photograph. MATTHEW VOLLONO Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Based on an exposé-style novel by Roberto Saviano—a writer who has reportedly been granted a permanent police escort by Italian authorities because his book pissed off so many murderous gangsters—Gomorrah takes itself very, very seriously. Which is fair, since people die all the way through it, and the film's often brutal events aren't exactly the stuff of slapstick. But it also seems a little bit too enamored with its messages, and a coda that closes the film threatens to make the whole thing feel like a "dramatic reenactment" from Italy's Most Wanted. Luckily, though, the rest of the film is so solid—in its careful, insightful, and interconnected profiles of its desperate characters—that Gomorrah manages to be just as engaging as it thinks it is, even if it's not nearly as revelatory as it would like to be. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
The Hunker Down to Rise Above Cinema Show
Landscape After Battle
Andrzej Wajda's film about concentration camp survivors living halfway between freedom and imprisonment is a masterpiece in the great directors' canon. Centered around a magnificent performance by Daniel Olbrychski, and featuring one of the most memorable opening scenes in Polish film history, Wajda blends irony with human suffering so seamlessly the viewer nearly misses just how dark this film's humor really is. MATTHEW VOLLONO Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Last House on the Left
One more unasked-for horror remake. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Let the Right One In
This much-ballyhooed Scandinavian film is neither scary, teen angsty, nor spooky enough—but it is lovely, filled with austere, blue-hued snow and groves of haunting birch trees in the midst of Stockholm. And while Let the Right One In is by no means a poor entry in the vampire genre, it left me nearly as cold as the frozen landscapes, meting out little satisfaction on either a horror level or a character level. To be fair, the film doesn't pretend to scare you—it truly wants to succeed in an elegant, understated way, though it doesn't completely reach its goal. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fifth Avenue Cinema, Laurelhurst Theater.
If we can, let's forget Righteous Kill; this is why Robert De Niro's a big deal: lean, grinning, charismatic, and funnier than anything in Meet the Fockers or Analyze That. This was De Niro's first movie with Martin Scorsese, and it's an impressionistic glimpse of small-time hood life in Manhattan's Little Italy, sauteed in violence and Catholic guilt. Scorsese and De Niro both went on to tell bigger and better stories, but never as poetically as they do here. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Medicine for Melancholy
"San Francisco is beautiful. It's got nothing to do with beatniks or hippies or yuppies," says one half of the young black hipster couple that Medicine for Melancholy revolves around. The attractive duo create some genuinely cute and charming moments amid this film's stilted but relevant dialogue about race and gentrification. SARAH MIRK Living Room Theaters.
Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight
I'm still wondering how these filmmakers managed to take the work of Milton Graser, possibly the most celebrated designer of all time (he came up with the I Heart NY logo, among countless other designs that have since become part of American culture), and produce a puff piece as bland as a network news profile. MATTHEW VOLLANO Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Can't do much better here than the synopsis on IMDB: "A young man awakens from a four-year coma to hear that his once virginal high-school sweetheart has since become a centerfold in one of the world's most famous men's magazines. He and his sex-crazed best friend decide to take a cross-country road trip in order to crash a party at the magazine's legendary mansion headquarters and win back the girl." Shockingly, this wasn't screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, March 13 for our review. Various Theaters.
Our City Dreams
Our City Dreams offers five brief profiles of female artists working in New York City, beginning with contemporary street artist Swoon and proceeding through the generations to conclude with painter Nancy Spiro, now in her 80s. While director Chiara Clemente's subjects share a common gender and locale, these commonalities feel incidental to their artistic pursuits. Little sense of the city itself emerges—nor is the question of of how their gender influences their work pursued with particular vigor. The result is a sufficiently informative introduction to five interesting artists that doesn't add up to much. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
Portland Women's Film Festival
The 2009 Portland Women's Film Festival (AKA the POW Fest) runs at the Hollywood Theatre from Thursday March 19 through Saturday March 21. For more info on the fest, check out next week's Mercury, out on Thursday, March 19. Hollywood Theatre.
Race to Witch Mountain
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
Synecdoche, New York
The best of writer Charlie Kaufman's previous films (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) were helmed by Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry—both of whom succeed in translating Kaufman's cerebral scripts into films that, while intellectual exercises of a sort, were nonetheless engaging, funny, and affecting. But with Synecdoche, New York, Kaufman directs, and disappointing as it is to admit this, the product is a chore—a dour collection of inexpertly packaged ideas that simply doesn't inspire the intellectual curiosity necessary to understand it. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
"Ah, ninja pizza... pizza that vanish quickly without trace!" Pix Patisserie (North).
The Toe Tactic
Director Emily Hugley's winningly weird film splices together the gravest of grownup concerns with an unapologetically childish gimmick: Mona is a young woman grieving for her long-dead father, little realizing that her world is being used as a gameboard by animated cartoon dogs who occasionally interfere in her life. (It's hard to explain.) The movie has a Blues Clues-for-grownups quality that's saved from over-preciousness by the complete and unapologetic silliness of both concept and execution. Director in attendance. ALISON HALLETT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Whatever Joaquin Phoenix is doing, it's working. His threat to walk away from movies and instead concentrate on rapping is so preposterous that at least half of his fanbase is convinced it's a joke or publicity stunt. If it's the latter, then it appears to be having a positive effect on critics, who seem to want to send him out on a congratulatory note. Two Lovers may be (depending on whether you believe him) his last film, and if it is, then his desire to leave the industry is a little more understandable. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
A doc that "explores America's fast-growing bicycling culture by profiling five people whose lives are inextricably tied to bicycling and the bike-centric social groups they belong to." So kinda like Wild Hogs, but without motors! Or Tim Allen. Living Room Theaters.
Waltz with Bashir
During the current moment being enjoyed by the animated documentary genre (Chicago 10, Persepolis), Waltz with Bashir will stand as a landmark triumph. Already the recipient of numerous awards, including six Israeli Academy Awards, and a nominee for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the glowing buzz that precedes director Ari Folman's dark, hallucinatory memoir of a tour of duty during the Lebanese Civil War is justifiable. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
In an ill-advised attempt to translate rather than adapt the 1985 comic book classic, director Zack Snyder has boiled down the story to its cheesiest, most melodramatic moments: The images have been made glossy, the violence has been amped up, the storyline has been simplified. This is, technically, Watchmen, but only a shadow of it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Wendy and Lucy
Wendy and Lucy is not easy to watch. The follow-up to director Kelly Reichardt's critically adored Old Joy, it also takes the Pacific Northwest as its setting—this time a dingy, unnamed Oregon town where protagonist Wendy (Michelle Williams) is waylaid on her journey from Indiana to Alaska. Supremely under-funded, all Wendy has is a crappy Honda Accord, a small pile of quickly dwindling dollar bills, and her dog, Lucy. Reichardt's film could almost be called unkind as it slowly drags the viewer through the tedious realism of Wendy's worsening situation: her car breaks down, she gets busted shoplifting, and most anxiety-producing of all, Lucy goes missing. So we shift uncomfortably in our seats as we're made privy to the harsh lights of gas station bathrooms where Wendy gives herself bum-baths, long, cold, merciless shots of lost and orphaned dogs at the pound, and the furrow of Wendy's brow as she balances pragmatism and panic in the face of mounting car expenses. MARJORIE SKINNER Laurelhurst Theater.