FILMED BY BIKE
JACKPOT RECORDS FILM FESTIVAL
America's Lost Band: The Remains
A look at "the rock band that broke up on the brink of fame right after opening for the Beatles' last-ever tour in 1966."
Dirt Road to Psychedelia
A doc about the "country/folk movement in Austin, Texas, in the 1960s" and its evolution.
Graffiti Rock & Hiphop Videos
See Film, this issue.
A film about obsessive vinyl collectors, and "what drives a person to collect records in the first place."
JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
The Gift to Stalin
This tale of a child displaced by Stalin's murderous regime is chock-full of clunky Biblical symbolism. What could've been a marvelous portrait of modern-day grace is burdened by the weight of its religious doctrine. MATTHEW VOLLONO
The Last Days
A documentary about those who survived Hitler's attack on Hungary in 1944, in which "Nazis deported and killed 425,000 people in just 60 days."
A snappy script and clever direction transform this formulaic story of a flight attendant forced to care for a child left in her apartment from "Hallmark movie of the week" status into "something you should actually care about." MATTHEW VOLLONO
"The haunting saga of a Parisian Jewish family torn apart by passion and shame in World War II."
An absorbing look at art theft during the Holocaust—stylistically, it's similar to a History Channel documentary, but it's much more exciting—it blends documentary footage of the daily reality of Austrian Jews during the Nazi occupation with a cross-continent adventure tale reminiscent of big-budget Hollywood dramas. MATTHEW VOLLONO
A film about an Israeli man and a Palestinian woman and their "unbreakable bond."
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
Set in 1987, there's a sense of bittersweet nostalgia throughout Adventureland. It's a film that's witty and dark enough to distance itself from the sappy clichés of the coming-of-age genre, but it's heartfelt enough to feel more genuine and insightful than the usual comedy where someone shouting "Boner!" counts as a punchline. (That said, someone does shout "Boner!" in Adventureland, and it's really funny when he does.) ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Best of Ottawa Animation Festival
The Ottawa International Animation Festival is the biggest animation festival in North America, and it's to be lauded for the range and breadth of material it showcases. Having said that, most of the shorts on tonight's program feel like indulgent student projects—no doubt some of them are—as they're marred with awkwardly confessional narration and crude, uninteresting animation. But 2008's winner almost redeems the lot: Chainsaw, from Australia's Dennis Tupicoff, is a beautiful, stream-of-consciousness piece that traverses through recurring motifs and imparts wisdom to the audience. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
"I don't mean to offend you, Bob, but your brother's a cocksucker." The Press Club.
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, Hollywood Theatre.
Crank 2: High Voltage
Jason Statham's ridiculous-looking latest, which wasn't screened for critics. Various Theaters.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher movies are worth getting excited about. Sure, he's had his misfires—Panic Room, that Alien 3 business—but c'mon: Seven. Zodiac. Fight Club. Scrupulous, poised, and with a masterful control of tone, you'd think he'd be the perfect director for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in which the titular character ages in reverse, starting life as a blind, deaf troll and gradually growing into the charming, handsome Brad Pitt. It's equal parts fantasy and drama, and at points, you can see Fincher's hand with moments that are surreal, strange, and heart-stoppingly sad. But the rest of the film... well, the rest of the film feels a lot like Forrest Gump, complete with goofy plot devices and banal cliches. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater.
Doubt is not subtle. Despite the fact the film—which features a Catholic priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who (surprise!) may or may not have a boner for altar boys—is about deeds that go unsaid and beliefs that go unproven, it insists on holding your hand, guiding your eye, and, occasionally, smacking you over the head. This is strange, because playwright John Patrick Shanley's play, on which the film is based, favors the opposite tactic: Unsettling and ominous, Shanley's script leaves plenty of room for uncomfortable interpretation. But the film—which Shanley directs with all the nuance of a vaudeville act—seems built mostly for the purpose of begging for Oscars. It also earnestly attempts to reintroduce the oft-parodied gimmick—last seen in the Hammer horror films of the '50s and '60s—of thunder dramatically crashing whenever there's a Very Important Line of Dialogue. ERIK HENRIKSEN Edgefield, Laurelhurst Theater.
A live-action film based on the manga and anime series, Dragonball: Evolution wasn't screened for critics, most likely because it looks fucking awful. Various Theaters
For a director obsessed with unexpected plot twists, Tony Gilroy's latest project feels awfully familiar. Duplicity is his latest plunge into the world of corporate espionage, and while 2007's Michael Clayton came off well, this time around, Gilroy shepherds Julia Roberts and Clive Owen through a much lighter-hearted romcom version of the game, with tepid results. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters
A Disney-approved, big-screen version of the BBC's visually stunning Planet Earth series. See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters
Fast & Furious
Fast & Furious begins with a car chase/gasoline heist(!), then immediately cuts to a beach party, and then cuts to a frantic foot chase/shootout. It also features characters with names like "Fenix Rise," and a part where Vin Diesel threatens to crush some dude's head with a 600-pound engine, and another part where Vin Diesel studies a road's skid marks—effortlessly ascertaining who was driving, what kind of tires they had, and what sort of fuel injection they preferred. It's the best Fast and Furious movie since 2001's The Fast and the Furious, and if that means something to you (it does to me!), then you should probably see it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a wildly grumpy and racist widower who stubbornly clings to values picked up serving in the Korean War. His Detroit neighborhood, once the picture of Americana, is now a racial melting pot, and he spends his days drinking beer on the porch and muttering an endless stream of slurs at his Hmong neighbors. The neighbors' son Thao (Bee Vang) is coerced by the local Asian gang into stealing Walt's prized 1972 Gran Torino; when Walt catches him, Thao works off his debt, and the two disparate cultures begin to achieve an uneasy understanding. Unfortunately, the Asian gang members aren't as keen to journey down the road of enlightenment, and after a disturbing act of violence, Walt is forced to go all Dirty Har... rather, Dirty Grampy on their ass. It's one thing to ignore the racist ramblings of your grandfather—he's family. But paying good money to see what amounts to a geriatric Dirty Harry fighting racism with even more racism is just a bit too much for me to wrap my head around. WM.™ STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Hannah Montana: The Movie
I had a stupid smile on my face throughout this whole funny, silly, harmless, messy little movie. It's cheesy in a totally delightful way. There's about a half-dozen songs, but they aren't intrusive or all that embarrassing—just one more type of cheesy cheese to like about this cheesy movie. If I had a young daughter, I'd be happy to let her be obsessed with this little flick for a while—especially when I know what other obsessions (*cough*teenage vampire romance*cough*) await her. LOGAN SACHON Various Theaters.
Harvard Beats Yale 29-29
At the outset of this new documentary about a 41-year-old football game, the reminiscing players build up the game to the level of epic myth. And while Harvard Beats Yale sometimes feels like an extended, self-glorifying bullshit session between a bunch of old jocks, it's an insightful and charming bullshit session—and one that contains glimpses of nostalgia, bitterness, and decades-old elation and sadness. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinema 21.
I Love You, Man
The affable, goodhearted I Love You, Man is very much a post-Judd Apatow comedy: It can't compete with Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin on a laughs-per-scene basis, but its characters are similarly likeable. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Just Another Love Story
This smart, sleek Danish thriller from director Ole Bornedal is exquisitely nuanced, despite being packed with sex, violence, and naked corpses. Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen) has never met Julia (Rebecka Hemse), but after she swerves around his stalled car and runs off the road, he visits her as she lies in a coma. Jonas is married with kids, but he fibs to her family and doctor by claiming to be her boyfriend, and eventually falls in love with Julia's unconscious body. When she wakes up, she has amnesia, so Jonas is safe for a short while, but Julia's very dark past slowly creeps back. The film treads the perfect line between black comedy, nailbiting suspense, and heartwrenching drama—and while it seems inevitable that everything for Jonas and Julia is going to turn to shit, exactly how Just Another Love Story gets there is surprising, inventive, and moving. NED LANNAMANN Living Room Theaters.
This is the sort of bad movie that just fucking goes for it. Sometime in the third act, there's a moment I can only describe as "transcendent"—one that just kicks the whole thing into a whole other zone of bad. It is amazing to behold—for the audience, sure, but also for star Nicolas Cage, who literally falls to his knees in shock. That's how bad/amazing Knowing is: I never want to see it again, and I kind of love it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A film fest that aims to "promote women filmmakers, raise awareness for women's issues, and support worthy women's nonprofit organizations." Sponsored by "LUNA, the Whole Nutrition Bar for Women"! Hollywood Theatre.
Monsters vs. Aliens
Based on the number of celebs that lend their voices to this animated kids flick—including Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jeffrey Tambor, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, Rainn Wilson, and Kiefer Sutherland—it would be easy to assume that this must be the BEST MOVIE EVER. But don't fall for it! Monsters vs. Aliens is all mediocrity, all the time, but still, the film does what it's supposed to do: delight kids while keeping adults from wanting to die a painful death. LOGAN SACHON Various Theaters.
State of Play
New rule: No more buzzed-about Sundance films that include "sunshine" in the title. Please? Discovering that Sunshine Cleaning shares producers with Little Miss Sunshine is like finding out something lame that you kind of suspected might be true about the person you're interested in, but that you were willing to overlook out of optimistic desperation. It makes you feel gullible for being attracted to it. Still, one could hardly be blamed for finding comfort in the offbeat premise of a single mom, Rose (Amy Adams!), and her grungy, grumpy sister Norah (Emily Blunt!!!) going into business together as biohazard removers and crime scene cleaners, scraping up the decomposing remains of the victims of suicide, murder, and various other messy deaths. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
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