MUPPETS, MUSIC, AND MAGIC: JIM HENSON'S LEGACY
Runs through May 24 at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. More info: nwfilm.org.
The Art of Puppetry and Storytelling
A collection of rare, behind-the-scenes footage of Jim Henson's creations, an episode of The Muppet Show, and more. Followed by a panel discussion featuring members of the "puppetry community of Portland."
The Great Muppet Caper
In the Muppets' second feature, Kermit and Fozzie are reporters—and identical twins, which I find inexplicably hilarious—who travel to London after some stolen diamonds. It's a comedy, a heist movie, a musical complete with surreal Busby Berkeley numbers, an all-star romp with hilarious cameos by John Cleese and Peter Falk, and a puppet show with effects that are still stunning decades later. (How on earth did they do that bike ride scene?) Jim Henson's giddiness is apparent in every frame. NED LANNAMANN
Muppet Fairytales: The Frog Prince & Others
Short films in which Muppets reinterpret fairy tales. (Kermit as the frog prince? Sign us up.)
Once you begrudgingly accept that you've already seen this flick a billion times, you'll discover... well... okay, it's not terrible. And that's largely thanks to the casting director, who had the smarts to surround metrosexual teen hunk Zac Efron with a funny, likeable cast. Especially impressive is Reno 911!'s Thomas Lennon, who plays Efron's grown-up, geeky best pal and yanks laughs out of every single scene. In addition, Efron spends most of the first scene of the movie with his shirt off—so as far as your teen daughter is concerned, that'll be worth the price of admission alone. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
3:10 to Yuma
To hell with your remakes with Russell Crowe and Batman! This is the old-school original from 1957! Laurelhurst Theater.
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 Academy Theater, Fox Tower 10, Laurelhurst Theater.
Angels & Demons
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Drummer Robb Reiner and Steve "Lips" Kudlow have kept the dream of their metal band, Anvil, alive since the early '80s—when they almost made it big, but were surpassed by Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. Still, the pair never got discouraged, and the documentary Anvil! depicts the Canadian rockers—now in their fifties—as they continue to desperately clutch at dreams of rock stardom. It sounds pathetic, but that's part of the movie's appeal. Anvil! is wickedly funny, Reiner and Kudlow make a great buddy team, and the film tells a familiar but surprisingly emotional story. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
Boyz N the Hood
Starring Steve Urkel. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
George Clooney's underrated adaptation of Chuck Barris' trippy memoir, featuring a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and a killer performance by Sam Rockwell. The Press Club.
Gorgeous, inventive, and melancholy—a film that's fantastic to look at, gives Pixar a run for its money in the creativity department, and reminds everyone how cool animation used to look in those prehistoric days before CG. Filmmakers in attendance at 6:40 shows on Friday May 15 and Saturday May 16 at Living Room Theaters. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Daniel Conrad: An Evening of Dance Film
Filmmaker Daniel Conrad presents his films, which "have brought new appreciation to the often-misunderstood genre of dance film." (Wait, so dance films are like music videos, right?) More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Fox Tower 10.
The BBC's Planet Earth is one of the most amazing documentary programs ever recorded, featuring nature footage the likes of which has literally never been seen before. Disney's Earth is a highlights reel culled from the BBC show, edited for maximum adorableness. (Baby polar bears! Baby elephants! Baby duckies! Etc.) And while it's hard to believe that anything to which the phrase "maximum adorableness" can be applied could possibly go awry, Earth manages, thanks to lazy editing, folksy narration, and a criminally melodramatic score. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
This too-long documentary by Kate Churchill is at its best in the first hour, when it plays like a Christopher Guest movie, except real. Churchill subjects a skeptical novice (Nick Rosen) to an intensive, six-month yoga immersion that takes him through virtually every style of practice, introducing him to a mixed-bag of gurus, from an ex-wrestler-turned-yoga-instructor-for-fake-boobied hardbodies in LA to the hilarious Norman Allen in Hawaii (his yogic advice: "Go fuck yourself"), and all the way into the spiritual heart of India. The unlikeable Churchill's frustration when Rosen fails to conform to her agenda and find "enlightenment" isn't nearly as entertaining as Rosen's obvious delight in being surrounded by hot yoga chicks, and the film's more edifying aspects seem to occur in spite of its unengaging central focus. At some point, the feeling just sinks in that what you might really be witnessing is a spectacularly grandiose attempt by an insane woman to seduce a dimwitted and indifferent dude—but there are some great editing and characters along the way. Director in attendance at 7:15 and 9:30 shows on Fri May 15 at Fox Tower 10. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
The Escapist would very much like to be that entertaining type of caper flick, like The Dirty Dozen or The Great Escape, where a group of down-and-out-yet-noble toughs band together and use their unique traits to free themselves from an otherwise inescapable facility. But it's not. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Living Room 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.
Channing Tatum (who?) stars in a film about the "corrupt bare-knuckle circuit" of street fighting, "where rich men bet on disposable pawns." Shockingly, this thing wasn't screened for critics. Forest Theatre, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Sandy Cinema.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
If you're not sick of Matthew McConaughey's shtick, this is an addition to the romcom pile that will only truly insult you four or five times. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The G.I. Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival
See Film, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
A screening of the 1961 Paul Newman flick–accompanied by Miles Davis concert footage from 1991, live jazz in the lobby, and Oregonian film critic Shawn Levy, who'll be signing copies of his book Paul Newman: A Life. Cinema 21.
Is There Anybody There?
If I were an old person, I think I would sort of resent having my demographic constantly used as a cinematic foil for young people to learn Important Lessons about mortality. Is There Anybody There? is a particularly egregious example: A young boy whose parents run a retirement home develops an unhealthy interest in the occult, and at least three or four old people have to kick it before he learns there's no such thing as life after death after all. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Land of Look Behind
Alan Greenberg's 1982 documentary about Bob Marley, shown as a "one-night only screening in memory of Bob Marley." WARNING: HIPPIES. Bagdad Theater.
The Limits of Control
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
The last film from legendary director Max Ophüls brings the many affairs of cabaret star Lola Montés to vivid life. This new print restores the film's original color scheme, and includes many scenes originally thought to be lost. With its sensual photography, dazzling score, and pitch-perfect pacing, to call this film one of the long lost masterpieces of cinema would be an understatement. MATTHEW VOLLONO Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Lord God Bird
An "empowering Portland conservation event" about the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. SHIT YES. Academy Theater, PCC Cascade Campus, Moriarty Arts Building.
It's The Ice Storm with a little bit of American Beauty thrown in for good measure, and at times, it really does feel like a retread—but the darkly comic Lymelife has some good things going for it. In fact, there's so much to like that it's a shame the film is sabotaged by clumsy editing, and an ending that hints at violence and feels completely bogus. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
"Fifteen American Indian youth from Yakama Nation, Spokane Tribes, and Shoshone-Bannock Tribes... address the dangers of cigarette smoking by turning video cameras on their parents, friends, and community leaders." More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A "successful asset manager who has just received a huge promotion" is stalked by his office temp! True, this film wasn't screened for critics—but it does costar Beyoncé and Jerry "Remember Me?" O'Connell! Eh? Eh? On a related note: Jesus Christ, Hollywood blows. Various Theaters.
The Owl and the Sparrow
A quiet drama set in modern-day Saigon, The Owl and the Sparrow's star is 10-year-old Thuy (Pham Thi Han), an orphan who runs away from her uncle's factory, where she was berated for making mistakes on the job as a child slave laborer. When she arrives in the big city, Thuy's circumstances are arguably improved when she hooks up with other runaways and gets a gig selling roses on the street. But other than what looks like a brief message inserted by UNICEF midway through the film, this is less a hardscrabble tale of social injustice than it is a sweet fantasy in which Thuy unites the two lonely lovebirds who are kind enough to look after her. Saigon is an enthralling backdrop, and the overall film is compelling, but a nonsensical, melodramatic ending hastily screws the pooch, exchanging the opportunity to examine richly complex issues for pap. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
Rudo y Cursi
Reuniting Y Tu Mamá También team Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, Rudo y Cursi is basically a lighthearted version of a VH1 Behind the Music episode that's entertaining if periodically excruciating. Bernal and Luna play brothers from a poor rural town who are both improbably discovered and swept into the world of professional soccer. Like MC Hammer and Britney Spears before them, the brothers quickly fumble their success, falling prey to various forms of excess. The graver issues at hand (poverty, drug and domestic abuse, gambling addiction) are somewhat swept past in favor of charm, which makes for a pleasant if shallow romp. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Shall We Kiss?
A bit of fluffy French romance. Funny in a tastefully droll, yet cheeky, manner that Europeans have cornered, the film chronicles the chance meeting of an attractive woman and man, both in long-term relationships, who've got the hots for each other. But rather than give in to a nice French roll in the hay, the woman (Julie Gayet) recounts the tale, through flashbacks, of two friends who took that very road, only to hurt the ones they loved. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
The curious setting of Mexican director Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light is a Mennonite community outside of Chihuahua. Plautdietsch, a German dialect associated with Prussian Mennonites, is spoken throughout the film, and the women wear dresses and headscarves reminiscent of conservative Amish attire. They do, however, eat tacos. If the plot is somewhat uneventful (barring a confusing and unsatisfyingly vague final act), the film is a visual masterpiece. The camera's slow gaze only occasionally feels gratuitous, and every frame is a feast of nature, lighting, and complexion. Silent Light is an increasingly rare style of film—that sort that one senses was not created to cater to its audience, but to challenge it. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Skills Like This
"In this inventive comedy, three friends have their lives turned upside down when one of them realizes that larceny might be his best skill." Not screened for critics, so you know it's gotta be good! Living Room Theaters.
A brand-new 35 mm print of the 1977 Paul Newman hockey classic. Clinton Street Theater.
A screenplay about a schizophrenic cellist (Jamie Foxx) who's discovered by a jaded journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) on the streets of Los Angeles wouldn't pass most people's schmaltz test. Unless, that is, the screenplay was based on a true story. Which The Soloist is. But true stories are often more complex than made-up ones, and Susannah Grant's screenplay fumbles when it tries to impose a grander narrative over the unlikely friendship between these two men. MATT DAVIS Various Theaters.
Spike & Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation
The Spike & Mike fest just keeps on going, year after year—so somebody must be going. More info: spikeandmike.com. Cinema 21.
Director J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III) and writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci (Transformers) have dusted off a doddering, weary franchise, injecting it with verve, punch, humor, and spectacle. Abrams & Co. have kept all that worked about Star Trek, but they've thrown aside everything that didn't—and the result is an epic, exuberant film that's remarkable for how much goddamn fun it is. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
State of Play
Schlubby newspaper reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe, looking as schlubby as it's possible for Russell Crowe to look) is of the old school: He can't refer to blogs without sneering, and he warns a source that if they don't listen to him, they'll fall prey to "the bloodsuckers and bloggers." But despite his pride and skill, McAffrey's fictional Washington, DC, paper is spiraling downward, with a recent takeover by a media conglomerate and a newfound focus on the web and eye-catching graphics. The subgenre of thrillers about intrepid journalists is a small one, sure—and for all I know, maybe these movies are only truly thrilling for those few of us who still work in print journalism. But I suspect not: When they're done right (as State of Play mostly is, despite its melodramatic ending) they pack an authoritative, heady punch. ERIK HENRIKSEN City Center 12, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Sandy Cinema, Sherwood 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
While it's common knowledge that the tired genre of sports cinema panders in clichés, last-second heroics, and well-worn life lessons delivered by tenacious underdogs, Sugar steers clear of all those things. This is a movie dedicated to baseball and life—not necessarily in that order—and rare has there been cinema on these subjects that comes across as so truthful, heartbreaking, and beautiful. EZRA ACE CARAEFF City Center 12.
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 Fox Tower 10.
Supertrash: The Running Man
Schwarzenegger in ye olden dayes! Bagdad Theater.
McG takes on the Terminator franchise, bringing Christian Bale and a kiddie friendly PG-13 rating along for the ride. Check out our review in next week's Mercury. Various Theaters.
To Catch a Thief
Hitchcock! Cary Grant! GRACE KELLY! (No, really. Grace Kelly was smokin', man.) Pix Patisserie (North).
Tokyo!—an "omnibus triptych," the movie's website pretentiously asserts—features three shorts set in Tokyo from directors Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Leos Carax (The Lovers on the Bridge), and Bong Joon-ho (The Host). What could two French directors and a South Korean have to say about Tokyo, and why should I be interested? I have no idea, and I'm not sure the directors involved with Tokyo! do either. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
Valentino: The Last Emperor
The grandiosity of this relatively modestly budgeted documentary is entirely appropriate when you consider that its subject is one of the most legendary couturiers on the planet. Italian designer Valentino and Giancarlo Giametti have been inseparable as lovers and business partners for over a half-century, pooling the beauty-obsessed Valentino's design prowess with the business smarts of Giametti to create a business worth hundreds of millions. Valentino is focused on the two years prior to the designer's retirement after 45 years—an anniversary celebrated with a panoply of excess verging on the absurd. At times endearing (director Matt Tyrnauer's camera is as interested in the designers' adorable pack of pugs as he is in Valentino's bitchy quips and tantrums) and gluttonous, the less glamorous footage of seamstresses carrying out their master's orders with intricate hand stitching offers an all-too-brief glance at a disappearing tradition that could make for a more substantial documentary of its own. 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.
A Wink and a Smile
Ten students enroll in Miss Indigo Blue's Academy of Burlesque, and we watch the ups and downs of their training. A Wink and a Smile is an examination of an art form with a long and storied history, as well as a celebration of female empowerment, and... aw, fuck it. Look, I tried. I watched this entire documentary, and I truly attempted to suspend my skepticism about burlesque's artistic legitimacy. But I still couldn't shake the feeling that it's all a bit of a sham. Also, Indigo Blue seems incredibly pretentious. I mean, this movie's wall-to-wall with naked women, and I still didn't like it. So... um... I'm sorry? Screw it. I'm going to Mary's Club. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
As he's fond of saying in X-Men comics, Wolverine is the best there is at what he does—and now, we discover that what he does is star in crappy spinoffs. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Zompire: The Undead Film Festival
The annual film festival "dedicated to all things undead." See zompire.com for more info. Hollywood Theatre.