MUPPETS, MUSIC, AND MAGIC: JIM HENSON'S LEGACY
This Jim Henson retrospective ends Sunday, May 24. All films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Dog City and The Storyteller: "The Soldier and Death"
Two Jim Henson films. Dog City features "an entire 1940s noir city populated by wisecracking dogs," while an episode of The Storyteller follows a soldier who uses magical objects "to outwit otherworldly creatures."
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas & Shorts
The Christmas-themed Jim Henson film from 1977, accompanied by "a rarely seen collection of highlights from other Christmas specials."
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
QDoc begins Thursday, May 28, and runs through Sunday, May 31. For more info, see next week's Mercury and queerdocfest.org. All films screen at the Clinton Street Theater.
City of Borders
A look at Shushan, the only gay bar in Jerusalem, where "Palestinians and Israelis, lesbians and gay men gather... in a spirit of community and mutual support." Director Yun Suh in attendance; followed by QDoc's opening night party.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
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 99W Twin Indoor Cinema, Century Clackamas Town Center, Movies on TV.
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 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.
Angels & Demons
It's not exactly inaccurate to say that the Vatican hates Dan Brown's guts. Brown is the author of such unrealistic and fluffy pop jewels as The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, and since both pretend to accurately portray the life, history, and secrets of the Vatican, the Vatican therefore kind of hates Dan Brown's guts. They also kind of hate the guts of Ron Howard for directing the screen version of The Da Vinci Code, and by association, actor Tom Hanks for starring as the film's bookworm protagonist, Robert Langdon. However, in an odd turn of events, the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, deigned to actually review the screen version of Angels & Demons, and as it turns out? They didn't hate its guts very much. In fact, they kind of, sort of, moderately enjoyed it (somewhat). And even more shockingly? For once, I find myself kind of agreeing with the Vatican. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY 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 50s—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.
Damn—for a second, we thought that said Becker. You go, Ted Danson! Pix Patisserie (North).
Before Night Falls
Julian Schnabel's 2000 film about Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem). The Press Club.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Wow. So how about that Mickey Rooney, huh? Kennedy School.
The Brothers Bloom
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
A Clockwork Orange
A bit of the old ultra-violence. Mission Theater.
The Color Purple
Whoa! What's Guinan doing hanging out with Oprah?! Kennedy School.
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. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Those oh-so-wacky Wayans Brothers spoof teen dance movies! We tricked a gullible intern into going to this press screening for us, which occurred after our deadline. Hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, May 22 for our review. Various Theaters.
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 Hollywood Theatre.
Edison & Leo
A stop-motion animated film from director Neil Burns. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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. 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.
François Truffaut plus Ray Bradbury? Shit yes. Bagdad Theater.
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.
When grumpy old bastard William (Red West) hops into the cab of affable Senegalese cabbie Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), Goodbye Solo threatens to become yet another movie in which a quasi-mystical black person teaches an oblivious white person some Life Lessons. (See: The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Green Mile, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, any number of films starring Morgan Freeman.) Thankfully, what results is nothing of the sort: Quiet, patient, and melancholy, Goodbye Solo's subtle confidence belies a surprising power. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
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 Academy Theater, Avalon, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas, Mission Theater.
In a bit of accidental timeliness, The International's eeeevil antagonist is the fictitious "International Bank of Business and Credit." "You control the debt... you control everything," exposits one soon-to-be assassinated informant. From there on out, the film's a no-holds-barred rollercoaster of excitement in which Interpol Agent Clive Owen grumbles a lot and Manhattan District Attorney Naomi Watts frantically text messages on her BlackBerry in between saying things like, "Who gives a shit about jurisdictional providence?!" ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
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.
James and the Giant Peach
Henry Selick's underrated Roald Dahl adaptation from 1996. Kennedy School.
"Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour." Bagdad Theater.
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 Avalon, Kennedy School, Milwaukie Cinemas, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
The Limits of Control
Director Jim Jarmusch has never been one to pay too much heed to plot, preferring to focus his intense talents on deliberate pacing, kooky characters, and overall mood. But where past endeavors have succeeded with this formula, The Limits of Control lacks a payoff after all its glacial pacing. It's an existential, '60s-style caper flick—without any sort of closure, or moment of release, or even any idea of what, exactly, the caper involves. COURTNEY FERGUSON Cinema 21.
That sparkly dude from Twilight plays Salvador Dalí! What the eff? Living Room Theaters.
Made in USA
Conventional wisdom says that by the time Jean-Luc Godard got around to Made in USA in 1966, he was a little more than halfway through his decade-long golden period. Culturally and narratively, Made in USA feels entrenched in its times, as if the backstory to this meta-detective film—and the logic to such period-specific touches as Marianne Faithful's on-camera a capella "As Tears Go By"—were lost in a faded issue of the Village Voice. But the more familiar with Godard you are, the more you'll see his solipsistic style as proof of a young and nimble mind already bored with its own tricks. Fortunately for Godard and us, he still had the '60s unfolding for his camera's edification. ANDREW STOUT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A film in which Jennifer Aniston lets a creepy loser (Steve Zahn) touch her butt. As it shuttles back and forth from wacky slapstick to heartfelt, quirky romcom, sometimes Management hits its mark—but all in all, it's like choking down a free continental breakfast at a chintzy motel. NED LANNAMANN City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Ah, romance. Mission Theater.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Nirvana: Live! Tonight! Sold Out!
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" mattered then, and it matters now—but watching Nirvana grow tired of it (even as the glossy magazine covers featuring the trio pile up) is a wholly different act now than it was then. Sure, the shotgun blast heard 'round the Rolling Stone offices changed that—watching a clearly fucked-up Cobain mutter through a Headbangers Ball interview, or watching him pretend to die onstage, feels far heavier now with the weight of Cobain's suicide. But as unavoidable as his inevitable suicide is throughout Live!, it's hardly the focus: The rough, grainy footage follows Nirvana as they tear through sets on their post-Nevermind world tour. The music's great, but the incidental stuff is better: weird foreign interviews, news blurbs hosted by Kurt Loder, candid backstage moments, sterile arena concerts alongside grimy club shows, Novoselic bouncing around like a possessed skeleton, Grohl pounding his drums with astonishing force. ERIK HENRIKSEN Clinton Street Theater.
Observe and Report
The fact that Observe and Report is relentlessly funny, and not simply grotesquely offensive, is a testament to the comedic talents onboard—director Jody Hill reprises the deadpan, detail-oriented tone he created in The Foot Fist Way, while actors like Patton Oswalt and Human Giant's Aziz Ansari make welcome cameos. It's star Seth Rogen, though, who injects the film with its improbable levity. By all rights, his mall cop character Ronnie Barnhardt is a dimwitted, gun-obsessed, casually racist sociopath who should be completely repellent—yet he is, at times, oddly charming, even when he's shooting smack in one of the mall's bathroom stalls. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
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. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center.
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 Thuy arrives in the big city, her 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.
Paris, 1936: working conditions are dismal, fascists battle communists for control of factories, and workers just want to get paid. And in the midst of so much relevant social turmoil, Paris 36 asks us to care about a particularly uninspiring premise: The Chansonia music hall has just shut its doors, and a handful of plucky actors and musicians are determined to see it rise again. Think of this film as Amelie minus the charm, or Cabaret minus the relevance. ALISON HALLETT City Center 12.
Race to Witch Mountain
If you've ever contemplated Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's parenting skills, insofar as they relate to the remote but not inconceivable possibility of your eggs ever coming into contact with his sperm, let me put your mind at ease: The Rock would make a great baby daddy. The Rock is brave and loyal, and he will protect your love-children, even if they turn out to be telekinetic Aryan mind-readers who can nonverbally communicate with dogs. ALISON HALLETT Academy Theater, Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Milwaukie Cinemas.
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
"Who knows anything about Scott Walker?" asks David Bowie early on in this documentary about one of the true enigmas in pop music. As if to concede this point, director Stephen Kijak uses his movie less to examine the whys and hows of Walker's spooky art than to pay reverent tribute to his mythology. This might be the price the director paid to gain the normally elusive crooner/sadist's full cooperation, which includes a rare on-camera interview. So while you'll leave the theater haunted by that voice (and coveting any records containing it you don't already own), you'll understand very little of what compelled the one-time '60s teen pin-up to lose himself in an ever-unraveling shroud of anti-pop. ANDREW STOUT Hollywood Theatre.
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—the sort that one senses was not created to cater to its audience, but to challenge it. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
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 Fox Tower 10.
Sometimes a Great Notion
An adaptation of Ken Kesey's book, starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda. Bagdad Theater.
Director J.J. Abrams and writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci 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 Trek that's remarkable for how much goddamn fun it is. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Subversion Anime Festival
Otaku alert! An all-day fest of "fresh and theater-worthy anime." More info: dreamlandjapan.com. Clinton Street Theater.
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.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
To Die For
Gus Van Sant's 1995 drama/comedy starring Nicole Kidman as a ruthless weather girl. It's pretty excellent. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The Transformers: The Movie & GoBots: War of the Rock Lords
The good news about this double feature: The batshit crazy Transformers cartoon movie on the big screen! The bad news about this double feature: The crappy-ass Gobots movie on the big screen! Screw you, Gobots. Go home. ERIK HENRIKSEN Clinton Street Theater.
See Film, this issue. Fox Tower 10.
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 Laurelhurst Theater.
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 Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
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.