Away We Go
"I think we might be fuckups," Verona (Maya Rudolph) admits to Burt (John Krasinski). At 34 and 33, Verona and Burt are unsure of where to go or what to do—so they travel from Arizona to Wisconsin to Montreal to Miami, reconnecting with family members, college friends, and employers to try and figure out where (and how) to grow up. There are a bunch of really excellent things about Away We Go, from Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida's script to Krasinski and Rudolph's performances, but director Sam Mendes can't quite stick the landing: About 500 times during the film, the emo strumming of singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch swells on the soundtrack, making Away We Go briefly feel like (A) an episode of The O.C., and (B) way too precious. ERIK HENRIKSEN City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Do not sully David Carradine's memory by watching Break, one of his last films! Seemingly the only reason that this clunker was released is Carradine's brief cameo as a sexual ringmaster who gets off on watching the women (and a leashed midget) of his harem have sex with hitmen. Break is filled with wretched acting and cheesy plot twists, and if you're still interested, here's the coup de grâce: There's an assassin who speaks only in haiku. C'mon. Carradine deserves a better epitaph than this. COURTNEY FERGUSON Clinton Street Theater.
The Brothers Bloom
Describing a movie as "quirky" more or less amounts to a critical bitch-slap these days, right up there with calling something "precious" or "twee." But it wasn't always so, and with the fantastic The Brothers Bloom, writer/director Rian Johnson (who previously helmed 2005's creepily original noir Brick) revisits an earlier cinematic era—one in which eccentricity is interesting and quirkiness has yet to become synonymous with Natalie Portman in a helmet. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
DisOrient Asian American Film Festival
Two films from the DisOrient Asian American Film Festival: The feature White on Rice and the documentary Manilatown is in the Heart. Directors Dave Boyle and Curtis Choy in attendance for post-screening Q&As. More info: disorientfilm.org. Hollywood Theatre.
It doesn't matter how many suggestive photo shoots Jessica Biel does, she can't quite shake that sanctimonious, goody two-shoes quality—the stink of 7th Heaven, it don't wear off. Her more grating qualities, however, are unintentionally well harnessed in the jazz-era period piece Easy Virtue, in which she plays the high-spirited American wife of a slumming young Englishman whose family is horrified by his brassy new bride. In a post-Bush era, it's exceedingly embarrassing to run across a film that so blithely embraces the notion that America is a nation of headstrong progress and iconoclastic disregard for convention. You can slap on all the jazzy songs and oh-no-she-didn't culture clashes you want—and director Stephan Elliott does just that—but the fundamental premise irks. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
By far the most impressive in a rash of documentaries addressing food industry corruption in America. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
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 Living Room Theaters.
If one good thing comes out of The Hangover, it'll be turning comedians Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms into viable movie stars. They're both very funny guys, and here they do their best with a not-particularly-good script from the screenwriters of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases. The problem with The Hangover is that it peaks too soon; early on, it succumbs to over-the-top ridiculousness, then keeps trying to top itself. About halfway through, it becomes repetitive, and then it just slides into monotony. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
High Fidelity: Adventures of the Guarneri String Quartet
A "vibrant, intimate portrait of the most prominent string quartet in the world." Note: This film does not feature John Cusack. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
The latest CG kids' flick from a studio that is not named Pixar. See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
In a Dream
Filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar turns the lens on his father Isaiah, a mosaic artist who transforms derelict buildings in Philadelphia into compulsively personal art projects. It's not surprising, then, that Isaiah is a little screwy, and when his marriage disintegrates, we watch not just Isaiah but the entire Zagar family go off the deep end. Through intimate conversations and some incredible editing (and more than a few nude pictures of his parents—GAH, shiver), Jeremiah gets to the heart of a very, very heartfelt story. I've never seen a documentary get this close to its subject; it's embarrassing, visceral, soulful, and blazingly powerful. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Laurelhurst Theater.
A German thriller that tells a "twisting story of deception, greed, and lust." Hollywood Theatre.
Kabei: Our Mother
The latest from director Yôji Yamada (The Twilight Samurai), Kabei is set in Tokyo in 1940, and focuses on "the strong bond between a mother and her family during WWII." Living Room Theaters.
Land of the Lost
There's a special place in hell reserved for those who remake old TV shows into feature films. While there are certainly a few excellent exceptions (The Addams Family, The Fugitive, and The Brady Bunch), there are so many more that should have been smothered in their sleep (The Beverly Hillbillies, Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched... shall I go on?). When approaching such a project, the question should be: How does one capture the tone of the original without kissing its ass? In the case of the updated Land of the Lost (starring Will Ferrell and Danny McBride), the producers correctly said, "Screw the original! We've got Will Ferrell and Danny McBride! Just let them stand around making jerk-off jokes, because it's gonna be hilarious." And they were right. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
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 Laurelhurst Theater.
My Sister's Keeper
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Setting out to disprove an equation that young folk calculate each time we see an old person eating a tuna melt by themselves, paying bus fare in nickels, or filling a shopping basket with single-serving soup cans and cat food (elderly + alone = depressing), O'Horten is a strange little movie about a man puzzling out what it means to live when life as he's known it for 40 years has abruptly changed—and far from depressing, it's full of mystery, humor, and possibility. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
The Parallax View
Alan J. Pakula's 1974 conspiracy thriller starring Warren Beatty. Laurelhurst Theater.
Just like Predator! Only crappier! Bagdad Theater.
Like any PG-13 erotica should, The Proposal hits a few of its marks, and you may find yourself torn between your own intelligence and the twinkle in Ryan Reynolds' eye. There's no real shame in this—during illness, say, or drinking alone—but this is one film that's best left for such weaker moments. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
An exquisite tale of fate, tragedy, and revenge, Revanche patiently examines the lives of a pair of strangers and how they fatefully intersect with each other. A permanently brooding petty crook (brilliantly played by Johannes Krisch) struggles to deal with the aftermath of a personal tragedy, and whether or not to seek vengeance. The film plays out like a tempered Austrian Cape Fear (Cape Führer?), told from the point of view of the Max Cady character. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Hollywood Theatre.
The Grindhouse Film Festival presents a rare screening of the kung fu flick Seven Grandmasters—with the only known 35mm print of this 1978 classic! If you're into old-school chop-socky, you'll be hard pressed to find a better film to see this week. Hollywood Theatre.
Casper (Edgar Flores) is a member of the Mara Salvatrucha, a Central American street gang. When he's forced to join the seemingly endless parade of emigrants looking north for a better life, and on the way, he meets the solemn Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), with whom he forms a quiet bond. Sin Nombre's plot isn't going to blow anyone away—it's basically The Outsiders, only the greasers have scary face tattoos (and will rape and kill you). But the visually immaculate film is at its best when simply following its characters as they walk for days through sweltering forests, or hitch a ride on the top of a train heading for Texas, or huddle under tarps when it rains. Considering thousands of people annually risk their lives to come to the US, it's shocking there aren't more movies about them. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
Olivier Assayas' new film, a "Chekhovian drama" featuring Juliette Binoche. Mercury Fun Fact™: Juliette Binoche is known as "The Juliette Lewis of France." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
A gang of hijackers take over a New York subway car and give authorities one hour to deliver the ransom before they begin plugging hostages. Denzel Washington plays regular Joe/transit dispatcher Walter Garber, who finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to bargain for passengers' lives with hijacker Ryder (John Travolta, dressed like a bear at any leather bar you'd care to imagine). Naturally, Travolta is laughably unbelievable, Washington gamely attempts to mine every ounce of humanity from his character, and director Tony Scott is kept busy trotting out every heavy-handed cinematic trick in the book, including stutter edits, manipulative music, and the always vomit-inducing "circling camera." WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Asa is a shepherd desperately trying to arrange a marriage with Tulpan, one of the few women available on the barren Kazakh steppe where they live. Tulpan is a sweet story about finding one's place vs. finding one's dream, but it's marred by its excessive length, as well as all of the sheep, goats, and camels who refuse to stop their incessant, headache-inducing bleating. Bring the Tylenol. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Living Room Theaters.
In the inevitable argument over who would win in a hypothetical fight between Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, I stump for Tyson. This has less to do with technical analysis than a lizard brain recognition of a fighter whose physical strength is fueled by a deeply ingrained, skinless ferocity—he is simply the most frightening human being I can contemplate having to face in hand-to-hand combat. It makes an odd sense that in James Toback's disarming new documentary, Tyson, his subject's full range of emotion reverberates as close to the surface as his murderousness did in the ring. Here Tyson expresses pain with as much honesty as he inflicted it, with a surprisingly unguarded level of candor and eloquence. It seems strange the first time Tyson cries on camera, and when he does it again afterward, you never quite get used to it. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
At this point, squealing "Pixar has done it again!" is a cliché too weary for even my lazy ass to use—and worse, it's not even true. 'Cause actually, Pixar just keeps getting better. Exhibit A: The first half-hour of Up, which boasts more heartfelt emotion and subtle nuance than most films hold in their entire runtime. Exhibit B: What happens after those 30 minutes—Up keeps going, and the places it goes are nothing short of astounding. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Wiener Takes All: A Dogumentary
A "dogumentary" about "a year in the lives of the fast and the furriest." In non-cutespeak, it's an over-long film about competitive dachshund racing. Coincidentally, puns and weenie dog racing have a lot in common, both being the lowest forms of their ilk. Nearly poking a hole in his cheek with his tongue, director Shane MacDougall interviews fanatical dachshund owners in this scattershot affair. Is it about weenie dog racing? Or corrupt judges at upper-crust dog shows? Or does it want to shed light on the illustrious history of the dog? It just left me with a fur-rowed brow. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
I can't think of any book less funny that the Old Testament. Maybe that's the point. In Year One, writer/director Harold Ramis plays it for laughs, with generally uncomfortable results. We see Cain (a disappointing David Cross) killing golden boy Abel (an un-credited Paul Rudd) in cold blood; Abraham (an admittedly amusing Hank Azaria) nearly sacrificing Isaac (the kid who played McLovin) to the almighty, then deciding to simply snip off the end of the boy's penis instead; and numerous virgins sacrificed to a flaming pit in the decadent city of Sodom. All of which are funnier than Jack Black putting poo in his mouth, which also happens in Year One. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.