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.
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, Hollywood Theatre.
Media talking points for the 1920s period romance Chéri cluster around how "brave" Michelle Pfeiffer's performance is. The aging actress plays an aging whore who has a six-year relationship with a man 30 years her junior. As she seduces her young beau, Pfeiffer is drop-dead gorgeous one moment, and the next? The camera pries a little, and suddenly signs of Pfeiffer's age jump into relief: Her eyelids are crepe-y. Her neck sags. Her arm wattles quiver. Despite its ostensible bravery, Chéri is a cautionary tale—a catalogue of the ways in which women can fail. The film teems with bad mothers, frigid wives, and overripe "working girls"—here, even the temporary pleasures offered by a young lover won't prevent an aging courtesan from getting just what the world thinks she deserves. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Creature from the
Black Lagoon in 3D
The old-timey monster flick in old-timey 3D. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
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.
The Empire Strikes Back
See My, What a Busy Week!, pg. 27. Bagdad Theater.
By far the most impressive in a rash of documentaries addressing food industry corruption in America. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
The Girlfriend Experience
As he clinically observes the contortions of the pretty young people who profit off the rich, Steven Soderbergh makes a rare cinematic acknowledgement: Beauty often promises what it can't deliver. High-end escort Chelsea (Sasha Grey) has systematically turned herself into a commodity, selling a willingness to be whatever her client wants her to be. Is her blankness the result of self-preservation or all-consuming self-absorption? Is there a real person behind the pretty face and body? Soderbergh asks these questions again and again in this enigmatic little film—and Grey just smiles distantly and touches her hair, revealing nothing. ALISON HALLETT Mission Theater.
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.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
I've seen Il Divo twice now. I still don't get it. I liked it—it's a really cool movie, with tons of violence, intrigue, and splashy camera moves. But the story is nearly impossible to follow. Il Divo is a biopic of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti (Toni Servillo), a hunchbacked, expressionless ghoul, but Servillo plays him for laughs, a brutally intelligent—and intelligently brutal—man who may or may not have allied with the mafia to eliminate political opponents. Still, even those with an intimate knowledge of Italian politics will likely get lost, which is a pity because the film has the scope and moral depth of a Coppola epic, with the kinetic energy of a good Guy Ritchie thriller. Do a shit-ton of homework before trying to get through this. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A screening of the second-season premiere of the locally shot TV show Leverage, which "stars Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton as the head of a team of thieves, grifters, and con artists who settle scores against those who use power and wealth to victimize others." Thanks, Timothy Hutton! Hotel deLuxe.
See Film, pg. 52. Fox Tower 10.
My Sister's Keeper
My Sister's Keeper is almost two hours long—nearly as long as my quiet weeping jag lasted. So in many ways, director Nick Cassavetes (who previously made you guiltily sob through The Notebook) nailed the necessary pathos of a family's struggle with their teenage daughter's cancer. But the trials of terminal illness can be a bit like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to jerking tears from an audience—so even while clutching your hanky, you may still walk away wondering if you actually liked this erratic film. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
More than enough has been written about how terrifyingly prophetic Sidney Lumet's 1976 satire has turned out to be, but as far as I know, nobody's pointed out that it somehow seems even more relevant than ever in the age of Twitter. If this film doesn't give you chills, you're probably a sociopath. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst 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.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Repo! The Genetic Opera
The blood-feud operatics of director Darren Lynn Bousman's self-described cult film, Repo! The Genetic Opera, are ambitious indeed. With nary a spoken word in sight, nearly two hours of dubious "rock" could make even the gnarliest of theater kids throw up their jazz hands in disgust. But what Repo! lacks in chops, it makes up for in bloody gusto. Taking a cue from Dario Argento, Repo! shows that combining blood 'n' guts with opera can make for all manner of fun. COURTNEY FERGUSON Clinton Street Theater.
"Joe, trust me on this. You've made a mistake. He's a good kid. I understand—you're hot, you're super fucking pissed. We're all real emotional. But you're barking up the wrong tree! I know this man. He wouldn't do that." Clinton Street Theater.
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.
Casper (Edgar Flores) is a member of the Mara Salvatrucha, a Central American street gang. He's forced to flee and join the seemingly endless parade of emigrants looking north for a better life. 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.
Cameron Crowe. 1992. It's okay to admit you had the soundtrack. Everyone did. Pix Patisserie (North).
A documentary about the Nigerian oil industry. Director Sandy Cioffi in attendance to introduce the film. Northwest Film Center's Whitell 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 Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16.
Team America: World Police
See My, What a Busy Week!, pg. 27. Cinema 21.
of the Fallen
Michael Bay has chosen not to merely make a summer blockbuster, but to evolve the art form into something daringly abstract and avant-garde. Here, Bay achieves surreal moments the likes of which Buñuel and Dalí could only dream, and spits in the face of convention, offering a meta-commentary on cinema as a whole—note, if you will, the scene in which John Turturro berates an elderly, farting robot for not telling a story with a "beginning, middle, [and] end." When Turturro demands "plot!" from this flatulent colossus, he is denied—for Bay knows what wondrous visions thrive in the absence of story. In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, we are granted majestic sights: We see a comely co-ed with a whip-like tongue that first grasps, then throws Shia LaBeouf around his dorm room. We see Turturro rip away his pants to reveal a thong. We see Transformer Heaven, and Transformer angels. We see a dangling pair of robot testicles. We see a midget. ERIK HENRIKSEN 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 Laurelhurst Theater.
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
The title Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived would suggest that the heart of the film is dedicated to imagining that "what if." The film's opening, too, makes an argument for conceiving and studying "counter-factual" history. But then, Virtual JFK launches into a completely fascinating and totally worthwhile historical documentary focused on JFK's avoidance strategies—which, despite constant pressure from US military advisors, saved the United States from disastrous confrontations no less than six times during his presidency. But rather than be content as a documentary, Virtual JFK clings to a laughably obvious thesis: "Hey, just putting this out there," the film practically repeats over and over, "Maybe, given his behavior in the past, if he had lived, JFK miiiiight have avoided going to war in Vietnam!" Really? You think? So you're saying it matters who's president? MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Century Eastport 16, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, Lake Twin Cinema.
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 Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
I can't think of any book less funny than 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.