Half a century after Jack Kerouac inspired the bohemian romanticism of the American road trip, 40 Días borrows the stereotype, reassigning the adventuring protagonists as working artists from Mexico driving through the belly of the U.S. beast to New York City. Pato (Andrés Almeida), Andrés (Hector Arredondo), and Ecuador (Luisa Sáenz) are comfortable enough to be leisurely and impulsive, breaking up their drive by getting fucked up, filming each other in picturesque locales, and spending their nights in chic hotels. More substantive than hipster eye candy, but too boring to resonate, Días' progression from an uneventfully meandering sightsee to a suddenly heavy melodrama feels like an aimless squander of a premise loaded with potential. Screens as a benefit for the Portland Latin American Film Festival. More info: pdxlaff.org. 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 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 Laurelhurst Theater.
"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.
A locally produced feature film based on the web series, followed by live music from Buoy LaRue. More info: thebicyclists.com. Blue Monk
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.
It'd do a hilarious film a disservice to ruin any of the jokes here. Suffice to say that Brüno will definitely surprise you, possibly offend you, and certainly make you wonder if you and the guy behind you are laughing at the same punch line. And if that ain't good comedy, I don't know what is. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
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 Hollywood Theatre.
"You're a very nosy fellow, kitty cat. Huh? You know what happens to nosy fellows? Huh? No? Wanna guess? Huh? No? Okay. They lose their noses." Laurelhurst Theater.
Much like its American contemporary Sunshine Cleaning, Yôjirô Takita's Departures uses the death-care industry as framework for a transformative discovery of self. But while Sunshine Cleaning had its protagonists scrubbing grimy death scenes, Departures' Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) finds his identity through the elegant, serene Japanese nokan ceremony of "encoffinment." A failed professional cellist, Daigo learns the careful art of washing, dressing, and decorating bodies for burial or cremation. While moving and carefully done, Departures is hardly revelatory—it sticks to tear-jerking iterations on circle-of-life themes. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
(An Emotional Picture)
"[Agnès] Varda refers to this film as her shadow of Mur Murs, intended to be seen after it," says the Northwest Film Center, which is kindly playing Documenteur following their screening of Mur Murs. How considerate! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Having momentarily freed himself from Spidey's web, director Sam Raimi has reclaimed his bloodied seat of horror honor. Drag Me to Hell is about as close to Evil Dead 4 as you're ever likely to see, chockfull of enough spooky-as-fuck noises, swooshing camera angles, and gross-out sight gags to make you wonder what happened to those 17 long years between Army of Darkness and now. In other words, YAY! COURTNEY FERGUSON Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
"Never take your eyes off your opponent... even when you bow." Bagdad Theater.
Every Little Step
See review. Cinema 21.
Filmusik: Death Rides a Horse
The 1967 spaghetti western with Lee Van Cleef gets the Filmusik treatment, with "a newly composed soundtrack performed live in the pit by an orchestra and a chorus." Hollywood Theatre.
By far the most impressive in a rash of documentaries addressing food industry corruption in America. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
The Girl From Monaco
The Girl from Monaco is many things: a love triangle, a buddy film, a sex comedy, a trial drama, and a thriller. Unfolding on the picturesque backdrop of Monaco, it centers around a lawyer, Bertrand (Fabrice Luchini), in from Paris to defend in a high-profile murder case. Christophe (Roschdy Zem) is his comically dedicated bodyguard, and Audrey (Louise Bourgoin) is a sexually liberated gold-digger who works as an erotically charged weather girl for the local television station. The perfect weather, nice hotels, and skimpy outfits are pleasant enough to watch, but the here-nor-there of the plot is ultimately just kind of boring. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
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.
Potter and the
See review. Various Theaters.
See My, What a Busy Week! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
It's easy to say The Hurt Locker is gonna be one of the best movies of this year, because... well, it is. But that doesn't convey what a brutal, intense, challenging experience it is to watch Kathryn Bigelow's thriller about a bomb squad stationed in Baghdad in 2004, led by Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner). You will feel fine going in to The Hurt Locker. You will walk out feeling like you lost a fistfight. Director in attendance at Hollywood Theatre. See My, What a Busy Week! ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
I Love You, Beth Cooper
"First off, I want to thank everyone for coming out today to hear my graduation speech. As you know, I'm the class valedictorian, which is a Latin word that means 'pale, awkward virgin.' Over the last four years, I've channeled my sexual frustration into high grades and extracurricular activities—but I have to admit, what I really want is to get it on with a cheerleader! I love you, Beth Cooper!" That's more or less the entire setup for I Love You, Beth Cooper, in which the pale, awkward Denis (Paul Rust) pines after Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). Once Denis professes his love for Beth, his high school hurdle has been jumped, so all that's left for this grating nerd to do is have "typical high school experiences" that include—as previously seen in every movie ever—dick jokes, gross-out jokes, a house party, and nerds getting revenge. JANE CARLEN Various Theaters.
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 Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
This Ice Age—the third in the series—is well paced, and the addition of 3D visuals is fine. It's not clever like a Pixar joint, but I get the sense that it was supposed to be touching. (I might not be the best judge of such things—during the movie's birth scene, a small boy in the theater cried tenderly, and I found myself unaffected.) You don't have to have seen the first two Ice Age movies to follow this one, but if you're older than seven, you might need to see them in order to care. JANE CARLEN Various Theaters.
Know Your Mushrooms
A documentary about mushrooms, featuring an original soundtrack by the Flaming Lips. Not screened for critics. Hollywood Theatre.
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 Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, Kennedy School, Mission Theater.
Agnès Varda's 1969 "meditation on the banal beauty of Hollywood and the counterculture of the sexual revolution." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The best way to see Duncan Jones' excellent Moon is to go in blank: no expectations, no preconceptions, and no suspicions. But here you are, still reading, so I guess you need some convincing. Fine. The basics: Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is stationed, alone, on the Moon. Nearing the end of his multi-year contract to man a largely automated mining facility, Sam works as a glorified handyman, wanders the base's empty hallways, watches videos of his wife and daughter back on Earth (Dominique McElligott and Kaya Scodelario), and talks with the base's kinda-sweet, kinda-creepy computer, GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Rockwell's Sam is a likeable, blue-collar guy with a lonely, shitty job, and in Moon's opening scenes, Jones gracefully captures the guy's weary isolation. You feel for Sam—which makes it all the more messed up when things, well, start to get all weird. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinemagic, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Agnès Varda's 1980 film is a "documentary look at the outdoor murals of Los Angeles." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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.
A restored 35mm print of Robert Bresson's 1959 film. Clinton Street 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.
Public Enemies takes awhile to get going, but once it does, it's a hell of a reminder why Michael Mann is one of the best directors working today. Almost certainly, he's the best at action—from the way Mann splits your eardrums with the sudden explosion of gunfire to how his handheld digital cinematography rushes you along in an exhilarating immediacy, watching the guy work when he's in the zone is pretty incomparable. Mann can make desensitized audiences wince at the sight of a fist smashing into a face, yet he can also capture vistas and portraits with stunning grace and precision—and with Public Enemies, he gets the chance to do both, after he wades through an uneven script. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
For the Rashevski clan, dancing the tango is a metaphor for negotiating the existential ambiguities of living as secular Jews in modern Belgium. Helmed by insouciant great-uncle Dolfo (Nathan Cogan)—a death-camp survivor who dismisses the ritual formalities of Passover, can't remember the words to prayers, and is unable to define "mensch"—the film sees three generations of Rashevskis explore the nuances of semi-Jewishness via romantic pursuits which are continually frustrated by, well, their own semi-Jewishness. It's an epic family saga bounded by the confines of a romantic dramedy, and it's this bursting at the seams quality that renders Rashevski's Tango so irresistible. If the postmortem reunion at the end of Titanic didn't strike you as unacceptable, you will likely not be bothered by the titular tango motif that awkwardly punctuates the film. HANNAH FRANKLIN Living Room Theaters.
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.
The movie in which John Cusack ruined everything for every other dude on the planet. Thanks, dickweed. Edgefield.
Sings the Blues
When animator/director Nina Paley's boyfriend dumped her, she spent the next five years on her computer creating an animated movie drawing parallels between her breakup and the Indian epic the Ramayana. As insufferable as that sounds, Paley has in fact created something truly remarkable. Relying heavily on a found soundtrack by '20s jazz chanteuse Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues features gorgeous animation, whimsically surreal storytelling, and a trio of bickering narrators, resulting in an animated feature that's truly unique. You can watch Sita Sings the Blues on Paley's website, but the chance to see it on a large screen should not be missed. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Married an Axe Murderer
"Woman. Woe-man. Whoooa, man." Pix Patisserie (North).
is the Place
A "sci-fi/musical/documentary" conceived, written by, and starring Sun Ra. It's gonna be nuts! Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The Stoning of Soraya M.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Throw Down Your Heart
A Béla Fleck documentary. Shudder. Hollywood Theatre.
Transformers: Revenge 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.
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 Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
A documentary about "the four-year search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan master who passed away in 2001 at age 84." 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.
Whatever Works could well be the title of Woody Allen's current cinematic style. Like many of his recent films, it feels muted, minimalist, and sometimes downright lazy: the camera stays static, the lines are read, and boom, we're on to the next scene. I've always had the feeling that Allen's best films were a matter of luck; his writing and directorial approach is almost always the same, whether the movie is good or bad. It's a journeyman quality that has resulted in a few wonderful films, and a huge amount of okay ones. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, Lake Twin Cinema.
The Wild One
See Film, this issue. Hotel deLuxe.