500 Days of Summer
See review. Fox Tower 10.
"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 Fox Tower 10, Lake Twin Cinema.
"Nihilists! Fuck me! I mean, say what you like about the tenets of national socialism, Dude—at least it's an ethos." Clinton Street Theater.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
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.
An unscripted, locally produced film about six teenagers who make a "pregnancy pact," leading to "a swirling vortex of fear, manipulation, guilt, physical and mental abuse, and love." Clinton Street Theater.
(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 Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
By far the most impressive in a rash of documentaries addressing food industry corruption in America. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Guinea pigs are secret agents in this film that—shockingly—was not screened in time for press. See portlandmercury.com for our review. Various Theaters.
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 nice 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.
Natalie Wood and Karl Malden star in 1962's film about burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee. Screenings preceded by a live vaudeville show. Bagdad Theater.
Boomin' granny. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Like the flat, uninvolving Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is directed by David Yates, but this time around, he's far more assured and inspired—Half-Blood Prince moves briskly and confidently, has moments of genuine delight and creepiness, is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, and juggles its preposterously gargantuan cast and nuanced plot with as much grace as can be expected. There is darkness here, and regret, and the sense that for this series' once-naïve characters, the stakes are significantly higher. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry
A documentary about Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins, "one of the foremost tattoo artists of all time." 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. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
I loved the visuals of Dark City, Cube, and Brazil—but, excepting the latter, those films were kind of a mess. The cool-looking Ink, an indie, low-budget sci-fi film, uncharitably falls into that category, too. Charitably, it's a well-made, polished, and clever story about good and evil dream warriors who are fighting over a young girl's life. Written, directed, and edited by Jamin Winans, Ink really is a rarity of an indie film—it has multiple locations, a solid cast, and ambitious, inventive creepiness. But parts of it drag; there are some weird religious undertones; and someone needs to take away Winans' editing privileges. But, hell, it's way better than 90 percent of the sci-fi films out there, regardless of budget. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
Kung Fu Master
Agnès Varda's 1987 film about "a 40-year-old divorced woman who falls in love with her teenage daughter's videogame-obsessed friend." Nice, kid! Nice. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, Kennedy School, Mission Theater.
An Angelina Jolie doppelganger kills her boyfriend's lover (or does she?!) and ends up knocked up in the cushy knocked-up ladies prison ward. She has the kid, raises the kid in prison, gets the kid taken away, fights for the kid, cuts all her hair off, and becomes a lesbian. The purpose of Lion's Den is to learn that if you ever find yourself heading to prison, get preggo, fast. The accommodations are much more appealing. LOGAN SACHON Living Room Theaters.
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.
"The Northwest's premiere Rocky Horror convention" returns to celebrate the movie that just won't fucking go away. More info: clintonsttheater.com. Clinton Street Theater.
Portland documentarian Ilana Sol's beautiful film is about the only casualties that occurred in the continental US during WWII. In Bly, Oregon, in 1945, a young pastor and his pregnant wife took a group of children on a picnic in the woods—only to discover a strange balloon in the trees. Constructed of paper and sent into the airstream from Japan, the odd creation contained a bomb that exploded and killed the children and the young woman. Affecting interviews with four Japanese women who worked in the paper factory where they made thousands of balloon bombs during their school years are interwoven with interviews with Bly's denizens, and friends and relatives of the deceased. On Paper Wings is a well-crafted story that perfectly builds to the point of misty-eyed reunion when the women travel to Bly 40 years after WWII on a mission of peace, bearing 1,000 origami cranes. You'd better bring a hanky. COURTNEY FERGUSON Kennedy School.
Yet another horror flick about yet another creepy kid. Various Theaters.
Public Enemies takes a while 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 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.
Secret of NIMH
Behold the unholy alliance of Dom DeLuise, Shannen Doherty, and Wil Wheaton! Hotel deLuxe
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Cinema 21.
It's not that Salvation is terrible—there have been worse movies this summer, and there'll certainly be more—but it is clunky and depressingly underwhelming. The lousiest part is that it's also full of good ideas: Set the story in the future, in the midst of humanity's war against hyper-advanced machines? Good idea! (Too bad the war turns out to be totally lame.) Cast Christian Bale as John Connor, "the prophesized leader of the resistance"? Good idea! (Alas, prophecy or no, it turns out future John Connor just isn't a very cool character.) Hire a supporting cast that includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Anton Yelchin, and Helena Bonham Carter? Good idea! (The number of interesting things these actors are allowed to do? Zero!) Give some terminators wheels and turn 'em into badass robo-motorcycles? Good idea! (But brace yourself for stupid "hydro-terminators" that slither around underwater, and a giant, lumbering mecha-terminator that looks like it accidentally wandered over from the set of Transformers.) ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Avalon, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas, Mission Theater.
Unlike in Tetro, there's no singing fat lady in Francis Ford Coppola's immediate future, as evidenced by his first true directorial return to form in years. Starring an off-balance Vincent Gallo as the titular main character, the film explores the familial secrets and relationship between Tetro and his much-younger brother, Bennie (the excellent, and visually immaculate, Alden Ehrenreich), who both leave home to escape their domineering celebrity of a father. Set in Buenos Aires, Coppola's black-and-white vision of the city's old neighborhoods is stunning, as is his trademark operatic style—and while the melodramatic Tetro never completely lives up to its potential, it's filled with genuinely funny, awkward, and heartfelt moments. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
Throw Down Your Heart
A Béla Fleck documentary. Shudder. Hollywood Theatre.
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 Laurelhurst Theater.
Bono in 3D... AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN HIM BEFORE! (But don't worry, he's still a douchebag.) Living Room Theaters.
The Ugly Truth
Katherine Heigl's latest romcom wasn't screened in time for press. Shocking, that. Anyway, hit portlandmercury.com for our review. Various Theaters.
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.
Agnès Varda tends toward female protagonists, the most famous of which is Mona (Sandrine Bonnaire). The titular subject of Vagabond, Mona is a young, wild, wolf-like drifter. Varda's terminally cool 1985 film opens with the discovery of Mona's body, frozen to death in a ditch, and then proceeds to trace her final months, in part through documentary-style interviews with those she has met along her journey. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See My, What a Busy Week!. Hollywood Theatre.
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.