48-Hour Film Project
The best Portland entries from the 48-Hour Film Project, in which teams of local filmmakers had a scant two days to create a film. More info: 48hourfilm.com. Hollywood Theatre.
500 Days of Summer
In the 500 days this film spans, a familiar arc is described: Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) date; Tom gets too attached; Summer breaks it off; and Tom lapses into the sort of melodramatic, self-pitying behavior that seems utterly ridiculous when engaged in by anyone but oneself. But wait. Problem: Breakups are depressing, and Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are far too adorable to squander on melodrama. So first-time director Marc Webb skirts the bummer factor by shuffling his story's chronology, splicing together out-of-order scenes from their relationship to chart its dissolution. Other gags further cushion the film's potential emotional impact: There's split-screen, a totally superfluous narrator, a musical number, and, as always, Deschanel's inability to register emotional depth—all of which collude to render a gut-ripping breakup as mild indie entertainment. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
A "heartfelt romantic comedy" about some dude with Asperger's. Awww. Fox Tower 10.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th
1984's cult classic. For the Saturday, August 15 showing, members of the local Buckaroo Banzai fan club will be in attendance, and handing out copies of their "25th anniversary Buckaroo Banzai newsletter." Laurelhurst Theater.
A teenybopper music flick starring Vanessa Hudgens, Lisa Kudrow, and (wait for it...) David Bowie. Various Theaters.
Big Man Japan
See review this issue. 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, Mission Theater.
Concert footage from the Pixies, the Violent Femmes, and Jane's Addiction. Clinton Street Theater.
The Cove—which centers on the Japanese whaling industry, and in particular, one hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, in which thousands of dolphins are slaughtered annually—is much more than another "behind the scenes at the slaughterhouse" documentary. More than anything, The Cove demonstrates how a group of well-funded activists, mostly Americans, harnessed all the influence and high-tech gadgetry at their disposal to directly challenge the traditions of another country. It's exhilarating, nerve wracking and inspiring. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
See review. Various Theaters.
By far the most impressive in a rash of documentaries addressing food industry corruption in America. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
Here's a friendly word of advice: Adjust your expectations for Funny People. If you're a Judd Apatow fan, and you loved Freaks and Geeks and The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, and you think, as I do, that Apatow is consistently involved with some of the funniest and least-insulting comedies being made, then you're probably pretty excited for his newest—especially given the film's standup comedy bent and impressive list of participating actors. Well, dial it down a bit. Funny People is a long and not unentertaining cancer comedy (think Beaches with dick jokes) that splices together elements of every Apatow project to date—but it's less the pinnacle of his filmmaking than a synthesis of every theme he's spent his career exploring. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
It's probably not surprising to learn that G-Force, the new 3D half-animated/half-real-life kids movie from Disney and über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, isn't very good. It's noisy, crude, and nonsensical—none of which is bad in and of itself, but it's also insultingly stupid and not nearly funny enough. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
All right, then. Who did it? Who was it? Which one of you dark sorcerers brought the action figures to life and told them they could write screenplays? Was it you, Morlack? Was it you, Richard Branson?? What are you looking at? Look at me in my face, Branson! Don't look at that potted plant like it's your mommy and it's about to pick you up in its station wagon and drive you away from my face—look at my face! Because whoever it was better hold on to their super-waxed villainy-'stache, because I am going to thank-you-French the SHIT OUT OF THEM. Because G.I. Joe is the best movie I have ever seen. (Did I scare you, Branson? Stop crying.) Here is the situation: Channing Tatum is the Best Soldier in the World Ever. When a couple of warheads filled with magical, metal-eating "nanomites" (invented by Cobra Commander Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are stolen (also by Cobra Commander Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and don't bother asking why someone would go to the trouble of stealing their own technology from their own selves because it DOESN'T MATTER), Tatum falls in with a special clan of underground fighty wax figurines called G.I. Joes. The rest of the movie goes like this: "Once unleashed, the nanomites will not stop. EVER." "Come on! We gotta get in this fight!" "Don't make me shoot a woman." "Oh my god. They're going to use him to weaponize the warheads." "Try this on for size, boys." "Zey're going to detonate one of ze war'eads at ze Eiffel Tower!" Robot fish, medieval flashback, 11 seconds of Brendan Fraser, a plane that only speaks Celtic, a dash of Face/Off, a buttload of Star Wars, aaaaaaaaand we're done. My mouth has a date with your moustache, Branson. You can't hide forever. LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
See review. Various Theaters.
A doc about the "first-ever senior citizen hiphop dance team." Hollywood Theatre.
Humpday is more focused and charming than most mumblecore films, taking the best qualities and leaving behind the characteristic sloppiness and over-privileged naiveté. The result is a breakthrough, and as we're led into the inner circle of the characters' earnest attempts to be communicative, positive, and open minded, it slowly dawns on you how mistreated we are by the studios' infliction of endless lashes of gender stereotype and homophobia, where 90-minute jokes are based on the supposed male aversion to talking about their feelings. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
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 an intense and 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 City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Movies on TV.
Armando Iannucci's In the Loop is a foreign-born freak of a movie, a bizarre amalgamation of broad humor and pointed political satire. Using an Office-esque mocumentary style, In the Loop careens through the halls of power in the days leading up to the Iraq War, as British and US politicians negotiate idealism and opportunism in a tense political climate. None of this makes for revelatory satire, but in Iannucci's hands, it's relentlessly entertaining nonetheless. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
More or less entirely delightful, Julie & Julia has a pretty foolproof formula: It's a movie based on a popular book that's based on a popular blog that, in turn, was inspired by America's most popular chef. And the master of the chick flick, Nora Ephron, directs the thing, and Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, and Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, the New Yorker who decided to blog about cooking all 524 recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. Despite the fact that, bewilderingly, not a single person in the film notes the endless comedic potential of the oft-repeated phrase "boning a duck," Julie & Julia is still entertaining, enjoyable, and good-hearted throughout. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Late Night Double Feature
Boxxes' free movie night. This week's selections: Blade Runner and The Big Lebowski. Boxxes.
The Mark of Cain
A documentary about "the vanishing language of Russian criminal tattoos." Badass! 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, Fox Tower 10, Lake Twin Cinema.
NW Filmmakers Night
Shorts from local filmmakers, which the audience can vote on–with a $200 cash prize going to the winner. More info: mcmenamins.com. Bagdad Theater.
A cinematic expression of the idea that awkwardness equals authenticity—that bad social skills and an inability to relate to others are hallmarks of "realness." Tracing the evolution of this idea would be an interesting exercise (John Cusack might have something to do with it), but instead, Paper Heart and its disingenuous, faux-documentary structure represent the pinnacle of self-absorbed twentysomething cinema to date. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
A Perfect Getaway
When writer/director David Twohy (Pitch Black) finally amps up the heat halfway through A Perfect Getaway, he manages to take a ho-hum horror flick premise and turn it on its head, making for a fun romp through well-worn territory. Twohy's genre-referencing script is cheeky enough to know that audiences have seen a lot of couples getting terrorized by a lot of psychos over the years, and he slips in a few unforeseen twists and some funny red herrings. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
Kevin Spacey plays a psychologist for celebrities. (Question: Is it unfair that the phrase "Kevin Spacey plays a psychologist for celebrities" fills us with the deepest, most soul-crushing sort of ambivalence?) Hollywood Theatre.
Two teenagers in London "forge an unlikely friendship over the course of a hot summer." Disappointingly, it was not directed by G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra auteur Stephen Sommers. Living Room Theaters.
Son of Frankenstein
1939's film featuring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi. Hotel deLuxe.
The Song of Sparrows
Karim (Reza Naji) is an impoverished, hapless grouch; on a visit to Tehran, he earns some spare cash using his motorbike as a taxi, and soon is able to provide his family with comforts. There's an overarching metaphor of captive animals being set free: An ostrich escapes from a farm, a sparrow is let loose out a window, a barrel of fish is deposited into a drainage ditch. I suppose it all has something to do with Karim, or with the plight of Iranian peasants in general, but really, your guess is as good as mine. As in director Majid Majidi's previous film, The Willow Tree, the lyricism frequently lapses into tedium, and the film's perpetually dissatisfied protagonist gradually wears down the viewer's sympathies. NED LANNAMANN Living Room Theaters.
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
John Carpenter's 1982 classic starring a very hairy Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and an exploding dog head. Highly recommended, obviously. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The Time Traveler's Wife
See review. Various Theaters.
The Ugly Truth
It'd certainly be possible to write a panty-wadded screed on how offensive The Ugly Truth is, but anyone who's seen the previews knows exactly what they're in for: a feminist setback of a romantic comedy in which Katherine Heigl gets a makeover from Gerard Butler. It makes no sense, it's sexist, and worst of all, it's not even a little bit funny. But really... What'd you expect? ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
You, the Living
You, the Living kinda made me want to shoot my face off. Swedish director Roy Andersson's film feels like the longest 95 minutes of your life—like when your friend insists on telling you about their totally epic dream. It's also starkly funny, morose, and exceedingly bleak. Fifty surreal sketches of life in a Swedish city weave in and out, all of them seemingly unrelated vignettes that come dangerously close to being whimsical while also bordering on downright mean. It's kind of like watching an oblivious old man dragging his leash-tangled dog behind his walker. COURTNEY FERGUSON Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.