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.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Democracy is gaining ground in Afghanistan, at least on one front: Afghan Star is the culturally oppressed country's answer to shows like American Idol, and just like its stateside counterpart, winners are determined by popular vote via cell phone. But Afghani contestants, particularly women, can face death threats for what are deemed inappropriate actions—like dancing, or uncovering their heads. This documentary just kind of lets the camera roll behind the scenes of the TV show, letting the story tell itself without a lot of editorializing. The result is an important glimpse at a young culture that's threatening to overturn traditions that have defined a country for decades. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
All About Steve
All About Steve is meant to be a comedy, but I left the theater feeling a deep sense of tragedy. Poor Sandra Bullock: She's an actress that everyone seems to love to hate, but up until now, she didn't deserve half the flak and sarcasm she's suffered in a world full of far-less-likeable Jennifer Anistons and Renée Zellwegers. But that was then, and this is now: All About Steve is so amazingly awful that it makes The Proposal of just a few short months ago look like a faraway zenith of poise and dignity forever out of Bullock's grasp. Hopefully nobody will see it. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
A drama about a single African American mother who's wrongfully accused of dealing drugs. Narrated by Warwick Davis. Living Room Theaters.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
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 Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
A not-screened-for-critics thriller about teenagers attempting to outrun a pandemic. Luckily, one of the kids is played by the dude who played Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek, so everything should be cool. No worries. Century Eastport 16.
Classic Concerts: Kick Out
Concert footage from MC5, the Stooges, and more. Clinton Street Theater.
Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti, a schlubby, semi-famous New York actor stuck in rehearsals for a stage production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. Drained and frustrated, he reads a New Yorker article about a "soul storage" business on Roosevelt Island; when he visits, he finds a sterile facility run by Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn), who promises to extract Giamatti's soul, relieving him of his weariness. "Don't worry," Flintstein says. "Just think of it as... well, as another one of your organs, like your heart. Or your liver. Or your pancreas." With Cold Souls, writer/director Sophie Barthes (aided by cool, measured cinematography from Andrij Parekh) has crafted a film that does what the best science fiction should: It reminds the viewer of much, but dwells on little; it convinces even as it astounds; it knows its genre, but never gets mired in it. Most importantly, it's a film that isn't quite like anything you've seen before. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
John Waters' 1990 film with Johnny Depp. Laurelhurst Theater.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
"You know, I cannot understand why the most sophisticated of women can't tell the difference between a meaningless, hot, passionate sexual affair and a nice, solid, tranquil, routine marriage." The Press Club.
A weird, brilliant, brutal, and gorgeous science-fiction film. It's inventive and surprising and disarmingly unique, and it's one of those rare films that's both relentlessly entertaining and also has something to say. It's the sort of story you won't be able to stop thinking about afterward, and, not to build it up too much or get embarrassingly hyperbolic, but goddamn—in a whole lot of ways, this thing feels like a game-changer. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
In Extract, the new film from Office Space director Mike Judge, Ben Affleck has a terrible beard. I mean, really terrible. It's the kind of beard one usually sees in a community theater production of Chekhov, or perhaps glued to the chin of a fourth grader pretending to be Abraham Lincoln. However, fans of Affleck will be pleased to know that—despite his terrible, awful beard (and it really is quite distressingly flawed)—he steals the show, which is a feat considering he plays opposite a stellar cast that includes Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, J.K. Simmons, and the heartbreakingly gorgeous (and boner-inducing) Mila Kunis. It's too bad he's a secondary character. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
The Final Destination
The fourth film in the series about Death huntin' down teenagers using increasingly ludicrous and convoluted methods. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
By far the most impressive in a rash of documentaries addressing food industry corruption in America. MARJORIE SKINNER Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Norma Khouri's 2001 memoir Forbidden Love purports to describe the "honor killing" of Khouri's best friend, a Muslim living in Jordan who was allegedly murdered by her father after being caught with a Christian man. Though the book became an international bestseller, catapulting Khouri to worldwide acclaim, it was several years before anyone bothered to fact check the thing—at which point it became evident that Khouri's story didn't hold up. Khouri, though, refused to admit the story was fabricated; despite mounting evidence to the contrary, she insisted that she simply changed certain details in order to protect the anonymity of her subjects. With Forbidden Lies, documentarian Anna Broinowski travels to Jordan with Khouri to give her a chance to prove the truth of her story—while also interviewing the journalists who broke the story of Khouri's deception. An occasionally grating but ultimately fascinating psychological profile emerges: Khouri is an exceptional liar, and it's hard even for the viewer to avoid falling under her spell. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
The Free Box & Winona
A screening of two episodes of the web series The Free Box, along with the short film Winona. Admission fees will go to assist the production the upcoming indie film The Corners. Kelly's Olympian.
Originally titled Citizen Game (GET IT?!?), Gamer is a not-screened-for-critics action flick in which that dude from 300 fights that dude from Dexter. And the 300 dude can be controlled by other people, like in a videogame! In other words, it basically looks like Tron. But worse. A lot worse. Various Theaters.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
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. LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
The sequel to the remake. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
The Hurt Locker
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 Hollywood Theatre.
I Can Do Bad All by Myself
This week's film from writer/director Tyler Perry, a man who makes over 397 films a year and has yet to show a single one of them to critics. Various Theaters.
In the Loop
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 Living Room Theaters.
Overall, this is a hell of a picture, and parts of it are as great, if not better, than anything else Quentin Tarantino's done. Basterds' opening sequence is a nerve-wracking exercise in tension; throughout, there's a dark humor that'll make you snicker and clench your teeth; there are killer performances from Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz, who plays a particularly vicious Nazi named Colonel Hans Landa, AKA "The Jew Hunter." (Pitt's character, a charming, totally fucked-up Tennessean lieutenant named Aldo "The Apache" Raine, demands his soldiers scalp the Nazis they kill and gleefully carves swastikas into the foreheads of those he lets live; Landa, meanwhile, is so terrifyingly funny that he'll go down as one of the best movie villains in recent memory.) And then there's the rest of Basterds, which is a sizeable chunk, and which never works quite as well as the stuff above. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Intangible Asset Number 82
A documentary about an Australian drummer, Simon Barker, and his "creative odyssey" to find Korean musician (and shaman) Kim Seok-Chul. Clinton Street Theater.
Julie & Julia
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 perfectly paired selections: Mean Girls and Mulholland Drive. Boxxes.
A thriller/drama about Lorna (Arta Doloroshi), who gets embroiled in a hustle to sneak illegal immigrants into Belgium. For its first half, Lorna's Silence is tense, confident, and engaging, but as the film progresses, Lorna's increasingly dumbass decisions pretty much eliminate any empathy one has for her. The film also never answers its biggest mystery, which is why anyone would want to sneak into Belgium. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
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 Hollywood Theatre.
My One and Only
It's 1953, and Anne Devereaux (Renée Zellweger, finally finding the correct use for her powdered peach pit of a face) is an aging beauty, professional wife, and mother of two who leaves her philandering bandleader husband (Kevin Bacon) after coming home to one too many naked ladies in their marriage bed. Since she doesn't have any skills (you know us women!), she hops from city to city with the boys, looking for a new husband to feed her and compliment her and give her money and presents, so that she does not die in the streets or mess up her hairdo like a non-beautiful person. The beaus she encounters are a rotating cast of deadbeat-male stereotypes: the broke loser, the violent control freak, the rapey one, the poor one, the married one. My One and Only is sweet enough: the tailored '50s fashions fit Zellweger perfectly (oh, the hats!), and her small emotional journey (she discovers a flair for retail, and learns that it's possible to exist while manless) is better than no emotional journey at all, but the clichés run thicker than a super-thick paste made out of clichés. LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
Spike Lee's filmed version of the Broadway musical Passing Strange, in which he utilizes 14 cameras "to place the viewer into the onstage performance, as well as in the midst of the creative backstage energy." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Pepe le Moko
Julien Duvivier's 1937 film about a "charismatic jewel thief" (Jean Gabin) who's tempted to leave his life of crime when he meets a "beautiful Parisian playgirl." You and me both, pal. You and me both. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Laurelhurst Theater.
A loose retelling of "The Little Mermaid," Ponyo is reportedly the final film of legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. It isn't quite the masterwork one would hope he'd go out on—there's nothing quite as amazing here as the stuff in Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or My Neighbor Totoro—but even when Miyazaki isn't at the top of his game, his stuff's still pretty great, and anybody watching Ponyo won't be disappointed. ERIK HENRIKSEN 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 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.
Reel Paddling Film Festival
A fest "guaranteed to inspire more people to explore rivers, lakes and oceans, push physical and emotional extremes, embrace the lifestyle, and appreciate the heritage of the places we paddle." We're gonna pretend they mean the dominatrix sort of paddling, not the hippie sort of paddling. Bagdad Theater.
The September Issue
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
I didn't know who Séraphine de Senlis was at the start of this biopic, but I quickly deduced she was an actual person by the movie's ponderous, presumptuous tone. A devoutly religious maid who compulsively painted in her spare time, Séraphine was discovered in the French countryside by German art dealer Wilhelm Uhde, but then World War I broke out and she languished for years in poverty and obscurity, slowly going mental. The photography of Séraphine's paintings is genuinely gorgeous, but the script is stuffy, and the movie feels like a harangue. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
A brisk, funny, madcap collection of interconnected vignettes—but more accurately, this is the sort of film in which characters have names like "Helvetica Black," tiny UFOs destroy filled classrooms, booger monsters lurch through subdivisions, kids named Loogie get drenched in pterodactyl poop, and James Spader plays Steve Jobs. The story here's ostensibly about a "wishing rock" that makes people's dreams come true, but mostly, it's just an excuse for Robert Rodriguez to let loose with a ton of CG, a slew of talented actors, and a sense of humor that's sometimes clever but usually just goofy. It's all giddily chaotic and fantastically absurd, and while I'm sure you could complain about parts of Shorts if you wanted to, you'd have to be a particularly assholish curmudgeon not to be grinning through this whole thing. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
One more slasher flick. This one has Princess Leia in it! Old, chubby, depressing Princess Leia. Not screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, September 11 for our review. Various Theaters.
1974's cult motorcycle flick. Bagdad Theater.
France has churned out some decent dramas lately—I've Loved You So Long and A Christmas Tale both offered honest, sophisticated versions of contemporary family life. Summer Hours, a new film by writer/director Olivier Assayas, aims for a little honesty and sophistication of its own, but ultimately, it mines the deep vein of family dysfunction far less successfully than its predecessors. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
I know my generation is supposed to be the world's foremost pack of drooling narcissists or whatever, but Jesus "David Crosby's Coke-Encrusted Moustache" Christ, boomers, you have got to be the most self-absorbed fucks ever. I mean, Woodstock? Still? Woodstock in new, fictionalized formats? Surely we have the definitive Woodstock story already, called "all that footage we filmed at Woodstock." Surely you have done something since Woodstock that you would like to talk about. LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
That Night in Rio
Don Ameche, Alice Faye, and Carmen Miranda star in this 1941 musical. Grandma loves it! Pix Patisserie.
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife has been described as a meeting between science fiction and romance, but it's best not to look for many plausible explanations or a love story that isn't tainted by ultra-creepy undercurrents here. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The big screen adaptation of Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber's acclaimed comic book, starring Kate Beckinsale. Not screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, September 11 for our review. Various Theaters.
A Woman in Berlin
There seems no end to the cinematic mastication of WWII-related injury, and A Woman in Berlin upturns yet another stone in its sordid, rippling history. Originally the diary of an anonymous German journalist (thought to be Marta Hillers, portrayed here by Nina Hoss), it was first published in the mid-'50s, and chronicles the systematic raping of German women during the Russian Army's occupation of Berlin. Proving ahead of its era, upon publication the book was trashed as an insult to German women, and was more or less buried until time, and feminist progress, helped ease its re-publication in 2003. Considering the book's grim source material, the film, directed by Max Färberböck, handles itself with composure, neither avoiding nor exploiting the terrorization of its characters. In certain circles, it's taboo to legitimize any depiction of German suffering in relation to WWII, in light of their own well-documented atrocities and/or (arguably feigned and retroactively exaggerated) secondhand ignorance of their government's actions. Färberböck's depiction can't be accused of such oversimplification—it's a film in which nobody is innocent so much as caught up in ricocheting volleys of pain and vengeance. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.