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 City Center 12, Forest Theatre, Fox Tower 10.
Goddamn, is it gorgeous to look at. 9 is full of astonishing visuals—brilliantly conceived things that twist and gleam in the light, moving with a fluidity and a vigor that most animated characters can only dream of. The world of 9 is a haunting, haunted place—one of bombed-out buildings, grimy skies, and vestiges of long-dead humanity—and watching the film's burlap-sack protagonists creep and dash through it, their tiny mechanized eyes full of fear and awe, is undoubtedly impressive. Unfortunately, 9 is based on a 10-minute-long, Academy Award-winning short that director Shane Acker made in 2005, and despite his and co-writer Pamela Pettler's efforts, this feature-length expansion adds nothing of consequence. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A stop-motion animated film that has something to do with "the post-modern meaning of hope." [Insert bong bubbling noise here.] Living Room 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 of the same name 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.
Art & Copy
A documentary by Doug Pray (Surfwise) about the advertising industry and its effects on culture. Featuring interviews with Wieden+Kennedy's Dan Wieden (who will introduce the screening on Friday evening), Tommy Hilfiger, and the people who came up with the "Got milk?" and the "I (Heart) NY" ad campaigns. So it's kinda like Mad Men! But without Joan. :( Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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, Edgefield, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
The Baader Meinhof Complex
See review. Cinema 21.
A Turkish road movie in which an "executioner and his intended victim go on a journey of self discovery." Awww. Hollywood Theatre.
An advance screening of Jane Campion's upcoming film about John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). It's crazy how even some people in old-timey times had stripper names. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Classic Concerts: Frank Zappa
Footage from a 1978 Frank Zappa concert. Clinton Street Theater.
Cloudy with A Chance
See review. Various Theaters.
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 Fox Tower 10.
Cowboy Bebop & Akira
Otaku alert! Otaku alert! Clinton Street Theater.
The Norwegian comedy splatter flick Dead Snow (the title, by the way, is way cooler in its original language: Død Snø!) is half Evil Dead and half Shaun of the Dead, and it's about a quarter as much fun as either. Despite a few wry jokes and a welcome sense of fun (like the recent Drag Me to Hell, Dead Snow is of the too-rare opinion that the only way to make a decent horror flick might be to offer the audience a wink or two), Dead Snow ultimately isn't willing to do much more than maim, dismember, and cover Norway's serene countryside with red stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with that—but an hour and a half of watching brains thunk onto cabin floors and blood splatter across snowdrifts does prove a bit much. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
Deep Leap Microcinema
Video art and specially commissioned performances combine in this new monthly arts program "devoted to pairing thematically related film/video programs with cogent, interdisciplinary performance, reading, music, and lecture." More info: deepleap.net. The Artistery.
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. Century Clackamas Town Center.
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.
Director Ying Liang's "bleakly comic story of a young man from the country trying to find opportunity in a new world order" kicks off the Northwest Film Center's "Lens on China" series, which runs through November 5. More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
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.
See review. Various 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 Broadway Various Theaters.
Invincible Pole Fighter
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
It Might Get Loud
After directing An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim turns his lens to guitarists Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White, ostensibly in a film about the guitar. But the framework is pretty flimsy, and it quickly becomes obvious that Guggenheim just wants to hang out with some rockstars. Page and the Edge come off as kindly elderly gentlemen, but White is a pompous ass, wearing silly antique clothes, spontaneously writing a song on camera (it's awful), and even having a kid come onscreen as a child version of himself—so we can watch Big Jack give Little Jack life lessons like how to kick out a piano stool just like Jerry Lee Lewis did. You will learn nothing about the guitar from this movie; all it does is prove that Jimmy Page and the Edge are talented, inventive guitarists, while Jack White has yet to emerge from the shadows of his influences. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
See review. Various Theaters.
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.
KISS Meets the Phantom
of the Park
At a theme park called Magic Mountain, KISS use mystical talismans to defeat a mad scientist. Sure, why not? Great! Fuck it. Bagdad Theater.
Late Night Double Feature Picture Show
Boxxes' free movie night. This week's selections: Boondock Saints and Bubba-Ho-Tep. 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.
See review. Various 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 Fox Tower 10, 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 City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Night of the Iguana
John Huston's 1964 classic with Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr. Pix Patisserie (North).
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.
The September Issue
In the all-access documentary The September Issue, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour's legendary iciness seems like the unremarkable product of natural decisiveness and an incredibly heavy schedule. She's irreverent, yes, but someone has to be, even at the highest echelon. When she does rarely communicate an emotion in this film, it's a borderline vulnerability, describing her family's "amusement" with her occupation, or showing a motherly turn in the lips as her daughter talks of plans to attend law school in lieu of following in her mother's footsteps. But far more interesting revelations come from the rest of Vogue's staff—particularly the warm, funny Grace Coddington, who joined Vogue at the same time Wintour did, and who not only doesn't fear her but acts as a buffer between her and the magazine's hilariously frantic staff. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
As one sorority sister says in Sorority Row, "Hos before bros." I'm sorry, but no. There's so much constant ho-on-ho emotional abuse that one can't believe these tramps are looking out for each other's lingerie-clad backs. It should be more like, "Hos before bros—unless you might turn me into the cops for accidentally killing my fellow Greek sister, in which case I'm totally going to be bitchy and/or kill your brother with my Escalade, and meanwhile, that serial killer is totally stalking me with his pimped-out death tool of a carjack." Exhausting, yes, but at least it's factually accurate. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Steve Vai: Where the Wild Things Are
Dwwwweeeeedddle dweeet dwooo! Dwwweeee! Dwweedle dweeedle dweedle deet doo! WHAMMY BAR! Man, Steve Vai's new concert flick is INSANE! He's all, "Hello, I'm Steve Vai, the greatest guitarist of all time, even better than that hack Joe Satriani. Check out what I can do with my axe!" and then it's all DWEEEEEERP! Dweeedle-dee-deeeeee! WHAMMY BAR! You might be confused 'cause the Vai-ster's new movie has the same name as that flick that's coming out about cuddly monsters and crap, but man, THIS is where it's at! Dwwweeee! Dweedle-dee-deeeee! Anyway, the Clinton's totally showing Steve Vai's new concert Blu-ray, and on Saturday, Steve Vai—the man! the myth! the legend!—will be LIVE and IN PERSON to introduce the movie! Maybe he'll play some sweet riffs, too. Maybe gimme some pointers. It'd be sweet if we could jam. Anyway, it's like I always say, dude. Live and let Vai, man. Live and let Vai. SETH, ERIK'S STONER COLLEGE ROOMMATE Clinton Street Theater.
"Armed robb'ry. Wi' a replica. I mean, how tha fock ca' it be armed robbery wi' a fockin' replica?" The Press Club.
Vortex 1: A Biodegradeable Festival of Life
A documentary about the rock festival staged just outside of Estacada in 1970 by Governor Tom McCall. The crafty McCall was trying to distract Oregon's hippies from an upcoming visit by Richard Nixon, and it largely worked. It was just good thinking, on McCall's part: Hippies are easily distracted by both rock 'n' roll and shiny objects, such as tinfoil, or your jingling keys. Clinton Street Theater.
Avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas' documentation of "his casual visits with other filmmakers, artists, and intellectuals across the changing seasons of 1960s New York." More info: cinemaproject.org. Cinema Project Microcinema.
Wayne's World 2
"Take me, Garth!" "Where? I'm low on gas, and you need a jacket." Laurelhurst Theater.
Mikhail Baryshnikov stars in 1985's dance flick. Screening is sponsored by White Bird Dance, and will include a giveaway for two tickets to Baryshnikov's sold-out Portland performance on October 1. Pix Patisserie (North).
Despite its ice pick-wielding murderer, Antarctic blizzards, dead Russians slumped over bottles of fine vodka, and foxy US Marshal, Whiteout somehow manages to be a bland film. This becomes clear early on, in the second scene of the movie, as introductory words blaze onto the corner of the screen: "Antarctica: The coldest, most isolated place in the world." (Thank you, director Dominic Sena, for explaining the obvious.) And the film continues with its frustrating habit of underestimating the intelligence of its audience, filling its time with frequent, unnecessary flashbacks and characters who feel the need to spell out everything they're thinking. "This can't have been an accident!" announces supposedly razor-sharp US Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) as she helps dissect a man found dead in the middle of an Antarctic plateau, his face smashed and an axe wound in his back. SARAH MIRK Various Theaters.
World's Greatest Dad
Sometimes it feels like Robin Williams is the source of all the melancholy in the world. You know? Like the Fates took all the joy that Robin Williams ever possessed or would possess and wove it into one magical pair of rainbow suspenders, which were stolen by a witch some time in the early 1980s, forcing him to transition into Adult Human Pants (held up by the Belt of Gloom), leaving nothing inside but a vacuous, suspender-shaped quarry of despair. And we all. Might. Fall. In. In World's Greatest Dad, a brutally bleak comedy written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, Williams is Lance Clayton, single father, medium failure ("I am a writer"), and unpopular high-school poetry teacher. When his teenage son, Kyle, a cruel, sex-obsessed asshole, dies autoerotic-asphyxiatorially, Lance tries to salvage his offspring's reputation. He forges, in Kyle's name, the diary of a tortured poet who never existed at all. Kyle becomes a sort of high-school folk hero, and Lance gets a book deal and a crisis of conscience. World's Greatest Dad is rough, funny, smart stuff. LINDY WEST Hollywood Theatre.