This biopic of Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank) splices together scenes from her final, fateful flight around the world—during which she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean—with a linear narrative of her personal life. This lesser-known side of her existence centers around what began as a business relationship with George Putnam (Richard Gere), who she later married, and his management of her career, which involved as many corny, disingenuous promo spots and personal appearances as possible in order to finance her flights. But even with the added affair Earhart has with Gene Vidal (a greasy, grinning Ewan McGregor), there's not much going on in Mira Nair's film to care about: Earhart's flights and her promotion of opportunities for women in aviation are interesting achievements, but some of the in-flight drama is obviously manufactured, and piloting isn't much of a spectator sport to begin with. Amelia does have some great sets, costumes, and beautiful airplanes, as well as a nerve-wracking final scene (but you knew that), but it lacks any emotional hook, leaving you neither saddened nor particularly inspired. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
See review. Cinema 21.
Army of Darkness
"Don't touch that, please. Your primitive intellect wouldn't understand alloys and... compositions... and things with... molecular structures." Living Room Theaters.
Among manga and anime nerds, "Astro Boy" is a big name—like, "Mickey Mouse" big. In the States, though, Astro Boy is hardly an icon. Regardless, now Astro Boy has his own big-budget animated film, full of the requisite shiny CG and accompanied by the familiar glut of B-list celebrity voices. For what it is—a non-Pixar animated kids' flick—Astro Boy isn't bad, but it's nothing spectacular, either. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Bram Stoker's Dracula
See My, What a Busy Week! Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
It's a sad world we live in when vampires are continuously portrayed as boring, moralistic Pollyannas. These days we're stuck with the sort of undead you'd never invite to a party—they're too concerned with "feelings," "humanity," and "right" vs. "wrong." The latest entry in the emo vampire canon: Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, an aimless mess of a film that lacks bite, substance, or any sort of satisfaction. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Calm down. No one's raping your childhood. In fact, the creative team behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has the utmost respect for the children's book you loved as a kid. You'll find nods to the original in their beautiful, imaginative adaptation, even as the source material is transformed into something wholly unexpected and new. Bruce Campbell, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Anna Faris, Neil Patrick Harris, Mr. T, and more lend their voices here, and they're just as funny as you want them to be. The movie's sophisticated, fast-paced humor owes more to The Muppet Show and Arrested Development than to most of its CG contemporaries, and the whole thing's so offbeat and original that it makes even Pixar look conventional. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Coco Before ChanelThough its subject is arguably the most recognizable in fashion, Coco Before Chanel is more concerned with individuality than clothing. As Coco Chanel herself once famously put it, "Fashion passes, style remains." And style, its significance, is what director Anne Fontaine captures in this inspiring portrait of a young Chanel (played by a mesmerizing, and for-once not cloying, Audrey Tautou). MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
The Damned United
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Filmusik: Gamera vs. Guiron
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
The heavy-handed first three-quarters of Fuel mirror other recent enviro-docs like An Inconvenient Truth—outlining director Joshua Tickell's crusade to save the planet, Fuel tells us that we have to find another way to fuel our lives. (Yeah, no duh.) Tickell's answer is biodiesel. But wait: Isn't biodiesel the stuff that's pushing out food crops on the world's finite arable land, and driving up food prices? This cannot possibly be the answer. But then Tickell redeems himself: The last quarter of the film is astounding, explaining how biodiesel from algae and from trees that can be grown in the crappiest of soils might really be the answer. Put aside your green Portlander know-it-all attitude (ahem), do yourself a favor, and go check it out. AMY J. RUIZ Living Room Theaters.
Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts
A documentary about minimalist composer Philip Glass. Narrated by Ted Nugent. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
No, it's not The Graduate. Rather, The Graduates is comedy "about four friends who head to the beach without a care in the world"... only to learn "that there's a little more to life than having a good time"! Not screened for critics; director in attendance for a Q&A after both screenings. Academy Theater
Grindhouse Film Fest: Invincible Shaolin
A North Shaolin vs. South Shaolin showdown! FINALLY!!! Hollywood Theatre.
The sequel to the remake, featuring Margot Kidder and the once-proud Malcolm McDowell. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Law Abiding CitizenWhoever thought to combine torture porn with an indictment of our legal system should be chopped limb from limb. Law Abiding Citizen is a silly movie—preposterous and overblown, full of cringe-worthy ham-fisted preaching about right and wrong, and justice-only-for-the-just sentiments, while slyly setting up audience-cheering moments, like when Bad Guy #2 dies by agonizing vein-bursting, or a burglar gets whittled down to a torso. Law Abiding Citizen aims to set up a classic battle of wits, à la The Fugitive; unfortunately, no one here has any wits. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.Lord, Save Us From Your FollowersA documentary that "explores the collision of faith and culture in America." Not screened for critics. Laurelhurst Theater.
Mary & Max
See review. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Michael Jackson's This Is It
See review. Various Theaters.
New York, I Love You
See review. Fox Tower 10.
See My, What a Busy Week! Mission Theater, Pix Patisserie (North).
Occasional Pieces and Unafflicted States: Films by Stephen Connolly
Images of roads, buildings, and landscapes juxtaposed with seemingly unconnected narration. Unidentifiable narrative arcs. Obtuse social commentary. If you can picture the film I'm describing, then you're probably already familiar with the type of work Stephen Connolly makes, and you know if it's your thing or not. DAVE BOW Cinema Project Microcinema.
Writer/director Oren Peli's single-set calling card of a ghost story is clever, unbearably tense, and, above all, relentless—a Blair Witch Project that doesn't skimp on the money shots. Much like that film, the combination of jittery handheld cameras, no-profile actors, and a lack of dudes in rubber suits will no doubt turn off a significant portion of the audience in the mood for something overt. For those in a more suggestible frame of mind, however, Peli's method of imbuing everyday objects with an atmosphere of ball-crawling dread is really something to see. It doesn't let up. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Pray for Hell
Local filmmaker Todd Freeman's latest is "a haunting story of revenge... that attacks with a vengeance from the darkest corners of cinema." Not screened for critics. Clinton Street Theater.
Fucking A. There are six of these fucking things now? Fucking seriously? Various Theaters.
A Serious ManNot to be a bummer about it, but life is shitty, and we're all going to die. Such is the depressing-as-fuck truth we're reminded of in the Coen Brothers' latest, which tells us that family and religion and work will always control us, and while they are beautiful, necessary things, often and ultimately, they are useless. And yet despite all of this—and I probably should have mentioned this sooner—A Serious Man is one of the funnier movies you're going to see this year. You will laugh loudly and frequently, which is a hell of thing, considering you'll walk out of the theater feeling like you've been ground into an oily paste. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
A series of documentaries about "four female pioneers in politics, performance, poetry, and partisanship." Including Pasty Mink: Ahead of the Majority, about the first Asian American woman in Congress; Ferron: Girl on a Road, about the folk singer Ferron; Ridin' & Rhymin, about cowboy poet Georgie Sicking; and Left Lane: On the Road with Folk Poet Alix Olson, the title of which is fairly self-explanatory, and which will be preceded by a Storm Large music video, because god knows we don't get enough Storm Large in this town. More info: sirennation.com. Hollywood Theater
The English title of this Chinese film is apropos—and wildly different from the translation of its original Mandarin title, which means "Good People of the Three Gorges," a reference to the government-built Three Gorges Dam that flooded out countless towns and cities and displaced thousands of residents. Fengjie is one of those cities, and the film's two main characters are two of those former residents—the man and woman have both returned to search for their respective missing spouses, for vastly different reasons. It's a simple plot, one told in a slow and deliberate pace with beautiful cinematography, which gives the entire film the feeling of a moving still-life painting. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "Lens on China" series. AMY J. RUIZ Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A documentary that examines various aspects of the Chinese fashion and apparel industry. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "Lens on China" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Way We Get By
Elderly volunteers Joan Gaudet, Bill Knight, and Gerald "Gerry" Mundy are among a group that journeys at all hours to the Bangor, Maine airport, to greet troops returning from tours of duty. Director Aron Gaudet deftly sidesteps the quagmire of pro vs. anti-war politics (the greeters, many veterans themselves, are unquestionably patriotic, but question the current combat) and instead slowly, gently unpacks three lives in their twilight years. Though the film may be better suited to the small screen (where it premieres on PBS' P.O.V. next month), it achieves striking intimacy without judgment or pity. JANE CARLEN Hollywood Theatre.
Where the Wild Things Are
Where the Wild Things Are is unique among children's movies in that the only real stakes are emotional ones. When he runs away from home, to a strange island where he becomes King of the Wild Things, Max (Max Records) is tasked with sorting out the complicated allegiances and resentments of his new subjects. It's a lot, in fact, like life on the playground, and much of Spike Jonze's movie feels like a big game—perceived as being deadly serious, as only a child could consider it. From the elaborate forts that Max plans and constructs to the sorta half-assed, sorta brilliant stories he tells, Wild Things perfectly captures the improvisational quality of children's play. If it doesn't pack quite the intensely personal emotional wallop of the trailer, it nonetheless contains moments of sheer unadulterated recklessness, as Max and the Wild Things play ferocious games in the forest, accompanied by giddy, Karen O-scored drumbeats. But the film's quiet moments really hit home, as Max, scared in his now-tattered wolf costume, does his best to help his new friends feel safe in the world they live in. In its willingness to take childhood seriously, Where the Wild Things Are is every bit as good as we wanted it to be. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Whip ItCould Drew Barrymore be any more likeable? No. The answer is no. Submitted for your approval: Barrymore's directorial debut, the criminally enjoyable roller derby teen pic Whip It. Early on, it becomes apparent that Drew and her roller girls are having a blast, body checking and food fighting, which makes for two hours of infectious fun and feel-good eye candy. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Outside of monkeys, pirates, and possibly ninjas, is there anything more played out than zombies? Once one of the most metaphorically charged conceits in all of horrordom, the concept of the walking dead has long been run into the ground by sheer repetition. The image of Grandma back from the grave will always carry a bit of a charge, granted, but when even George Romero seems to be running on fumes, it may be time for the genre to shamble over to the corner and have some quiet time. Or, you know, maybe not. The new horror comedy Zombieland somehow rises above the Hot Topic-ization of its subject matter and becomes an absolute, occasionally surreal hoot. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.