"REPENT!" reads the crazy dude's handmade sign. The sign goes into further detail—there is, shockingly, something about the end being nigh, or near, or otherwise approaching more quickly than one would like—and it turns out Old Crazy Dude is onto something. For he and everyone else in 2012, the end is coming—in, like, 15 minutes—and those facing it should hurry with the confessions, 'cause a whole lotta shit is about to crumble and explode. At the very least, the doomed should dig up their copies of Paradise Lost to reacquaint themselves with Pandemonium, both in the Miltonian sense (SO MUCH SMOKE AND LAVA!) and the more general sense (SO MUCH STUFF CRUMBLING AND EXPLODING!). 2012 is pure pandemonium, and it's like two and a half hours of it, and if you're not in the mood for an inane summer blockbuster in the middle of November, then move along, killjoy. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Chinese semi-documentary 24 City rewards close attention, mingling real interview footage with scripted segments to tell the story of a weapons factory that's being converted into a housing complex. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "Lens on China" series. ALISON HALLETT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
The Blind Side
See review. Various Theaters.
A Christmas Carol
Over the course of his last three films—2004's The Polar Express, 2007's Beowulf, and now his indefensible adaptation of A Christmas Carol—Robert Zemeckis has single-handedly cartographed the depths of the uncanny valley with Shackletonian heroism, selflessly sacrificing his admittedly modest reputation and what must be the whole of his dignity for the betterment of a digital people unable to feel, let alone express, gratitude. His weirdly persistent reliance on motion capture technology has afforded us with some of the most spectacularly troubling digital representations of the uncanny valley known to man—and never have they seemed so superfluous as in A Christmas Carol, the very same Charles Dickens affair that's been filmed seemingly hundreds of times, for literally a hundred years. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Coco Before Chanel
Though 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, Hollywood Theatre.
In 1989, when the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened in Alaska, Americans were inundated with the media attention given to the wreckage, complete with heartbreaking images of black-slicked baby seals. It's less commonly known, however, that the Ecuadorian Amazon has contamination levels estimated to be at least 30 times as severe, and that 30,000 Ecuadorians have been locked in a legal battle seeking remediation since 1992. And if you think baby seals are upsetting, wait until you see the effects on the indigenous people whose water and soil are contaminated with the toxic sludge. Along with the support of activist organizations to save the Amazon (and Trudie Styler!), director Joe Berlinger's (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) documentary Crude aims to rectify this ignorance in hopes of throwing more weight behind the little guys fighting the corporate goliath Chevron, who inherited the lawsuit when it bought out Texaco. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21, Hollywood Theatre.
Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a precocious high schooler in 1960s Britain, an overachiever bound for Oxford—until the day she accepts a ride home from a wealthy older man (the phrase "stranger danger" apparently hadn't been coined yet). The cultured, well-traveled David (Peter Saarsgard) seems like the perfect suitor, and before long, their whirlwind romance has entirely replaced Jenny's dreams of attending Oxford. The film is meticulous in detailing exactly what value was placed on a woman's education in the 1960s, and Jenny's decision to forgo her schooling for a more glamorous life is well-contextualized. But for all its beautiful costumes, beautiful actors, and beautiful cars, there's something dry about An Education, something sexless and preachy. Perhaps it's a concession to modern mores—guys like David are creeps, we're subtly reassured, even if no one in the '60s realized it yet. Either way, the whiff of judgmental hindsight that comes off An Education ensures that its characters, and their decisions, remain at arm's length. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
The End of the Line
An enviro-doc narrated by Ted Danson! Yes, really. Living Room Theaters.
The Fourth Kind
The thought of being abducted by aliens doesn't really do it for me on the fear factor scale. But if I were fearful of UFOs and anal probings, The Fourth Kind would have me rattled. As is, it makes for a good, cheap thrill in the spirit of like-minded fake documentaries like The Blair Witch Project. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
"A seminal work in Sri Lankan cinema." Screens as part of the "Treasures from the UCLA Film & Television Archive" series. (R.I.P. Aaliyah.) Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
"Empathy was yesterday. Today, you're wasting my motherfucking time." Laurelhurst Theater.
A comedy about a grocery store clerk who "seeks dignity, a higher purpose in life and, at long last, the elusive driver's license." WARNING: This film features William Baldwin. Living Room Theaters.
In Search of Beethoven
A feature-length biographical film from the director of In Search of Mozart. Next up: In Search of Ted Nugent. Hollywood Theatre.
In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar-Wai's 2001 romance, with Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Based on a true story, the hilarious The Informant! is one of director Steven Soderbergh's best films—and considering the dude's other work (Traffic, Che, Ocean's Eleven, The Limey, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich), that's saying a lot. ERIK HENRIKSEN 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 Various Theaters.
The Invention of Lying
I don't know how best to convey my feelings about Ricky Gervais (it's hard, you see, because I might start crying and never stop), except to say that The Office—and, to a lesser extent, Extras—is THE most perfectly constructed piece of art in my favorite artistic medium, television. Not a single comedic or emotional misstep in the whole goddamn thing. Miraculous. Changed the way I think about comedy. AND LIFE. "Hey, Ricky Gervais, breathe into this rag. Why am I wearing a wedding dress? Shhh. Go to sleep." They're like that. My feelings. (Note: I am not actually a kidnapper and rapist! Ha ha!) So aaanyway, of course I was hoping that The Invention of Lying—Gervais' directorial film debut—would be another masterpiece of impeccable social satire. But it's not. LINDY WEST Laurelhurst Theater.
IT (Independent Tuesday)
Homemade film and video! Someday Lounge.
"What am I doing? I'm quietly judging you." The Press Club.
The Men Who Stare at Goats
Inspired by Jon Ronson's 2004 book about the US Army's experiments with the paranormal, Goats works best in its flashbacks, which are weird and hilarious; George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, and Stephen Lang all seem to be having a blast. In the modern-day sequences, Goats loses much of its goofy, satirical edge, but director Grant Heslov never totally strays from the film's outlandish-but-weirdly-believable tone, which, at its best, recalls Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and Dr. Strangelove. The Men Who Stare at Goats isn't nearly as good as either of those films, but Heslov's goals seem somewhat the same as Kubrick's: Throw all sorts of preposterous allegations at those in power, and then step back, content and happy and pleased with how many of those allegations, in context, don't seem quite as ridiculous as they did before. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Michael Jackson's This Is It
The footage from the shamelessly exploitative This Is It is culled from rehearsals for Michael Jackson's ill-fated comeback concerts, and the product is less a concert film and more a rehearsal film: After running through performances, Jackson looks like a brittle skeleton as he gives bewildering instructions to various yes men. ("Just bathe it in moonlight—you have to let it simmer," he tells the show's musical director about "The Way You Make Me Feel.") Despite Jackson's frailty—the cameras keep their distance, rarely giving us a good look at his papery, gaunt face—he could still move, and here he does so with a vigor and grace that, even now, astonishes. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
New York, I Love You
Setting aside the weird glee of recognition intrinsic to any cinematic anthology—this is surely the only time in the history of the world that Shia LaBeouf will get the chance to play a gimp-legged, Russian immigrant bellhop, and you can hear him salivating over ewery... sinkle... word—there are very few exciting ideas in New York, I Love You. Did you know that New York is the Greatest City in the World? That different cultures are Learning Important Lessons about each other every single day? That Strangers Can Be Rude but deep down We All Want to Be Loved? Did you realize that Crippled Hot Girls Can Fuck Like Monkeys? (Thanks for that last one, Brett Ratner!) PAUL CONSTANT Fox Tower 10.
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.
Rock 'n' roll is great. But no matter how powerful, majestic, or even life changing three chords and the truth can be, rock 'n' roll cannot save Pirate Radio. In fact, this limp comedy ensemble (tagline: "1 Boat. 8 DJs. No Morals.") might be the worst thing to happen to rock music since Limp Bizkit, the RIAA, and the Bob Dylan Christmas album—combined. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
See review. Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Mall 8.
Joseph Levy's 1951 drama, screening as part of the "Treasures from the UCLA Film & Television Archive" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The latest from John Woo. See next week's Mercury on Thursday, November 26 for our review. Cinema 21.
The Secret Beyond the Door
Fritz Lang's 1948 flick about a woman who "marries a man she barely knows, and soon suspects he's trying to drive her insane." Screens as part of the "Treasures from the UCLA Film & Television Archive" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
An enjoyable if formulaic thriller, and an exciting indicator that the Pander brothers might be the next greatest thing out of Portland's movie-making scene—if, that is, they just set their sights a smidge higher next time. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
A Serious Man
Not to be all depressing 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 Cinemagic, Fox Tower 10.
Discuss: Which would be more depressing to attend? This or the new Twilight movie? Bagdad Theater.
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
"If I may be so bold, it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material." Pix Patisserie (North).
One could never accuse writer/director/singer Cory McAbee of lack of ambition or imagination. McAbee's decades-long journey following his muse has currently led him to Stingray Sam, a space-cowboy faux-serial narrated by David Hyde Pierce. Edited down to its episodic musical numbers and singular ideas (like the "Pregnant Mans' Science and Trivia Institute," planet-wide "Mascot Rehabilitation Programs for Prisoners," and other things that require extensive explanation), Stingray Sam would make a hell of a 15-minute experience. Unfortunately, there are 45 other minutes filled with leaden acting and meandering exposition. McAbee in attendance for a Q&A following the screening, which in turn will be followed by a screening of his film American Astronaut. DAVE BOW The Woods.
Suck My Flick Film Night
A night of homemade short films (10 minutes or less). More info: portlandfilm.org. Alberta Street Public House.
Kung Fu Marathon
The Clinton's Thanksgiving tradition returns, with a whole bunch of kung fu flicks to remind you what's really worth being thankful for. Five bucks gets you in and out all night! Includes screening of Black Dynamite at 9 pm. Clinton Street Theater.
The Traveling Tomato
Sally Tomato presents three of her short films, and the press release is pretty hard to top: "Search for UFOs, feel the warm embrace of a covered bridge, and experience the magnificence of England and Wales as Sally Tomato and her co-host Carlos Severe Marcelin tinker with the absurd while making poignant observations alongside a soundtrack of original music." Yep. Mt. Tabor Theater.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
EDWARD AND BELLA ARE FINALLY BACK!!!1! Not screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, November 20 for our review. Various Theaters.
A Woman Under the Influence
John Cassavetes' 1974 classic, screening as part of the "Treasures from the UCLA Film & Television Archive" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Word Is Out: Stories of
Some of Our Lives
The 1977 documentary about gay and lesbian identity. Screens as part of the "Treasures from the UCLA Film & Television Archive" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Yes Men Fix the World
See review. Cinema 21.