2009 British Television Advertising Awards
This 80-minute parade of winning UK plugs and PSAs features many spectacular spots, some mediocre ones, and a few that're stomach churning. If you don't mind the constant jumping from bit to bit, hop in the queue. (You can also watch them on the British Television Advertising Awards' website, btaa.co.uk, but watching them individually is a time-consuming nuisance—your time is probably worth the Northwest Film Center's $8 admission.) JANE CARLEN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A boring, limp-dicked heist flick starring Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, and Fred Ward. Amusingly named director Nimród Antal (Kontroll, Vacancy, the upcoming Predators reboot) clearly doesn't give a fuck about anything that's happening onscreen (though he does make Los Angeles look very pretty), screenwriter James V. Simpson's plothole-ridden script is like something your depressing uncle would write in his spare time, and even Matt Dillon looks like he'd rather be acting in just about anything else. I went into Armored hoping for a dumb, enjoyable thriller; I walked out reminded of the fact that life is empty and meaningless. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
James Cameron's decade-in-the-making sci-fi epic, alternately known as Ferngully II: The Reckoning and Smurfs in Space. See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call
Except for a few uncomfortably long stares at reptiles (iguanas, alligators), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is only secretly a Werner Herzog movie. It feels, instead, like a screwball crime comedy for people who like their humor on the gallows side. (Which, I guess you could argue, is kinky enough to qualify as Herzogian.) Nicolas Cage plays a both schlubby and maniacal cop with a rug of hair, a crazy crackhead cackle, and a big damn revolver stuck sloppily into the front of his wrinkled pants. His true loves are his dad (a drunk living out in a big, paint-chipped Louisiana house-on-sticks that you will covet until your dying day), his prostitute girlfriend ("the pross," the characters keep calling her), gambling on football, and snorting heroin. He'll take cocaine and crack when it comes his way, but he loves the horse. That love drives the entire film. The 1992 Bad Lieutenant, directed by Abel Ferrara, was a darker story about a New York cop (Harvey Keitel) coming to redemption. The 2009 Bad Lieutenant doesn't really care if anybody gets redeemed. BRENDAN KILEY Fox Tower 10.
The Blind Side
Sandra Bullock is a natural fit for the role of sassy, wealthy, Southern, evangelical MILF do-gooder Leigh Anne Tuohy, who took in a homeless African American teenager after scooping him off the streets of Memphis. That boy, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), went on to become one of the most sought-after young football players in the country, receiving numerous college scholarships, and now plays professionally for the Baltimore Ravens. At its heart, The Blind Side is a straight-ahead feel-good family movie—but there are aspects of it that'll make you squirm. Leigh Anne and her husband Sean (Tim McGraw) are rich off the profits of some 60-odd fast food restaurants, with two sweetheart children, but it's Leigh Anne who runs the family and dominates the film: Rarely do more than five minutes elapse without her breaking in with a piece of her mind, telling everybody—from a drug dealer to a racist lady-who-lunches to a high school football coach—what's what, with a cocksure fearlessness typical of someone upon whom fortune has always smiled. (And who carries a gun in her purse.) There's no escaping the cringingly congratulatory, rich-white-folk-bail-out-helpless-black-kid dynamic, but, well, that's just kind of what happened, by all accounts (it's harder to misrepresent people who are still alive). And once you allow yourself to drop the liberal guilt and just like the Tuohys, you're left with a pretty good story. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The wartime family drama Brothers is based on the Danish film of the same name (except... you know. In Danish. Brødre). I haven't seen the original, but some Googlin' reveals that the salient plot points remain largely unchanged—and the film makes no effort to distance itself from its foreign roots. Director Jim Sheridan's adaptation has a contemplative steadiness far more common in European films than American ones. Even if Brothers occasionally goes overboard, it's worth bearing with a bit of melodrama for what's otherwise an impressively perceptive film. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Deep Leap Microcinema
Video art and specially commissioned performances combine in this monthly program "devoted to pairing thematically related film/video programs with cogent, interdisciplinary performance, reading, music, and lecture." More info: deepleap.net. The Waypost.
Did You Hear About the Morgans?
A viciously terrible-looking romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Ol' Horseface from Sex and the City. See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters.
The End of Poverty?
A documentary that "asks why today 20 percent of the planet's population uses 80 percent of its resources and consumes 30 percent more than the planet can regenerate." Um, you should probably bring your calculator, I guess? Living Room Theaters.
Robert De Niro plays an old man who goes on a cross-country trip to visit each of his children. Slowly, it emerges that he's been kept in the dark about his kids' lives—that, ever since his wife died, he's been protected from information that might upset him. Which is a fine premise for a movie, really, and were this written with half the emotional intelligence of, say, You Can Count on Me, it might've made a decent family drama. But it's not. It's written as a film in which crucial plot points are revealed in dream sequences. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Fantastic Mr. Fox—despite the fact it's filmed via stop-motion animation—feels very much like Wes Anderson's other movies, which means if you're the sort of person who likes to scoff at Anderson, you will find plenty of justification to do so after seeing Fox. But to complain that the film is just more of the same overlooks the pretty crucial fact that, well, that "same" is pretty extraordinary: The reason Anderson's style is so immediately recognizable and so open to criticism is because it's so original, so earnest, and so finely tuned. The funny, charming Fox isn't Anderson's best film, but it might be his most fully realized. Via stop-motion animation, the meticulous Anderson revels in a level of control that's any OCD sufferer's dream. Anderson's films have always displayed his near-psychopathic obsession with the tiniest of details, from the patterns of background wallpaper to the exacting typefaces in his credit sequences; with Fox, he's created an entire miniature world, and it's hardly surprising that his cast of witty woodland creatures wear only the finest corduroy and tweed. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
From Dusk Till Dawn
See My, What a Busy Week! Clinton Street Theater.
A selection of documentaries made by students in the NW Documentary Workshop, accompanied by performances from Circus Artemis and Polaris Dance Theater. More info: nwdocumentary.org. Mission Theater.
The Horse Boy
A documentary which "follows one Texas couple and their autistic son as they trek on horseback through Outer Mongolia in an attempt to find healing for their son." Narrated by Norm MacDonald doing his Burt Reynolds impersonation. Hollywood Theatre.
The House of the Devil
This is what I'm talking about! The House of the Devil is a perfect love note to the suspenseful, old-school horror flicks of the '70s and '80s, complete with the simple setup of a babysitter in an under-lit spooky house. It's a film that builds and builds to the point of jumping when a creaky door opens and dread fear bursts in your heart. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
"I am Ergo the Magnificent. Short in stature, tall in power, narrow of purpose, and wide of vision! And I do not travel with peasants and beggars. Goodbye!" Bagdad Theater.
See review. Cinema 21.
Me and Orson Welles
Richard Linklater's Oscar-baity flick starring Zac Efron. Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10.
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 Broadway Metroplex, Lloyd Mall 8, St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub.
Because life, especially in wartime, can be understatedly described as "messy," it's perhaps feasible to excuse The Messenger's disarray. The film's initial purpose is to explore the experience of servicemen tasked with notifying the next of kin when a soldier is killed. It's a rich and largely overlooked perspective, and it could, and should, have been the dedicated focus of the entire picture. Likewise, a romance between a widow and the soldier bearing news of her husband's death is also surely worthy of its own work, and an emotional soldier-to-soldier booze-fueled bender of a bro-down is much more than what some great films have been built on. But to cram all three into one film so laden with the ability to do just one really well, is to create a sense of unfinished business. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
In Ninja Assassin, there is a ninja. He assassinates people. If you seek something more from your cinematic experiences, look elsewhere; this weekend is full of films offering depth and nuance. If, on the other hand, you are curious about how yakuza view ninjas (they laugh derisively... but not for long), or if you want to see how German cops fare in a fight with ninjas (they shout "Scheiße!" and then they die), or if you want to see ninja stars flying all over the goddamn place while things explode, then watch Ninja Assassin, an admirably and literally titled film. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Oh My God
Hugh Jackman looks into the camera and says, "It's a really interesting idea to make a documentary and ask people what they think God is, because I don't believe you can actually explain it." So begins Oh My God, a Religion 101 exercise disguised as a film. First-time director Peter Rodger set out to ask people around the world "What is God?" The answers are sure to surprise no one—most of them are "I dunno"—except Rodgers, who often turns the camera on himself as he rests in hotel rooms and earnestly states more unanswerable questions ("If God exists, then why is there suffering?") and bland revelations ("If we just take a place dictated by [others], aren't we missing the true essence of WHO. WE. REALLY. ARE?"). In a bid to represent every possible side, Rodger jumps from continent to continent, letting monks' and Imams' statements hang in the air next to the likes of Bob Geldoff and Seal. (Sometimes he even remixes his interviewees' answers into techno music videos!) What does Ringo Starr think God is? Who gives a shit? DAVE BOW Fox Tower 10.
The final film in the Northwest Film Center's Lens on China series, 2005's Perpetual Motion has been called "a Chinese Sex and the City." It follows four successful women who talk about stuff women like to talk about—you know, like shopping, and periods. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
"A prostitute struggling to support her family forms a bond with the reclusive portrait photographer from whom she rents a room." HOT. Screens as part of the Global Lens Film Series. Hollywood Theatre.
An Argentinian drama about a woman searching for her husband in remote Patagonia. Screens as part of the Global Lens Film Series. Hollywood Theatre.
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Co-produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, the awkwardly titled Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is this year's feel-good-by-feeling-bad Oscar bait: a relentlessly sordid bit of ghetto tourism that invites audiences to wallow in unimaginable misery for 110 minutes, only to emerge from their cinematic journey more enlightened, more aware, more... human. (Thanks, Oprah!) ALISON HALLETT City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Mall 8.
The Princess and the Frog
See review. Various Theaters.
Arriving after delays and rumors of recuts, the long-awaited cinematic version of Cormac McCarthy's 2006 Pulitzer-winning, Oprah-approved, post-apocalyptic saga The Road comes off as a non-starter; an honorable, respectful, well-acted adaptation that feels curiously inert. All the beats are there—with the exception of a few of the most notoriously grisly bits—but the chaos seems a little too orderly. ANDREW WRIGHT Fox Tower 10.
Akira Kurosawa's classic from 1950. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Living Room Theaters.
The Slammin' Salmon
See review. Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
A drama that digs into the secrets kept in a "seemingly tidy Japanese family unit." Hollywood Theatre.
The Third Man
There are few films that embody what film noir is about as well as John Huston's The Maltese Falcon or Carol Reed's The Third Man. Yet while Falcon has been dissected, reassembled, and copied down to its DNA, The Third Man remains enigmatic and singular. The diverse facets of Man that are towering and memorable—Anton Karas' indelible zither score, Orson Welles' performance as Harry Lime, Reed's depiction of Vienna as a city of shadows and danger—remain so, partly because they've never been duplicated. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's British Noir series; see next week's Mercury for more info. DAVE BOW Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
EEEEEEEEE! It's time for The Twilight Saga: New Moon! Are you ready?! Before going into the theater, there are a few things you're going to have to shove to the back of your mind—your love of witty repartee, your knowledge of monster folklore, your hatred of CG animals, and your intelligence. New Moon goes deep, deep, deep into the uncharted forest of TEEN MELODRAMA, and if you can't handle it, you're welcome to join Team Get the Eff Outta Here. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Eric Bricker's documentary about architectural photographer Julius Shulman serves as a laudatory obituary for the man who died in July at age 98. Shulman, whose photographs captured (and in some cases shaped) the careers of modernist architects like Richard Neutra, Frank Gehry, and Frank Lloyd Wright, was a committed environmentalist. But the film leaves out the awkward question of how Shulman's work also served to glorify and promote the American ideal of living in a single-family home a mile or two from a freeway, isolated from one's community by a gas-guzzling automobile. In many ways it's odd that the film is premiering here in Portland, the international capital of urban planning and design—and a place where Shulman's most famous image, of the Stahl house, overlooking Los Angeles in 1960, would be perceived by bike and smart growth advocates as anathema. Sexy photos of sexy houses, though. Undoubtedly. MATT DAVIS Living Room Theaters.