Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
Fucking hell, what is it with crappy CG kids movies and the titles they use for sequels? First there was Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, and now there's this? This shit is not okay, people. Not okay. Various Theaters.
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 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.
See review. Various Theaters.
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
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.
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 100 years. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Christmas Family Films
A selection of kid-friendly rare shorts, curated by local film archivist Dennis Nyback. The Little Church.
Did You Hear About the Morgans?
See review. Various Theaters.
See review. Living Room 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. 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 Cinemagic, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
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.
The Ice Storm
Ang Lee's 1997 drama. Reminder: Ang Lee did this, and Brokeback Mountain, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Eat Drink Man Woman, and Sense and Sensibility. And then he did Hulk. The Press Club.
The only thing that's harder for an American to understand than a South African accent is the rules of rugby. It seems to be kind of like football, only with dorkier uniforms, lateral passing instead of forward passing, and plenty of big, chummy, homoerotic scrums. In Clint Eastwood's Invictus, the 1995 Rugby World Cup is given the task of drawing together a newly desegregated South Africa—it's not quite the equivalent of Nazis and Jews sorting out their differences with a game of hopscotch, but one can't help wonder if perhaps this particular sporting match has acquired a tad more significance than it can bear. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
It Always Rains on Sunday
See Film, this issue. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The first hour or so of La Danse is completely enthralling. There's no storyline, no narration, no attempt to introduce interesting characters or explain any backstories—just a curious lens observing the Paris Opera Ballet as the company prepares a handful of new shows. The dancers dance; choreographers observe, give notes, demand a rounder arm, a heavier landing, and the dancers make minute adjustments that reveal the totality of their training and their art. But then the film hits the hour-and-a-half mark, and then two, and that's right around the time a non-narrative dance film should wrap up, yeah? No. La Danse finally clocks in at just under three hours. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
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, Cinemagic, St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub.
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.
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 Various Theaters.
The Princess and the Frog
By my estimation, Disney's animated features took a dramatic turn for the terrible with the release of Pocahontas in 1995. With a few exceptions, the 15 movies since have squandered a good deal of cultural capital—what American kid wasn't half-raised by Disney cartoons? How much would you have to pay the average American adult to watch Chicken Little? But Disney's newest, The Princess and the Frog, abruptly and unexpectedly reminded me just how good Disney movies used to be. ALISON HALLETT 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 Century Eastport 16, City Center 12.
The Rose City Animation Showcase
Portland is an animation center. This is not the same thing as a Toon Town: Our police officers—who are not dogs—don't fight crime with smiles and the mayor is, sadly, more corporeal than a brain in a vat of jelly. However, Portland is a hub for animators, and the first Rose City Animation Showcase spotlights work from up-and-coming animators who are training (or have trained) at the Art Institute of Portland's animation department. This free shorts program runs the gamut from Art Institute's first official production, a 2D film from 2007, to a stop-motion dive into the secret pain of Sesame Street's Count, to a 3D short in which a lonely mad scientist attempts revenge and fails. JANE CARLEN Cinema 21.
Santa Claus: The Movie
"A sequel! That's it! We'll bring it out on March 25, and we'll call it... Christmas 2!" Pix Patisserie (North).
Silent Night, Deadly Night
It's no Black Christmas, but 1984's inevitable Santa-turns-slasher bloodbath Silent Night, Deadly Night has a few likeable qualities nonetheless: You've got your sex with nuns, you've got a multitude of arbitrary victims introduced and subsequently murdered in roughly one half of one scene, not to mention a smattering of increasingly ludicrous Christmas songs that all seem to be composed specifically for the movie. On the downside, you've got the needlessly expository first two-thirds of the movie, plus perhaps the least convincing horror villain of all time: A dashing, doe-eyed WASP-y dude in a Santa suit whose creepy one liners alternate between the equally un-scary "Puuunish!" and "Naaaw-tee!"—delivered in a nearly unintelligible monotone. ZAC PENNINGTON Hollywood Theatre.
Sita Sings the Blues
When animator/director Nina Paley's boyfriend dumped her, she spent the next five years on her computer creating an animated movie drawing parallels between her breakup and the Indian epic the Ramayana. As insufferable as that sounds, Paley has in fact created something truly remarkable. Relying heavily on a found soundtrack by '20s jazz chanteuse Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues features gorgeous animation, whimsically surreal storytelling, and a trio of bickering narrators, resulting in an animated feature that's truly unique. You can watch Sita Sings the Blues on Paley's website, but the chance to see it on a large screen should not be missed. NED LANNAMANN Clinton Street Theater.
An orphaned refugee and an old man wander Mozambique's countryside in search of the boy's mother. Screens as part of the Global Lens film series. Hollywood Theatre.
Song From the Southern Seas
"A gritty and deeply compassionate tale" about two couples, one Russian and one Kazakh. Screens as part of the Global Lens film series. Hollywood Theatre.
The Third Man
See Film, this issue. 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.
Up in the Air
See review. Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Could 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 Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Mission Theater.
The Wizard of Oz
"Singing and dancing in the aisles is encouraged," says the press release! GOD MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP HOW COULD THIS GET ANY WORS—oh, what's this? Sunday's screening will be preceded by performances from "the Wanderlust Circus as well as a costume parade with prizes for the kids (and yes, the kids at heart too)." GODDAMMIT Bagdad Theater.