Film Shorts 

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
See review. Various Theaters.

recommended Avatar
James Cameron's sci-fi epic is exactly as visually arresting and technologically revolutionary as promised, but the CG and the artistry behind it are so good—the film's bizarre landscapes and inhabitants are so organic, complex, and emotive—that, remarkably, you'll forget you're watching one big special effect. And so we're left with Avatar's story—which, thanks to its too-easy morality and stilted dialogue, isn't gonna impress anyone. What will impress, though, are the moments of holy-shit spectacle. Avatar isn't perfect, but it is extraordinary. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.

recommended Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
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 Living Room Theaters.

recommended Brighton Rock
1947's Brighton Rock could be harmless and crackerjack if not for the immeasurable weight of Richard Attenborough's performance as teenage sociopath Pinkie Brown, who aims to be a made man. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's British Noir series. DAVE BOW Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.

Broken Embraces
See review. Fox Tower 10.

recommended The Fallen Idol
Though 1948's The Fallen Idol has the fewest noir trappings of any film in the Northwest Film Center's British Noir series, its theme cuts deeper: a child's loss of innocence as he grapples to understand a world of adults that operates on deception. DAVE BOW Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.

recommended Funny Face
The 1957 flick with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. Is it weird to still think Audrey Hepburn's smokin'? 'Cause she is. Even though she's dead now. Bagdad Theater.

Invictus
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's a Wonderful Life
See My, What a Busy Week! Edgefield, Pix Patisserie (North).

It's Complicated
See review. Various Theaters.

recommended Late Night Double Feature Picture Show
See My, What a Busy Week! Boxxes.

Me and Orson Welles
Richard Linklater's Oscar-baity flick starring Zac Efron. Not screened for critics. Hollywood Theatre.

The Messenger
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 Living Room Theaters.

Mr. Hulot's Holiday
A 35mm restoration of Jacques Tati's 1953 comedy. Hollywood Theatre.

Nine
See review. Various Theaters.

recommended Peeping Tom
The 1960 movie that killed director Michael Powell's career, Peeping Tom has thankfully been reexamined by critics in recent years as insightful commentary on the voyeuristic nature of art. It is also unquestionably the best film ever that features a tripod leg as a penis surrogate/murder weapon. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's British Noir series. DAVE BOW Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
"I've had enough of being an enigma," declares Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn). "I want to be known." Pippa, at 50, is an aging trophy wife; she's just moved to a retirement community with her much-older husband, where they plan to live out the rest of his life together. Until, that is, Pippa sees Keanu Reeves whispering soulfully to a wounded dog—and everything changes. It's facile to dismiss a movie out-of-hand just because it's about rich, unhappy white people—but having watched Pippa Lee, I can assure you that in this case, such a dismissal is entirely appropriate. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.

Sherlock Holmes
See review. Various Theaters.

A Single Man
See review. Fox Tower 10.

recommended 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.

Those Three
"Three conscripts abandon a dismal army life and head off for freedom through the frozen wilderness of Northern Iran." Based off of the 1994 Pauly Shore classic In the Army Now. Screens as part of the Global Lens 2009 Film Series. Hollywood Theatre.

Uncertainty
See review. Living Room Theaters.

recommended Up in the Air
Up in the Air is beautifully and cleanly shot by cinematographer Eric Steelberg. It marks, by far, the best turn yet from director Jason Reitman; sharp and clever and clear, it's a marked improvement from his previous films, Thank You for Smoking and Juno. It features two of the year's best performances—props, George Clooney and Anna Kendrick—and an impressive slew of other performances from Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, Melanie Lynskey, and Danny McBride. J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliott, and Zach Galifianakis show up, too, and if that's not enough, it also features a cameo by Young MC. (If that last bit doesn't push the film to the top of your must-see list, then you are not someone I'd like to know.) Thanks to all the things listed above, Up in the Air is one of the better films you'll see this year. Thanks to a script—by Reitman and Sheldon Turner, loosely based on Walter Kirn's novel—that grows progressively less engaging, it's also a film that isn't as good as it should be. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.

What a Wonderful World
A Moroccan film in which "a prostitute's best friend—a tough traffic cop—falls in love with her best customer, a contract killer." Shit like that happens all the time. Screens as part of the Global Lens 2009 Film Series. Hollywood Theatre.

The Young Victoria
See review. Fox Tower 10.

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