35 Shots of Rum
A 2008 drama directed by Claire Denis. Hollywood Theatre.
Alice in Wonderland
The fact that Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland isn't a straight retelling of the Lewis Carroll books might be motivated, as stated, by a desire to give the tale more narrative heft, but it also feels like a pulled punch. (In his version Alice is 19, returning to the place she thought she'd dreamed of as a child.) Following Alice (Mia Wasikowska) through Burton's Wonderland is a perfectly scenic carnival ride—punctuated with the occasional plucked eyeball and rotting severed head—but the attempts to work up the plot with simple conflicts and run-of-the-mill set-ups are little more than enablers to the next visual treat. Burton seems torn between the intimidation of a beloved classic and confidence in his own appeal, but somewhere in the middle with Burton and Alice is not a terrible place to be stuck. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
An American Journey
In 1958, Robert Frank's extraordinary book The Americans collected images of a country torn by race, class, and poverty. To a score of gentle piano and baritone French narration, An American Journey retraces Frank's footsteps and tells of the Swiss-born photographer's confrontations with good ol' American xenophobia. The story assumes viewers have some familiarity with the subject matter, and leaves some unanswered questions. This will either be cause for discussion or confusion. JANUARY VAWTER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Art of the Steal
Wealthy misanthrope Dr. Albert C. Barnes spent the better part of his adult life assembling what has since become one of the most enviable (and valuable) collections of post-impressionist art in the world—all the while pledging to keep it out of the hands of all those philistines at the national museums. Satisfyingly one-sided, The Art of the Steal tells the compelling story of conspiracy, greed, and political outrage that followed Barnes' heir-less death. ZAC PENNINGTON Living Room Theaters.
Blood Into Wine
There is only one person in the world more pretentious than a pompous, windbaggy wine snob, and that person is Maynard James Keenan. In Blood Into Wine, we get to watch the Tool/Perfect Circle frontman wandering around his Arizona estate (which he's named Merkin Vineyards—ew?) and basically admitting that he's bored with music. This is essentially a 90-minute commercial for Keenan's new winery (which he's named Caduceus Cellars—huh?), and the movie's best part comes when Patton Oswalt calls the wine "Ca-douche-eus" to Maynard's face. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21.
Bonnie and Clyde
Here's one for the Kate Capshaw file: 1967's Bonnie and Clyde is a fun, sexy, groundbreaking movie marred by a performance so irritating and unbearable that you will want to gouge your ears out. Estelle Parsons is the offender here, a shrieky, whiny, moany counterpoint to Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, and Faye Dunaway, all of whom are effortlessly cool. Not even Gene Wilder's (very funny) screen debut can wash away the taint of Parsons, who somehow got an Academy Award for her botched work. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Bounty Hunter
Jennifer Aniston plays Nicole, a hard-nosed reporter who's recently been arrested for assaulting a police officer (pish!). When she misses her court date, the judge finds her guilty and puts a warrant out for her arrest. (Or... something. I'm not exactly clear on how justice worked in this situation.) Enter her ex-husband Milo (Gerard Butler), a former cop now working as a bail enforcement agent, which is a less-cool way of saying "bounty hunter." Various bad guys strongarm the plot into action-flick territory (guns are fired, cars are crashed), and then Jennifer Aniston twitches her nose and transforms it back into a romcom. The Bounty Hunter's labored marriage of action and romance is clearly designed to make this date movie more palatable to dudes. Dudes, don't fall for it. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
MTV vet Antoine Fuqua was staking out a career as a dependable B-movie director until 2001's cred-boosting Training Day, a fairly routine crime thriller elevated by Denzel Washington's ferocious jet stream. Brooklyn's Finest, Fuqua's heralded return to the genre, lands firmly in Clichéville: a place where an Italian cop has sons named Vinnie and Vito; an undercover detective enters a bar as "The Great Pretender" plays on the jukebox; and an aged, world-weary veteran does drugs to the strains of "White Rabbit." (Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" presumably got lost under a car seat on its way to the mixing studio.) Throw in some ridiculous bursts of overdone violence and the most embarrassing sex scene that Richard Gere's name has ever been associated with, and you've got a movie that bears a distinct resemblance to an episode of The Simpsons starring McBain. ANDREW WRIGHT Clinton Street Theater, Lloyd Mall 8.
A great film that centers around a grizzled slab of a man, in the waning sunset years of life, battling addiction and years of neglect to once again regain his faded glory. At his side, an inspiring young woman hides scars of her own even as she acts as the muse that triggers his valiant comeback. If all this sounds familiar, it is. It's impossible to ignore the fact that no matter how excellent Crazy Heart is, the screenwriter should pay royalties to Robert Siegel, writer of The Wrestler. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
1976's Death Chamber (also known by the way less awesome title Shaolin Temple) kicks off the "Revenge of the Old School Kung Fu Masters" series at the Hollywood, presented by the Grindhouse Film Festival. Death Chamber also features wooden robots. Enough said. Hollywood Theatre.
The cult classic romcom gets a welcome big-screen showing. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a new movie based on the book by Jeff Kinney. The movie characters are Greg and his best friend Rowley, and Fregley, a kid with hygiene issues. I don't think the movie was quite as good as the book, partly because the characters didn't look like they did in the book, really at all. Some of the parts I remember best are when Greg goes to Fregley's house and Fregley chases Greg around with a booger on his finger. Another part I remember well was at the end of the book when some teenagers made Rowley eat "THE CHEESE" (THE CHEESE is an old moldy piece of cheese on the blacktop of Greg's school). A few of the scenes were not in the book and a few of the things that happened in the book never occurred in the movie, but all in all I thought that the acting was really good and from a scale of one to 10, I would give it a seven or an eight. MICAH CABOT, AGE NINE Various Theaters.
The Ghost Writer
Fuck the Polanski apologists—if some time behind bars will prevent this man from making any more movies like The Ghost Writer, it's a win-win for everyone. Ewan McGregor plays the titular scribe, who's been handed what appears to be the gig of a lifetime: the chance to ghost the memoirs of a recently disgraced former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan). One thing, though: The ghost's predecessor just wound up swimming with the fishes under exceedingly suspicious circumstances. Within minutes, the film's mystery begins to unfold like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon as acted by a series of Tennessee Williams heroines. Suffice to say, Chinatown this is not. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Adapting journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, screenwriter Brian Helgeland's narrative jumps between hard-hitting action sequences and less-than-hard-hitting scenes of politically loaded dialogue. It's March of 2003, and Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller's (Matt Damon) job is to track down WMDs in Baghdad. The only problem—and you'll never see this coming!—is that whenever he gets to a place where WMDs are supposed to be, there's jack shit. Green Zone works when it deals not with simplified moral quandaries, but rather when it's dominated by director Paul Greengrass' action chops: His camera feverish and eager, Greengrass' action scenes burst with momentum and catharsis. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Hot Tub Time Machine
See review. Various Theaters.
Seven Japanese schoolgirls visit a haunted house in Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 head-trip, which is quite simply one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. The effects are incredibly cheesy and the movie refuses to settle on a consistent tone, but Obayashi's visual style creates a wispy, sugary dream world that gushes with blood. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21.
How to Train Your Dragon
See review. Various Theaters.
Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner
A doc about architect John Lautner. Narrated by Buzz Lightyear. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A DIY shorts program featuring short films directed by "filmmakers ranging from Bobcat Golthwait to Naomi Uman." Living Room Theaters.
Our Family Wedding
Okay, so you know black people? You know how they are? Okay, okay, what about Latino people? Funny, right? See, I just had the funniest idea for a movie... what if a black guy and a Latina got married?! HAHAHAHAHA! Can you fucking imagine?! The Mexican family would probably bring a goat to the wedding! And the goat would go through Forest Whitaker's drawers and eat his Viagra and Magnum condoms! Then the goat would hump the Last King of Scotland and Carlos Mencia would be all, "DURR DA DURRH!" What? No! That's not broad racial humor! That same thing happens in a pivotal scene of Our Family Wedding? My friend, what you may call a collection of crude two-dimensional stereotypes wallowing in bland sentimentality, I call the welcome debut of the Whitaker/Mencia comedy duo! DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
When 19-year-old Malik (Tahar Rahim) starts his six-year sentence in a French prison, he's illiterate and naïve. He has no friends, no family, and no one to watch his back. Immediately, a gang of Corsicans—who rule both inside the prison and outside as the mafia—sweep in to put the young Arab under their thumb, alienating him from the Muslim prisoners and causing discord among the Corsican thugs. Green and inexperienced, Malik is coerced into murdering a fellow Arab—and for the next six years he is haunted by the murdered man's ghost, seemingly his only true friend in a world of sharks. Simply put, A Prophet is a prison drama—but more than anything, it's a robust and engaging character study of Malik, who goes from being a young doormat to a confident, Machiavellian linchpin in a dark transformation full of seething ferocity and quiet ambition. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fox Tower 10.
Howard Hawks' fantastic 1948 epic about a cattle drive feels monumentally huge, with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift butting heads and killin' injuns. Somehow, the story of ranchers driving 9000 cattle from Texas to Missouri becomes a parable for the American dream—where hard men work hard, and the reward at the end of the day is a gigantic pile of beef. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Tyler (Robert Pattinson), a New York college student still reeling from his brother's suicide, meets Allie (Emilie de Ravin), still reeling from her mother's murder. Meanwhile, he struggles with a brutally distant dad and an oddball little sis; she struggles with an angry cop dad and a propensity for saying annoying shit. Tyler and Allie have sex. They cling to each other. They love each other soooooo much! Remember Me puts its characters (and audience) through an absurd lot of trauma: There are beatings, arrests, lies, betrayals, break-ups, make-ups, tears, hot sexings, apologies, and apologies accepted. And then, at the end of the movie, once things are finally looking up—when Allie is smiling and making French toast, when Tyler is waiting for his dad (whose heart has finally defrosted) in his high-rise office, when Tyler's little sister, her tormentors cowed at last, sits contentedly in class—Tyler gazes out the office window at the sunny horizon. Then the little sister's teacher moves aside to reveal the date written on the blackboard: It is September 11, 2001. The camera pulls back. Tyler stands framed in the window of the fucking World Trade Center. History's most famous plane crashes right into Tyler's stupid face. HAHAAHAHAAHAHAHAAAAA! Fuck off. LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
In the incredibly bloody and mostly great Repo Men, organs are mass-manufactured, marketed, and implanted to keep people alive—but should a recipient default on the sizable payments, a repo man will show up and forcefully repossess the organ in question. Remy (Jude Law) is one such repo man, and the film begins in a sly, blacker-than-black comic tone as he methodically guts the deadbeats who can't make their payments. But one day, Remy suffers a heart attack on the job and wakes up in the hospital with a shiny new ticker, along with the attendant, exorbitant payments. It's no surprise that Remy has a change of heart (eh? eh?) and can no longer continue in his line of work. Nor is it a surprise that his best friend and co-worker Jake (Forest Whitaker, as excellent as ever) becomes the one to try to track him down. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
I don't recall anyone saying, "Wow, why doesn't someone make a new, more exciting Sherlock Holmes?" That's probably because the world isn't exactly clamoring for reboots of stories from 19th century authors (Clueless notwithstanding). And yet? Here we are with an "edgy" revival of Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous character, starring Robert Downey Jr. as the eccentric detective and Jude Law as steadfast sidekick Watson. Both are fine choices, and their scenes together crackle with energy and camaraderie. But this Holmes drops in only occasional aspects of what made Doyle's stories fun, sandwiched between chase scene after fight scene after disaster after explosion. It's boring—if I wanted to switch my mind off, I'd rent Transformers. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
She's Out of My League
There's only one thing notable about the (ostensible) comedy She's Out of My League, and that's how blatantly it rips off the past 15 years of American comedic filmmaking. Kevin Smith's seen-it-all sarcasm. Judd Apatow's insistence that nice guys finish first. The no-they-didn't raunch of American Pie, and the buddy bonding of I Love You, Man. They're all here, distilled down to their dumbest elements—minus brains, cleverness, genuine wit, or actors charismatic enough to float a film. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The sort of movie where supposedly smart characters do idiotic things; where lightning dramatically flashes to underscore plot developments; where things lunge from shadows not because it makes sense for them to do so but because... well, lunging is just what things in shadows do. Director Martin Scorsese seems eager to try out some time-honored genre clichés: The music jolts, character actors offer dire warnings, and for its first hour or so, Shutter Island is, if not scary, satisfyingly creepy. I won't spoil how it ends, but suffice to say there's a shot of Leonardo DiCaprio screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" at the heavens, and also that the climax would be considered pretty shoddy even by M. Night Shyamalan's standards. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Sing-Along Mary Poppins
Can you sing better than Julie Andrews? No? Then shut the fuck up. Cinema 21.
A Town Called Panic
Good luck getting the kids to settle down for a movie with subtitles. Adults won't fare much better with this spastic, meandering stop-motion adventure that boasts pretty designs but rinky-dink animation. ANDREW R TONRY Hollywood Theatre.
Ukranian Time Machine & Milking and Scratching: Films by Naomi Uman
Cinema Project—in their new digs at the Clinton—presents the 16mm films of Naomi Uman. Director in attendance. More info: cinemaproject.org. Clinton Street Theater.
The White Ribbon
A smoldering and horrifying masterpiece from Austrian director Michael Haneke (Funny Games). The methodical, even glacial, pace of the film, which lingers on mundane and momentous exchanges alike, draws the audience unwittingly into a subtly taut experience. You may not find yourself gripping the edge of your seat in the theater, but the wary sense of secret evil will dog you for days. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
The Young Victoria
A film that concerns exactly what its title indicates: the early years of England's Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt), including her romance and subsequent marriage to Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). Victoria's struggles here are primarily personal, regarding the rites of passages necessary to becoming a functional adult as well as a monarch: having the strength and self-trust to claim your distance from close but controlling family members, learning which men can be trusted, and so on. The prioritization of reservedly faithful representation (to the queen, if not to history) can be a bit of a letdown for fans of all-out bodice rippers—there is a notably minimal use of tears, blood, and dramatic obsessions born out of repressed desires. MARJORIE SKINNER Laurelhurst Theater, Tigard 11 Cinemas.