A documentary that follows "adventurer Jeff Johnson as he retraces the epic 1968 journey of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia." Screening features a "live concert with Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse." Whoa. What? Hollywood Theatre.
In the same way that March of the Penguins anthropomorphized penguins (they mate for life because they love each other!), Babies effectively humanizes... babies. Sure, babies are technically "humans"—but they're also, to the uninitiated, irrational, confusing, and vaguely disgusting. (I'm not totally sure what "new baby smell" is, but I think it might be poop.) Babies provides a moms' eye view of four infants in four different countries: the US, Japan, Mongolia, and Namibia. Sure, it's like watching home movies for 80 minutes—but at least they're home movies with an eye-openingly global reach. ALISON HALLETT City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Bicycle Dreams: The Race Across America
Bike porn about "the most challenging sporting event in the world." Clinton St. Theater.
A film based on two Chekhov works, Tatiana Repina and Difficult People. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Celebrating Chekhov series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
With the way street art has moved in the last 20 years—deep into the crass, stupid logic of high-priced art—it's a relief and a minor miracle to experience major projects that are more than egotistical spectacles. Don't believe me? Watch Exit Through the Gift Shop. It's a hilarious and brilliant movie by the elusive British street artist Banksy, telling the story of "street" "artist" Mr. Brainwash, possibly the dumbest dangerous artist living, if he even is who he says he is (some question whether he's another Banksy act, which would be delightful). Mr. Brainwash, in the film, is Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman with a penchant for saying things like "Everything that I do, somewhere, brainwashes your face." The basis for his art—very big, very expensive (he sets his own prices, of course) colored prints and paintings—is celebrities and consumer products. If Warhol threw up, and then Damien Hirst threw up on top of that, and then the throwup threw up, Mr. Brainwash's work would be the result. And yet hundreds of people show up to his openings, buy the art, and pronounce how happy they are that this art isn't all snotty and exclusive. Here the banality is actually banal. The brainlessness is not ironic. The hype is the only meaning. Two hundred kids are standing in a line to get into the show because 199 other kids are standing in the line. In the film, Mr. Brainwash makes Banksy—who can be ingenious but has not been above an empty publicity stunt (painted elephant? Really?)—look like a monk. Banksy comes across as the smartest guy in the movie. Go figure: He directed. But Exit Through the Gift Shop is not a grisly dissection of the hump that has metastasized on the back of street art since it became popular. It's a funny-as-hell comedy. When Banksy was challenged about the veracity of the film, his defense was: You think I could have made that up? JEN GRAVES Fox Tower 10.
The Exploding Girl
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
Filmusik: Hercules vs. Vampires
Mario Bava's 1961 Italian fantasy flick screens with audio accompaniment from Filmusik and Opera Theater Oregon. Hollywood Theatre.
The Find: Claiming Nelscott Reef
A doc about Nelscott Reef and how a surfing contest there "created a lot of anger with the local surfers." Bagdad Theater.
For the Next 7 Generations
A doc that tells "the story of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers." Presented by the Earth & Spirit Council. Hollywood Theatre.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy, and a bestseller in Europe and the US. The new film adaptation centers on the unlikely relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth, a journalist and a young hacker who team up to investigate a long-unsolved mystery—and the pathological misogyny that is apparently endemic to Swedish culture. But even at 152 minutes, no insights emerge, other than that women get raped and murdered a lot. It's a shame, too—Girl is beautifully shot, and Mikael and Lisbeth are odd, sympathetic characters. I just wish their investigation didn't involve quite so many pictures of naked, mutilated dead women. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
It's about time writer/director Noah Baumbach wrote a full-fledged character study, because his attention to the details that make up a personality is peerless. Baumbach's last movie, Margot at the Wedding, relentlessly catalogued the anxieties and quirks of two estranged sisters—but while the depiction of family dynamics was razor sharp, Margot's characters were so generally unpleasant that by the time Jennifer Jason Leigh pooped her pants in the woods, it was hard to care how all that meticulously detailed moping would be resolved. With Greenberg—in which Ben Stiller plays an unstable New York carpenter who's just relocated to LA—Baumbach tempers his lacerating insights with a humor that recalls his excellent 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. ALISON HALLETT Clinton Street Theater, Fox Tower 10.
A British thriller in which Michael Caine sets out for revenge! Fox Tower 10.
The Human Centipede
The Human Centipede joins the legions of gross-out movies that are way more fun to describe than watch. So, there's a brilliant surgeon who lives alone in the woods and specializes in separating conjoined twins. But he's German so, I guess, naturally he's also a pervo who dreams of connecting three people end to end, butt to mouth, like some sort of human... I dunno, worm or something. Gross, right?! Just don't accuse it of being uneducational, because viewers will learn how to train and care for their own human centipedes. DAVE BOW Cinema 21.
Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 isn't as well made as its predecessor—it's noisier, sillier, clumsier, and a bit less clever—but it's just as enjoyable. Everything important gets checked off: Robert Downey Jr. being awesome as Tony Stark/Iron Man? Check. Iron Man being superheroic and getting amusingly drunk? Check. Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, a ridiculous Russian villain who looks like an extra from Eastern Promises? Check. Scarlett Johansson as a spy/the hottest woman of all time? Check. AC/DC blaring on the soundtrack? Check. Roger from Mad Men playing Tony Stark's dad, thus indisputably proving that coolness is hereditary? Check. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
It Came From Kuchar
A documentary about filmmaking twins George and Mike Kuchar. Hollywood Theatre.
The romcom Just Wright has a twist, and it's not that our female protagonist Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah) is a physical therapist and her male counterpart Scott McKnight (Common) is an NBA star—that pairing makes perfect sense. The twist is that Scott is fabulously wealthy and sought after, while Leslie is, as she puts it, "not one of them salad-eatin' girls." Which apparently is so crazy that the filmmakers felt content that the fat girl getting the guy would sufficiently blow everyone's minds, so they sat back and made the rest of the film out of cardboard lines and predictable turns of events. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
A Bollywood romance set in Las Vegas, about "two star-crossed lovers who are destined to be together even though each is betrothed to another." Century Clackamas Town Center, Fox Tower 10.
See review. Various Theaters.
Man Zou: Beijing to Shanghei
A doc about what happens when four Americans decide to bike 1,000 miles through China's countryside. Director in attendance. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Korean director Bong Joon-ho made a lot of noise with The Host, a monster blockbuster in which the dynamics of a small family threaten to upstage its monster. Similarly, his newest, Mother, is best described as a mystery: When a woman's son is accused of murder she sets out to discover what really happened. But the whodunnit runs aground on competing threads of absurdist humor and a meditation on how people justify revenge. The result is languid, tangential, and thoroughly uncomfortable. DAVE BOW Living Room Theaters.
Mother and Child
See review. Fox Tower 10.
No One Knows About
Ashkan (Ashkan Koshanejad) and Negar (Negar Shaghaghi) have a problem many musicians face: They need to recruit members for their band. However, they must do so without the use of Craigslist or a flyer pinned to the cork wall in Guitar Center. Oh, and if the government finds out that have a band, they'll go to jail, or worse. Probably worse. Welcome to life as a musician in Iran. With its endearing shoestring budget and a cast that bears the weight of sacrificing national identity for the chance to be free of persecution in a foreign land, Persian Cats should be mandatory viewing for any Western artist that takes their opportunities for granted. Because if you think a bad review from Pitchfork can hurt a band, just wait until you see what the Iranian Revolutionary Guard can do. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Living Room Theaters.
PDXLAFF: Tear This Heart Out
A wannabe-sweeping epic from Mexico about a 15-year-old married off to a much older, corrupt general in the post-revolutionary 1930s and '40s. Catalina (Ana Claudia Talancón) is naïve but headstrong, and a characterization that begins with the dicey dawn of her sexuality never ignites with the energy it promises. For all its bluster and sumptuous visuals, Tear This Heart Out is rather hollow, and far too much so for a film of its length and extravagance. Presented by the Portland Latin American Film Festival. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
The Red Shoes
A restored print of the 1948 ballet flick. Cinema 21.
With Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, instead of seeing Robin Hood take from the rich and give to the poor, or fight the Sheriff of Nottingham, or do anything cool at all, we get to watch Braveheart again. This time, Robin's named Robin Longstride (he's played by Russell Crowe, who seems to have been told to glower a lot), and he's an archer for the soon-to-be-dead King Richard (Danny Huston). Through various convoluted plot devices, Robin ends up in the village of Nottingham, where he glowers sexily at Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) and gets increasingly pissed about how Richard's successor, King John (Oscar Isaac), is a total douche. Oh, and the French are invading! Nineteen hours later, it all ends with a big speech and a bigger battle, and there's also a weird scene where Robin delves into his repressed childhood memories. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
With its interminable sex scenes and abandoned plot threads, some could say The Room is a "bad" movie, but this raises the question of what makes a movie "good." Is it a comprehensible script? Believable acting? Sets that don't look like they're going to topple over at any second? The Room contains none of these elements, yet that hardly detracts from its remarkably high entertainment value. In fact, The Room may have you questioning the reasons you've ever enjoyed anything in your life—as well as serving as incontrovertible proof that making a movie is very, very difficult. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21.
The Secret in Their Eyes
Secret plays games at its outset, toggling between past and present and teasing the audience with setups that make it difficult to determine what's real and imagined. It takes its time getting to the point: Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín) is a retired "federal justice agent" in Argentina obsessed with a rape and murder case he tackled 25 years prior. He decides to write a book about it, and as he peels back the layers on his earlier investigation alongside the woman he carries a torch for, Irene (Soledad Villamil), and his tragically alcoholic colleague Pablo (Guillermo Francella), he stumbles onto new clues to the case's mysteries. It's a fair but obvious criticism that the film is indecisive in its focus, and that even its finale leaves questions and motives in the balance. But it is a richly textured film, bordering on epic. MARJORIE SKINNER City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
The Secret of Kells
With graceful, emotional animation, brilliant character designs, and a watercolor-dappled visual style that lands somewhere between Saul Bass and Genndy Tartakovsky, every frame of Kells is amazing to look at—but it's the film's humor, heart, and melancholy that makes it really work. Stuff this good—this exhilarating, sweet, clever, poignant—simply doesn't come along very often. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
Sex and the City 2
Four withered, cackling crones continue to cast unspeakably fetid spells on their unwitting minions, steadily working to bring about the coming of Cthulhu. Opens Thursday, May 27; see next week's Mercury for our review. Too Many Theaters.
Shrek Forever After
See review. Various Theaters.
See Film, this issue. Cinema 21.
Filmmaker Ian McCluskey's "Super 8 ode to summer," accompanied with music from Pancake Breakfast and the Dimes. The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel.
Time in the Minors
Like Hoop Dreams, but with baseball: A documentary about two minor league players, one a 19-year-old high schooler and the other a 28-year-old sixth-round draft pick, trying to reach the majors. Director in attendance. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
To Catch a Dollar
A documentary about the impact of Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his pioneering work with microcredit. Screening introduced by Yunus. Bagdad Theater.
An Unfinished Piece for a
Nikita Mikhalkov's 1977 drama closes out the Northwest Film Center's Celebrating Chekhov series. Next up: The Northwest Film Center's Celebrating Sulu series! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.