Alpha and Omega
An animated children's film made with what appears to be cutting-edge computer animation software from 1991. We didn't bother sending anyone to review it. Various Theaters.
Beginning with a bang—or, more accurately, several bangs, of both the firearm and sexual varieties—The American starts off as the film it's being advertised as: an action thriller starring George Clooney. But then something interesting happens: Director Anton Corbijn (Control) slams on the brakes, revealing The American to actually be a patient, even poetic character study, less an action thriller than a film that just so happens to be about someone who occasionally gets some action and has some thrills. It's a film that recognizes and appreciates silence, that's confident enough to take its time and build its tone, that's more interested in the reasons why someone would pull a trigger than in the act of them doing so. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A brutal, gripping story about a Melbourne crime family that makes the Corleones look like the Brady Bunch. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
Terrence Malick's 1973 classic. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Bollywood flicks screened outside, with proceeds going to the Q Center and Mercy Corps. Q Center.
Breath Made Visible: Anna Halprin
A portrait of dancer/performer Anna Halprin, directed by Ruedi Gerber. Halprin in attendance on Saturday, September 18. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Krzystof Kieslowski's 1979 film, presented by local filmmaker/teacher Andy Blubaugh. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Originally titled The Night Chronicles: Devil—due to the fact that it's produced by M. Night Shyamalan—the "Night Chronicles" part was eventually dropped by the studio, possibly because they realized people were bursting into uncontrollable fits of laughter whenever the phrase "From M. Night Shyamalan..." appeared onscreen during the film's preview. Here's another great omen: This film was not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
"Two eighth graders start to have feelings for each other despite being total opposites." Directed by Rob Reiner, who has done everything from The Princess Bride (yay!) to The Bucket List (GAH!). Century Clackamas Town Center, Fox Tower 10.
I'm Still Here
Joaquin Phoenix's IMDb docket has remained empty since 2008's Two Lovers; since then, he's dedicated himself to immersion in the Phoenix we've seen making occasional embarrassing public performances over the past couple years, including an infamously spaced-out turn on Letterman, and now we see him here: overweight, drinking beer, snorting coke, ranting at his "friends"/assistants, and mumbling through the cluttered "who am I?" mess of a personality that's the plausible result of a lifetime of performing. Maybe he thought the conceit was worth sabotaging his career and reputation, if only for a time. Or maybe he just has the kind of relationship with director Casey Affleck that makes it cool for the guy who married his little sister to film him doing coke off of a call girl's tits, or getting shat on (on the face!) by a fed-up assistant, then releasing it in theaters around the world. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
A documentary profiling "heroes of the local food movement," including chefs Alice Waters and Greg Higgins. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Fellini's 1954 film, starring that badass Anthony Quinn. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
"Jesus Christ, Machete! You're a fucking shit magnet!" immigration officer Sartana (Jessica Alba) shouts. It's true. Wherever Machete (Danny Trejo) goes, people seem to lose their arms, intestines, and/or heads; just by following the geysers of blood and blasts of gore, it'd be easy to track his sordid trail of vengeance. Gleefully violent and giddily hilarious, Machete—an action comedy inspired by one of Robert Rodriguez's fake trailers from Grindhouse—is utterly content in its role as a bit of faux exploitation. By the time we witness a climactic standoff between a terrified Minutemen militia and a phalanx of bumpin' lowriders, Machete's more than surpassed its goofy origins. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Mao's Last Dancer
Mao's Last Dancer is based on the memoir by Li Cunxin, a Chinese Australian who was once a ballet dancer. The time is the late 1960s, and the Beijing Dance Academy is looking for fresh blood. They find and bring Li to the city. He is a boy, but already the dance masters can see some potential. Soon after becoming a man, Li attracts the attention of the West. An American (Bruce Greenwood) takes him to the land of milk and honey on an exchange program. With good reason, he does not want to return to China, and this causes an international incident. The best thing about the movie are the dance sequences. The worst part of this film is, of course, the main reason why it probably got financing: the old story of the greatness of the individual. It always goes like this: If you want to be the best individual you can be, the place to go is America. This part of the movie must be ignored if one wants to enjoy the best part of it, the dancing. CHARLES MUDEDE Fox Tower 10.
Nightmares in Red, White and Blue
With a broad scope, the documentary Nightmares in Red, White and Blue, based on the book by Joseph Maddrey, charts American horror movies from silent films through Saw II, noting how themes change with national attitude. It's basic stuff that any casual horror fan will know—Invasion of the Body Snatchers reflects McCarthyism, They Live Reaganism, etc.—but it makes for a pleasant enough primer. The only distraction are wasted interview opportunities with horror greats like Joe Dante, George Romero, and John Carpenter, who all seem to have been asked goofy questions like, "Was The Exorcist scary? Why?" DAVE BOW Clinton Street Theater.
Snowboarding porn. Clinton Street Theater.
Queen of the Sun
"A profound, alternative look at the tragic global bee crisis" from the director of The Real Dirt on Farmer Joh—OH, NO! NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES! AAAAAHHHHH! OH THEY'RE IN MY EYES! MY EYES! AAAAHHHHH! AAAAAGGHHH! Hollywood Theatre.
Remembering John Callahan
A collection of films related to deceased Willamette Week cartoonist John Callahan, featuring "animated collaborations, clips from films that captured his singular vision, and remembrances from friends." Included: Touch Me Someplace I Can Feel, I Think I Was an Alcoholic, and more. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Resident Evil: Afterlife
The 9,000th flick based on the videogame series. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
"Join us for an in-depth discussion of the penetrating issues facing society today. Issues like abortion, terrorism, crime, poverty, social reform, quantum teleportation, teen horniness, and war." Pix Patisserie (North).
Suck My Flick
A night of homemade short films. More info: portlandfilm.org. Curious Comedy Theater.
A thriller about a bunch of bank robbers, starring Hayden "Anakin" Christensen and Chris "Punchy" Brown. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.