Amateurs and Auteurs
A program showcasing "one-of-a-kind, home-shot amateur films ranging from the early 1940s to the 1980s." Not screened for critics. Clinton Street Theater.
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 Academy Theater, Edgefield, Laurelhurst Theater.
"Gay Nazis in love" might seem like an unfuckwithable premise for a film, but leave it to Denmark. While certainly not a total wash, Brotherhood's ham-fisted struggle to illustrate the "big message" homoerotic hypocrisy of skinhead culture is so clumsy and ALL CAPS that it nearly sinks the film. Also: Gay or not, I still can't believe any Nazi would be caught dead frolicking. ZAC PENNINGTON Living Room Theaters.
Catfish markets itself as a documentation of a Facebook cautionary tale, cloaking its surprises in such a way as to allow the rest of us to imagine the worst of our paranoias: stalkers, scams, identity theft—pick your poison. To its (albeit unplanned) credit, Catfish goes in a less obvious direction, exploring the ways in which social networking—specifically when it takes the form of relationships that exist solely online—can supplement our self-perception, to occasionally disturbing extents. The film perhaps serves best as a time capsule of its era; one can only imagine what it will look like after another 20 years of a society increasingly ordered online. MArjorie skinner Living Room Theaters, Lloyd Mall 8.
Films from the School of Film
New work from students at the Northwest Film Center's School of Film. Film film film film. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
See My, What a Busy Week! Washington High School.
An experimental flick about Hitchcock, examining "Alfred Hitchcock's late '50s and early '60s films against the climate of Cold War-era political anxiety." Hollywood Theatre.
One can't help but wonder if Easy A director Will Gluck ever had the pleasure of an English class assignment that asked its students to reinterpret a piece of literature into amateur film, because Easy A has a similar joie de vivre, with the added bonus of a much better budget. Forcefully in reference to The Scarlet Letter, its delightfully likeable protagonist, Olive (Emma Stone), experiments with a societal ostracization that bears little technical resemblance to the trials of Hester Prynne, but which does feature her literally wearing a red letter "A" for most of its runtime. This movie approaches Mean Girls territory on the fun scale. Various Theaters.
Eat Pray Love
Sitting through Eat Pray Love is a lot like being trapped inside of your mother's daydreams for two and a half hours. Or how about: It's like touring Epcot Center with a girl you've been friends with since college, but who's grown up to be the most insufferable twat. ALISON HALLETT Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Empire of the Ants
1977's giant-ant flick. (Tagline: "IT'S NO PICNIC!") Laurelhurst Theater.
The Face You Deserve
Portuguese director Miguel Gomes' first feature, from 2004. Saturday's screening will be preceded by two of Gomes' shorts, 1999's Meanwhile and 2006's Canticle of All Creatures. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A Film Unfinished
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Guess what? All that so-called "clean" natural gas we've been hearing about? Well, it isn't very. And thanks to the Bush White House, it might one day poison a water supply near you! That, at least, is the grim scenario laid out in Josh Fox's Gasland, a scathing examination of natural gas drilling. If it sounds too dark to be true, just watch: You'll think otherwise when you see poor folk in flyover states torching their tap water. Or turning it into plastic. Or saying shit like "I can't smell the cat box." (Not that we'd mind that last one very much.) DENIS C. THERIAULT Hollywood Theatre.
Grindhouse Film Fest: House by the Cemetery & Zombie
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
In Comparison: Work by
Cinema Project presents work by German filmmaker Harun Farocki, including his latest, 2009's In Comparison, as well as 1995's Workers Leaving the Factory. More info: cinemaproject.org. Clinton Street Theater.
It's Kind of a Funny Story
Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist) is depressed and wants to end his life. Sort of. Before hurling himself into the East River, the 16-year-old Brooklynite resigns himself to a hospital visit, which results in his temporary institutionalization in an adult psychiatric ward. Settled in for a five-day stay sans belt and shoelaces, Craig is quickly taken under the watchful guise of a bearded Randle P. McMurphy-type named Bobby (Zach Galifianakis, great as always). It's Kind of a Funny Story is a significant departure for co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar); here they deal with a story far more earnest and light, despite its heavy subject matter. If you can look past the film's trivial dismissal of serious mental health issues (schizophrenics yell wacky things, let's laugh at them!), and a certain "Ferris Bueller in the loony bin" narration style, It's Kind of a Funny Story works extremely well. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
Reviewing Jackass 3D isn't only a seemingly pointless exercise—it's a hard one. There's no plot, but that doesn't mean there's no structure; the Jackass movies are built like grandiose symphonies of stupidity. It's what makes them the dumb entertainment that smart people find safe to enjoy. Contrary to their critics, the Jackass films are not evidence of society's slow slouch toward idiocracy—being this fucking moronic requires way too much thought for that to be the case, and director Jeff Tremaine strings these skits together with a cartoon logic that Chuck Jones himself would applaud. There's no way to spoil Jackass, either: The introduction of every skit shows what it's going to do, then it tells you what it's going to do, and then it does it. I can tell you, for example, that Ehren McGhehey has dental floss tied around one of his teeth, and that the other end of that floss is tied to the bumper of Bam Margera's Lamborghini; you can deduce the rest. It's not about knowing what's gonna happen, it's about watching the shit go down. And I haven't seen anything this year funnier than "Poo Cocktail Supreme," "The Field Goal," "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," and about 10 other skits I won't even name. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS Various Theaters.
Last Best Chance
A documentary about Senator Edward Kennedy during "his final battle for comprehensive immigration reform in the US." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Last Train Home
A documentary following one family through "the world's largest human migration"—which happens, every year, when 130 million migrant Chinese workers travel home for the New Year holiday. Man. There are a lot of Chinese people. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Let Me In
Pardon the wet blanket, but the book was better, as was the Swedish cult vampire flick Let the Right One In, which Let Me In is based on. No longer named after a Morrissey song, but instead after an R.E.M. one, Let Me In stays mostly loyal to the original John Ajvide Lindqvist script, taking liberties only when it comes to violence (there's more of it) and the underlying gender issues that the original addressed so well. The end result is still worth watching, but it'll never be like the original. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Forest Theatre, Lloyd Mall 8.
Life As We Know It
This is a film without surprises. Its characters are squeaky clean, whiter-than-white citizens who only very rarely bake pot brownies or hire a cab driver to babysit. But unpredictability isn't really on the table here. Life isn't a spectacular or brilliant film, but it does demonstrate how achievable it is to make a moving romantic comedy that asks you to suspend your disbelief without insulting your intelligence. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn star in a geriatric romance. Says Rex Reed of the New York Observer, "It has good intentions." Living Room Theaters.
Mugabe and the White African
"A gripping courtroom and public drama" about 74-year-old Michael Campbell, one of the few white farmers left in Zimbabwe, who attempted to sue President Robert Mugabe for racism and violation of human rights. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
My Soul to Take
Whaa? A crappy looking horror flick (directed by Wes Craven, who's apparently still alive?) that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
Never Let Me Go
Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's low-key sci-fi lends a chilly creepiness to its setting, a boarding school where clones (including Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield) are raised and harvested for their organs. But the film doesn't know how to deal with the basic interiority of its most crucial themes. The amount of time the children spend at their boarding school, growing indoctrinated with and accustomed to the purpose of their existence, is given short shrift, and as a result a key concept—how horrific circumstances can come to seem perfectly normal—is jostled to the side by the bigger question of why the hell these attractive, healthy teenagers don't just run away. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Beatles fans may be marginally interested in Nowhere Boy, the new biopic that focuses on John Lennon's adolescence. But there's not much in the way of either Beatles music or Beatles mythology; Lennon (Aaron Johnson) and boyhood friend Pete Shotton (Josh Bolt) walk by Strawberry Fields, and we see the Quarrymen's storied show at a church picnic where Lennon met Paul McCartney for the first time, but that's about it. The Beatles aren't even mentioned by name, most likely for legal reasons (there's an awkward scene where Lennon is asked the name of his band, and he demurely refuses to divulge). NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Our Beloved Month of August
Portuguese director Miguel Gomes' 2008 film that weaves together documentary and melodrama. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Paranormal Activity 2
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Emilio Fernández's 1947 Steinbeck adaptation. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Hey old people! Turn down the Andy Rooney for a second! Put a bookmark in that Bette Midler profile in AARP The Magazine! Hop in the trusty ol' Buick and drive in an incredibly unsafe manner to your local multiplex—because here's Red, a film made just for you! Unlike so many of today's confusing, loud, gosh-awful films you frequently fall asleep during, Red features a phenomenal cast of retirees... who aren't quite ready to retire! Bruce Willis (who you might remember from that delightful Moonlighting program a few years back) plays Frank Moses, a retired black-ops agent who's dragged back into the world of espionage. Luckily, Moses has a few lifelong friends who'll help him get out of this pickle—friends like Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy), John Malkovich (Secretariat), Brian Cox (Frasier), and Helen Mirren (rowr!)! ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic book series is a fantastic epic: an earnest, heady, hilarious mashup of comics, videogames, and music, with doses of the confusion, enthusiasm, and melancholy that're embedded in the DNA of every twentysomething. The good news: The movie version, directed by Edgar Wright, lives up to expectations. The better news: Wright's film also does a few things nobody could've predicted. From its opening moments—when a Universal logo rendered in NES-era pixels appears—it's clear there hasn't been a movie like this before. Thanks to Scott Pilgrim, the lines between film, comics, pop music, and videogames have been blurred—in all of the best ways. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
Every girl deserves a pony of her own, and the girl in this case is Penny Chenery (Diane Lane). With the help of a magical elfin jockey (Otto Thorwarth), a magical Negro stablehand (Nelsan Ellis), and a magical French-Canadian trainer (John Malkovich), Penny takes her pony to the biggest race of all: the Darby! Secretariat wins the Darby, because he is the bestest pony ever, and he wins some other races, and gets triple-crowned or something! NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Shepherds of Helmand
A military documentary about a "17-man all-volunteer unit from Oregon" in Afghanistan. Academy Theater.
The Social Network
David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin's phenomenal film about Facebook's tortured origins. Fincher, back in control after the sap of Benjamin Button, directs as commandingly and deftly as ever; Sorkin's script punches along at lightspeed, telling an endlessly complex story with machined precision. From its opening scene, it's hard not to be floored: In 2003, in a bar outside Harvard, a geeky undergrad named Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) has an increasingly intense conversation with his increasingly fed-up girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara). Sorkin's razor-sharp dialogue zips back and forth; Eisenberg and Mara's faces begin to subtly strain; tensions rise and rise and snap. And then Zuckerberg, calmly furious, runs—literally, runs—back to his dorm, spiraling into a festering frenzy of drunken blogging and effortless hacking. And so The Social Network's damningly sympathetic portraiture begins. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Edward Norton busts out the cornrows, and some tatts, and a skeevy goatee to play Stone in... uh, Stone. Stone's a crook who's up for parole; Jack Mabrey (Robert De Niro) is the parole officer who has to decide whether to let him out of the slammer; and Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) is Stone's way-too-hot wife, a woman who's willing to do anything—including Mabrey—to help get Stone out of jail. Also important (I guess) is Mabrey's wife, Madylyn (Frances Conroy), who spends her time reading the Bible and drinking herself into a stupor. Stone feels less like a film than a play (unsurprisingly, Angus MacLachlan's flat screenplay was originally intended for the stage), with long stretches of dialogue between De Niro and Norton, De Niro and Jovovich, and De Niro and Conroy. Alas, even when director John Curran forcibly pushes things in a more cinematic direction, the results are boring as hell: awkwardly obvious symbolism and lazy juxtapositions are the order of the day, with limp plotting connecting the dots between empty transgressions and hollow revelations. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
Vision: From the Life of
Hildegard von Bingen
A brilliant writer, Hildegard von Bingen (Barbara Sukowa) raised eyebrows when she told the monks in her cloister that she saw visions from God, and had for many years. This led her to exit the half-male cloister of her youth to start an all-female cloister. Set in the beautiful German countryside, Vision is as much about family and love as it is about Bingen's life. The film truly gets going when Richardis von Stade (Hannah Herzsprung), a 16-year-old that begged her family to let her join Bingen's cloister, finds herself at the mercy of her wealthy family's choices. At just shy of two hours, it's a bit long, but the approach taken to this woman's life is spot-on. MARISSA SULLIVAN Cinema 21.
You Will Meet A Tall
For all the sap and schlock the man has forced upon his increasingly estranged public over the last 150 years or so, Woody Allen remains a surprisingly unsentimental filmmaker. A singular septuagenarian industry, Allen's machine-like approach to filmmaking has long been one of his greatest virtues, but it's also his biggest liability—his relentlessly annual offering of okay-to-shruggable seriocomedy has all but buried the glittering memory of past triumphs for his casual fans, and reduced his audience to none but the utterly devout. And yet he persists, without a precious bone in his body, subtly tweaking a brand that reached its peak some 30 years ago. Even for a lifelong Allen apologist, such as myself, the task of reviewing "the new Woody Allen movie" always seems like an exercise in futility, tantamount to offering critical commentary on the relative merits of a Doritos rebranding campaign: Sure, the veneer's a little different each time, but ultimately the product's steadfast homogeny is actually sort of the point. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.