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 Laurelhurst Theater.
Around a Small Mountain
Jacques Rivette's 2009 dramedy. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The 1987 film is billed as one of "the great celebrations of food." Like Hell's Kitchen! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Horror comedy Black Sheep begins with a young boy killing his little brothers' pet sheep and wearing its wooly, bloody pelt. By the time the film wraps up, its well-meaning Kiwi protagonists have waded through rotting medical waste, been attacked by half-aborted sheep fetuses, blown the brains out of more than a few lambs, and sprouted hooves and wool of their own. Meanwhile, the film's antagonists (fluffy, cute, vicious, bloodthirsty sheep) have gnawed through necks, torn out ropy intestines, bitten off limbs, broken through doors, and learned what "animal husbandry" means to lonely, rural New Zealanders. The gruesome gore is pretty entertaining, as are a few clever lines of dialogue. But mostly, it's the simple sight of murderous sheep—whether they're grazing ominously or swarming en masse over New Zealand's once-green, now-crimson farmland—that makes the flick so much fun. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Blood and Guts Bash
Dark Horse Comics presents a night of free screenings of The Vampire Diaries, Hellsing, and Gantz, plus costume contests and prizes. Bagdad Theater.
A rough but rewarding film based rather faithfully on a true story. Conviction sheds light on the Innocence Project, the litigation organization dedicated to using DNA technology to overturn wrongful sentences that were doled out prior to its development. In the case of Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), his eventual freedom would have been thwarted had the state of Massachusetts legalized the death penalty, and without the persistence of his sister, Betty (Hilary Swank), any further legal pursuits through the public defense system would never have been carried out. His case levels serious, if familiar, charges against the efficacy of a classist justice system. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
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.
I am a fan of British people mumbling (The Office, Mike Leigh's films, etc.) more than most, but Down Terrace was too much even for me. A father/son team of crooks tries to find out who ratted them out to the coppers, but mostly they sit around their crappy home in Brighton, doing drugs and making each other's lives miserable. There were some truly funny scenes, and some shocking violence played to comic effect, but most of the time I glazedly sat through Down Terrace wondering what the hell they were saying. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
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.
Enter the Void
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
A must-see for anyone with an interest in the history of either the Trail Blazers or Portland itself, Fast Break comprises footage shot during the Blazers' legendary 1977 championship season. Much of the documentary is devoted to chronicling how Bill Walton spent his time off the court—which, because the man was a giant (literally) hippie, involved a lot of bike riding down the 101 and clambering through the woods picking blackberries. There's also a ton of great archival footage of the absolute frenzy that surrounded the team during that period, filtered of course through Portland's own hippie sensibility—a scene of a huge crowd singing a "Rip City" ballad as a folksinger strums on an acoustic guitar is particularly classic. ALISON HALLETT Clinton Street Theater.
A Film Unfinished
There's no shortage of Holocaust films out there, but it's rare to find one that challenges our fundamental historical perception. Israeli director Yael Hersonski's A Film Unfinished does just that (and don't worry, not in some creepy revisionist way), with a systematic analysis of the hour-long, unfinished Nazi propaganda film Das Ghetto, long thought to be a relatively reliable record of what life was like for Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. A reel of film emerged in 1998 that challenged this assumption, proving that many of the film's scenes were actually rehearsed. Das Ghetto, then, is not an unfiltered look at life in the Warsaw Ghetto, but a look at that life as orchestrated to suit a specific propagandistic objective. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Filmusik: Turkish Star Wars
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
Fresh French Shorts
Ooh la la, les films est tres petit! (Or something, I don't know, I failed French like four times.) Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Herb and Dorothy
Using the meager incomes from their librarian and post office jobs, Herbert and Dorothy Vogel managed to create one of the most important collections of modern art in the world. Herb and Dorothy is a fascinating, inspiring documentary on a couple who collect art based on three simple rules: buy what you like, buy what you can afford, and buy what you can fit in the taxi cab on the way home. MATTHEW VOLLONO Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Let's pretend that when you die, you go to a blurry, floaty, black-and-white spirit world, surrounded by your loved ones, who apologize for everything mean they ever did to you. Let's pretend that's true. If that's the case, then Hereafter is actually a pretty good movie. But that's the central problem with Hereafter: It takes a huuuuuge leap of faith to swallow its central premise—the kind of leap of faith that requires you to, I don't know, wear crystals or read Mitch Albom. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
It should come as no surprise that James Franco is great in the role of Allen Ginsberg—after all, Franco's done his best work to date portraying stoners and gays. (See: Freaks and Geeks, Pineapple Express, Milk.) Perhaps Franco also found some connection to the role via his own literary aspirations, though the less said about his fiction output, the better. (Don't see: "Just Before the Black," Esquire, March 24.) Whatever the source of his inspiration, Franco immerses himself convincingly in Ginsberg's character in Howl, which juxtaposes interview transcripts with courtroom scenes from the obscenity case against Grove Press, publisher of Ginsberg's controversial poem. Howl is a mostly successful historical reenactment—the Grove trial is lent additional fascination by the casting of Mad Men's Jon Hamm as Grove's lawyer. Unfortunately, significant portions of the film superimpose Franco's voice, reading "Howl," over animations based on the poem. These attempts to capture the spirit of the poem fall embarrassingly flat. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
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.
The Kids Are All Right
Earlier this year, a movie came out that purported to examine contemporary feelings about adoption: The dour Mother and Child was oddly conservative in its insistence that every child needs its biological parents. Now, along comes a film that acts as a timely corrective to Mother and Child's moralizing: Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko's excellent The Kids Are All Right does full justice to the complexity and flexibility of the modern family. This is a film that allows its characters to be complicated, and it's quietly revolutionary in its upending of the conventions of the cinematic family. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
Kings of Pastry
A doc about the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition, in which "sixteen of France's top pastry chefs compete for the ultimate accolade." It's like Hell's Kitchen for snobs! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Let's Get Real
An "anti-bullying documentary" screening as a benefit for the Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition. Screening followed by a discussion. Q Center.
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.
Never Let Me Go
Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's low-key sci-fi novel 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.
The 1922 horror classic, with live music by Mood Area 52. Mission Theater.
The Other Guys
There's remarkably little to say about The Other Guys: Will Ferrell and Marky Mark play underdog cops who try to solve an irrelevant mystery. There are lame jokes ("Where'd you learn to drive like that?" "Grand Theft Auto!"), easy gags (an old lady talking dirty), and wacky contrivances (it's funny that Eva Mendes' character is married to Will Ferrell's character, you see, because she is attractive and he is not). If you get stuck with The Other Guys on an airplane, it will mostly be more entertaining than SkyMall. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Out in the Silence
When filmmaker Joe Wilson's gay wedding was announced in his hometown paper, he was deluged with hate mail—as well as a letter from the mother of a gay teen who is tormented in the same town where Wilson was raised. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Paranormal Activity 2
The dark forces in Paranormal Activity 2 use a lot of familiar tricks, seen through the home videos and security tapes of a posh LA family (Brian Boland, Sprague Grayden, and Molly Ephraim) who begin documenting their life starting with the arrival of a new baby boy. For a long, slow while, the spirit present acts less like a demon than a shitty roommate—from forgetting to put the pool cleaner back to playing with loud toys in the middle of the night to leaving a gigantic dump in the toilet, this spirit is really inconsiderate. But as the ghost's motives become clear, the film grows exponentially scarier: This apparition wants a baby something serious, and it isn't going to go through any of the usual adoption channels, thankyouverymuch. True, PA2 is ultimately just a horror movie with gotcha scare—but on the upside, there's some pretty interesting subtext, and if nothing else, it's the most unnerving film about a pooping ghost I've ever seen. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
"Twelve cabins. Twelve vacancies." Living Room Theaters.
Rally to Restore Sanity
See My, What a Busy Week! Mission Theater.
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!)! And get ready to see a couple of other non-threatening faces, too, like Richard Dreyfuss and Ernest Borgnine! ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
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 99W Various Theaters.
The Social Network
David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin's fantastic 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 fucking 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.
The Walking Dead
Local podcasters Cort and Fatboy present AMC's zombie TV series—based on the comics written by Robert Kirkman—on the big screen. Bagdad Theater.
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 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 who 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 "THE INTERN" SULLIVAN Living Room Theaters.
Vortex 1: A Biodegradeable Festival of Life
A documentary about the rock festival staged just outside of Estacada in 1970 by Governor Tom McCall. The crafty McCall was trying to distract Oregon's hippies from an upcoming visit by Richard Nixon, and it largely worked. It was just good thinking, on McCall's part: Hippies are easily distracted by rock 'n' roll, as well as shiny objects such as tinfoil or your keys. Clinton Street Theater.
You Will Meet A
Tall Dark Stranger
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 Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, Lake Twin Cinema.