"Lesson: Don't buy the cheap, made-in-China multi-tool," Aron Ralston (James Franco) says to himself in Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. It's a solid observation—as he says it, Ralston's in the bottom of a remote Utah canyon, where a falling boulder has pinned his right arm against a rock wall. Trapped at the bottom of a crack in the desert—with few things nearby aside from his video camera, the occasional ant, a big goddamn rock, and a smear of blood, skin, and bone—Ralston slowly begins to realize how overwhelmingly fucked he is. He didn't tell anyone where he was going. He thought he'd only be gone for a few hours, so he has hardly any food or water. And since his only knife is the one inside his cheap, made-in-China multi-tool, he's having a hell of a time figuring out how he's going to hack off his arm. ERIK HENRIKSEN Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) wants to be an actor. He is also a moron. Wearing his finest Lilith Fair T-shirt for his journey to Hollywood, Ethan insists Shakespeare is "a famous pirate" named "Shakesbeard," believes ejaculate is what happens "when your urine turns white," and runs a Two and a Half Men fansite. Meanwhile, Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is a clever, high-strung guy in an expensive suit and expensive sunglasses; constantly clenching his teeth, he embarks on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles. If you're guessing Peter and Ethan have an awkward meeting at the airport, you guessed right. If you're guessing Peter and Ethan get kicked off their flight, you guessed right. If you're guessing that, despite the obvious stupidity of the plan, Peter will hop into Ethan's rented Subaru Impreza for a cross-country road trip to California, you guessed right. And if you're guessing you saw this movie when it was called Planes, Trains & Automobiles, you guessed so, so right. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
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. Academy Theater, Avalon, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas, Valley Theater.
El Compadre Mendoza
Fernando de Fuentes' 1934 Mexican film about a sneaky landowner trying to survive the Mexican Revolution. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Viva La Revolución: The Mexican Revolution on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
While we may not need to be reminded that the most recent Bush administration was built on lies, it never hurts to recall a few particulars. In 2003, Washington Post reporter Robert Novak wrote a column outing and effectively ending the career of Valerie Plame—a CIA operative who had been gathering intelligence on Iraq's supposed "weapons of mass destruction" program. When Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of manipulating this intelligence to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat," a plot of revenge was hatched, and Plame's identity was leaked to the press. In Fair Game—partially based on Plame's biography of the same name—Naomi Watts and Sean Penn recreate the couple's professional, marital, and internal struggles during this time... to varying degrees of illumination and annoyance. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
A big-screen showing of the Firefly episode "Objects in Space." For more info, see Arts, pg. 38. Hollywood Theatre.
Four Lions humanizes terrorism. Don't misunderstand: This is a very different statement than "Four Lions makes terrorism understandable and sympathetic." I mean to say that Four Lions does, in fact, humanize terrorism, by reminding the audience that human beings can be incomprehensibly dumb and clumsy animals. One has to be a special sort of idiot to think dressing in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume to suicide bomb a charity fun-run is going to win you any sort of heavenly reward, but this is the humanity Four Lions concerns itself with, and those are the sorts of terrorist plots incompetently employed, and these are the confused, chucklefucked faces of terrorism. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS Fox Tower 10.
An amiable and rather unapologetic victory lap for Robert Duvall, who plays a crazy old hermit who returns from the woods after 30 years in order to organize and attend his own funeral. Director Aaron Schneider gets strong performances from his cast, including Lucas Black, Sissy Spacek, and a deadpan-even-for-him Bill Murray, but the main reason to watch is Duvall, who imbues his stock Snuffy Smith character with undercurrents of humor, pathos, and wounded menace. ANDREW WRIGHT Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
The Girl Who Kicked the
It is inarguable that the best part of the Swedish film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy is the actress Noomi Rapace. Her Lisbeth Salander is a once-in-a-lifetime creation: a tough, damaged, goth computer hacker who can't manage to choke down her own sense of justice long enough to disengage with society. Unfortunately, the plot dictates that Salander spend the first half of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest in a hospital bed, recovering from a brutal beating administered in the end of the second film in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire. (Uh, spoiler alert?) But Rapace's Salander is riveting even in her convalescence, as she prepares for her defense in a murder trial that will mark the climax of the series. As with the other installments, Daniel Alfredson's direction is unflashy but skillful. The story, which could be dense and impenetrable in the wrong hands, whirs along at a steady clip—until it ends with a whimper. (Larsson reportedly had more adventures waiting to be written at the time of his death, and Hornet's conclusion makes that franchise-planning glaringly obvious.) PAUL CONSTANT Cinema 21.
Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows: Part I
Previous Harry Potter films have suffered from their attempts to cram hundreds of pages of elaborate plotting into a single feature-length film. That Deathly Hallows is something different—and better—is obvious from its opening scenes: Hermione (Emma Watson) looks heartbroken as she wanders through her family's home, erasing her face from one family photo after another, and her memory from her parents' minds. And as the Dursleys pack up and abandon Number 4 Privet Drive, even Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) seems a little wistful as he bids farewell to the stairwell where he spent the worst part of his childhood. That we're treated to these small, private snapshots of Harry and Hermione is only the first indication that part one of Deathly Hallows has something its predecessors didn't: time. Time to explore its characters, time to allow J.K. Rowling's plot to fully unfold, and time to chart the darkness that, by book seven, had seeped into every corner of the Potterverse. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
The 1966 film about soldaderas—women soldiers in the Mexican Revolution. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Viva La Revolución: The Mexican Revolution on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Let's Go with Pancho Villa
Fernando de Fuentes' 1936 film, and "Latin America's first super-production, with epic battles, amazing train scenes, and thousands of extras." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Viva La Revolución: The Mexican Revolution on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Love and Other Drugs
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Rachel McAdams stars as Becky, a young and ridiculously dedicated morning show producer who gets hired to pull the lowest-rated morning show, Daybreak, out of the dumps. You couldn't be blamed for thinking this film was a romantic comedy based on the trailer, but Becky's relationship with love interest Adam (Patrick Wilson, practically making a cameo) could scarcely be more tangential. The real center of drama is Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), an ornery, formerly great hard-news anchor who Becky manipulates into co-hosting Daybreak. Pomeroy's disdain for the position and Becky's outsized, sunny determination to force him to do his job is the drama that counts here, though the impact it amounts to can be shrugged off by the time you find your car in the theater parking lot. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
My Dinner with A.J.
Former Willamette Week film critic David Walker's latest film, about "two estranged friends reuniting after 10 years." Hollywood Theatre.
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 Hollywood Theatre.
The Next Three Days
The Next Three Days wants you to believe it's something more than a two-fisted genre picture, but it's not. Despite its sleepy pace, somber tone, and the city of Pittsburgh's supporting role as Blahsville Boringtown, this film is destined to sit right between Death Wish I-IX and The Fugitive on any "Average Guy Pushed to Extremes" shelf. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
Of Mice and Men
A restored 35mm print of the 1939 Steinbeck adaptation. Clinton Street Theater.
Outside the Law
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Prisoner Number 13
Fernando de Fuentes' 1933 drama about an army officer. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Viva La Revolución: The Mexican Revolution on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Adorable, bloody father-son bonding! Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Japanese Currents: The Samurai Tradition series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A sci-fi flick by Greg and Colin Strause, who are the culpable parties for Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Perhaps not surprisingly, Skyline was not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Sword of Doom
Kihachi Okamoto's 1966 samurai classic. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Japanese Currents: The Samurai Tradition series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Based on a comic strip that's based on Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd, Tamara Drewe is a funny, perceptive look at what happens when social norms collide. The movie is set in what appears to be a perfectly picturesque English town—cobblestone streets, cud-chewing cows, an inn affixed to the town's lone pub. But it's not long before modernity intrudes: Not only do people in this tiny town have tawdry affairs, but they have cell phones and email access, too. They're also pretty goddamned bored, and this restless pot gets a sudden stir with the return of hometown girl Tamara (Gemma Arterton), post nose-job and ready to rub her newfound sexiness all over the people who called her "beaky" as a girl. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Director Tony Scott is a terrible director known for making terrible movies—but usually they're just boringly terrible (Enemy of the State, The Fan, Man on Fire, and let's stop there). However, his Unstoppable is a revelation in terribleness. Like the subject of his movie—an unmanned freight train loaded with explosive killer chemicals speeding out of control on a collision course with New Jersey—it's a film whose terribleness leaves the station slowly but eventually builds to a wildly obvious and UNSTOPPABLE juggernaut of unintentionally hilarious donkey shit. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
A Woman in Love
"A Mexican Taming of the Shrew," starring María Félix. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Viva La Revolución: The Mexican Revolution on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.