"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 Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Fox Tower 10.
2010 British Advertising Awards
If you're cool with paying a couple bucks for 90 minutes' worth of the UK's best ad firms trying their damndest to sell you everything, the Northwest Film Center is screening this year's 2010 British Television Advertising Award winners, and there's some damned clever filmmaking to be glimpsed in these 30-60 second stories. True, it's a little jarring when something quietly beautiful wraps up with a McDonald's logo—but this is the country that also spat out Benny Hill, after all, so stuff like a Dr. Pepper spot consisting of a single, extended dick joke shows up too. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A documentary about three Americans finding room outside the mainstream to practice their unconventional faiths. Hey, speaking of Mystic, remember that movie Mystic Pizza? Good times, good times. Clinton Street Theater.
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo
Entomologist Jessica Oreck's documentary "ponders the Japanese's philosophic reverence for insects and their unique place in the culture." Like Mothra, we guess? Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Those expecting Black Swan to be one of the best pictures of 2010 might want to adjust their expectations. While Darren Aronofsky's eagerly anticipated film is a lot of things—beautiful, weird, sexy, daring—it's a bunch of other things, too: inconsistent, goofy, unintentionally funny. On the surface, it's a labyrinthine, complex, surreal story about tricky, slippery stuff: self-image, reality, sex, art, aging, death, failure. Deeper down, it's something simpler: a movie about a ballerina (Natalie Portman, in a performance as good as everyone's saying it is) going batshit crazy. If it goes too far—if Aronofsky ventures too deep into Nina's slowly shattering brain, or if he overestimates his audience's patience for plot twists and surrealism—it's not for lack of ambition or confidence. Maybe Black Swan will creep you out, or maybe it'll crack you up; if you're like me, maybe it'll do both. That certainly makes it one of 2010's most interesting films, if not one of its best. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Due to my overwhelming penchant for rhinestone-encrusted high kicks and my occasional desire for asinine storytelling, I'll probably add Burlesque to my instant-watch Netflix queue. But for enjoyment of real burlesque? I'll stick to the live stages across my fair city. RAYLEEN COURTNEY Various Theaters.
The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The third film in the flaccid franchise is filled with B-grade pirates, sea monsters, and Pirates of the Caribbean's CG. In fact, Dawn Treader is exactly like slowly cruising through a low-rent Disney attraction while watching the real-life actors/automatons barely stay on script, desperately trying to remember they're talking to a huge CG rat with a sword. Between Aslan's annoying platitudes and a ridiculous ship that looks like a floating gumdrop, this one seals the deal: No more trips to Narnia for me. I'm too old for this shit. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Dark Side of Oz
The Wizard of Oz, accompanied by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Nope, no incredibly annoying stoners here! Bagdad Theater.
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. Avalon, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas.
Every Man for Himself
Jean-Luc Godard's 1979 classic. 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 Fox Tower 10.
A modern-day western that owes so much to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that its trio of characters are introduced only as the Driver, the Killer, and the Cop (and the Killer has an Ennio Morricone ringtone!), Faster's built like a low-budget '70s revenge flick. In shades of burnished gold and copper, the action plays out: A former getaway driver (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) gets out of prison and promptly peels out in his Chevelle SS, ready to kill the bastards who double-crossed him. So tough that he sports the wounds from a bullet going through the back of his head and out his cheek, he metes out his justice in bloody slow motion. Meanwhile, both a junkie cop only a few days away from retirement (Billy Bob Thornton) and a calculating, remorseless assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) try to track him down. ERIK HENRIKSEN Division Street.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Filmusik: Santa vs. Satan
The Filmusik crew adds live audio to a screening of a cult flick that features a Santa who lives in outer space and has robotic reindeer. This will probably make It's a Wonderful Life look like ass. 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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
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 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 Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
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, has seeped into every corner of the Potterverse. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Hemingway's Garden of Eden
Based on Ernest Hemingway's unfinished novel, The Garden of Eden follows a writer, his wife, and their female lover as they travel across Europe. Hemingway couldn't figure out how this story ends, but I bet you can. Living Room Theaters.
How Do You Know
James L. Brooks' latest bit of suds, starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, and Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers! Various Theaters.
I Love You Phillip Morris
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 Laurelhurst Theater.
Love and Other Drugs
The little blue pill known as Viagra changed the sexual potential of baby boomers everywhere, and it also changed Jamie Reidy's life. With Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, Reidy exposed many of the pharmaceutical industry's insider secrets—secrets that director Edward Zwick has set out to further publicize with Love and Other Drugs, casting Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie. Not content to tell the story of one man's maturation in a politically relevant industry, Hollywood added a love interest in Maggie (Anne Hathaway), and because this movie is about medicine, she had to be sick. If you're looking for any poignant criticisms of the pharmaceutical industry, you might want to adjust your expectations in favor of relationship montages and two or three cycles of break up/make up. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
There's a lot to like in the animated superhero/supervillain comedy Megamind, particularly its jolly but thoughtful handling of the ambiguity between good and evil. We know Megamind isn't really evil; as voiced by Will Ferrell, doing a subtle but bizarre accent, he's too likeably hilarious. The animation is ambitious but not overly complicated, and displays a sense of size and scale that's not always handled in 3D animation with this kind of accuracy. The voice performances—Ferrell in particular, but also David Cross, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, and Jonah Hill—hold the movie together in a way that doesn't merely feel like celebrity stunt casting. If the story gets jumbled along the way, in need of perhaps a rewrite or two, the visuals and the quick-witted verbal exchanges carry it through any sticky patches. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Jacques Tati's 1958 French classic is a visually rich and charming depiction of Tati's recurring character Monsieur Hulot, struggling comically against post-war consumerism and automation. Hollywood Theatre.
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 Living Room Theaters.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
What if Santa were actually buried under a mountain in northern Finland, an unforgiving winterscape populated by wolves, reindeer, and a few burly, hardscabble men? Excavators unearth him a few days before Christmas, and now this naked, feral Santa's out for the blood of children. At times, Rare Exports is effectively creepy, and the icy locations in Lapland are stunning. But its sly humor is portioned out too sparingly, leaving the brief movie—scarcely over an hour—feeling a little short on holiday cheer. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
It's no Black Christmas, but 1984's inevitable Santa-turns-slasher bloodbath Silent Night, Deadly Night has a few likeable qualities nonetheless: You've got your sex with nuns, you've got a multitude of arbitrary victims introduced and subsequently murdered in roughly one half of one scene, not to mention a smattering of increasingly ludicrous Christmas songs that all seem to be composed specifically for the movie. On the downside, you've got the needlessly expository first two-thirds of the movie, plus perhaps the least convincing horror villain of all time: a dashing, doe-eyed WASP-y dude in a Santa suit whose creepy one liners alternate between the equally un-scary "Puuunish!" and "Naaaw-tee!"—delivered in a nearly unintelligible monotone. ZAC PENNINGTON Hollywood Theatre
Sing-Along Wizard of Oz
"Attendees are encouraged to bring their 'play-along' props of a kazoo, lollipops, bubbles, noisemakers, and a magic wand to join in with the movie." AND OH SWEET FUCKING JESUS IT'S PRECEDED BY A COSTUME PARADE THERE IS NO GODDDDDDDD Bagdad Theater.
Smile 'Til It Hurts:
The Up with People Story
A documentary on the smiley youth phenomenon known as Up with People, which you might remember from that one Simpsons episode. The ongoing youth educational program sends casts of smiling young people to smilingly travel around the world and perform! And sing! And smile. Hollywood Theatre.
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 Moreland Theatre.
Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields
Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt is widely known for being "difficult," a reputation confirmed and reinforced with every awkward interview the man gives. He's also wicked smart and very funny, qualities revealed here through fly-on-the wall documentation of Merritt's routines (he writes songs in gay bars, listening to bad disco) and interactions with friends, bandmates, and a ubiquitous Chihuahua. While a rough sketch of Merritt's idiosyncrasies certainly emerges, it's to the credit of filmmakers Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara that Strange Powers is largely a document of a musician, not of a musician's personality. Plenty of screen time is given to footage of the Magnetic Fields performing—they're an outstanding live band, and the charisma and energy captured here makes Strange Powers a must-see for its concert footage alone. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
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.
First, her name wasn't "Tangled." That's confusing. It was Rapunzel! She started out as a baby—then turned 16! But before that she was a baby princess. And a mean bad mommy witch stole her from Queen Mommy and King Daddy and put her in a tower! Because her hair was MAAAAGIC! And when mean bad mommy witch touched it, she turned young. And pretty! But still mean. So Rapunzel's hair got very, very, very, very, very, VERY lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng. So a thief came along, and Rapunzel took a frying pan... BANG! Hit him in the face. That was funny. But the thief's name was Eugene and he didn't want to be a thief—he wanted to be a prince! Just like Aladdin! Can we watch Aladdin? Pleeeeaasee?? Eugene tried to help Rapunzel escape, but they were chased by two brainy-eyed guys and a funny horse who acted like a dog. And there was a little old man... and he wore a DIAPER! OH. So so so so FUNNY! The mean bad mommy witch chased them too... and... and... I forget what happened next. But the movie ended. MAXINE DALEY, AGE FIVE Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie's latest, directed by The Lives of Others' awesomely named Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
The easiest way to describe The Town might be to call it Heat meets Good Will Hunting, but the way most people will describe it is, "Holy shit, Ben Affleck's a really good director!" That won't come as much of a shock for those who saw his directorial debut, 2007's Gone Baby Gone, but it's still a weird thing to realize. After scoring an Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting, Affleck's downward spiral into Daredevil and Gigli and Jersey Girl didn't leave him with a lot of cred. With Gone Baby Gone, though, and now The Town, it's almost like Affleck's doing penance; based on some of the intense action sequences in this film alone, he's already been forgiven for whatever cinematic atrocities he was party to. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Avalon, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas.
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 Moby-scored doc that follows "artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump." Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.