28 Weeks Later
So this is how zombie invasions continue: not with screams, but with yawns and unintentional laughter. ERIK HENRIKSEN Regal Cinemas, etc.
American Cannibal: The Road to Reality
See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater.
A sordid, trashy whodunit that just happens to be set during World War II. Director Paul Verhoeven seems to be trying to make a mystery/thriller here, but in both genres, Black Book fails to sustain momentum, and when he makes a halfhearted attempt to insert a moral into this grimy little story, it fails on a visceral level. ALISON HALLETT City Center 12.
Blades of Glory
Will Ferrell and Jon Heder play competing men's figure skaters with wildly different styles, who, after tying for a gold medal, whip each other's asses and get permanently barred from the singles' competition. Pariahs in the sport, a former coach persuades them to return to figure skating—but as two guys skating in the pairs division?! Whaaaa??? LET THE HOMOPHOBIC HILARITY ENSUE! WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Regal Cinemas, etc.
Burnt Chocolate Water
Allow me to save you the unbearable tedium of actually seeing Jeff Grinta's documentary, billed as "One coffee hater's hilarious journey to find the perfect cup." The move goes a little something like this: Grinta wheels up to a coffee cart and asks for a coffee drink for someone who "doesn't like coffee." The barista makes him a mocha/vanilla latte/caramel macchiato. Grinta takes a sip, makes a face, and says, "It still has that coffee taste..." The self-indulgence displayed here would be hilarious if it weren't so excruciatingly dull. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
1947's noir with Humphrey Bogart. Laurelhurst.
Delta Farce wasn't screened for press, but as if it matters, here's the premise: Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall, and DJ Qualls accidentally join the army, accidentally get shipped off to Iraq, and accidentally get dropped in Mexico—which they accidentally mistake for Iraq. (From there, Delta Farce appears to be a journey through Mexican stereotypes, gay jokes, and hackneyed catchphrases.) SCOTT MOORE Regal Cinemas, etc.
If you're looking to explore new cinematic frontiers... Disturbia isn't going to be your cup of tea. Think Rear Window meets the CW, where all the bored teens have web cameras, walkie-talkies, and video cameras set up to spy on their next-door neighbors. We ain't talking Hitchcock here. COURTNEY FERGUSON Regal Cinemas, etc.
An Evening with Laura di Trapani
Who's Laura di Trapani, you ask? Good question! Turns out she's a local animator whose work has screened at Sundance and the Northwest Film & Video Festival. Tonight she presents a few of her films. (But beware! One of them is an "animated memoir" from amazingly unfunny Portland cartoonist John Callahan! Callahan? NOOOOOOOO!) Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Ex wants to be a comedy, but it's actually just a sitcom. Zach Braff—somehow seeming like the least obnoxious person in this very obnoxious film—plays Tom, a cook who's forced to take an advertising job when he has a baby with his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet). Tom ends up working under Chip Sanders (Arrested Development's awesome Jason Bateman), a prick who (A) used to date Sofia, (B) milks the fact he's in a wheelchair, and (C) does everything he can to ruin Tom's life. A fundamentally broken hodgepodge of dark comedy, slapstick, and half-assed melodrama, The Ex spends its 90-minute running time throwing Braff into various situations where he can act awkward, make goofy faces, and stammer. Meanwhile, watching Peet attempt to emote continues to approximate the feeling of chewing on broken glass. SNL's great Amy Poehler and Fred Armisen are wasted in glorified cameos, but Bateman, at least, has a bit of malicious fun—though not nearly enough to justify sitting through this annoying shit. Braff, you've now officially squandered whatever goodwill Garden State bought you in 2004. ERIK HENRIKSEN Lloyd Mall 8.
It would be a mistake to characterize Exterminating Angels as anything other than erotica—self-aware, angsty erotica, but erotica nonetheless. François (Frédéric van den Driessche) is a director who decides to make a movie about how women experience pleasure (yeah, THAT kind of pleasure). Angels, unfortunately, gets mired in the non-naked aspects of the plot, turning what could be a genuinely sexy bit of pornography into a lackluster, ultimately unsatisfying thriller. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
Fay grimSee review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Spike Lee's Inside Man was the last masterful genre movie I saw, and while Fracture isn't quite as compelling, it does demonstrate how to turn an ordinary, John Grisham-y lawyer movie into a smart and gripping film. It doesn't hurt that it stars two of the best actors working in film today: the inimitable Anthony Hopkins (contrary to what Fracture's previews would have you believe, he's not playing Hannibal Lecter here), and Ryan Gosling, whose hotshot DA character is so far removed from his turn in Half Nelson as to make Gosling himself virtually invisible. CHAS BOWIE Regal Cinemas, etc.
Lindsay Lohan plays Rachel, the impetuous, clever, 17-year-old daughter of recovering alcoholic Lilly (Felicity Huffman). Lilly and her highly successful attorney husband have thrown up their hands after Rachel's latest stunt—drunkenly crashing her car—and are depositing her in small-town Idaho with her grandmother Georgia (Jane Fonda), who's set up to be an intolerable nag with a laundry list of "Georgia rules"—but in actuality is, of course, a pretty frigging badass grandma. Noticeably released to time with Mother's Day, Georgia Rule is the kind of trans-generational she-power film that's in order for the occasion (writer Mark Andrus' premiere credential for this is Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood). But it's better—and far darker and more complex—than the trailers would have you believe. MARJORIE SKINNER Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Great Communist Bank Robbery
In 1959, Romania was (obviously) a Communist country, with a national bank and absolutely zero bank robberies (unlike greedy, filthy, capitalist America). Then one day the national bank was robbed, which threatened the moral fiber of Count Dracula's mother country, and this movie strains and struggles to convey why this was such a big deal. The government rounded up some suspects, had them reenact their crime on film, and then assassinated them. Sounds interesting, right? Well, it's not. I fell asleep twice trying to watch The Great Communist Bank Robbery. And I wasn't even tired to begin with! Those Romanians—they can't even make a bank heist movie interesting. Thanks a lot, Count Chocula. CHAS BOWIE Hollywood Theatre.
Grindhouse isn't a film, or a piece of art, or the latest from two of our best directors, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. No—it's just a balls-out, no-holds-barred movie, the kind that demands to be seen late at night, in a crowded theater, with a bunch of friends to share the laughs and thrills. ERIK HENRIKSEN Broadway Metroplex, Valley Theater.
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 15. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) is a struggling writer who can't seem to get a book published. Desperate for work, he comes up with a risky plan: He'll pretend to be the authorized biographer of Howard Hughes, taking advantage of the fact that the reclusive billionaire never makes public appearances or speaks to the press. The film is based on actual events and the story is absolutely fascinating; unfortunately, the most interesting aspects of Irving's scam are smothered by director Lasse Hallström, who values hammy, character-driven melodrama over a far more compelling historical situation. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst.
The Korean The Host takes a few cues from the classic Godzilla, but adds a few twists of its own—in other words, it's got all the best parts of an old-school monster movie, plus enough intellectual subtext to keep the art-house crowd happy. More importantly, it's simply one of the coolest, most enjoyable, and cleverest films to come along in years. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst, Mission Theatre & Pub.
Taking its cues from ridiculous/awesome epics like 48 Hours, Point Break, and Bad Boys, Hot Fuzz is a pretty damn great action comedy from the brilliant guys who did Shaun of the Dead. ERIK HENRIKSEN Regal Cinemas, etc.
After accidentally locking herself into a walk-in freezer for an entire night, Fiona (Fiona Gordon) becomes obsessed with the cold. Locking herself into a refrigerated delivery truck, Fiona finds herself in a small harbor town where she convinces a deaf-mute fisherman to sail her on a surprisingly funny quest to reach an iceberg, as her husband tries to stop her every step of the way. DAN SAVICKAS Living Room Theaters.
In the Land of Women
Adam Brody has one character, and that's Seth Cohen. For those buried beneath the pop culture rock, Seth Cohen was the breakout character on The O.C.—an insecure, indie-pop/comics-loving nerdling who, through sheer force of will, bagged the hottest girl in Orange County. Now that The O.C. is kaput, Brody has found a new home, playing Seth Cohen in feature films. However, I will only accept so much Seth—and when he's featured in a film that shows him KISSING MEG RYAN? Sorry. Humpy don't play that. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY City Center 12.
The Life of Oharu
Kenji Mizoguchi's 1964 film documents a 17th century Japanese woman's dignified, tortuously slow descent into depravity. After Oharu falls in love with a man from a lower social class, she loses her position at the Imperial Palace, and it all goes to shit after that, as she is first sold as a concubine and later must turn to prostitution to survive. Oh, and it's also really boring. Also screening this week is another Mizoguchi film, Street of Shame. ALISON HALLETT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
This black and white Italian film from 1962 isn't the serious, violent mobster movie you might expect given its title, but that doesn't mean you should pass it up. Following Antonio (Alberto Sordi) and his wife and daughters as they travel from Northern Italy to Antonio's hometown in Sicily, Mafioso's simple aim is to illustrate the power of the mafia and the ease with which it permeates otherwise innocent people's lives. Through Sicilian connections he has had his entire life, Antonio finds himself without much choice but to eventually bend to the will of local Mafia boss Don Vincenzo (Ugo Attanasio). Yet most of the film remains lighthearted, drawing on comedic Sicilian stereotypes like overfeeding guests and the female mustache. Good times, good times. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
Mystic Ball follows the story of a Canadian man who dedicates his life to playing Chinelone, a Burmese sport similar to footbag (or "hacky sack" to all you hippies). After seeing this film I immediately tried to relive the thrilling global action of this sport by kicking over a few wicker baskets at Cost Plus World Market. I am no longer welcome at that store. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Jhumpa Lahiri's best-selling novel The Namesake spans two generations and two continents in its exploration of culture, identity, and family. That's a lot of ground to cover in a couple hours, but director Mira Nair deftly translates the tale to the big screen—The Namesake captures the immigrant experience with a complexity and nuance that is usually reserved for literature. ALISON HALLETT City Center 12.
The Page Turner
A 10-year-old French pianist's dream of entering a music conservatory is unmade by an arrogant jurist at her entrance exam. Ten years later, the pianist casually works her way into the life of the jurist's family—first as an intern for the jurist's husband's law practice, then as a nanny, and ultimately as the jurist's trusted page turner—and just as easily begins to unravel it. Simply crafted, The Page Turner is almost admirable in its twistless pursuit of vengeance—unfortunately, said vengeance is achieved with such unbelievable effortlessness that even the eventual pay-off plays as mild and unsatisfying. ZAC PENNINGTON Hollywood Theatre.
Cinema Project presents Pine Flat, a 135 minute (!) 2005 film by photographer and film artist Sharon Lockhart. It's tough enough to sit through 135 minutes of film with the help of minor devices like storylines, but Lockhart traffics in the "this is a film in which nothing happens" school of dullness. (I read last week that "dull" is good and challenging, and that "boring" is simply uninteresting and uninspired. Whatever. I've seen some of Sharon Lockhart's films, and I was "dulled" out of my mind.) CHAS BOWIE Cinema Project at New American Art Union.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Not screened in time for press; see our review in next week's Mercury. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Reign Over Me
Best to sigh now and get it over with: Adam Sandler plays New Yorker Charlie Fineman, whose family died on 9/11. Ever since, he's gone all sorts of crazy/sad, doing nothing but riding his motor scooter around NY, listening to vinyl, playing his PlayStation, and refusing to admit he even remembers his family. Throughout, Sandler either shouts belligerently or mumbles pathetically, hanging his face slack beneath stubble and mussed-up hair; his Charlie is basically a severely hung-over Happy Gilmore. And by the time Reign has finished wallowing in post-9/11 mopiness, it's covered all the bases: melodramatic breakdowns, a suicide attempt, hammy platitudes about the value of friends and/or family, approximately 800 watery-eyed monologues, a trip to a clichéd insane asylum, and an even more clichéd courtroom showdown. This film is one of the more unfortunate after-effects of 9/11. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy, Laurelhurst, Valley Theater.
Saimir is a 2004 Italian film about an immigrant Albanian teenager named Saimir, whose family makes a living by trafficking fellow illegal immigrants. Nothing like a bleak grainy film about a teenage borderline stalker who has a heart of a gold in a world gone awry. Thank you, but no, I'd rather eat glass. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
Shrek the Third
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Like its protagonist, Spider-Man 3 is a movie with an identity crisis. The biggest, loudest, and darkest film in the series, Spider-Man 3 is also messy and ill conceived—a clunky, straining blockbuster that tries to accomplish everything and ends up achieving not much of anything. ERIK HENRIKSEN Regal Cinemas, etc.
Year of the Dog
Mike White's Year of the Dog is destined to occupy the Twee Cinema aisle of your local video store—right next to movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Me and You and Everyone We Know. Molly Shannon plays Peggy, a woman who listens to her coworkers complain about their love lives day in and day out, then silently eats dinner with her adorable beagle every night. But when her pooch unexpectedly dies, her world crumbles, and we watch her slowly dissolve into an unexpected form of madness: animal rights activism. There's great writing and lots of laugh-out-loud moments at first, but White has no idea how to wrap this movie up, so the second half drags and meanders until a startlingly sloppy ending is slapped on with five minutes left in the film. CHAS BOWIE City Center 12.
In July 2005, a Seattle-area man went to a horse farm in Enumclaw, Washington, and, as he did with some regularity, had sex with a horse while a friend videotaped. The result? The man died of a perforated colon, Washington outlawed bestiality, and Mercury contributor Charles Mudede wrote Zoo to explore what went on at the horse farm. Zoo, however, is not a graphic dissection of man-on-horse sex (or, more precisely, horse-on-man), but a peek inside the lives of the man and his friends, all of whom profess to intimately love horses. AMY J. RUIZ Hollywood Theatre.