* The Big Red One See review this issue. Cinema 21
A mixed bag, combining the worst parts of the first Blade (asinine plot, lame villains) with the best of the second (slick visuals, funny one-liners, and awesome action sequences that are basically really violent music videos). If those simple pleasures ain't your bag, then don't even bother going--but if they are, Blade: Trinity proves appropriately capable of kicking some ass. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Brother to Brother
Anthony Mackie (8 Mile) stars as Perry, a black gay college student shunned by his family and many of his homies for his knob-gobbling. Befriending a similarly lonely contemporary (Roger Robinson) of Langston Hughes and company, Perry finds crucial (and contrived) parallels between their lives. Brother to Brother simply tries to tackle too much--therefore it never becomes gripping, despite the potential of its subject matter and its historical allusions. It's also got a script straight outta Film Studies 101--complete with a walk along the shore (don't forget the voice-over) for an ending. (Will Gardner) Hollywood Theatre
Marlon Brando starts a slave rebellion on a Caribbean island. Go ahead--try and come up with a cooler sentence than that. Whitsell Auditorium
Christmas with the Kranks
If you're swamped with a suicide-inducing list of stuff to do for the holidays, chances are you're already busy as hell. Save some time and pain by not paying eight dollars to watch yet another crappy Tim Allen Christmas movie. (Lance Chess) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Clash Double Feature
Hey, you look like you like the Clash! Well, tonight's yer night--two Clash-centric movies (Rude Boy and Westway to the World) will lead up to a performance from The Portland SS, who'll be doing an entire set of Clash songs. Plus, it's all free! Sabala's Mt Tabor Theatre
Everything in Closer revolves around four characters (Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, and Clive Owen) and their well- and ill-intentioned romantic and sexual experiences with each other; the film treats the oft-idealized concepts of love and romance as undeniably beautiful things that are just as undeniably filled with duplicity, anger, confusion, and pain. Closer's incestuously twisting, darkly fascinating narrative is rooted in the psychosexual drives of its characters, and it's all topped off with enough sadistic mindfucks and inevitable despair to satisfy even the staunchest emotional masochist. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Days of Being Wild
Wong Kar-Wai's celebrated study of an urban romantic (Leslie Cheung). And if that ain't good enough for you, it also features Maggie Cheung and Andy Lau. Yeah. Try and resist that. Guild Theater
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
Jim Henson's tale of a poor otter family that teams up with Kermit the Frog and starts a jug-band to save Christmas... only to face opposition from the spoiled rich kids of the Riverbottom Gang. Boo! Down with the Riverbottom Gang! Pix Patisserie
* End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
Evenly tracing the feats and pratfalls of the band's entire career with admirable honesty, End of the Century relies upon narrowly captured insights of the original foursome--miraculously filmed just prior to the untimely domino deaths of Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny over the last four years. Frank and forthcoming, the interviews offer the band a much-needed sense of dimension--something the uniformed caricatures have stripped from them over the years--and paint surprisingly sympathetic portraits of a junk-sick fuck-up, a sensitive obsessive-compulsive, and a tyrannical conservative. (Zac Pennington) Laurelhurst
Johnny Depp provides a quirky, believable performance as the wildly imaginative James Barrie, who's stuck with a bitchy wife (Radha Mitchell) and mired in conservative, early 1900s British society. But Barrie dreams big, and when he meets up with the Llewelyn Davies family--made up of charming widow Sylvia (Kate Winslet) and her three impossibly adorable sons--he hatches the idea for Peter Pan. It goes without saying that sweet interludes, heartbreak, tragedy, and saccharine-sweet inspirational sound bites ("Just believe") soon follow. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Flight of the Phoenix See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
A Coke bottle hits a guy in the head, so he figures it's from god. Fair enough. This screening benefits the Portland Books to Prisoners Project. Liberty Hall
* Gore-O-Rama-A-Go-Go! II: Season's Bleedings
See My, What A Busy Week! page 19. Bossanova
* He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Stone
See My, What A Busy Week! page 19. Clinton Street Theater
The Hebrew Hammer
Mordechai Jefferson Carver is a badass Semitic Superfly in this "jewsploitation" spoof. Hired by the Jewish Justice League, the "Hammer" (Adam Goldberg) must put a stop to the fiendish son of Santa (Andy Dick), who plans to destroy Hanukkah. A very funny idea that fails to meet expectations thanks to its draggy script. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Clinton Street Theater
Some of the most involving, gorgeous stuff ever committed to celluloid. (Erik Henriksen) Laurelhurst
The House of Flying Daggers See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
* I Y Huckabees
Jason "That Kid From Rushmore" Schwartzman plays Albert Markovski, a hipster/hippie whose experience with strange coincidences inspires him to hire two "existential detectives" (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin). A lackadaisically twisting, psuedo-intellectual examination of any and all pop-philosophic concepts follows, as enacted through a veritable all-star cast (most notably a perfectly cast Jude Law, plus Mark Wahlberg, who's at the top of his underestimated game (Erik Henriksen) Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, St. Johns Pub, Valley Theater
Incident at Loch Ness
A mock documentary about the making of a fictional documentary gone awry. Werner Herzog plays himself, an adventurous filmmaker who wants to explore the relationship between truth and fiction via the Loch Ness Monster. Zak Penn also plays himself, a plotting, ham-fisted movie producer (Penn, by the way, couldn't act if his balls depended on it). The film is cleverly constructed (though it's not nearly as quick and witty as it stuffily fancies itself to be), and after a long, uneventful start featuring mediocre Hollywood jokes and boring self reflexive exercises, Incident eventually evolves into something engaging. Especially worth the hassle if you're a theory-obsessed film student or an industry cog who's actually amused by the cheap corruptions of big budget filmmaking. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood Theatre
Independent Digital Film Festival
A fest of local digital films 30 minutes or shorter in length. Sure, it's out in Vancouver, but (a) there are prizes, (b) the films are showing on a big screen TV, and (c) it's free. Those have to count for something... right? Hideaway Nightclub
* It's A Wonderful Life
Good friends, clumsy angels, and a suicidal banker who learns that the world does revolve around him. Ooh! Ooh! And Zuzu petals! Don't forget Zuzu petals! Cafe Nola, Laurelhurst
Liam Neeson's rendition of revolutionary sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is a scientist to the bone. Sexual desire, feels Kinsey, is just a biological impulse, and should be openly discussed and explored. As a professor in the 1930s, Kinsey makes waves with his explicit sexuality classes, and Kinsey convincingly argues that its subjects' unflinchingly technical attitude towards sex helped liberate the American people in a time of intense prudishness. Good point, but what's missing is any exploration of why Kinsey is the way he is. This is the way of the Hollywood biopic; leaping frantically from rock to rock along the surface of its chosen figure's life, but never stopping to dig down and see what's underneath. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10
* Last Life in the Universe See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Motorcycle Diaries
A duo of medical school friends (Rodrigo de la Serna and Gael Garcia Bernal) ride, push, and carry their motorcycle across Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Peru, generally achieving the kind of good times/bad times adventure balance that all great road trip stories thrive on. After traveling thousands of miles, it's made clear just who Bernal's playing: Ernesto Guevara. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10
* My Little Pony: The Movie
See My, What A Busy Week! page 19. Clinton Street Theater
* Napoleon Dynamite
There are plenty of laughs to mine from the pseudo-tortured lives of realistically nerdy, unpopular, and just plain odd 14- to 18-year-olds, and as Napoleon Dynamite proves, young geek alienation is just as fun to parody as its grownup counterparts. (Jennifer Maerz) Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, Mt. Hood Theater, Valley Theater
Though even the most blockbuster-lovin' cinephile would agree that National Treasure has a deeply stupid plot--Nicholas Cage plays "Benjamin Franklin Gates," who's trying to find a wondrous treasure from a map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence--the screenwriters throw in enough pseudo-history to make it "buyable," if not believable. Plus, director Jon Turteltaub gives the affair a rollicking "Goonies for adults" vibe that forces you to put aside any annoying intellectual cynicism. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Night of the Living Dead
George Romero's classic zombie picture, featuring a lifetime's worth of glazed eyeballs and gore crammed into 90 minutes. Old Town Pizza
* Ocean's Twelve
Picking up from 2001's Ocean's Eleven, Twelve follows the same formula for success: round up Hollywood's biggest stars, dress them sharply and have them act charming, and round it off with the confident, cool, and stylish direction of one of Hollywood's best, Steven Soderbergh. Not only does the film serve as a welcome reminder that mainstream Hollywood still has something to offer, but it also offers some hope that one might not have to wait for another mega-cast/Soderbergh team-up for that faith to be repaid. Yeah, right. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Pianist
Despite appearances to the contrary, the film is not about the indomitable spirit of a survivor. It's about how low a human being can sink in order to live, and the depths of abasement a race is capable of withstanding in order to avoid extinction. There's no heroism in the picture, and all redemption is tempered by the knowledge of what's coming next. It's here, in the deeply Eastern European black comedy of this knowledge, that the film and its maker mark their territory most boldly. (Sean Nelson) PSU Smith Memorial Union
* Plan Nine From Outer Space
Ed Wood's classic sci-fi stinker from 1959, starring Bela Lugosi, Vampira and Tor Johnson! Yep, you read that right--TOR JOHNSON. Blind Onion
The Polar Express
Tom Hanks provides almost all the voices in this computer animated story about a young boy traveling to the North Pole on a magic locomotive. If you can get past the ubiquitous Hanks, The Polar Express is, surprisingly, not that bad. The startling effects and pervasive Hanks content are pretty much it, though--simply said, this is a movie about a train going to the North Pole for Christmas, with more Tom Hanks than you can shake a Bosom Buddy at. If that's your bag, then go see this sugary, sugary sugar plum. Otherwise, I'm sure Tiny Tim needs his crutch kicked out from under him, Ebenezer. (Lance Chess) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The familiar warm fuzzy that is Ray is pretty much exactly what one has come to expect from the biopic genre: a breezing over of the moments in an extraordinary person's life, all cut-up and mixed about to form some semblance of a "happy ending," with enough tips of the hat to allow every member of the audience a knowing nod of recognition. (Zac Pennington) Division Street, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Mall, Milwaukie 3 Theater, St. Johns Theater
* Shaun of the Dead
A sharp, clever, and gory horror-comedy that manages to be as scary as it is hilarious, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead shows all the marks of becoming a classic (and yeah, I know that sounds clichéd--but in this case, it's actually true). (Erik Henriksen) Avalon, Laurelhurst
Just in time for Christmas, it's Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary about the holocaust, utilizing interviews from survivors and Nazis alike. And since it's 10 hours long, it'll be shown over four nights. PSU Smith Memorial Union
Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a would-be writer who accompanies his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a weeklong trip through California's wine country for a final bachelor's hurrah before Jack's upcoming wedding. While the week begins idyllically enough, glaring character flaws are soon revealed--wine connoisseur Miles' pedantic ranting about pinot gris hardly conceals his deep dissatisfaction with life, and Jack is an immature man-child determined to get laid one last time before tying the knot. While Sideways is enjoyable, it's ultimately unsatisfying--we watch as Miles and Jack are stripped of all their illusions, but we never find out what they're replaced with. (Alison Hallett) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Spanglish See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
In the light of recent animation blockbusters like Shark Tale, The Incredibles, and The Polar Express, SpongeBob is something of a relief--it's nothing more than a giddy cartoon, far from the sweeping epic that every other cartoon movie of late strives so hard to be. Plus it has David Hasselhoff in it. (Michael Svoboda) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Team America: World Police
If you possess an extra ass, you'd better bring it with you to the theater, because you're going to laugh at least one of them off. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have not only created a meticulous homage to the terrific Gary Anderson Thunderbirds series of the '60s (in which a globe-trotting team of marionettes save the world), but also a biting commentary on the very modern "war on terror" that gleefully cuts both ways. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Avalon, Edgefield, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, St. Johns Pub, Valley Theater
* Transformers: The Movie
See My, What A Busy Week! page 19. Clinton Street Theater
A Very Long Engagement See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
* Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
Wilbur is dark and troubled, and tries to kill himself about once a week. (The reason for Wilbur's suicide attempts is never really examined--it's just accepted.) The story is unique because the characters are dealing with extreme circumstances, but they never turn on each other; they accept each other unconditionally, even when Wilbur tries to hang himself in the study. It's this unfaltering love among the characters that both makes and breaks the movie. Seeing people who deal with difficulties so matter-of-factly is inspiring, but it's also kind of boring. I mean, Wilbur slits his wrists in the bathtub when the kid is sleeping in the next room, and that pisses me off. I want someone to go Dr. Phil on Wilbur's ass and tell him to either kill himself right, or cut it the fuck out. (Katie Shimer) Guild Theater
* The Yes Men
Artist activists Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum--AKA the Yes Men--specialize in what they call "identity correction." Armed with suits from thrift stores and cleverly rendered PowerPoint videos, the Yes Men crash lectures and conferences around the world, sarcastically representing what they feel are the true motives of the organizations--like the WTO--they impersonate. (Marjorie Skinner) Laurelhurst