And Everything Is Going Fine
See review this issue. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) are middle aged and married, happily puttering about in a bobo interpretation of marital bliss: evenings spent cooking, gardening on weekends, a glass of wine now and then. Gerri works as a counselor, and the receptionist at her hospital is the twittery, blowsy Mary (Lesley Manville), a woman prone to drink too much at dinner parties and fall asleep in Gerri's guest room. For a while, the friendship unfolds harmlessly: Mary a disorganized, well-meaning mess, Gerri gently humoring her nattering friend, to the quiet dismay of her less-sympathetic husband. But Mary's not as guileless as she initially seems. Her character is a cautionary tale of sorts, a woman clinging unflatteringly to long-gone youth, drinking too much and sobbing about relationships gone wrong, chattering endlessly, ignorant of the irritation and indifference she inspires. Manville's performance is so effective that the audience cringes along with Tom every time she appears, at once a testament to Manville's performance and to the resonance of writer/director Mike Leigh's firm implication that every individual is in charge of their own emotional well being—one can't, like Mary, count on others to provide it. ALISON HALLETT City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Chang Cheh's 1983 kung fu flick. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Shaolin Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Beyond the Call
Adrian Belic directs this documentary about three self-styled "knights" who bring humanitarian aid to war-stricken parts of the globe. Following them to Afghanistan, Thailand, and the Philippines, Beyond the Call at times has a Kiplingesque white-man-heroically-saves-the-hapless-foreigners undertone, but it's compelling to get a closer look at these overweight, white-haired Americans and what drives them. There's genuine compassion, of course, and some ego gratification. But a lot seems motivated by the absurdity in the sheer comfort of their domestic worlds. We watch each man at home and discover they are completely at loose ends; their adventures bring dimension to their insular lives. Director in attendance for shows on Friday February 4 and Saturday February 5. NED LANNAMANN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
There's a persistent, suffocating weight on Uxbal (Javier Bardem), on whose life Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest film, Biutiful, meditates. Amid the grime of Barcelona's ghetto, Uxbal cobbles together an existence to support his two children by brokering sweatshop deals between powerless immigrants and corrupt contractors, as well as moonlighting as a medium between the recently deceased and their family members. If that weren't enough, Marambra (Maricel Álvarez), the mother of his children, is a bipolar junkie, and there's also the matter of Uxbal being on the brink of death due to some form of renal failure that causes him to piss blood. Needless to say, things are grim. Iñárritu (Amores Perros, Babel, 21 Grams) asks a great deal of his audience, trudging them through a mucky tragedy with pitifully scarce relief. It might be too much were it not for Bardem's performance, which flawlessly bridges the disparate aspects of an imperfect character into a strong, relatable whole. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Rarely does a film come along that's as truly adult as Blue Valentine, a movie driven by stunning, lived-in performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a young married couple. In converging timelines, Valentine tracks both their initial courtship and the 48-hour period where it falls apart. The effect is no less emotionally brutal than a film like Gaspar Noé's Irreversible, as each happy memory of the past sweetens the pair's love story—while simultaneously making their falling out all the more devastating. Over a swelling score by Grizzly Bear, director Derek Cianfrance sets about autopsying Gosling and Williams' history, examining each cutting word and each loving gesture as if they were organs from the same body. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
Along with mega-celebrity status come new challenges as a middling, late-career actor: that of somehow transcending your pop omnipresence enough to trick an audience into believing you are an actual human being. The further away from your celebrity image you cast, the more implausible the suspension of disbelief becomes—and the more hilarious the results. We believe it when Tom Cruise plays a megalomaniacal dickhead. We believe it when Angelina Jolie plays a soul-hungry sex monster. But please, Gwyneth Paltrow, have the decency not to ask me to believe a perpetual-stick-up-her-ass, such as yourself, is a fast-and-loose, down-and-out, alcoholic mess of a cuuun-try saaaanger. ZAC PENNINGTON Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center.
Outlandishly unfunny. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
"Sorry for the interruption, folks, but I always do the last dance of the season." Presented by Cort and Fatboy. Bagdad Theater.
An engaging, beautifully filmed expose of a surprising truth: Canada, not the Middle East, is now the number one provider of the United States' oil—and to get that oil, a Canadian forest the size of Florida is being sacrificed for a vast, filthy strip mine. The film is 73 minutes of catastrophe (asthma, polluted water, global warming, deaths of caribou) amounting to an environmental hit piece on the oil companies who dig profits from Alberta's Tar Sands. A better portrait of the issue would have delved into the pro-oil side, but Dirty Oil is still a better-than-average bit of agit-prop. SARAH MIRK Bagdad Theater.
Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance
Dear Evangelion: Sixteen years ago, you blew my mind with your crazy robot battles, psychedelic visuals, teen angst, explosions, great music, and just the right amount of fan service. When he created you—in all your anime goodness—your now-legendary director, Hideaki Anno, was battling a deep depression and was fed up with otaku culture, and his inner struggles manifested beautifully on my tiny TV screen. But now that you've gone and rebuilt your visuals to match today's standards, I was a bit worried that your narrative wouldn't match your shiny new exterior. I was worried that maybe we didn't age together. I was worried that I'd realize we'd grown apart, like that time I thought it would be a good idea to listen to Tricky's Maxinquaye. But Evangelion, after watching you, I feel foolish for doubting you. You rounded out your cast with great new characters. You created awesome new weapons. You've even managed to flesh out the relationships between the characters while weaving together your signature tapestry of what-the-fuck. Evangelion, you had me at cannibalistic robots being piloted by an innocently perverted little boy being controlled by his father set to Japanese folk music. I love you. MIKE WILLIAMS Living Room Theaters.
An Evening with Deborah Stratman
Chicago filmmaker and artist Deborah Stratman hits Portland to show off and discuss some of her films, including Those Blazing Stars and O'er the Land. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Forks Over Knives
Americans are meat and dairy addicts, and we pay for it dearly. Forks Over Knives, the latest political foodie documentary linking our woeful diet with our sky-high disease rates, details the work of two doctors who treat chronic diseases not with drugs or surgery, but by cutting meat, dairy, and processed foods from their patients' plates. With its sluggish pace and lack of interesting subjects, this movie isn't as engaging as is forefathers Super Size Me and Food, Inc., but at least its rather "duh" lesson about nutrition is worthwhile. SARAH MIRK Fox Tower 10.
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.
The Green Hornet
Huh. This should've turned out better. Admittedly, it's not a fool-proof premise, but it is a promising one: Take a character from a long-forgotten '30s radio serial and a near-forgotten '60s TV series, hand him over to brilliant director Michel Gondry and a talented comedic actor like Seth Rogen, cast the bad guy from Inglourious Basterds as the bad guy, douse the thing in crazy slow-mo and trippy 3D, and... you know. Sit back. Let that shit happen. But The Green Hornet takes all of those elements and does... well, very little with them. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Sylvain Chomet's follow-up to his beloved The Triplets of Belleville, based on a script for an un-produced live-action film that was written by Jacques Tati in 1956. The Illusionist follows the titular magician—aging, weary, facing obsolescence—and his companion, a young, wide-eyed woman named Alice, who jumps at the chance to escape her provincial existence, only to find that life in the city isn't all that she had hoped. Nearly free of dialogue and full of stunningly evocative visuals, The Illusionist is whimsical and bittersweet, gorgeous and melancholy. I hesitate to say too much about it, because its many charms—countless small moments of sadness and humor—sneak up on you, patient and subtle. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinema 21.
Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster
The (sorta) true story of a simple teacher with a superhero's name who becomes a legitimate superhero. Ip Man (a stoic Donnie Yen) has fled to Hong Kong in the '50s after the events of 2008's Ip Man, in which he pretty much beat up all of Japan by himself. So now he tries to open a martial arts school, but his reputation is zilch, and nobody knows about his fighting style. He gets a few students, he butts a few heads (most notably rival master Sammo Hung Kam-bo's), and the formula bubbles along nicely. Then, about 60 minutes in, a thuggish British boxer is introduced, and Ip Man 2 becomes not only a straight-up sports film, but one of the most unapologetic pieces of propaganda since Rocky IV. The fights, overseen by Sammo Hung Kam-bo, are fucking phenomenal, but it's just as entertaining to watch director Wilson Yip take the easy, jingoistic drunk of Stallone's 1985 triumph and transform it into a tall can of Four Loko-fueled whoopass. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Laughter in the Breeze:
A Selection of Films by Lance Bangs
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
I'm not surprised that The Mechanic, the latest attempt to make Jason Statham a bankable action star, is doughy, lifeless glop, but why does it have to link itself to Michael Winner's 1972 Charles Bronson flick of the same name? Statham ain't Bronson, and director Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) ain't Michael Winner. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
No Strings Attached
No Strings Attached is a difficult film to address. Not because it brings any new or complicated issues or cinematic techniques to the table, and not because it challenges presumptions, or pushes boundaries—and not even because it's so laughably horrid, unfunny, and stupid that tearing it apart counts for sport. It's far worse than any of those things: No Strings Attached is so wholly mediocre that there's barely anything worth mentioning about it other than, "Ouch, Natalie. Your timing really sucks." MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The 34th Portland International Film Festival kicks off with Potiche, a not-screened-for-critics Frnech flick that updates "a popular boulevard farce [while] employing a shrewd sense of its vintage camp elements." As required by French law, it stars Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. For more on PIFF, see next week's Mercury and nwfilm.org. Newmark Theater.
Becca (Nicole Kidman, convincing and even a little endearing in her grief) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart, concerned, discouraged, loving) are trying to move on after the death of their toddler, who chased the family dog into the street and was run over by teenaged Jason (Miles Teller). They're going to group couples counseling ("She's with God now. God had to take her. He needed another angel," one couple says of their daughter). They attend housewarming parties ("Oh, this is great. I really need another bathroom set"). But they still can't move on. They can't sell the house, and they especially can't fuck ("I feel like you're trying to rope me into sex!"). And then—spoiler alert!!—the healing process beings. GRANT BRISSEY Fox Tower 10.
A Sundance-approved documentary about the day-to-day life of American soldiers stationed in a remote valley in Afghanistan. Not screened for critics. Laurelhurst Theater.
Religion is scary! Throw some pea soup and a bit of crab walking at that truism, and you've got the makings of a pretty good horror film... if your name is William Friedkin and it's 1973. Alas, The Rite is no The Exoricist. It's not much of anything really: It's boring when it should be scary; it stars a milquetoast Colin O'Donoghue as neophyte priest Michael when it should be all about Anthony Hopkins' exorcist, Father Lucas; and it's crammed with neither-here-nor-there "scare factors" like a plague of frogs (cute!) and a glossy, red-eyed mule (somebody get that horsey a carrot. He looks sad). COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
What's this? A crappy-looking horror flick that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Snake in the Eagle's Shadow
Jackie Chan + Yuen Woo-Ping = kung fu gold. This is fantastic stuff. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Shaolin Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Somewhere's scene-by-scene similarities to Lost in Translation support the popular view that Sofia Coppola is limited by her station—a filmmaker born into Hollywood royalty, and only fit for chronicling the non-problems of the spoiled rich. But that's an unimaginative, ungenerous interpretation: With Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, and now Somewhere, Coppola's demonstrated an exceptional knack for revealing the hollow side of celebrity, and within Somewhere's narrow scope, she offers an informed illustration of the adage that you can't buy happiness. Aside from its boilerplate ending, Somewhere is patient, sweet, and revealing—and a breakout role for Elle Fanning, who single-handedly counters an entire film's worth of ennui. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
A collection of shorts from students at the Northwest Film Center's School of Film. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Team America: World Police
"Burqa! Burqa burqa burqa!" Laurelhurst Theater.
The Way Back
The latest from director Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poets Society, Green Card, Fearless, The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), based on a factually disputed memoir about escapees from a Siberian gulag in World War II. Not screened for critics. Broadway Metroplex, Lloyd Mall 8, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
A "retro-futuristic steampunk thriller" that's ostensibly directed by "Anonymous." (Nice try, Serbian filmmaker Vladan Nikolic! BUSTED!) The New York Times called it a "bewildering collision of noir narration and purple paranoia," while we had to turn off the DVD after 30 minutes. Hey, we tried. Clinton Street Theater.