The Adjustment Bureau
A mind-warped romance starring Matt Damon as David Norris, formerly America's youngest congressman, now its youngest losing senatorial candidate. On the night of his defeat, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt) when they hide out in the same men's room. Sparks fly, but circumstances intervene, and the two are separated... only to run into each other on a bus weeks later. It's kismet! Except this second meeting wasn't supposed to happen. A man in a fedora (Anthony Mackie) was supposed to waylay David and give his colleagues time to build a different path for him. The screw-up means David discovers the secret of the universe: Our lives are already written, and there are a bunch of men with hats who make it their business to ensure we don't screw it all up. The Adjustment Bureau is a fun surprise, especially since writer/director George Nolfi built his kiss-kiss, chase-chase movie from an unlikely toolbox: a 1954 short story by Philip K. Dick. What not even ol' weirdy Dick could've ever imagined, though, is that The Adjustment Bureau is one of the best cinematic romances in a good long while. JAMIE S. RICH Various Theaters.
Paul Giamatti plays Barney Panofsky, the central character in the film adaptation of Jewish Canadian author Mordecai Richler's final novel. Set and filmed in Richler's native Montreal, Barney's Version is an odd duck of a movie, effectively encompassing a decades-spanning plot, but fragmenting the narrative to make it all fit into 135 minutes. It works almost entirely due to Giamatti's performance as Barney, a television producer who boozes heavily, smokes cigars, and ignores his wife and family whenever a Canadiens game is on. He also spends his entire second marriage lusting after the pretty stranger who turned up at the wedding, and he may have murdered his best friend, Boogie (Scott Speedman). NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
Battle: Los Angeles
It's easy to break down the DNA of Battle: Los Angeles—its parents are H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down. This is an old-school war flick, albeit one in which the bad guys aren't Nazis but rather bulb-headed extraterrestrial cyborgs. What Battle does right is damn impressive: While alien armadas aren't anything new to anyone who's ever seen a movie, something that's seen a lot less is an America at war—an America with smoke-clogged streets, burned-out cars, and rocket-split buildings. In Battle, there's little doubt which force has the superior military; the resulting damage to our world is strangely tangible and jarring to behold. But what Battle does wrong might be a deal-killer: If you're just looking for some military sci-fi action, you won't be disappointed; if you're looking for anything more, you will be. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
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 Hollywood Theatre
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 Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
Directed by Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt, The Good Girl, Chuck & Buck), the critical consensus on Cedar Rapids seems to be something along the lines of "Frank Capra's 'aw-shucks' earnestness meets the 'edge' of Apatow"—and if that sounds like just about the most mind-numbingly vanilla bullshit you've ever heard of, you're probably giving it too much credit. ZAC PENNINGTON Fox Tower 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
The Chaplin Revue
Three Chaplin shorts: A Dog's Life (1918), Shoulder Arms (1918), and The Pilgrim (1923). Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "The Films of Charlie Chaplin" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Children of Paradise
Michael Carne and Jacques Prevert's three-hour-long "evocation of the forces of romanticism and social change in mid-19th century Paris." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Cinema of Ernie Gehr
Cinema Project presents a program of selected works from the self-taught filmmaker, featuring films made from 1972-2010. Director in attendance. More info: cinemaproject.org. Clinton Street Theater.
At its outset, Cold Weather looks suspiciously like another mumblecore joint about pretty, mopey people—not that there's anything wrong with that, especially when writer/director Aaron Katz reveals a keen yet sympathetic understanding of his lead character's predicament. The discontent Katz establishes in Cold Weather's early scenes—and that I wish he'd mined even further—is that of a generation who were promised more than the current economy can deliver. But a few minutes in, against the gray streets of Portland, Cold Weather's true colors emerge: It's a sly genre fiction that superimposes a classic detective story over a moody mumblecore backdrop. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
1975's blaxploitation flick, presented by the Grindhouse Film Festival. Hollywood Theatre.
Dust & Illusions: 30 Years of Burning Man
A documentary about Burning Man that "questions our ability as humans to build communities that can satisfy everyone." (Dust & Illusion's findings aside, Burning Man has taught us one thing: Humans are certainly capable of building communities that annoy the living shit out of everyone who isn't in them.) Cinema 21.
British writer Rosemary Sutcliff wrote dozens of YA historical novels, most of them set during the Roman Empire. Her books are rich with period detail, superb characterizations, and plenty of action—in other words, they're fantastic adventure stories, and they're not just for younger readers. One of Sutcliff's best books, 1954's The Eagle of the Ninth, has been made into a movie directed by Kevin Macdonald, who was responsible for The Last King of Scotland and the harrowing documentary Touching the Void. Why, then, is The Eagle so dour and unpleasant? At least part of it has to do with lead Channing Tatum, who resembles not a person so much as a mound of wet dough. NED LANNAMANN Mission Theater.
The Great Dictator
Charlie Chaplin didn't start talking in movies until 1940's The Great Dictator, a very funny takeoff on Hitler and fascism. Chaplin said in later years that he never would have made light of the situation in Europe if he knew how dire it had actually been, but the result is a surreal, biting political satire, the best of its kind until 1964's Dr. Strangelove. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "The Films of Charlie Chaplin" series. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
"With Mogwai comes much responsibility. I cannot sell him at any price." Laurelhurst Theater.
I Saw the Devil
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Just Go With It
It must be awesome being friends with Adam Sandler, because he will gladly build an entire movie around the premise of hanging out with you. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
Charlie Chaplin's first full-length film, 1921's The Kid, is a highly successful blend of comedy and pathos. The familiar Tramp finds an orphaned kid, played by Jackie Coogan in perhaps the only child performance that's cute without being cloying. Preceded by The Idle Class, a short that sees Chaplin's Tramp wreaking havoc at a posh country club. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "The Films of Charlie Chaplin" series. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A King in New York
Charlie Chaplin's 1957 comedy is the mostly breezy tale of an exiled king navigating Manhattan, but by its end, it becomes a biting commentary on McCarthyism. Chaplin was kicked out of the U.S. by the House of Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, and his anger peeks through this film's otherwise bubbly surface. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "The Films of Charlie Chaplin" series. NED LANNAMANN
The Last Lions
As the human population booms and climate change becomes more urgent, nature docs have almost no choice but to become increasingly tragic. The Last Lions, about a female lion and her three cubs adapting and surviving in a corner of Botswana, exists in part to raise awareness of the rapidly shrinking big cat population due to human encroachment. No humans appear onscreen, though thanks to narration from an occasionally eye-roll-inducing Jeremy Irons, we're reminded that many of their challenges are outside normal circumstances. Made by a husband and wife team of explorers-in-residence at National Geographic, The Last Lions contains gorgeous footage, though even for a nature documentary it's graphic in its violence. It also contains what's possibly the most heartbreaking lion-cub scene ever recorded, but don't let that, nor its sometimes soaring levels of anthropomorphism, deter you. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Le Cercle Rouge
Jean-Pierre Melville's 1970 heist flick. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "Classic French Crime Films" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A writer takes a magical drug and gets special powers... FOR A PRICE. Review forthcoming at portlandmercury.com. Various Theaters.
The Lincoln Lawyer
In The Lincoln Lawyer, Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Haller, a criminal defense attorney who is all about gettin' paid. Sometimes he refers to money with a cool code name, like "Mr. Green" (cool!). His black friend Earl can't get over how cool Mickey is, and always says things like, "You know what? You would have done all right on the streets," and then Mickey is all, "Sheee-yit. What do you think I am, Earl?" and then Earl chuckles. (ANSWER THE QUESTION, EARL.) One day, Mickey takes on the biggest case of his career, defending creepy Ryan Phillippe, a rich dude who maybe or maybe didn't beat the shit out of a prostitute lady. As Mickey gets deeper into the case, he realizes that things are not always as they seem. In fact, things are dangerous, and Mickey is in a pickle! Sheee-yit! At this point, Mickey forgets about gettin' paid and is all about makin' things right. I kind of liked this movie. I give it a six. LINDY WEST Various Theaters.
Lord of the Dance 3D
The embarrassment of Ireland, now presented in three migraine-inducing dimensions! Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Mars Needs Moms 3D
Martians abduct an Earth mom (Joan Cusack) in an effort to have her raise their Martian babies; meanwhile, her crybaby prepubescent son stows away aboard their spaceship to save her. Along the way, Crybaby Son meets a bunch of super racist alien characterizations in the modern sci-fi mold à la Jar Jar Binks or just about anyone in Avatar, witnesses some creepy interspecies love, and learns the meaning of family or whatever. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
The Music Never Stopped
Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) gets a serious case of the brain tumors, which turns him into a vegetable until a music therapist (Julia Ormond) plays him songs by his favorite band, the Grateful Dead. Problem is, his pops (J.K. Simmons) hates the Dead—their acid-fried jam-rock rebellion is the reason father and son became estranged years ago! (Dad's more of a Bing Crosby fan.) So we watch Old Man Squaresville and Young Hippie Burnout tenderly learn to love again over the strains of "Uncle John's Band" and "Truckin'," and if this sounds like your cup of tea, then fuck you. Pucci's fake beard looks like trimmings left over from the set of Gettysburg, and the movie even reenacts a Grateful Dead concert, complete with actors miming to "Touch of Gray" and OH DEAR GOD it is so unbelievably horrendous. If you have a Deadhead in your life who actually wants to see this sentimental piece of shit, here is what you do: Take them to the theater, open the door, let them out, then drive far, far away. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The 1971 animated film inspired by the drugged-out musical ramblings of your parents' favorite coconut troubadour, Harry Nilsson. Clinton St. Theater.
Oftentimes you hear the phrase, "Hollywood doesn't give children enough credit." And maybe that's true... but then again, it's not like most kids are nuclear physicists. Generally speaking, they like movies about robot cars, insipid princesses, and talking Chihuahuas. So while a certain level of credit is certainly welcome, the animated feature Rango provides far too much for the kids—yet not quite enough for adults. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Red Riding Hood
Director Catherine Hardwicke's (Twilight) tween-targeted take on the fable is flaming pile of wolf shit that will make you die 1,000 slow, painful deaths—not the least of which is watching poor Julie Christie play a grandma with dreadlocks. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
The Red Shoes
A restored print of the 1948 ballet flick. Cinema 21.
The centerpiece of Jules Dassin's 1955 pitch-black noir is perhaps the greatest heist ever filmed. Without a single line of dialogue or note of music, the immaculately detailed sequence takes up nearly a half-hour of screentime. The fallout after the robbery is nearly as suspenseful; even with a musical number and a cute little kid, Rififi remains a bleak, black, unforgettable crime film. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "Classic French Crime Films" series. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A homegrown horror-comedy that features Daniel Baldwin (of not-being-Alec fame) and Lloyd Kaufman, the creative force behind Troma. It also features a bunch of strippers. I like zombies! I like boobs! I like Baldwins! I figured that this movie could be all kinds of bad but it surely wouldn't be boring. WROOONGG! Man, I haven't watched a Troma film since high school. I forgot that the main thing they are is boring. I stuck around long enough to see Daniel Baldwin's mush-mouthed cameo then peaced the eff out. I have a life to live. DAVE BOW Clinton Street Theater.
Summer of 69
A fun, bawdy sex comedy directed by the owner of the Clinton St. Theater, Seth Sonstein. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
A Woman of Paris
Holy christ, more Charlie Chaplin. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "The Films of Charlie Chaplin" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.