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.
See Geek Out, this issue. Bagdad Theater.
Band of Outsiders
The French new wave got its name from a store sign ("Nouvelle Vague") in the background of a scene in this wispy Jean-Luc Godard film from 1964, in which two jerks seduce a girl in order to steal money from a lodger in her aunt's house. There are some great sequences—the dance scene in the café, for one—but these characters act like spoiled brats, and Godard's spontaneous direction, once considered innovative, now just seems half-assed. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "Classic French Crime Films" series. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A drama based on the life of Somali model Waris Dirie. Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2:
The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, based on the series of children's books written by Jeff Kinney, was actually pretty good. It wasn't anywhere near as poignant as The Wonder Years, but Greg Heffley (played by Zachary Gordon) had the same endearingly awkward characteristics that made Kevin Arnold so relatable—just like Arnold, Heffley is an average kid with nerdy friends who puts too much stake in being popular. This time around, though, the film isn't as charming. It's another half-assed sequel that strips away any character development to make room for cheap, child-appropriate slapstick (there's a montage of brothers bonding over fake vomit), music by Ke$ha (which almost caused me to have my own moment of real vomit), and a party scene full of kids getting high on Coca-Cola products and doing really crazy things like... spraying whipped cream into their mouths straight from the can (REBELS). MEGAN SELING Various Theaters.
The Faux Film Festival
The Faux Film Festival ("We poke fun at stuff!™") returns for its seventh(!) year, with its usual shtick of "faux commercials, faux trailers, spoofs, satires, parodies, and mockumentaries." More info: fauxfilm.com. Hollywood Theatre.
The Gold Rush
Charlie Chaplin goes to snowbound Alaska for the Klondike Gold Rush in this 1925 silent comedy, reedited in 1942 to include Chaplin's narration. It's one of his best, which means it's whimsical, sad, lovely, and hilarious. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "The Films of Charlie Chaplin" series. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Gone with the Pope
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
A presentation by local filmmaker, director, and actor Grace Carter. More info: grand-detour.org. Grand Detour.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
Hop suffers from a problem that often plagues films in the live-action-with-cartoons genre--while sharing a frame, the actors can’t quite act like convincing humans, and the cartoons can’t quite be as goofy or entertaining as you want them to. CHRIS COLLISON Various Theaters.
You've probably never heard of director Tom Shadyac, but a few of his films should ring a bell: Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams, The Nutty Professor, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective—pretty heady stuff, there. So when Shadyac wrecked on his bicycle and conked his head, he suddenly got contemplative about his life and the world, and wanted to do something about it. That "it" is the documentary I Am, for which he traveled all the way from Malibu, California, to San Francisco, California, to chat up people who have never seen his movies, like Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky. The childlike pretext to these conversations was to determine what is wrong with the world and how we can change it for the better. Yes, it really is that vague, but there are worse ways to while away the hours than to listen to what people like Tutu, Zinn, and Chomsky have to say. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
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 Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The newest adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's oft-adapted book embraces the gothic sensationalism of its source material, playing it straight and spooky, with nary a wink to the audience. Wind and rain whip across the moors, rooms are lit only by candle, and director Cary Fukunaga throws in a few good old-fashioned jump scares, just because he can. It's this commitment to Jane Eyre's gothic side that keeps the film from straying into camp, and keeps it fundamentally entertaining even as it tears through that goofy story: orphan Jane's heartless aunt, her hellish boarding school, her post as a governess where she meets the almost comically virile Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender) and learns his deep, dark secret. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Films by Thomas Comerford
Films and lectures by Chicago "media artist, musician, writer, and educator" Thomas Comerford. More info: cinemaproject.org. Clinton Street Theater.
The problem with Charlie Chaplin's 1952 love letter to vaudeville can be summed up in two words: clown ballet. That's right: there is a goddamn clown ballet in the middle of this thing, and the movie is therefore un-recommend-able. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "The Films of Charlie Chaplin" series. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Bradley Cooper is a dumb loser who finds a magic pill that makes his brain huge and reminds him to get a haircut. Then, using his haircut, he makes eleventy frillion dollars, but then the pills start making him die (either from taking them or from not taking them—the movie can't decide). Also there's some guy who chases him around sometimes, but that guy turns out to not even be important or scary at the end. Then Robert De Niro is like, "Guess what, Bradley Cooper? I gotcha magic pills and now you have to work for me at my company which provides excellent benefits and also we get along great so really there's very little at stake here! Or else you DIE!" And B-Coop's like, "Psych, DeNiro, because thanks to my giant brain I figured out how to NOT die, and those pills are stupid now. STUFFED." This movie is terrible, but actually kind of impressive when you learn that director Neil Burger is an actual sentient hamburger named Neil. LINDY WEST 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.
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 Hollywood Theatre.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost—the duo from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Spaced—play a couple of road-tripping dweebs who pick up an alien who has the voice of Seth Rogen. Does this genuinely funny, surprisingly sweet comedy do for sci-fi what Shaun of the Dead did for zombie flicks or Hot Fuzz did for action epics? Ehh, not quite. But still: This'll be one of the better and funnier comedies you'll see this year. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Portland Jewish Film Festival
The Northwest Film Center and the Institute for Judaic Studies team up for the 19th Portland Jewish Film Festival, which runs though April 17. This week's films include a documentary about writer Mordecai Richler (Mordecai Richler: Last of the Wild Jews), the historical drama The Round Up, the "erotically charged" drama Little Rose, the biographical Grace Paley: Collected Shorts (with Paley biographer Judith Arcana in attendance), and Army of Crime, a thriller about working-class immigrants in the French Resistance. More info: nwfilm.org.
Saving Pelican 895
A 40-minute documentary about "LA 895"—AKA, one of pelicans who got all oiled up when the Deepwater Horizon ruined everything. Director in attendance. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
If the moral of Sucker Punch is "Girls rule!"—and I'm pretty sure it is, unless it's "Watching scantily clad chicks fight steampunk zombie Nazis is significantly more boring than one would expect"—it's weird that the way co-writer/director Zack Snyder tells it is to treat his characters like punching bags for sexual and psychological abuse. To be fair (uh, I guess?), Snyder's had more explicit rape scenes in his other films—both 300 and Watchmen had chunks of sordid ick—but Sucker Punch might be the first time he's based an entire narrative, such as it is, on the conceit that women are super easy to beat the crap out of. (Unless they're fighting robots, that is—then they rule! Especially if they're wearing miniskirts!) ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A digital restoration of Scorsese's 1976 classic. Fun fact! Taxi Driver was originally titled Bickle's Pickle. Roseway Theater.
The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee "Scratch" Perry
A doc about dub, reggae, and reggae pioneer Lee "Scratch" Perry. Clinton Street Theater.
"I kept asking Clarence why our world seemed to be collapsing and things seemed to be getting so shitty. And he'd say, 'That's the way it goes, but don't forget—it goes the other way, too.'" Laurelhurst Theater.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
See One Day at a Time, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
A quietly riveting documentary about art, family, envy, and the oft-consumptive properties therein, The Woodmans traces frigid unrest in a family of working artists—primarily through the posthumous lens of its most renowned emissary, beloved photo martyr Francesca Woodman. ZAC PENNINGTON Hollywood Theatre.