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 Broadway Metroplex, Century Clackamas Town Center, St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
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.
The Big Uneasy
See review this issue. Director in attendance on Saturday and Sunday. Clinton Street Theater.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Born to be Wild
The nature doc Born to Be Wild includes a “historical reenactment” scene in which a baby orangutan trashes a kitchen and then rides away on the back of a motorcycle. There is also a scene in which sunscreen is applied to the ears of orphaned baby elephant--because without their mothers to provide shade, their ears will burn. Despite an ostensible conservation message (narrated by Morgan Freedman, natch), the correct response to all of this is “Awwwww.” ALISON HALLETT OMSI.
David Lean's 1945 adaption of a Noel Coward play, Brief Encounter sees a British suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) begin an extramarital affair with some dude she meets at a train station (Trevor Howard). The film is a very dated study of guilt and stifled passion against the backdrop of trains pulling in and out of stations. It's supremely melodramatic, with way too much of the housewife's quavering voiceover; the silly woman's misery is entirely a product of her own cowardice. Still, the film is enchantingly dreamlike, and the parallel to Coward's own concealed proclivities gives it emotional heft. NED LANNAMANN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
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 Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
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. 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. 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. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
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.
Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
A digital restoration of Kubrick's 1964 classic. "Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face." Roseway Theater.
A 1974 biographical film about painter Edvard Munch. ("It's a real scream!" enthused Norway's beloved film critic, Norwegian Gene Shalit.) Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's "School of Film Faculty Picks" series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
From Here To Eternity
A digital restoration of the Oscar-laden 1953 drama. Roseway Theater.
Full Metal Jacket
If Stanley Kubrick is one of film's greatest directors (he is), and if Full Metal Jacket is one of his best films (it is), then this thing is required viewing. Sure, at times it can be awkwardly heavy-handed, but overall, Kubrick balances stunning action sequences, gorgeous cinematography, a killer soundtrack, and amazing dialogue in a way that pretty much no one else can. This 1987 story of a few poor fucks stuck in Vietnam is as entertaining as it's ever been, and now, perhaps, even more relevant than ever. Go. ERIK HENRIKSEN See I'm Staying Home. Laurelhurst Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Two irony-clad hipsters—a straight woman and her gay best friend—fall for the unselfconscious charms of a hot new country boy. Insightful look at modern romantic mores, or highbrow camp? Does it matter? ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
Hood to Coast
A doc about the Hood to Coast run. 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.
I Saw the Devil
When it comes to revenge movies, South Korea has had its finger on the squicky trigger for over a decade now, with titles like Oldboy, Memories of Murder, and Nowhere to Hide all proving to be superlatively staged, razor-taut films about some remarkably depraved subjects. Clocking in at 140 minutes, the hotly fanboy-anticipated I Saw the Devil clearly aspires to be the magnum opus of the genre, with a truly loathsome villain and scenes of torture that might have even the most hardened gorehounds reaching for the Pepto. Alas, this cautionary tale about the dangers of staring into the abyss roars so gloppily far over the top that it ultimately deadens the nerves. Which is most likely the point, I realize, but sheesh. ANDREW WRIGHT Living Room 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 Academy Theater, Lake Twin Cinema, Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Poltergeist ripoff Insidious has its moments. In fact, it's much better and scarier than it has a right to be, seeing as it's helmed by director James Wan, the man who unleashed the Saw franchise on the world. If you can forgive the stilted acting, a heavy-handed musical score, and a trimmable 15 or so minutes, you might even call it a decent horror flick. COURTNEY FERGUSON 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.
Kid with the Golden Arm
The Grindhouse Film Festival presents classic Shaw Brothers kung fu action! According to the press release, the rare The Kid with the Golden Arms is "the equivalent to dropping acid in an 18th century Chinese disco with a gang of coked-up homoerotic kung fu masters." Okay! Hollywood Theatre.
Kill the Irishman
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
1988's Indonesian flick in which "the spirit of an ancient evil queen possesses the body of a young anthropological student, who then goes on a murderous rampage." Fair enough. Hollywood Theatre.
Leave Her To Heaven
A new print of the 1945 noir starring Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde. Hollywood Theatre.
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.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Of Gods and Men
A film tracing the spiritual struggle of Christian monks in Algeria. These six graying, nearly feeble French men are menaced by a corrupt military and warring Islamic fundamentalists. To stay or go? Based on a true story, Of Gods and Men is monk-like in its serene meditation on peace, piety, and despair. ANDREW R TONRY Cinema 21, 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 musicians the Klezmatics (The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground), the coming of age dramedy The Matchmaker, and the excellently titled Tango, a Story with Jews, a documentary about "the vital Jewish influence on the origins of tango." More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
"Any time a woman picks up a guitar... It's a radical act," lesbian radio producer Vicki Starr declares in the early moments of Tex Clark's 1995 documentary. Radical Act features a series of interviews with female musicians (most of them lesbians), which attempt to capture and map the recent role of women in rock music. But the film won't reach an audience behind the narrow few who might tune in for nostalgia's sake, thanks to its total lack of context, a reliance on now-familiar tropes about music and empowerment, and the fact that bands like Apostles on Strike and Girls in the Nose aren't exactly household names. ALISON HALLETT Q Center.
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 99W Drive-In, Century Clackamas Town Center.
Reel Nordic Film Night
A screening of the Swedish film The Golden Calf—plus homemade soup for only two dollars! That's how the Norse Hall rolls, yo. Norse Hall.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Duncan Jones' latest, Source Code, shares some thematic similarities with his striking 2009 debut, Moon—this film, it so happens, is also about an isolated guy who's at the mercy of technology and those who wield it—but it has little of the freshness and originality that made Moon remarkable. Despite a few creepy sci-fi touches, Source Code is a vague, competent, and utterly forgettable thriller. ERIK HENRIKSEN 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.
High-school wrestling might be the un-prettiest sport yet devised by humans, a competition in which pasty adolescent boys, bedecked in unflattering singlets, grapple one another while rolling around a gymnasium floor. Win Win doesn't shy away from this distinctly ugly truth. Director Thomas McCarthy's (The Station Agent) film depicts high-school wrestling in all its painful, gangly, bepimpled awkwardness, and the surprising result is one of the best sports movies in recent years. Of course, Win Win isn't exclusively a "sports movie": There's a bunch of family drama centered around the team's star wrestler, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), but it's one of the film's many strengths that it neatly avoids the sulking and brooding of your typical adolescent-in-trouble flicks. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.