The latest from Takashi Miike is the definition of a slow burn: Front loaded with portent and exposition, 13 Assassins takes entirely too long to get moving, but once it does, Miike doesn't hold back. He might be trying to make a serious samurai epic, but what it seems like Miike really wants to do is assemble an epic—and epically badass—action flick that just so happens to feature a bunch of pissed-off samurais. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre, Liberty Theatre.
'80s Anthem Sing-Along
Songs and clips from '80s hits played "back-to-back (with lyrics onscreen) in what can only be deemed as inspirational overload." Hollywood Theatre.
The Art of Getting By
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is approaching middle age, has no idea how to maintain a romantic relationship, and is reeling from the recent death of his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), who came out of the closet only four years before he died of cancer at age 74. Writer/director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) based the insightful, funny, and moving Beginners on his experiences with his own father, and a personal sense of discovery pervades the film. Mills refrains from drawing any direct cause-and-effect correlations between Oliver's girl troubles and his parents' troubled relationship—there's no blame or judgment, only an honest search for understanding. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
The Best of the Northwest Film & Video Festival
The Northwest Film Center's annual roundup of highlights from their Film & Video Festival. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Better This World
It’s a crazy story: A pair of liberal activist kids from George W. Bush’s hometown set out to stir up some shit at the 2008 Republican National Convention—and wind up in prison on terrorism charges. Directors Kelly Duane and Katie Galloway tell this surprising tale of a post-9/11 crackdown in the refreshingly nonpartisan documentary Better This World. The film's strength is that it feels balanced and honest, even as it revolves around sensational acts involving a sketchy FBI informant, Molotov cocktails, and a protest gone terribly wrong. It's not entirely riveting, but it's certainly interesting, and a must-see for people who give two shits about the justice system. SARAH MIRK Clinton Street Theater.
Hollywood has traditionally done a terrible job representing female friendships, so much so that in the lexicon of cinematic relationships, "bromance" almost seems the most fitting term to describe the rapport between Annie (Kristen Wiig) and her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). They make lewd jokes, get drunk together, and seem to actually enjoy one another's company—but when Lillian gets engaged, unstable Annie proves ill equipped to handle her maid-of-honor duties. She's soon locked in a jealous power struggle with gorgeous alpha-bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne), and a love triangle of sorts emerges as Annie and Helen bitterly vie for Lillian's affection. But Bridesmaids is too smart to let girl-on-girl hostility win the day. In fact, the very concept of a "mean girl" is among the chick-flick tropes that Bridesmaids gives a good hard shake. Not every joke lands, but enough do, and the always-likeable Wiig—herself something of a perennial bridesmaid—proves fully capable of carrying a film. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Double Hour
A cross between a psychological thriller and a ghost story, The Double Hour is centered upon Sonia (Kseniya Rappoport), a lonely chambermaid at a high-end hotel in Turin who hooks up with Guido (Filippo Timi), an ex-cop turned private security guard. In the first of the film's many surprises, their budding romance is cut short by tragedy, and Sonia plunges into further torment and confusion. The film doubles back several times to reveal that things aren't what they have seemed (except when they are) through a series of devices that, while not spectacularly clever, are intriguing enough to keep things going. But the real credit goes to Rappaport and Timi for their magnetizing onscreen presence. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Filmusik: Planet of Dinosaurs
The 1979 flick Planet of Dinosaurs, accompanied by live voice acting and music from "local jazz renegades" the Blue Cranes. On June 23rd, it'll be a Spanish-language performance featuring Enrique Andrade—better known as THE SPANISH VOICE OF THE MAX TRAIN! Hollywood Theatre.
"First you gotta do the truffle shuffle." Academy Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Hangover Part II
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "To experience one raging drug-induced blackout may be regarded as a misfortune; to experience two looks like carelessness." And "carelessness" is the operative word in The Hangover Part II, the fairly unnecessary sequel to the sporadically amusing The Hangover. In the first outing, three oddball pals (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) black out during a bachelor party, forget everything that happened, and then frantically comb Las Vegas for the missing groom. While the story meandered at times, the upsides were memorable: the leads were likeable, the script sneakily mirrored a pulp mystery, and the film was peppered with bizarro dollops of tigers, hookers, and Mike Tyson. Here, we get more of the same. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Hitchcock and Herrmann
Hitchcock's Vertigo, preceded by a live appearance from David Shiffrin and musicians from Chamber Music Northwest—who'll be playing and discussing the music of Vertigo composer Bernard Herrmann. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Hobo with a Shotgun
Based on a faux trailer created for the publicity blitz surrounding Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse, Jason Eisener's Hobo with a Shotgun joins the likes of Machete and The Devil's Rejects in the curious subgenre of movies that exist to pay homage to the exploitation flicks of yesteryear. Seemingly aware that he's a little late to the party, Eisener lays the gore on thick with a wink-wink sensibility that is both energizing and hollow—Hobo starts off exhilarating, but turns noxious and empty fast. DAVE BOW Hollywood Theatre, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
How the Fire Fell
An impressive debut from Portland director Edward P. Davee, How the Fire Fell is a haunting depiction of the turn of the century Christian cult created in Corvallis by Edmund Creffield. A sordid tale of hysteria, polygamy, nudity, and violence, this source material is rich with possibilities that Davee effectively taps into, boosted by an original score composed by Joe Haege and John Askew. Haege also stars as Creffield in a role that demonstrates his far-reaching abilities as an actor, previously glimpsed in Nick Peterson's treacly Field Guide to November Days. The local films of any hype in recent history have too often registered as disappointing clichés, but Davee's deft, weird, dark film is a promise that it needn't be that way. Davee, Director of Photography Scott Ballard, and Haege in attendance. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Based on the best-selling book series by Megan McDonald, this movie is for people 2 to 6 years old, and should probably not be seen by adults without brain injuries. LIZ ELKINS Various Theaters.
Kung Fu Panda 2
Jack Black returns to provide the voice of a fat CG panda who does kung fu. There is nothing else to say about this movie. Various Theaters.
Luchino Visconti's 1963 Italian drama. See next week's Mercury for our review. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Extended Edition
A big-screen showing of Peter Jackson's extended cut of 2002's The Two Towers, preceded by a taped introduction by Jackson. The extended cut of Return of the King will screen Tues June 28. Consider yourself informed, dweeb. Century Eastport 16, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Louder Than a Bomb
I'll be honest: I don't like slam poetry. But Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs' documentary about Chicago high school poetry slam champions won over even an open-mic cynic like me. The low-budget doc builds intimate portraits of the tough lives of talented Chicago teens as it follows four teams to the world's largest slam poetry competition. SARAH MIRK Living Room Theaters.
A psychological drama in which a mother (Frances Hearn) deals with the death of her father and her relationship with her son. Director in attendance. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Given pioneers' near-mythological status, it's easy to forget that it would've sucked to be one of 'em. Sure, adorable li'l Laura Ingalls Wilder might have bonded with her loving family as they built a little house on the prairie, but also... y'know... DONNER PARTY. That frontier life of unrelenting suckitude is excruciatingly well rendered in Meek's Cutoff, the latest from director Kelly Reichardt and writer Jon Raymond, the duo responsible for two other Oregon-set dramas, 2006's excellent Old Joy and 2008's mope-tacular Wendy and Lucy. Here, Reichardt and Raymond tell the harrowing tale of several pioneers—including Solomon and Emily Tetherow (Will Patton and a great Michelle Williams)—who're lost on the unforgiving Oregon Trail. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre, Lake Twin Cinema.
Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris is a lightweight fantasy, sure, but it's nothing less than a shocking return to form for Woody Allen, who's pulled himself out of his recent slump of truly awful movies by revisiting the magical whimsy that worked so well in The Purple Rose of Cairo. (That's the one where Jeff Daniels climbs off the movie screen to romance Mia Farrow.) Allen's back in control here, stirring fantasy and reality into something that—despite the film's muddled logic and complete disregard for historical fact—is both comic and winningly romantic. While far from flawless, this is one of the most purely enjoyable films Allen's ever made. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Mr. Popper's Penguins
This is a movie about Jim Carrey and some penguins! We did not review it. Various Theaters.
Pirates of the Caribbean:
On Stranger Tides
Ahoy, mateys! Alas, our pillagin' and partyin' voyage had to come to depressin' end. Ever since the glorious year of two-aught-aught-three—when Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl hoisted her fearsome flag and sailed into theaters, delightin' all us brave buccaneers—we've had a jolly good run, savvy? Whether we be dressin' up like Johnny Depp an' affectin' his girlish mannerisms, proudly hoistin' the ol' Jolly Roger to a place a' high honor above our futons, or talkin' like pirates to all them landlubbers on Talk Like a Pirate Day, there isn't a single raider on all the Seven Seas who can't vow that we've found a way to enjoy ourselves and annoy everybody else whilst doin' it! But 'tis no longer! For though we weathered and pirated our way through those foul... whatever those other Pirates of the Caribbean sequels were called, thar can't be any doubt that this latest Pirates film be a boring piece of shit. "FEARSOME CAP'N" GREG EISENBERG (FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST PIRATE ENTHUSIASTS ASSN.) Various Theaters.
"Twelve cabins. Twelve vacancies." Laurelhurst Theater.
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.
A documentary about the death of the father of director Lawrence Johnson, "and the garage-sized storage unit of the stuff he left behind." Director in attendance on Fri June 17. Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Like most J.J. Abrams stuff, Super 8 works better the less you know, but here: A charming gang of nerdy kids—on summer vacation, filming an 8mm zombie movie—witnesses, at jarringly close range, a massive train crash. Onboard? Top-secret Air Force cargo. Soon, microwaves and dogs are going missing, something's making weird noises in the woods, and the kids' steel mill town is taken over by armed airmen. For Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney)—who's already dealing with the death of his mother, a gruff dad (Kyle Chandler), and a crush on a classmate (Elle Fanning)—the mystery's too much to resist. It's hard not to point out Super 8's gears and pulleys: It's like if The Sandlot met E.T., or Freaks and Geeks met Close Encounters. But what's remarkable isn't just how well Abrams pulls off those honest Spielbergian touches—tense families, cluttered dining rooms, kids not just riding bikes but riding bikes with purpose—but how effective those decades-old details still are. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Tree of Life
With The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick's created a film that embodies the best and worst of his tendencies. I'd tell you what it's about, but it's kind of about everything: Cosmic and daring and intimate and insightful, it straddles, dodders, and occasionally trips along the thin black line between glorious success and well-intentioned failure. It ranges from dourly introspective familial drama to life-and-death struggles between dinosaurs, spanning eons and species and the tiny distances between people. Sometimes it works, beautifully and boldly and with Old Testament-style grandeur; sometimes it feels like a deleted scene from Jurassic Park. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
X-Men: First Class
Set amid the nuclear panic of the Cuban Missile Crisis, X-Men: First Class aims to both prequelize a weary franchise and mash up superhero pulp with '60s style. After the mediocrity of the series' third installment, and the eye-scathingly godawful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there's nowhere for the series to go but up, but First Class still takes a fun premise and weighs it down with too many characters (most of 'em scraped from the bottom of Marvel Comics' barrel, like Banshee, an annoying ginger who does nothing but screech at the top of his lungs), uneven CG, and a frantic script. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.