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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Bad Teacher's humor, while amusing, rarely executes anything more clever than simplistic immaturity, wherein any teacher who says "fuck" is inherently hilarious, and sexy ladies can effortlessly trick men while taking on fatties as abused sidekicks, because that's just how the world of cinema works. Throughout is the sense that a more clever—or at least a grimier—version of this film exists somewhere on a cutting-room floor, but Bad Teacher doesn't do much to inspire a search. MARJORIE SKINNER 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.
A Dutch melodrama following three brides' emigration from Holland to New Zealand and the ensuing romantic and familial issues. At the center of their experience is Frank, a handsome man who is betrothed to none of them but winds up a pivotal, binding figure. (The constant flashback/forward of the film's final destination is the reuniting of the three women at his funeral.) The performances here are good, but on an entertainment level, it's on par with a half-decent paperback romance—the kind that gets a point for somewhat interesting historical references, but would still be totally embarrassing if you got caught reading it. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
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.
Buck is Buck Brannaman, the real-life horse trainer who inspired Robert Redford's film The Horse Whisperer back in the late '90s. Director Cindy Meehl met him at one of the clinics he teaches, crisscrossing horse country to impart his philosophy. It's a touching transcendence of a childhood marred by physical abuse, and the result is an admiring portrait that should be required viewing for anyone working with horses. Brannaman in attendance for the 4:45 and 7 pm shows on Sun July 3. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
A messy mélange of spy flicks, Herbie the Love Bug movies, and racing videogame bombast, Cars 2 plops a greasy little oil stain on Pixar's previously shiny name. This from a fan of 2006's Cars, a rather maligned and sweet little picture that never got the love it deserved. Pixar's newest is officially the redheaded stepchild in a family with impeccable breeding. Cars 2 is a product of the worst kind of group-think—a chop-shop jalopy vrooming all over the track with Larry the Cable Guy steering. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D
There's a scene in Werner Herzog's 3D documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams when his guide through the Chauvet Caves instructs the touring party to stand still, be silent, and listen to the pure sound of life deep beneath the Earth. The silence is supposed to be so profound, a man can hear his own heartbeat. The moment ends up being profound for the viewer, as well. Check yourself. I bet you're holding your breath. Until their discovery in 1994, the Chauvet Caves had been buried for tens of thousands of years, their contents preserved as an important historical record of a time long past. Only a handful of scientists are allowed inside, and even they must stay on a walkway barely two feet wide. Herzog being allowed to film inside these caves is a tremendous thing; that he has done so in three dimensions means the rest of us get a virtual tour of this wondrous setting. JAMIE S. RICH Living Room Theaters.
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Angry, hurt, self-critical, and exhausted—but still crazy smart and still crazy funny—the Conan O'Brien captured by director Rodman Flender's fly-on-the-wall camera is markedly different from the one we've gotten to know on TV. "I might be a fucking genius, or I might be the biggest dick ever. Or I might be both," O'Brien says, and evidence for all three options is presented: Here's Conan, excitedly, nervously pouring his talent and dedication into a stage show; here's Conan, being a total asshole to a surprised, confused Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock; here's Conan, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, seconds before they all go onstage, happily making up one of the show's comedy routines on the spot. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
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 Living Room Theaters.
Everything Must Go
Writer/director Dan Rush's debut feature—based on a sliver of a short story by Raymond Carver called "Why Don't You Dance?", which is so minimal it could almost be considered flash fiction—is clear, concrete evidence of Will Ferrell's remarkable ability as an actor even when he doesn't have a silly costume or bushy mustache to hide behind. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.
Green Lantern has looked pretty goddamned dumb in every trailer and TV ad. That was no misrepresentation; no confused, bumbling media machine improperly selling their sci-fi epic. Green Lantern is exactly the giant-size lump of glowing green stupid it's always appeared to be. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS 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.
Jeremy's Cleverly Titled
British TV Night
Attn. Anglophiles! Here's some British TV for you, featuring everything from Doctor Who (and Amy Pond! Swoon) to to The Supersizers Go... to Blackadder. ANGLOPHOBES NEED NOT ATTEND. Alberta Street Public House.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
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.
A recycled princess fantasy for bored tweens. A spoiled girl from Texas (Selena Gomez) swaps places with a spoiled girl from Europe (Selena Gomez), and the audience is asked to distinguish between their respective degrees of entitlement. If this is the charmless wish fulfillment that passes for entertainment these days, then the future ain’t looking good. Invest in online dating sites and insulin. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Mr. Popper's Penguins
This is a movie about Jim Carrey and some penguins! We did not review it. Various Theaters.
Page One: Inside the
New York Times
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Patricio Guzmán: Memory Works
The Northwest Film Center's retrspective of the work of Chilean documentarian Patricio Guzmán. This week: Nostalgia for the Light (2010), The Battle for Chile (1975, 1976), and Chile, Obstinate Memory (1997). Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See I'm Staying Home. Bagdad Theater.
To say Submarine is reminiscent of films like Rushmore and Harold and Maude is no insult—those movies are great, and Submarine wears its influences proudly. But at the same time, Submarine is a coming-of-age story that's perfectly its own. Some high school films are genre pleasures, fun for what they are, but Submarine transcends its well-worn genre with heart, energy, and style. ALISON HALLETT Academy Theater.
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.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
Clint Eastwood. Jeff Bridges. 1974. That gets a star. Laurelhurst Theater.
"This is what I call a target-rich environment." Academy.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
See review this issue. 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.
In 2005'S Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon played fictionalized versions of themselves. They're reunited, along with director Michael Winterbottom, for The Trip, a six-episode BBC series that's been edited into a two-hour feature for American audiences. It's an odd duck of a movie, and an episodic and generally plotless one, with heavy reliance on improvised scenes between Coogan and Brydon. It helps that the two are both scaldingly hilarious, but one wonders why Winterbottom, always a fearless and provocative director, made the concession to cobble the TV series into a feature—especially during the DVD age, when American audiences are able to appreciate British programs (programmes?) like The Office and Doctor Who in full. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
The Ultimate Rock Sing-Along
Videos from AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Journey, and more on the big screen, with lyrics, so you can make an ass of yourself in public. Go ahead. It's all you, Mr. Bad Medicine. Hollywood Theatre.
A colorful crime flick, both lurid and unique. In the chaotic Congolese city of Kinshasa, Riva (Patsha Bay) has just returned from a years-long stretch in neighboring Angola with a truck of stolen gasoline. In a city where petrol is worth its weight in blood, that makes Riva a very powerful player, and he knows it, flaunting his wealth in everybody's face. When he goes after Nora (Manie Malone), the girlfriend of an established Congolese player, pretty much everybody in Kinshasa wants Riva dead. NED LANNAMANN Clinton Street Theater.
Water for Elephants
A romance featuring the impressively unlikeable pairing of Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. 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 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.