A new collaboration between the Hollywood Theatre, Ground Kontrol, and the folks behind Filmusik, Arcade-O-Vision lets attendees play old-school videogames on the big screen while live bands play eight-bit-inspired music. Tonight: Konami's 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade brawler, soundtracked by Electric Opera Company and Cosmic Fluke. Plus, 1990's live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick will play beforehand! Hollywood Theatre.
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
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.
Best of Ottawa
Selections from 2010's edition of the biggest animation festival in North America. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Bloodied But Unbowed
A doc that aims to capture "the rise and fall of an epic era"—the '70s punk scene in Vancouver. Not screened for critics. Clinton Street Theater.
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.
Dirty Pretty Things
An African illegal immigrant (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works as a cab driver by day and a hotel desk clerk by night, despite his training as a doctor. When he does sleep, it's on the couch of a Turkish illegal immigrant (Audrey Tautou from Amélie). He soon discovers an illicit kidney-selling scheme that is preying on fellow immigrants. Frears' London is engaging in that it is a place where corruption is taken for granted, but his plot resolves itself mechanically. ANDY SPLETZER Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The First Beautiful Thing
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
1980's creature feature, written by John Sayles(!) and starring the always-badass Robert Forster as a cop who hunts down a giant, man-eating gator in Chicago. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Tom Hanks co-wrote, directed, and stars as Larry Crowne, a recently divorced Navy vet who gets canned from his megastore job because he lacks the education to rise in the company. Determined to never be left in the wind again, Larry goes to community college. He takes classes in economics and public speaking and develops a crush on the cynical speech teacher, Mercedes (Julia Roberts). With a new style and his natural charm, there ain't no stoppin' Larry! The smiles are brief and schmaltzy, sure, but there are still plenty of them. JAMIE S. RICH Various Theaters.
Page One: Inside the
New York Times
The most striking presence in Page One, by far, is the Times' media desk rock star David Carr, a former crack addict who managed to turn his life around and become one of the most dogged defenders of the work being done at the Times. Watching him grill people is like watching a skilled swordsman, and an introduction to this character is worth the price of admission alone. (Favorite quote, said to Vice cofounder Shane Smith regarding The Vice Guide to Liberia: "Before you ever went there, we've had reporters there reporting on genocide after genocide. Just because you put on a fucking safari helmet and looked at some poop doesn't give you the right to insult what we do.") Page isn't perfect—it largely keeps itself to the media reporters, excluding all of the paper's arts and culture reporters and critics, and at times it begins to feel like an infomercial for opting into the Times' paywall. But as the information landscape continues to shift, it's a riveting capsule of the moment. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Patricio Guzmán: Memory Works
The Northwest Film Center's retrospective of the work of Chilean documentarian Patricio Guzmán. This week: The Pinochet Case (2001) and Salvador Allende (2004), the latter of which will play with 1999's Robinson Crusoe. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A horror comedy that's neither all that horrific nor all that funny, the overlong The Revenant follows Bart (David Anders), a dead Iraq War vet who comes back to life as a cross between a zombie, a vampire, and an asshole. Teaming up with his buddy Joey (Chris Wylde), the two cause chaos all over Los Angeles—but despite a great ending, there's nothing here that Shaun of the Dead didn't do a whole lot better. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
See I'm Staying Home. Academy 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.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
In addition to robots punching each other—and jesus christ, there are so many robots punching each other—Michael Bay's latest Transformers contains a great many things: a computer-generated JFK. John Malkovich saying stuff like "WTF to that!" Gremlin robots. Pepto-Bismol product placement. Mt. Kilimanjaro. A gremlin robot riding a dog. Helpful subtitles that let you know where the action is taking place, e.g., "The Middle East: Illegal Nuclear Site." Dr. McDreamy. Community's Ken Jeong as a Deep Throat-like informant, "Deep Wang." A Tommy Boy reference. Spurts and splashes of robot blood. (Is it made of oil? Antifreeze? Fanboy tears?) A soulful montage set to Linkin Park. John Turturro informing Frances McDormand that her "booty looks excellenté." Doddering American hero Buzz Aldrin—the real Buzz Aldrin—looking vaguely confused as he addresses the alien robo-warrior Optimus Prime. "From a fellow space traveler, it's a true honor," Aldrin says. "The honor," Optimus replies with gravelly gravitas, "is mine." 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, rambles, 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 Various Theaters.
It's easy to make comparisons of the Norwegian fake-documentary horror-thriller Trollhunter to other fake-documentary horror-thrillers like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. A more apt comparison would be to the recent Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, in which Santa Claus was revealed to be a menacing ogre. That movie balanced the comedic and creepy elements of familiar children's stories; Trollhunter similarly plunders a well-worn mythology—trolls are even more common in Scandinavian folktales than they are in our own—and the result is an action-packed monster movie that's entirely silly and wholly suspenseful. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
Up in Smoke
"I had it on the table and the little motherfucker ate it, man. Then I had to follow him around with a little baggie for three days, man, before I got it back. Really blew the dog's mind, ya know?" Laurelhurst.
A Useful Life
Schlubby, bespectacled Jorge (Jorge Jellinek) runs a repertory arthouse theater in the short but dull A Useful Life. Shot in shadowy black and white, this Uruguayan film is meant to be a love letter to cinema at large, as well as a sly statement on the inefficacy of movies as a substitute for actual living. Mostly, though, we just watch Jorge tend to the uninteresting daily tasks of running the theater, or, once the theater's shut down, aimlessly wandering the streets looking sad. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.