A Better Life
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
The Body Electronic:
An Evening with Jesse Malmed
Artist Jesse Malmed presents videos, performance, "process-intensive bi-fidelity abstractedelia and participatory installations such as CONVERSATIONAL KARAOKE!" Keep Portland weird, etc. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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, Living Room Theaters.
Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows: Part II
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Spencer Susser's film provides a rare, real look at what it's like to live in a boring town with crappy public schools, indifferent teachers, and bullies rampaging unchecked through the halls. TJ (Devin Brochu) is a sad, scrappy kid; his mom recently died, and his dad (a bearded Rainn Wilson) is still mourning, consoling himself with an aggressive pill habit. Enter Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the school fuck-up and a note-perfect representation of those scarily reckless small-town kids with nothing better to do than get fucked up and break things. Hesher takes up uninvited residence in TJ's house and introduces an element of callow, reckless fun to the still-grieving household. But while Hesher-the-character refuses to play by the rules, Hesher-the-movie is dutiful in its adherence to a predictably redemptive indie storyline. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Three men (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day) concoct a plot to off their bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Ferrell, and Jennifer Aniston). R-rated comedy and bumbling criminal hijinks ensue. Am I compelled by feminism to note that there's not a single appealing female character in the thing? Yes, I am. Could I extend that critique to apply to Day's complaints about how Aniston is a "raper"? Yes, I suppose I could, if I hadn't been laughing at them. These guys are terrified of women, black people, and—based on the frequency of prison rape jokes—gays, but the thing is: They kinda should be. The days of the white man's unchallenged cultural supremacy are over, and if that anxiety underlies the film, it also provides a reasonable context for many of its jokes—jokes delivered with offbeat intelligence and charm by Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Idiots and Angels
Portland native Bill Plympton's latest dark, wordless animated feature is a blackly humorous, violent morality play. Plympton's world is a gnarly one, with a soundtrack heavy on Tom Waits, but it goes down like the first stiff one after another shitty day at the office. Preceded by the short Cow Hamburger. MARJORIE SKINNER Clinton Street Theater.
John Woo's jaw-dropping 1989 action classic starring Chow Yun-fat? In 35mm? Yes. Go to this. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Kung Fu Theatre:
The only known 35mm print of the 1978 kung fu classic! If you're into old-school chop-socky, you'll be hard pressed to find a better film to see this week. Hollywood Theatre.
The Last Mountain
Your parents didn't realize it, but they were saving lives—and entire mountaintops—every time they told you to shut the refrigerator door or snuff the lights when you left a room. Don't believe it? Via The Last Mountain, visit the moonscapes of Appalachia, where the rapacious coal industry, all in the name of giving us the cheap, easy power we demand, has spent decades mercilessly obliterating ancient peaks, forests, and streams to mine the black seams beneath. Worst off are the cancer-ridden, asthmatic few who insist on fighting for the besieged valleys they've inhabited for generations. But we're all breathing or drinking, to some degree, the awful fallout. Government could save us, but that's where Big Coal's well-heeled fingerprints are darkest. DENIS C. THERIAULT Fox Tower 10.
Missile to the Moon
See Film, this issue.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Mr. Popper's Penguins
This is a movie about Jim Carrey and some penguins! We did not review it. Various Theaters.
Passione: A Musical Adventure
John Turturro's documentary is basically a series of music videos broken up with loose narration, taking its audience through the long musical tradition of Naples, Italy. The music is very Italian (dramatic, lusty), and it's a bit much if that's not your bag, but the scenery (dancing girls included) will make you want to catch the next plane there. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
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 City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Trigun: Badlands Rumble
After a decade of waiting, the unlikely and morally ambiguous anime hero Vash the Stampede returns to the screen. A legendary outlaw with a knack for bringing as much destruction as he does peace to the space-western landscape, Vash's latest saga offers punched noses, dudes with Gatling guns fused to their forearms, some feet getting lovingly nuzzled, and something referred to as "smoked thomas meat"—I'm guessing this is a translation screw-up, because WTF—that totally saves the day. And yet, somehow, while you're watching it, Trigun is much less ridiculous onscreen than it sounds on paper. MIKE WILLIAMS Living Room 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, though, would be 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.
See review this issue. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The White Meadows
An Iranian film in which an old man "collects the tears of souls in pain in a tiny pitcher—remaining all the while a nonjudgmental witness to the absurd havoc wreaked by the powers that be." Soon to be remade in English with David Spade. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Winnie the Pooh
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Look, I wasn't expecting great things from Zookeeper, the new movie starring Kevin "It's Funny Because He's Fat" James and a bunch of talking animals. I figured it would be a family-friendly comedy with a sweet streak, a hokey, predictable, comfort-food wisp of a movie about James wooing the girl of his dreams with the help of his animal buddies. I assumed there would be some groan-worthy puns, James would get hit in the nuts a few times, and somebody—the slimy ex-boyfriend, most likely, or perhaps the evil developer who wants to evilly turn the zoo into, like, an evil animal crackers factory or something—would land face-first in a pile of poop. Instead, Zookeeper is a movie fit only for young, soft-brained children whose development you are intentionally trying to arrest. To make matters worse: There's no nutshot. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.