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 Laurelhurst Theater.
7th Planet Picture Show
Local blogger/KJ Will Radik hosts a film screening during which he and others heckle the shit out of crappy movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. This week: Supersonic Man. Curious Comedy Theater.
A screening of 1986's non-classic The Stabilizer—with special-made bingo cards so you can spot the B-movie clichés to win prizes. Hollywood Theatre.
Beats, Rhymes AND Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
Director Michael Rapaport was originally going to title his documentary about A Tribe Called Quest Beats, Rhymes, and Fights. It's a good thing he changed it, as the story told by Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest is way more than a cheap Behind the Music-style cash-in than the earlier, cheesier title suggests. Rapaport is a huge fan, but he doesn't just pop on the soundtrack and say so. That'd be a waste of soundtrack, considering all the quality hiphop he lays into the mix, along with testimonials on Tribe's impact from Mos Def, the Roots' Questlove, Pharrell Williams, and more. He takes that mix of talking heads and head-nodding beats, and scatters it between scenes of the group rising to fame both charmingly and awkwardly (dashikis! Floppy hats! Overalls!). But Rapaport isn't interested in merely blowing sunshine up Q-Tip's ass: He makes the most of the access afforded him during Tribe's 2008 reunion tour to investigate their split, and it leads to one of best meditations on the struggles of brotherhood I've seen in a while. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
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. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Plot points and storyline are secondary here (oh, don't act so shocked) as Captain America is just another entry in the great pantheon of moderately enjoyable comic book adaptations that can't hold a star-spangled shield to The Dark Knight, but it sure beats watching Ben Affleck in Daredevil. Now that would be un-American. EZRA ACE CARAEFF 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.
See portlandmercury.com for our review. Various Theaters.
Does anyone really want to watch "works that cut across orientations to celebrate and explore a wide diversity of sexuality"? Hell no! People want to watch porn about whatever specific fetish they have, not whatever generalized pervy fetish other people have! (Hence the reason the Sweet 36DD Jugs A'Plenty series is on its 43rd entry, while Big Ol' Grab Bag of Creepy Fetishes That You're Probably Not Into at All and That Will Probably Make You Fairly to Extremely Uncomfortable doesn't exist.) All the same: Enjoy, perverts! Clinton Street Theater.
Cowboys and Aliens
A man wakes up in the desert. He doesn't know who he is, or how he got there, or why there is a bizarre-looking metal shackle on his wrist. This is a terrific opening to a movie, and on a few occasions, the rest of Cowboys and Aliens lives up to the excitement of these first few minutes. But director Jon Favreau isn't really sure how to let the science-fiction elements shine—the aliens are yet another dull H.R. Giger iteration, and their base is disappointingly easy to infiltrate—and he certainly doesn't get the Western aspects right, either. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Crazy, Stupid Love
There is one perfect slice of romance in Crazy, Stupid Love, one suggestion of the better movie that could have been: Emma Stone goes home with Ryan Gosling. He makes her an old-fashioned. He takes off his shirt, and she sensibly refuses to let him put it back on. They reenact a scene from Dirty Dancing. They fall into bed. It is as sexy and sweet as popcorn fairy tales get. Though there's palpable chemistry between Gosling and Stone—two of the heart-throbbiest actors working today, in this writer's humble assessment—Crazy, Stupid Love isn't really about the relationship between these two attractive, charismatic young people. No, it's about Steve Carell's need for a new pair of shoes. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Diary of a Country Priest
A restored print of the 1954 drama that studies "the tormented soul of a young country priest scorned by his parish." Starring Kevin James. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Zhang Lu's Chinese drama about a 12-year-old boy living near the North Korean border. Starring Kevin James. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Double Hour
A cross between a psychological thriller and a ghost story, The Double Hour centers around 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 Rappoport 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?", that is so minimal it could almost be considered flash fiction—is clear, concrete evidence of Will Ferrell's remarkable ability as an actor when he doesn't have a silly costume or bushy mustache to hide behind. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.
Filmusik: Warriors of
A ridiculous 1982 Italian Road Warrior ripoff, presented with live voice actors, live sound effects, and live music by the Retake ensemble. Hollywood Theatre.
A doc about "America's perilous and unsustainable addiction to foreign oil." So, uh, carpool to the theater, maybe? Clinton Street Theater.
Golf in the Kingdom
A drama. About golf. Not screened for critics. Bagdad Theater, Mission 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 Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas.
Happy: The Movie
A documentary that asks, "Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution? What's your favorite part of Happy Gilmore?" Okay, maybe not that last one. Director in attendance on Saturday, August 6, and Monday, August 8. Clinton Street 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.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of
the Earth Liberation Front
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front is a surprisingly even-toned documentary that charts the brief, brilliant flash of one of the organization's lonely cells, through the eyes of one particularly hapless activist. DENIS C. THERIAULT Living Room Theaters.
The Naked Gun
See My, What a Busy Week!, pg. 15. Laurelhurst Theater.
"Let's do it for Johnny, man. We'll do it for Johnny!" Hotel DeLuxe.
"Ahhh... this is probably going to seem a little strange." Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Portland Neutrino Project
"An entirely improvised short film created just for that night's audience." More info: curiouscomedy.org. Curious Comedy Theater.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Here we are, once again, in the doldrums of another underwhelming blockbuster summer—and yet, like two brave adventurers hacking through the jungles of bland sequels and 3D-ified mediocrity, come local podcasters Cort and Fatboy, bringing with them a fine treasure: Raiders of the Lost Ark, arguably the best blockbuster ever crafted. On the big screen. In 35mm. Shit yes. Bagdad Theater.
Reed: The Life and Works
of Roy Kiyooka
A portrait of the late artist Roy Kiyooka, made by his daughter, Fumiko Kiyooka. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Unlike most Holocaust dramas, there are no Germans in Sarah's Key. It focuses on the lesser-known horrors committed by the French police who rounded up Jewish families in Paris, storing them in a velodrome without bathrooms and very little water before shipping them off to labor camps and worse. Specifically, it follows the titular 10-year-old girl who locks her little brother in a closet when her family's called, with the intention of keeping him safe. As you can imagine, none of this turns out particularly well, but the drama of Sarah's story easily maintains interest. Less so the modern-day drama of a journalist (Kristin Scott Thomas) poking into all this past as she comes to grips with her own issues. Once Sarah's thread finds resolution, things kind of peter out, but on the whole, you'll be hard-pressed to look away. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Who knew a 3D film could be so flat? In this shameless digital adaptation of the beloved '80s cartoon, the little blue ones are on the run from the wicked wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria, garbed in a robe that was clearly jacked from a high-school drama department). The Smurfs encounter a portal, which transports them from the cozy confines of their mushroom homes to the hustle and bustle of modern-day New York City. Neil Patrick Harris plays an overworked professional with a pregnant wife (Jayma Mays of Glee). The film stumbles along with lame dialogue, polished by incorrigibly shiny CGI. And this is part one of a trilogy, folks. JENNA LECHNER Various Theaters.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
"Look deep (no deeper!) into each other's eyes, emoting with your eyeballs about the never-ending oneness that makes you sisters, 'til death do you part!" screams director Wayne Wang. Best friends and blood sisters Snow Flower (Gianna Jun) and Lily (Bingbing Li) do their best—locking eyes and staring, staring, staring for hours, hours, hours at a time into each other's eyes and gently bumping their foreheads together, then taking breaks to look off into the middle distance. "Well, I guess that'll have to do," shrugs Wang, while his 19th century Chinese period piece about BFFs trundles off to take a nap. So much melodrama makes one sleepy. COURTNEY FERGUSON 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 Living Room Theaters, Lloyd Mall 8.
From Gates of Heaven's pet cemetarians to Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control's naked-mole-rat enthusiast to Mr. Death's ethical executioner/Holocaust denier, filmmaker Errol Morris has made a brilliant career of getting up close and personal with obsessive personalities. In his new documentary, Tabloid, Morris finds perhaps his most entrancing subject yet: Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen whose post-pageant life has led her, inexorably and repeatedly, into tabloid scandal. These scandals span continents and decades, and they involve such crazy twists that I'm tempted to avoid all spoilers and just order interested parties to the cinema. But the notion of spoilers doesn't really apply to plot points that played out in the international media, so here's a short, relatively surprise-preserving synopsis: As a young woman, McKinney fell head over heels in love with a young man, a Mormon missionary-in-training who was soon sent overseas. In McKinney's mind, her fiancé had been kidnapped by a cult, and she promptly set about rescuing him—hiring a team of helpers for an international rescue effort that saw McKinney & Co. track her "kidnapped" lover to the UK, which resulted in criminal charges and vast tabloid interest in the "Mormon sex-in-chains case." This is just the tip of the Tabloid iceberg, which cracks and fractures into an array of contradictory narratives. At the center of all of them is Joyce McKinney, now a middle-aged Southern belle who recounts the story of her one true love (and the "tabloid nightmare" of her life) like a real-life Blanche Devereaux. McKinney's flair for self-dramatization is a goldmine for Morris, who captures every loquacious coo and trill at point-blank range. (Invaluable offscreen costar: the Interrotron, Morris' patented two-camera system rigged with two-way mirrors that allows subjects to see and make eye contact with Morris while "talking to the camera"; viewers will feel like McKinney is flirting directly with them.) DAVID SCHMADER 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 Fox Tower 10, Lake Twin Cinema, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
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 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 Academy Theater, Hollywood Theatre, Laurelhurst Theater.