"Don't knock masturbation—it's sex with someone I love." Laurelhurst
The Ant Bully
Another CG kids' flick, with another slew of famous actors (Nicolas Cage, Paul Giamatti, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep) providing voices. This one, though, also boasts the buttery-smooth voice of the one and only Ricardo Montalban, whose name must always be written and said in italics: Ricardo Montalban. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
A group of Japanese school kids are dumped on an island—and forced to KILL EACH OTHER OFF! It goes without saying that this movie is fucking awesome. (Erik Henriksen) Clinton Street Theater
Clerks II is old-school Kevin Smith. It wipes away the memories of his later films; it reminds viewers why he was so heralded and great and hilarious in the first place. In other words: The smart, fresh, funny, crude, and well-written Clerks II is the best and funniest film Smith's made since the first Clerks. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Devil Wears Prada
First, the clothes: The Devil Wears Prada's costume designer, Patricia Field, sails in on her Sex and the City cred to whip up a populist but appealing parade of sartorial eye candy (which, interestingly, turns out to be very much in the vein of what Teen Vogue was doing in last year's "Back to School" issue, but with higher heels). As for the film itself, it's as fresh faced and middling as you would imagine, given its basis in a chick-lit story by Lauren Weisberger, whose novel is a pseudo-biographical tell-all about Condé Nast-y's queen bee, Vogue Editor Anna Wintour (Meryl Streep). (Marjorie Skinner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
District B 13
France's District B 13 is probably the first film to combine George Orwell, parkour, and kung fu, but what's more surprising than that unlikely amalgamation is how well it works. (Erik Henriksen) Laurelhurst
Experimental Animation: An Evening with Rick Raxlen
Northwest Film & Video dude Rick Raxlen shows off his experimental films. Whitsell Auditorium
Animator Bill Plympton's film about high school in the '50s (and zombies) will be preceded by two of his short films, "Guide Dog" and the Oscar-nominated "Guard Dog." Plympton will be in attendance. Mission Theater
The Heart of the Game
The Roosevelt Roughriders—a Seattle high school girls' basketball team—spent seven years under quirky new coach Bill Resler, trying to win the state championship. They face plenty of adversity along the way: A tough cross-town rival, the Garfield Bulldogs, crushing first round losses in the championship tournament, intra-team squabbles, and a state interscholastic association that tried to bar the team's star player, Darnelia Russell, from rejoining the team after she skipped a year of school to have a baby. A sports documentary that bears a striking resemblance to Hoop Dreams, The Heart of the Game is amazing, thanks to the obvious dedication of Resler and the talented band of kickass young women he inspired. (Amy Jenniges) Fox Tower 10
An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth is workmanlike and clumsy at times—but it's also hugely invigorating. Tracking Al Gore's global-warming lecture as he schleps his Apple laptop across the country and to China, it's a collection of scientific facts and correlations made urgent through human drama and low-tech slide-show magic. It should be required viewing for every American citizen. And if it kicks up a storm of speculation regarding Al Gore's political prospects in 2008? So much the better. (Annie Wagner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Jim Finn's "cosmonaut romance" that utilizes fake archival footage, animation, and a Kraut-rock score. Whitsell Auditorium
John Tucker Must Die
A cheating dude faces revenge from his ex-girlfriends. Not screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, July 28 for our review. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Lady in the Water
Lady in the Water is, by all measures, a fairy tale, a story for kids; following a stuttering super at an apartment complex, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), the film wastes no time introducing its fantasy elements. There's the water nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard) who shows up in Cleveland's swimming pool, talking in annoying half-riddles about "the blue world" and asking if Cleveland feels "an awakening." Soon, there're enough fantastical elements to make a Dungeons & Dragons dweeb blush: evil dogs made out of plants, magical monkeys in nearby trees, giant eagles swooping through the sky. But writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's storytelling here is so cluttered and clunky and self-conscious that Lady in the Water is also, by nearly all measures, a failure. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man
A superfluous big-screen tribute to the enigmatic croaker that vacillates between compelling Cohen interviews (the good), banal, somehow self-congratulatory musings from Bono (the bad), and live performances from a well-meaning, if questionably executed, 2005 Australian tribute concert (the unnecessary). These disparate elements are given thread by first-time director Lian Lunson's awkwardly heavy-handed editing choices, and conclude in a strangely anticlimactic (and clearly lip-synched) studio performance featuring Cohen backed by the members of U2. (An aside: How fucking arrogant does a person have to be to wear sunglasses when you're backing Leonard Cohen? Answer: Bono arrogant.) (Zac Pennington) Hollywood Theatre
Dude, if I was a midget, I'd be just like Little Man. Think about it: (1)His penis is normal size, which must look huge on that toddler body. (2)Diapers. (3)People underestimate your intelligence all the time, making it very easy to hit them over the heads with frying pans. (4)Nobody suspects you of stealing baseball-sized diamonds. (5)"Baby like nursy nursy." (Chas Bowie) Regal Cinemas, etc.
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
So there's this woman and her husband and they build a house, but then she dies in the heart of it so the house is scary and it has a heart, and a chimney with smoke that comes out of it, and a big mouth. It has legs and arms and walks around, and these kids go in with a key but then it's pretty scary. Yeah, I liked this movie! You should go see it! But it was pretty scary. I had to hold my dad's hand for a lot of it. (Kayla, the Mercury's resident six-year-old) Regal Cinemas, etc.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
The premise is hard to stomach at first: Someone breaks up with Uma Thurman? Whatever. That would never happen. It's worth accepting that improbable detail, though—because if you can, you're in for a whole lot of fun. Thurman plays "G-Girl," AKA Jenny Johnson, nerdy assistant art curator by day, ravishing superhero by night. Jenny falls hard for easy-going Matt (Luke Wilson); problem is, Jenny is a total wack job: jealous, insecure, and controlling. When Matt dumps her, Jenny flips her shit in true Hell Hath No Fury style (she throws a great white shark through an apartment window, for chrissakes). The script teeters between superhero spoof and romantic comedy, and while I can't imagine anyone will be too surprised by the ending, the plot isn't really the point. The point is this: If you fuck with Uma Thurman, she will fucking kill you. Possibly by throwing a shark into your apartment. (Alison Hallett) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Napoleon Dynamite's director, Jared Hess, teams up again with his wife, Jerusha, and Mike White for Nacho Libre, in which everything feels exactly like Napoleon Dynamite: There's the semi-retarded but loveable titular character, the semi-retarded but loveable sidekick, the constant tone of deadpan weirdness, and—just as in Napoleon—one's never sure if the Hess duo is mocking or sympathizing with their protagonists. Scene by scene, Nacho feels like a south-of-the-border version of the tired, annoying Napoleon, a formula that could be a lot worse, but could also be a lot better. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
In Only Human, a family comedy that's set in Lisbon, the multitude/people dynamic is set in the context of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. But the results are unsatisfying, with no moments or performances that redeem even a small part of it. (Charles Mudede) Cinema 21
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Second verse, same as the first: Just like the first Pirates, this is big, messy, loud, nonsensical, pretty, fast, fun stuff. I mean, there's a fucking awesome giant sea monster! And: There are undead pirates who sail underneath the waves, who—thanks to some pretty amazing CG and make-up—have physically melded with creepy sea creatures. And: ludicrous, Looney Tunes-worthy action sequences, Johnny Depp's inimitable charm, and a balls-out, near-perfect mix of action and comedy. Yeah, not all of it works, but that's kind of the point. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
A Prairie Home Companion
Back when The Simpsons was funny, they had a great gag about PBS' A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Garrison Keillor. Homer, et al., were sitting on the couch, watching Keillor tell his supposedly comedic stories. Stone-faced, the Simpsons couldn't figure out why the TV audience was in fits over Keillor; finally, Homer stood up and banged on the TV: "Be more funny!" he shouted, confused and angry. So let's give Homer the benefit of the doubt: If broken technology is why A Prairie Home Companion is so dull on PBS (and equally so on NPR), then that means there are a whole bunch of lousy projectors in America's movie theaters—because Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion film is even duller. (Erik Henriksen) Hollywood Theatre, Cinemagic
Samurai hijinx! Whitsell Auditorium
A Scanner Darkly
Philip K. Dick's writing is some seriously wacked-out stuff, happily walking a tightrope between comprehension and confusion, and veering into philosophic acrobatics as comfortably as it does visceral blows. Richard Linklater's note-by-note screenplay adaptation of his novel and inspired visuals nail Dick's fascinating plot and unsettling tone—throw in some dead-on performances, a soundtrack that flows with the prickly, urgent, and moving strains of Radiohead, and, for all its otherworldliness, A Scanner Darkly feels damningly prescient and tangible. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
"Be educated and entertained while benefiting the American Cancer Society," says this event's press release. Side Effects is a film that shows "a side to the drug industry you have no idea exists." Ah, pharmaceutical humor! Kennedy School
Source to Sea: The Columbia River Swim
A locally produced documentary about Christopher Swain, who swam the entire Columbia to raise attention about—what else?—the environment. Hey, hippie, while you're at it, why don't you swim back to Hippietown, hippie? Director in attendance. Clinton Street Theater
Strangers with Candy
For those just joining us, Strangers was a wickedly funny show that ran on Comedy Central for three seasons. It featured the talents of David Sedaris' funnier sister, Amy, as ex-crack whore Jerri Blank who returns after a stint in prison to finish high school. A clear parody of the ABC After-School Specials, Strangers put a hilarious spin on such heavy teen issues as drug abuse, body image, and mental retardation. Though barely watched by mainstream America, Strangers was an absolute hit on the fringe, with pickle-jar tight direction, and an average of three laugh-out-loud jokes per minute. Which makes it really uncomfortable for me to relay the news that the Strangers with Candy movie... well... kind of sucks. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Fox Tower 10
There are some unforgettable, breathtaking moments in Bryan Singer's mega-expensive, mega-hyped redux of the Man of Steel—all the pieces are here, and in bits, Superman Returns works quite well. But when Singer combines these elements, his film never manages to gel: The script ebbs and flows with lame plot devices and needless characters; it's easily 15 minutes too long; and it ends with an unsatisfying whimper. And, when all's said and done, Superman remains a distant, untouchable outsider—like Singer's film, he fails to summon much enthusiasm, in spite of all his unforgettable, breathtaking feats. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Sword of Doom
More samurai hijinx! Whitsell Auditorium
Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 2005 film, which braids together three different stories—each about a different couple, in different time periods, but played by the same actors. Whitsell Auditorium
Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy
1979's documentary about the Phulwary Skya Monastery in Tibet, and "how the monastery deals with a death among its ranks." Cinema 21
Triplets of Belleville
An animated French film that speaks nary an intelligible word throughout its entire running time, Les Triplettes de Belleville's jaw-dropping artwork alone could have kept me riveted for hours. (Justin Sanders) Pix Patisserie (North)
Who Killed the Electric Car?
Have you ever cried over a car, one that wasn't even your own? You might, if you see this movie. Director Chris Paine explores the life and tragic death of GM's EV1, a zero-emission electric vehicle that hit the streets in the late '90s to meet California's tough new emissions standards—only to have nearly every car scooped up by the automaker a few years later as the California standard was rolled back. The sporty, perfectly useful cars were inexplicably corralled and crushed at the junkyard. (Amy Jenniges) Fox Tower 10
Let's break it down: Avatar looks like a wizard hat with a beard and feet sticking out (read: midget); Blackwolf looks like Skeletor, only skinnier (read: faces of meth). Together, they're wizard brothers locked in battle in this 1977 mix of animation and (painted over) live action. Without straying too far into hyperbole, let me say this is the most fantastic, trippy, creepy, kickass fantasy flick ever. Screw The Lord of the Rings. LOTR didn't have a disco soundtrack. LOTR didn't have slutty fairies or bad guys dressed up as Nazis. In the words of Denzel, LOTR ain't got nothin' on Wizards! (Adam Gnade) Fifth Avenue Cinemas
There's no other way to say it: Crossword fanatics are some of the biggest nerds to ever walk the Earth. Which makes them the perfect subjects for a documentary. And that documentary is Wordplay, a shockingly entertaining film about the phenomenon of crossword obsession—featuring celebrities, puzzle writers, and world champions. (Scott Moore) Fox Tower 10
X-Men: The Last Stand
Bryan Singer's X-Men films were clever, heartfelt, and laced with disquieting social and political undertones. But Brett Ratner, who directs this, the third film in the franchise, seems to think that if he makes this X-Men faster and louder than its predecessors, maybe the audience won't notice that it's a whole lot dumber. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
You, Me, and Dupree
Generally speaking, I can find something good to say about any movie—no matter how profoundly it may stink. But You, Me, and Dupree is such a fetid morass of mediocrity that it's beaten even me—Mr. "There's a Rainbow Around Every Corner." Wait... You know what? Goddammit, I'm not gonna let this film beat me. I'm going to push my optimism to its limit to locate one iota of worthiness in this reeking sieve. Why? Because in my heart, I refuse to believe a studio would put out something this bad without including at least one sliver of entertainment. Hold on... I GOT IT. Kate Hudson prances around in her underwear—TWICE. Whew. I thought for sure I'd completely wasted my time. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.