Films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. Not all films were screened for critics. For more info, see "Music Docs Galore" [Mercury, October 6, 2011], Movie Times, and nwfilm.org.
A Star Is Born
Watching somebody learn to play the drums is completely maddening, but that's the bulk of this documentary about a Serbian girl—who's never drummed before, mind you—who forms a Decemberists tribute band. The Decemberists good-naturedly make a brief appearance. NED LANNAMANN
In Good Time: The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland
English born jazz pianist Marian McPartland seems like a nice enough old lady, but this overview of her long life and career is tedious. NED LANNAMANN
The Losers' Club
A decidedly thorough documentary about Portland blues guitarists Jim Mesi and Steve Bradley, who spend most of the movie performing in front of some bar's tacky Coors Light banner. Stick around for Pepper's Pow-Wow, about late Portland fusion saxophonist Jim Pepper, who married jazz, rock, and his ancestral Native American music into something unique. The 1996 PBS documentary is awkward and hilariously dated, but Pepper is an unfairly forgotten and fascinating figure. Also screens with When Stumptown Was Jumptown, a doc about Portland's post-WWII jazz and blues scene. NED LANNAMANN
A "fascinating, fanciful" story about... uh... Mozart's sister.
A film "largely based on Tea Opera by New York-based Chinese composer Tan Dun."
When the Drum Is Beating
A doc about Haitian band Septentrional.
"A meditation on freedom and expression" featuring Ornette Coleman. Screens with a couple of other question-mark happy films: Who Is Sonny Rollins? and Sound??
German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) concocts a tender love letter to the ménage à trois. How very European of him! 3 is also a mash note to Berlin, with the assertive Hanna (Sophie Rois) and her boyfriend of 20 years, Simon (Sebastian Schipper), roaming about the beautifully filmed city. Through happenstance the couple individually meet and have affairs with Adam (Devid Striesow), without the other knowing, which ignites a spark in their tired relationship. Tykwer might be a little too fond of split screens and heavy-handed sentimental metaphors, but the interplay of relationships between the three is sweet and sexy. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
50/50 tells the story of Adam (played perfectly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a seemingly healthy 27-year-old who gets diagnosed with cancer. On his team: a sucky girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), an overbearing mom (Anjelica Huston), a newbie therapist (Anna Kendrick), and his stoner BFF, Kyle, who has deep supplies of both blowjob jokes and weed. (Kyle is played by Seth Rogen. Of course Kyle is played by Seth Rogen.) The trailer is calling this movie a comedy, which it technically is—but cancer can't not be heavy. You might cry, but you'll also laugh. And then you'll also probably need a big cocktail when you get home. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Though Abduction was not screened for critics, Mercury Editor in Chief Wm. Steven Humphrey insisted on reviewing the film's trailer, because he is obsessed with Taylor Lautner, and annoying.] FACE PUNCH! NUT KICK! EXPLOSION!! JIZZZZZZZZZZ! Booooooo-yahhhhh. I give this trailer 6 out of 10 abs. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
The Big Year
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
What Psycho did for showers? What Jaws did for the ocean? Contagion does that for EVERY SINGLE THING YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE. Do you talk to people? Do you touch things? Do you go places, like "rooms" or "outside"? Do you eat or breathe? Because Contagion will ruin all of these things. It will turn you into one of those sad, lonely freaks who carries a little thing of Purell with them wherever they go, and whenever you touch or smell anything, or come within 20 feet of anyone, you will see your own corpse: your dull, dark eyes; your pale, rubbery skin; your cold lips, crusty with snotty, dried-up froth. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
I don't know if you will love Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive like I do. It's a Frankensteined thing—part revenge flick, part western, part noir, part heist movie, part car commercial, part music video, part SWEET CHRIST I DID NOT EXPECT THAT SPLATTERED BIT OF BRUTAL ULTRA-VIOLENCE. Each of Drive's parts slides slickly into my brain's receptors. There's one way to find out if it'll do the same thing to you, and I would recommend trying it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress
"An elegant, detailed study of food as avant-garde art" set in Spain's El Bulli restaurant. Living Room Theaters.
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
Portland duo Sallo performs an original score for 1911's Russian stop-motion animation The Cameraman's Revenge. More info: filmusik.com. Hollywood Theatre.
Flattop Film Series: Firewalker
Chuck Norris. Louis Gossett Jr. 35mm. Aztec gold. What more could you possibly need to know. Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
"Still making headlines all across the country, the Ghostbusters are at it again—this time at the fashionable dance club The Rose! The boys in gray slugged it out with a pretty pesky poltergeist, then stayed on to dance the night away with some of the lovely ladies who witnessed the disturbance!" Various Theaters.
The Green Wave
An "artful collage" examining the use of social media in Iran's Green Revolution. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A new Irish film directed by John Michael McDonagh. Brendan Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a cop drifting along the surface of small-town crime fighting, lifting drugs from crime scenes and generally pursuing incompetence as the most convenient course of action. Cue the entrance of a relentlessly competent FBI agent (Don Cheadle) who provides an odd-couple foil for the provincial, kinda-racist Gerry. The plot lands somewhere between Hot Fuzz and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call—New Orleans, but like those films, The Guard is defined by a sense of humor that's all its own. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The maladroit love child of Remember the Titans and Eat, Pray, Love, conceived during a drunken and misguided romp behind the bushes at a child's birthday party. Would-be journalist Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelas (Emma Stone) comes home from college wanting to change the world, but instead finds herself writing a cleaning column in the local daily, playing endless rounds of bridge, and hunting for a husband. After hearing one of her friends insist that black servants use separate bathrooms from their white employers, an incensed Skeeter decides to collect and publish the accounts of the help to shove the intolerance of the white richesse right back in their faces. The film wants to be a portrait of racism, bigotry, and child neglect in civil rights-era Mississippi. Instead, it is just boring. KATHERINE LONG Various Theaters.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
The Ides of March
Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers, a staffer working on the presidential campaign for Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). With strategist Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) leading the campaign, they're gearing up for the Democratic primary in Ohio. At the start of Ides, Stephen's a young-buck idealist who's entirely enamored with Governor Morris, a character loosely based on pre-"yaaargh" Howard Dean—in other words, a liberal's wet dream. Paul Giamatti plays the head of the opposing campaign, and while he seems to be an unscrupulous trickster, Stephen soon discovers that there isn't really room for absolute idealism when a presidency is at stake. There's almost no bloat to The Ides of March—it's a lean, clean thriller that steadily ramps to a sharp climax. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
In a Lonely Place
Nicholas Ray's classic noir starring Humphrey Bogart as a temperamental screenwriter suspected of murder. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
This is not the operatic Clive Owen-vs.-Jason Statham-vs.-Clive Owen's-moustache action thriller you've been waiting for, unfortunately, but it passes the time in an agreeable enough way. PAUL CONSTANT Various Theaters.
A doc about Los Angeles' Skid Row. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Human Rights on Film series. Director in attendance. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Borja Cobeaga's "fast-paced, laugh-filled comedy." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
As the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is dealt a permanent losing hand: running an undesirable team in an undesirable small market that can't afford to re-sign its elite players. Frustrated by the futility of modern baseball, Beane teams with Peter Brand (a composite of Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, and played by Jonah Hill, in his very first role without a single dick joke), a Yale graduate and numbers geek who reexamines the very foundation of the game based upon Bill James' sabermetrics philosophy. Masterfully directed by Bennett Miller, Moneyball visually bolsters the absorbing tale told in the Michael Lewis' bestseller of the same name without utilizing any winded sports clichés. In a sense, Moneyball is the anti-baseball baseball film: It stays off the playing field and focuses firmly on a central concept that values math and percentages over actual physical performance. Gently paced and well written (thanks, Aaron Sorkin!), Moneyball captures Beane's noble attempt to achieve perfection in an imperfect sport. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie
A SXSW-approved but overlong documentary about Dallas and Wayne, two amateur (is there any other kind?) bigfoot researchers in the Appalachians. Screening followed by a panel of local bigfoot researchers moderated by the Mercury's own bigfoot enthusiast, Sarah Mirk. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
The latest from Seattle director Calvin Reeder (Jerkbeast) is a gory, psychedelic romp following a car accident victim's (Lindsay Pulsipher) increasingly bizarre and sinister journey through the dewy, remote woods of the Pacific Northwest. The effects are cartoonishly low-budget (look for particular mismanagement of the blood on our protagonist's face) and some of the ideas are moldy (someone needs to think of a way to pay tribute to David Lynch without using a furry costume, like, yesterday), but Reeder effectively creates a sense of extended anxiety, even if it's punctuated with a good number of eye rolls. MARJORIE SKINNER Clinton Street Theater.
Our Idiot Brother
Paul Rudd can reliably moisten my panties. I will watch any movie he's in. While I love my husband, I... I mean, Paul Rudd! Such a dreamboat. He can't not be charming and loveable. That said, Our Idiot Brother is not the panty-moistening star vehicle it could have been. Even Rudd's dreamy eyes don't twinkle enough to make up for lazy writing. ELINOR JONES Laurelhurst Theater.
The opening-night selection of the Portland Latin American Film Festival. See Film, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
The makers of Real Steel do a pretty nice job of introducing us to a world where humans pay good money to watch robots beat the shit out of each other. This is a totally believable concept, and one that should be implemented as soon as possible. Hugh Jackman plays washed-up boxer Charlie Kenton, who travels the robot-boxing state-fair circuit pitting his crappy 'bot against any comers, including... A LIVE BULL!?! (2020, hurry up and get here!!) Okay, so if this were the movie—two nonstop hours of robots punching bulls in the mouth—I would never stop watching it. Unfortunately, Real Steel 's small joys are overwhelmed by emotional button pushing, clunky clichés, and a severe lack of focus. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Restless arrives three years after Gus Van Sant's biopic Milk achieved mainstream success. Judging by the basic details, it appeared the Portland-based filmmaker was returning to his art-house comfort zone. A troubled teen (Hopper), who attends funerals for people he doesn't know, meets a quirky kindred spirit in Annabel (Jane Eyre's Mia Wasikowska). Romance follows, but her terminal cancer puts a damper on young love. Also, the boy regularly pals around with the ghost of a WWII kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase). Cue the cloudy skies and twee music. As delightfully weird as Restless may sound, first-time screenwriter Jason Lew apparently learned about doomed teenage love not from Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho but from Nicholas Sparks novels. JAMIE S. RICH Fox Tower 10.
Shaun of the Dead
"Just look at the face. It's vacant, with a hint of sadness. Like a drunk who's lost a bet." Academy Theater.
Snowboarding porn. Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
An SUV full of douchey college kids sets off into the woods for a camping trip in the Appalachians. They stop at a backwoods store. And there, at the creepy yokel Plaid Pantry, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil begins its supreme send-up of the horror genre. Director/writer Eli Craig's first feature blends broad (and hysterical) slapstick with tons of gross gore, loveable characters, and a genius upside-down riff on a horror trope. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
When do graffiti buffers become street artists? It's the question asked by Vigilante Vigilante: The Battle for Expression. This fun, interesting investigative documentary is framed around an amateur stakeout for a Berkley graffiti abatement renegade known as the Silver Buff—a man who blots out street art with silver spray paint, leaving behind daily additions to an illegal campaign of rectangles. Problem is, colors that mean stuff—even "eff graffiti"—might be considered art, and so the film argues that the Silver Buff is the most ubiquitous tagger in the city. Padding the stakeout are historical tidbits and interviews ranging street artists, related academics, and other folks like the Silver Buff who leave their own monikers in place of graffiti. Highly recommended for fans of Exit Through The Gift Shop and Who Is Bozo Texino?, not to mention those interested in issues surrounding free expression. MATT STANGEL Clinton Street Theater.
The Walking Dead
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
Emilio Estevez wrote and directed The Way, in which his dad, President Bartlet, walks the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route through France and Spain, in memory of his dead son (Estevez, annoyingly turning up in flashbacks) who was killed during a storm while also traveling the Camino. Along the way President Bartlet befriends three fellow travelers, all of whom are some variation of the lost white tourist looking to inject meaning into a privileged life. The movie's sentimental as all get out, but the scenery's good and The Way is surprisingly touching in non-formulaic ways. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
The Weird World of Blowfly
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
What's Your Number?
In the opening scene of What's Your Number?, Ally (Anna Faris), creeps out of bed to pretty herself, then creeps back in to intercept a compliment from the man waking next to her. It's a scene virtually identical to the opening moments of Bridesmaids, the influence of which pervades Number, down to matching romantic climaxes at other people's weddings. A poor man's version it may be, but if Number is an indicator of a Bridesmaids trickle-down effect within the rom-com genre, it's arguably a step in a preferable direction. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.