Below are reviews and current showtimes for selected films from the 35th Portland International Film Festival; for more info, see Film, this issue. Not all films were screened for critics; for updated showtimes and a complete list of films playing, go to nwfilm.org.
Almanya—Welcome to Germany (Germany)
Almanya paints a comical, color-saturated portrait of family patriarch Hüseyin (Vedat Erincin). Forty-five years after his immigration to Germany, Huseyin, in a cultural crisis, announces he's immediately taking all three generations of his family to Turkey . In transit, his history unfolds in stories told to his self-aware, supercute grandchild. Cutest plot device ever, guys! Almanya is very smartly executed and almost feels like television. SUZETTE SMITH Fri Feb 10, 6 pm, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium; Sat Feb 11, 3:15 pm and 8:30 pm, Lloyd Mall 6; Sun Feb 12, 8 pm, Lake Twin Cinema
Belgian noir transposes brown for black: the buildings are brown, the grass is brownish-green, and men all wear mud-colored suits. Seriously, Belgium is the Idaho of Europe. Bullhead is bleak as fuck and nothing in particular happens during its bloated runtime. It's also Oscar nominated, which is to say that it's a character study where no one gets what they want. BEN COLEMAN Sat Feb 11, 12:30 pm, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium; Tues Feb 14, 8:45 pm, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
Cafeé De Flore (Canada)
Jean-Marc Vallée's layered mystery posits that the concept of soulmates is powerful enough to transcend death and time. With a major character, Antoine (Kevin Parent) working in the music world as a successful DJ, Café is at least as wrapped up in its soundtrack as in its story, and to an extent its style is more memorable than any genius of plot twist—although Vanessa Paradis as the single mother of a mentally handicapped boy (Marin Gerrier) is, as always, an odd, scrappy bird to behold. MARJORIE SKINNER Sat Feb 11, 5:30 pm, Lake Twin Cinema; Mon Feb 13, 6 pm, Lloyd Mall 6; Mon Feb 20, 7:30 pm, Cinema 21
A Cat in Paris (France)
An adorable French girl and her adorable cat cross paths with Paris' most notorious criminal gang. You will enjoy this stylish little cartoon if you are a child or a lonely cat lady. (I enjoyed it.) ALISON HALLETT Fri Feb 10, 6:15 pm, Cinemagic; Sat Feb 11, 3:30 pm, Cinemagic; Thurs Feb 16, 6:30 pm, Pioneer Place Stadium 6
The Extraordinary Voyage (France)
The hour-long documentary about film director Georges Méliès (AKA the old man in Hugo) and the restoration of his most famous creation, A Trip to the Moon, plays like an extended DVD extra, but it's worth it to see the new print of Moon that follows. The downside: Trip's new score by techno duo Air is kitschy and overbearing. JAMIE S. RICH Fri Feb 10, 8:45 pm, World Trade Center Theater; Sun Feb 12, 3 pm, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
Goodbye First Love (France)
Two teenagers fall in love. They screw around in a country cottage. They go swimming. The boy goes abroad, writes letters back home. The girl pines for him, then finds someone else. Time passes, the boy returns home, the two get back togeth—wait a minute! It's The Notebook! Without the Alzheimer's stuff! JENNA LECHNER Sat Feb 12, 2 pm, Lloyd Mall 6; Fri Feb 17, 8:45 pm, Cinema 21
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
Unusually great child actors (and a willingness to treat the experiences of children with seriousness and interest) elevate this small, smart movie about an Algerian refugee teaching in a Montreal elementary school. ALISON HALLETT Sat Feb 11, 3 pm, Lake Twin Cinema; Mon Feb 13, 6:15 pm, Lloyd Mall 6; Wed Feb 15, 8:45 pm, Pioneer Place Stadium 6
The Salt of Life (Italy)
The Salt of Life is about a 50-yr-old Italian dude being sad because he doesn't get to bang hot young women any more. Pro: hot young women. Con: sad 50-year-old Italian dude. ALISON HALLETT Fri Feb 10, 6 pm, Lake Twin Cinema; Sun Feb 12, 5:45 pm, Cinemagic
Snows of Kilimanjaro (France)
This engrossing film is ostensibly about an aging couple in a French port town dealing with robbery, old age, and each other. But at its heart, it's a funny exploration of injustice and the difficulties of simply being good people. That sounds corny, but the movie is optimistic without being sickly sweet. SARAH MIRK Sat Feb 11, 6 pm, Cinemagic; Mon Feb 13, 8:45 pm, Lloyd Mall 6; Thurs Feb 16, 8:30 pm, Lake Twin Cinema
To Be Heard (US)
Accurately hyped as a Hoop Dreams for poets, this documentary tells the story of a trio of impoverished high school students from the Bronx who find a temporary escape from their surroundings through the Power Writers program, which helps kids find their voice through slam poetry. Inspirational without being cloying, the film fully earns its moments of triumph and heartbreak. Bring Kleenex. ANDREW WRIGHT Sat Feb 11, 3:30 pm, World Trade Center Theater; Mon Feb 20, 2:30 pm, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
Where Do We Go Now? (Lebanon)
A surprisingly fun little parable on sectarian violence. The plot lands somewhere between Lysistrata and The Gods Must Be Crazy: A series of pranks in a town split evenly between Christianity and Islam (someone fills the mosque with goats!) are about to cause a riot. So the ladies truck in some Ukrainian showgirls to calm everyone down (an admittedly odd move, but go with it). The best moments come in between plot points, when director Nadine Labaki just lets the camera roll on these odd folks. BEN COLEMAN Sat Feb 11, 8:30 pm, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium; Mon Feb 13, 6 pm and 8:30 pm, Lake Twin Cinema
Albert Nobbs is Glenn Close's baby. After playing the titular character onstage, and putting in decades of effort, the odd little tale of a 19th century Irish woman passing as a man has finally arrived onscreen. As a showpiece for Close's ability to nail Nobbs' every nuance, it's unimpeachable. With the help of some cosmetic prostheses, Close is clearly well studied as the quiet, irreparably repressed, fearful, and miserable character. Outside of her technical proficiencies, however, the film only winks at its opportunities to satisfyingly engage with the complex social history roiling just underneath its surface. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
This is the true story of how 1980s America chose to ignore more urgent and depressing problems to save some whales. Big Miracle is a neat combination of Free Willy (trapped whales) and Miracle (Cold War relations, ice, "miracles")—although the filmmakers, to their credit, didn't give everybody the Disney treatment. We get to see rescue agencies' cynical motives (good PR), while journalists discuss the triviality of focusing on the whales when there are, you know, real issues. Still, humans helping whales who happen to be named after the Flintstones? Huge cheeseball. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
The Breakfast Club
See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater.
The X-Men are great and all, but let's not fool ourselves: If real teenagers had superpowers, they'd be pretty goddamn insufferable. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters would be a crappy public high school, everyone would have iPhones and video cameras instead of X-Jets and Cerebros, and the superkids themselves would be super annoying. This is what Chronicle is about, and it's about as shrug inducing as it sounds. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez!
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
From the Back of the Room
A documentary about women in punk and hardcore. Director in attendance; screening followed by sets from Vivid Sect, Bellicose Minds, and DJ Ahex. The Know.
When it comes to action movies, there's a thin, sinewy line between awesome and ridiculous, with the deciding factor often being the filmmaker's refusal to blink. The Grey, the latest contribution to the halls of gonad cinema from director Joe Carnahan, is a brawny, often majestic survivalist saga that can't quite work up the resolve to let its images drive the story. Although the primal force of its central conflict is something to behold—when it's cooking, it's the most compelling man vs. nature movie since William Friedkin's Sorcerer—it ultimately ends up feeling rather self-conscious about its own two-fisted bleakness. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
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. Clinton Street Theater.
Steven Soderbergh's latest, starring MMA fighter Gina Carano, is a welcome dose of the lean, stylish, kinetic excitement that good action movies are made of. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
How to Die in Oregon
A powerful documentary about the nuanced experiences of patients who opt for physician-assisted suicide. Less an argument regarding legality (though clearly it's in favor of the Death with Dignity law pioneered in Oregon in 1994) than an openhearted portrayal, How to Die in Oregon is emotionally overwhelming not because it's tragic, but because it is intimately, intensely honest. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
I Am Bruce Lee
A doc about the martial arts star and "why his flame burns brighter now than the day he died over three decades ago." Clinton Street Theater.
In the Land of Blood and Honey
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
After director Ti West's excellent 2009 film The House of the Devil, he seemed set to invigorate the tired horror genre. So his newest, The Innkeepers, has cachet right out of the gate. Plus, it's a gorgeously shot ghost story, a slow burner that has a couple decent scares thrown in. But it never gets off the ground: The Innkeepers feels slow and overly calculated, like there's a trimmer, more effective movie lurking beneath its baby fat. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
The Rock takes over for Brendan Fraser and explores... a mysterious island! Alas, the 11-year-old who was assigned to review this for us double booked with his soccer game :( Various Theaters.
Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's film is named for the French coastal town in which it's set—a place where huge metal containers pass through on their way to somewhere else. One such container is full of African refugees, and when the door is cracked, a young boy (Blondin Miguel) makes a run for it. Stranded, he ends up hiding with Marcel (André Wilms), a harmless scoundrel known for his love of the vino. It's blandly enjoyable, but Le Havre is just old-school Hollywood cheese filtered through a semi-ironic lens. JAMIE S. RICH Living Room Theaters.
Man on a Ledge
Within the first 90 seconds of Man on a Ledge, Man (Sam Worthington) gets onto a Ledge (a great star turn by Ledge). Ten seconds later, Man threatens to jump off Ledge, the music gets fast, and you are supposed to wonder, "OMG! WILL HE JUMP??" If you are a person who actually wonders that, to you I say: Whoa. Have you never seen a movie before? Seriously, he's not gonna jump right away! If he did, Man would not be on Ledge and the movie would be over. The movie is about a Man on a Ledge. That really could not be any clearer. But is the Man/Ledge relationship merely a distraction from... something more sinister? Like some sort of heist? You'll have to watch the movie to find out!! Ha ha, just kidding. Just watch the first three minutes to find out. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
One for the Money
I am reviewing this movie at my mom's request. She, like so many moms, loves the Janet Evanovich books on which this movie is based. I'm sorry, Mom, but this movie blows. Katherine Heigl is blamed for a lot of things sucking, and this film is no exception: As the protagonist, Jersey girl Stephanie Plum, Heigl flails from Hardened Tough Girl with a Gun to Silly Lovesick/Shoe-Sick Lady as often as a character in this film is brutally murdered (which is really goddamned often for a breezy comedy). Heigl's grating Jersey accent sounds like somebody's lame uncle doing a horrible Tony Soprano, making her lazy voiceover into a dare for the audience to try and root for her less and less as the movie grinds on. Watching this movie is like somebody pressing on a bruise for two hours: not the most painful thing ever, but still crappy. Moms deserve better. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Opera vs. Cinema: Metropolis
Fritz Lang's sci-fi classic Metropolis, with live accompaniment from Opera Theater Oregon, based on themes from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida. Mission Theater.
An early scene in Pina 3D depicts a pack of men and women in sheer negligees, confined to a square plot of soil in a blackened studio. They're performing one of the most notorious pieces in dance history, Le Sacre du Printemps. Sacre's premiere, in 1913 Paris, caused riots; the work's "primitive" dance, sacrificial theme, and Stravinsky's dissonant score came as a shock to classical aesthetics. This reference point of astonishment and innovation is threaded throughout Pina 3D, a hypnotizing, impactful, and pioneering meditation—and the culmination of a longstanding friendship between director Wim Wenders and prominent dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch. JENNA LECHNER Cinema 21.
"Joel, you wanna know something? Every now and then say, 'What the fuck.'" Laurelhurst Theater.
The Rose City Steampunk Film Festival
Eight hours of gears, corsets, and films celebrating what The Guild called "the Eurotrash of nerddom." More info on Twitter: @PDXsteampunkFF. Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Ostensibly a film about the separation of a wife, Simin (Leila Hatami), from her husband, Nader (Peyman Maadi), A Separation quietly spans a much greater field of inquiry. With Hitchcockian pacing, this Iranian film by Asghar Farhadi spirals out to explore the ripple effects of Simin's push for independence. Without being overtly political, Farhadi's created a revealing portrait of contemporary Iranian life. As the film's layers steadily build in complexity, so too does the audience's investment in its characters. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
It's awkward, being a sex addict. There's the possibility that your boss might discover all the porn you've got on your hard drive, or your sister might walk in on you while you're masturbating. In Shame, sex junkie Brandon (Michael Fassbender) runs into these difficulties in between meaningless trysts with women he meets at bars and women he pays for. There's not much pleasure in watching Brandon hit rock bottom, but it's to the credit of both Fassbender and director Steve McQueen that Brandon is a complex and almost wholly sympathetic character even when behaving reprehensibly. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace 3D
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
"I kept asking Clarence why our world seemed to be collapsing and things seemed to be getting so shitty. And he'd say, 'That's the way it goes, but don't forget—it goes the other way, too.'" Hollywood Theatre.
Nicolas Cage in the '80s-riffic romcom, back before dude's forehead had its own ZIP code. Clinton Street Theater.
A romance starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. We didn't bother sending a critic. Various Theaters.
Wild at Heart
Sailor and Lulu fuck like bunnies, Bobby Peru scares the crap outta everyone, and Laura Palmer the Good Witch floats around in a pretty bubble. Welcome to David Lynch's Lollipop Guild. COURTNEY FERGUSON Bagdad Theater.
The Woman in Black
I, for one, am excited to see Harry Potter ditch the wizard robe and get into something a little more comfortable. Er, kinda. In the horror movie The Woman in Black, Daniel Radcliffe is stuffed into a tight little turn-of-the-century vest and suit, looking young and vulnerable as he skulks around a gloomy haunted mansion with a candle, on the hunt for things that go bump in the night that don't wear tea towels. (House-elf reference!) And because the film has some genuinely, thoroughly chilling moments, it's not even that hard to remind yourself that this isn't about the Boy Who Lived. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.