21 Jump Street
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Act of Valor
In the not-so-proud history of jingoistic, military-thumping cinema—from Triumph of the Will to The Green Berets—Act of Valor stands alone for its sheer bumbling ineptitude. The film's only selling point is that it stars nameless active-duty Navy SEALs, and though these men are obviously physically impressive (in the course of the film's nearly two hour runtime, they swim, they run, they sneak, and they apparently can't have a bowel movement without being dropped out of a plane first), they are not actors. They're pieces of meat who trip over their tongues whenever emotion is supposed to fall out of their mouths. Compared to Act of Valor, The Expendables looks like The Godfather. PAUL CONSTANT Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Better Than Something:
Punk-garage musician Jay Reatard died suddenly, of cocaine toxicity and alcohol, at age 29 in January of 2010—leaving behind a sprawling legacy of albums, singles, and EPs that he'd released over the previous decade under a huge variety of names. His death was awful, to say the least, but perhaps most painful in the way that his intense, provocative version of rock 'n' roll seemed to practically predestine it. Better Than Something: Jay Reatard, the excellent feature-length documentary by Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz, proves that this perception is very far away from the truth; Reatard had a painful upbringing and a difficult life, but not for one second did he buy into the worn-out myth of living fast and leaving a pretty corpse. It's a must-see for anyone who's a Jay Reatard fan; if you're not one, you will be after. NED LANNAMANN Clinton Street Theater.
Bicycle Dreams: The Race
Bike porn about "the most challenging sporting event in the world." Clinton Street Theater.
Casa de mi Padre
Casa De Mi Padre follows the Apatovian formula pretty straight-facedly—an un-ambitious man-child (Will Ferrell) must find his place in the world despite the scorn of his father and pretty much everyone else in the film—but a simple twist saves the movie from being a bore. It's set in Mexico, stars Ferrell as the son of a rancher who gets pulled into a world of romance and violence, is spoken entirely in Spanish—Ferrell, too—and it's a hyper-violent, pulpy tale of revenge, told in grindhouse style. The subtitles alone are enough to turn the multiplex crowd away (my date, a fluent Spanish-speaker, tells me Ferrell's accent is excellent), but they're missing out on something special. Its experimental edge gives the film a fetching energy: Ferrell has fun with his lines in a way he hasn't since Anchorman (he sounds so proud when he exclaims, in Spanish, "I am riding a horse!"), and his ridiculous physicality sells the macho fantasy when he finally picks up a rifle and prepares to exact revenge against the man who attacked his family. Some of the jokes are of the easy, offensive, "this is Mexico, and things in Mexico are cheaper than in the United States" variety. But there is enough authentic-seeming anti-US sentiment here (in the form of Nick Offerman's ironically racist FBI agent and, especially, a two-minute conversation where Ferrell talks so much shit about the US that you expect him to be called before Congress any day now) to let us know that everyone's the butt of the joke. PAUL CONSTANT Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
A few things about The Conquest, a subtitled passion play exploring the dickishly diminutive Nicolas Sarkozy and his all-consuming ascent to the pinnacle of French politics: (1) Fire is a symbol for ambition, but sometimes rage. (Careful, because that shit can burn out of control!) (2) French men would be lost without their women. (3) The title works on two whole levels! Just as Sarkozy's vocational dreams finally are within reach, that same fiery ambition drives away his long-suffering first wife, and then he has to try to win her back, too. Of course, he doesn't. But (4) Carla Bruni is never mentioned. It's captivating enough, but I think I'd have liked it more if I were, you know, French. Or if I actually knew who more than three or four of the other faces on display and what the hell they were talking about. But I'm not, and I didn't. DENIS C. THERIAULT Living Room Theaters.
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Universally agreed to be the mopiest of Dr. Seuss' books, The Lorax is nevertheless a kids' classic that carries an important message and never talks down to its readership. The same cannot be said for the new animated version, which is the visual equivalent of watching Al Gore juggle a kitten, an exploding pack of firecrackers, an ice cream sundae, a shirtless Zac Efron, and... what was that message again? WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Driven: The Films of
Nicolas Winding Refn
The Northwest Film Center's Nicolas Winding Refn series continues. This week: Valhalla Rising, Bronson, and Drive. For more info, see "Refn Rising" [Mercury, March 8] and nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Forgiveness of Blood
An Albanian drama from the director of Maria Full of Grace. Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Friends with Kids
As a concept, Friends with Kids is the worst conceivable variation on "friends with benefits." It's sex one time and with all the consequences. Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are upper-middle-class thirtysomethings in New York who are the last in their social circle to marry and procreate. Convinced the chaos of childrearing sucks the romance out of relationships, the pair hit upon the idea of avoiding the difficulty of emotional entanglements by having a child together. This will leave them free to explore their options in the dating pool. Friends with Kids is funny and crass and, at times, more than a little schmaltzy. Yet, there's something refreshing about seeing grownups talk about grown-up things in real ways. As writer and director, Westfeldt finds both humor and emotion in this unconventional scenario. JAMIE S. RICH Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Like most mysteries, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is less about story and more about the grinding mechanics of plot: exposition, process, exposition, process. Dragon Tattoo isn't just any mystery, though: Based on the first book in Stieg Larsson's wildly popular trilogy, this Dragon Tattoo is the latest from David Fincher, and arrives on the heels of his last awards-season effort, The Social Network. Those expecting anything on par with Fincher's best work—The Social Network, Zodiac, Fight Club—should probably lower their expectations closer to Benjamin Button levels. Fincher can be one of our best directors, but he's also one of the least reliable. With Dragon Tattoo, he's made a film that befits its airport paperback origins—if, you know, they showed movies with brutal rape scenes on airplanes. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
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 Academy Theater, Avalon, Laurelhurst Theater.
Much like Schindler's List and the Holocaust genre at large, Agnieszka Holland's Holocaust drama focuses on a specific story of heroism and survival. A little overly long in its drive to distinctively nuance itself, it's a bracing and powerful but hardly revelatory endeavor. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
See review this issue. Century Clackamas Town Center, Fox Tower 10.
Rascally Confederate soldier John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) finds a magical cave and gets teleported to Mars. There, the planet's warring races—some of them are green, CG, and have four arms, while the rest of them look like they stepped out of 1980's Flash Gordon—zoom around in airships and squabble over a crappy planet that looks like Utah. It's not that there are too many moving parts in John Carter, it's that all of the parts are bland gibberish. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Manchurian Candidate
"It's a terrible thing to hate your mother. But I didn't always hate her. When I was a child, I only kind of disliked her." Cinema 21.
While J.J. Abrams' Mission: Impossible III stripped down the blockbuster/action/spy genre to its leanest, meanest, trickiest bits, director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant) just wants to have fun with Ghost Protocol, and damn, does he ever: With a lighthearted tone and exceedingly well-executed mash-ups of preposterous action and witty physical comedy, Bird lines up a series of great moments from both his cast and his stunt team. The only things really lacking are (A) ghosts and (B) protocols. But whatever: There's a huge surplus of fun to make up for those deficits, and in a season defined by family and financial stress at home, and Oscar bait in theaters, fun's a pretty great thing to have. ERIK HENRIKSEN Avalon, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas.
Local writer and filmmaker David Walker hosts an evening of clips from little-known B-movies filmed in Portland. Hollywood Theatre.
Is there anything that more perfectly summarizes the clumsy bravado of a teenaged boy's sense of humor than a midget joke? Adults don't think midget jokes are funny. (Or, okay: Adults who aren't total assholes don't think midget jokes are funny.) The midget gag in Project X involves a midget being shoved into an oven by three hulking jocks, then bursting out to angrily sucker punch everyone in his vicinity in the balls. (Did that make you laugh? That was a test.) ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Co-written by director Oren Moverman (The Messenger) alongside James Ellroy's hard-on for the LAPD, Rampart is as loosely structured as the damaged psyche of "Date Rape" Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), a racist cop and terminally crappy dad in Los Angeles circa 1999. Though too long by at least 20 minutes, Rampart's unflinching portrait of a bad man in decline packs a lot of power. JAMIE S. RICH Mission Theater.
The Secret World of Arrietty
Forget the '92 BBC miniseries The Borrowers, or John Goodman's '97 adaptation (if you haven't already) of Mary Norton's classic children's book. Studio Ghibli presents a quietly compelling anime version of the story, written by Spirited Away's Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The film masterfully demonstrates the worldview of the borrowers by rapid pullback shots, their small stature fully realized when Arrietty's mother gets trapped in a jar and is unable to escape. It's also filled with special little details—like when Arrietty uses a leaf as an umbrella and flies through the yard trying to avoid an entanglement with a grasshopper—and loud, comical, emotional outbursts by Arrietty's worrisome mother and the cunning housekeeper. Despite the inherent dangers of Arrietty's world, the landscapes look slightly like an impressionistic painting, and the wind is always whistling through the trees. AMY SCOTT Living Room Theaters, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
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, Hollywood Theatre.
A new quarterly program of local short films. Hollywood Theatre.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
An extended dose of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (To many, Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker schtick is supremely annoying; to others, it's the cutting edge of comedy.) While the show, by definition, changes gears every 10 minutes, the film is one long, increasingly wrong ride that leaves the viewer a little exhausted. Much like a box of whip-its, a few quick hits is boneheaded fun; doing the whole thing kind of crosses the line into depressing. MARJORIE SKINNER Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
To Kill a Mockingbird
"Listen, no matter what she says to you, don't answer her back. There's a Confederate pistol in her lap under her shawl and she'll kill you quick as look at you." Cinema 21.
David Lynch's TV series on the big screen. There's a star next to this, obviously. Hollywood Theatre.
Cronenberg's techno-nightmare from 1983. Laurelhurst Theater.
Works from students at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Clinton Street Theater.
Jennifer Aniston and our sparkly-eyed squeal factory Paul Rudd are Linda and George, a Manhattan couple who goes broke, loses their tiny condo, and heads to Atlanta to find work with George's horrible brother, Rick (Ken Marino). En route they stumble upon Elysium, a hippie commune that (SPOILER ALERT, if you're dumb) changes the way they see the world. Now, you're probably going to want to do what I did when you see Aniston on the poster—i.e., write this movie off because she does NOT make good movies and doesn't need your $9 contribution to her Salty Aging Sorority Girl Pilates Club. (Also because the whole thing looks boring and lame.) But resist that urge, because this movie is, surprisingly, pretty goddamned funny. I was all, "Chuckle chuckle, wait what is happening?" ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Madonna is not very good at directing movies. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.