21 Jump Street
Even while pop culture is devouring its own tail, it manages to shit out an occasional gem. 21 Jump Street is that gem—a far, far more entertaining film than it has any business being. Neither a gritty reimagining™ nor a full-on parody, it's mostly just a silly take on reliving high school that manages both laughs and, occasionally, a disturbing amount of earnestness. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
All In: The Poker Movie
An exhaustive (and exhausting) history of modern poker, All In is jam-packed with famous poker pros and the occasional celeb (hello, Matt Damon) waxing poetic on their favorite game. Unfortunately, the incessant back patting and questionable conflicts of interest quickly become overwhelming, and one wishes the creators had focused solely on the fascinating stories of Amarillo Slim (World Poker Champ 1972) and Chris Moneymaker (World Poker Champ 2003). If you're a poker obsessive, you won't learn a thing, but probably love it; if you're a casual player, you'll O.D. and never want to play poker again. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Being Flynn is based on the undeniably compelling events first described in writer Nick Flynn's memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. Paul Weitz's adaptation, though, is largely told in a sort of transformational-cinema shorthand, where a job at a homeless shelter signals a growing maturity, and a hit off a crack pipe signposts an addiction, soon to be addressed by an NA meeting montage. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Blue Like Jazz
A coming-of-age drama set at Reed College. Officially opens on April 13; see next week's Mercury for our review. Bagdad Theater.
See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater.
Chico & Rita
The Spanish animated film Chico & Rita is pretty obviously a fictional love story set within an earnest love letter to 1950s Latin jazz by directors Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando, and Fernando Trueba. When real-life Latin jazz sensations start sliding into the film, though, it gets clunky, drawn out, and insidery—unless you're already into the scene, watching Chico & Rita starts to feel like standing in a club with a friend who won't stop snapping his fingers and insisting, "Isn't this great?" SUZETTE SMITH Fox Tower 10.
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.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
See review this issue. Director in attendance for 7:15 show on Sat April 7. Hollywood Theatre.
There are, perhaps, more identifiable figures in contemporary cinema than the members of an exceedingly rich family who are about to become even richer. The Descendants is about the Kings, a well-off Hawaiian family that's about to sell a huge chunk of unspoiled paradise to a developer. More specifically, it's about Matt King (George Clooney), the patriarch upon whose shoulders that decision rests—and also a man whose wife is in a potentially deadly coma, whose rebellious teenage daughter (Shailene Woodley) is less than impressed with his parenting, and whose life seems to be slipping from his grasp with every moment. There is, on the surface, a lot that's great about The Descendants—beginning with Clooney and Woodley's fantastic performances—but below that surface, there isn't much. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Valley Theater.
Father/son Talmudic scholars Eliezer (Shlomo Bar-Aba) and Uriel Shkolnik (Lior Ashkenazi) have a tense relationship: Eliezer's painstaking academic research is, as Uriel's wife puts it, "autistic," while Eliezer mocks Uriel's high-speed publishing and fondness for public appearances. When Eliezer mistakenly receives a top honor he's been passed over for 20 years—and which was meant to go to his son—questions of honor and family are raised in this un-sexy but effective tale of moral tension and complexity. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
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 Fox Tower 10.
Gerhard Richter Painting
A doc about German artist Gerhard Richter. Wheeee! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A documentary about how and why McDonald's spent a ton of money to turn public opinion against that lady who sued them when she spilled her coffee. See next week's Mercury for our review. Director in attendance on Thurs April 12 and Sat April 13. Hollywood Theatre.
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games movie is so much better than it needs to be. The franchise is already poised to be the Next Big Thing; had its casting been less thoughtful or its political message diluted, the film still would've broken box office records and moved plenty of tie-in nail polish. But this first installment in a projected trilogy is as smart, compelling, and as politically pointed as any fan of its source material—Suzanne Collins' great novels—could hope. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
By casting Jason Segel and Ed Helms in the leading roles, I'd assumed that Jeff, Who Lives at Home—the latest from mumblecore poster boys Jay and Mark Duplass—was aiming to draw in the type of dude who quotes The Hangover at sports bars. Then the trailer, with its brown tones, indie rock, and film-fest cred suggested it was reaching for glasses-wearing art students. But by turning out to be neither very funny nor very creative, this movie isn't what either clichéd example would hope for. Still, where it lands—a sweet, simple look at a messed-up-in-a-plain-way family—is, if nothing else, kinda pleasant. ELINOR JONES City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
A 10-seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway is the unlikely home base of the exceedingly fastidious Jiro Ono, widely known as the world's best sushi chef. David Gelb's worshipful portrait of Ono is blowhard-y at times, but will whet your appetite for both raw fish and work/life balance. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
The Kid With a Bike
An 11-year-old Belgian boy is abandoned by his Belgian father, but a sweet Belgian lady hairdresser takes him under her Belgian wing. The kid rides his Belgian bike around the Belgian village and flirts with becoming a Belgian juvenile delinquent—which is kind of like a regular American juvenile delinquent, except way less scary. But all is well; Belgian kid and Belgian lady all work it out and ride some Belgian bikes. This was a good movie. It was sweet and touching. And Belgian. NED LANNAMANN Living Room Theaters.
Fritz Lang's surreal sci-fi classic from 1927, with a live score performed by the Cambridge Alloy Orchestra. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Julia Roberts is the aging queen of a corrupt empire, clinging by manicured fingernails to her fading looks in a world that values youth and beauty above all. She also stars in the new Snow White movie Mirror Mirror! SNAP! ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
A Christian woman discovers her dying husband regularly made deposits to a sperm bank, and now wants to meet one of his progeny. But the kid turns out to be a criminal! Life Lessons doubtless follow. Living Room Theaters.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
The Raid: Redemption
The Raid: Redemption has a character or two, I'm sure; it has some plot, I think. But none of that matters, because in The Raid, those things are mere interludes in a nearly nonstop parade of stunning action sequences. The Raid is an action movie; it is about nothing more than action. And good action. The sort that used to be dealt by John Woo, before America ruined him. Or Tony Jaa, when he teased us with Ong Bak before going insane. Or Jackie Chan, by which I mean Drunken Master II Jackie Chan. That sort of action. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinema 21, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Directed by Lasse Hallström and based on a bestselling novel by Paul Torday, this inoffensive tale of a wise but eccentric Arab sheik's quest to import salmon to his Yemeni homeland is exotic but uncontroversial, at least to Western audiences. Kristin Scott Thomas shines as a multitasking PR powerhouse, but the poor chemistry of leads Emily Blunt and Ewan MacGregor renders central plotlines bloodless. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
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 Various Theaters.
Tagline: "Dirty Harry is at it again." He certainly is. He certainly is. Laurelhurst Theater.
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 Bagdad Theater.
Titanic! Again! Various Theaters.
David Lynch's TV series on the big screen. There's a star next to this, obviously. Hollywood Theatre.
No, not the bullshit Sarah Palin film, but the Oscar-winning documentary about a no-hope North Memphis high school team turning their fortunes around. A volunteer coach pushes his kids to a winning season, though the victories come with the requisite drama. There are fights, injuries, and academic woes in between the games, and directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin mold the tale with as much heart as their subjects exhibit on the field. You think you know how it's going to go, but trust me, Undefeated's climax is a nailbiter. JAMIE S. RICH Fox Tower 10.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Eva (Tilda Swinton) is the mother of Kevin (Ezra Miller), an eeeevil teenager who one day took his archery kit to school and started shooting arrows into people. We Need to Talk About Kevin considers itself capital-D italicized Drama, and Lynne Ramsay's over-stylized direction, laden with half-assed symbolism (Eva spends a lot of time washing red off of her hands), is pretentious and draggy. Every scene is a naked plea to make the audience feel; stacked one after another, the result is an insulting drone. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
What's Wrong with This Picture?
Not all of the movies in the Northwest Filmmakers' Festival are great films. In fact, What's Wrong with This Picture?—a free workshop hosted by film expert and co-founder of Seattle's TheFilmSchool, Warren Etheredge—is all about the films that don't make it into the festival. Etheredge wittily and mercilessly leads a conversation on the failings of each, complete with Gong Show-style elimination. You'll laugh—and you'll also learn a thing or two about making, and watching, film. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Wrath of the Titans
The plot could fit on a pair of knuckle tattoos, so I'm just going to tell you some of the cool things that happen: Perseus tricks a chimera into exploding. Bill Nighy yells at a mechanical owl. All the monsters have two heads and shoot fire. Rosamund Pike is very pretty. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes act at each other. An army fights a volcano. Someone flies a laser Pegasus down a lava monster. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.