Blue Like Jazz
As a Reed College graduate, it's incredibly difficult to watch Blue Like Jazz without focusing on the school's portrayal. After all, as the backdrop for 19-year-old protagonist Donald Miller's (Marshall Allman) crisis of faith, the Portland campus and its students have a starring role. There are few reasons to see this mediocre and faith-messaged movie other than as another round of Reed scrutiny, and its honor could use a little defense: If Miller failed to penetrate Reed's superficial weirdness and tap into its essential open mindedness, it's his loss. MARJORIE SKINNER Century Clackamas Town Center, Fox Tower 10.
Boy tells the story of an 11-year-old growing up in rural 1980s New Zealand amid harsh circumstances. His mother died giving birth to his younger brother, who remains haunted by guilt. His father is a deadbeat wanderer who goes missing for years at a time. His best friend is literally a goat. And when his grandmother is called away to a distant funeral, he's left in charge of a bustling household of cousins young enough to need diapers (plus food and shelter). But out of this grim Kiwi spin on Home Alone, Boy explodes in a hundred directions that are the opposite of grim. "Welcome to my interesting world," says Boy, introducing the film's kid's-eye view while communicating our narrator's inherent innocence. Unlike the viewer, our hero lacks the life experience to recognize his circumstances as harsh—this is simply his life, and he offers it up to us as innocently as an 11-year-old would, using the tools at an 11-year-old's disposal: cartoonish fantasies, scratchy illustrations, cut-and-paste collages, and charmingly simplistic explanations. Boy is a candy-colored crowd-pleaser packed with deep, dark substance, and it's just about perfect. DAVID SCHMADER Fox Tower 10, Liberty Theatre.
Throughout the emotional documentary Bully, while kids are shown suffering at the hands of their asshole peers, the most frustrating sight is watching how their teachers, assistant principals, and in some cases parents respond to the situation. "Kids will be kids," they say. That's hardly comforting when asking for help for your gay daughter, who has attempted suicide three times. I went in expecting to sob, to be filled with sympathy for the kids and guilt over not being able to help—I walked out wanting to kick the system's ass. MEGAN SELING Fox Tower 10.
The Cabin in the Woods
Taking the overripe "college kids headed into the woods" horror genre and layering it with smart twists, Cabin in the Woods is a delightful Frankenstein's monster of borrowed bits and electrified fun. Even though the Joss Whedon-penned Cabin languished on the studio shelf for two years, it's shiny rather than musty, and crammed full of cleverness, humor, and gory surprises. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
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 Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
A Disney documentary about chimpanzees! Including a tiny baby chimpanzee! They did not screen this for critics. What the fuck, Disney. Various Theaters.
In Coriolanus, Ralph Fiennes plays a sharp version of the soldier-hero whose bad temper gets him exiled and eventually kills him. Coriolanus is Shakespeare's action movie, and Fiennes has directed it that way: big explosions, macho knife duels, and urban-warfare sequences that look like shooter videogames. Fiennes is not pulling a Kenneth Branagh, gyring about on the wings of Shakespearean poesy. He's made a grimy action film with mild political undertones and a few kick-ass one-liners from the most famous writer in the English language. BRENDAN KILEY Fox Tower 10.
A not-screened-for critics French romance. Fox Tower 10.
A Drummer's Dream
Unless you're interested in watching the likes of Dennis Chambers, Giovanni Hidalgo, Mike Mangini (didn't ring a bell with me either), and other "famous" drummers philosophize and wank for over an hour, don't bother. A Drummer's Dream takes you to rural Canada where a handful of seasoned drummers are running a camp for novices young and old. While the scenery is beautiful, and the 40 students look hopeful, we get to see very little of the landscape and we hear from very few of the students. There was great potential here for some soaring inspiration in this documentary, but instead you have to watch a bunch of dudes stroke each other's egos. ARIS WALES Clinton Street Theater.
Sam Peckinpah and Walter Hill's 1972 heist flick. Laurelhurst Theater.
The Greater Good
Zooming in on three specific cases across the country—one involving an autistic boy in Portland—The Greater Good makes you think twice about the conspiracy-fueled nutjobs who refuse to vaccinate their kids. This in-depth documentary examines the politics and debate behind historically life-saving vaccinations that may trigger devastating side effects in children. From corporate suits who deny the connection between their vaccines and these kids' ailments to a smart high school cheerleader whose seizures stop her from attending homecoming, the range of interviews provide a well-balanced, humanizing look at a questionable issue. Director and subjects in attendance. ALEX ZIELINSKI Cinema 21.
Wong Kar-wai's 1997 drama, starring Tony Leung, Leslie Cheung, and Chen Chang. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Short documentaries made by students in the NW Documentary Workshop, featuring live music by Alameda. More info: nwdocumentary.org. Mission Theater.
After spilling a cup of drive-through coffee in her lap in 1994, Stella Liebeck became a national punchline, fodder for cheap yuks by the likes of pabulum-spooning late-night talk-show hosts. Probably because they, unlike the jurors in the case, never got to see pictures of the thick, necrotic scorch marks on Liebeck's inner thighs. But guess what? The joke's pretty much been on the rest of us. Because Liebeck—a mild-mannered grandmother who died several years ago—also wound up as a rallying cry for one of the most insidious phrases in modern political history: "tort reform." Susan Saladoff's documentary Hot Coffee traces Liebeck's case and several others in an emotionally sapping exposé of how corporate interests have spent the past 20 years systematically de-fanging the civil court system in America. DENIS C. THERIAULT Hollywood Theatre.
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 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.
King Kong vs. Godzilla
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
Luc Besson's biopic, about Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh). Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10.
The latest Luc Besson-produced generic action movie is a valiant attempt to create a 90-minute version of that Dr. Pepper 10 commercial. ("Hey, ladies, enjoying the movie? Of course you're not. Catchphrase! Now stay away from my manly diet drink or I'll punch you in the mouth!") Sure, it's a ripoff of lots of other movies too—I'd call it Escape from New York set in the cryo-prison from Demolition Man starring Guy Pearce as Bruce Willis' character from The Last Boy Scout—but any one of them gets the point across. Probably the funniest part was the "Based on an original idea by..." line during the credits. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
The Lucky One
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
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.
Portland Jewish Film Festival
The 20th annual Portland Jewish Film Festival is upon us, and it's a very mixed bag that includes recent films, documentary, animation, and drama, as well as 1933's Counsellor at Law and 1964's Sallah. And while I doubt there's ever been a showcase of Jewish film that has not touched on the Holocaust, it doesn't dominate, and the festival also grapples with topics as diverse as autism (Mabul) and talking cats (The Rabbi's Cat). More info: nwfilm.org. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Cinema 21.
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
The Salt of Life
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 Living Room 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 Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Liberty Theatre, St. Johns Theater and Pub.
Student Academy Awards
The best animated, narrative, and documentary films from various colleges and art schools. More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Think Like a Man
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Three Stooges
There's an inexplicable disclaimer at the end of The Three Stooges, in which the Farrelly brothers alert the audience about the perils of poking people in the eyeball. It's just fun and games and movie sleight of hand, so don't actually poke people in the eye! Fair enough, Brothers Farrelly. Fair enough. I don't think impressionable children running around poking eyes out is going to be a huge issue, though, as The Three Stooges is not a film for children. No child alive gives two shits about 60-year-old black-and-white movie serials. This is a film made for children by nostalgic adults who can no longer remember what children do or like. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
There's something charming about Trannysnatchers—I mean, it's a locally made B-movie nightmare about murderous satanic transvestite vigilantes who live in a shack, kidnapping their enemies and trying to raise a demon to bring about the end of gender duality. The production quality never leaves high-school AV club, but the dialogue that's audible is funny and clever and many of the characters are surprisingly endearing. (That said, when they're dressing down the penitent Christian, you can go for popcorn; it's seat-squirmingly awkward and goes on far too long.) SUZETTE SMITH Hollywood Theatre.
The Trouble with Bliss
A drama about a confused 35-year-old (Michael C. Hall), costarring Peter Fonda, Lucy Liu, and Brie Larson. Hollywood Theatre.