Vengeance is a dish best served by the Avengers. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
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.
Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata, and the Masters of Studio Ghibli
An excellent selection of some of the best films from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. This week's films include Kiki's Delivery Service, Only Yesterday, and Princess Mononoke; for more info, see nwfilm.org and "When Totoros Attack," Film, May 3. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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.
Damsels in Distress
After a decade-plus hiatus following his acclaimed The Last Days of Disco, director Whit Stillman is back with a bizarre quirkfest about a group of girls trying to civilize a recently-integrated boys college—the perfect inverse of PCU. If that film was about a group of party boys teaching a school to grow some balls, Damsels in Distress is about a group of prudish princesses teaching it to grow a vagina. Stillman doesn't have a vagina, and Damsels feels largely like it was written by a closeted-gay intellectual from the 1800s. Greta Gerwig plays Violet, ringleader of a group of girls who run the campus suicide prevention center. She uses words like "mustn't," hopes to rehabilitate the depressed through tap dance, and dreams of starting an international dance craze. Another character passes out whenever a sweaty guy passes, and dates a fratboy who never learned his colors. Sound hilarious so far? It seems like it might be satire, but I don't know what of, or what planet these characters are supposed to be from. VINCE MANCINI Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The First Movie
See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater.
The Five-Year Engagement
Listen up, gentlemen: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller have fixed the romantic comedy. It's safe now. Really. If you didn't see Forgetting Sarah Marshall—the very funny 2008 comedy the writer/actor and director made together—this could come as a shock. That movie turned the chick flick on its ear via gross-out gags, silly puppets, and legitimately sweet sad-guy moping. Now they've made The Five-Year Engagement, which takes a step further into the black heart of the beast. It's casually, irresistibly funny, even as it repeatedly sets up and punctures the type of romantic fantasy that fuels lesser chick flicks. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
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 Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Liberty Theatre.
This Austrian thriller, written and directed by Michael Haneke, is one of the most psychologically brutal films I've ever encountered, presenting an unflinchingly cruel challenge to the viewer to examine, and perhaps justify, the entertainment value of violence. I adore it. MARJORIE SKINNER Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
See Film, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
You can't go wrong with Willem Dafoe. Even Sam Raimi stuffing him into a plastic green robot suit in Spider-Man couldn't sap Dafoe of his preternatural watchability. You just want to look at him, and that's why The Hunter works. In fact, it would be interminable without him. He plays the titular hunter, sent to Tasmania in search of a creature called a Tasmanian tiger (imagine a striped hyena with a pair of ragged needle-nose pliers for a mouth). The tiger has long been considered extinct, but new evidence suggests there may be one left. While hunting the tiger, Dafoe finds himself torn between environmentalists, local loggers who fear losing their jobs, and a beautiful, depressed young widow. The story lopes into cliché a bit too often, but it's heavy with long stretches wherein Defoe expertly assembles traps in the beautiful Tasmanian countryside. It's not a good movie, but it's a very watchable one. PAUL CONSTANT Mission Theater.
Inter-Action: Animated Shorts
Seattle filmmaker Tess Martin presents short films made by the Seattle Experimental Animation Team, that "explore interactions—actions between each frame of motion as well as between each subject onscreen." More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
It Came from Detroit
I was excited to see this music doc about the explosion of the garage rock scene in early-2000s Detroit—a scene that climaxed with a SPIN writer asking, "Is Detroit the new Seattle?" This theory's interesting to me because I came from Detroit; I left in 1998 and watched, from a 206 area code, as the White Stripes and the Von Bondies quit playing downtown bars where I used to waitress and started appearing on national magazine covers, radio stations, and late night TV. Though I'm the perfect demographic for this film—a fan of both the city and the music—for me, the documentary falls flat. The interviews with singer Jason Stollsteimer of now defunct Von Bondies' are long and tedious, the comparison of Seattle grunge and Detroit garage isn't a good one and becomes irrelevant about halfway through the film, and footage of still-relevant bands like the Gories and the Dirtbombs aren't nearly enough to save this two-hour yawn fest. KELLY O Hollywood Theatre.
"Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour." 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 Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Fox Tower 10, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater, St. Johns Theater and Pub.
Jesus Henry Christ
A not-screened-for-critics comedy about "a boy who was conceived in a petri-dish and raised by his feminist mother" who's searching for his father. Living Room Theaters.
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 Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Juan of the Dead
A low-budget zom-com splatter flick, so it's not... great. The humor is subtle like an oar to the skull. Continuity is not a strength. And while the heroic goons in Shaun of the Dead were flawed but lovable, the goons in Juan are mostly just goons. There are some fun set pieces, though, and dammit, it looks like they had fun making it. It's this exuberance—this love of slow-mo and ninja stars and buckets of corn syrup blood—that gives Juan any right to the mantle of its big brothers of the dead. BEN COLEMAN Hollywood Theatre.
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.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
The Pirates! Band of Misfits—from Aardman Animations, the same British stop-motion studio behind Wallace and Gromit and a bunch of other good stuff—is for kids, but it works for adults, although I didn't even know what some of their old-timey British slang meant. What gives, children's movie? Why you gotta make me feel dumb? But kids won't care if they don't get all of the dialogue, and the animation is awesome and should entertain the most discerning baby cinephile. Adding to the fun are voices of Imelda Staunton, Salma Hayek, David Tennant, Martin Freeman, and, what the hell, is that Jeremy Piven? Okay. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
QDoc: Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival
Portland's queer documentary festival enters its sixth year. Tonight, the fest kicks off with a screening of Wish Me Away, a film about country musician Chely Wright, who came out in 2010. Wright will be in attendance. For more on QDoc, see next week's Mercury and queerdocfest.org. Kennedy School.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Safe is the new Jason Statham movie starring Jason Statham. In this movie, Jason Statham fights crime guys with punching and gun moves. He fights Russian crime guys, Chinese crime guys, and also some policemen. (Don't worry, they're bad policemen. In a way, they're also crime guys.) None of them have a chance, though, because Jason Statham is a supercop and an MMA fighter. Jason Statham kills lots of people, but it's all okay because it's to protect a little girl. After lots of shooting and punching, Jason Statham finds the main bad guy and they have a showdown. Then the credits roll, and the movie is over. JOE STRECKERT Various Theaters.
Hey, look, it's the most overrated Western in the entire history of the Western. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Laurelhurst Theater.
The Seventh Day
Not to be confused with Roger Spottiswoode's Oscar-winning film from 2000, The 6th Day, The Seventh Day was made by PSU students "during the student strikes that erupted on college campuses across the nation in May of 1970." Screening from an original 16mm print, along with with live music and speakers. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Show and Tell:
The Work of Dani Leventhal
Cinema Project presents work from Dani Leventhal, an artist committed "to constantly recording her immediate world, carrying her camera with her everywhere, often mounted on her bicycle." Artist in attendance. More info: cinemaproject.org. Hollywood Theatre.
Sound of My Voice
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Sprout Film Festival
An evening of short films dedicated to raising awareness "of the lives, accomplishments, and performances of people with developmental disabilities." More info: sproutfilmfestival.org. Kennedy School.
Sprung! A Bike Smut Retrospective
A weekly, Bike Smut-curated retrospective of films that have "influenced or paved the way for our festival." Each screening will be accompanied by "shorts, performances, trivia, games, and prizes." Clinton Street Theater.
Think Like a Man
The most comically misguided, delusional, sexist, and offensive romantic comedy ever conceived. Jesus Christ. Where to begin. This movie, which will serve as an example of Hollywood misogyny in women's studies classes for years to come, is based on a relationship book by Steve Harvey, a comedian on his third marriage. Harvey appears throughout the film as himself, dishing out hot garbage while seemingly intelligent female characters nod along, going, "Yes, yes, we should lower our standards! I love not getting what I want." ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
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 Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.