Like a basset hound coming in first at the Kentucky Derby, Richard Linklater's Bernie is a floppy, improbable triumph. Nothing about it should work, but almost everything does. Essentially the story of a very friendly murderer (Jack Black), Bernie poses a finely balanced ethical quandary: What do we do when someone we like does something terrible to someone we hate? This isn't a documentary, and Linklater isn't constrained with balance or objectivity. Your opinion will shift, at times in sync with and in times in opposition to the film. Films this challenging are rarely so pleasant about it. BEN COLEMAN Century Clackamas Town Center, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
A comedic drama about a group of retirees who move to a dilapidated hotel in India, starring the worship-worthy British biddies Dame Judi Dench and Queen Bitch Maggie Smith. Various Theaters.
Big Meat Eater
Canada's "bizarre musical comedy sci-fi/horror film" from 1982 involves a butcher, aliens, a boy genius, and dalmatians. Canadians! Clinton Street Theater.
Naturally, a documentary about the bane of lit theory students everywhere is one that functions by "questioning the very concept of biography itself." Fifth Avenue Cinema.
For Greater Glory
Here's that new Andy Garcia movie you haven't been waiting for! Various Theaters.
God Bless America
Within the first 10 mintues of Bobcat Goldthwait's new dark comedy, the main character shoots an infant point blank, showering its screaming mother's face in blood. It's just a fantasy, though—that of Frank (Joel Murray), a disgruntled, lonely man whose nightly channel surfing has rendered him so disgusted with American culture that he's only a few breaking points away from murderous rampage. The next thing we know, Frank's on the road with Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), his improbable teenage sidekick, gleefully murdering anyone that they find rude, stupid, or cruel. While it's intended to be a liberal's catharsis, God Bless America follows an unsurprising formula. It's basically one long joke borne out across the length of a feature, and it's neither smart nor nuanced enough to carry the air of superiority it hinges on. MARJORIE SKINNER Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Based on a true story, The Intouchables follows Philippe, a super-rich white guy who is left a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. Instead of the same old stuffy male nurse, he hires a street-savvy African immigrant named Driss to be his caretaker/companion. They go through some rough patches at first, but soon they start sharing their interests—classical music and art appreciation; pot smoking and Kool and the Gang—and inspiring each other to branch out. The movie was hugely popular in France: The actors are terrific, and the film includes plenty of irreverent French humor. But it doesn't shy away from the pain of being quadriplegic or the pain of poverty. This is not a man-crippled-emotionally-and-physically-learns-to-live-again story; it's about a bond between two people who never would have expected such a bond was possible. There is nothing radical about a rich white guy paying a person of color to care for him, and all the class issues are obviously there. But The Intouchables does a good job of showing that being rich doesn't insulate you from personal insecurity or hurting or doubt; you still need to decide who you want to be and what kind of life you want to lead. GILLIAN ANDERSON Fox Tower 10.
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, Laurelhurst Theater, Liberty Theatre.
Kung Fu Theater
Old-school kung fu on 35 mm! Up this week: Mercenaries from Hong Kong. Hollywood Theatre.
The Loving Story
See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater.
It's a kids movie! About talking animals! That is all.Various Theaters.
Men in Black 3
When people talk shit about blockbusters, Men in Black 3 is the sort of product they're referring to. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
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 Cinema 21.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
My Neighbor Totoro
Probably one of the sweetest and prettiest movies ever, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and starring Totoro, who is the world's cutest thing (after otters). And this is the dubbed version so kids can go! Everyone should watch this all the time. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Safety Not Guaranteed
See Film, this isssue. Fox Tower 10.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Snow White and the Huntsman is awful—which doesn't matter, because it's also so insane that one would have to be an asshole not to wring some pleasure out of it. Snow White begins as a gauzy fairy tale, but by its third act, it has Snow White leading a Normandy-style assault on a beachside castle in a sequence shot like a medieval Saving Private Ryan; meanwhile, having snuck inside said castle by utilizing slapstick, alcoholic dwarves get into shenanigans. And! That dude who played Thor in The Avengers is dreamy, and Charlize Theron writhes as an Evil Queen, and Snow White has an acid trip, and Thor fights a troll, and CG woodland creatures. Snow White is less a film than it is a 14-year-old goth girl's fever dream, magnificent and terrible to behold. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Cinema Project presents a three-screen installation showing footage shot by Timothy Treadwell—the dude Grizzly Man has about, who insisted on living around grizzly bears and then, you know, got eaten by a bear. There'll be live musical accompaniment; attending in costume as Baloo from The Jungle Book is strongly discouraged. More info: cinemaproject.org. Bamboo Grove Salon.
The Thomas Crown Affair
The one with Steve McQueen, not Remington Steele. Laurelhurst Theater.
A locally produced documentary about PlayWrite, the Portland organization that "works with youth 'at the edge' to create original plays." Cinema 21