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 Various Theaters.
People feel downright romantic about their vintage Volkswagen buses, so documentary filmmaker Damon Ristau made great little film about them. The Bus is slightly more exciting than its title, but not by much—unless you're a fan of efficient car design or adorable German men with mustaches talking in thick accents. I like odd, focused documentaries so I enjoyed 55 of these 68 minutes in bus heaven. Also, know that if you go, you will be forced to listen to at least four songs about VW buses—but I get the feeling that this film's target audience will find that totally charming, too. SUZETTE SMITH Hollywood Theatre.
Elena is the slowest of the slow burns: Andrei Zvyagintsev shoots movies like a film splicer ran off with his girlfriend. Elena (Yelena Lyadova) is the nurse-turned-wife of aging plutocrat Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov); the plot concerns itself with increasing the tension between Vladimir, Elena, and their vampy and mooching progeny. Come for the family drama, stay for the gorgeous, unhurried cinematography and Philip Glass score. BEN COLEMAN Living Room Theaters.
Churchill is often quoted as saying that the only traditions of the Royal Navy were rum, sodomy, and the lash. The only tradition of Father's Day, the latest Troma outing, is sodomy. Also, sexual cannibalism. I only made it about halfway through the film, but by that point I'd lost count of the rapes. Some of you are reading this review because you want to see a movie with your dad on Father's Day and this is a movie called Father's Day. Know this: If you take your dad to see this movie he will immediately put you up for adoption. BEN COLEMAN Clinton Street Theater.
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
A film about the Sex Pistols, assembled from "a pastiche of old concert clips and strange cinematic scenes." A portion of the proceeds go towards the Hollywood Theatre's new marquee. Hollywood Theatre.
Hang 'Em High
Clint Eastwood's 1968 Western. Laurelhurst Theater.
Heavy Spannos & Machotaildrop
Two skateboarding movies. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
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.
Wes Anderson, god bless him, just keeps making Wes Anderson movies. As expected, Moonrise Kingdom is mannered, precious, nostalgic, and twee—and it's also about as good a movie about childhood as an adult is capable of making. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
New Czech Cinema
See Film, this issue. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Not Yet Begun to Fight
Sabrina Lee's documentary that follows five soldiers "who come to a tranquil river in Montana to find both peace and healing through fly-fishing." Director in attendance. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A prequel to Alien, Ridley Scott's return to science fiction, and, on both counts, a disappointment. The biggest differences are the films' aims: While Alien followed blue-collar workers merely trying to survive, those in Prometheus tackle what one character humbly proclaims to be "the most meaningful questions ever asked by mankind." The scale is epic, the stakes are huge, and big questions are raised. But the answers are hollow, uninspired, and silly; the anxious horror that slicked every frame of Alien is replaced with flashy spectacle and clunky exposition; the story crumbles apart the longer one thinks about it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
"Let's have some action! Let's have some asses wigglin'! I want some perfection!" Bagdad Theater.
Rock of Ages
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Until the dark day of I Can Has Cheezburger: The Movie!, Safety Not Guaranteed will stand—as far as I can tell—as the only motion picture inspired by an internet meme. While its origins make Safety Not Guaranteed sound slight and disposable—a few steps above Battleship in Hollywood's "Oh shit, what else can we turn into a movie?!" descent—the difference is that Safety Not Guaranteed is both staunchly independent and very, very good. Funny and sad and sweet and clever, it's a film that transcends its roots to become—and I know we're only halfway through 2012, but fuck it—one of the best films of the year. ERIK HENRIKSEN Century Clackamas Town Center, Fox Tower 10.
Sherlock, Jr. & One Week
Two Buster Keaton films, screening with live musical accompaniment from Dreamland Faces. Clinton Street Theater.
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.
That's My Boy
I expect most people will shit from great heights upon Adam Sandler's new movie, in which a teenage Sandler fathers a child who grows up to be Andy Samberg. But I'll tell you something. It's Sandler's funniest movie since Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, and for very simple reasons: It's completely, totally disgusting. It's absolutely, cretinously inane. It's bafflingly, insultingly gross; it's racist, sexist, homophobic, scatological, and immoral. It, like Sandler's character, will do anything—literally anything—to put even the faintest smile onto your face. And with maximum effort on both your part and the film's part, it succeeds. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
"So run, you cur. And tell the other curs the law is coming. You tell 'em I'm coming! And Hell's coming with me, you hear!" Academy Theater.
War of the Worlds: The True Story
"Like Forrest Gump, War of the Worlds: The True Story uses cutting edge visual effects to blend a modern cast with battalions of actual fighting soldiers, golden age movie stars, and previously undisclosed images of tentacled alien creatures and their monstrous machines of war." Okay! See next week's Mercury for our review. Cinema 21.
When a City Falls
A documentary about New Zealand's Canterbury earthquakes. SPOILER: a Balrog was to blame. Laurelhurst Theater.