The Amazing Spider-Man
The bewildering, frustrating, boring thing about The Amazing Spider-Man: It's a movie that stupidly thinks it needs to tell us—again—where Spider-Man came from. And once you get past its plodding redundancy, the rest of the script for The Amazing Spider-Man isn't that spectacular either—the plot's driven by farfetched coincidences, major events are forgotten as soon as they're over, and a half-dozen half-hearted tweaks that are supposed to convince audiences that this Spider-Man is different from the one we saw a few years ago are tacked on and trivial. HOWEVER. Just about everything else in The Amazing Spider-Man is remarkably, giddily great. The Social Network's Andrew Garfield is a far better Peter Parker/Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire, and director Mark Webb—whose only previous credit is 500 Days of Summer—maximizes the spectacle of superhero action and the excitement of web-swinging through Manhattan's concrete canyons. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
So. Much. Whimsy. Academy Theater.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
I'll let you in on a secret: Writing negative reviews is pretty easy. Every doofy plot twist and bungled CG jumpkick pulls you out of the moviegoing experience, allowing you plenty of time to compose elaborately mean puns for your headline. It's harder to review a movie when it succeeds—and I mean really succeeds, in that it draws you in completely. The surreal, fantastic Beasts of the Southern Wild is that kind of movie: You may leave the theater conflicted and even confused, but you won't be thinking about anything else while you're watching it. BEN COLEMAN Cinema 21.
Beyond the Black Rainbow
"A Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons." Okay! Clinton Street Theater.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
The story of the Cockettes begins with a drugged-out lefty homo called "Hibiscus" (née George Harris), who was famous in '60s San Francisco for being weirder than the rest of '60s San Francisco. He believed in and preached the values of free food, free love, and, most of all, free art. In no time, Hibiscus attracted an almost equally freaky group of friends and followers who were all in outrageous drag, dropping acid and performing in the streets. David Weissman and Bill Weber's documentary is a loving window into the lives of the Cockettes—interviews with those still living, volumes of film footage, and remembrances of the fallen. The film contains over 11,000 photographs and every known scrap of Cockettes footage in existence. If you think this sounds like overkill, you're right. But it would be a screaming tragedy if this story was lost to time, and a little overkill is a small price to pay to preserve this singular moment in American pop culture history. Director David Weissman in attendance. ADRIAN RYAN Clinton Street Theater.
D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus Retrospective
Documentarians D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus present four of their films—The War Room, Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back, Kings of Pastry, and Down from the Mountain—with Q&As accompanying each screening. More info: hollywoodtheatre.org. Hollywood Theatre.
The Dark Knight Rises
See review this issue. Every Theater Ever.
"Sorry for the interruption, folks, but I always do the last dance of the season." Hollywood Theatre.
David Lynch's interminable clusterfuck. This thing's only redeeming quality is a majestic shot in which Patrick Stewart charges into battle while carrying a pug. ERIK HENRIKSEN Tanker.
Ecstasy of Order:
The Tetris Masters
The quest to unite the world's best Tetris players would have made a phenomenal topic for a documentary, and for the first half of The Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, that's exactly what we're offered. Once the film starts to hint at the inner-life of former Nintendo World Champion Thor Aackerlund, however, viewers are given a glimpse of a far more interesting tale. I don't want anyone to think that Ecstasy of Order is a bad film—it ranks just below 2007's The King of Kong as one of the best videogame documentaries ever made, and despite the subject matter, it's entirely accessible to even those who shun pixelated pastimes—but by the end, viewers will be wishing for more about Aackerlund's life over the past two decades. EARNEST "NEX" CAVALLI Hollywood Theatre.
A very good Norwegian thriller starring Aksel Hennie and Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The action is consistently deft and darkly humorous, bringing to mind the Coen brothers at their leanest, darkest, and Blood Simple-est. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
The Hollywood Theater presents Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls—with your text commentary popping up onscreen. Hollywood Theatre.
In Russia, Valeriy Todorovskiy's Hipsters was a massive box-office hit, for reasons I do not entirely understand. Here in the US, it's an odd export of limited appeal, for reasons I do understand. For one, the story isn't that interesting. Set in 1950s Moscow, Hipsters concerns a group of young people who reject drab commie conformity for flamboyant American clothes and music. They hold secret parties, drive shiny American cars, smoke Marlboros, and play saxy jazz (according to the Communist Party, "a saxophone is considered a concealed weapon"). Then reality hits: Their youth ends, they have babies, they need to (and in some cases are forced to) grow up and get a life. You can't be a rebel forever. As for the acting, not a single performance is memorable, which is surprising when you consider that one of the stars is Oksana Akinshina, who was so dazzling in Lukas Moodysson's Lilya 4-Ever. Lastly, the musical sequences, like the whole production (wardrobe, cinematography, art direction), are Hollywood-slick, and that's exactly the problem. One wants more of a Russian spin on American production values, codes, and modes. CHARLES MUDEDE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Ice Age: Continental Drift
Huh. So they're still making these. Various Theaters.
Indiana Jones and the
Temple of Doom
"No time for love, Dr. Jones!" Burnside Brewing Co.
Steven Soderbergh makes the movies he wants to make, and apparently this time around he really wanted to make a movie that prominently features Matthew McConaughey's glistening abs and Channing Tatum hopping around shirtless while wearing a little hat. But Magic Mike is more than just a straight-to-screen Chippendales revue: Soderbergh is interested in all aspects of his characters' work, and the strip club behind-the-scenes are some of the film's most entertaining as the dancers sew their own thongs, shave their legs, and swap theories about "Waffle House pussy" while drinking home-brewed Viagra. It's almost a shame that Magic Mike has to have a plot at all, and the half-hour of story shoehorned in at the end is about what you'd expect from a movie about Florida strippers: drugs, weird sex, a baby pig eating vomit off the floor of a fancy apartment. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
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 Various Theaters.
MSG's Peak of Excitement
Short comedy films by Tim Wenzel. Director in attendance. Clinton Street Theater.
Neil Young Journeys
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
The Palm Beach Story
The Northwest Film Center's Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series kicks off with Preston Sturges' 1942 screwball comedy. Hotel deLuxe.
Paul Williams Still Alive
Small in stature but large in celebrity, the man who penned "The Rainbow Connection" and "An Old Fashioned Love Song" was everywhere in the 1970s. By the mid-'80s, however, he had vanished without a trace. Childhood fan Stephen Kessler assumed Williams had died. Then he discovered Williams hadn't, and a documentary was born. Affectionate, funny, haphazard, and always intriguing, Kessler's film charts the hedonistic fall of a '70s icon and his inevitable quest for redemption. Things get a bit navel-gazing, with the filmmaker too often intruding on the narrative, but as a portrait of ego run amok and the genuine humility that followed years later, the movie is surprisingly effective. JEFF MEYERS Fox Tower 10.
People vs. the State of Illusion
A docudrama "that explores the science and power of perception and imagination." Yep, this sounds totally legit. Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
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 Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
I finally started watching The Wire. It's a great. All the characters in Baltimore's drug trade are portrayed with empathy and care. Savages is Oliver Stone's attempt to say something about the drug war. It's the opposite of The Wire. It's hideously terrible. JOE STRECKERT Various Theaters.
Sound + Vision Fest
A three-night series of short films and live music. For more info, see next week's Mercury and hollywoodtheatre.org. Hollywood Theatre.
Sunset Boulevard deserves to go head-to-head with Citizen Kane and The Godfather for the title of the best American movie ever made. Director Billy Wilder deftly balances comedy, suspense, and drama for a movie that works on every single level. NED LANNAMANN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Take This Waltz
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
It's a mystery why Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) exists. A talking teddy bear brought to life by a lonely little boy who wished upon a star, he grew up with the boy, John (Mark Wahlberg), until they both became beer swilling, bong ripping, fast-cussing Bostonian men. Ted exists primarily for the comedic fun of an adorable but dirty teddy bear who hires prostitutes (one of whom shits on the floor on a dare), sings cocaine-fueled karaoke, and fights—an extended hotel fight scene being the film's finest moment. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Three Days of the Condor
Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway star in Syndey Pollack's badass conspiracy thriller from 1975! It's worth seeing for Redford's majestic sideburns alone, but the rest of the movie's pretty great too. Laurelhurst Theater.
To Rome With Love
Woody Allen effortlessly spins four separate, slight stories, each a romantic fantasy designed to reverberate off the Eternal City's ruins and monuments. There's probably too much in To Rome With Love—it feels overlong, and there's a total lack of urgency to any of its storylines. But Allen's at the point where he's allowed to write postcards rather than plots. NED LANNAMANN Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Another film about a serious man slowly disintegrating. Clever camera work and a pitch-perfect soundtrack help make up for what's otherwise an extremely minimalist story. Essentially the Turkish version of Drive, but instead of a nice car, our ostensible hero, Kenan (Serkan Ercan) spends his time in a tollbooth. And instead of doing crimes he... works in a tollbooth. There's a similar flat affect, though, and some nihilistic undertones, and Ercan even kinda looks like a middle-aged, mustachioed Ryan Gosling. There's also a pair of beautiful women in orbit trying to sort this guy out, but don't hold your breath on that. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Global Lens series. BEN COLEMAN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
Turn Me On, Dammit!
A quirky Norwegian film that follows Alma (Helene Bergsholm) over the course of a particularly trying couple of months during the dog days leading up to her 16th birthday. Possessed by hormones, she gets busted for racking up phone-sex charges (we first meet her, mid-purchase, on the kitchen floor), rides rolls of coins when the register gets slow at work, and slips into erotic daydreams about virtually everyone she encounters in her tiny Norwegian village. Dammit doesn't need to say much about horny teenage girls other than, unapologetically, that they exist, and can do so without conforming to the dead stock of bad girl associations—Alma's a sweet, ballsy, normal girl who shoulder taps for beer and shares a ritual with her friends in which they religiously flip off the road sign for their hometown every time they pass it. While the ending is a bit too pattingly winking and cute, Dammit tells its short, forthright tale briskly and with a curtsy before moving off stage right. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Austin comedians Master Pancake Theater provide live commentary, skits, and competitions to accompany a screening of that most easily mocked vampire non-classic, Twilight. Cinema 21.