See review. Various Theaters.
The Bank Job
See review. Various Theaters.
Big Trouble in Little China
"We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn't we, Wang?" Laurelhurst.
Falling into the same spiritual family as '70s films like Harold and Maude, The Graduate, and Being There, Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud feels as fresh and funny today as any contemporary intelligent comedy. The plot, like its setting of Houston, Texas, is sprawling and multi-faceted: There's a teenager (Bud Cort) living in the Astrodome, training himself to fly; a serial killer on the loose whose trademark may or may not have to do with a splat of lethal birdshit; an ultracool, self-obsessed cop (clearly a spoof on Steve McQueen's Bullitt) who's brought in to catch the murderer; and a narrator who appears to be turning into a bird. Brewster also features Shelley Duvall's debut (she's oddly emotive and attractive), hilarious scenes of fat cops in foot chases, and laugh-out-loud moments of unexpected dark humor. Why this movie isn't (A) a huge cult hit or (B) available on DVD is entirely lost on me. CHAS BOWIE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
College Road Trip
When Chas Bowie, the Mercury's acclaimed scholar of the cinematic works of Martin Lawrence, was approached about reviewing College Road Trip, he drafted his refusal in an email. "Haha," he wrote. "Thanks but no thanks. I believe we have found the limit of my love for Martin Lawrence, and it has something to do with a chubby-chub named Raven-Symoné and the words 'Disney family comedy.'" He then added, "There's a pig on the poster." Various Theaters.
The Crimean War:
A Clash of Empires
Director Thomas Vaughan's documentary about the Crimean War. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
For a film about embracing life's possibilities, this German film is surprisingly predictable. When a free-spirited young Bosnian woman, Ana (Marija Skaricic), gets a job working at a canteen in Germany, her devil-may-care attitude rubs off on her uptight boss, Ruza (Mirjana Karanovic). The characters are not without their demons, and it's to the film's credit that it doesn't over-explain their motivations—but strip away all the haunted-by-the-past moodiness and what's left is a trite, unoriginal little film. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
See review. Cinema 21.
Robert Altman's "ode to the Kansas City of 1934." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Kid with the Golden Arms
The Grindhouse Film Festival presents classic Shaw Brothers kung fu action! According to the press release, the rare The Kid with the Golden Arms is "the equivalent to dropping acid in an 18th century Chinese disco with a gang of coked-up homoerotic kung fu masters." Can't argue with that. Hollywood Theatre.
Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)
São Paulo, Brazil, is fucked, and this stylish documentary shows you just how so, without preaching. We're introduced to money-laundering frog farmers; embezzling politicians; kidnappers who cut people's ears off; people missing ears; and plastic surgeons who have grown rich by sewing ears back on. Apart from a real-life cast of characters that makes the work of Tarantino look unimaginative, Manda Bala's most striking feature is its zinging Brazilian score. São Paulo may be fucked, but it's more chic than Oceans Eleven, and Manda Bala captures this disgusting irony with flair. MATT DAVIS Hollywood Theatre.
The first time it happens, you will be flummoxed; this is virtually guaranteed. Characters will start talking, and as you're following the dialogue, more characters will start talking, then more, and then some characters will walk off screen, and others will join conversations. But unlike when Woody Allen or countless younger directors use overlapping dialogue, Robert Altman does it with disorienting artlessness. He doesn't subtly make the most important onscreen conversation louder than the rest, and (unlike Allen) he's not doing it to raise tension to a feverish pitch. Altman's effect is radically naturalistic and genuinely unsettling: The closest comparison would be seeing a whole new style of dunking a basketball or hearing a way of singing that seems guaranteed to change how people make music. CHAS BOWIE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
See review. Various Theaters.
The Other Boleyn Girl
Having already spawned four published sequels and a BBC television adaptation, Philippa Gregory's historically questionable novel about the dabblings and diddlings of Tudor England graduates to what it was seemingly made for: a dripping Hollywood production, complete with requisite American flesh. The Other Boleyn Girl's sordidly fictionalized account of the love triangle between Anne Boleyn, her sister Mary, and Henry VIII (played by adequately sumptuous Natalie Portman, ScarJo, and Eric Bana, respectively), seems perfect for a gleefully trashy Hollywood period piece—all ripped bodices, knowing glances, chamber clothes, and that looming, inevitable axe drop. Unfortunately, The Other Boleyn Girl can't bring itself to completely embrace its damp, salacious undercurrent—it's too concerned with the preposterously arrogant notion that it has, within itself, some kind of serious period drama. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
If Drew Barrymore adopted the lovechild of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton and then fobbed the kid off on a nanny named Mandy Moore, the end result would be Penelope. Christina Ricci stars as Penelope, a poor little rich girl hiding a horrifying secret—she was born with a pig's nose. And then Rod Serling comes onscreen and explains to the audience about signposts and zones and things. (Okay, that last part doesn't happen, but you get the gist.) Penelope's a fairy tale, which means Penelope spends most of her time trying to find someone who will love her pig-nosey self, or, failing that (here comes the lesson), learning to love herself the way she is. Thirteen-year-old girls are going to love this movie. KIALA KAZEBEE Various Theaters.
Portland Women's Film Festival Screening
A screening of short films and works-in-progress by Portland Women filmmakers, benefiting the 2008 Portland Women's Film Festival (AKA the POW Fest). Hollywood Theatre.
Semi-Pro isn't bad so much as it's just the exact same movie that Will Farrell's been remaking ever since Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. But while Anchorman was funny thanks to its loose, clever, and improvised humor, almost every comedy Farrell's made since has lazily relied on his "goofy dumb guy" routine, and shit's starting to get seriously old: In Semi-Pro, we watch him flail around his arms, shout/sing/drunkenly mumble, and generally look confused and enthused, all while winking to the camera about how wacky it is that he's wearing a big fur coat or a papier mâché mascot's costume. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
Union: The Business Behind Getting High
A documentary about one of British Columbia's most profitable industries—marijuana. Not screened for critics. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Willow Tree
Yusef (Parviz Parastui) is a happy, friendly blind man who regains his sight and becomes a bitter, angry prick. This Iranian film contains some striking visuals, but on the whole, the film looks—perhaps appropriately for a story about blindness—a little dim. The languid pace may have viewers nodding off, and director Majid Majidi lays on the sentimentality. It's understandable that a blind person would need a period of adjustment once regaining sight, and this transition seems like a remarkably interesting story for a movie, but Yusef's resentment towards his loved ones is incomprehensible, and The Willow Tree plods. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.