Portland Documentary and eXperimental Film
Great Speeches from a Dying World
A film about director Linas Phillips' experiences befriending 10 homeless people he met on the streets of Seattle. See next week's Mercury for our review.
Shorts Program 1
A series of short documentaries examining themes of labor and identity.
H Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur
"This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye." Pix Patisserie (North).
Blackjack aficionados have already thrilled to Ben Mezrich's book Bringing Down the House, a true story about a group of MIT students/blackjack card counters who shake down Vegas for millions of dollars. Unfortunately, director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde) takes this inherently interesting tale and crams it through the Hollywood Script-o-Matic 2000™ to bring us 21—featuring the hottest math nerds you'll ever meet, and a superfluous and stupid "cross, double-cross, quadruple-cross" ending. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Al Pacino takes his very enjoyable Ricky Roma character from Glengarry Glen Ross and plops it into this labored story of a Seattle forensic psychiatrist (Pacino) who's supposedly being stalked by a nutbag serial killer! Since Al is also a college professor, he enlists the help of a couple of his more comely students, who are inexplicably smitten by him, even though his face now looks like a leather Ziploc bag full of marbles. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
The Adventures of the Exquisite Corpse: Two Films by Andrew
Two selections from respected avant-garde filmmaker Andrew Noren: On Monday, Cinema Project will screen 1977's The Adventures of the Exquisite Corpse Part IV: Charmed Particles, while Tuesday boasts 1987's The Adventures of the Exquisite Corpse Part V: The Lighted Field. Fact! The former film inspired a successful television program about magical witches starring Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, and Shannen Doherty. Cinema Project at New American Art Union.
A Dream in Doubt
OPB and Global Sistergoods present a free screening of a documentary about the first hate-based murder following 9/11. A panel discussion featuring representatives from the ACLU, PSU's Anti-Hate Crime Coalition, and more will follow the screening. St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub.
See review. Various Theaters.
As the title suggests, The Bank Job is exactly that—a caper flick about a ragtag bunch of knuckleheads who knock off a London bank at the urging of a shady government organization. Turns out that a certain British royal was caught on film graphically partaking in a tropical ménage à trois (don't worry, it's not Prince Charles) and the photos are hidden away in a safety deposit box. Cue the scrappy, loveable gang of robbers who must retrieve the photos—while simultaneously outsmarting hordes of porno-making thugs, crooked cops, black nationalists, and the British government itself. If a solid bank robbery based on a true story isn't enough for you, the film is peppered with plenty of gratuitous nudity, torture, and more than a few sets of scary British chompers. EZRA ACE CARAEFF City Center 12.
A documentary about six Tibetan mountain climbin' teenagers... who are also blind! Wha-huh? Hollywood Theatre.
About three-fourths of Boarding Gate is in English, and the rest in French and Chinese. The version I saw inexplicably lacked subtitles, so technically I can't pass final judgment. From what I understood, though, this film—about a woman who kills her former lover, then flees to Hong Kong—is flat and relentlessly ugly, full of banal degradation, the type of film that makes you feel vaguely dirty, and not in a fun way. Not sure subtitles would help with any of that. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
Bob the Gambler
Jean-Pierre Melville's 1956 film about a gambler who plans to rob a casino. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
This is vital, fascinating stuff: Pairing incredible, expertly edited footage from the riots of the 1968 Democratic National Convention with animated re-enactments of the chaotic trial that followed, director Brett Morgen creates an extraordinary film about our freedoms of speech and dissent. With voice acting from the likes of Hank Azaria, Jeffrey Wright, Nick Nolte, and Mark Ruffalo, plus an adrenalin-soaked soundtrack featuring Rage Against the Machine, Black Sabbath, and Eminem, Chicago 10 is an urgent, razor-sharp take on one of the most murky and important events in American history. Exhilarating, funny, and terrifying. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
This sounds like a straight-to-DVD erotic thriller. Says the IMDB: "An accountant is introduced to a mysterious sex club known as The List by his lawyer friend. But in this new world, he soon becomes the prime suspect in a woman's disappearance and a multi-million dollar heist." Unexpectedly, this film stars Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman; expectedly, it wasn't screened for critics. Poor Obi-Wan. Poor Wolverine. Various Theaters.
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
See review. Various Theaters.
An earnest sadsack (Frank Wood) is briefly reunited with his hottie high school flame before she tumbles down a flight of stairs and breaks her neck. He takes in her troubled teenage son (Ryan Donowho), and the two spend the rest of the film awkwardly getting to know one another. It's about what you'd expect: Brooding emo teen meets balding schlub, and they teach each other about life—and love! It's like a long, uncomfortable hug from a distant relative at a funeral
NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
The Forbidden Kingdom
At the risk of sharing too much personal information, the pairing of Jet Li and Jackie Chan is pretty much a wet dream for kung fu fans. Granted, Chan hasn't made a good movie in like a decade, and Li's attempts at American stardom have been super depressing. But still: Jet Li and Jackie Chan, man! Together. How cool is that? To answer my own rhetorical question: The Forbidden Kingdom is pretty cool, even if, as a silly, family-friendly comedy/adventure, it isn't nearly as great as it could be. (For that, we'd have to go back to a time when Chan did all of his own stunts, before Li thought Lethal Weapon 4 was a good idea, and when it was inconceivable that Rob Minkoff, the auteur behind Stuart Little 2 and The Haunted Mansion, could helm a kung fu flick.) But times change, and The Forbidden Kingdom is what we've got, and I'm just gonna roll with it, because there's at least one awesome fight sequence where Li and Chan kick the crap out of each other. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Even if the Judd Apatow-produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall leans too heavily on what's rapidly becoming an Apatow formula (loveable-but-goofy everyman hooks up, then grows up), there's still enough charm in the process for it to work. Between its killer one-liners ("When life gives you lemons, just say, 'Fuck the lemons!' and bail!"), sharp and clever comedy, and likeable characters, Sarah Marshall's a worthy addition to the Apatow canon. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
This follow up to 2004's surprisingly funny stoner comedy wasn't screened in time for press. Hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, April 25 for our review. Various Theaters.
A kick-ass elderly deaf couple decides that together they will undergo surgery to restore their hearing. These types of documentaries are usually either a total snore fest or unbelievably awesome. This one falls under the latter category. I laughed. I cried. I hurled. CHRISTINE S. BLYSTONE Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A throwback in every sense of the word, Leatherheads aims to capture the sharp, earnest spirit of Howard Hawks classics like His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby. Instead of Hepburn and Grant, though, we get Clooney and Renée Zellweger, as well as Jim Halpert from The Office and the goofy, bumbling music of Randy Newman. It's a hodgepodge, unsurprising crowd-pleaser, but it works. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Living End
Gregg Araki's 1992 drama, remastered. Living Room Theaters.
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
My Blueberry Nights
See review. Fox Tower 10.
My Brother's Wedding
See review. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The little fat girl from Little Miss Sunshine went on a diet, and now they're trying to cram her once more into to the hearts of Americans. I saw Nim's Island so you don't have to. Close your heart and keep it closed. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
"You wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you." Academy Theater.
Let's just get this out of the way: Portland audiences will love Paranoid Park simply for its beautiful and unaffected depictions of the city. Opening with a gorgeous shot of the St. Johns Bridge, the film works its way through the Burnside skate park, Lloyd Center, Half & Half, the Pearl, and more, accompanied by a soundtrack that includes Ethan Rose, Cool Nutz, and Menomena. In this sense, Paranoid Park might be the quintessential Portland movie of the decade. That alone does not a great movie make, however. Taken on its own merits, Gus Van Sant's latest is as evocative and elusive as his recent films, Elephant and Last Days, although Paranoid Park is not so glacially paced. It's the story of a local teen skater who drifts through middle-class high school life before a murder by the Burnside skate park turns his world upside down. Audiences expecting a fast-paced, straightforward skate/murder movie will be stumped by Van Sant's elliptical storytelling, but those who wanted to like Gerry, only to crumble under the film's never-ending action-less sequences, should be happy that Van Sant has struck a great balance between art and intrigue. CHAS BOWIE Clinton Street Theater.
Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis and Persepolis II, are reimagined in an excellent animated treatment that condenses the events of the two books into a frank, poignant coming-of-age story that surpasses its source material in both visual elegance and storytelling economy. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
A PG-13 horror flick that takes place on (wait for it...) prom night! No, it wasn't screened for critics. Ugh. Movies like this shouldn't exist. Various Theaters.
Proving Ground—Live May Day Performance & National
Archive Vol. 1
Presented in part with the PDX Film Festival, Proving Ground is Travis Wilkerson's combination of "theater, history lecture, [a] punk rock show, [a] political rally, and experimental film." Gallery Homeland.
A 1960 French film chronicling the exploits of Tom Ripley, before he was Matt Damon. The Press Club.
"Yeah, he's a nice kid, pretty kid—don't know whether to fuck him or fight him." Laurelhurst.
the Red Lantern
"She has the face of Buddha and the heart of a scorpion." Laughing Horse Books.
A young straight surfer bound for art school has trouble coming to terms with coming out. Visually impressive surfing sequences help make this otherwise been-there film more tolerable. WILL GARDNER Living Room Theaters.
Singin' in the Rain
Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in a movie your grandmother loves. Living Room Theaters.
The Singing Revolution
A documentary about "Laulupidu," or "The Song Festival"—a 100-year-old Estonian tradition that helped Estonians keep hope alive during Soviet and Nazi occupations. Hollywood Theatre.
Smart People's cast is solid and understated, with strong turns from Dennis Quaid, Thomas Hayden Church, and Ellen Page; in painting a portrait of an unhappy, literate, and too-clever family in suburban Pittsburgh, writer/director Noam Murro hits several choice moments of sweet and melancholy humor. The problems kick in during the third act, though: As Murro guides his subjects, one by one, toward happiness, he loses sight of funny, acerbic and believable characterizations, softening up their wry, weary dialogue and patching over their witty discontent with too-easy solutions. (I'm pretty sure this is the first time The New Yorker has served as a deus ex machina.) ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
& Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation
See review. Cinema 21.
A brutal, gorgeous sprawl of paved-over desert, David Ayer's Los Angeles is a place of grime and blood. Flickering with neon and burnt by deep-orange sunsets, the stylized neo-noir tales that Ayer has either written or directed—Training Day, Harsh Times, and now Street Kings—offer a strong cinematic punch, a reminder that no matter how many times Hollywood tries to portray itself as an idyllic oasis of glittery movie stars and palm-lined boulevards, LA has always been an American city like any other, with crime and anger roiling beneath the surface. Ayer's LA is an intoxicating setting, and it'd be all the more so if his movies weren't so awful. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Swingin' Scary Larry & Gagert Show
Local illustrators and comic book artists Devon Devereaux and Sean Hemak present their brand new TV show The Swingin' Scary Larry & Gagert Show—both will be in attendance, hosting the event in costume and showing off original artwork and a SSL&G comic book. Sequential Art Gallery.
Tanner on Tanner
Robert Altman and Garry Trudeau's 2004 follow-up to Tanner '88. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
the Dark Side
The latest in a long line of political documentaries to critique the US' reprehensible policies in our War On Terror, the Oscar-nom'd Taxi to the Dark Side begins with the death of an innocent Afghani man at the Bagram Airbase—the proverbial "man at the picnic" upon which director Alex Gibney anchors his Powers of Ten-style indictment of the Bush administration's flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. It's thoroughly convincing in its condemnation of our country's top brass (not too hard these days), but more than that, Taxi is a powerfully well-crafted document of the moral ambiguity that has lately become the expected norm in American foreign policy. ZAC PENNINGTON Laurelhurst.