Addicted to Fame
A documentary about the final film project of Anna Nicole Smith. This won't be depressing at all! Hollywood Theatre.
Animated Christmas Shorts
Old Christmas shorts, presented in 16mm. Hollywood Theatre.
Prediction: Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is going to be the Speed Racer of literary adaptations—defended by nerds, derided by other nerds, and baffling to the public at large. It's an audacious interpretation of Leo Tolstoy that's overstuffed and overflowing with style. I can't be sure that it's a good movie—but I was so overwhelmed by its boldness that I can't deny I kind of loved it. JAMIE S. RICH Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, Century Clackamas Town Center.
If you snoozed through the Iranian hostage crisis by not being born yet, a refresher: The US and some other imperialists have historically been major assholes to Iran, so in 1979, the Iranian people were like, "Actually, no!" and they rose up and stormed the US embassy, where some 60 Americans were frantically trying to shred stuff and not be murdered. Six Americans escaped through a back door. (Nice embassy-storming, amateurs!) While the world was focused on what was happening to the dozens of hostages inside the embassy, those six were stuck at the Canadian ambassador's house—with no way to get out. Enter: Ben Affleck as a CIA hostage wrangler with an insane plan to create a fake sci-fi movie called Argo, call the six escaped hostages a film crew, and then GTFO. And you guys: This actually happened. I did a crappy job at explaining all of that, but Argo does not; Affleck's direction delivers a brilliantly simple telling of a complicated story. Detailed without ever feeling dense, the film should satisfy nearly all classes of nerds (history! Politics! Science fiction! Movies!), as well as normals who just want to watch something entertaining. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
The Hollywood's series features B-movies, with the audience marking down clichés on a custom-made bingo card. This time around: Vin Diesel's XXX. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
National Geographic photographer James Balog's Extreme Ice Survey took photos of glaciers as they melted over hours, days, months, and years—and captured remarkable, time-lapse images of climate change in action. Chasing Ice spends too much time on Balog and the challenges he faces in getting his footage, but the footage itself is gorgeous, majestic, and horrific. Spliced with clips of Fox News dipshits insisting global warming isn't real, Chasing Ice will largely preach to the choir—which is too bad, because as calls to action go, this visually devastating documentary is hard to top. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
David Mitchell's 2004 novel Cloud Atlas has long been considered unfilmable, and make no mistake: It still is. The new movie by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer is very much an adaptation, borrowing the basic outline of Mitchell's book to create something entirely its own. The film juggles six characters with six distinct storylines, set in time periods ranging from the 1830s to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Given the audacity of its undertaking, Cloud Atlas is remarkably cohesive. Some storylines resonate more than others, but they're all efficiently told. But for all the energy and flair this adaptation possesses, it's so focused on pulling off the logistics of adapting Mitchell's novel that there isn't room for much depth. ALISON HALLETT Century Clackamas Town Center.
Wha? Another crappy-looking horror flick that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
A clumsy, preachy, feature-length infomercial for AA. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Fresh French Shorts
Completely unsurprisingly, one of the films in the Northwest Film Center's Fresh French Shorts program is about a man who has an existential crisis when he realizes his whole life is being captured on camera. FRENCH PEOPLE, am I right??? But this is a rewardingly diverse program that ranges in subject matter from a gritty look at a single mother in Paris desperately trying to make ends meet, to an animated short about a vampire's coming of age. There's even a man who thinks he's a donkey! Because... French people. ALISON HALLETT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Getting to Know YouTube
Local presenters help you to "climb into YouTube's deepest caverns of collective consciousness and unearth hidden treasures, stretching the boundaries of what tubes and you were meant for." Okay! Hollywood Theatre.
Girl Model completely sneaks up on you. It at first seems like a fairly mousy documentary. It builds slowly, like the room is getting colder and colder—this is you, being drawn into the subzero, subhuman world of the movie. All at once, finally, in a single shot where a central deception is revealed, the movie rears up, bites, and is full of venom. It was a thriller. Model is not just about preteen modeling, which would be creepy enough. Instead, it's about the indentured servitude of Siberian girls at the hands of people who are either self-congratulatory or dead inside—and who are not too ashamed to talk on camera because there's really no single place to lay blame, anyway. JEN GRAVES Clinton Street Theater.
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
Killing Them Softly
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Life of Pi
Ang's Lee's overblown but nonetheless quite beautiful adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name. Like the novel, it's a parable disguised as an adventure story; like the novel, some people will think it contains profound truths, and some will find it unbearably overwrought. Others—me!—will appreciate some of the best 3D we've seen to date, and enjoy the adventure despite its self-seriousness. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Oscar bait doesn't get much more baiting than this: Steven Spielberg directing Daniel Day-Lewis with a Tony Kushner script about the final months of America's most beloved, tragic president. By and large, Lincoln wanders many of the same paths Spielberg's other Oscar bait-y films have taken—this one feels particularly like Amistad, though there's some War Horse in here too. Lincoln is a generally well-made film, but it's also one stitched together from Day-Lewis' dramatic monologues and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's reverential sepia tones: Even when it tries to humanize Lincoln, it's mostly just here to reaffirm what a Great Man he was and how he made some Very Important History. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Looper is "just" an action movie the same way Brick was "just" a noir, or The Brothers Bloom was "just" a heist flick: All three were written and directed by Rian Johnson, and with each, Johnson appropriates the skeleton of a genre, then fleshes it out in astonishingly clever ways. All you need to know to enjoy Looper is that actions have consequences—and Looper is an action movie. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Man With the Iron Fists
Somehow RZA managed to make his very own kung fu movie, and it's exactly like you'd expect: really, really enthusiastic, and really, really not very good. Weirdly drained of his charisma, RZA stars as "Blacksmith," a... blacksmith who eventually makes himself some iron fists, which he then uses to punch the fuck out of people. Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe also show up, and there's a lot of fighting between various clans, and a lot of callbacks to Shaw Brothers classics, and a lot of ridiculous wigs. It's kind of fun and entirely incomprehensible, and the action is underwhelming. But still, good for RZA. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
"When Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse!" Laurelhurst Theater.
The story of three old guys and their friendship. Britt lives on his tiny boat and is out of touch with modern life, Bob is full of energy and attitude and is a ladies' man, and Dave is recently retired and spends his time "managing his retirement funds" (looking at internet porn). It's refreshing to see older characters being active and having their own lives and opinions, and not just playing someone's grandparent or having dementia. GILLIAN ANDERSON Living Room Theaters.
Planet of Snail
A South Korean documentary about poet Young-Chan, who can neither hear nor see and communicates with his wife by tapping out words on each others hands. Clinton Street Theater.
Like last summer's completely unnecessary Total Recall remake, the surprising thing about this completely unnecessary remake is that it's significantly better than it needs to be. It's as charmingly hammy as its predecessor, but this louder, punchier Red Dawn also makes a few decent stabs at establishing actual characters, not to mention getting some mileage out of good ol' irony. (Jed's time in Iraq made him an IED expert? Thanks for the tips, Iraqi insurgents!) But rest assured, National Rifle Associates: This Red Dawn still taps into the delusional, violent, unapologetic jingoism that made the original such a bizarrely fun fantasy. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Rise of the Guardians
Based on the beautifully illustrated books of William Joyce, Rise of the Guardians re-imagines the origins of childhood's greatest heroes (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy) as an Avengers-style team that—in addition to their day jobs—protects the innocence of kids around the world. Alas, three quarters of Guardians involve unnecessary, dizzying action sequences, rather than focusing on building characters, plot, and the subtext of the story. While the ending works, it does so just barely—and makes one long for the great, gorgeous, thoughtful children's film that Guardians could've been. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Searching for Sugar Man
Detroit singer/songwriter Rodriguez released two obscure albums of introspective, Dylanesque agitprop-lite in 1970 and 1971, then promptly vanished. Documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul picks up his thread in South Africa, where Rodriguez's music has amassed a huge following over the decades—and where nobody knows a thing about the mysterious man behind the records. If this is the first you've heard of Rodriguez, you might choose to stop reading here, because the twist that Searching for Sugar Man reveals—while not a surprise to anyone who's picked up the recent reissues of his albums on the Seattle-based Light in the Attic label—is handled brilliantly in the film. Even if you do know what happened next, Sugar Man is still one of the most intriguing and satisfying music documentaries in a good while. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.
Martin McDonagh's feverish, hilarious story about a drunk screenwriter, Marty (Colin Farrell). And the probably insane Billy (Sam Rockwell). And a charming, doddering dog thief (charming, doddering Christopher Walken), and an Amish sociopath (Harry Dean Stanton), and an exceedingly troubled man with a bunny (Tom Waits), and a trigger-happy crime boss (Woody Harrelson). Things get a bit meta, and they get impressively bloody, and there might be one or two women in it? Briefly? There is definitely a dog in it. This isn't a movie for everybody, but it's well aware of that fact, and it's a hell of a good time. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Liberty Theatre, Mission Theater.
Silver Linings Playbook
As someone who's skeptical of silver linings being an actual thing, so too was I skeptical of Silver Linings Playbook, the would-be feel-good holiday release from I Heart Huckabees director David O. Russell. Midway through the trailer, I half expected a voiceover to proclaim it was "from the producers of The Blind Side of the Help." But while the path of this thing seems obvious, the film's romance sneaks up on you: Russell disguises his love story by shooting Silver Linings Playbook with the same visceral immediacy he brought to The Fighter, cloaking the courtship in the manic energy of mental disorders. JAMIE S. RICH Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, Century Clackamas Town Center.
We're all in love with James Bond again. Maybe it's because we nearly lost him when MGM virtually went bankrupt in 2010. Or perhaps it's due to the general global unease of the day, when there's something pretty appealing about a hero without superpowers. Maybe, and most likely, it's because Daniel Craig has now fully assumed the mantle, with his grim, tightlipped, almost thuggish 007 a worthy reinvention of Ian Fleming's character. For whatever reason, Skyfall is the most anticipated Bond movie in decades, and for the most part it doesn't disappoint. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
The 1998 indie favorite about two Native American friends who leave their Idaho reservation. They drive a car backwards! Fifth Avenue Cinema.
A drama about "the unlikely friendship between 21 year-old aspiring actress Jane and elderly widow Sadie." Featuring 27 straight minutes of ultra-tight poppin' and lockin' dance-off action. Living Room Theaters.
The Tin Drum
The 1979 film based on the beloved book by Günter "Everybody's Favorite Nazi™!" Grass. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
You'll Take It and Like It: Three Bogart Classics on 35mm
See review this issue.