Fellini's much-loved 1963 classic, back on the big screen with a 35mm print. 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 Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Any Day Now
The personal is very much political in the agenda-driven gays-can-be-good-parents-too film Any Day Now, which sacrifices character development and relationship building in favor of making a point. That the point made is a heartfelt and worthwhile one goes some distance toward making up for the film's myopic focus. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
The world's first western blaxploitation revenge buddy comedy, Django Unchained is one of Quentin Tarantino's best movies—a brutal, hilarious, thrilling, messy bastard of a thing. It's the result of Tarantino gleefully making a balls-out western after years of almost doing so, and it's excellent that he did: The genre hasn't been served this well since Deadwood, No Country for Old Men, and Red Dead Redemption. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Dumb and Dumber
"According to the map, we've only gone four inches." Laurelhurst Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Guilt Trip
A mother-son road comedy (mom-com?) starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen. Is this a Barbra Streisand movie with Seth Rogen in it? Or a Seth Rogen movie with Barbra Streisand in it? (It seems inconceivable that they could really share billing or, for that matter, a significant audience demographic.) In the interests of science, and because I am not history's greatest monster, I invited my mother to the press screening to see which one of us would like it better. And... we both liked it about the same. Well played, Hollywood! The Guilt Trip isn't a great movie, but it's not terrible. ("Just so-so" was my mom's verdict.) BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
A Haunted House
A parody of horror movies, written by and starring Marlon Wayans. Shockingly, this film was not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." That's how proto-nerd J.R.R. Tolkien began The Hobbit, his charming children's book that inspired The Lord of the Rings, one of the most extraordinary doorstops of English literature. Compared to the gloomy, intricate Rings, The Hobbit is a short, fast-paced, goofy adventure. Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, though, is something else: Hollow, meandering, repetitive, and tedious, it covers only the first part of Tolkien's book, yet somehow feels longer than any of Jackson's excellent Lord of the Rings films. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) traverses Paris in the back of a massive white limousine. With faithful driver Céline (Edith Scob) at the wheel, and with the limo's cabin packed with a makeup table and more rubbery prosthetics than Cloud Atlas, Oscar goes to a number of "appointments"—and at each, he drastically changes his face, his hair, his clothes, his mannerisms, his cohorts. First he appears as a privileged businessman, then a filthy, deranged, fucked-up leprechaun; sometimes he's a decrepit, panhandling old woman, later he's a father, an assassin, a guy wearing a motion-capture unitard who goes down on a woman wearing a motion-capture unitard. Holy Motors might very well be brilliant, and it also might very well be 2012's version of the emperor's new clothes. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
Hyde Park on Hudson
Bill Murray can do no fucking wrong. His Franklin Delano Roosevelt obviously isn't the so-good-it's-scary, soul-deep possession of Daniel Day-Lewis's Abraham Lincoln. It's not like you ever forget that he's Bill Murray. But he's excellent anyway: He gets the president's playfulness, his condescending, patrician air, and his inherent inaccessibility, and he makes it his own. His performance is a masterful sketch that looks easier than it probably is. It's a shame Murray is stuck in the middle of such a pedestrian movie. PAUL CONSTANT Fox Tower 10.
I Am Not a Hipster
A Sundance-approved, San Diego-set film that "explores what it means to be creative in the face of tragedy." Clinton Street Theater.
Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts star as a British couple vacationing in Thailand with their three sons. When the 2004 tsunami hits, husband and wife are separated in the blast. Though based on a true story, The Impossible has drawn some understandable criticism for the fact that it's changed the nationality of the real family from Spanish to British in order to cast two white actors in the lead roles. (Naturally, the reason is that the movie studio thought they could make more money this way.) Luckily, backward corporate policies don't stop The Impossible from being a pretty good movie—and if you can ignore the color of their skin, all the actors turn in outstanding performances. JAMIE S. RICH Various Theaters.
Werner Herzog plays the villain in a solid, pulpy, funny, Tom Cruise-led adaptation of Lee Child's thriller One Shot. Here's something Herzog says in the movie: "I spent my first winter as a prisoner in Siberia wearing a dead man's coat. I chewed these fingers off before the frostbite could turn to gangrene." Here is something Tom Cruise says in the movie: "I'm going to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot." I liked this movie. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Jon Jost Retrospective
A retrospective of experimental filmmaker Jon Jost's 50-year career, with Jost in attendance for "most, if not all" of the screenings. More info: cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
Killing Them Softly
The story of Killing Them Softly is timeless: Here are a bunch of guys struggling to get by, fighting back despair, and screwing each other over for money. While it's based on George V. Higgins' 1974 novel Cogan's Trade, Killing Them Softly feels utterly contemporary—largely because writer/director Andrew Dominik has picked up Higgins' story and plopped it down a few decades later. Now it plays out in the gray ruins of post-Katrina New Orleans, with a soundtrack of news stories about the 2008 financial crisis leaking from every TV and car radio. Suddenly, that bunch of guys struggling to get by, fighting back despair, and screwing each other over for money is part of a bigger story. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Kung Fu Theater
A 35mm print of what's probably the word's best kung fu movie: Master Lau Kar Leung and Gordon Liu's 36th Chamber of Shaolin! Hollywood Theatre.
A Late Quartet
At the start of A Late Quartet, Christopher Walken's character explains to a group of his cello students that Beethoven's late quartet, Opus 131, is not the standard four movements but instead has seven parts and that you have to play them straight through with no breaks, which causes your instruments to go all out of tune with one another. "It's a mess," he says. It's also a metaphor about how basic entropy affects togetherness. The togetherness, say, of a musical group that's been playing together for 25 years when the oldest member finds he has Parkinson's and can't go on. Walken plays that character. Has he ever been the emotional center of a film before? It's magical. For much of A Late Quartet, the camera follows the storm of the other characters' drama—often, melodrama—until it finds a resting place once again on Walken's alien face, quietly registering the effects of old age. JEN GRAVES Laurelhurst Theater.
Look, I like Les Misérables. If it was playing at a reputable theater company in Portland this weekend? I would go see it! But good lord, the new movie is garbage. It's like Trapped in the Closet for white people who aren't in on the joke. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Marc Ribot Live: The Kid
Musician Marc Ribot performs a live score to Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Not Fade Away
In his debut as film writer/director, The Sopranos creator David Chase proves he still excels at loving portraits of old-school dads and their shitheadish sons, even if he hasn't quite mastered the art of writing for film. Compelling, touching, and brilliant at points, as a whole, Not Fade Away feels like an un-lubed HBO pilot roughly jammed into a movie slot. Still, it'd make a great show, and I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the guy who once gave us a cut to black as Tony Soprano walked through a diner in slow motion can't write endings. VINCE MANCINI Fox Tower 10.
This film stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. We did not review this film. Various Theaters.
There are a lot of good intentions muddled up in Promised Land, and a lot of talent, too—the frustrating, almost-great film is directed by Gus Van Sant, with a story by Dave Eggers and a screenplay from costars John Krasinski and Matt Damon. Promised Land is a film with an agenda disguised as a film with no agenda, and if that sort of thing doesn't make you a little bit mad, well... then you should go see it! 'Cause otherwise it's really good. ALISON HALLETT 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 Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Division Street, Forest Theatre, Sherwood 10.
Rust and Bone
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
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.
Struck by Lightning
"After being struck and killed by lightning, a young man recounts the way he blackmailed his fellow classmates into contributing to his literary magazine." Okay! Written by and starring Kurt from Glee. Living Room Theaters.
This Is 40
Everybody knows that couple. They're pretty, everybody likes them, and they're fun to hang out with—until they aren't, since they're always fighting. Not screaming, crying, throwing-whatever's-at-hand fighting, but that sort of passive aggression with just enough tension to make everyone slightly uncomfortable. Spending two hours with them is kind of like watching This Is 40. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
This is Not a Film
It's tough to say who directed the Iranian This Is Not a Film, a quiet and disturbing quasi-documentary starring internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafa Panahi. Panahi was under house arrest and a decades-long ban on writing, directing, or making movies. But what counts as filmmaking? What if he uses his iPhone to record his daughter's pet iguana? Or himself eating breakfast? Or him talking with the young man who picks up garbage from his apartment building? What if those images were edited and smuggled out of the country in a cake in time for Cannes? At what point did Panahi cross the line from idly playing with his iPhone into filmmaking? The result is a small but deep movie that will haunt the regime and reminds the rest of us that while the Arab Spring seems to have come and gone, the Persian Spring has yet to arrive. But it will. The other result—Panahi has graduated from house arrest to prison. BRENDAN KILEY Living Room Theaters.
Celebrating 100 Years
A series of new 35mm prints of some of Universal's best and most famous movies. This week's selections include Do the Right Thing, Pillow Talk, Dracula, and The Mummy. More info: nwfilm.org. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
VHS for President
More weird VHS finds from Seattle's Scarecrow Video. Hollywood Theatre.
Zero Dark Thirty
See review this issue. Various Theaters.