"Hey, you're supposed to be the fastest thing in the valley, man—but that can't be your car! It must be your mama's car! I'm sorta embarrassed to be this close to ya!" Pix Patisserie (North).
A film about a visit to Israel by Egyptian policemen in which nothing really happens. But this examination of Arab/Israeli tensions and the frustrated romance that perhaps lies beneath them is remarkable indeed. The policemen are in an orchestra, and their brooding chief (Sasson Gabai) is fighting cutbacks to continue performing. Thanks to the chief's inept, Chet Baker-loving son (Saleh Bakri), the band ends up stranded overnight in an Israeli town, at the mercy of a sexy, alluring, and Jewish restaurant owner (Ronit Elkabetz). There are no Egyptian actors in the film—those playing the Egyptian policemen had to learn a new language to act the parts. But to an international audience, their acting is convincing, and one is left thinking how nice it would be if the two sides of the Middle East conflict would just get a room and be done with it. MATT DAVIS Laurelhurst Theater.
Be Kind Rewind
The man who gave the world the wonderful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind directs Be Kind Rewind. The story is about a video store in Passaic, New Jersey. The store only rents VHS tapes. Mos Def works in the store; Jack Black hangs around the store. Believably, the old building is about to get knocked down for a new condo. Believably, Jack is electrocuted while trying to sabotage a power plant. Unbelievably, Jack becomes magnetized. Unbelievably, his magnetized body erases all the VHS tapes in the video store. To stay in business, Mos Def decides to make homemade versions of the films that were erased by Jack Black's magnetized body. No, a human cannot be magnetized. Yes, Jack's electrocution would have killed a normal human being. No, we can never imagine Mos Def and Jack Black as best friends. None of this makes sense, none of it is bad, and none of it is as impressive as Eternal Sunshine. CHARLES MUDEDE Laurelhurst Theater.
The Bet Collector
A "starkly realistic narrative" from the Philippines about a woman collecting illegal bets. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster
Chris Bell directs and stars in this Michael Moore-esque documentary about our country's obsession with being the best, and our complicated relationship with the questionable methods we're willing to use to get there. Ostensibly a film about the "unfair" demonization of steroids, Bell uses Bigger, Stronger, Faster to make a surprisingly convincing argument: Bell doesn't really say we should use steroids, but he does ask a pretty good question: Why shouldn't we use steroids? KIALA KAZEBEE Fox Tower 10.
See review. Living Room Theaters.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Wow. So whoever cast Mickey Rooney was a little bit racist, huh? The Press Club.
See review. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Children of Huang Shi
Based on a true story, The Children of Huang Shi has sincerity to spare. What it lacks is vitality. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as George Hogg, a journalist who helped rescue a group of Chinese orphans from the Japanese occupation in 1937. Cocky and reckless, Hogg manages to slip into the occupied zone by conning a Red Cross worker out of his papers. There he witnesses Japanese brutality firsthand, falls in with a shady Chinese spy (Chow Yun-Fat), and falls for a beautiful but emotionally distant nurse (Radha Mitchell), who uses her wiles to lure him to (and abandon him at) a decrepit orphanage to act as caretaker for a pack of near-feral boys. Unfortunately, the moment Hogg arrives at the orphanage, the film—never particularly strong in the first place—screeches to a halt. BRADLEY STEINBACHER Fox Tower 10.
Ale (Alejandro Polanco) is a charming, foul-mouthed urchin who works long days at a NYC chop shop and hustles stolen goods to earn money to take care of his older sister. He's relentlessly optimistic, mining for hope in a world that offers little—but this is not inspirational material. Chop Shop's filmmakers sagely bear in mind that no matter how charming you are, dire poverty is pretty damn hard to get out of, and in this surprisingly moving little film, Ale is no exception. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
An Argentinian film from 2006 about a politician's bodyguard: "Resigned to invisibility, his life a series of days without meaning, punctuated only by visits to a prostitute." Dude, it's like they know me. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Dalai Lama Renaissance
Dalai Lama Renaissance documents the 1999 Synthesis Conference, which centered on the belief that the best way to resolve any problem is to converge as many drastically different ideas as possible. So organizers assembled the more hippie-ish members of the global intelligentsia in Dharamsala, India to examine and devise solutions to the problems plaguing humanity, meeting with the Dalai Lama along the way. Unfortunately, the world's greatest minds aren't always the best listeners (looking at you, quantum physicists). A couple of questions: I'm not sure why it's called Dalai Lama Renaissance, since there's no renassancing going on (The Synthesis Group Talks to the Dalai Lama seems, at the least, more accurate), and I'm also not sure why the film's publicity materials make a huge deal out the fact that Harrison Ford narrates this, when all he really does is just read cheesy affirmations/proverbs between scenes. SAHAR BAHARLOO Hollywood Theatre.
If contemporary kids' movies are to be believed, children's imaginations are glib, computer-generated videogame-scapes, full of skateboarding giraffes and wisecracking sea turtles. Alongside Guillermo del Toro's recent Pan's Labyrinth, Tarsem Singh's The Fall refuses to countenance this candy-coated version of a child's brain—taking us instead to a darker and far more interesting place. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Consider, for a moment, the absolutely terrible remakes of classic TV shows that have littered Hollywood over the last few years: The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched, The Flintstones, The Beverly Hillbillies. In their defense, the people who helmed these horror shows were saddled with an almost impossible task—capturing the magic of a popular television show without the original cast, and decades past its prime. That being the case, let's just say I went into the reincarnation of Get Smart with less than high expectations. And for the film's first 10 minutes, those expectations were met. However, then something surprising happened: Get Smart got good. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
for That #1 Spot
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Will Smith does the superhero thing. If Jazzy isn't Robin to his Batman, there is officially no justice in the world. Anyway, it opens Wednesday, July 2; see our review in next week's Mercury, or at portlandmercury.com on Tuesday, July 1. Various Theaters.
I've been a fan of M. Night Shyamalan's since The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable and Signs; even after most (justifiably) jumped ship with The Village and Lady in the Water, I stuck by him. Shit, I defended his movies at parties. Well, yeah, so that's over now, but at the time, it wasn't entirely wrong-headed: Shyamalan's earlier films had moments of ominous, quiet beauty, and he composed shots that were striking and eerie and unexpected. The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable and Signs are full of weird, memorable moments, and there is not a single one of those in The Happening, a film that somehow feels lazy and rushed at the same time. The worst thing about The Happening isn't that it's not frightening, nor that it's filled with stupid people, nor that one can't even tell when it's supposed to be scary or funny. Shyamalan's made a really shitty movie, yes, but even worse, he's squandered a chance to remind people that he was once capable of making stuff that was great. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Incredible Hulk
More of a continuation than a remake of Ang Lee's critically mixed Hulk (2003), The Incredible Hulk seems intent on repairing the damage inflicted by its predecessor. "The first 40 minutes of Ang Lee's Hulk were painfully slow!" fans and critics complained, so Marvel has responded by summing up Hulk's origin in less than five minutes and then leaping right into an amazing, Bourne Identity-style chase scene through the slums of Brazil. "The acting in Ang Lee's Hulk was atrocious!" So now we get the excellent Edward Norton as Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner, as well as William Hurt as General "Thunderbolt" Ross. (Too bad about Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, though.) "Ang Lee's Hulk had too much psychological mumbo-jumbo!" Enter a straight-ahead, bread 'n' butter storyline: Unable to cure the gamma radiation poisoning that causes him to Hulk out, the undercover Banner reunites with former flame Betty Ross and battles the strong, creepy-looking monster the Abomination (Tim Roth). But just because criticisms are answered doesn't mean essential problems are solved. While the first two-thirds of The Incredible Hulk are a fun, no-nonsense romp, the action actually slows to a stop whenever Hulk hits the screen. The cartoonish-looking hero may look big and bad, but he fails to carry any real emotional resonance, which is key when you're dealing with the most misunderstood character in the Marvel Universe. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Kung Fu Panda
The latest animated film from DreamWorks, Kung Fu Panda features Jack Black as a paunchy panda who unwittingly becomes the kung fu savior of the world. So it's kind of like Beverly Hills Ninja, but, um, animated. It's incredibly detailed, too: The animators are so OCD that they even go to the trouble of animating the nipples on the rhinoceros prison guards. Seriously, keep an eye out for that. This movie should be rated PG-13 for that alone. DREW GEMMER Various Theaters.
Let the Wind Blow
An Indian film from 2004 in which two friends "weigh their options for the future against the reality of life on the streets of Mumbai." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Love Guru
Buried inside The Love Guru, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Wayne's World, and man, is it depressing. I know Wayne's World isn't necessarily a work of cinematic genius, but it was funny when I was 12, and it's funny now—which is more than I can say for Mike Myers' latest, which is the exact opposite of funny. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A Chinese film about a man who seeks out his son, only to find his estranged daughter, who works as a karaoke bar escort. A good way to alleviate that awkwardness? Team up for a karaoke duo of Jay-Z and Beyonce's "'03 Bonnie & Clyde." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Not your father's Genghis Kahn, this despotic bully is sensitive and whatever the word for emo is now. Mongol plays like Last of the Mohicans 2: Asia Minor, turning an otherwise excellent movie into something pretty and revisionist. It begins with pre-pubescent Kahn—and let me tell you, there is nothing more adorable than a chubby little murderer in tiny furry moccasins—and ends with fortyish Kahn conquering half the world, which is a lot of conquering. In between, he gets captured and enslaved, escapes, and is reunited with his wife several times over, because he will find her whatever may occur. The acting is... eh, well, it's entirely in Mongolian, so your guess is as good as mine, but it seemed sincere, and the final battle scene is gloriously awesome. Still, reinventing the Kahn as a kinder, gentler tyrant is difficult to swallow, and it really takes the "war" out of "warlord." KIALA KAZEBEE Cinema 21.
A "dazzling visual narrative" from Indonesia. It is based on the Hindu epic The Ramayana, not that scene from Star Wars where R2 gets electrocuted. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
After saving the Allies' bacon in WWII, a strapping French superspy goes undercover in Cairo on a mission complicated by slumming Nazis, henchmen in fezzes, and ridiculously leggy dames. Oh, and an assassin who wields chickens. Bond spoofs may be old hat, but director Michel Hazanavicius generates such a rolling comedic momentum—and a few genuinely ace retro action sequences—that the thing feels like the first of its kind. The rare spoof that actually improves as it goes, due in large part to the increasingly hilarious deadpan machismo of star Jean Dujardin. Even his goddamned teeth are funny. ANDREW WRIGHT Clinton Street Theater.
"This isn't just about typos, tapes, staples, and pencils, is it, Lee?" Broadway Metroplex.
Sex and the City
The Sex and the City movie is a whole lot of Sex and the City, an epic smorgasbord that covers every type of girl problem, a couple of friendship problems, borderline pornographic sex scenes, corny one-liners, and gratuitously sappy romantic moments. In short, and as advertised, it delivers the big-budget, steroid-enhanced, ultimate Sex and the City mind clobber. But the opulence of it all—from the fairytale New York apartments and LA condos to the $65,000 diamond rings—make it somewhat difficult to keep up with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) as they pull faces through the entire spectrum of Girl Problems, most of which are still Boy Problems. Remember when Carrie had to use her credit card to buy tomatoes because she'd spent every penny on Jimmy Choos? Let's just say that Choos are the new tomatoes, and the distance between us, along with my ability to relate to her, has grown. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The English title of this Chinese film is apropos—and wildly different from the translation of its original Mandarin title, which means "Good People of the Three Gorges," a reference to the government-built Three Gorges Dam that flooded out countless towns and cities and displaced thousands of residents. Fengjie is one of those cities, and the film's two main characters are two of those former residents—the man and woman have both returned to search for their respective missing spouses, for vastly different reasons. It's a simple plot, one told in a slow and deliberate pace with beautiful cinematography, which gives the entire film the feeling of a moving still life painting. AMY J. RUIZ Hollywood Theatre.
Such Hawks, Such Hounds
A documentary about "the music and musicians of the American hard rock underground circa 1970-2007." Jace Gace.
Then She Found Me
Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the guy's face gets all melty and you can see his skull behind it? That is exactly what Helen Hunt looks like now. And while it should be refreshing for a woman in Hollywood to direct herself "au naturale" with nary a hint of rouge, this was just—oh my god—not refreshing. Hunt plays a 39-year-old (okaaaayy) woman whose husband, played by Matthew Broderick, has second thoughts about being married—presumably to a dried-up corn husk—and leaves her. Next, her adoptive mother dies and her real mother (Bette Midler!) shows up, hoping to establish a relationship with Hunt. Meanwhile, she begins dating Colin Firth, which makes total sense as he's all charming and dreamy and Helen Hunt is a rusty ironing board with hair. A very unfunny, untouching movie. KIALA KAZEBEE Hollywood Theatre.
This locally produced movie is an official selection of the Kids First Film Festival and includes footage of the implosion of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant in Rainier, Oregon. The plot involves something about railway takeovers, runaway engines, and kidnapped dinosaurs. We haven't seen it, but we're confident it's better than The Tails of Abbygail. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
When Did You Last See Your Father?
See review. Fox Tower 10.
You Don't Mess With the Zohan
Adam Sandler's newest film is a think piece that will make all these years of Middle Eastern strife melt away with two very easy and humane answers to all the rock throwing, bombings, and death: hummus and dick jokes. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.