Apart from That
Mount Vernon, Washington filmmakers Randy Walker and Jennifer Shainin brought Apart from That to Portland last year, when they showed a handful of scenes at a Someday Lounge event. This weekend marks the first time that Portlanders get to see their entire—and entirely impressive—film in its totality. Using non-professional actors from their remote island outpost, lots of improvised dialogue, and Dogma 95-stlye camerawork, Apart from That represents independent filmmaking at its very best, with undertones of Altman, Old Joy, and Cassavettes punctuating its moving and often-hilarious portrait of daily life on the fringe of wilderness. CHAS BOWIE Living Room Theaters.
With or without your consent, the age of the internet is bringing to the fore increasingly personalized navel-gazing oeuvres. In film, this is arguably most apparent in the irksomely, if appropriately, emo-sounding "mumblecore" movement. Characterized by low production values and subject matter close to the hearts of its artsy, young creators (read: who-am-I-and-where-am-I-going? angst). The Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, are among the most prominent under the mumblecore umbrella, achieving wide-ish notability with 2005's The Puffy Chair. Baghead maintains the established vibe, but just when you're sure you're over it, the Duplasses and their cast, which includes Greta Gerwig (the closest mumblecore has to a starlet) start to resemble something much more interesting. Part rambling bullshit, part old-school horror movie, part comedy, and part drama, Baghead manages to lift its gaze away from its bellybutton long enough to toy interestingly with some of the film industry's moldier classifications. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Battle for Haditha
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
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 Laurelhurst Theater.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
A documentary about "painter, gay militant, AIDS activist, and filmmaker" Derek Jarman, narrated by Tilda Swinton. There's a whole slew of other Jarman-related films playing this week at the Northwest Film Center, too: Jarman's 1976 feature Sebastian; his 1978 "psycho-fantasy" Jubilee; 1979's The Tempest, an adaptation of Shakespeare's play featuring "phantasmagoric imagery"; and The Angelic Conversation (1985), a "melancholy reverie" based around 14 of Shakespeare's sonnets. More info: nwfc.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Sigh... if only cinema could have stayed in the '70s for a little while longer. Director Walter Hill's The Driver is all that's great about marrying epic car chases with kickass character actors. Bruce Dern: Amazing! Isabelle Adjani: Effin' hot! Ryan O'Neal: Meh, he's okay, but he's got a well-cut jib. COURTNEY FERGUSON Laurelhurst Theater.
See review. 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.
Mercer White (Lou Taylor Pucci) is one lucky guy. Sure, his long-absent older brother is a scumbag and crook, and his sort-of girlfriend is making porn videos with her cousin. Oh, and his mom just died after a long and awful illness. But when Mercer steals a Volvo station wagon at a Eugene, Oregon carwash, the car's owner calls the cell phone left inside—and she turns out to be Zooey Deschanel! Jackpot! What's more, Deschanel's character is probably the nicest person in the world. She's not angry with Mercer—she doesn't even call the cops. They make an agreement: As Mercer drives south to look for his brother, he'll recount his adventures for her over the phone. It's a small, somewhat precious twist on the familiar road trip movie, but The Go-Getter has a lot going for it. It's a coming-of-age story that sticks, and grows, with you. NED LANNAMANN Living Room Theaters.
Gonzo: The Life and Work of
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Alex Gibney's documentary tries, and largely succeeds, to chart the curve of Hunter S. Thompson's life and the impact of his words. Gonzo's core is the interviews with the usual suspects: Thompson's wives, his son, his editors, and Ralph Steadman. But we also hear from Jimmy Carter, George McGovern, a still-pissed Hells Angel, Jimmy Buffett, Pat Buchanan, and Tom Wolfe, the last of whom strikingly compares Thompson to Mark Twain. (Indeed, the only major player in Thompson's life who seems absent is arch-villain Richard Nixon, which I suppose can be forgiven.) Thompson's pal Johnny Depp also shows up, reading from Thompson's work and bringing Thompson's deft lyricism and righteous spirit to the film, but what's perhaps most appreciated and unexpected is the candor with which Gibney treats his respected subject: Thompson was a genius, yes, and he changed journalism and politics for the better, yet Gibney doesn't shy away from showing that Thompson could also be an asshole, and that he let his own myth get the better of him. From the horror of the '68 Chicago riots to the euphoric shooting of Thompson's ashes out of a colossal Gonzo fist, Gibney scrapes through Thompson's writing, history, and friends to assemble a thorough and affecting portrait of a man who, at one crucial point in time, was one of the best writers America had, not to mention a writer that only America could have produced. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
Loud and broad and schizoid, superhero flick Hancock is exactly what you'd expect to get if you locked 14 arguing screenwriters in a room and didn't let 'em out until they wrote something, anything, that could star Will Smith and be released over the Fourth of July weekend. By its end credits, Hancock has mashed up satire and action and fantasy to such a degree that it all feels like self-parody, and at the end of the day, I honestly don't even know what to call it, other than something that probably seemed like a good idea at the time. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
See review. Various Theaters.
In the Company of Men
Playwright-turned-filmmaker Neil LaBute's first film is a wrenching, dark look at the sadistic mind games that two associates (Aaron Eckhart, in his first big role, and Matt Malloy) play to alleviate the boredom of their bland corporate existence. The movie is simple, sickening, and smart, with a heartbreaking performance by Stacy Edwards as the deaf woman who's the target of their viciousness. NED LANNAMANN Broadway Metroplex.
Journey to the Center of the
See review. Various Theaters.
Kit Kittredge: American Girl
Kit Kittredge is one of those American Girl dolls that cost like eleventy million dollars, with each doll representing a certain period in American history. Kit's a nine-year-old Depression-era kid with journalistic aspirations, and Abigail Breslin plays her with a plucky earnestness and an excellent blonde dye job. Or wig. Halfway through the movie, as I was groaning for the millionth time, I remembered that I was not the target audience for this film, but that pre-adolescent girls and their mothers are probably going to love it. With her cute clothes, cute hair, and cute dog (It's a Depression dog! He panhandles!), Kit's the Annie of a new generation—minus the songs, thank God. The movie's plot—about hobos, unfair hobo persecution, and hobo profiling—is unintentionally funny, but the great supporting cast (Stanley Tucci's world-weary sideshow magician is excellent) certainly doesn't hurt. KIALA KAZEBEE Various Theaters.
Lonely Are the Brave
It's cowboy Kirk Douglas versus sheriff Walter Matthau in David Miller's 1962 film! Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Maximum Overdrive & Repo Man
Seth Sonstein, the owner of the Clinton Street Theater, is rolling out what he claims is "the greatest double feature of all time" to pay tribute to Emilio Estevez, and he might be right. (Sonstein also characterizes Estevez as "a bright, shining supernova. An actor whose star shone so bright, he would blind you if you walked by.") Starting things off is the Stephen King-directed, AC/DC-soundtracked Maximum Overdrive (1986), which'll be followed by the whacked-out punk classic Repo Man (1984). Clinton Street Theater.
The latest purported comedy from Eddie Murphy. Not screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, July 11 for our review. Various Theaters.
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 Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
A free public screening. If you have a film you've made that you wanna show off, email email@example.com by July 11. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
People Who Do Noise
Portland's practitioners of noise music often make the claim that while our town's more easily understood and readily palatable indie rockers get all the glory right now, it is the fierce cohort of feedback warriors, circuit-bending eggheads, and artsy voltage-assisted tantrum-throwers who are making the really notable sonic art in town, and about whom books will one day be written. Time will tell as far as publishing prospects go, but, thanks to local director Adam Cornelius and his insightful new documentary People Who Do Noise—which is about, well, people who do noise—the famously insular and fecund noise community of Portland is getting its critical due. Cornelius has smartly stitched together interviews with and performances by 15 of the regional subculture's leading lights—from the fun-loving, grey-haired post-hippie trailblazers of Smegma, to the sociopathic scream machine Josh Hydeman, to the recently disbanded definitive noise duo Yellow Swans—to reveal the surprising diversity of motives, techniques, and sounds of the most divisive music in the world, from the city best known for it. CARY CLARKE Clinton Street Theater.
"If it bleeds, we can kill it." Bagdad Theater.
See review. Cinema 21.
"It's amazing what paint and a surgeon can do." Plan B.
"By night's end, I predict me and her will interface." Pix Patisserie (North).
Son of Rambow
Despite the fact it's directed by Garth Jennings—the same guy who helmed the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy adaptation a few years back—Son of Rambow is nothing at all like Hitchhiker's. (They don't mention Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters once!) Instead, Rambow is about two young boys and the remake of Rambo that they put together during an idyllic English summer (is there any other kind?). The boys are Lee Carter (Will Poulter), a neglected bad boy with a majorly dickish older brother (who's played by Chuck from Gossip Girl! Eeeee!), and Will (Bill Milner), the sensitive, sheltered one living in a repressed Amish-ish community. Will's not allowed to watch TV or see movies, so he's often cast out of the classroom and forced to sit in the hallway next to a goldfish whenever a movie is played, while Lee is also often cast out into the hallway for things like, oh, I don't know—maybe punching girls in the face and an unfortunate incident of fish murder. Anyway, the boys end up bonding in front of the dean's office and becoming instant best friends, and what follows is a sweet, funny, and romantic film about two boys remaking the original Rambo in its entirety. KIALA KAZEBEE Various Theaters.
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 Living Room Theaters.
Twisted: A Balloonamentary
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
I could lay all of Wall-E out, plot point by plot point; I could describe each of the film's astonishing vistas; I could delve into its brilliantly conceived, densely packed imagery; I could attest to how emotionally and intellectually engaging it is, from its haunting, melancholic opening to its end credits. I could bring up how unconventional the film is (its stars are robots, and there's a good half hour before anything even vaguely resembling spoken dialogue appears), or I could point out that, of all the major Hollywood releases I've seen, I can think of few that trump Wall-E for sheer audacity. But all that's too broad, so I'll simplify: Pixar's latest is likely one of the best films of the year, and it'll also likely become known as one of the best science-fiction films ever made. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Wanted is based, albeit extremely loosely, on Mark Millar's gleefully misanthropic comic of the same name. (Unlike those lab rats who eventually learn to quit pressing the lever that delivers the electroshocks, I still believe in the possibility of books I like being turned into movies that I like. Clearly, I am an idiot.) Of course, anyone whose judgment isn't clouded by lust for eminently doable star James McAvoy and/or an affection for the comics has certainly already discerned from its trailer that Wanted is spectacularly terrible, a brainless celebration of stylized violence that's fatally hamstrung by its own moral squeamishness. The ultimate indication of Wanted's irredeemability is that after two hours of wincing through this mess, McAvoy's face started to look a lot less pretty. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The make-believe land of Turaquistan is Iraq, the occupying force (the Tamerlane Corporation, which is waging "the first war ever to be 100 percent outsourced to private enterprise") is America, and John Cusack is us: As Brand Hauser, he's a Tamerlane operative who's in bed with the military industrial complex (even though deep down, he feels really bad about it). "Look," he says to Marisa Tomei's liberal reporter, who writes for The Nation, natch. "We've already kicked the shit outta this place. What're we supposed to do? Turn our backs on all the entrepreneurial possibilities?" As a series of gags—some great, most not—War, Inc. is pretty impressive, if only because its happily preachy sentiments are admirable in spirit, if not execution. As an actual film, though, let alone a satire, it's just sloppy, twice as long as it needs to be, and disappointingly sentimental in its third act. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.