Martin Scorsese's forgotten 1985 comedy, featuring Griffin Dunne, Bronson Pinchot, and Cheech and Chong. (You think we're making this up, but we're totally not.) Clinton Street Theater.
At the First Breath of Wind
Franco Piavoli might be an internationally acclaimed director, but dude could do a thing or two to spice up the synopses of his films. The program at Sundance wrote up his 2002 film as "a breathtaking poem from, and to, cinema" that "follows the progression of a sun-drenched afternoon in rural Italy, as a landed family and a group of field laborers alternately pass the day in leisure, reflection, and work." kjdiiwk)))*paUU (Sorry. That's what got typed in when my head hit the keyboard. Dozed off for a second there.) Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Living Room Theaters.
Better Off Dead
Ah, 1985! Those wonder years back before John Cusack started to suck. Plan B.
The final selection of the Northwest Film Center's Derek Jarman series, Blue is Jarman's final film, in which the filmmaker's "life with AIDS is fleshed out with an astounding soundtrack by longtime collaborator Simon Fisher Turner and the voices of Jarman, John Quentin, Nigel Terry, and Tilda Swinton." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Breast Cancer Diaries
Arguably this week's best bet for a date movie, The Breast Cancer Diaries follows former TV news reporter Ann Murray Paige's battle with breast cancer. "A chronicle of illness met with attitude," The Breast Cancer Diaries will be followed by a panel discussion of leading breast cancer specialists, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Gerding Theater.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The dubious return to the magical land of Narnia, where lions are even more Jesus-y and those four Pevensie kids get on your last good nerve. With nearly an hour of tacked-on battles, sword fights, and overlong journeys, Prince Caspian is bloated and lacking in all sorts of magic that it purports to have. In shooting for Lord of the Rings-scale epic scope, Narnia just comes off as the Shire's unsophisticated backwoods cousin—desperate to please, and without a clue how to do so. COURTNEY FERGUSON Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Mission Theater.
The Dark Knight
The fact that Heath Ledger's final completed role is that of the Joker in The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's eagerly anticipated sequel to Batman Begins, is, to say the least, disconcerting. But all the same—three years after Begins, and seven months after Ledger's body was found—The Dark Knight is all the things audiences are hoping it will be. It is bold, bombastic, and badass. There are sublimely orchestrated action sequences, stunningly gorgeous cityscapes, and elegantly conceived bank heists and abductions and interrogations. But perhaps the most notable thing about The Dark Knight is that it's so relentlessly and unapologetically... well, dark. The Dark Knight is fun, but there's also a stark, twisting anger to it, a sinister, cynical, nihilistic edge that can't be denied. Part of this is by design—the tense, simmering script, by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan, focuses less on Batman and more on his foes—but the darkness is also inseparable from Ledger, whose death has colored the film in ways that are impossible to shake. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Chevy Chase comedy classic screens as part of the Northwest Institute for Social Change's summertime outdoor Media Movies Series. Mississippi Station.
"One of us!" The Press Club.
Derek Jarman's 1990 film "examines the persecution of homosexuality through the centuries" and the role of religion in the AIDS crisis. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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 Division Street, Evergreen Parkway 13, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
As a young woman living in Seattle in the late '90s, it was impossible not to know the name Mia Zapata. At age 27, while walking home from a bar one summer night in 1993, she was raped and strangled, her body dumped on a secluded street and found just an hour after her friend last saw her alive. But there was a lot more to Zapata. For starters, she fronted the punk-grunge band the Gits, who had just returned from a successful European tour. Her nickname was Chicken, thanks to a funny way she'd stand with her knees together. She wrote amazing lyrics. She had tons of friends. She was shy, until she got on stage. Like so many others in Seattle, it's clear that director Kerri O'Kane was taken with Zapata, the story of the Gits, and how the band's history intersected with Zapata's untimely death, and O'Kane's intimate, lovingly pieced together doc is a look at a slice of music history that, until now, has been hidden in Seattle. AMY J. RUIZ Clinton Street Theater.
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 Hell's 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.
"First you gotta do the truffle shuffle." Pioneer Courthouse Square.
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, 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.
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 Bagdad Theater, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
After Schindler's List won seven Oscars, Steven Spielberg could've made whatever artsy, fancy-pants picture he wanted. Instead, dude turned around and made a sequel to Jurassic Park. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro found himself in a similar spot in 2006, when his acclaimed fantasy fable Pan's Labyrinth wowed arthouse crowds all over the world. Suddenly, del Toro found himself able to do pretty much whatever he wanted—and it turns out all he wanted was to revisit Hellboy, his 2004 comic book flick. For the record, The Lost World: Jurassic Park didn't win any Oscars, and Hellboy II probably won't either, but fuck it: That's not the point. The point, rather, is fun: In any other movie, it'd be a sign that things had gone seriously awry if a red demon and a blue talking fish got together, drank too much Tecate, and started slurring out a drunken duet, but in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, it kind of makes sense. About the only way I can describe the gorgeous, bizarre, and thoroughly entertaining Hellboy II is as an "epic-fantasy-action-comedy-romance": It's got parts that are awe-inspiring; its lush, bright colors are beautiful; and there are some kickass action scenes. There's also some clumsy comedy and a few ham-fisted emotional beats, but when the whole is this bizarre and cool and unique, it's hard to complain. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Hot Rods to Hell
This 1967 piece of trash tells the story of a road-tripping family who become terrorized on the highway by hoodlums in a hot rod. It's laughably ludicrous, especially when Dad decides to fight back! Meanwhile, daughter Tina becomes mysteriously attracted to the bad boy behind the wheel of the hot rod—a bored, stupid teenager with a worldview that borders on nihilism. The film is absolute junk: irredeemably bad, irresponsible, irrelevant, and, of course, irresistibly fun. NED LANNAMANN Hotel deLuxe.
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Possibly the dorkiest movie ever made, Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D stars the doofily likeable Brendan Fraser as a scientist who takes his 13-year-old nephew (Josh Hutcherson) on an ill-advised geology expedition. They fight CG dinosaurs and CG piranhas and CG Venus flytraps, and they also bicker over which one of them will get to bone their foxy Icelandic mountain guide (Anita Briem). Along the way, our trio treks through epic Technicolor vistas that would look right at home on the cover of a '50s sci-fi paperback: There are underground sunsets, forests of towering mushrooms, and plesiosaur-infested seas, and all of these locales have the plasticine, hypnotic feel of Disneyland. Unexpectedly, it's here that Journey transcends its somewhat mercenary roots (it's the first full-length, live-action film to be shot and widely distributed in digital 3D, and it's more or less a test for future 3D films) to become something that's usually pretty fun and occasionally dazzling, even if you'll spend half the runtime rolling your eyes at Hallmark-worthy familial bonding and geology-related humor. ("We're in deep schist!") ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Kuchar Brothers Film Festival
Two nights of films from experimental filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar. Friday's program, "Dangling Digitalia," boasts five shorts made between 2004 and 2008, while Saturday's program, "Academic Atrocities," features two longer films, the 50-minute Web of Vice and the 40-minute Orphans of the Cosmos, both made with students at the San Francisco Art Institute. Director George Kuchar in attendance for both nights; more info at clintonsttheater.com. Clinton Street Theater.
Long Way Down
A film about Ewan McGregor's "motorcycle adventure of a lifetime," in which he and some other dude rode 15,000 miles from Scotland to South Africa. No matter how fast he rode, and no matter where he went, McGregor could never avoid people snidely referring to him as Obi-Wan Jr. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Division Street, Movies on TV.
It doesn't get any cornier. When ABBA and musical theater joined forces in the form of Mamma Mia!, it tested the outer limits of the universe's capacity for cheese. Of course, like ABBA, it was a wild success. Likewise, and particularly with baby boomers as the current ruling class, the film adaptation starring the virtually unimpeachable Meryl Streep is going to be a slam dunk at the box office. And while the extreme dorkiness of it all can be difficult to get into (do not even attempt if you are not predisposed), the cast's palpable joy produces some truly great moments. Typically, these theater dorks are having too much fun for the cynics' scorn to wield any power. MARJORIE SKINNER 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 City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Nostos, The Return
"Part poem, part concert," Franco Piavoli's 1989 film is a riff on the legend of Ulysses. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Okie Noodling II
In 2001, filmmaker Bradley Beesley released Okie Noodling, which introducing the world to noodling—the dubious "sport" of catching catfish with one's extremities. Fishermen stick their hands or feet into muddy caves in the back rivers of Oklahoma and Missouri, hoping to piss off a fish enough for it to clamp onto their bodies so they can pull it out. Seven years later, Beesley has returned to catch up with the current state of noodling—apparently, now it's been "commercialized." But while Beesley has obvious respect for and a genuine interest in his subjects, he relies too much on the inherent oddness of the situations he's documenting. SAHAR BAHARLOO Hollywood Theatre.
Over the Edge
Matt Dillon stars in this film from 1979 about a bunch of rebellious kids in a planned community. Following the screening, the art-punk sextet Drats!!! will play a 30-minute rock opera based on the film. East End.
Quid Pro Quo
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
The Royal Tenenbaums
"Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is... maybe he didn't." Broadway Metroplex, Pix Patisserie (North).
Because Savage Grace is a film based on a true story, and as such its plot is a matter of public record, I have no qualms about revealing that it's about a mentally unstable socialite (Julianne Moore) who responds to her husband's infidelity by initiating a sexual relationship with her gay son Tony (Eddie Redmayne). Then one day the gay son stabs her, then he orders some Chinese food and eats it by her corpse, and that's how you know he's a sociopath. Grace takes an arthouse approach to tabloid material—in other words, it revels in being both sordid and abstruse. The mom-on-son scenes are filmed all Flowers in the Attic-style—kinda creepy, but kinda sexy, too. (If boning your relatives were actually this hot, more people would be doing it.) But artsy pretensions and pulpy storytelling aside, there seems to be a bigger issue here: Someone, somewhere, seriously misunderstood the term "MILF." ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang
The always-awesome Gordon Liu stars in this 1981 kung fu classic, in which (you guessed it) students of the Shaolin style face off with students of the Wu-Tang style. Presented by the Grindhouse Film Festival, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang will be projected from a just-discovered, never-used-before 35mm print of the rare film. Start drooling now, chopsocky fans. Hollywood Theatre.
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 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 Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater.
It's almost impossible not to compare Space Chimps to that other CG space movie, Wall-E. Of course, Space Chimps utterly fails in comparison: The animation is sub-par, the voice acting is annoying, and the story is uninteresting, as chimpanzees sent into space empathize with an alien race, and in their quest to save them, they learn a bit about themselves, too. (One of the aliens they meet, a squeaky little light bulb-headed thing called Kilowatt, is the most annoying fucking character I've ever seen in a movie. I'm talking worse than Jar Jar.) Just watch Wall-E again. DREW GEMMER Various Theaters.
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Various Theaters.
Voices Through Time
Franco Piavoli's "lyric ode to the cycles of life" in a bucolic village. How much cooler would this be if it was about the Cylons of life? Way cooler. BY YOUR COMMAND! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Wackness follows Luke (Josh Peck), a slack-jawed drug dealer who spends his summer days pushing an ice cream cart full of marijuana through Central Park, trading weed for medical advice from psychiatrist Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley) and befriending Squires' fetching stepdaughter, Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby). Jonathan Levine, the writer/director of The Wackness, graduated from high school in 1994, the same year his film is set. Based on the writing here—smart and evocative when focusing on teenagers, histrionic and clichéd when the grownups get involved—Levine should wait until he's actually lived through middle age before he tries to write about it. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
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 Living Room Theaters.
We Are Together
There are an increasing number of documentary films cataloging the many problems faced in Africa, and against this backdrop, We Are Together is in some pretty harrowing company. The film's focus is curiously narrow, and director Paul Taylor gives little in the way of a greater context for his subjects, who are orphans in the small South African town of Agape whose families are plagued by the AIDS epidemic and who are without any apparent support from the government. The children—and the adults and volunteers looking after them—raise funds for themselves by forming a children's choir and recording CDs, which are sent overseas in hopes that someone will be moved. While We Are Together follows them through the ultimate achievement of performing in New York onstage with Alicia Keys and Paul Simon, it fails to address anything greater—instead, the film's too-tight focus on one orphanage in a sea of similarly displaced kids ultimately feels like little more than a fundraising venture of its own, and one that offers no solution beyond a URL for the viewer to visit and make a donation. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Derek Jarman's 1993 film about philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe
See I'm Staying Home. Various Theaters.