2012 British Arrows Awards
See review this issue. Whitsell Auditorium.
21 and Over
"The night before his big medical school exam, a promising student celebrates his 21st birthday with his two best friends." Not screened for critics, and somehow, it doesn't seem to have any Oscar buzz. Various Theaters.
From its inception, the Up documentary series has had an explicitly sociological bent: "Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man," runs the quote that serves as the series' de facto tagline. In the grim, black-and-white '60s, this line had the ring of a curse, and certain installments of the series are pretty harrowing. There's a rough patch in the middle, around 21 and 28—everyone seems to be getting married too young, and one of the upper-class boys, Neil, unexpectedly winds up mentally ill and homeless. But when the Up series' subjects (not all of whom have participated in every film) hit their 40s, things seem to even out: Most of the subjects have found a measure of contentment in their middle age. Viewers are no longer taxed with the burden of worrying how these kids will turn out—they've turned out already, and most of them are just fine. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse
Nearly seven years ago, James Chasse Jr. was chased and beaten by cops, kept from the medical care that would have saved his life, and left to die in the back of a police car. Lies were whispered in the minutes and hours that followed, and years have passed without any meaningful reckoning. And ever since, director Brian Lindstrom and the producers of Alien Boy, some who knew Chasse personally, worked when they could to painstakingly assemble the most definitive—and unflinching—account of a tragedy Portland should never forget. Cinema 21.
If the Twilight movies had any self-awareness, and then they had a baby with a VC Andrews novel, and were also kind of like Harry Potter, you'd have Beautiful Creatures! That probably made more sense in my head, but don't worry about it. (New tagline for this movie: "It made more sense in somebody's head, but don't worry about it.") What I'm trying to say is: I liked it! ELINOR JONES Various 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.
I don't ordinarily like to think about sex and R.E.M. at the same time, but it's worth mentioning that Kyle Henry's Fourplay—a compilation of four short films focused on unusual sexual situations—is produced by Michael Stipe. While frank, the tone of the films differentiate themselves from what might be considered pornography by being more interested in the emotional aspects of intimacy among an unusual cast of characters. Each film takes place in a different city, and dogs, homosexuals, and quadriplegics all get representation. It works best when it's funny, as in Tampa, which takes place in a public restroom. Bold in its subject matter and sentimental at its core, it's a promising departure for a filmmaker who usually sticks to documentaries. Clinton Street Theater.
A Good Day to Die Hard
I've seen a bunch of Twitter and Facebook comments about how terrible this film is. Everyone hates it! Like, REALLY, REALLY HATES IT. Which is making me second-guess how good I thought it was. Instead of questioning myself, though, instead of thinking I'm the problem, I have one question for the haters: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT? A Good Day to Die Hard is great! There are massive explosions and crazy white terrorists! Glass shatters, bullets fly. There's a car chase that just might be the longest car chase in cinematic history since The Blues Brothers. John McClane makes corny jokes (as always), and someone in his family is pissed at him (as always), and the bad guys get what they deserve (as always). It's everything a Die Hard movie should be! MEGAN SELING Roseway Theater.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) are now contract killers, ridding the countryside of a surprisingly bountiful amount of witches using an arsenal of steampunk weaponry. The two aren't exactly well adjusted: They've got some sort of pseudo-sexual relationship in which Hansel sleeps curled up on the floor next to his sister's bed. And as a child, that evil witch forced Hansel to eat so much candy that he's now a diabetic. This playful goofiness makes Hansel & Gretel a brainless, fun fantasy, with plenty of R-rated gore and just the right amount of bodice-heaving sex appeal. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
The great German director Werner Herzog takes us to a village in the subarctic Siberian taiga. The village has 300 souls who are sustained by hunting. The hunters are stoic and resourceful, and spend a good amount of time alone in the woods trapping little animals, netting big fish, and shooting strange birds out of the sky. These men show emotional warmth not when speaking about their children or their wives or their country or their youth, but about their dogs. Herzog narrates the documentary in a way that one might mistake for a parody of Herzog. He repeatedly states the obvious (the river is melting because it is summer, notice how the hunter does not feed his dog much food, and so on) and is moved only by the rugged/rustic stupidity of the men, their constant struggles with the forces of nature, and their indifference to beauty. These men, Herzog believes, are happy because they have no illusions. When a flashy politician visits their village by boat to ask for votes, the hunters yawn and walk away. Politics and its promises mean nothing to them. What is important is making traps, cutting down trees, and raising dogs. CHARLES MUDEDE Living Room Theaters.
I know you're kinda interested because Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is in it, and she's so damn funny and good, and you're probably still harboring some Arrested Development-based affection for Jason Bateman, even though he's done literally nothing since then to justify your ongoing interest. But just... don't even worry about it. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
A not-screened-for-critics thriller set in Damascus and starring the dude who played Dr. Bashir on Deep Space Nine! Bashir gets kind of a bad rap. He was a pretty cool guy. Laurelhurst Theater.
Into the Abyss
Ja, achtung. Verner Herzog here. I haff been asked to write za piece regarding mein film Into za Abyss. I personally find za idea abhorrent, more terreeble zen za feelink uff sunlight on mein skin, za laughter uff small cheeldren, or za pathetic frolicking of newborn kittens, mit za soft fur, za cacophonous mewling, oont za rideeculous ballz uff twine. But za poet must never look away. Za true poet must stare unafraid eento za hellish eentrospection uff a souzand purgatory, if only to know za feelink of being unfulfilled. Ziss idea ist very seemeelar to mein film itself, za documentary on za subject uff capeetal punishment. I personally find za idea uff murder sanctioned by za state to be pathetically provincial, proof uff za violence oont supersteetiousness at za core uff za human nature, once we streep away za iPhones oont za Cate Blanchetts oont za Egg McMuffins oont za Schtabucks fockink coffees. But in za death row eenmate, I find a subject even more fascinating zen za caveman, or za zoo dwarf, or ewen za greezly bear. WERNER HERZOG (AS TOLD TO VINCE MANCINI) Fifth Avenue Cinema.
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 Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Jack the Giant Slayer
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
The Last Exorcism Part II
So I guess they were lying about The Last Exorcism being about the last exorcism, huh? Anyway, here's another crappy horror flick that wasn't screened for critics. Various Theaters.
A gorgeous, captivating film from Australian director Cate Shortland, Lore follows the fate of a group of German children directly after WWII and raises provocative questions about guilt and mass retribution. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
It's the end of World War II, and ex-sailor Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a goddamn drunk. He's also vengeful, hypersexual, and perhaps (or perhaps not) an involuntary murderer. Something needs to give, and so enters Lancaster Dodd (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), the "master" of a startup religion/self-help cult called "The Cause" (played by Scientology). For Dodd, Quell is the perfect patient/guinea pig; an "animal" who, once his "ancient trauma" is revealed though tests, study, and psychological torture, will hopefully graduate to a higher order of human... the human we were created to be. One is tempted to gleefully approach The Master as the cinematic counterpart to a juicy Vanity Fair hit piece—but upon viewing, one quickly realizes that Paul Thomas Anderson is reaching for much more. Rather than heaping scorn on a pseudo-faith, Anderson's film is a gorgeously filmed rumination on human need: the need to be self-aware, the need to be accepted, the need to be loved. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Portland Women's Film Festival (POW Fest)
See next week's Mercury for more info, or if you can't possibly wait, go to powfest.com. Hollywood Theatre.
Pump Up the Volume
Long before he became a bloated fixture on the celebrity rehab circuit ("Oh, hello Robert Downey Jr.!"), Christian Slater was "Hard Harry," the greatest pirate radio DJ that ever raged against the 'burbs. Not only did he spin Concrete Blonde records and smoke cigarettes, he got Samantha Mathis to take her top off in his backyard, thus bringing this teenage boy's (wet) dreams to fruition. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Hollywood Theatre.
Thanks to cagey advertising, audiences will be in for a surprise as Side Effects unfolds: What starts as an intensely accurate study of a young woman's depression gradually contorts itself into something else entirely. Steven Soderbergh's calculated eye, paired with Scott Z. Burns' script, finds plenty to grab onto in the story of 28-year-old graphic designer Emily (Rooney Mara), who struggles with crippling hopelessness—a weary, bone-deep sadness. After a jarring suicide attempt, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) starts Emily on Ablixa, a new, unproven antidepressant, at which point things get even more intense. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
I wish The Rock was my dad. At least he tries to cry. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
A Dave Grohl-directed doc about Van Nuys, California's legendary recording studio. The first half is a very interesting, well-made documentary, and the second half is a jam session with Grohl and Paul McCartney. The second half is terrible. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
Special Mission Lady Chaplin
The '60s spy flick starring From Russia with Love's Daniela Bianchi. Clinton Street Theater.
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 Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Triple Fisher: The Lethal Lolitas of Long Island
A "Roshomon of found-footage film" in which director Dan Kapelovitz mashes up three of the TV movies about Amy Fisher: Drew Barrymore's The Amy Fisher Story, Alyssa Milano's Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story, and Noelle Parker's Amy Fisher: My Story. Hollywood Theatre.
Re-imagining Romeo and Juliet, Warm Bodies is the tale of a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) who longs for the old days before the apocalypse. On an outing for human flesh, R encounters the blonde beauty Julie (Teresa Palmer)—but she's from the other side of the tracks, as in she's a living breathing girl whose father is the head of the militant human survivors. It's way more charming and funny and clever than it needs to be. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
"Don't let him talk to you that way, Burglekutt!" Laurelhurst Theater.