NW FILM & VIDEO FESTIVAL
The 35th annual NW Film & Video Festival runs November 7-15 at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. Not all films were screened for critics. For more info, Out of the Woods, Movie Times , and nwfilm.org.AutoPairKern:>
THE CORPORAL'S DIARY
Twenty-two-year-old Jonathan Santos used a video camera to document his 37 days in Iraq, before he died on day 38. His Army buddy, Matthew Drake, survived the explosion that killed Santos and the rest of their unit in 2004, and Santos' mother makes a pilgrimage to meet with Drake in this documentary. Drake, however, is severely disabled, and directors Patricia Boiko and Laurel Spellman Smith do a good job of making war's grand tragedies seem all the more real by focusing on the injustice experienced by the families of just these two. Cut together with Santos' own footage, the film is both a powerful memorial and a call to the activist streak in all of us. Screens with Forty Men for the Yukon. MATT DAVIS
An absolute must-see for anyone with an interest in the history of either the Trail Blazers or Portland itself, Fast Break comprises footage shot during the Blazers' legendary 1977 championship season. Much of the documentary is devoted to chronicling how Bill Walton spent his time off the court—which, because the man was a giant (literally) hippie, involved a lot of bike riding down the 101 and clambering through the woods picking blackberries. There's also a ton of great archival footage of the absolute frenzy that surrounded the team during that period, filtered of course through Portland's own hippie sensibility—a scene of a huge crowd singing a "Rip City" ballad as a folksinger strums on an acoustic guitar is particularly classic. ALISON HALLETT
GREAT SPEECHES FROM
A DYING WORLD
Linas Phillips was video-recording homeless people in Seattle when he realized it was condescending—so he decided to give a dozen of them "great speeches from history" to recite. But it's Phillips' developing relationships with those whose stories he tells that raise his documentary above pure exploitation. For example: Watching a man with schizophrenia frankly recount multiple suicide attempts before reciting the "to sleep, perchance to dream" speech from Hamlet in a cemetery at sunset is a rare pleasure indeed. MATT DAVIS
Starting from the franchise's earliest days, under the steadfast leadership of Harry Glickman, Mania is a love letter to all things Portland Trail Blazers. The usual assortment of former players (Maurice Lucas, Damon Stoudamire, Rick Adelman, the late Kevin Duckworth), team ambassadors and icons (Dr. Jack Ramsay, Bill Schonely), plus a few baffling commentators (Art Alexakis—really?), all waxing poetic on the team, the city, and its fans. While it doesn't necessarily cover any new ground, or operate in a critical manner, the film's primary role is to encapsulate the last 38 years of our city's largest sports franchise. EZRA ACE CARAEFF
ON PAPER WINGS
Portland documentarian Ilana Sol's beautiful film is about the only casualties that occurred in the continental US during WWII. In Bly, Oregon, in 1945, a young pastor and his pregnant wife took a group of children on a picnic in the woods—only to discover a strange balloon in the trees. Constructed of paper and sent into the airstream from Japan, the odd creation contained a bomb that exploded and killed the children and the young woman. Affecting interviews with four Japanese women who worked in the paper factory where they made thousands of balloon bombs during their school years are interwoven with interviews with Bly's denizens, and friends and relatives of the deceased. On Paper Wings is a well-crafted story that perfectly builds to the point of misty-eyed reunion when the women travel to Bly 40 years after WWII on a mission of peace, bearing 1,000 origami cranes. You'd better bring a hanky. Screens with Water Paper Time. COURTNEY FERGUSON
Over Here is about a vet of the Iraq War who comes back to the States a mess and ends up homeless. Except it's not really about that, because, according to director Jon Jost, "This film is not a 'plot' film, but rather a work of tonalities." In other words, the first seven minutes feature distorted footage of the young vet's face while electronic dissonance plays. It's confusing, it's jarring, and it doesn't really tell us anything: Vets of this war are coming home every day, and their stories are much more compelling than this work of "tonalities." Check it out if you're interested, then turn to NPR for the real thing. LOGAN SACHON
See Film, pg. 42.
A SENTENCE FOR TWO
Quick: What's more depressing than young Oregon women who are locked up in prison for assault and identity theft? Young pregnant Oregon women who are locked up in prison! Director Randi Jacobs follows three women as they describe how horrible it is to give birth with a corrections officer standing over you, to lose your baby to state custody, and to still be stuck in prison while someone else raises your child. It's a film that's bleak as all get out, which makes sense, since the documentary's meant to be shown to "high-risk" young women—apparently to scare the hell out of them, so they don't have babies behind bars. AMY J. RUIZ
SHE'S A BOY I KNEW
See Film, pg. 42. Screens with 'Tis the Season.
SHORTS PROGRAMS I-III
See Film, pg. 42. For a complete listing of the shorts in each individual program, see nwfilm.org.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH
See Film, pg. 42.
Fox Tower 10.
Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are convincingly badass as a couple of hired guns who come to the aid of a small town in New Mexico territory that's threatened by a corrupt, murderous rancher. Jeremy Irons oozes menace as the bad guy, and the hatchet-faced Renée Zellweger isn't completely awful as the default love interest, the only woman in this tiny shit-town who isn't a whore. (...Or is she?) Adapted from one of Robert B. Parker's eleventy-thousand novels, Appaloosa contains enough guns, horses, and billowing clouds of dust to populate every Western for the next 10 years. You've seen this movie before, but it's a really good one. NED LANNAMANN Broadway Metroplex, City Center 12, Hollywood Theatre.
Army of Darkness
"Don't touch that, please. Your primitive intellect wouldn't understand alloys and... compositions... and things with... molecular structures." Bagdad Theater.
Ashes of Time Redux
See review. Cinema 21.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Beverly Hills Chihuahua is not as terrible or as racist as I thought it would be. I laughed out loud more than a few times. But then again, I also laugh at YouTube videos of cats falling into toilets. SAHAR BAHARLOO Various Theaters.
Body of Lies
Body of Lies stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and it's set among the terror threats and deeds of radical Muslims. But while Lies feels more authentic and nuanced than most big-budget action flicks—it points out, for example, that fighting terrorism is probably necessary, and in the same breath adds that it's an undoubtedly futile fight—at the film's core, it still doesn't do much more than use the tumultuous Middle East as a backdrop for the sort of hammy spy thriller that Tom Clancy might write on a good day. By the final third of the film—when a terrorist pulverizes a captured American's fingers with a hammer and says, "This is Guantánamo!"—the film's more or less a lost cause, though I guess it deserves some brownie points for trying. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinetopia, Evergreen Parkway 13, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
Burn After Reading
Like a Jason Bourne flick filtered through Dr. Strangelove, the Coen Brothers' great Burn After Reading more or less serves as an excuse for the Coens to play around with the clichés and charms of the espionage genre, while also having fun with the same sort of sad, aimless, and fantastically funny characters that usually populate their films. Also, the plot involves a self-powered dildo machine. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Call and Response
Justin Dillon, lead singer for the late '90s Christian rock band Dime Store Prophets, is on a mission to save young Thai girls (among other things). In his nonprofit documentary Call and Response, Dillon has managed to gather an impressive cast of beautiful people to champion his cause. Julia Ormond and Ashley Judd (so pretty!) speak with empathetic authority about the plight of human trafficking, particularly the sexual slavery business overseas and here, in America. If you can get past the boring and longwinded musical performances (I'm looking at you, Switchfoot and Five for Fighting), the message is moving and thought provoking. Princeton professor Cornel West makes a good argument for music being part and parcel to this world's long history of slavery, but I could have done with less (read: no) terrible music and more in-depth reportage on the trickle-down economic atrocities which pervade everything, including my own Forever 21 habit. KIALA KAZEBEE Living Room Theaters.
Changeling is a true story. Not "based on a true story," but a true one—a claim that writer J. Michael Straczynski reportedly had to work closely with the studio's legal team to make, citing and authenticating every scene in this lengthy, Clint Eastwood-directed, Depression-era period piece. And while the true story is, in fact, remarkable, the other side of the coin is that Changeling's faithfulness causes most of its flaws: It drags at points, and its austere and formal tone sucks much of the blood out of the drama. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
By day, sex addict Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) slaps on a goofy wig and works at a town that recreates what life was like for 18th century colonists; by night, he goes to restaurants, intentionally chokes on food, and takes financial advantage of whatever good Samaritan/sucker Heimlichs him. While Choke is fun, and while it thankfully retains Chuck Palahniuk's cynical, self-deprecating, hyper-testosteroned tone (this is, after all, the sort of film where heart-to-heart conversations are had over illicit handjobs), it also comes across as a bit self-satisfied, a bit too straightforward, and a bit overly neat. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
Classic Concerts: The Talking Heads
Aren't these those strange fellows who sang that "Kesskoo say" song? That song made no sense! Who is this "Keskoo," and what is she saying? Clinton Street 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.
Days and Clouds
An Italian drama in which a woman "must adapt to an entirely new way of life as the carpet is pulled out from under her comfortable middle-class existence." Not screened for critics. Living Room Theaters.
In the hype surrounding The Duchess, much has been made of the parallels between the film's subject, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, and her real-life direct descendant, Princess Diana. But Georgiana (played by period piece habitué Keira Knightley) does not need the Diana hook, and her story is very much her own. Advantageously married at 17 to the Duke of Devonshire (a cold, complicated Ralph Fiennes), Georgiana became famous for her style and charisma. Though there's no shortage of drama at play here, there are long stretches that move very slowly—fortunately, it's a handsome film (and at times impressively racy). Besides, it pays off, gradually becoming a surprisingly substantial and anguished damning of the gilded cages in which women of Georgiana's ilk were kept—used as baby machines, manipulated with threats of separation from their children, and forced to endure humiliation. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
Eagle Eye takes your deepest fears and turns them into a horrifying (and largely ridiculous) morality tale of overbearing governmental control. In a nutshell, Shia LaBeouf and that chick from Maid of Honor find themselves forced to follow the whims of a mysterious woman's voice, who not only has control over their cell phones, but anything digital: flashing roadside signs, GPS systems, video monitors at McDonald's. The technological cat 'n' mouse premise may start out as unbelievable, but by the final reel Eagle Eye reaches an astounding level of implausibility that is both eye-rollingly bad and—luckily for the audience—unintentionally hilarious. WM.™ STEVEN HUMPHREY Century Clackamas Town Center, Evergreen Parkway 13, Hilltop 9, Wilsonville Town Center 9.
"Dear Lord Jesus, I do not often speak with you and ask for things. But now, I really must insist that you help me win the election tomorrow, because I deserve it and Paul Metzler doesn't, as you well know." The Press Club.
Everything Will Be Fine
A free screening of a web series about "the accidental arrival of two young street-class Brits who are lost in a maze of self-medicating distractions in the Rose City." Shot in Portland with local actors and music. Hollywood Theatre.
Filmusik: The Superman Orchestra
See Hollywood Theatre.
Jean Renoir's brilliant and beautiful film about French POWs during World War I examines how the war fundamentally disrupted the class system, forever destroying the concept of an honorable "gentleman's war." ALISON HALLETT Pix Patisserie (North).
Poppy is the kind of irrepressibly chipper person who attempts to start conversations with random strangers; when they act standoffish, she says things like, "I won't bite!" When her bicycle is stolen, she merely laments she didn't have a chance to say good-bye to it. In short, she's the kind of person who is so goddamn cheerful you'd like to smack her in the face. But something happens over the course of Happy-Go-Lucky: Poppy wins you over. Poppy's happiness is something of a mystery; both her sisters are miserable, and her flatmate is snide and sarcastic. But Sally Hawkins' remarkable performance doesn't hit one false note. British director Mike Leigh improvises extensively with his actors before writing a script, and the film, as with all his work, feels spontaneous and true. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
The Haunting of Molly Hartley
Wha? A crappy looking horror flick that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
The Disney Channel tween cash-cow hits the big screen. Anticipation for the film is running high among High School Musical fans like "scooterboy07," who posted on IMDB.com that "this movie is AWESOmE!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE THEM ALL!!!!" Various Theaters.
Wha? A crappy sounding horror flick that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Century Eastport 16, Division Street, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Apparently, there was a first Madagascar, this is the sequel 2 it. Take the kids B4 it is 2 L8 and... aw, fuck it. Various Theaters.
Man on Wire
In August of 1974, Frenchman Philippe Petit—not content with having walked a tightrope between the twin towers of both Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbour Bridge—decided to try his luck rigging a tightrope between the big daddies of all the world's twin towers, the World Trade Center. James Marsh's new documentary brings Petit's feat to life—an accomplishment that is either breathtakingly stupid or brave. And while I'm usually skeptical of documentaries that switch between B-roll and interview footage, the B-roll in this case is so outrageously implausible that it's more than enough to keep any viewer gripped. If you suffer from vertigo, for example, this movie will make you feel sick. Hell, I don't, and it still did. MATT DAVIS Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters, Mission Theater.
The fact that Max Payne is an awful movie shouldn't be surprising to anyone who's sat through any cinematic adaptation of any videogame ever, from Super Mario Bros. to Street Fighter to Doom to Resident Evil to Double Dragon to Hitman to Tomb Raider. What is kind of surprising, though, is just how little Hollywood has learned in its quest to lure Nintendo fanboys into movie theaters. While the videogame industry has learned an incredible amount from feature films (at this point, the narratives in the best videogames frequently eclipse those offered by mainstream Hollywood), that pollination apparently only goes one way. Fifteen years after Hollywood started adapting videogames to the screen, the stupid, dreary Max Payne is as stylistically and narratively inept as 1993's film version of Super Mario Bros. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
"A midnight showing of an early 1970s horror movie turns to chaos when the killer from the movie comes out of the film to attack those in the theater." Not screened in time for press. Screens with Black Santa's Revenge. Cinema 21.
Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback
In the mid '60s, five American GIs stationed in Germany started a rock band with the idea of being the anti-Beatles. They wore black and shaved tonsures in their hair; their music was loud, robotic, and violent. This excellent documentary focuses on the Monks' sensation of being far from home at a time when America underwent drastic change. It also captures the artistic climate of Germany during the '60s, with a particular eye on the distinct design of the period. The world wasn't quite ready for the Monks then; in many ways, it still isn't. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
The Muppets Take Manhattan
"Maybe you expected me to go hog-wild? Perhaps you could bring home the bacon!" Laurelhurst Theater.
PDX Kayaker Film Festival
"Three hours of kayak movies"? FINALLY! Clinton Street Theater.
Pride and Glory
One more movie about mopey policemen, Pride and Glory follows four NYPD cops—brothers Ray and Franny Tierney (Edward Norton and Noah Emmerich), their dad Francis (Jon Voight), and their brother-in-law, Jimmy (Colin Farrell). The plot's overcrowded, everybody spends a lot of time anguishing and whining, and it makes you long for the days of Dirty Harry, when when Hollywood's cops kicked asses, took names, and didn't get bogged down in pondering moral intricacies or trying to get closure on a mysterious traumatic event that happened before the movie started. ERIK HENRIKSEN Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinetopia.
Rachel Getting Married
Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is indeed getting married, but it's her sister, Kym (Anne Hathaway)—an ex-model, lifelong drug addict, and alcoholic who's been in and out of institutions since causing a family tragedy as a young teenager—who demands to be the center of attention. Jonathan Demme's latest is a difficult, sometimes tiresome film, but it's also emotionally ambitious, and it offers a modern portrait of family life that depends very little on convention. MARJORIE SKINNER Century Eastport 16, City Center 12, Evergreen Parkway 13, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
For atheists accustomed to the one-way street of religious acceptance (on which I will respect your right to believe what you want to believe, and you will attempt to limit my access to birth control), there is something refreshing about Bill Maher's Religulous, in which the unflappably egomaniacal Maher travels the country interviewing people about their faith, in order to: (A) point out the errors of logic, fact, and history inherent to their worldview, and (B) make fun of them. Alas, the film suffers from two things: a lack of focus, and an abundance of Maher. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10, Vancouver Plaza 10.
Repo! The Genetic Opera
A sci-fi rock opera starring Paris Hilton. Shockingly, it wasn't screened for critics. Director Darren Lynn Bousman in attendance. Clinton Street Theater.
On the plus side, RocknRolla isn't as bad as Guy Ritchie's previous movie. But then, 2005's Revolver was completely incoherent Kabbalah-quoting nonsense, whereas RocknRolla returns to Ritchie's safer formula: A well-dressed, big gangster (Tom Wilkinson) threatens a well-dressed group of lovable loser gangsters against a backdrop of contemporary "London," with everybody talking in gruff voices and occasionally, shooting at each other. MATT DAVIS Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
Following a sex- and drug-fueled suicide attempt, Mark (Chad Allen) gets sent by his family to a Christian "gay conversion" ranch. Save Me explores such issues as the controversial "ex-gay" movement, addiction, guilt, and acceptance, while a cast of recognizable faces (including Judith Light!) give solid, believable performances. Save Me feels like it would be more at home in the made-for-TV realm, but the film's restraint from being either preachy or overly judgmental is rather refreshing (even if ultimately, it's all a bit too even-handed). Plus, I don't really need to mention what happens when you put a whole bunch of gay guys on a ranch, do I? BRAD BUCKNER Living Room Theaters.
A fifth serving of torture porn. Various Theaters.
The Secret Life of Bees
Set in a generically sepia-toned 1964, The Secret Life of Bees uses the Civil Rights Act, the violent racism of the South, and the bravery of African Americans who sought to exercise their right to vote as hastily draped window dressing for the film's main concern: a little white girl with mommy issues. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
"Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my concentration. You're distracting me. And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. You understand?" Living Room Theaters.
Bernie Mac (R.I.P.), Isaac Hayes (R.I.P.), and Samuel L. Jackson (YOU'RE NEXT SAM) star in this comedy about soul singers. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic—only screening nine days late! Feature preceded by 35 mm trailers, standup comedy, and animation. Bagdad Theater.
Sword of Doom
Kihachi Okamoto's 1966 samurai classic. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Tell No One
Eight years after losing his wife in the woods to a mysterious serial killer (no, not Jason Vorhees), a still-grieving pediatrician begins to receive emails hinting that the tragedy might not be as random as originally thought. Adapting a novel by US airport bookstore staple Harlen Coben, writer/director Guillaume Canet's confident, almost irritatingly taut thriller wastes no time in cranking the paranoia up to 11. The sheer amount of red herrings can be difficult to wade through at times, but Canet's sense of style makes even the more head-scratching moments enjoyable. A gratifyingly nasty whodunit with a healthy sense of its own absurdities. ANDREW WRIGHT Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
John Carpenter's 1982 classic starring a very hairy Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and an exploding dog head. Recommended, obviously. Broadway Metroplex.
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D
The same movie you've seen a thousand times—now in 3D. Hooray? Cinetopia.
Dorky American tourist Roy (Woody Harrelson) drags along his wife, Jessie (Emily Mortimer) to China on a church-sponsored charity trip; afterward, the two hop onboard a train from Beijing to Moscow, and soon enough, shit hits the fan: Roy disappears, there's murder and drug smuggling and a snoopy Russian cop (Ben Kingsley), and all of Transsiberian's characters start behaving in ways that only people in sub-par thrillers behave (e.g., like total dumbasses). The end result is a Lifetime Channel "woman in peril" movie with a bigger budget and a better cast. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen's three previous movies took place in London, and it seems he's finally left Manhattan behind altogether. Vicky Cristina Barcelona functions well as a fluffy bit of tourism, but even more so than as a Spanish travelogue, the movie works—as with much of Allen's work—as escapism into the world of mysteriously wealthy people. As for the much-ballyhooed kiss between Scarlett Johansson and Penélope Cruz, it's pretty tame. The real fire comes from Cruz's performance; she's riveting and hilarious as a passionate, possibly insane firebrand, and whenever she shares the screen with Johansson, it's easy to forget that Johansson has all the charisma of a wet paper bag. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
It's hard to say for sure how liberals, who are certainly director Oliver Stone's intended audience, will react to this light-hearted cinematic indictment of George W. Bush. A lot of them probably can't get enough of seeing Bush mocked and deconstructed, and will therefore love this. But a good number of them, one suspects, will be bored—they'll go in wanting a new, revelatory way of seeing the president and come out having had a few good chuckles amid one long, familiar flashback that they're very ready not to have happen again. ELI SANDERS Various Theaters.
What Just Happened?
Art Linson has produced some truly great movies—Fight Club, Heat, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, to name just a few—and his gossipy memoir, What Just Happened?, is a factual account of his years in Tinseltown. Throughout What Just Happened?, one gets the feeling that everyone involved thinks the movie's hilarious—but it's packed with inscrutable inside jokes, and Barry Levinson's direction is cold and morose. Perhaps What Just Happened? is a biting, insightful look at the movie industry, but it's hard to imagine anyone outside of Hollywood giving a rat's ass. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
What We Do Is Secret
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
In Kevin Smith's latest, the perpetually broke Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are roommates and lifelong best friends, with zero romantic tension. ("You don't fuck someone you met in the first grade," Zack wisely notes when he's asked why he and Miri have never hooked up.) After their water and power get shut off, Zack devises a plan to get their lives on track: Make a porno. "Porn has gone mainstream now!" he insists. "Like Coke or Pepsi. With dicks in it." So with a handheld camcorder, and some eager co-stars (Jason Mewes and Katie Morgan), Zack and Miri decide to have sex with each other on camera—taking careful steps to make sure things don't get weird between them. Things get weird. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.