See review. Various Theaters.
"Never rub another man's rhubarb." Free admission for any poor Netflix and/or internet-deprived soul who still has a Hollywood Video member card. Bagdad Theater.
If being a teenager didn't make you feel alienated and angry enough, just imagine throwing autism into the hormonal mix. Belgian teen-angst film Ben X takes one deep into the isolated world of Ben (Greg Timmermans), whose autism makes him the brunt of a group of high school bullies. Unable to cope in the real world, Ben retreats to an online role-playing universe where he's strong, articulate, and has a beautiful girlfriend. Director Nic Balthazar combines cinéma vérité with a foreboding documentary format to effectively convey that something ominous is about to happen. When the climax is reached, it matters less what actually happens, and more that Ben has awkwardly worked himself into your heart. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
In 1995's Toy Story, Tim Allen voiced Buzz Lightyear, an astronaut action figure who thought he was an actual astronaut; in 2008's Bolt, John Travolta voices Bolt, a dog who plays a superpowered canine on a TV show and thinks he's an actual superpowered canine. When Bolt abruptly finds himself in the real world—sans super bark and heat vision—he sets off on a road trip to find his owner, cantankerous alley cat and a dumbass hamster in tow. Sure, Bolt lifts a fair amount from Toy Story (Pixar's John Lasseter is credited as an executive producer), as well as Homeward Bound, but it's still cute and likeable and funny and light enough to be fun. Oh, and plus! You get to see Bolt as a puppy! And not to sound like a five-year-old girl or anything, but he is sooooo cute! I wish I had a dog. I also wish that my dog would have superpowers! But that is neither here nor there, I suppose. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
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 Academy Theater, Avalon, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas, Mission Theater, Valley Theater.
See Review. ALISON HALLETT Holocene.
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 Lloyd Mall 8.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Valley Theater.
A Christmas Tale
See review. Cinema 21.
Classic Concerts: Led Zeppelin
"Get the Led out," etc. Clinton Street Theater.
Columbia River Stories
Screening in conjunction with the Portland Art Museum's "Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge" exhibition, here are three films documenting the history of the Gorge: 1939's promotional film Hydro: The Story of Columbia River Power; 2007's doc about Celilo Falls, Celilo Falls and the Remaking of the Columbia; and 1995's Roll On Columbia: Woodie Guthrie and the Bonneville Power Administration, about how in 1941, Guthrie wrote 26 songs in 30 days for the U.S. Department of the Interior to help promote the building of dams on the Columbia. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
In 2001, Andrew Babgy was murdered in a parking lot, and his childhood friend, Kurt Kuenne, decided to make a documentary about Bagby's life. When it was revealed that Bagby was murdered by his ex-girlfriend—and that the ex-girlfriend was pregnant with Bagby's child—Kuenne's film became a love letter to the baby about Bagby's father. Soon things got weirder and sadder and more terrible, and the excellently made (but totally depressing) Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father eventually becomes something very different than simply a portrait of a beloved man. LOGAN SACHON Hollywood Theatre.
In the 1950s, HL "Doc" Humes founded The Paris Review and penned a couple of acclaimed novels. In the 1960s, he swallowed acid and lost his shit. This documentary, assembled by Humes' daughter Immy, places Doc at the center of the intelligentsia of his day: Talking heads like Norman Mailer, Timothy Leary, and raconteur par excellence George Plimpton tell the public story, while Immy's family tells the private one. It's an absorbing, quintessentially American story, if familiarly tragic: Doc sought enlightenment, knowledge, and new methods of artistic expression, but lost everything—family, career, sanity—by expanding his mind just a little too far. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
See review. 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.
"This is my house. I have to defend it." Pix Patisserie (North).
In the City of Sylvia
You know how when you're waiting for a bus and you've been waiting for a while, there's this moment when you think, "I could quit this right now and walk and get where I'm going," but then you decide to keep waiting, and you still want to walk, but you know as soon as you leave, the bus will come? That's basically exactly the feeling of watching In the City of Sylvia. Except instead of waiting for a bus, you're waiting for something to happen, and—surprise!—it never does. There's five minutes of dialogue in the whole thing, and this occurs an hour in, and leads to nothing. If you like watching a pretty person (Orlando Bloom-esque, yum) creepily stare at other pretty people and follow them around the streets of Strasbourg, you'll like this. But if you like your movies with a side of something happening, well, you're out of luck. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Contemporary Spanish Cinema series. LOGAN SACHON Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Let the Right One In
This much ballyhooed Scandinavian film is neither scary, teen angsty, nor spooky enough—but it is lovely, filled with austere, blue-hued snow and groves of haunting birch trees in the midst of Stockholm. And while Let the Right One In is by no means a poor entry in the vampire genre, it left me nearly as cold as the frozen landscapes, meting out little satisfaction on either a horror level or on a character level. To be fair, the film doesn't pretend to scare you—it truly wants to succeed in an elegant, understated way, though it doesn't completely reach its goal. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
Lethal Lesbian 3
Seven Israeli lesbian short films, the 50-minute-long drama The Other War, and Shiri Blumenthal's video-art piece QueerVideos. Followed by a reception and after-party at Holocene. Clinton Street Theater.
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.
See Review. Fox Tower 10.
My Father My Lord
We can't top the official synopsis for this one: "A dramatic retelling of the story of Abraham and Isaac with a devastating twist!" Not screened for critics. Living Room Theaters.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
The Juno comparisons are inevitable: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is another Michael Cera-starring teen flick about the personal and romantic turmoil of angsty, hoodie-clad teenagers—hip adolescents who wear the same clothes I do, but look better in them. Unlike Juno, though, there's no sense that Nick and Norah is trying to impress the grownups with how many big words it knows. Nick and Norah is just a sweet, surprisingly sharp little teen romp, more in the vein of the 1999 guilty pleasure Can't Hardly Wait than Diablo Cody's recent twee-fest. Unless you're the type of adult who finds yourself talking about John Hughes movies a LOT, though, Nick and Norah probably isn't for you: Ultimately it's a cute, funny teen movie. For teenagers. ALISON HALLETT Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
Quantum of Solace
The latest James Bond film makes about as much sense as its baffling title, but even as plotlines unravel and stack up like corpses, the movie is entirely awesome. Better than Casino Royale? Well, no. Quantum's story is incredibly confusing, the action scenes are shot so close that it's difficult to tell what's happening, and the beady-eyed supervillain (Mathieu Amalric) looks like a shorter Roman Polanski and is about as intimidating as a gerbil. Still, the level of sheer spectacle is tremendous. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Repo! The Genetic Opera
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
Role Models is not a terrible movie. If you want to have two hours of your life gone—not necessarily wasted, but not necessarily cherished, either—then this is a fine way to spend them. Good comedies are about the experience in the theater, for sure, but they're also the experience after—the number of jokes that stay with you, that you want to repeat, that you smile just thinking of. I laughed a bit during Role Models, and as soon as it was over, I shrugged. LOGAN SACHON Various Theaters.
The Royal Tenenbaums
"Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is... maybe he didn't." The Press Club.
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 Hollywood Theatre.
The title Solitary Fragments did not immediately deter me: It's a Spanish film, after all, and as someone who watches many foreign films, I know things can certainly get lost, or just lame-ified, in translation. This movie, though, is glacially slow, taking its sweet time on a scene in which characters might, say, make a salad, often employing a split screen effect so that you can see that nothing at all is occurring in the other room. Sure, these characters (none of whom are even fun to look at) have problems, but they spend so much time boring the audience with the mundane details—sorry, solitary fragments—of their lives that I felt nothing when one of them collapsed (except reassurance that, thanks to the split screen, I knew nobody else was collapsing—or doing anything else—in another part of the house). Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Contemporary Spanish Cinema series. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Supertrash: A Christmas Story
Oh, c'mon, people. You can think of something better to do than watch this thing again, right? Right? C'mon. Think harder. Bagdad Theater.
Supertrash: Black Christmas
The holiday slasher classic, preceded by stand-up comedy, retro trailers, animation, and vintage rock performances. Bagdad Theater.
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Various Theaters.
Twilight introduces the floridly named high schooler Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart), who has just moved to a small town in Washington. The local boys are all over this hottie newcomer, but Bella finds herself drawn to the mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, he of the Heathcliff glower and untamed eyebrows). At first Bella thinks Edward hates her, but it turns out he's only feigning indifference because he's a vampire, and wants to drink her. Edward is so drawn to the smell of Bella's blood that he can hardly control himself, but he also loooves her, so he knows he should keep his distance. Throw in some evil vampires who want to kill Bella, and it's all very romantic and tragic. (Alternately, it's an insidious parable about the dangers of premarital sex—but that's only my, er, humorless feminist interpretation.) For all the silliness of the storyline, Twilight makes a far better movie than book it's based on: Largely freed from author Stephenie Meyer's ponderous prose, the movie is surprisingly campy and fun, with a cheerful sense of humor about its own ridiculousness. ALISON HALLETT Various 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 Laurelhurst Theater.
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait
See listing. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.