A substandard heist film starring homophobic humor and cleavage shots, co-starring Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan. Woody Harrelson is typecast back into the likeable dumb guy he was first introduced as on Cheers, but now he's a bungling FBI agent; after a humiliating defeat by Pierce (his jewel thief nemesis), Woody's character follows him to an island paradise, where Pierce and fiancée Salma plan on retiring. Cat and mouse games and opaquely obvious clichés abound, insulting all but the most idiotic of viewers. (Marjorie Skinner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Alexander See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
The new remake of the '60s free-love classic Alfie is also moderately fun while it lasts, but only because of the juggernaut charm of its leading stud, Jude Law. Jude plays the titular, tit-loving Alfie, a chick-bagging cad in modern day Manhattan. A part-time chauffeur, Alfie cares little for the monetary pleasures of life, as he is intent on boning every beautiful woman in NYC. But while the script bubbles with a certain witty repartee, the story seems entirely geared toward cheering for Alfie's downfall. Unfortunately, the kind of comeuppance women audience members are praying for never really comes, which leaves one wondering, "What exactly was the point of this movie?" (However, if the point is "Jude Law is hot," then I'll allow it.) (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Cinemagic
With an amazing turn away from the cynicism of Delicatessen, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet makes no bones about being sweet and charming. A quick-moving narrative about a shy, sexy, and dreamy Parisian who helps friends and strangers fulfill their fantasies while shying away from her own. Cute as a button. Really. You'll love it. Laurelhurst
Andromedia See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater
Ashes of Time
Wong Kar-Wai's version of a Hong Kong martial arts epic is big on the epic and small on the martial arts. There's much to be found here--a pervasive sense of loneliness, finely drawn emotions and characters, and enough stretching desert landscapes to make you swear you were watching a Western. The film succeeds best in these moments (though it sometimes drags), but it's disappointingly weak when it comes to action--with Christopher Doyle's otherwise outstanding cinematography making a blurry mess out of Sammo Hung's action choreography. Whitsell Auditorium
Annette Bening gives a high-decibel performance as a whorey London stage actress who learns how to love, then forgets how to love, and then remembers again, courtesy of some late afternoon "teas" (nudge, nudge) with a callow young American (Shaun Evans). Bening can be entertainingly malicious--particularly in the latter scenes--but for the most part, the costumes are hotter than the actors in this lackluster period piece. (Alison Hallett) Cinemagic
The Best of Archipelago
A selection of films from local documentarians Archipelago, with Electric Can Opener, The Beautiful and the Fine, and A Thing of Wonder. Guild Theater
Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand Up Comedian
Jackpot Records puts on this free screening of a DVD showcasing the controversial stand up comic. Featured: Hicks' performance at the Montreal Comedy Festival and the documentary "Just A Ride," which looks back on Hicks' career. Lola's Room
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
In Bridget Jones: The Unnecessary Sequel, pathetic, ruddy-faced, obese loser Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) gets pissed off at her dashing lawyer beau, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). They break up, Bridget whines, smokes, stuffs her fat face, and almost hooks up with Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). Then we get back to the Bridget/Darcy romantic crap and basically end up right where we were at the end of Bridget Jones's Diary: The Unnecessary Original, with Bridget looking pathetic, enormously fat, and disheveled, and Darcy proclaiming his eternal love. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Bringing Up Baby
Cary Grant (archaeologist) and Katharine Hepburn (mankiller) find out that adopting an infant leopard isn't all fun and games--or rather, that it is--in this madcap screwball from the lens of the great Howard Hawks. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Christmas with the Kranks See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
A jaded hitman (Leon Lai) sets out on his final job in Wong Kar-Wai's action/art film, which explores an underworld of neon-lit style and neo-new wave. Whitsell Auditorium
Finding Neverland See review this issue. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Lloyd Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6
* Friday Night Lights
With a good deal of trepidation, I went to Friday Night Lights expecting a cleaned-up, Disneyfied version of H.G. Bissinger's book about high school football in a suckass Texas town. But as directed by Peter Berg (Bissinger's cousin, interestingly enough), the film is just as compelling as the book. Instead of being what could have been a dorky, feel-good film, Friday Night Lights revels in its rough 'n' tumble narrative. (Phil Busse) Avalon, Laurelhurst, Valley Theater
* Garden State
First time writer/director Zach Braff plays Andrew "Large" Largeman, a struggling L.A. actor who returns to his New Jersey home for his paraplegic mother's funeral. Large's less than cheery homecoming is uplifted by Sam (Natalie Portman), a compulsive liar who lives with her mother and a house full of hamsters. Sam is carefree, beautiful, charming as hell, and just what Large needs--so of course they meet, hit it off, and you can probably figure out the rest. (M. William Helfrich) Fox Tower 10
* Ghost World
An adaptation of Daniel Clowes' epochal comic about the listless inner teen life, directed by Crumb's Terry Zwigoff. Clowes' super-detached geek queens Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have graduated from high school, and, bored, they answer a personals ad placed by über-dorky vinyl junkie Seymour (an R. Crumb surrogate played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi). As an experiment, Enid decides to educate Seymour in the ways of love, and her world begins to crumble. (Sean Nelson) Blind Onion
Takashi Shimizu redirects his Japanese hit Ju-On into The Grudge. Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an American exchange student in Japan, checks in on an old woman--and finds the woman nearly comatose, the rooms of her house filthy, and an all-encompassing sense of dread in the air. But that's just the warm up: when Karen follows hair-raising noises up the stairs, she discovers a terrifying little boy (Yuya Ozeki) trapped in a closet. While Stephen Susco's script plays to Shimizu's strengths, this haunted house tale stumbles by shifting to a mostly American cast, and the original's pervasive sense of tension has been lost in translation. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Hard Goodbyes: My Father See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre
The Chinese martial arts drama Hero blows away everything else currently playing--and possibly any other film released this year. It's that good. (Erik Henriksen) Laurelhurst
* I Y Huckabees
A lackadaisically twisting, pseudo-intellectual examination of any and all pop philosophic concepts as enacted through an all-star cast (most notably Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jason "That Kid From Rushmore," a perfectly cast Jude Law, and Mark Wahlberg, who's at the top of his underestimated game). (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
* The Incredibles
For those who haven't seen the pervasive marketing on every cereal box and soda can, the Incredibles are a family of superheroes. Problem is, superheroes have been forcibly retired, and the Incredibles have to pretend they're a normal, boring family, acting decidedly un-incredible in the sprawl of suburbia. All of this is just expository setup, of course; with teasing glimpses of super-powers, it all leads up to the predictable but exhilarating moment when the Incredibles ditch suburbia and save the world. There's so much to like here: The jaw-dropping animation, the retro-futuristic production design, the self-aware script and fully-realized characters, the relatively dark tone, and the flawless voice acting. In fact, writer/ director Brad Bird and Pixar have made a film so good that criticizing it becomes an exercise in nitpicking. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Jesus Has Two Mommies
I was fully prepared to spend two hours writhing in discomfort when I heard the plot for Jesus Has Two Mommies--in which a nerdy Jewish lesbian uses her "Psalm Pilot" to discover the true story of Jesus' two mothers. Fortunately, it made me laugh, but be forewarned: there are a dangerous number of puns about queerness and the Bible, and it's extremely lesbian oriented (but self-parodying enough to save you from turning against the lovable dykes forever). There is plenty of bad folk-turned-musical singing, but a lot of clever songwriting like "Fuck with Freud." (Evan James) Hollywood Theatre
Kinsey See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
The story of firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) is told through flashbacks as he reflects on his career... while, of course, trapped in a 20-story blaze. This TV movie-like film is far more concerned with squeezing tears from the audience than presenting any sort of realistic portrayal of the harried lives of firefighters. (Michael Svoboda) Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, St. Johns Pub, Valley Theater
A Letter to True
Bruce Weber loves dogs. He loves them so much he owns five golden retrievers. He loves them so much he's made a documentary about dogs, and pets in general. Here is your chance to see it. Guild Theater
Lightning in a Bottle See review this issue. Cinema 21
A young Cambodian woman (Bonna Tek) bows to familial and societal pressures and marries a man she doesn't know. But then she meets another man, and has to make a decision whether to get some or honor her family. Hollywood Theatre
An emaciated Christian Bale plays Trevor, a factory machine worker with extreme insomnia--his claim of not having slept at all in a year requires a little suspension of disbelief, but whatever. He pads through a fairly miserable existence consisting of work, bleaching things, hanging out in an airport café, leaving himself notes, and screwing Jennifer Jason Leigh. From there, the film plunges into delirium, as Trevor grapples with a deteriorating mental state and the mysterious and ominous clues that have begun to show up in his life. A psychological thriller in the vein of Memento or Fight Club, it suffers at the hands of its predecessors, sucking all the ingenuity out of what now seems like an old trick. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood Theatre
A Midnight Clear
German and American army units meet up at the end of WWII and decide to negotiate their own peace. The organizers of the exhausting-to-say PSU's Spanish Socialist-Madrid Memorial Progressive Fall Film Fest hype this as "the ultimate conflict resolution movie." Okay. PSU Smith Memorial Union
* The Motorcycle Diaries
A duo of medical school friends (Rodrigo de la Serna and Gael Garcia Bernal) ride, push, and carry their motorcycle across Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Peru, generally achieving the kind of good times/bad times adventure balance that all great road trip stories thrive on. After traveling thousands of miles, it's made clear just who Bernal's playing: Ernesto Guevara. (Justin Sanders) Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Fox Tower 10
* Napoleon Dynamite
There are plenty of laughs to mine from the pseudo-tortured lives of realistically nerdy, unpopular, and just plain odd 14- to 18-year-olds, and as Napoleon Dynamite proves, young geek alienation is just as fun to parody as its grownup counterparts. (Jennifer Maerz) 99W Drive-In Theater, Avalon, Cinemagic , Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, St. Johns Pub, Valley Theater
Though even the most blockbuster-lovin' cinephile would agree that National Treasure has a deeply stupid plot--Nicholas Cage plays "Benjamin Franklin Gates," who's trying to find a wondrous treasure from a map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence--director Jon Turteltaub gives the affair a rollicking "Goonies for adults" vibe that forces you to put aside any annoying intellectual cynicism. While I'd only give it a B-minus at best, National Treasure is still a pleasant enough escapist venture that at least won't make you stick a pencil in your eye. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Pieces of April
Starring Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, and Oliver Platt, Pieces of April has a look and feel that I hesitate to label "documentary-like." Gritty due to its transfer of digital to celluloid and mainly handheld, there is a certain spontaneity in the film, almost an improvised feel, that is enhanced by the sharp cast. Clarkson is particularly good, becoming the heart of the film that the rest of the group rotates around. (Bradley Steinbacher) Pix Patisserie
The Polar Express
Tom Hanks provides almost all the voices in this computer animated story about a young boy traveling to the North Pole on a magic locomotive. If you can get past the ubiquitous Hanks, The Polar Express is, surprisingly, not that bad. The startling effects and pervasive Hanks content are pretty much it, though--simply said, this is a movie about a train going to the North Pole for Christmas, with more Tom Hanks than you can shake a Bosom Buddy at. If that's your bag, then go see this sugary, sugary sugar plum. Otherwise, I'm sure Tiny Tim needs his crutch kicked out from under him, Ebenezer. (Lance Chess) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Prince and Me
If you've ever wondered what goes through a 12-year-old girl's mind while she's jacking off, here is your opportunity to find out: The Prince and Me has one of the most endearingly logic-free plots in the history of cinema. It's a love story about the, uh, Crown Prince of Denmark and Paige (Julia Stiles), a farm girl and aspiring doctor from Wisconsin. (Marjorie Skinner) Valley Theater
The familiar warm fuzzy that is Ray is pretty much exactly what one has come to expect from the biopic genre: a breezing over of the moments in an extraordinary person's life, all cut-up and mixed about to form some semblance of a "happy ending," with enough tips of the hat to allow every member of the audience a knowing nod of recognition. Other familiar biopic conventions you've got to look forward to: bad visual metaphors and enough loose ends to suggest that the director's cut DVD will add about three hours to its already bloated running time. The only real surprise comes in Jamie Foxx, whose solid performance as Ray Charles was enough to make me reconsider my long-standing disdain for the man. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc.
A French noir about a husband and wife who, while on a road trip with their kids, decide to part ways after the husband gets totally drunk and insists on driving. After their separation, things get worse. Sounds more like a slice-of-life flick than a film noir, but whatever. Fox Tower 10
First time director and sicko James Wan's Saw is in the same vein as Seven, about an evil, maniacal fuck who's out to teach people a lesson. While the film succeeds in scaring the living shit out of you, it does have some failures--including a bunch of characters you don't care about, a predictable if not entirely obvious ending, and a tendency to take the carnage so far that you might end up laughing. (Katie Shimer) Lloyd Cinemas
The Second Woman
1951's tale of an architect (Robert Young) who falls in love shortly after the death of his fiancee. Too bad all these weird accidents and fatalities keep happening to ruin his crush.... Cafe Nola
Seed of Chucky
This endearingly retarded film has Chucky (voiced by Brad Douriff) and Tiffany (voiced by Jennifer Tilly) having a plastic newborn with an ambiguous doll crotch--appropriately, he's named Glen/Glenda (voiced by Lord of the Rings' adorable hobbit, Billy Boyd). Conveniently, the newly-formed fam ends up at the home of bouncy-chested Jennifer Tilly (played by bouncy-chested Jennifer Tilly) and have to kill personal assistants and rappers. If you aren't a die-hard Chucky fan like me--well, first, screw you, and second, you might want to consider waiting for Seed to hit DVD. (Jenna Roadman) Century Eastport 16, Wilsonville
This week's yer last week to check out this installation-based video showcase, brought to you by the Northwest Film & Video Festival. Backspace
Shall We Dance?
A good dancing movie is like a porno you can watch with your mom--hot young things dry hump to sexy music, usually followed by a makeout session that tastefully fades to black, allowing your dance-fevered imagination to fill in the blanks. Shall We Dance?, however, substitutes "washed-up actor" and "singer with more ass than talent" for "hot young things," resulting in perhaps the most un-watchable dancing movie ever. Richard Gere and J.LO's sole attempt at a steamy dance number never overcomes the "ew" factor, and the climactic dance competition fails to live up to even the questionable standard set by Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. As far as emetics go, next time I'll just shove my finger down my throat. (Alison Hallett) City Center 12, Lloyd Mall, Westgate
Following their Shrek formula, DreamWorks loads up Shark Tale with an all-star cast... but instead of utilizing it, the film uses puns--yep, puns--for its humor. The fish shop at "Old Wavy." They drink "Coral-Cola" and eat "Kelpy Kremes." They use "shell phones." I'll stop there, but the movie never does. While the unfunny, clumsy, and migraine-inducing Shark Tale is sure to rake in countless billions in tickets and merchandise, it's more useful as DreamWorks' unwitting, ironic advertisement for all things Pixar. (Erik Henriksen) Avalon, Edgefield, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Vancouver Plaza
* Shaun of the Dead
A sharp, clever, and gory horror-comedy that manages to be as scary as it is hilarious, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead shows all the marks of becoming a classic (and yeah, I know that sounds clichéd--but in this case, it's actually true). (Erik Henriksen) Avalon, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, Valley Theater
Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a would-be writer who accompanies his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a weeklong trip through California's wine country for a final bachelor's hurrah before Jack's upcoming wedding. While the week begins idyllically enough, glaring character flaws are soon revealed--wine connoisseur Miles' pedantic ranting about pinot gris hardly conceals his deep dissatisfaction with life, and Jack is an immature man-child determined to get laid one last time before tying the knot. While Sideways is enjoyable, it's ultimately unsatisfying--we watch as Miles and Jack are stripped of all their illusions, but we never find out what they're replaced with. (Alison Hallett) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
While the imagination of Hollywood is still largely limited to putting Adam Sandler in increasingly ridiculous situations, they at least had enough sense to allow one dreamer to make one of the best movies of the year: Kerry Conran's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The year is 1939, and Jude Law is Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan--an aerial ace called into action when gigantic, clanking robots invade downtown New York. He soon learns the robots are part of a larger plan involving the disappearance of world famous scientists--a case that's being investigated by Joe's former love, plucky reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow). With its dependence on cutting-edge technology and 100-foot tall clanking robots, one might mistake this for a "nerd film." Thankfully, there's so much more to Sky Captain. At its core, Sky Captain is a story of innocence and connection, as Joe and Polly reignite the flame of their former love--okay, while fighting 100-foot robots. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Avalon, Laurelhurst
* The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
In the light of recent animation blockbusters like Shark Tale, The Incredibles, and The Polar Express, SpongeBob is something of a relief--it's nothing more than a giddy cartoon, far from the sweeping epic that every other cartoon movie of late strives so hard to be. And it doesn't hurt that SpongeBob himself seems perfectly happy about just being a kid. His film follows suit--it's a colorfully funny and whacked-out flick that should please the kiddie, stoner, and parent crowds all at once. Plus it has David Hasselhoff in it. (Michael Svoboda) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The true test of a good Christmas movie is if you can see yourself watching it every year and still laughing (or crying) at the appropriate moments. I never want to see Surviving Christmas again for as long as I live, let alone every humpin' holiday season. At the core of Surviving Christmas is a tired, saggy plot about a rich ad exec (Ben Affleck) who doesn't want to spend the holidays alone--so he rents out the family currently inhabiting his childhood home. (Michael Svoboda) Valley Theater
* Team America: World Police
If you possess an extra ass, you'd better bring it with you to the theater, because you're going to laugh at least one of them off. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have not only created a meticulous homage to the terrific Gary Anderson Thunderbirds series of the '60s (in which a globe-trotting team of marionettes save the world), but also a biting commentary on the very modern "war on terror" that gleefully cuts both ways. "Team America" is a international police force whose mission is to track down terrorists possessing weapons of mass destruction--and kill them with even bigger weapons of mass destruction. While Parker and Stone obviously enjoy skewering the "fuck 'em all" ethos of the American redneck, they're just as happy torturing, blowing up, and beheading puppet representations of the liberal acting community. But none of their hilarious jokes or jaw-dropping crudity takes precedence over what is very accomplished filmmaking. The miniature sets are beautifully textured and deep, and Parker and Stone obviously share the Anderson Thunderbirds ethic of making every shot as realistic as possible--whether a puppet is being devoured by an actual shark, or exiting a bar and vomiting his guts out. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, Valley Theater
* Thanksgiving Kung Fu Marathon
A festival which, through the mystical, transforming powers of kung fu, replaces Thanksgiving's usual 12 hours of suck with 12 hours of awesome. Watch a Shaolin school defend themselves in Shaolin vs. Manchu, or see a kung fu pupil (John Liu) train to exact his revenge in Fighting Ace. Bruce Lee wannabe Dragon Lee shows up in Champ Against Champ, and because no kung fu fest is complete without ninjas, there's also Ninja Connection. But those pale next to some of the marathon's comparatively bigger films--namely, the hilarious The Black Samurai (in which Jim "The Dragon" Kelly fights the occult--including a pissed-off vulture), and Death Dimension, which has Kelly aiming to take down a guy who's built a "freeze bomb." Another classic: The original Street Fighter, a violent, mean-spirited film starring a violent, mean-spirited Sonny Chiba. Plus, expect three other surprise films, and at least one classic from the Grandmaster of Ass Kicking, Bruce Lee. Even better, five bucks gets you in and out all day--so should you get hungry during any of the chop-socky proceedings, you can leave, crash your girlfriend's family dinner, cram your mouth with enough gravy to drown a third grade classroom, and be back in time for one of the big final fights. (Erik Henriksen) Clinton Street Theater
Set in the muggy swamps of rural Georgia, Undertow has a vision of the deep, impoverished south that is both tender and sinister. The opening scene conspires to have the main character, Chris (Billy Elliot's immensely likeable Jamie Bell), jump off a shed and land directly on a rusty nail. Green revels in such squirmy delights--Chris' little brother, Tim (Devon Allen), eats paint and whatever other toxins he can get his hands on, then vomits them up. He's dying by his own volition, but his widower dad, John (Dermot Mulroney), thinks he's just an unhealthy kid. This quirky three-piece family could have carried the movie themselves, but instead Green brings in evil Uncle Deel (Josh Lucas), and everything gets a little more mediocre. Deel kills John to get his rightful inheritance, then sets out after the kids, who flee; the film never gets boring, but Lucas' Southern Bad Guy portrayal is shockingly trite and melodramatic, especially within a film that is otherwise so subtle and lovely. (Justin Wescoat Sanders) Fox Tower 10
* Vera Drake
With women in a frenzy over the GOP's implied threat to yank our reproductive rights from under us, it's as good a time as any to revisit the wholesome, family value-driven days of illegal abortions, yeah? Besides working as a maid, factory worker, and homemaker for her husband and two grown children in '50s London, the beatifically portrayed Vera (Imelda Staunton) performs illegal abortions. So when disaster strikes a teenaged patient and Vera gets pinched, the devastation she faces puts the finishing touches on the film's masterful, horrifying recreation. Vera Drake is a remarkable film, with gripping (if occasionally frustrating) acting, and my god is it scary. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10
* The Yes Men
Artist activists Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum--AKA the Yes Men--specialize in what they call "identity correction." Armed with suits from thrift stores and cleverly rendered PowerPoint videos, the Yes Men crash lectures and conferences around the world, sarcastically representing what they feel are the true motives of the organizations--like the WTO--they impersonate. Astonishingly, they're met with overwhelming approval by the business elite, despite the absurd and horrendous statements they made (for instance: that third world hunger could be solved by recycling feces into hamburgers, or that corporations should reinstate slavery to help their bottom line). The Yes Men documents their hilariously theatrical (yet always serious) exploits, and encourages those inspired by their successes to join the Yes Men movement. (Marjorie Skinner) Laurelhurst
You Bet Your Life
A selection of sketches from the Groucho Marx TV classic. Please note that if you wear those fake glasses with the nose and mustache that are supposed to make you look like Groucho, you're officially begging to the get the living shit beat out of you. Old Town Pizza