"Lesson: Don't buy the cheap, made-in-China multi-tool," Aron Ralston (James Franco) says to himself in Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. It's a solid observation—as he says it, Ralston's in the bottom of a remote Utah canyon, where a falling boulder has pinned his right arm against a rock wall. Trapped at the bottom of a crack in the desert—with few things nearby aside from his video camera, the occasional ant, a big goddamn rock, and a smear of blood, skin, and bone—Ralston slowly begins to realize how overwhelmingly fucked he is. He didn't tell anyone where he was going. He thought he'd only be gone for a few hours, so he has hardly any food or water. And since his only knife is the one inside his cheap, made-in-China multi-tool, he's having a hell of a time figuring out how he's going to hack off his arm. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Adjustment Bureau
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Paul Giamatti plays Barney Panofsky, the central character in this adaptation of Jewish Canadian author Mordecai Richler's final novel. Set and filmed in Richler's native Montreal, Barney's Version is an odd duck of a movie, effectively encompassing a decades-spanning plot, but fragmenting the narrative to make it all fit into 135 minutes. It works almost entirely due to Giamatti's performance as Barney, a television producer who boozes heavily, smokes cigars, and ignores his wife and family whenever a Canadiens game is on. He also spends his entire second marriage lusting after the pretty stranger who turned up at the wedding, and he may have murdered his best friend, Boogie (Scott Speedman). NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
Helmed by the director of Malibu's Most Wanted, BM:LFLS is a lazy, insulting turd, and everyone involved seems to know it. Martin Lawrence has never looked so sheepish as he breaks tables by falling on them ('cause Big Momma's fat!) and spouts lines like, "I grew up so poor we used to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken and lick other people's fingers!" Brandon T. Jackson matches Lawrence in energy in the thankless role of his son, who also dresses in drag for stupid reasons. DAVE BOW Lloyd Mall 8.
There's a persistent, suffocating weight on Uxbal (Javier Bardem), on whose life Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest film, Biutiful, meditates. Amid the grime of Barcelona's ghetto, Uxbal cobbles together an existence to support his two children by brokering sweatshop deals between powerless immigrants and corrupt contractors, as well as moonlighting as a medium between the recently deceased and their family members. If that weren't enough, Marambra (Maricel Álvarez), the mother of his children, is a bipolar junkie, and there's also the matter of Uxbal being on the brink of death due to some form of renal failure that causes him to piss blood. Needless to say, things are grim. Iñárritu (Amores Perros, Babel, 21 Grams) asks a great deal of his audience, trudging them through a mucky tragedy with pitifully scarce relief. It might be too much were it not for Bardem's performance, which flawlessly bridges the disparate aspects of an imperfect character into a strong, relatable whole. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Those expecting Black Swan to be one of the best pictures of 2010 might want to adjust their expectations. While Darren Aronofsky's eagerly anticipated film is a lot of things—beautiful, weird, sexy, daring—it's a bunch of other things, too: inconsistent, goofy, unintentionally funny. On the surface, it's a labyrinthine, complex, surreal story about tricky, slippery stuff: self-image, reality, sex, art, aging, death, failure. Deeper down, it's something simpler: a movie about a ballerina (Natalie Portman, in a performance as good as everyone's saying it is) going batshit crazy. If it goes too far—if Aronofsky ventures too deep into Nina's slowly shattering brain, or if he overestimates his audience's patience for plot twists and surrealism—it's not for lack of ambition or confidence. Maybe Black Swan will creep you out, or maybe it'll crack you up; if you're like me, maybe it'll do both. That certainly makes it one of 2010's most interesting films, if not one of its best. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Mall 8, St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub.
Rarely does a film come along that's as truly adult as Blue Valentine, a movie driven by stunning, lived-in performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a young married couple. In converging timelines, Valentine tracks both their initial courtship and the 48-hour period where it falls apart. The effect is no less emotionally brutal than a film like Gaspar Noé's Irreversible, as each happy memory of the past sweetens the pair's love story—while simultaneously making their falling out all the more devastating. Over a swelling score by Grizzly Bear, director Derek Cianfrance sets about autopsying Gosling and Williams' history, examining each cutting word and each loving gesture as if they were organs from the same body. DAVE BOW Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Directed by Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt, The Good Girl, Chuck & Buck), the critical consensus on Cedar Rapids seems to be something along the lines of "Frank Capra's 'aw-shucks' earnestness meets the 'edge' of Apatow"—and if that sounds like just about the most mind-numbingly vanilla bullshit you've ever heard of, you're giving it too much credit. ZAC PENNINGTON Fox Tower 10.
At its outset, Cold Weather looks suspiciously like another mumblecore joint about pretty, mopey people—not that there's anything wrong with that, especially when writer/director Aaron Katz reveals a keen yet sympathetic understanding of his characters. The discontent Katz establishes in Cold Weather's early scenes—and that I wish he'd mined even further—is that of a generation who were promised more than the current economy can deliver. But a few minutes in, against the gray streets of Portland, Cold Weather's true colors emerge: It's a sly genre fiction that superimposes a classic detective story over a moody mumblecore backdrop. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
The Company Men
Emmy-festooned television producer John Wells (ER, The West Wing, Southland) specializes in big, chewy, of-the-moment melodramas that wisely cut the soapier stuff with slow-burning character arcs. By comparison, The Company Men—Wells' feature-film debut as a writer/director—suffers notably from compression. Despite some terrific performances and an exceedingly timely subject, it ultimately feels like, well, a decent midseason pilot. ANDREW WRIGHT Fox Tower 10.
(A) In Drive Angry, there is a sex scene in which Nicolas Cage never takes off his clothes or sunglasses, and also clenches a cigar between his teeth and a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand. (B) When the waitress Cage is having sex with asks why he won't take off his clothes, Cage responds, "I never disrobe before a gun fight." (C) Immediately after Cage says this, a bunch of dudes show up and try to kill Cage; he then shoots them in extreme slow-mo, even as he continues boning the waitress, clutching both the cigar and the Jack Daniels, and keeping his sunglasses on. (D) This scene would be a highlight of any other film, but it's just one more scene in Drive Angry. (E) Drive Angry also contains a scene in which Cage drinks an ice-cold beer out of the bloody, still-warm skull of one of his enemies. ERIK HENRIKSEN and NED LANNAMANN Cinetopia, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, Sandy Cinema.
The Grace Card
A Christian flick starring Louis Gossett Jr. Dammit, Louis Gossett Jr.! Where's Enemy Mine II: Enemy Miner? Lloyd Mall 8.
Grindhouse Film Fest: Eight Diagram Pole Fighter & The Bastard Swordsman
A chop-socky double feature, with 1984's Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (featuring Gordon Liu!) and 1983's The Bastard Swordsman (featuring... well, a bastard swordsman). Hollywood Theatre.
Hall Pass looks like another of these gross-out, sex-crazed bromantic comedies in the vein of Old School and The Hangover, and the bad omens don't stop there. To wit: It stars a Wedding Crashers alumnus (Owen Wilson). It has the Zach Galifianakis role played by the fat blonde brother from According to Jim. It's helmed by a pair of writer/directors (the Farrelly Brothers) who haven't connected with the ball since 1999's Outside Providence. All it needs is a cameo by Vince Vaughn, a few poop jokes, an unnecessarily long scene of male nudity, and it's good to go. The Vince Vaughn cameo aside—and he's here in spirit, really he is—Hall Pass contains all of these things. But surprise of surprises, Hall Pass actually contains some genuine laughs, too, and for a movie like this, that's plenty. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Hood to Coast
A doc about the Hood to Coast run. Living Room Theaters.
The plot might seem tired—a young maid begins an affair with the rich, aristocratic man of the house—but The Housemaid comes alive in the details. Melodrama, yes, but I can handle a heavy hand so long as it's this sure. TONY PEREZ Living Room Theaters.
You've probably never heard of director Tom Shadyac, but a few of his films should ring a bell: Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams, The Nutty Professor, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective—pretty heady stuff, there. So when Shadyac wrecked on his bicycle and conked his head, he suddenly got contemplative about his life and the world, and wanted to do something about it. That "it" is the documentary I Am, for which he traveled all the way from Malibu, California, to San Francisco, California, to chat up people who have never seen his movies, like Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky. The childlike pretext to these conversations was to determine what is wrong with the world and how we can change it for the better. Yes, it really is that vague, but there are worse ways to while away the hours than to listen to what people like Tutu, Zinn, and Chomsky have to say. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
I Am Number Four
I Am Number Four was conceived in what Gawker dubbed "James Frey's young-adult fiction sweatshop"—Google it!—and movie rights were sold before the book was even written. A rational response to this information would be an earnest wish for Frey's calculated cash-grab to humiliatingly tank, and maybe for Oprah to yell at him again, like she did after it turned out his "memoir" A Million Little Pieces was largely fictional. But for all the Schadenfreude Frey inspires, it has to be said: I Am Number Four is a teen movie with a reasonable amount of heart that does not openly insult the intelligence of its viewer. (John Hughes is dead. In this age of sparkly vampires, we take what we can get.) ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
I Love You Phillip Morris
Jim Carrey has always struck me as a precocious but needy child, one that so desperately craves love and attention that he's been contorting himself through his entire career, overacting his way into as many hearts as can possibly stand him. This time around, Carrey's hamming his way through a fact-based homosexual love story with a streak of black humor, courtesy of directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (writers of Bad Santa). But whatever promise I Love You Phillip Morris holds is squandered by the end of its running time, as—like Carrey—the movie simply wears out its welcome. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Sylvain Chomet's follow-up to his beloved The Triplets of Belleville, based on a script for an un-produced live-action film that was written by Jacques Tati in 1956. The Illusionist follows the titular magician—aging, weary, facing obsolescence—and his companion, a young, wide-eyed woman named Alice, who jumps at the chance to escape her provincial existence, only to find that life in the city isn't all that she had hoped. Nearly free of dialogue and full of stunningly evocative visuals, The Illusionist is whimsical and bittersweet, gorgeous and melancholy. I hesitate to say too much about it, because its many charms—countless small moments of sadness and humor—sneak up on you, patient and subtle. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
"The crisis was not an accident," wholesome narrator Matt Damon tells us at the beginning of Charles Ferguson's Inside Job, referring to the 2008 economic crash that crippled the world's economy, kicked off a seemingly endless run of foreclosures and job losses, and destroyed several generations' faith in economic systems. "It was caused by an out-of-control industry," Damon continues, and then Inside Job proceeds to show us how—not only how the crisis happened but also how easily it could happen again. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Just Go With It
It must be awesome being friends with Adam Sandler, because he will gladly build an entire movie around the premise of hanging out with you. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
The King's Speech
Combining cinema's most overdone (British monarchy melodrama) and least done (speech therapy) elements, screenwriter David Seidler drew from his own struggles with stammering to re-imagine the details of the true circumstances behind King George VI's (Colin Firth) speaking handicap. George—nicknamed "Bertie"—never expected or hoped to inherit his father's throne, but after his older brother Edward (Guy Pearce) abdicates, he's faced with the crown, as well as the increasingly threatening advance of a Germany led by Adolf Hitler, whose fiery speeches inspire the sinister unification of his people. It may be a predictable triumph-of-the-human-spirit vehicle, but sometimes experimental isn't on the table. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
I'm not surprised that The Mechanic, the latest attempt to make Jason Statham a bankable action star, is doughy, lifeless glop, but why does it have to link itself to Michael Winner's 1972 Charles Bronson flick of the same name? Statham ain't Bronson, and director Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) ain't Michael Winner. DAVE BOW Laurelhurst Theater.
No Strings Attached
No Strings Attached is a difficult film to address. Not because it brings any new or complicated issues or cinematic techniques to the table, and not because it challenges presumptions, or pushes boundaries—and not even because it's so laughably horrid, unfunny, and stupid that tearing it apart counts for sport. It's far worse than any of those things: No Strings Attached is so wholly mediocre that there's barely anything worth mentioning about it other than, "Ouch, Natalie. Your timing really sucks." MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Portland Women's Film Festival (POW Fest)
See I'm Going Out.
Becca (Nicole Kidman, convincing and even a little endearing in her grief) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart, concerned, discouraged, loving) are trying to move on after the death of their toddler, who chased the family dog into the street and was run over by teenaged Jason (Miles Teller). They're going to group couples counseling ("She's with God now. God had to take her. He needed another angel," one couple says of their daughter). They attend housewarming parties ("Oh, this is great. I really need another bathroom set"). But they still can't move on. They can't sell the house, and they especially can't fuck ("I feel like you're trying to rope me into sex!"). And then—spoiler alert!!—the healing process beings. GRANT BRISSEY Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Reel Nordic Film Club
A selection of free Nordic films. That's how the Norse Hall rolls, yo. Norse Hall.
Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie
Wavy Gravy is a hippie. The worst kind of hippie, too—go ahead, look up his Wikipedia picture! We'll wait. Okay. Find it? You see that shit? SEE? God, man. Fuckin' Wavy Gravy, am I right? Go blow your bubbles somewhere else, hippie! You are old and outdated. WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD. THE HIPPIES LOST. THERE IS NO PLACE FOR YOU. (This movie is a documentary about him, BTW.) Clinton Street Theater.
The Sicilian Clan
Henri Verneuil's 1969 flick, featuring a score by Ennio "Badass" Morricone. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Classic French Crime Films series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Well, this should be depressing. Cinema 21.
Sing-Along Mary Poppins
Can you sing better than Julie Andrews? No? Then shut the fuck up. Chim chim cher-ee! Cinema 21.
Somewhere's scene-by-scene similarities to Lost in Translation support the popular view that Sofia Coppola is limited by her station—a filmmaker born into Hollywood royalty, and only fit for chronicling the non-problems of the spoiled rich. But that's an unimaginative, ungenerous interpretation: With Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, and now Somewhere, Coppola's demonstrated an exceptional knack for revealing the hollow side of celebrity, and within Somewhere's narrow scope, she offers an informed illustration of the adage that you can't buy happiness. Aside from its boilerplate ending, Somewhere is patient, sweet, and revealing—and a breakout role for Elle Fanning, who single-handedly counters an entire film's worth of ennui. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
A homegrown horror-comedy that features Daniel Baldwin (of not-being-Alec fame) and Lloyd Kaufman, the creative force behind Troma. It also features a bunch of strippers. I like zombies! I like boobs! I like Baldwins! I figured that this movie could be all kinds of bad but it surely wouldn't be boring. WROOONGG! Man, I haven't watched a Troma film since high school. I forgot that the main thing they are is boring. I stuck around long enough to see Daniel Baldwin's mush-mouthed cameo then peaced the eff out. I have a life to live. DAVE BOW Hollywood Theatre.
Take Me Home Tonight
A horrible-looking comedy starring the talented and lovable Anna Faris and the somewhat less talented, but still somewhat talented, and also quite likeable, Topher Grace. Not screened in time for press. Various Theaters.
A NERD ESSAY: In some circles, George Lucas is a hero, a visionary of modern myth who brought an action-packed, sci-fi flavored brand of adventure to the masses. In others, he's the ultimate pariah, a showman who supplanted intellectual sci-fi with adrenal spectacle and marketing schemes. In truth, he's probably a bit of both. Thankfully, THX 1138 serves as a reminder of Lucas' "visionary" status: A science-fiction film that for all intents and purposes is the antithesis of the bombastic Star Wars series, THX 1138 stars a disconcertingly young Robert Duvall as the titular character, a factory worker who lives with a female counterpart, LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie). Thanks to government-imposed medication, LUH and THX's relationship is platonic, unfulfilling, and mind-numbingly hollow—until LUH skips her medication and an Adam and Eve scenario blossoms. As THX's and LUH's emotions and personalities abruptly explode against the barren backgrounds of an Orwellian future, naked human feeling and primal instinct are forced to the fore. In a dystopia where productivity and sterility are valued above all else, however, it doesn't take long for the authorities to catch on to what THX and LUH are up to. What follows is a sinister, starkly beautiful, and surprisingly humorous and humane film. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
Every year—or at least every couple of years—the Coen brothers put out a movie, and every year—or at least every couple of years—said movie is one of the best in recent memory. True Grit is no exception. Funny, thrilling, and moving, True Grit is the sort of genre picture that reminds us why genres exist in the first place: When all the factory-made gears and pieces are accounted for, and when all of 'em are settled into place by inspired people who know what they're doing, the end result is a thing that clicks together, smooth and precise. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
It's kind of like a Bourne movie if Liam Neeson killed and replaced Matt Damon. It works just fine. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.Various Theaters.
Vanishing on 7th Street
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Visuals: A Community
PSU's student and community film festival featuring short films from local filmmake—AND FREE PIZZA? Yes! Free pizza! THAT GETS A STAR! Fifth Avenue Cinema.