Set in 1987, there's a sense of bittersweet nostalgia throughout Adventureland. It's a film that's witty and dark enough to distance itself from the sappy clichés of the coming-of-age genre, but heartfelt enough to feel more genuine and insightful than the usual comedy where someone shouting "Boner!" counts as a punchline. (That said, someone does shout "Boner!" in Adventureland, and it's really funny when he does.) ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
Automotive Mayhem Double Feature: Maximum Overdrive & Two-Lane Blacktop
Two car-themed flicks! 1986's Maximum Overdrive brings together Emilio Estevez, AC/DC, Stephen King, and killer machines, while 1971's Two-Lane Blacktop features... uh... James Taylor. Clinton Street Theater.
Away We Go
"I think we might be fuckups," Verona (Maya Rudolph) admits to Burt (John Krasinski). At 34 and 33, Verona and Burt are unsure of where to go or what to do—so they travel from Arizona to Wisconsin to Montreal to Miami, reconnecting with family members, college friends, and employers to try and figure out where (and how) to grow up. There are a bunch of really excellent things about Away We Go, from Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida's script to Krasinski and Rudolph's performances, but director Sam Mendes can't quite stick the landing: About 500 times during the film, the emo strumming of singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch swells on the soundtrack, making Away We Go briefly feel like (A) an episode of The O.C., and (B) way too precious. ERIK HENRIKSEN City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Bike Porn 3
Bicycle-themed porno shorts. Clinton Street Theater.
"You're not the boss of me, Jack. You're not the king of Dirk. I'm the boss of me. I'm the king of me. I'm Dirk Diggler. I'm the star. It's my big dick, and I say when we roll." The Press Club.
The Brothers Bloom
Describing a movie as "quirky" more or less amounts to a critical bitch-slap these days, right up there with calling something "precious" or "twee." But it wasn't always so, and with the fantastic The Brothers Bloom, writer/director Rian Johnson (who previously helmed 2005's creepily original noir Brick) revisits an earlier cinematic era—one in which eccentricity is interesting and quirkiness has yet to become synonymous with Natalie Portman in a helmet. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
See review.Various Theaters.
Media talking points for the 1920s period romance Chéri cluster around how "brave" Michelle Pfeiffer's performance is. The aging actress plays an aging whore who has a six-year relationship with a man 30 years her junior. As she seduces her young beau, Pfeiffer is drop-dead gorgeous one moment, and the next? The camera pries a little, and suddenly signs of Pfeiffer's age jump into relief: Her eyelids are crepe-y. Her neck sags. Her arm wattles quiver. Despite its ostensible bravery, Chéri is a cautionary tale—a catalogue of the ways in which women can fail. The film teems with bad mothers, frigid wives, and overripe "working girls"—here, even the temporary pleasures offered by a young lover won't prevent an aging courtesan from getting just what the world thinks she deserves. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
ClÉo from 5 to 7
See Film, this issue. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D
The old-timey monster flick in old-timey 3D. Hollywood Theatre.
Much like its American contemporary Sunshine Cleaning, Yôjirô Takita's Departures uses the death-care industry as framework for a transformative discovery of self. But while Sunshine Cleaning had its protagonists scrubbing grimy death scenes, Departures' Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) finds his identity through the elegant, serene Japanese nokan ceremony of "encoffinment." A failed professional cellist, Daigo learns the careful art of washing, dressing, and decorating bodies for burial or cremation. While moving and carefully done, Departures is hardly revelatory—it sticks to tear-jerking iterations on circle-of-life themes. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Drag Me to Hell
Having momentarily freed himself from Spidey's web, director Sam Raimi has reclaimed his bloodied seat of horror honor. Drag Me to Hell is about as close to Evil Dead 4 as you're ever likely to see, chockfull of enough spooky-as-fuck noises, swooshing camera angles, and gross-out sight gags to make you wonder what happened to those 17 long years between Army of Darkness and now. In other words, YAY! COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
The Marx Brothers classic screens as part of the Top Down outdoor film screening series. See I'm Going Out. Hotel deLuxe.
An Evening with Paul Vester
British animator Paul Vester screens and discusses several of his films, including Sunbeam (1980), Picnic (1987), Abductees (1995), and In the Woods (2008). More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Filmusik: Death Rides a Horse
The 1967 spaghetti western with Lee Van Cleef gets the Filmusik treatment, with "a newly composed soundtrack performed live in the pit by an orchestra and a chorus." Hollywood Theatre.
By far the most impressive in a rash of documentaries addressing food industry corruption in America. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
When grumpy old bastard William (Red West) hops into the cab of affable Senegalese cabbie Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), Goodbye Solo threatens to become yet another movie in which a quasi-mystical black person teaches an oblivious white person some Life Lessons. (See: The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Green Mile, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, any number of films starring Morgan Freeman.) Thankfully, what results is nothing of the sort: Quiet, patient, and melancholy, Goodbye Solo's subtle confidence belies a surprising power. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
The Grapes of Wrath
Go west, Joads. Go west. Screens as part of the "Unemployed Workers Progressive Summer Film Fest." PSU's Smith Memorial Student Union.
Nope, no incredibly annoying stoned people at this screening! Nosir! Bagdad Theater.
If one good thing comes out of The Hangover, it'll be turning comedians Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms into viable movie stars. They're both very funny guys, and here they do their best with a not-particularly-good script from the screenwriters of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases. The problem with The Hangover is that it peaks too soon; early on, it succumbs to over-the-top ridiculousness, then keeps trying to top itself. About halfway through, it becomes repetitive, and then it just slides into monotony. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Harry Potter and the
The penultimate book in the Harry Potter series finally hits the big screen. See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters.
The Hurt Locker
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
I Love You, Beth Cooper
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
I Love You, Man
The affable, goodhearted I Love You, Man is very much a post-Judd Apatow comedy: It can't compete with Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin on a laughs-per-scene basis, but its characters are similarly likeable. ALISON HALLETT Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
This Ice Age—the third in the series—is well paced, and the addition of 3D visuals is fine. It's not clever like a Pixar joint, but I get the sense that it was supposed to be touching. (I might not be the best judge of such things—during the movie's birth scene, a small boy in the theater cried tenderly, and I found myself unaffected.) You don't have to have see the first two Ice Age movies to follow this one, but if you're older than seven, you might need to see them in order to care. JANE CARLEN Various Theaters.
In the Studio
Three half-hour-long films produced by Portland Community College that profiles three Pacific Northwest College of Art faculty members. More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Indiana Jones and the
"He's got a two-day head start on you, which is more than he needs. Brody's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan. He speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom. He'll blend in, disappear—you'll never see him again. With any luck, he's got the Grail already." Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy
Behold! The Kids in the Hall! Back when they were doing funny stuff, and long before they started taking bit parts in terrible children's films! Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Mona Lisa's Little Secret
While this film's title makes it sound like a porno, it's actually a vaguely cultish-sounding, vaguely Da Vinci Code-sounding documentary about "the most conclusive evidence ever discovered on the secrets hidden in the Mona Lisa." Before you dismiss it out of hand, know that it "may have profound implications for humanity." (Weirdly, that phrase was also the original tagline for Biodome.) Bagdad Theater.
The best way to see Duncan Jones' excellent Moon is to go in blank: no expectations, no preconceptions, and no suspicions. But here you are, still reading, so I guess you need some convincing. Fine. The basics: Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is stationed, alone, on the Moon. Nearing the end of his multi-year contract to man a largely automated mining facility, Sam works as a glorified handyman, wanders the base's empty hallways, watches videos of his wife and daughter back on Earth (Dominique McElligott and Kaya Scodelario), and talks with the base's kinda-sweet, kinda-creepy computer, GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Rockwell's Sam is a likeable, blue-collar guy with a lonely, shitty job, and in Moon's opening scenes, Jones gracefully captures the guy's weary isolation. You feel for Sam—which makes it all the more messed up when things, well, start to get all weird. ERIK HENRIKSEN City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
My Sister's Keeper
My Sister's Keeper is almost two hours long—nearly as long as my quiet weeping jag lasted. So in many ways, director Nick Cassavetes (who previously made you guiltily sob through The Notebook) nailed the necessary pathos of a family's struggle with their teenage daughter's cancer. But the trials of terminal illness can be a bit like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to jerking tears from an audience—so even while clutching your hanky, you may still walk away wondering if you actually liked this erratic film. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Like any PG-13 erotica should, The Proposal hits a few of its marks, and you may find yourself torn between your own intelligence and the twinkle in Ryan Reynolds' eye. There's no real shame in this—during illness, say, or drinking alone—but this is one film that's best left for such weaker moments. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Public Enemies takes awhile to get going, but once it does, it's a hell of a reminder why Michael Mann is one of the best directors working today. Almost certainly, he's the best at action—from the way Mann splits your eardrums with the sudden explosion of gunfire to how his handheld digital cinematography rushes you along in an exhilarating immediacy, watching the guy work when he's in the zone is pretty incomparable. Mann can make desensitized audiences wince at the sight of a fist smashing into a face, yet he can also capture vistas and portraits with stunning grace and precision—and with Public Enemies, he gets the chance to do both, after he wades through an uneven script. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
For the Rashevski clan, dancing the tango is a metaphor for negotiating the existential ambiguities of living as secular Jews in modern Belgium. Helmed by insouciant great-uncle Dolfo (Nathan Cogan)—a death-camp survivor who dismisses the ritual formalities of Passover, can't remember the words to prayers, and is unable to define "mensch"—the film sees three generations of Rashevskis explore the nuances of semi-Jewishness via romantic pursuits which are continually frustrated by, well, their own semi-Jewishness. It's an epic family saga bounded by the confines of a romantic dramedy, and it's this bursting at the seams quality that renders Rashevski's Tango so irresistible. If the postmortem reunion at the end of Titanic didn't strike you as unacceptable, you will likely not be bothered by the titular tango motif that awkwardly punctuates the film. HANNAH FRANKLIN Living Room Theaters.
Behold! Winona Ryder before she was Spock's mom! Pix Patisserie (North).
Repo! The Genetic Opera
The blood-feud operatics of director Darren Lynn Bousman's self-described cult film, Repo! The Genetic Opera, are ambitious indeed. With nary a spoken word in sight, nearly two hours of dubious "rock" could make even the gnarliest of theater kids throw up their jazz hands in disgust. But what Repo! lacks in chops, it makes up for in bloody gusto. Taking a cue from Dario Argento, Repo! shows that combining blood 'n' guts with opera can make for all manner of fun. COURTNEY FERGUSON Clinton Street Theater.
Saturday Night Fever
"You assholes almost broke my pussy finger!" Laurelhurst Theater.
Casper (Edgar Flores) is a member of the Mara Salvatrucha, a Central American street gang. When he's forced to flee his gang and join the seemingly endless parade of emigrants looking north for a better life, he meets the solemn Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), with whom he forms a quiet bond. Sin Nombre's plot isn't going to blow anyone away—it's basically The Outsiders, only the greasers have scary face tattoos (and will rape and kill you). But the visually immaculate film is at its best when simply following its characters as they walk for days through sweltering forests, or hitch a ride on the top of a train heading for Texas, or huddle under tarps when it rains. Considering thousands of people annually risk their lives to come to the US, it's shocking there aren't more movies about them. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
New rule: No more buzzed-about Sundance films that include "sunshine" in the title. Please? Discovering that Sunshine Cleaning shares producers with Little Miss Sunshine is like finding out something lame that you kind of suspected might be true about the person you're interested in, but that you were willing to overlook out of optimistic desperation. It makes you feel gullible for being attracted to it. Still, one could hardly be blamed for finding comfort in the offbeat premise of a single mom, Rose (Amy Adams!), and her grungy, grumpy sister Norah (Emily Blunt!!!) going into business together as biohazard removers and crime scene cleaners, scraping up the decomposing remains of the victims of suicide, murder, and various other messy deaths. MARJORIE SKINNER Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Valley Theater.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
A gang of hijackers take over a New York subway car and give authorities one hour to deliver the ransom before they begin plugging hostages. Denzel Washington plays regular Joe/transit dispatcher Walter Garber, who finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to bargain for passengers' lives with hijacker Ryder (John Travolta, dressed like a bear at any leather bar you'd care to imagine). Naturally, Travolta is laughably unbelievable, Washington gamely attempts to mine every ounce of humanity from his character, and director Tony Scott is kept busy trotting out every heavy-handed cinematic trick in the book, including stutter edits, manipulative music, and the always vomit-inducing "circling camera." WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Hollywood Theatre.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Michael Bay has chosen not to merely make a summer blockbuster, but to evolve the art form into something daringly abstract and avant-garde. Here, Bay achieves surreal moments the likes of which Buñuel and Dalí could only dream, and spits in the face of convention, offering a meta-commentary on cinema as a whole—note, if you will, the scene in which John Turturro berates an elderly, farting robot for not telling a story with a "beginning, middle, [and] end." When Turturro demands "plot!" from this flatulent colossus, he is denied—for Bay knows what wondrous visions thrive in the absence of story. In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, we are granted majestic sights: We see a comely co-ed with a whip-like tongue that first grasps, then throws Shia LaBeouf around his dorm room. We see Turturro rip away his pants to reveal a thong. We see Transformer Heaven, and Transformer angels. We see a dangling pair of robot testicles. We see a midget. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Asa is a shepherd desperately trying to arrange a marriage with Tulpan, one of the few women available on the barren Kazakh steppe where they live. Tulpan is a sweet story about finding one's place vs. finding one's dream, but it's marred by its excessive length, as well as all of the sheep, goats, and camels who refuse to stop their incessant, headache-inducing bleating. Bring the Tylenol. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Living Room Theaters.
In the inevitable argument over who would win in a hypothetical fight between Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, I stump for Tyson. This has less to do with technical analysis than a lizard brain recognition of a fighter whose physical strength is fueled by a deeply ingrained, skinless ferocity—he is simply the most frightening human being I can contemplate having to face in hand-to-hand combat. It makes an odd sense that in James Toback's disarming new documentary, Tyson, his subject's full range of emotion reverberates as close to the surface as his murderousness did in the ring. Here Tyson expresses pain with as much honesty as he inflicted it, with a surprisingly unguarded level of candor and eloquence. It seems strange the first time Tyson cries on camera, and when he does it again afterward, you never quite get used to it. MARJORIE SKINNER Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
A documentary about "the 4-year search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan master who passed away in 2001 at age 84." Fox Tower 10.
At this point, squealing "Pixar has done it again!" is a cliché too weary for even my lazy ass to use—and worse, it's not even true. 'Cause actually, Pixar just keeps getting better. Exhibit A: The first half-hour of Up, which boasts more heartfelt emotion and subtle nuance than most films hold in their entire runtime. Exhibit B: What happens after those 30 minutes—Up keeps going, and the places it goes are nothing short of astounding. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Whatever Works could well be the title of Allen's current cinematic style. Like many of his recent films, it feels muted, minimalist, and sometimes downright lazy: the camera stays static, the lines are read, and boom, we're on to the next scene. I've always had the feeling that Allen's best films were a matter of luck; his writing and directorial approach is almost always the same, whether the movie is good or bad. It's a journeyman quality that has resulted in a few wonderful films, and a huge amount of okay ones. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, Lake Twin Cinema.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
As he's fond of saying in X-Men comics, Wolverine is the best there is at what he does—and now, we discover that what he does is star in crappy spinoffs. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
I can't think of any book less funny than the Old Testament. Maybe that's the point. In Year One, writer/director Harold Ramis plays it for laughs, with generally uncomfortable results. We see Cain (a disappointing David Cross) killing golden boy Abel (an un-credited Paul Rudd) in cold blood; Abraham (an admittedly amusing Hank Azaria) nearly sacrificing Isaac (the kid who played McLovin) to the almighty, then deciding to simply snip off the end of the boy's penis instead; and numerous virgins sacrificed to a flaming pit in the decadent city of Sodom. All of which are funnier than Jack Black putting poo in his mouth, which also happens in Year One. NED LANNAMANN Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16.