Alice in Wonderland
The fact that Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland isn't a straight retelling of the Lewis Carroll books might be motivated, as stated, by a desire to give the tale more narrative heft, but it also feels like a pulled punch. (In his version Alice is 19, returning to the place she thought she'd dreamed of as a child.) Following Alice (Mia Wasikowska) through Burton's Wonderland is a perfectly scenic carnival ride—punctuated with the occasional plucked eyeball and rotting severed head—but the attempts to work up the plot with simple conflicts and run-of-the-mill set-ups are little more than enablers to the next visual treat. Burton seems torn between the intimidation of a beloved classic and confidence in his own appeal, but somewhere in the middle with Burton and Alice is not a terrible place to be stuck. MARJORIE SKINNER Lloyd Mall 8.
The Art of Collaboration:
Harry Dawson and Bill Viola
Local filmmaker Harry Dawson discusses and screens his work with video artist Bill Viola. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
The Back-Up Plan
J.Lo's latest is about how Zoe (J.Lo) meets Stan (Alex O'Loughlin)—the one!—right after she's already been inseminated (awkwarrrd!), and how when he finally figures out why his new girlfriend is violently hungry, horny, and harfing, he decides to plunge ahead with the relationship. Together they learn about trust issues, the stroller industry, and that water births are totes gross. They also manage to level some pretty saddening insults at women who intentionally become single mothers. Also, at one point a kid offers his dad a handful of poo. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The Bicycle Thief
SPOILER ALERT: Life sucks and then your dad gets caught stealing a bike. Hollywood Theatre.
The Big Lebowski
See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror
For its first half, Birdemic is a relationship drama, albeit one made by someone who has apparently never seen human beings interact with each other. The second half is a film about murderous CG birds, albeit one made by someone who apparently doesn't really know what birds are or what they look like. The acting is on par with that of a high-end porno, the CG seems to have been created using the full computational power of an Atari 2600, and it appears to have been shot with the VHS camcorder that was stolen from your parents during that family trip to Yellowstone in 1989. Birdemic's a perfect blend of shameless incompetence and oblivious confidence, and its total earnestness ends up being unexpectedly charming. Get drunk, call some friends, and watch it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Clinton Street Theater.
An entertaining comedy in which a prison guard who secretly wants to be an actor (Andy Garcia) learns his illegitimate and long forgotten son, Tony (Steven Strait), is in his prison. Because guilt has got his goat, the prison guard assumes responsibility for the convict, takes him into his house, and moves him into the middle of a family that's on the verge of collapsing. There is a little incest, a little betrayal, a little sexual perversity, a lot of drinking, a lot of smoking, and a lot of fighting. CHARLES MUDEDE Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Fox Tower 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
Clash of the Titans
Sam Worthington—whom you may recall as being painted blue and having ponytail sex with pterodactyls in Avatar—plays Perseus, who has the daunting challenge of leading the humans' attack on a group of insecure, passive-aggressive gods led by his daddy Zeus (Liam Neeson). Little does Zeus know that his brother Hades (a watery-eyed Ralph Fiennes) is planning a coup that will not only overturn Mount Olympus, but also make Earth feel like a never-ending episode of Dancing with the Stars. Feelings are hurt, chaos ensues, and it all plays like a soap opera with giant scorpions. (But not as entertaining.) While the original Clash of the Titans was a cheesy, overwrought delight, this outing is remarkably drab. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Why, Hello Tina Fey of TV's 30 Rock! It's great to see you! You are likeable and charming and hilarious! And who's that with you? Why, it's Steve Carell, of TV's The Office! You, sir, are also likeable and charming and hilarious! You aren't as pretty as Tina Fey, but then, no one is. And who is this? Oh. It's... Shawn Levy. The director of Cheaper by the Dozen. And The Pink Panther remake. And Night at the Museum. And the second Night at the Museum. [CHIRPING SOUND OF CRICKETS CHIRPING] ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Death at a Funeral
In one scene in Death at a Funeral, award-winning actor Danny Glover traps Tracy Morgan's hand under his butt and poops on it. Then, when Morgan washes his hand, the water pressure is so high that the poop sprays into his mouth and all over his face. I only mention it because I just described one of the funniest scenes in this movie. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
Sometimes I talk to famous actors like Brendan Fraser on the phone. Ain't no thing. It's just how I roll. Last time I was shootin' the shit with Bren-Bren (that's my nickname for him), he told me this: "Oh, I've got a comedy coming out in April called Furry Vengeance. I worked with Ken Jeong—who you may recall seeing jump out of the trunk of a car in The Hangover—on a piece wherein forest creatures play mean tricks on me for about 90 minutes, and he's the bad guy." As I hung up the phone, I firmly believed that Furry Vengeance sounded like the greatest idea in the history of cinema. I have since seen Furry Vengeance, and it was, uh... okay, I admit my expectations were a weensy bit high. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
The Ghost Writer
Fuck the Polanski apologists—if some time behind bars will prevent this man from making any more movies like The Ghost Writer, it's a win-win for everyone. Ewan McGregor plays the titular scribe, who's been handed what appears to be the gig of a lifetime: the chance to ghost the memoirs of a recently disgraced former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan). One thing, though: The ghost's predecessor just wound up swimming with the fishes under exceedingly suspicious circumstances. Within minutes, the film's mystery begins to unfold like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon as acted by a series of Tennessee Williams heroines. Suffice to say, Chinatown this is not. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
The Girl on the Train
Jeanne is a French girl who glides through life on the path of least resistance—until a relationship goes disastrously wrong, leading her to one of the weirdest breakup coping mechanisms ever: She pretends she's been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. It's a baffling sequence of events, more so because it's based on a true story. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy, and a bestseller in Europe and the US. The new film adaptation centers on the unlikely relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth, a journalist and a young hacker who team up to investigate a long-unsolved mystery—and the pathological misogyny that is apparently endemic to Swedish culture. But even at 152 minutes, no insights emerge, other than that women get raped and murdered a lot. It's a shame, too—Girl is beautifully shot, and Mikael and Lisbeth are odd, sympathetic characters. I just wish their investigation didn't involve quite so many pictures of naked, mutilated dead women. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
Adapting journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, screenwriter Brian Helgeland's narrative jumps between hard-hitting action sequences and less-than-hard-hitting scenes of politically loaded dialogue. It's March of 2003, and Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller's (Matt Damon) job is to track down WMDs in Baghdad. The only problem—and you'll never see this coming!—is that whenever he gets to a place where WMDs are supposed to be, there's jack shit. Green Zone works when it deals not with simplified moral quandaries, but rather when it's dominated by director Paul Greengrass' action chops: His camera feverish and eager, Greengrass' action scenes burst with momentum and catharsis. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Avalon, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas, Valley Theater.
It's about time writer/director Noah Baumbach wrote a full-fledged character study, because his attention to the details that make up a personality is peerless. Baumbach's last movie, Margot at the Wedding, relentlessly catalogued the anxieties and quirks of two estranged sisters—but while the depiction of family dynamics was razor sharp, Margot's characters were so generally unpleasant that by the time Jennifer Jason Leigh pooped her pants in the woods, it was hard to care how all that meticulously detailed moping would be resolved. With Greenberg—in which Ben Stiller plays an unstable New York carpenter who's just relocated to LA—Baumbach tempers his lacerating insights with a humor that recalls his excellent 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Grindhouse Film Fest: Mystery of Chess Boxing
The only known 35mm print of the kung fu classic! Hollywood Theatre.
Harlan: In The Shadow Of The
A documentary about Nazi filmmaker Veit Harlan and the dark legacy he left behind for his family to deal with. Hey, thanks a lot, Veit Harlan. Living Room Theaters.
Hot Tub Time Machine
Oh, how transparently this movie rips off Back to the Future; oh, how badly it fails to be one one-hundredth as funny. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
How to Train Your Dragon
Essentially a "boy and his dog" story in the vein of Old Yeller, only nobody gets rabies and the dog is a fucking dragon. Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is a clumsy young viking who wants nothing more than to be a dragon slayer like his dad—until the day he befriends an injured dragon, and starts to wonder if training dragons might not be better than killing them. The story is charmingly told, but it's in the visuals that Dragon really distinguishes itself: Witness the creepily beautiful scene in which, as Hiccup and his dragon soar over the ocean, hundreds of dragons begin materializing out of the fog around them. This is the type of movie that I want my (hypothetical, future) children to watch, because it's imaginative and exciting and alert to the possibility of beauty in the world. It's also the type of movie that I want my (actual, present) stoner friends to see because, well... 3D dragons! ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Human Centipede
The Human Centipede joins the legions of gross-out movies that are way more fun to describe than watch. So, there's a brilliant surgeon who lives alone in the woods and specializes in separating conjoined twins. But he's German so, I guess, naturally he's also a pervo who dreams of connecting three people end to end, butt to mouth, like some sort of human... I dunno, worm or something. Gross, right?! Just don't accuse it of being uneducational, because viewers will learn how to train and care for their own human centipedes. DAVE BOW Cinema 21.
Iron Man 2
See review. Various Theaters.
Given that the American consumer spends her days pinned in the crosshairs of ever-craftier marketers, the premise of The Joneses is an inspired bit of paranoia: A crack sales team moves into an affluent neighborhood, disguised as the enviably attractive Jones family. Under a façade of all-American friendliness, each member of the family strategically markets to their target audience, i.e., their peers—casually flaunting cell phones, skateboards, and golf clubs, the Joneses goad their oblivious, status-conscious neighbors into a stuff-buying frenzy. What begins as an entertainingly cynical conceit, though, falls apart as soon as the film asks us to care about the Joneses themselves. ALISON HALLETT City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
"Okay, you cunts—let's see what you can do now." That's one of the more charming lines from Kick-Ass, and it's also pretty good evidence that Kick-Ass' filmmakers selected the wrong character to be the film's protagonist. Ostensibly, Kick-Ass is about Kick-Ass, the superhero who comics-obsessed dweeb Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to become. But the real star of the flick is Mindy Macready, AKA Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), an adorable little cupcake who slices and dices more bad guys than anyone since the Bride in Kill Bill. Sometimes she looks like she's gonna sell you Girl Scout cookies, sometimes she's calling people cunts and asking what they can do now, and usually she's going all Jackson Pollock with other people's arterial sprays. She's fantastic. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Last Song
Like other films based on the seemingly endless parade of Nicholas Sparks novels (Dear John, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember), The Last Song is a minefield of manipulative circumstances its characters must cross before they reach their inevitable reconciliations. Sparks draws liberally from a grab bag of complications to give his stories momentum—a crippling accident here, a terminal illness there—because without them, his flat characters would have nothing to say to one another. DAVE BOW Century Clackamas Town Center.
The credits of The Losers state that Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) directed the film from a script written by Peter Berg (The Kingdom) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac). These are lies. The Losers was directed by Tony Scott after suffering massive head trauma, and it was written by a 15-year-old's boner. The Losers is unapologetically clichéd, relentlessly corny, and packed so full of gratuitous stupidity that I can easily envision Michael Bay leaving the theater muttering, "That shit was fucking dumb." BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS Various Theaters.
Korean director Bong Joon-ho made a lot of noise with The Host, a monster blockbuster in which the dynamics of a small family threaten to upstage its monster. Similarly, his newest, Mother, is best described as a mystery: When a woman's son is accused of murder she sets out to discover what really happened. But the whodunnit runs aground on competing threads of absurdist humor and a meditation on how people justify revenge. The result is languid, tangential, and thoroughly uncomfortable. DAVE BOW Living Room Theaters.
Nightmare on Elm Street
It was 26 years ago that Freddy Krueger slashed his way into our hearts. Much has changed since then—nowadays, teenagers are more interested in cuddling than doing it when their parents leave town, content to wallow in their bedrooms making terrible emo art. Oh, and now Freddy is kind of a chimo who talks a lot. But at least in this remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, he never morphs into a demonic striped car, nor does he disintegrate into a shower of light (time has not been kind to the original's ending). The reboot cuts the camp, but it also loses the fun. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Disney's "Look, we love the environment too!" Earth Day release. Not screened for critics. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Lloyd Mall 8.
GOD HATES YOU Living Room Theaters.
When 19-year-old Malik (Tahar Rahim) starts his six-year sentence in a French prison, he's illiterate and naïve. He has no friends, no family, and no one to watch his back. Immediately, a gang of Corsicans—who rule both inside the prison and outside as the mafia—sweep in to put the young Arab under their thumb, alienating him from the Muslim prisoners and causing discord among the Corsican thugs. Green and inexperienced, Malik is coerced into murdering a fellow Arab—and for the next six years he is haunted by the murdered man's ghost, seemingly his only true friend in a world of sharks. Simply put, A Prophet is a prison drama—but more than anything, it's a robust and engaging character study of Malik, who goes from being a young doormat to a confident, Machiavellian linchpin in a dark transformation full of seething ferocity and quiet ambition. COURTNEY FERGUSON Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
It's no secret that the Runaways were a band that got a startling amount of mileage out of just a handful of songs, along with a manufactured jailbait mystique. While music biopics are often aimed at the heavy hitters on the Billboard charts—Ray, The Doors, Dylan six times over in I'm Not There—a film dedicated to a short-lived, all-girl act that was equal parts inspiration and novelty seems like little more than an excuse for creepy film executives to perv out on Dakota Fanning in a tube top. But if you can overlook more than a few heavy-handed clichés, you'll discover The Runaways to be a fine coming-of-age film that offers a welcomingly realistic look at the brief spark and fade of five teenage girls and their short-run at fame. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Another cinematic take on Chekhov! Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Celebrating Chekhov series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Secret in Their Eyes
See review. Fox Tower 10.
The Secret of Kells
With graceful, emotional animation, brilliant character designs, and a watercolor-dappled visual style that lands somewhere between Saul Bass and Genndy Tartakovsky, every frame of Kells is amazing to look at—but it's the film's humor, heart, and melancholy that makes it really work. Stuff this good—this exhilarating, sweet, clever, poignant—simply doesn't come along very often. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
Andrei Konchalovsky's 1970 adaptation of Chekhov. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Celebrating Chekhov series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Ward No. 6
A doctor becomes a patient in this adaptation of a Chekhov tale. Splicing together storytelling techniques that include a faux documentary, home movies, and interviews with actual mental patients, Ward No. 6 is shoddy looking and dreary, but it makes its point. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Celebrating Chekhov series. ALISON HALLETT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Wild Rivers Movie Night
A screening of short nature- and fish-centric films: Trout on the Wind, Ascending the Giants, An MBA Meets a Fisherman, and SalmonsKin. Proceeds benefit the Crag Law Center and Gifford Pinchot Task Force, which is not the same thing as the decidedly morally dubious Bronson Pinchot Task Force. Hollywood Theatre.
The Wolf Choir Film Festival
Four grindhouse-y films screening at the Artistery—for free! Friday boasts 1974's Sister Streetfighter and 1977's The Heroin Busters; Saturday has 1994's Undefeatable and 1989's Samurai Cop. The Artistery.