12:08: East of Bucharest
As uninteresting and confusing as this movie's title is, so goes the film. The opening shot is beautiful, but it's all downhill from there. At first, I thought it had good acting, until I remembered that shuffling and mumbling don't always equal nuanced performances. CHAS BOWIE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Best of the 48-Hour Film Fest
The best films from the 48-Hour Film Fest, in which filmmakers had only two days to make films. Hollywood Theatre.
Though it's currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, Jean-Luc Godard's jump-cut pioneering, nouvelle vague-defining film remains surprisingly fresh—Breathless is an account of two young people trying on roles in the big city, relevant to any 22-year-old currently rocking an asymmetrical haircut and a copy of Shoplifting from American Apparel. The big city here happens to be Paris, richly gorgeous in this reissued print, which was cleaned up with the assistance of the film's original cinematographer, Raoul Coutard. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
Your mom might like Cairo Time. You will not. American Juliette wanders around Cairo like a wet blanket on vacation—mumbling, oblivious to why all the Arabs are staring at her, and checking her watch, waiting for her diplomat husband to finally meet her. You'd think it would help that the magnificent Patricia Clarkson plays Juliette; alas, it does not. You'd think it would help that she gets wined and dined by the dreamy Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine... but no. Nothing can save the slow and painful Cairo Time, not even when Juliette climbs up Dr. Bashir's great pyramid. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
A doc about the Tour de France that "touches on the rich history, passion and true grit of the tour." Clinton Street Theater.
The biggest film thus far from the mumblecore crowd, Cyrus has extremely high expectations attached to it. Those who've been cheerleading the films of this underground genre—not to mention fans of Cyrus' cult favorites John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, and Catherine Keener—want it to be the breakout film they've been waiting for. It is a legitimization of the style, at least, and the cast members' presences are a weighty endorsement, though the film seems to choke a bit on its good fortune. It's not a bad film, but we're familiar with stories about love triangles created by jealous, threatened mama's boys. This one just talks more. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Dinner for Schmucks
You gotta grade on a curve with movies like Dinner for Schmucks. Sure, it's formulaic, totally predictable, and a little strained—but it's also got an offbeat, ornery streak, some great casting (including Zach Galifianakis as a menacing IRS auditor), and a willingness to engage honestly with awkwardness. When movies like Grown Ups exist in this world, it just doesn't seem fair to go too hard on harmless fare like Dinner for Schmucks. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Please, somebody put Baby in the corner. And keep her there. Bagdad Theater.
Eat Pray Love
Sitting through Eat Pray Love is a lot like being trapped inside of your mother's daydreams for two and a half hours. Or how about: It's like touring Epcot Center with a girl you've been friends with since college, but who's grown up to be the most insufferable twat. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
In addition to writer/director Sylvester Stallone, The Expendables crams in a few other legit action stars too—Jason Statham, Jet Li—along with a who's who of has-beens and never-beens: Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture. It's like Ocean's 11: Only Dumber. There are highlights—seeing the lithe Li fight the drooling homunculus Lundgren; pondering the philosophy of never using one bullet when 12 will do; basking in the vibrant glow of one billion explosions—but despite all of its leathery faces, The Expendables only occasionally captures the balls-out, testosterone-drenched goofiness of '80s action flicks. (And sometimes—like when a character played by convicted spousal abuser Steve Austin punches a damsel in distress in the face—it feels dumb and outdated in all the worst ways.) ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Extra Man
A "lonely dreamer" (Paul Dano) moves to New York, where he meets an eccentric playwright (Kevin Kline), an "entrancing" coworker (Katie Holmes), and a "wildly jealous hirsute neighbor" (John C. Reilly). SO MUCH QUIRK! Hollywood Theatre.
Christian Carion's (Merry Christmas) thriller about a KGB colonel who sneaks some top-secret documents to a French businessman. Why? 'Cause he's sick of the Cold War! You go, KGB colonel. Fox Tower 10.
An amiable and rather unapologetic victory lap for Robert Duvall, who plays a crazy old hermit who returns from the woods after 30 years in order to organize and attend his own funeral. Director Aaron Schneider gets strong performances from his cast, including Lucas Black, Sissy Spacek, and a deadpan-even-for-him Bill Murray, but the main reason to watch is Duvall, who imbues his stock Snuffy Smith character with undercurrents of humor, pathos, and wounded menace. ANDREW WRIGHT Fox Tower 10.
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The second film based on Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium trilogy sees the return of 90-pound badass Lisbeth Salander (the titular girl with the dragon tattoo from the first book and the 2009 film adaptation), a '90s-era hacker with a panache for piercings and black clothes ('cause that's how she feels on the inside). This installation of the rape-y, murder-y series continues in much the same vein, with an intricate plot dealing with abused young girls in a sex ring. In theory, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a thriller, but it's too listless and filled with plot points to be much of one in practice. It's well shot and acted, but it has a cold detachment as it veers into a violent world of abuse and sadism. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
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 Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Grindhouse Film Fest:
Five Element Ninjas
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
I Am Love
The extravagance of this melodrama is as overwhelming as the opulence of the upper crust Milanese family it preoccupies itself with. Starring Tilda Swinton as a wife and mother whose senses are reawakened just as her children begin to fly the nest, it will hypnotize the passions of any viewer prone to the influence of culinary mastery, Italian tailoring, and the architecture of man and nature. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
"Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour." Pioneer Courthouse Square.
The Kids Are All Right
Earlier this year, a movie came out that purported to examine contemporary feelings about adoption: The dour Mother and Child was oddly conservative in its insistence that every child needs its biological parents. Now, along comes a film that acts as a timely corrective to Mother and Child's moralizing: Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko's excellent The Kids Are All Right does full justice to the complexity and flexibility of the modern family. This is a film that allows its characters to be complicated, and it's quietly revolutionary in its upending of the conventions of the cinematic family. ALISON HALLETT Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, Lloyd Mall 8.
Knight and Day
Long ago in the annals of history—the 1600s, I believe—Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were pert, attractive stars of the cinema, spearheading big-budget Hollywood picture shows and charming their audiences with their clear complexions and adept skills at walking and talking. In the intervening centuries, however, both Cruise and Diaz have turned into gently defective androids laminated inside hot plastic. As for the walking and talking? They can manage, but not without inducing a wriggling feeling of discomfort in the audience—the same discomfort you might experience watching a crippled child cross a busy street, or a very expensive robot bump into a wall. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater, Avalon, Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, Milwaukie Cinemas, Mission Theater, St. Johns Theater & Pub, Valley Theater.
Remember when Mel Gibson wasn't a huge asshole? Laurelhurst Theater.
Li'l Bow Wow wins the lottery! Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet has made some remarkable films (Delicatessen, Amélie), and his latest is nearly one of them. Bazil (Dany Boon) has a bullet inside his head, which could kill him at any moment. He joins a merry group of outcasts who live in the junkyard, and together they plot revenge on the weapons manufacturers who made both the bullet in Bazil's brain and the bomb that exploded his parents. It's the kind of whimsical story that only Jeunet could make work, and it approaches the poeticism of Amélie and the surrealism of Delicatessen, even if it falls short of the high marks of Jeunet's best work. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Nanny McPhee Returns
Fun fact: Overseas, the latest in this children's series was titled Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang! Also, we did not bother reviewing this. Various Theaters.
The Other Guys
There's remarkably little to say about The Other Guys: Will Ferrell and Marky Mark play underdog cops who try to solve an irrelevant mystery. There are lame jokes ("Where'd you learn to drive like that?" "Grand Theft Auto!"), easy gags (an old lady talking dirty), and wacky contrivances (it's funny that Eva Mendes' character is married to Will Ferrell's character, you see, because she is attractive and he is not). If you get stuck with The Other Guys on an airplane, it will mostly be more entertaining than SkyMall. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A Sundance-approved Indian comedy. Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10.
Royce (Adrien Brody) is one of a slew of badasses who've been dumped onto an alien planet. There's our core crew—grumpy mercenary Royce (you can tell he's smart 'cause he quotes Hemingway!), grim soldier Isabelle (Alice Braga), and skittish doctor Edwin (Topher Grace)—along with a bunch of other dudes who I don't think even have names: A quiet Japanese Yakuza dude. A huge black guy who runs African genocides. A kidnap-crazy Mexican (Danny Trejo) who should be in this movie a lot more than he is. All these tough guys (and, okay, fine, the one tough girl) better figure out how to work together, though, 'cause they're up against some pretty horrible shit: (A) the merciless aliens that're hunting them for sport, and (B) Topher Grace's constant whining. "This planet is a game preserve," Brody dramatically declares, "and we're the game." "Waaaahhh, I'm just a doctor! Why am I heeeeerrrrrreeee???" whimpers Topher. Then some predators kill just about everybody. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Avalon, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas, Mission Theater, Valley Theater.
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. Directed by Jacques Audiard. Also see shorts for Read My Lips and A Self-Made Hero. COURTNEY FERGUSON Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Read My Lips
Jacques Aduiard's 2001 drama/thriller. Also see shorts for A Self-Made Hero and A Prophet. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic book series is a fantastic epic: an earnest, heady, hilarious mashup of comics, video games, and music, with doses of the confusion, enthusiasm, and melancholy that're embedded in the DNA of every twentysomething. The good news: The movie version, directed by Edgar Wright, lives up to expectations. The better news: Wright's film also does a few things nobody could've predicted. From its opening moments—when a Universal logo rendered in NES-era pixels appears—it's clear there hasn't been a movie like this before. Thanks to Scott Pilgrim, the lines between film, comics, pop music, and videogames have been blurred—in all of the best ways. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A Self-Made Hero
A young Frenchman at the end of WWII creates an alternate self, stealing the stories of war heroes. Directed by Jacques Audiard. Also see shorts for Read My Lips and A Prophet. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Three-Minute Picture Show
A program consisting of three-minute-long films made by various people over the course of a month. More info: threeminutepictureshow.com. Clinton Street Theater.
To Die For
Nicole Kidman has her finest hour as a murderously ambitious weathergirl in Gus Van Sant's 1995 blacker-than-black comedy. Buck Henry's excellent script packed a wallop back then, but the movie's been slightly defanged by 15 intervening years of reality TV and tabloid journalism. Still, it's delightfully venomous and filled with excellent performances, particularly Joaquin Phoenix as the moronic teen she seduces into doing her dirty work. It's the final screening of the Northwest Film Center's Top Down series on the roof of the Hotel deLuxe parking garage. NED LANNAMANN Hotel deLuxe.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
Another spoof movie, this one targeting the Twilight craze. In other words, the worst possible combination of anything ever. Press were specifically and clearly not invited to the advance screening. Various Theaters.
The Wildest Dream
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Like Deliverance, Winter's Bone will make urbanites never ever want to venture into the woods. Ever. Fucked-up shit happens out there, you guys. And like The Road—a book and film with which it shares a few similarities—Winter's Bone is bleak, wearying, and haunting. It'll wear you down as you watch it, and after it ends it'll clatter around in your head for days. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10, Lake Twin Cinema.