See review this issue. Various Theaters.
A brutal, gripping story about a Melbourne crime family that makes the Corleones look like the Brady Bunch. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
"Don't knock masturbation. It's sex with someone I love." Pix Patisserie (North).
Avatar: Special Edition 3D
The ridiculously successful film ($2.7 billion worldwide box office!) gets a rerelease, now with eight minutes of new footage. Fingers crossed for more wacky Giovanni Ribisi hijinx! Cinetopia, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Bollywood flicks screened outside, with proceeds going to the Q Center and Mercy Corps. Q Center.
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a character played by convicted spousal abuser Steve Austin punches a damsel in distress in the face—it feels dumb and outdated in all the worst ways.)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.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
"In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the... anyone? Anyone?... the Great Depression, passed the... anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?.... Raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects?" See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater.
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 Various Theaters.
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.
Going the Distance
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Grindhouse Film Fest: Fist of the White Lotus & Seven Brothers Meet Dracula
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
A selection of short documentaries made by students in the NW Documentary Workshop, with all proceeds going to NW Documentary programs. More info: nwdocumentary.org. Mission Theater.
The Radiant Child
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
The Karate Kid
The Karate Kid is pure formula: uncut, chemical-grade, Rocky-brand dope. It's blatantly, unfairly manipulative, and I love it for that; even when plot points were telegraphed from continents away, I still smiled when they reached me, largely due to Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan's great performances. This is one of the few remakes that could be better than the original. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS Academy Theater, Avalon, Milwaukie Cinemas, Mt. Hood Theatre, Valley Theater.
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 Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
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.
The Last Exorcism
Patrick Fabian plays Cotton Marcus, a former child preacher grown wry and skeptical. Beaming with boyish charm, Marcus sets off with a film crew to perform his last exorcism ever, a practice he wishes to expose as nothing more than a lucrative placebo for stubborn rubes. Director Daniel Stamm ratchets up The Last Exorcism's tension almost imperceptibly as Marcus and his crew try to deal with a seemingly possessed teenage girl, Nell Sweetzer (a wonderful Ashley Bell), and her glowering family. By the time Nell starts having conversations with invisible men and smashing cats with camcorders, the stress is almost unbearable. And more importantly, Exorcism exploits the growing American cultural divide between the rural faithful and secular city folk in ways that made my butthole tighten. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
Life During Wartime
A dozen years after his last great film, Happiness, Todd Solondz gives us the risky Hail Mary of Life During Wartime, revisiting characters from his two most beloved films (Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse) and bringing them together in what amounts to something of a sequel. On its own, Wartime's merits are somewhat dubious: Completely reliant on the projected pathos of its predecessors, its loose vignettes don't so much add up to a movie as they do a kind of disconnected coda—its best bits (including a stunning segment with Charlotte Rampling) are also its most out of place. Its characters entirely recast (this time including Paul Reubens, Ally Sheedy, and Omar from The Wire), Wartime tries to evoke the strange character fluidity/universality that Solondz experimented with in Palindromes, but more often than not, the feel is more straight-to-DVD sequel than high-minded creative conceit. ZAC PENNINGTON Hollywood Theatre.
Li'l Bow Wow wins the lottery! Not screened for critics. Lloyd Mall 8.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Mao's Last Dancer
Mao's Last Dancer is based on the memoir by Li Cunxin, a Chinese Australian who was once a ballet dancer. The time is the late 1960s, and the Beijing Dance Academy is looking for fresh blood. They find and bring Li to the city. He is a boy, but already the dance masters can see some potential. Soon after becoming a man, Li attracts the attention of the West. An American (Bruce Greenwood) takes him to the land of milk and honey on an exchange program. With good reason, he does not want to return to China, and this causes an international incident. The best thing about the movie are the dance sequences. The worst part of this film is, of course, the main reason why it probably got financing: the old story of the greatness of the individual. It always goes like this: If you want to be the best individual you can be, the place to go is America. This part of the movie must be ignored if one wants to enjoy the best part of it, the dancing. CHARLES MUDEDE Fox Tower 10.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct
"All films are part fiction. No film can recreate the complexity of a human life, each with its point of view." This is the director Jean-François Richet's disclaimer at the beginning of Mesrine: Killer Instinct, the first part of a true crime masterpiece that attempts to do just that. Seeming apologetic at first, in hindsight Richet's words read more as a defense against coming across as cocky. At over four hours, Instinct and its sequel, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, portray the career of the gangster Jacques Mesrine. Equal parts folk hero and arch-villain, Mesrine was one of France's most colorful and notorious criminals—a kidnapper, bank robber, and escape artist of unparalleled audacity. The portrait Richet paints of Mesrine is almost pointillistic, composed of small moments and exchanges: We see Mesrine cooking, dancing, joking, menacing, shooting innocents, breaking out of maximum security prisons, crying at his father's hospital bed, sticking a gun in his wife's mouth. Richet gives each clip equal import, asking the viewer to assemble them as they will—to vilify and admire as they see fit. It is this, above all else, that separates Instinct and Enemy from Scarface and the dozens of movies that followed in that film's wake, painting the world of crime in broad, vibrant strokes. Like most of us, Mesrine's life was not a grand, baroque tragedy, but a jumble of actions and consequences. DAVE BOW Cinema 21.
Mesrine: Public Enemy #1
See short for Mesrine: Killer Instinct. Cinema 21.
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, Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
The only known 35 mm print of Andrei Tarkovsky's experimental drama from 1975. Clinton Street Theater.
Francois Truffaut's romantic thriller from 1969. Hollywood Theatre.
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.
This is the type of movie where naked hang gliders get their legs devoured, where someone pukes into the camera, and where Jerry O'Connell has his penis ripped off, eaten, and then belched into the audience (in lovingly rendered 3D). It's the type of movie where cops say, "I'm too old for this" and warn spring-break revelers not to go in the water only to be rebuked by some slammin' party jams after someone shouts, "Hit it, DJ Chocolate Thunder!" It's the type of movie where Richard Dreyfuss gets sucked into a whirlpool and Christopher Lloyd rants about fish reproductive organs. DAVE BOW Broadway Metroplex, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
A screening of the child-trafficking documentary Playground, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden and featuring a Q&A with director Libby Spears and civic leaders. Ticket sales ($20) benefit the Portland Women's Film Festival and Caldera arts center. Hollywood Theatre.
Nicole Holofcener makes complex, thoughtful movies about women. About female friendships, in the cult classic Walking and Talking; about female self-image, in the underrated Lovely and Amazing; about female careers, in the capable Friends with Money. With her newest, Please Give, Holofcener makes it clear from the film's opening moments that her focus hasn't changed: The credits roll over a montage of naked breasts, varied and unshapely and a little uncomfortable as they're weighed and smooshed into mammogram machines. ALISON HALLETT Kennedy School.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic book series is a fantastic epic: an earnest, heady, hilarious mashup of comics, videogames, 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.
Sun Wu Kong
See Music, this issue. Disjecta.
Jennifer Aniston is a fancy New York lady with a vaguely referenced job in television. Jason Bateman is her best friend, with a vaguely referenced job on Wall Street. By the ineluctable logic of romantic comedies, he's in love with her, but because he's a neurotic control freak, he doesn't know it. The boyfriend-less Aniston is worried that she's reached the end of her foaling years, so she decides to go the artificial insemination route. Vetoing Bateman as a potential spermy daddy, she picks the donor and throws an "insemination party," at which a donor is invited to fill a cup with his "offering," as the movie primly calls it. The offering is left in a cup in the bathroom, soon to be implanted in... you know, Jennifer Aniston. But Jason Bateman has had too much to drink. And some hippie gave him some drugs. And he sees the donor's sperm cup in the bathroom. And he dumps it out. And refills it. And... he insemirapes Jennifer Aniston. The movie has no idea how fucked up this is. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
A thriller about a bunch of bank robbers, starring Hayden "Anakin" Christensen and Chris "Punchy" Brown. Various Theaters.
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.