"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 Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Fox Tower 10.
2010 British Advertising Awards
See review. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Due to my overwhelming penchant for rhinestone-encrusted high kicks and my occasional desire for asinine storytelling, I'll probably add Burlesque to my instant-watch Netflix queue. But for enjoyment of real burlesque? I'll stick to the live stages across my fair city. RAYLEEN COURTNEY Various Theaters.
The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
See review. Various Theaters.
One can't help but wonder if Easy A director Will Gluck ever had the pleasure of an English class assignment that asked its students to reinterpret a piece of literature into amateur film, because Easy A has a similar joie de vivre, with the added bonus of a much better budget. Forcefully in reference to The Scarlet Letter, its delightfully likeable protagonist, Olive (Emma Stone), experiments with a societal ostracization that bears little technical resemblance to the trials of Hester Prynne, but which does feature her literally wearing a red letter "A" for most of its runtime. This movie approaches Mean Girls territory on the fun scale. Academy Theater, Avalon, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas.
A modern-day western that owes so much to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that its trio of characters are introduced only as the Driver, the Killer, and the Cop (and the Killer has an Ennio Morricone ringtone!), Faster's built like a low-budget '70s revenge flick. In shades of burnished gold and copper, the action plays out: A former getaway driver (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) gets out of prison and promptly peels out in his Chevelle SS, ready to kill the bastards who double-crossed him. So tough that he sports the wounds from a bullet going through the back of his head and out his cheek, he metes out his justice in bloody slow motion. Meanwhile, both a junkie cop only a few days away from retirement (Billy Bob Thornton) and a calculating, remorseless assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) try to track him down. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Four Lions humanizes terrorism. Don't misunderstand: This is a very different statement than "Four Lions makes terrorism understandable and sympathetic." I mean to say that Four Lions does, in fact, humanize terrorism, by reminding the audience that human beings can be incomprehensibly dumb and clumsy animals. One has to be a special sort of idiot to think dressing in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume to suicide bomb a charity fun-run is going to win you any sort of heavenly reward, but this is the humanity Four Lions concerns itself with, and those are the sorts of terrorist plots incompetently employed, and these are the confused, chucklefucked faces of terrorism. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS 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 Laurelhurst Theater.
The Girl Who Kicked the
It is inarguable that the best part of the Swedish film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy is the actress Noomi Rapace. Her Lisbeth Salander is a once-in-a-lifetime creation: a tough, damaged, goth computer hacker who can't manage to choke down her own sense of justice long enough to disengage with society. Unfortunately, the plot dictates that Salander spend the first half of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest in a hospital bed, recovering from a brutal beating administered in the end of the second film in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire. (Uh, spoiler alert?) But Rapace's Salander is riveting even in her convalescence, as she prepares for her defense in a murder trial that will mark the climax of the series. As with the other installments, Daniel Alfredson's direction is unflashy but skillful. The story, which could be dense and impenetrable in the wrong hands, whirs along at a steady clip—until it ends with a whimper. (Larsson reportedly had more adventures waiting to be written at the time of his death, and Hornet's conclusion makes that franchise-planning glaringly obvious.) PAUL CONSTANT Cinema 21.
Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows: Part I
Previous Harry Potter films have suffered from their attempts to cram hundreds of pages of elaborate plotting into a single feature-length film. That Deathly Hallows is something different—and better—is obvious from its opening scenes: Hermione (Emma Watson) looks heartbroken as she wanders through her family's home, erasing her face from one family photo after another, and her memory from her parents' minds. And as the Dursleys pack up and abandon Number 4 Privet Drive, even Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) seems a little wistful as he bids farewell to the stairwell where he spent the worst part of his childhood. That we're treated to these small, private snapshots of Harry and Hermione is only the first indication that part one of Deathly Hallows has something its predecessors didn't: time. Time to explore its characters, time to allow J.K. Rowling's plot to fully unfold, and time to chart the darkness that, by book seven, has seeped into every corner of the Potterverse. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Hidden Blade
Yoji Yamada's 2004 samurai drama. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Japanese Currents: The Samurai Tradition series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A selection of short documentaries made by students in the NW Documentary Workshop, featuring live music from the Dimes. More info: nwdocumentary.org. Mission Theater.
It's Kind of a Funny Story
Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist) is depressed and wants to end his life. Sort of. Before hurling himself into the East River, the 16-year-old Brooklynite resigns himself to a hospital visit, which results in his temporary institutionalization in an adult psychiatric ward. Settled in for a five-day stay sans belt and shoelaces, Craig is quickly taken under the watchful guise of a bearded Randle P. McMurphy-type named Bobby (Zach Galifianakis, great as always). It's Kind of a Funny Story is a significant departure for co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar); here they deal with a story far more earnest and light, despite its heavy subject matter. If you can look past the film's trivial dismissal of serious mental health issues (schizophrenics yell wacky things, let's laugh at them!), and a certain "Ferris Bueller in the loony bin" narration style, It's Kind of a Funny Story works extremely well. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Love and Other Drugs
The little blue pill known as Viagra changed the sexual potential of baby boomers everywhere, and it also changed Jamie Reidy's life. With Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, Reidy exposed many of the pharmaceutical industry's insider secrets—secrets that director Edward Zwick has set out to further publicize with Love And Other Drugs, casting Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie. Not content to tell the story of one man's maturation in a politically relevant industry, Hollywood added a love interest in Maggie (Anne Hathaway), and because this movie is about medicine, she had to be sick. If you're looking for any poignant criticisms of the pharmaceutical industry, you might want to adjust your expectations in favor of relationship montages and two or three cycles of break up/make up. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Rachel McAdams stars as Becky, a young and ridiculously dedicated morning show producer who gets hired to pull the lowest-rated morning show, Daybreak, out of the dumps. You couldn't be blamed for thinking this film was a romantic comedy based on the trailer, but Becky's relationship with love interest Adam (Patrick Wilson, practically making a cameo) could scarcely be more tangential. The real center of drama is Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), an ornery, formerly great hard-news anchor who Becky manipulates into co-hosting Daybreak. Pomeroy's disdain for the position and Becky's outsized, sunny determination to force him to do his job is the drama that counts here, though the impact it amounts to can be shrugged off by the time you find your car in the theater parking lot. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The Next Three Days
The Next Three Days wants you to believe it's something more than a two-fisted genre picture, but it's not. Despite its sleepy pace, somber tone, and the city of Pittsburgh's supporting role as Blahsville Boringtown, this film is destined to sit right between Death Wish I-IX and The Fugitive on any "Average Guy Pushed to Extremes" shelf. DAVE BOW Broadway Metroplex, Century Clackamas Town Center.
This charming film circles around the best-laid plans of a Jewish-Mexican grandmother who plots her own death to coincide with Passover, forcing her dysfunctional family to pass five days together in her apartment before she can be buried. SARAH MIRK Fox Tower 10.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Straight to Hell
See I'm Going Out. Clinton Street Theater.
Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
Street Stories Film Festival
A free film series bringing together films that "highlight the day-to-day struggles of human beings in Portland experiencing homelessness, isolation, and extreme poverty," put together by Sisters of the Road, VOZ, and Outside In. Cinema 21.
The Sundance Shorts Program
It's not often internet videos win prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, but such was the case at last year's Sundance, when funnyordie.com's hilarious Drunk History: Douglass & Lincoln totally got props. For the one of you who still hasn't seen it (hi Mom!): An affable drunken chick oh-so-drunkenly recalls the relationship of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass; over her confused, giggly, half-slurred narration, a deadpan Will Ferrell and Don Cheadle, in full costume, act out her rambling history. Shot with the gauzy earnestness of a History Channel reenactment, it's one of the funnier things in the recent history of the internet. It's also a great fit for The Sundance Shorts Program, a collection of some of the best short films from last January's 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Made up of nine international films that together clock in at just under two hours, there's hardly a dud in the bunch. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
Sword of Desperation
Hideyuki Hirayama's 2010 samurai flick. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Japanese Currents: The Samurai Tradition series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Based on a comic strip that's based on Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd, Tamara Drewe is a funny, perceptive look at what happens when social norms collide. The movie is set in what appears to be a perfectly picturesque English town—cobblestone streets, cud-chewing cows, an inn affixed to the town's lone pub. But it's not long before modernity intrudes: Not only do people in this tiny town have tawdry affairs, but they have cell phones and email access, too. They're also pretty goddamned bored, and this restless pot gets a sudden stir with the return of hometown girl Tamara (Gemma Arterton), post nose-job and ready to rub her newfound sexiness all over the people who called her "beaky" as a girl. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie's latest. On one hand, it was directed by The Lives of Others' awesomely named Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; on the other, it's apparently shitty enough that the studio refused to screen it in time for press. So... hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, December 10, for our review. Various Theaters.
John Landis' 1983 comedy with Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, and Don motherfuckin' Ameche. Laurelhurst Theater.
Two in the Wave
Less a summation of the New Wave style than a cinephilic scrapbook of a passionately intellectual relationship, Emmanual Laurent's new documentary pieces together the friendship of the two directors most directly responsible for launching the now-legendary French New Wave: François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
A documentary about filmmaker/star Jonas Elrod, who woke up one day claiming he could see "angels, demons, auras, and ghosts." That's what happens when you watch The Sixth Sense right before bedtime, dude. Director in attendance. Clinton Street Theater.
The Warrior's Way
Even at its most CGI stylized, this cowboy vs. chop-socky opus conveys the energy and charm of a kid swooshing his action figures through the air. Beginning with a heavy lift from the Lone Wolf and Cub series, the film follows a mournful master samurai (Jang Dong-gun) who lays down his sword and flees to America, with the infant daughter of his rival clan in tow. Arriving in a nearly deserted frontier circus, he must decide whether to renounce his vow and defend the residents (including town drunk Geoffrey Rush and Kate Bosworth, amusingly channeling Toy Story's Jessie) from the gaggle of assassins on his tail. First-time writer/director Sngmoo Lee's use of painted backdrops and scenery-morphing emotions often comes across as a slightly less berserk homage to the Thai cult classic Tears of the Black Tiger, while his color-coordinated bad guys and raindrop-splitting swordfights borrow heavily from Zhang Yimou's Hero. Lee's cranked-to-11 curio is a shameless, sharply written, thankfully unironic chunk of fun. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
A Moby-scored doc that follows "artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump." Living Room 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 Laurelhurst Theater.
A locally produced short film that parodies the 1979 cult flick The Warriors, replacing New York street gangs with Portland poets. Uh oh. Clinton Street Theater.