PORTLAND LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL
The fifth annual Portland Latin American concludes Wednesday, October 26. All films screen at the Hollywood Theatre. For more info, see "Crossing Borders" (Mercury, October 13, 2011) and pdxlaff.org.
REEL MUSIC FESTIVAL
The 29th annual Reel Music Festival concludes Sunday, October 23. All films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. Not all films were screened for critics. For more info, see "Music Docs Galore" (Mercury October 6, 2011) and nwfilm.org.
Bob and the Monster
Bob Forrest was lead singer for the lauded and self-destructive Thelonious Monster, and the group's rise and fall during LA's punk heyday coincided with Forrest's plunge into heroin addiction. Forrest now works in drug recovery, and this brutally honest documentary is a fantastic portrait of a guy who could have easily been a casualty. NED LANNAMANN
Chico & Rita
A Cuban pianist and singer fall in love in this feature-length cartoon, which is jam-packed full of schmaltzy music, annoying and stupid characters, an uninteresting plot, and difficult-to-look-at animation. NED LANNAMANN
This abstract 2003 documentary has some great live performances from Washington, DC's legendary Fugazi, as well as plenty of proselytizing chitchat from the wearyingly self-important band. NED LANNAMANN
Searching for Elliott Smith
It's just like Where's Waldo! But with sad, whisper-folk music.
Sing Your Song
Harry Belafonte really is an incredible person, but boy, does he know it: In Sing Your Song, the elderly singer recounts his history at the forefront of the civil rights movement. This HBO documentary details Belafonte's important American story, but it sure doesn't do it modestly. NED LANNAMANN
Brazilian writer and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes is given the documentary treatment. Preceded by a live performance from the Brazillionaires.
Zanzibar Music Club
Gorgeous photography and lovely, exotic music make this travelogue of Tanzania's island of Zimbabwe a completely satisfying sensory experience, although viewers who need more hand-holding in the form of narrative structure may get restless. NED LANNAMANN
Bicycle, Spoon, Apple
An "up close and personal account" of former Catalonian president Pasqual Maragall's decision to go public with his diagnosis of Alzheimer's. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Big Year
A fat guy (Jack Black), an old fart (Steve Martin), and a self-absorbed pretty boy (Owen Wilson) go on a year-long competitive bird-watching expedition. I know that sounds like a setup for a particularly bad joke, but the joke's on you—it's the plot of the movie The Big Year, a leading contender for the worst comedy of 2011. JAMIE S. RICH Various Theaters.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Tsui Hark's latest, starring Andy Lau. Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10.
I don't know if you will love Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive like I do. It's a Frankensteined thing—part revenge flick, part western, part noir, part heist movie, part car commercial, part music video, part SWEET CHRIST I DID NOT EXPECT THAT SPLATTERED BIT OF BRUTAL VIOLENCE. Each of Drive's parts slides slickly into my brain's receptors. There's one way to find out if it'll do the same thing to you, and I would recommend trying it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10, Roseway Theater.
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress
"An elegant, detailed study of food as avant-garde art" set in Spain's El Bulli restaurant. Living Room Theaters.
Evidence of the Sasquatch
A Bigfoot-themed horror flick from local filmmakers' group Quarter Orange. Filmmakers in attendance, and there'll be live music from Kind Brother and Father Figure. Holocene.
A must-see for anyone with an interest in the history of either the Trail Blazers or Portland itself, Fast Break comprises footage shot during the Blazers' legendary 1977 championship season. Much of the documentary is devoted to chronicling how Bill Walton spent his time off the court—which, because the man was a giant (literally) hippie, involved a lot of bike riding down the 101 and clambering through the woods picking blackberries. There's also a ton of great archival footage of the absolute frenzy that surrounded the team during that period, filtered of course through Portland's own hippie sensibility—a scene of a huge crowd singing a "Rip City" ballad as a folksinger strums on an acoustic guitar is particularly classic. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
I LOVED, loved, loved Footloose in 1984. I made my parents listen to the soundtrack on road trips 'til my mom threatened to throw Loggins & Co. out the car window somewhere near Canada. It was all about that awesome end scene in the mill when the kids took turns showboating down the dance line, with improbable amounts of confetti spraying everywhere like some '80s Lisa Frank dream! Well, I'm here to say that director Craig Brewer did not ruin my pubescent wankfest with his remake of Footloose. Dare I say... this new one's fun. Brewer (director of dirty South flicks Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan) takes the premise of the original—city boy moves to backward town where they don't allow dancing—and adds layers of context and backstory while stripping away the goofy dated bits. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
From Dusk Till Dawn
"Alright, vampire killers. Let's kill some fucking vampires." Academy Theater.
Green Light Night
A film contest whose entries are made up of "entertaining trailers for movies that doesn't exist." Plan B.
The Ides of March
Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers, a staffer working on the presidential campaign for Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). With strategist Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) leading the campaign, they're gearing up for the Democratic primary in Ohio. At the start of Ides, Stephen's a young-buck idealist who's entirely enamored with Governor Morris, a character loosely based on pre-"yaaargh" Howard Dean—in other words, a liberal's wet dream. Paul Giamatti plays the head of the opposing campaign, and while he seems to be an unscrupulous trickster, Stephen soon discovers that there isn't really room for absolute idealism when a presidency is at stake. There's almost no bloat to The Ides of March—it's a lean, clean thriller that steadily ramps to a sharp climax. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
A local film from director Jason Hawkins that tackles the world of teenage cyber bullying and gay bashing. A trio of high-school gamers get terrorized in their small town (looks like Beaverton to me) by a testosterone-jacked neighbor who forces one of the gamers to say he's gay in a YouTube video, then beats the shit of him. And it just gets worse for the three kids. There's a bit of over-the-top hysteria happening in The Innocent, especially with a cameo from scream queen Adrienne King playing a crazy-eyed overprotective principal with an out-of-this-world homophobic streak in a clunky side plotline. It's a rocky film that takes a quick turn to ultra-violence—a sort of droog-esque after-school special. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
"Dead? No. I just hurt my back, I'm not dead." Laurelhurst Theater.
Johnny English Reborn
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Set at a Goldman Sachs-like investment firm just before the financial collapse, Margin Call features an old boy's club of showy, competent actors (Stanley Tucci, as always, is perfect, and Jeremy Irons plays the CEO with his menacing rolled r's and weary grace). In the beginning, attractive guys in expensive suits say "Fuck me!" in exasperated tones while staring at computers. Then comes the exposition, with characters telling each other to dumb it down for them. And in the end, everyone rationalizes their part in the whole mess. Margin Call really shines in the last bit, where a feral Paul Bettany explains that traders are the heroes who make the excesses of the western world possible until they suddenly become the villains. The movie couldn't be better-timed, but anyone looking for usable information should watch Inside Job instead. As far as heartfelt quests for the soul of a salesman go, this is a well-put-together but ultimately unexceptional entry. PAUL CONSTANT Cinema 21.
Michael Jackson Sing-Along
Not to be confused with the ill-advised Michael Jackson Touch-Along. Hollywood Theatre.
The Mighty Macs
A film in which Carla Gugino plays "the head basketball coach at a tiny, all-girls Catholic college." Hmm, wonder if this will be clumsily inspirational? Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
As the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is dealt a permanent losing hand: running an undesirable team in an undesirable small market that can't afford to re-sign its elite players. Frustrated by the futility of modern baseball, Beane teams with Peter Brand (a composite of Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, and played by Jonah Hill, in his very first role without a single dick joke), a Yale graduate and numbers geek who reexamines the very foundation of the game based upon Bill James' sabermetrics philosophy. Masterfully directed by Bennett Miller, Moneyball visually bolsters the absorbing tale told in Michael Lewis' bestseller of the same name without utilizing any winded sports clichés. In a sense, Moneyball is the anti-baseball baseball film: It stays off the playing field and focuses firmly on a central concept that values math and percentages over actual physical performance. Gently paced and well written (thanks, Aaron Sorkin!), Moneyball captures Beane's noble attempt to achieve perfection in an imperfect sport. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
Moulin Rouge Sing-Along
Hey, that reminds me, who else wants to chew on some razor blades? These ones are kinda rusty, but they should do fine. I got some Drano we can wash 'em down with, too! Good times. Good times! Bagdad Theater.
Perhaps the most quintessentially Altman-esque film that the director left behind, Nashville is a tremendously ambitious (and successful) film about normal people in America. The country music capital serves as an opportunity-filled stage for the two dozen or so main characters, all of whom are connected in some form to both the sequined and sentimental music scene and the political convention taking place at the Nashville Parthenon. Typical of Altman's ensemble films, the characters frequently know each other, or at least hang out at the same spots, even if those connections don't directly serve the narrative. This was part of Altman's genius; much like his overlapping dialogue technique, he strove to approximate reality more closely by allowing us to see familiar faces in the background of shots, or to simply let more than one person speak at the same time. His "the more the merrier" approach to directing was the perfect vehicle for his deeply humane and humorous outlook on life, which, like country songs and campaign speeches alike, feels both hopeful and phony at once. CHAS BOWIE Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Paranormal Activity 3
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Price of Sex
Mimi Chakarova's "investigation of the modern slave trade ravaging the countries of the former Eastern Bloc." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The makers of Real Steel do a pretty nice job of introducing us to a world where humans pay good money to watch robots beat the shit out of each other. This is a totally believable concept, and one that should be implemented as soon as possible. Hugh Jackman plays washed-up boxer Charlie Kenton, who travels the robot-boxing state-fair circuit pitting his crappy 'bot against any comers, including... A LIVE BULL!?! (2020, hurry up and get here!!) Okay, so if this were the movie—two nonstop hours of robots punching bulls in the mouth—I would never stop watching it. Unfortunately, Real Steel 's small joys are overwhelmed by emotional button pushing, clunky clichés, and a severe lack of focus. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
A doc about Joshua Milton Blahyi, "a naked, gun-toting murderer who led an army to massacre thousands during the LIberian Civil War," but now preaches as a "firebrand evangelist." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Aditrium.
Restoring Appearances to Order: Filmmaker Coleen Fitzgibbon
Cinema Project brings New York filmmaker/artist Coleen Fitzgibbon to town to show off her "recently preserved short experimental film works." More info: cinemaproject.org. Clinton Street Theater.
Resurrect Dead: Mystery of the Toynbee Files
A thriller about a man who pieces together "the hundreds of cryptic tiled messages about resurrecting the dead that have been appearing in city streets over the past three decades." Director in attendance on Friday October 21 and Saturday October 22. Clinton Street Theater.
Blaxploitation horror from 1974, preceded by old-school blaxploitation trailers. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Teton Gravity Research Film Festival
Skiing porn. Bagdad Theater.
In 1982, John Carpenter's shape-shifting alien killed by imitating humans and sowing distrust; in 2011, the creature just bores everyone to death with cheap jump scares. Carpenter's movie might've had a monster in it, but it was about the men who were being hunted—which meant it was really about the selfish desperation of everyday survival. This thing's just some stupid monster movie. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Three Musketeers 3D
In which the auteur behind Death Race, Resident Evil, and Alien vs. Predator reinterprets Alexandre Dumas' classic. In 3D! You can almost hear the sphincters of high-school English teachers frantically clenching. Oh, also: Not screened for critics! Various Theaters.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
An SUV full of douchey college kids sets off into the woods for a camping trip in the Appalachians. They stop at a backwoods store. And there, at the creepy yokel Plaid Pantry, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil begins its supreme send-up of the horror genre. Director/writer Eli Craig's first feature blends broad (and hysterical) slapstick with tons of gross gore, loveable characters, and a genius upside-down riff on a horror trope. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
The Walking Dead
AMC's zombie survival drama, presented on the big screen by local podcasters Cort and Fatboy. Hollywood Theatre.
We Were Here
David Weissman's documentary about AIDS in 1980s San Francisco. Fox Tower 10.
Probably the only film in existence in which a zombie fights a shark. Hollywood Theatre.