30 Minutes or Less
In 30 Minutes or Less, Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer attempts to make a comedy out of the story of two sociopaths who kidnap a pizza boy, strap a bomb to him, and force him to rob a bank (something similar happened in real life, but ended when the bomb guy got his head blown off while he begged the police to help him). It's a dark, intriguing idea, and something I'd want to watch, especially with this cast—which makes it painful to see it drowned in schmucky riffing. Almost immediately, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding that telling a funny story is different than telling a story in which every character tells 50 jokes a minute like Shecky Greene. VINCE MANCINI Laurelhurst Theater.
An African Election
A documentary examining Ghana's 2008 presidential elections. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
All's Faire in Love
"Two rival Medieval shows vie for supremacy in the world of Renaissance Faires." This film was not screened for critics. They did not even tell critics it existed, actually. Lloyd Mall 8.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Army of Darkness
"Don't touch that, please. Your primitive intellect wouldn't understand alloys and... compositions... and things with... molecular structures." Kiggins Theatre.
Attack the Block
Executive produced by Edgar Wright—the guy behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Spaced, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—first-time director Joe Cornish's debut is fantastically clever and relentlessly funny. Like all great monster movies, it's got bit of social commentary slyly poking its head out from the shadows; if you can see past the mangy, jet-black fur and phosphorescent fangs of Attack the Block's aliens, you'll find a fair amount to think about. But—again, like all great monster movies—if you'd rather just roll with it, and simply have a better time in a theater than you've had in entirely too long? That works too. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
A screening of 1982's non-classic Nightbeast, in which "a backwoods cop and his friends fight an alien that terrorizes their small town." Plus: special-made bingo cards so you can spot the B-movie clichés. Hollywood Theatre.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 bears the pros and cons of its titular format: It never dwells overlong on any one subject, but it also sacrifices depth and cohesion. This mishmash of vintage footage of speeches, interviews, rallies, and rioting culled from various Swedish news organizations and recent interviews with black musicians like Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson chronologically—and sympathetically—examines the movement's triumphs, defeats, and tenets. Director/writer Göran Olsson admits his film isn't comprehensive, but his outsider's perspective lends BPM a piquant slant unavailable to American filmmakers. He devotes almost as much time to ordinary black citizens dealing with injustice, drugs, and poverty as he does to leaders like Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, and Eldridge Cleaver. And given the current Occupy Wall Street protests, Olsson makes us realize that black people's grievances resonate as urgently today for all downtrodden Americans as they did 40 years ago. DAVE SEGAL Cinema 21.
Class of Nuke 'Em High
1986's Troma flick about a high school next to a nuclear plant. Troma-ness ensues. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
What Psycho did for showers? What Jaws did for the ocean? Contagion does that for EVERY SINGLE THING YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE. Do you talk to people? Do you touch things? Do you go places, like "rooms" or "outside"? Do you eat or breathe? Because Contagion will ruin all of these things. It will turn you into one of those sad, lonely freaks who carries a little thing of Purell with them wherever they go, and whenever you touch or smell anything, or come within 20 feet of anyone, you will see your own corpse: your dull, dark eyes; your pale, rubbery skin; your cold lips, crusty with snotty, dried-up froth. ERIK HENRIKSEN 99W Twin Indoor Cinema, Century Eastport 16, Fox Tower 10.
The Crater Lake Monster
1977's monster flick, in which a stop-motion creature rises from the deeps of Oregon's Crater Lake. Clinton Street Theater.
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 ULTRA-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 Century Eastport 16, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Mall 8.
Jan-Luc Godard's latest. No big deal, just a "film provocation [that] addresses the decline of Western civilization." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's French Film Weekend series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A doc about the "continuing impact" of the work Joseph Campbell, featuring interviews with Deepak Chopra and Tony Hawk. Okay. Fox Tower 10.
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.
Fresh French Shorts
Ooh la la, les films est tres petit monsier! (Or something, I don't know, I failed French like four times.) Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's French Film Weekend series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Hit So Hard: The Life & Near Death Story of Patty Schemel
The opening-night film of the Siren Nation Film Festival. See I'm Going Out, this issue.
The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
What's this? Another crappy-looking horror flick that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Cinema 21.
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.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Johnny English Reborn
Now, I know what you're thinking: Did they tie up all the loose ends from Johnny English 1??? I'm sorry, I can't answer this burning question. I went in cold, not having seen the original. Shockingly, this did not hinder my ability to understand the plot of the sequel. Rowan Atkinson plays Johnny English, a disgraced agent of MI7 who returns from exile to stop a Manchurian Candidate-style assassination plot against the Chinese premier (a perfect mashup of the plots of The Naked Gun and Zoolander). He will do this through a combination of silly faces and an inability to operate even the simplest of gadgets. Can't operate gadget? BOOM, SILLY FACE! Atkinson is undeniably talented, but this movie seems almost designed to determine who his most loyal fan is, like a reverse game of musical chairs where the empty seats keep multiplying. VINCE MANCINI 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 Hollywood Theatre, Living Room 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.
Paranormal Activity 3
Ostensibly a prequel to the preceding films, Paranormal Activity 3 feels more like a rewrite of a couple of rough drafts. With all-new leads and all-new directors (Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, of last year's creepy, probably-fake documentary Catfish), the scares are smoother and the acting is less dubious. This time out the story feels much clearer, too, even if most of its DNA is made up of old horror standbys (babysitters in peril, creepy kids with "imaginary friends"). Familiar though the proceedings are, Schulman and Joost bring a remarkable amount of flair to them, grounding the cheap shocks in a creeping atmosphere of genuine dread. DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
Puss in Boots
Shrek's loveable kitty pal gets his own movie! Everything about Western culture is fucking awful. Various Theaters.
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 Rules of the Game
One of those canonical "greatest movies of all time" that, while dry at times, is obviously influential (just about every drama that's ever taken social class as its subject owes a debt to this film). Guests at an estate in the French countryside fall in and out of love with one another, oblivious to the army of servants who rush about oiling the gears of the elaborate social mechanism. The brilliance of a few scenes stands out undeniably—the hunt scene alone, in which rabbits are chased toward well-dressed ladies and gentleman who stand waiting, guns at the ready, justifies sitting through the rest of the film. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's French Film Weekend series. ALISON HALLETT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Rum Diary
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Take Shelter is pretty goddamn intense, largely because it sucks you inside the stuttering consciousness of the taciturn, tense Curtis (Michael Shannon), a 35-year-old blue-collar worker in small-town Ohio who starts having some pretty goddamn intense dreams. Writer/director Jeff Nichols has a clever, merciless eye for what'll most effectively poke at and twist an audience; if nothing else, Take Shelter is a convincing trip into the head of someone who may or may not be going insane. Rooted deep inside Curtis, Nichols' film shudders with a propulsion powered by more than the sum of its parts: In chunks, Curtis' challenges seem manageable. In total, they're devastating. Some distracting CG aside, Nichols renders Curtis' fragmenting life in a way that's jarring, wearying, and heartbreakingly realistic. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
"Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my concentration. You're distracting me. And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. You understand?" Academy 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.
This Is My Land... Hebron
A documentary about Hebron, "the largest city in the occupied West Bank." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Human Rights on Film series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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.
Emilio Estevez wrote and directed The Way, in which his dad, President Bartlet, walks the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route through France and Spain, in memory of his dead son (Estevez, annoyingly turning up in flashbacks) who was killed during a storm while also traveling the Camino. Along the way President Bartlet befriends three fellow travelers, all of whom are some variation of the lost white tourist looking to inject meaning into a privileged life. The movie's sentimental as all get out, but the scenery's good and The Way is surprisingly touching in non-formulaic ways. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Twenty-first century romance on the screen is begging for redrawing of its genre lines, and newcomer Andrew Haigh might be the one to do it. Reminiscent of the films of Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Meek's Cutoff, that insufferable one about the poor chick and her dog), Weekend is a work of grace and introspection, but one that's always present and candid. The space between expectation and reality guides Haigh's narrative, which follows two young British men who, after a boozed-up one-night stand, tenuously further their intimacy. WILL "THE INTERN" ELDER Living Room Theaters.