Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are convincingly badass as a couple of hired guns who come to the aid of a small town in New Mexico territory that's threatened by a corrupt, murderous rancher. Jeremy Irons oozes menace as the bad guy, and the hatchet-faced Renée Zellweger isn't completely awful as the default love interest, the only woman in this tiny shit-town who isn't a whore. (...Or is she?) Adapted from one of Robert B. Parker's eleventy-thousand novels, Appaloosa contains enough guns, horses, and billowing clouds of dust to populate every western for the next 10 years. You've seen this movie before, but it's a really good one. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
The Astonished Man
"After a botched robbery attempt, a psychologically unstable participant looks for answers" in this independent drama. Not screened for critics. Clinton Street Theater.
In 1995's Toy Story, Tim Allen voiced Buzz Lightyear, an astronaut action figure who thought he was an actual astronaut; in 2008's Bolt, John Travolta voices Bolt, a dog who plays a superpowered canine on a TV show and actually thinks he's a superpowered canine. When Bolt abruptly finds himself in the real world–sans super bark and heat vision—he sets off on a road trip to find his owner, cantankerous alley cat and a dumbass hamster in tow. Sure, Bolt lifts a fair amount from Toy Story (Pixar's John Lasseter is credited as an executive producer), as well as Homeward Bound, but it's still cute and likeable and funny and light enough to be fun. Oh, and plus! You get to see Bolt as a puppy! And not to sound like a five-year-old girl or anything, but he is sooooo cute! I wish I had a dog. I also wish that my dog would have superpowers! But that is neither here nor there, I suppose. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
When his Nazi father is re-stationed to a post in the German countryside, eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) finds it difficult to adjust. There aren't any other kids to play with, and there's this weird "farm" nearby where everyone looks pale and wears striped pajamas. (Since the movie is set during World War II, I don't think I need to say "spoiler alert" to inform you that it's not really a "farm" and the pale people inside aren't really wearing "pajamas.") Bruno's parents forbid the kid to play anywhere off the property, but plucky little Bruno finds his way to the "farm" anyway—where, through electrified barbed wire, he makes friends with another little boy his age. I don't want to give too much away, but seriously: It's a story about a Nazi boy befriending a boy in a concentration camp. Let's put it this way: If The Diary of Anne Frank left you hungry for more, this is the movie for you. NED LANNAMANN Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Fox Tower 10.
Changeling is a true story. Not "based on a true story," but a true one—a claim that writer J. Michael Straczynski reportedly had to work closely with the studio's legal team to make, citing and authenticating every scene in this lengthy, Clint Eastwood-directed, Depression-era period piece. And while the true story is, in fact, remarkable, the other side of the coin is that Changeling's faithfulness causes most of its flaws: It drags at points, and its austere and formal tone sucks much of the blood out of the drama. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Living Room Theaters.
Classic Concerts: Neil Young
See listing. Clinton Street Theater.
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
In 2001, Andrew Babgy was murdered in a parking lot, and his childhood friend, Kurt Kuenne, decided to make a documentary about Bagby's life. When it was revealed that Bagby was murdered by his ex-girlfriend—and that the ex-girlfriend was pregnant with Bagby's child—Kuenne's film became a love letter to the baby about Bagby's father. Soon things got weirder and sadder and more terrible, and the excellently made (but totally depressing) Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father eventually becomes something very different than simply a portrait of a beloved man. LOGAN SACHON Hollywood Theatre.
1980's grindhouse zombie horror flick. Mission Theater.
A heartwarming family comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn?! Middle America's Christmas wishes just came gloriously, fantastically true! See next week's Mercury for our review. Century Clackamas Town Center, Evergreen Parkway 13, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sherwood 10.
The heavy-handed first three-quarters of Fuel mirror other recent enviro-docs like An Inconvenient Truth—outlining director Joshua Tickell's crusade to save the planet, Fuel tells us that we have to find another way to fuel our lives. (Yeah, no duh.) Tickell's answer is biodiesel. But wait: Isn't biodiesel the stuff that's pushing out food crops on the world's finite arable land, and driving up food prices? This cannot possibly be the answer. But then Tickell redeems himself: The last quarter of the film is astounding, explaining how biodiesel from algae and from trees that can be grown in the crappiest of soils might really be the answer. Put aside your green Portlander know-it-all attitude (ahem), do yourself a favor, and go check it out. AMY J. RUIZ Fox Tower 10.
City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
The Disney Channel tween cash-cow hits the big screen. Anticipation for the film is running high among High School Musical fans like "scooterboy07," who posted on IMDB.com that "this movie is AWESOmE!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE THEM ALL!!!!" Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Jingle All the Way
"I'm not a pervert! I was just looking for a Turbo Man doll!" Thanks for that, Arnold. Bagdad Theater.
Let the Right One In
This much ballyhooed Scandinavian film is neither scary, teen angsty, nor spooky enough—but it is lovely, filled with austere, blue-hued snow and groves of haunting birch trees in the midst of Stockholm. And while Let the Right One In is by no means a poor entry in the vampire genre, it left me nearly as cold as the frozen landscapes, meting out little satisfaction on both a horror level and on a character level. To be fair, the film doesn't pretend to scare you—it truly wants to succeed in an elegant, understated way, though it doesn't completely reach its goal. COURTNEY FERGUSON Cinema 21.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Apparently, there was a first Madagascar, this is the sequel 2 it. Take the kids B4 it is 2 L8 and... aw, fuck it. Various Theaters.
Three female private investigators find that "investigations into the secrets of others ultimately reveal hidden truths" about their own lives. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Contemporary Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A "moody, bewildering drama about identity." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Contemporary Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
On the Waterfront
"You wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you." Pix Patisserie (North).
"Twelve cabins. Twelve vacancies." Broadway Metroplex.
Quantum of Solace
The latest James Bond film makes about as much sense as its baffling title, but even as plotlines unravel and stack up like corpses, the movie is entirely awesome. Better than Casino Royale? Well, no. Quantum's story is incredibly confusing, the action scenes are shot so close that it's difficult to tell what's happening, and the beady-eyed supervillain (Mathieu Amalric) looks like a shorter Roman Polanski and is about as intimidating as a gerbil. Still, the level of sheer spectacle is tremendous. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Rachel Getting Married
Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is indeed getting married, but it's her sister, Kym (Anne Hathaway)—an ex-model, lifelong drug addict, and alcoholic who's been in and out of institutions since causing a family tragedy as a young teenager—who demands to be the center of attention. Jonathan Demme's latest is a difficult, sometimes tiresome film, but it's also emotionally ambitious, and it offers a modern portrait of family life that depends very little on convention. MARJORIE SKINNER Century Eastport 16, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Role Models is not a terrible movie. If you want to have two hours of your life gone—not necessarily wasted, but not necessarily cherished, either—then this is a fine way to spend them. Good comedies are about the experience in the theater, for sure, but they're also the experience after—the number of jokes that stay with you, that you want to repeat, that you smile just thinking of. I laughed a bit during Role Models, and as soon as it was over, I shrugged. LOGAN SACHON Various Theaters.
The Secret Life of Bees
Set in a generically sepia-toned 1964, The Secret Life of Bees uses the Civil Rights Act, the violent racism of the South, and the bravery of African Americans who sought to exercise their right to vote as hastily draped window dressing for the film's main concern: a little white girl with mommy issues. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Seven Billiard Tables
Angela's father dies, and then she finds out her husband has been embezzling money, and has a mistress, and another child—so, of course, she returns to her hometown with her son to revive her father's failed billiard hall with his girlfriend and get back together the old billiard team and pay down his debts and change her life! Seven Billiard Tables is another in a long line of soap opera dramas to cross the Atlantic and grace our subtitled screens, but at least in this one, the beautiful Maribel Verdú (Y Tu Mamá También, Pan's Labyrinth) stars, so it's worth sitting through to stare at her and be reminded of the better movies that she's in. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Contemporary Spanish Cinema series. LOGAN SACHON Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Short Films of the Quay Brothers
Shorts from surrealist stop-motion animators the Quay Brothers. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
A free screening of short films from Sean Parker, Austin Hillebrecht, and Rowan Floyd. Hollywood Theater.
Supertrash: Body Heat
Lawrence Kasdan's sordid 1981 drama, preceded by stand-up comedy, retro trailers, animation, and vintage rock performances. Bagdad Theater.
Synecdoche, New York
The best of writer Charlie Kaufman's previous films (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) were helmed by Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry—both of whom succeed in translating Kaufman's cerebral scripts into films that, while intellectual exercises of a sort, were nonetheless engaging, funny, and affecting. But with Synecdoche, New York, Kaufman directs, and disappointing as it is to admit this, the product is a chore—a dour collection of inexpertly packaged ideas that simply doesn't inspire the intellectual curiosity necessary to understand it. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Thanksgiving Kung Fu Marathon
The Clinton's Thanksgiving tradition returns, with a whole bunch of kung fu flicks to remind you what's really worth being thankful for. Five bucks gets you in and out all night, from 7pm to midnight. Clinton Street Theater
"Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz a tower." Laurelhurst Theater.
Jason Statham is back! Driving! Killing people! See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters.
A 16-year-old from a gay-friendly San Francisco home is sent to a conservative suburb in SoCal. Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Various Theaters.
Under the Stars
Under the Stars follows Benito, a charismatic waiter and trumpet player in Madrid, as he returns to his hometown for his father's funeral. There is no hilarity in this comic drama, but there are small smiles and laughs amid the usual drama that happens when characters in movies return to their hometowns: Benito reconnects with his alcoholic brother, Lalo; squabbles with Lalo's fiancée (who is also his own ex-lover); and befriends that woman's little girl, a sentence that sounds wrong but plays out right. Benito is played by Alberto San Juan, who is now in a dead heat with Javier Bardem for my favorite sexy Spanish actor. Characters you care about, solid laughs, sexy men, cute kids, and a warm fuzzy feeling make for a lovely movie. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Contemporary Spanish Cinema series; director Félix Viscarret in attendance. LOGAN SACHON Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The World Unseen
A white woman in South Africa in the 1950s begins to have... urges for a black woman. Awkward! Living Room Theaters.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
In Kevin Smith's latest, the perpetually broke Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are roommates and lifelong best friends, with zero romantic tension. ("You don't fuck someone you met in the first grade," Zack wisely notes when he's asked why he and Miri have never hooked up.) After their water and power get shut off, Zack devises a plan to get their lives on track: Make a porno. "Porn has gone mainstream now!" he insists. "Like Coke or Pepsi. With dicks in it." So with a handheld camcorder, and some eager co-stars (Jason Mewes and Katie Morgan), Zack and Miri decide to have sex with each other on camera—taking careful steps to make sure things don't get weird between them. Things get weird. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.