The American Scream
That little freckled bologna-sandwich-wielding lad from the worst movie ever, Troll 2, is back to spread a little Halloween cheer. Michael Stephenson has turned documentarian since his 1990 turn as a goblin fighter, first as the chronicler of Troll 2's bighearted crimes against cinema in Best Worst Movie, and now in The American Scream, a funny and touching documentary about amateur haunted-house creators. Stephenson follows three families in a small Massachusetts town as they prepare their annual haunted attractions for the neighborhood. Running the gamut from professional-grade perfectionist Victor Bariteau, who buys previously used caskets and gets his formula for blood just right, to a slapdash goofball father-and-son team who split their time between kabitzing at each other to literally clowning around at a children's hospital. As is the case for all great and generous documentaries, The American Scream isn't so much about its subject matter as it is about great characters. Director in attendance. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
Army of Darkness
"Don't touch that, please. Your primitive intellect wouldn't understand alloys and... compositions... and things with... molecular structures." Laurelhurst Theater.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
Chicken With Plums
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Kinofest PDX: New German Cinema
A compendium of contemporary films coming out of Germany, Kinofest's grouping of disparate genres share only their country of origin (and, in some cases, Nina Hoss). For dour historical fiction, see Barbara, about a sulky young doctor exiled to East Germany in 1980, or for something more modernly dour there's the violent depiction of neo-Nazis into terrible music, terrible haircuts, terrible tattoos, and blow (one or two of whom might show signs of having a heart) in Combat Girls (the moral of the story: they're morons). For less shoot-yourself fare, there's Baikonur—the charming tale of a young man who takes the Kazakh saying of "whatever falls from heaven, you keep" to heart when a beautiful French girl wrecks her space capsule—plus a German reboot of the classically American Tom Sawyer, and more. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Kung Fu Theater
Old-school kung fu on 35 mm. This time: Iron Fingers of Death! Hollywood Theatre.
"Oh, lookie here. The great jerkoff case of 1953." Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Adulthood and maturity don't necessarily go hand in hand, a point charmingly made in the offbeat love story Liberal Arts. But don't mistake this for another story of a sad white person who can't grow up—Liberal Arts is lighthearted but thoughtful, a romantic comedy for the book-loving set. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
Little White Lies
First, take the classic middle-aged-friends-face-a-mortality-related-crisis drama The Big Chill. Add about three decades. Make it French. Subtract any sense of humor (because it's French? No time for that now), as well as anything remotely compelling about any of the characters; make them as self-involved and vapid and nearly interchangeable as possible. Add a dash of homophobia (to be completely resolved–with a hug!–at the eleventh hour). Retain, oddly, a soundtrack with songs from the same era as The Big Chill's (which were oldies even then): Use the Isley Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Band. Make the much-younger, hot girlfriend character (Meg Tilly) a guy (some hot French guy), just for the hell of it. Make it TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG. Et voilá: Little White Lies. It'll make you want to slit your wrists. BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT Living Room Theaters.
Looper is "just" an action movie the same way Brick was "just" a noir, or The Brothers Bloom was "just" a heist flick: All three were written and directed by Rian Johnson, and with each, Johnson appropriates the skeleton of a genre, then fleshes it out in astonishingly clever ways. All you need to know to enjoy Looper is that actions have consequences—and Looper is an action movie. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
It's the end of World War II, and ex-sailor Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a goddamn drunk. He's also vengeful, hypersexual, and perhaps (or perhaps not) an involuntary murderer. Something needs to give, and so enters Lancaster Dodd (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), the "master" of a startup religion/self-help cult called "The Cause" (played by Scientology). For Dodd, Quell is the perfect patient/guinea pig; an "animal" who, once his "ancient trauma" is revealed though tests, study, and psychological torture, will hopefully graduate to a higher order of human... the human we were created to be. One is tempted to gleefully approach The Master as the cinematic counterpart to a juicy Vanity Fair hit piece—but upon viewing, one quickly realizes that Paul Thomas Anderson is reaching for much more. Rather than heaping scorn on a pseudo-faith, Anderson's film is a gorgeously filmed rumination on human need: the need to be self-aware, the need to be accepted, the need to be loved. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Petits Poèmes Fleuris:
Films of Rose Lowder
Films from French artist Rose Lowder, "focusing on the colors, lines, and textures of the natural environment." Director in attendance; more info at cinemaproject.org. YU Contemporary.
See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater.
"Twelve cabins. Twelve vacancies." 35mm! Academy Theater.
A monthly series at the Hollywood Theatre, "showing vintage and contemporary films that are obscure, neglected, and from the fringe." This month: Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Voices in Action:
Human Rights on Film
The Northwest Film Center's human rights-centric series. This week's selections: 5 Broken Cameras and Raising Resistance. More info: nwfilm.org. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.