Truman Capote (again), Christian kids and an African dictator
Edited by Anne Marie DiStefano
'Jesus Camp' (PG-13)
The term 'fair and balanced' actually suits this documentary look at an evangelical summer camp in - no kidding - Devil's Lake, N.D.
The approach is straightforward enough that its central figure, children's pastor Becky Fischer, has expressed her approval of what filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady ('The Boys of Baraka') made of the unusually full access they were allowed.
Some viewers will be as inspired as others are disturbed by the intense indoctrination of the children into what is ultimately as much a political as a religious movement.
A balance of sorts occasionally is provided by radio host Mike Papantonio, a lifelong Christian who is stunned and appalled by this extremist variation on his faith. Therapists, law enforcement types and rehab operators may see in it a glimpse of future clients.
Fischer hopes it will 'have liberals quaking in their boots,' but it's just as likely to have Jesus himself shivering.
- Pat Holmes
Destined to be known as 'the other Truman Capote movie' this glossier and broader account of the writing of 'In Cold Blood' was filmed at the same time as 'Capote' but wisely held for release.
Never getting below its often sparkly surface, this all-over-the-place treatment often makes you wish it had taken the extra step into a campy 'Tru Confessions.' British actor Toby Jones' impersonation entertainingly recalls the familiar talk-show Capote persona without the complexity of Philip Seymour Hoffman's depth-charge characterization.
There's a greater emphasis on Capote's life in the New York glitterati, including troublesome talking-head inserts and an almost lurid portrayal of Capote's relationship with killer Perry Smith (a surprisingly effective Daniel Craig).
Worst of all, there are shifts of tone so frequent and jarring you can never settle into the events or experience what is meant to be the personal tragedy in Capote's professional triumph.
Interesting enough to be watchable but never affecting, this is the opening night attraction of the 10th annual Portland Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, running through Oct. 15. Visit www.plgff.org for a schedule.
'The Last King of Scotland' (R)
It's 1970, and Scottish med school graduate Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) whimsically decides to travel to Uganda to find adventure.
Find it he does - first, there's a romantic tête-à-tête with a fellow physician's wife (a leathery-tan Gillian Anderson) followed by the warm attentions of the country's new president, Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), who admires Garrigan's spunk during a fortuitous encounter.
Director Kevin Macdonald ('Touching the Void') turns his documentarian's eye to this fictional tale, with the ambitious-yet-naive Scot first seduced by Amin's charm and then terrified by the dictator's cold brutality.
Whitaker is brilliant as Amin, playing the megalomaniacal monster as a brutish, childlike creature who's capable of warm generosity between ordering atrocities. Likewise, 'Last King' is a deftly made film with genuine humanity, making the building sense of dread all the more acute.
It's unlike anything you've seen before, sometimes funny, other times horrific, and always compelling.
- Dawn Taylor
Also new this week: The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival pays tribute to the master of horror this weekend (Hollywood). In the indie horror film 'Mad Cowgirl,' a young female health inspector suspects that her brother may have given her mad cow disease (Clinton Street Theater). The series Human Rights on Film, presented by the Northwest Film Center, continues through Nov. 9 (Whitsell Auditorium).