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Weekend!Movies: A mutant, a nerd and a long-lost sister
by: © Picturehouse, "Starter for 10"

Edited by Anne Marie DiStefano

'The Host' (R)

There's something a bit dubious about the label 'instant classic,' but a movie like this demands such enthusiastic terms.

South Korean director Joon-ho Bong takes today's most miserably debased genres - horror and comedy - and fuses them into a spookily funny, riotously scary stunner.

It's also a sly political satire and a loopy dysfunctional family saga that actually offers unexpected poignancy.

When a toxic waste flush at a U.S. military base spawns a huge mutant tadpole that terrorizes Seoul, a severely estranged family must pull together to save its youngest member.

It's like an even weirder version of Larry Cohen's ingenious 1982 creature feature 'Q: The Winged Serpent' (beloved by the few who know it), and probably the best monster movie since 'Aliens.' And never underestimate the thrill of a great monster movie.

Filled with genuine suspense, 'The Host' also is a freaky mood piece that can frost your laughter with dread or shiver your spine with giggles. Just make room in your lap for a dropped jaw.

Back in 1959, director William Castle wired theater seats with vibrating gizmos for 'The Tingler.' Here, Bong has wired the movie instead. Feel the buzz.

- Pat Holmes

Fox Tower

'Starter for Ten' (PG-13)

In 1985, a working-class British lad (James McAvoy) begins his university career by working on his social and trivia skills in hopes of making it big, both romantically and on a 'Jeopardy'-like TV quiz show.

But his inability to realize that the witty brunette campus activist (Rebecca Hall) is really the girl for him, rather than the gorgeous blond princess (Alice Eve) he desires, will result in much comic anxiety before the requisite life lessons are learned.

Before said lessons begin ticking off with the snooze-inducing regularity of a metronome, the first half of the film has a chipper if familiar charm.

McAvoy (from 'The Last King of Scotland') is affably Tom Hanks-ian - Hanks is a producer here - but the fetching Hall owns every scene she's in.

Perhaps the early springiness and an excessively peppy soundtrack of '80s Brit pop will bounce you past the clunky predictability of the final stages.

- PH

Cinema 21

'Where's Molly?' (NR)

The closing of Salem's Fairview Hospital in 2000 opened up a number of unpleasant cans of worms - in particular, information about the thousands of children and adults who'd been warehoused there for decades after being diagnosed with disabilities.

Many patients grew up in Fairview without knowing that they had any other family. Filmmaker Jim Daly's search for his younger sister, Molly - whisked away with no explanation in 1957 - led to this superb documentary that chronicles not just his discovery of his long-lost sibling, but the appalling way that society has traditionally treated citizens with even mild disabilities.

Archival footage of Fairview (opened in 1908 as the State Institution for the Feeble-Minded) and interviews are interspersed with Daly's recollections of how his search led to finding Molly in a Hillsboro care home. Their reunion is tender, and Daly's film is both heart-wrenching and educational.

- Dawn Taylor

Living Room

Also new this week:

Two Israeli women have little in common as they begin a job patrolling the streets of Jerusalem in 'Close to Home' (Hollywood). Dennis Nyback's 16 mm cartoon retrospective continues at Disjecta (7:30 p.m. nightly through March 14, 230 E. Burnside St., $6), with a grand finale of Oregon animators in 35 mm at the Hollywood (7:15 p.m. Thursday, March 15, $6, see www.oregoncartooninstitute.com for information). And the apocalypse is upon us with George Romero's 'The Crazies' (9:30 p.m. tonight only, Clinton Street Theater), Charlton Heston in 'The Omega Man' (Laurelhurst) and Klaatu the robot in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' (Academy).