New and Notable
Theater addresses follow the reviews.
'Alvin and the Chipmunks' (PG)
Computer animation and live action combine for this newest movie concerning those high-pitched singing squirrels from the 1960s cartoon series. Jason Lee (from television's 'My Name Is Earl') plays the human friend of the rodent trio.
Eastport, Lloyd Mall, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport
'American Gangster' (R)
Though this tale of a real-life Harlem drug kingpin stands fairly tall among its contemporaries, it can't quite emerge from the shadow of the films it recalls and sometimes references directly.
'American Gangster' always is solid and engrossing without ever establishing its own iconic identity, lacking the classic grandeur of 'The Godfather,' the propulsive ferocity of 'The French Connection,' or even the wacked-out rabidity of 'Scarface.'
Lloyd Mall, Academy
This adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Ian McEwan is all spiffed up for Oscar night.
Although director Joe Wright (2005's 'Pride and Prejudice') dresses it up nicely, he never really lets it breathe. It's attractive, polite, respectable and almost too poised to live, like 'Masterpiece Theatre' with more theater than masterpiece.
Cinetopia, Fox Tower, Bridgeport
'Bee Movie' (PG)
It'll take a while for 'Bee Movie' to win you over. But once the plot kicks in - a young bee named Barry (Jerry Seinfeld) sues humanity when he discovers that we enslave bees and steal their honey - 'Bee Movie' becomes seriously weird. And gets much, much funnier.
Bagdad, Kennedy School, Mission, Laurelhurst, Academy, Valley
'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' (R)
Two brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) in financial straits decide to rob their parents' jewelry store, with catastrophic results. Director Sidney Lumet shakes off the years and shakes things up with the perfect family film for the holidays. The kind of family the Greeks used to write about.
There's a story about a hero and monsters here somewhere, but it's secondary to the unrelentingly in-your-face 3-D effects. Basically, 'Beowulf' is just like the connecting scenes between levels in video games, only a lot longer and a lot more boring. And you can't hit the space bar to make it go away. It plays at some theaters in digital 3-D.
Lloyd Mall, Bridgeport
'The Big Lebowski' (R)
The 1998 comedy cult hit from the Coen brothers returns for a holiday revisit. The Clinton Street Theater, where the film shows, will be serving up White Russians for the occasion.
Clinton Street Theater
'Charlie Wilson's War' (R)
The story of a Texas congressman (played by Tom Hanks) who launches a covert operation in Afghanistan after Russia invades is handled, oddly, as a comedy by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and dirctor Mike Nichols.
Cinetopia, Eastport, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport
'Chuck Close' (NR)
Marion Cajori's documentary examines the painstaking artistic process of the Northwest painter. A terrific primer for the Portland Art Museum's current exhibition of Close.
4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 22-23, and Sunday, Dec. 30, Whitsell Auditorium
'Dan in Real Life' (PG-13)
Ads for this film feature Steve Carell's head pillowed on a stack of syrupy pancakes, and the syrup flows freely as widower Carell takes his daughters to a big family get-together and promptly falls in love with the new girlfriend (Juliette Binoche) of his brother (Dane Cook).
It's cheaper to just stay at home and guzzle syrup, without the benefit of pancakes.
Bagdad, Kennedy School, Mission, St. Johns Dome, Laurelhurst, Academy, Valley
'The Darjeeling Limited' (R)
Writer-director Wes Anderson unleashes another überhip comedy-drama centering on eccentric family members.
Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody are brothers on a train passing through India. If you prefer ironic nodding to boisterous laughing, dive in.
Disney pulls out all the stops for this star-studded holiday blockbuster. When a fairy princess is thrust into modern-day New York City, the world of fantasy (and animation) collides with the realities of everyday living.
Of course, romance pops in there somewhere, and the poor princess's heart is pulled by two heartthrobs: Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden. Julie Andrews narrates. Oh, and Susan Sarandon plays the evil Queen Narissa.
Eastport, Broadway, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport
* 'For the Bible Tells Me So' (NR)
The question of what the Bible says versus what it reads, as the Rev. Dr. Laurence C. Keene sums it up, is a natural one in the context of director Daniel Karslake's film, which tells the stories of several different sets of religious parents of gay children.
What's so strange is that a film with the basic message of 'love thy neighbor' should be considered controversial and inflammatory - perhaps even an abomination - by people who consider themselves Christians.
'The Golden Compass' (PG-13)
In a perfect world, Hollywood muckety-mucks would realize that some books are just too big to make into a 113-minute movie.
This is the only real problem with this adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy kid-lit classic - but it's a huge problem, resulting in a film that gallops along so fast that it may make your head spin.
As complicated as it is, most kids probably will enjoy the fast pace, happily glossing over the plot details and enjoying the armored bears.
Cineopia, Eastport, Lloyd Center, Lloyd Mall, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport
'I Am Legend' (PG-13)
Director Francis Lawrence's 'I Am Legend' is the third official adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 sci-fi/horror novel, previously filmed in 1964 as 'The Last Man on Earth' and in '71 as 'The Omega Man.'
Lawrence, of the wacky 2005 comic-book adaptation 'Constantine,' simply animates the remains of other digitally plagued blockbusters to suck the dark mythic life out of Matheson's enduring tale.
Go out during the day and get the book to read at night.
Cinetopia, Eastport, Broadway, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport
* 'I'm Not There' (R)
Portland-based director Todd Haynes' film is a magical, fictional kinda-sorta biography in which a number of different characters represent the various facets of Bob Dylan.
It isn't an easy film to digest, but it's an extraordinary experiment that may confound as much as it entertains. If you love movies, or you love Bob Dylan - or, hopefully, both - it's not to be missed.
'Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains' (PG)
Director Jonathan Demme takes an admiring look at the former president and full-time humanitarian as Carter tours the country in late 2006 on behalf of his controversial book 'Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.'
But it also would appear that the man is as tireless in pursuing his beliefs as he is complex in revealing them.
'King of California' (PG-13)
Michael Douglas has been earning raves for his turn as Charlie, a former jazz musician just out of a two-year stint in a mental institution in this comedy-drama.
Evan Rachel Wood plays Charlie's teenage daughter who is tempted to follow Pop on his quest to find what he thinks is buried treasure.
* 'Lars and the Real Girl' (PG-13)
Coming out of the gate as a quirky, dark comedy with a bizarre premise, director Craig Gillespie's feature about a man who is in a relationship with a love doll seamlessly transforms into a touching examination of depression, family and grief. It's unexpected, and utterly unique.
Laurelhurst, Academy, Valley
'Memories of Tomorrow' (NR)
Yukihiko Tsutsumi's compelling family drama centers on an advertising executive who discovers he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Ken Watanabe (who was nominated for an American Oscar for 'The Last Samurai') won Japan's equivalent to Best Actor 'Oscar' for his work in this film.
* 'Michael Clayton' (R)
Viewing 'Michael Clayton,' it's difficult not to mourn the current state of the thriller genre and experience a frisson of excitement at watching a film that recalls some of the great, grown-up action pictures like 'Three Days of the Condor' and 'All the President's Men.'
This is an intelligent, visually stunning picture that's one of the best of the year.
'The Mist' (R)
The tale of a group of shoppers trapped in a grocery store when a strange mist envelops a small Maine community starts out as a modestly effective creeper with a pleasing cheese factor (who doesn't love a nice menacing tentacle or two?).
But when director Frank Darabont takes an apocalyptic turn the movie is wrenched out of shape. And the brutally ironic finale seals its doom, as the B movie is lost in a fog of misguided ambition.
'My Kid Could Paint That' (PG-13)
Can a 4-year-old truly have the aesthetic sense to create great art works, comparable to Picasso? Director Amir Bar-Lev's documentary dives into the art world's current obsession with one paintbrush-toting toddler who is earning thousands for her masterpieces.
'National Treasure: Book of Secrets' (PG)
Nicolas Cage dons the treasure hunter hat and again for the sequel to the 2004 flick, which delves 'Da Vinci Code'-like into mysteries of American history.
Cinetopia, Eastport, Lloyd Center, Lloyd Mall, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport, Roseway, St. Johns Theater
* 'No Country for Old Men' (R)
The Coen brothers, adapting Cormac McCarthy's novel, bring a biblical severity to bear on a tale that already combines Western and noir elements with a mesmerizingly controlled ferocity.
This is no movie for those who prefer to zone out and watch the robots. Its precision isn't measured in pixels, but in scenes drawn so tight your breath just has to wait.
Eastport, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Division Street, Bridgeport, St. Johns Cinema, Moreland
'The Perfect Holiday' (PG)
Actor and screenwriter Charles Q. Murphy plays a Macy's-like Santa who turns into matchmaker.
Lloyd Mall, Division Street
'P.S. I Love You' (PG-13)
Did you love 'Message in a Bottle,' 'A Walk to Remember,' and 'The Notebook'? Then you'll likely cringe - not weep - during each frame of this sappy rip-off of romance-master Nicholas Sparks' novels-to-movies.
Hilary Swank sheds her previous, muscular personas, playing a grieving widow who discovers letters her husband (Gerard Butler) wrote to her before he died. Sequel idea: long-lost Post-its reminding her to clean the cat box.
Eastport, Broadway, Lloyd Mall, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport
'The Rape of Europa' (NR)
While the recent film 'Who the (Bleep) Is Jackson Pollock?' took the art world to task for its highbrow sensitivities and highly subjective art analysis, this documentary celebrates the deeds of a number of heroic curators and art historians who rescued and tracked down great works stolen during and after World War II by the Nazis. Joan Allen ('The Bourne Ultimatum') narrates.
'The Red Balloon/White Mane' (NR)
Remember the short but sweet tale of the little boy and his love for a red balloon that always keeps flying just out of reach? French director Albert Lamorisse's tiny, timeless masterpiece, 'The Red Balloon' (from 1956), has been restored and is being rereleased along with his earlier short, 'White Mane' (about a boy and a white stallion). For this reissue, children in attendance receive a free balloon.
'This Christmas' (PG-13)
The Whitfield family hasn't gathered for Christmas for four years and, thankfully, there are more laughs than family fights in this comedy featuring Loretta Devine and hip-hop prince Chris Brown.
'West Side Story' (NR)
Before 'Chicago,' 'Hairspray,' and 'High School Musical,' the Sharks challenged the Jets to bring it on in this 1961 adaptation of the Broadway musical.
MOVIE THEATER GUIDE
7818 S.E. Stark St.
3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
503-249-7474, ext. 1
7329 S.W. Bridgeport Road
1-800-326-3264, ext. 1728
1000 S.W. Broadway
1-800-326-3264, ext. 321
616 N.W. 21st Ave.
2021 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
4040 S.E. 82nd Ave.
11700 S.E. Seventh St.
Clinton Street Theater
2522 S.E. Clinton St.
16603 S.E. Division St.
1-800-326-3264, ext. 323
846 S.W. Park Ave.
1-800-326-3264, ext. 327
325 Beavercreek Road
1-800-326-3264, ext. 319
4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
2735 E. Burnside St.
Living Room Theaters
341 S.W. 10th Ave.
1510 N.E. Multnomah St.
1-800-326-3264, ext. 325
320 Lloyd Center Mall
1-800-326-3264, ext. 326
McMenamins Kennedy School
5736 N.E. 33rd Ave.
503-249-7474, ext. 4
1624 N.W. Glisan St.
503-249-7474, ext. 5
6712 S.E. Milwaukie Ave.
OMSI Omnimax Dome Theater
1945 S.E. Water Ave.
340 S.W. Morrison St.
1-800-326-3264, ext. 683
7229 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
St. Johns Cinema and Pub
8704 N. Lombard St.
St. Johns Dome
8203 N. Ivanhoe St.
503-249-7474, ext. 6
2929 N.E. Kane Drive
1-800-326-3264, ext. 314
9360 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway
Portland Art Museum
1219 S.W. Park Ave.