Edited by Lee Williams
'Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem' (R)
A sequel to 2004's 'Alien vs. Predator' (a monster mash-up originated by Portland's own Dark Horse Comics back in 1989), this rematch also features a brand-new creature, a hybridized 'Predalien,' and the dreadlocked, double-mouthed beast all but steals the thunder here.
Sure the dialogue is cartoonish, and deeper themes permeating past Alien and Predator vehicles are lost in space, but what the film lacks in artistry it makes up for in action.
Scary, swiftly paced and not for the squeamish - the sequel has an R rating, versus the PG-13 given to the original - it's nonetheless a worthy addition to both monsters' respective film franchises.
And the Predalien surely is the coolest, meanest mutant monster Hollywood has ever produced - unless Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell ever decide to mate.
- Lee Williams
Eastport, Clackamas Town Center, Broadway, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport
'The Great Debaters' (PG-13)
This is an Oprah Winfrey production, which should tell you much of what you need to know about what you're in for - especially when you also know it's a real-life tale of triumph in the face of adversity.
Just take your standard issue fill-in-the-blanks inspirational sports saga and fill in the sports blank with debating instead.
Denzel Washington directs in his 'Antwone Fisher' mode and plays the teacher whose coaching takes his debate team from a small black college in Depression-era Texas to a competition with the very white champions of Harvard.
Washington dresses the clichés up handsomely - it's as ready for the Oscars as the team is for Harvard - but he can't disguise the threadbare familiarity of it all.
Of course familiarity isn't necessarily a box office drawback, and the forceful Washington on a mission from Oprah may be enough to triumph over debatable material.
- Pat Holmes
Eastport, Clackamas Town Center, Division Street, Bridgeport
'Kurt Cobain: About a Son' (NR)
Not only is there no real need for this background sketch of singer Kurt Cobain's early days, this documentary doesn't do a particularly good job with its subject.
The film takes roughly 90 minutes of audio-only interviews, culled from 25 hours of recordings made by music journalist Michael Azerrad for his book 'Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana,' with people who knew-him-when (as well as mumbly recordings of Cobain himself) played over pointless footage of places where Cobain used to live.
Director AJ Schnack ('Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns') doesn't use any of Cobain's music, whether by design or because he couldn't get permission, and the things that the interview subjects say aren't especially interesting.
Ultimately, this isn't a portrait of Cobain or even an attempt to illuminate his art and life - it's just another examination of a man whose life already has been picked over like so much carrion by culture vultures.
- Dawn Taylor
'The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep' (PG)
Think of every kids' movie - from 'E.T.' to 'Free Willy' and beyond - that's been about a child who finds some sort of animal and keeps it a secret from his or her parents, saves it from some evil entity that wants to kill it, then ultimately has to let it go free as the music swells and the audience wipes away a tear.
'The Water Horse' is that movie all over again, only this time the animal is the Loch Ness monster.
It features a cast of non-Scottish actors like Brian Cox, Ben Chaplin and David Morrissey all speaking with soft, generic pseudo-Scot accents. The scenery is lovely, the computer animation is passably good, and children who haven't already seen the 8,597 previous films with this exact same plot will probably be enchanted by it.
Eastport, Clackamas Town Center, Pioneer Place, Hilltop, Division Street, Stark Street, Bridgeport
Also new this week
'Nina's Heavenly Delights' debuted in Portland during this past fall's Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, but the quirky, culinary romance just as easily could have premiered during the Bite, Stumptown's huge food festival.
There's as much cookin' as lovin' going on in this tale of a young Scottish-Indian woman who inherits her father's restaurant, rediscovers a friend (now an aspiring Bollywood drag queen) and finds love while dashing on the curry (Living Room Theaters).