Romantic yearnings, swords of vengeance, a man of steel
'Russian Dolls' (R)
The title refers not to some new pop group, but to the real Russian dolls-within-dolls (within dolls, within dolls …) that serve as a metaphor in this French comic drama about the search for the unattainable. Writer-director Cédric Klapisch spins off breezily from his 'L'Auberge Espagnole' of four years ago, concentrating again on Xavier (Romain Duris, who played Xavier as a student in the previous film), now a freelance writer whose true art is narcissism.
As he drifts through a series of romantic misadventures - nestling with a series of dolls - and ponders their meaning, he recalls the oddly charming self-absorption of François Truffaut's recurring character Antoine Doinel (Duris even slightly resembles the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud).
The observant Klapisch keeps it buoyant enough to sustain an unlikely 129 minutes, and concludes with a hint of melancholy that his hero probably couldn't achieve literally.
- Pat Holmes
Sons of Samurai
Here's a summer blockbuster schedule to lift the spirits of Tinseltrodden film buffs. For the next seven weeks the Northwest Film Center presents a series of samurai epics, mingling classics with lesser-known titles.
The series unsheathes with one of the former, 'Samurai Rebellion' (7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 30 and July 1), a grimly fatalistic tale starring the titanic Toshiro Mifune. It's followed by one of the latter, 'Kill!' (7 p.m. Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday, July 6 and July 7), based on the same novel as Akira Kurosawa's 'Sanjuro' but resembling it less in plot and more in the jauntily sardonic tone and the starring presence of Tatsuya Nakadai (whose character was killed by Mifune's in 'Sanjuro'). It's also a delight for fans of expressive screaming and grunting.
Later on come two absolute musts, 'Harakiri' (7 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, July 13 and July 16) and 'The Sword of Doom' (7 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, Aug. 3 and Aug. 6), with Nakadai and Mifune, and possessed of one of the most hair-raising climaxes in any film - samurai or otherwise.
One look at Mifune and Nakadai in action and Superman would soil his tights, Wolverine would whimper like a kicked puppy and Cap'n Jack Sparrow would lay an egg. And to help sharpen the edge, we are promised new 35 mm prints.
For the full lineup, get a Northwest Film Center schedule or go to www.nwfilm.org.
'Superman Returns' (PG-13)
There will be people who hate this movie, and others who'll just find it so-so, because Bryan Singer's film about the Big Blue Boy Scout isn't about big set pieces, explosions and fancy special effects.
There are, indeed, big set pieces, and they're beautifully done. There are explosions, too, and the special effects are first-rate. But this is an intelligent superhero film, not a slam-bang, loud, stupid popcorn-muncher.
Early in the film, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) asks his moll, Kitty (Parker Posey), 'You know who Prometheus was? Of course you don't …' and gives her a capsule summary of the myth. In saving downtown Metropolis from The Daily Planet's gigantic, falling globe, Superman becomes Atlas - later, falling from the sky, arms outstretched, after heaving a Kryptonite-laced island of crystals into the heavens, he's Christ by way of famed comics artist Alex Ross.
It's a sad, moving, sometimes funny, often thrilling adventure, and it's not a dumb summer flick. What it is is brilliant. And you should see it on the big screen.
- Dawn Taylor
Cinetopia, Century Eastport, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Evergreen Parkway, Movies on TV, Division Street, Stark Street, OMSI Omnimax Theater
Also new this week: The documentary 'The Future of Pinball' becomes a full-tilt celebration of the ultimate arcade game (Clinton Street). The film recounts the efforts of the Williams Electronic Games company to revive demand for pinball in the late 1990s. Filmmaker Greg Maletic will be in attendance for questions both Friday, June 30, and Saturday, July 1. Before and after the film screenings, you can play on classic pinball machines or enter a weekendlong pinball tournament (sign up Friday night or Saturday morning, call 503-238-8899 for details).
Cheer for Indiana Jones on the 25th anniversary of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (Hollywood) or, if you're feeling more churlish, growl along with Clint Eastwood in 'Dirty Harry' (Laurelhurst).