Weekend!Movies: 'Teeth' (R), 'Untraceable' (R), 'War/Dance' (PG-13)

edited by Lee Williams

'Teeth' (R)

Actor Mitchell Lichtenstein makes a dispiriting feature filmmaking debut as writer-director of this tale of a teenage girl with a fairly unique problem, which may be a harbinger of genetic adaptation.

Just as this high-schooler (played with admirable but wasted skill by Jess Weixler) is becoming the star attraction of the abstinence league, she is suffering pangs that make her position a little untenable.

Worse yet, she discovers she has developed a second set of teeth - very sharp ones - in a location that makes abstinence not just preferable but pretty much necessary.

Trouble is, Lichtenstein has taken what might have been a crazed horror comedy in the hands of an exploitation specialist like, say, Larry Cohen ('Q: The Winged Serpent,' 'Captivity') and given it the dread Sundance indie treatment.

Smart-alecky deadpan creates a toxic pall (like the film's twin nuclear reactors) and turns this would-be empowerment fable from squirmy to smirky.

That's right - it bites.

- Pat Holmes

Fox Tower

'Untraceable' (R)

The city of Portland is the setting for yet another bad thriller, this time about the terrifying dangers of - gasp! - the Internet.

Diane Lane stars as an FBI agent who specializes in Net crime, yet can't capture a lunatic who's killing people, in real time, online.

See, he's an exceptionally clever lunatic - so clever that he's practically magical, able to connect his murder devices to the number of hits his Web site receives, and hack into Lane's laptop, car and cell phone with supernatural ease.

It's all laughably stupid, but if you're one of those people who absolutely must see any film shot in your hometown, you'll be rewarded with lots of scenes on the Broadway Bridge and at locations like Oaks Park.

Of course, you could always save your money and just drive across the actual bridge without subjecting yourself to a bad movie.

Your choice.

- Dawn Taylor

Eastport, Clackamas Town Center, Pioneer Place, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Division Street, Bridgeport

'War/Dance' (PG-13)

A hit on the film festival circuit, 'War/Dance' is engineered to pluck the heartstrings as it documents three teenagers in a Ugandan refugee camp who get the chance to compete in a prestigious music competition.

While the kids-in-a-war-zone-just-want-to-dance premise easily could sink into cloying sentimentality - and the film is, indeed, awfully slick for a documentary - when directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix train their camera on these kids, it's impossible not to be moved.

Their personal stories of violence and loss make their enthusiasm for music deeply touching, and inspirational.

While the film as a whole is a bit contrived, it succeeds both as an illustration of the dire realities of modern Africa, and as an illustration that even in the worst places on Earth, people still strive for meaning and dignity in their lives.

It's worth slogging through the maudlin, contrived moments for the exhilaration of seeing these children express themselves with joy.

- DT


Also new this week

Portland is at a particularly lucky cinematic point this year. In past years it seemed like our theaters way out west tended to receive a good share of the films nominated for Oscars months after they'd won (or lost) their awards.

This week two have hit the city the same week the nominations were announced: In addition to 'War/Dance,' there's the animated 'Persepolis.'

Meanwhile, multiple-award nominees such as 'Atonement' (up for seven awards) and 'Juno' (up for four) can be seen at bargain prices. Catch 'Atonement' at the Moreland Theatre for $4.75-$6.75 and 'Juno' at Cinemagic for $4-$6.

Also this weekend, the Reel Music Festival, the Northwest Film Center's annual monthlong blending of screen and sound continues.

'Golden Days' reveals the seedy side of the indie music business (9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25); 'Between Two Notes' profiles musicians of the Middle East (5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26); and Portland's coffeehouse-music scene back in the day gets its due in historian Valerie Brown's presentation, 'Music on the Cusp: From Folk Rock to Acid Rock in Portland Coffeehouses, 1967-1970' (2 p.m. Sunday, Jan 27), all at the Whitsell Auditorium.

'Blade Runner: The Final Version' finally makes it to a big screen with wine and beer availability. The new print starts a run at the Laurelhurst beginning Friday, Jan. 25.

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