Avatar in 3D at Roseway Theater Reviewed

AvatarI want to love Avatar, I really do. Almost everything that Director James Cameron has touted about the film over the past few years is absolutely true. The film absolutely breaks new ground visually with the best use of 3D I’ve seen in a narrative film (the best use of 3D overall I still think is U23D). Visually it is simply stunning. The world of Avatar is one of visual delights which rivals almost any film I’ve seen. The character animation is as close to human as I’ve ever seen. No films have had CGI characters and creatures which feel so alive. For the most part, Avatar is wonderfully acted. Sam Worthington is superb as Jake Sully, crippled Marine set free through the use of an avatar. Zoe Slanda is also fantastic in the lead female role, Neytiri, a Na’vi trying to protect her homeland from the invading humans. Even CCH Pounder puts in a stand out performance in a supporting role.

Unfortunately Avatar isn’t everything that it could be, or even should be. Side by side strong performances are some ridiculously bad ones. Giovanni Ribisi is laughably bad as a corporate boss focused on acquiring “unobtainium” from the land beneath the Na’vi. Stephen Lang is straight out from a bad Steven Segal or Jean Claude Van Damm movie as a Marine who will hit his objective at all costs. Also, I’m sad to report the actual Avatar script is extraordinarily predictable and uneven. Plot turns are so ridiculously linear and easily anticipated that there rarely is any sense of surprise in the story. Some of the dialogue is also extremely bad, laughably so (expect them to become rampantly overused as Twitter updates and Facebook statuses for months to come).

But with all its faults, Avatar isn’t a bad movie. Aside from the pure visual spectacle, there are some genuinely magical moments. In it’s 2 1/2 hour running time there are definite sections which pull you in and help make you forget the films many faults. And yet, Avatar fails at becoming a great film. James Cameron clearly has all the tools to create legendary cinema, and yet he fails here, relying on a bad script and some poor actors who knock his film out of contention for being truly great.

This of course leaves us with the essential question: should you go see Avatar? Even given all its faults and imperfections I’m recommending that, yes, you go see this film. Avatar is worth the price of admission for the visual spectacle alone, and it does deliver an extraordinary experience. But I’d strongly advise going into it with the understanding that it is a very imperfect film, that it has some really significant faults, and to be truly enjoyed those faults need to be ignored or forgiven.

Avatar is an exciting piece of cinema, its technological achievement will surely have a major impact on films that follow it. It also is the ‘killer app’ for 3D movies and is probably the film which will be credited with keeping 3D around and not letting pass as a fad. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been a great film.

If you’re going to see Avatar in Portland, I HIGHLY recommend you see it in 3D at The Roseway Theater. The Roseway is the best movie theater experience in Portland with the best digital projection and sound and it would be an absolute shame to see this movie any other way. The Roseway Theater is Located at 7229 SE Sandy Blvd. Avatar has a midnight showing on Friday December 18th and then runs 12:00 3:30 7:00 10:30.  You can also follow the Roseway on twitter at @rosewaytheater for updated showtimes and more.


Matt McCormick’s Some Days Are Better Than Others

Some Days Are Better Than OthersLocal Portland Filmmaker Matt McCormick is extremely well known locally for his PDX Film Fest (Portland Documentary & eXperimental Film Festival) as well as his award winning work with short and experimental films.  Matt McCormick is about to stop being one of Portland’s best kept film secrets and is about to get some serious national attention for his first feature film Some Days Are Better Than Others. Backed by some serious powerhouse producers including Neil Kopp (Old Joy, Paranoid Park and Wendy and Lucy) and David Cress (Paranoid Park & Video Work w/ Thom York and Red Hot Chili Peppers).

McCormick has just launched the trailer for Some Days Are Better Than Others and it looks fantastic!  Consequently the trailer launched the same day that Sundance started taking ticket reservations for their 2010, and we expect Some Days to make its way their or to SXSW!

Watch the trailer for Some Days Are Better Than Others:

Here’s the info on Some Days Are Better Than Others:

Shot primarily in Portland and the surrounding areas, Some Days are Better than Others is a poetic, character-driven independent feature film starring James Mercer, Carrie Brownstein, Renee Roman Nose, and David Wodehouse. A charmingly melancholy look at abandonment, Some Days are Better Than Others asks the question, “Why do the good times slip by so fast while the sad times seem so sticky?” The film thematically explores heartbreak, abandonment, and alternative forms of communication while observing an interweaving web of awkward characters who seem to get kicked down by life time and time again. Above all else, Some Days are Better Than Others is a quirky black comedy about the disposable relics of our always-consuming society. It’s a film about growing up, growing old, and holding on to hope while looking for second chances.

For more information:


Ink comes to the Hollywood Theater July 24 with Whiffies After Party

INK at The Hollywood TheaterThe market for independent films has nearly collapsed over the past two years.  Big film fests like Sundance and Toronto haven’t yielded nearly the buzz or box office power as years past and big studios have shuttered many of their independent film arms. With the market changing so dramatically, many filmmakers are now pushing forward with their films instead of waiting and hoping for a studio to pick up their film for distribution.

Jamin and Kiowa Winans of Double Edge Films aren’t letting the rough indie market slow them down. These two Denver based filmmakers have taken to the road with their film INK building momentum for the film city by city. On Friday July 24th they bring INK to Portland for a one week run at the Hollywood Theater.

According to their press release INK is:

INK is a multi-layered allegorical tale of good, evil and the search for redemption packaged in highly unique visuals and a haunting score. Ain’t it Cool News has declared INK the new “it” movie and compares it to Donnie Darko, The Matrix, Dark City and Brazil.

Here’s the trailer:

While I haven’t seen the film yet (I plan on attending the premiere on Friday), I am quite impress with the look and style of the film in the preview and am eager to see the film.

Huge fans of Portland, the Winans wanted to do something unique for their film here so they’re doing an after party ‘tweetup’ at the Whiffies fried pie cart at SE 12th and Hawthorne following the film on Friday. Whiffies is commemorating this with a special deal where you get  2 whiffies fried pies for $5 when you show your INK ticket Stub.

Ink opens at the Hollywood Theater Friday July 24th at 7pm (with Q&A After) and then plays Saturday at 5:00pm & 9:10pm Sunday at 2:45pm & 7:00pm (with more showings through the following week).

You can purchase tickets online for INK (which is recommended for opening night as the film has sold out in many cities including when it played New York).

For more information on Ink:

Family Movies Music

Girls Rock The Movie – Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls on DVD

Girls Rock! The Move on DVD January 27
Girls Rock! The Move on DVD January 27

Portland is home to the internationally renowned Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.  Each summer, groups of girls come together in the camp’s North Portland facility and form rock bands. Over the course of a week they learn, write, practice and perfect their songs. The finale of the week long camp is a performance in front of over 700 people at the Bagdad Theater.

This Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls experience was captured in the documentary Girls Rock! The Movie which follows a group of girls through a week at the camp in 2007. What’s so amazing about the documentary (and the camp) is how transformed the campers are after just one week.  On day one there are girls who you never could imagine getting up in front of anyone to sing who belt it out in front of hundreds of fans.

I was fortunate enough to see Girls Rock! The Movie during its festival run with my daughter. It made such a huge impression on her, she applied to the next session of Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls (their application goes online each year at 12:01 new years eve, a new family new years tradition).

My daughter attended the camp camp in 2008 and had a blast. Her band The Lightening Girls, made a huge impression on her and boosted her self confidence immeasurably. She also came away from the camp knowing how to defend herself as the camp spends an entire afternoon dealing with self defense.  She’s already signed up to come back for the summer of 2009.

Girls Rock! The Movie is an exceptional documentary about an extraordinary place.  If you weren’t aware of the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls you’ll be amazed that such a phenomenal organization is right here in your back yard.

Buy Girls Rock! The Movie on DVD and pply to attend Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.

MMA Movies

Two Upcoming Portland Films – Fighting Politics and The Waiting List

  • As luck would have it, I got two emails this week almost back-to-back announcing new films with Portland roots. The first one Fighting Politics is a documentary on Matt “The Law” Lindland. Lindland, a former championship UFC Cagefighter, is the founder of Sport Fight (one of Portland’s biggest MMA Events). This year Lindland made a run at the Oregon House of Representatives where he was nearly defeated in the general election. Fighting Politics looks at the life of Matt Lindland, his MMA career and his epic battle with the UFC and owner Dan White.The trailer for Fighting Politics looks phenomenal, and as soon as we get word on when it’ll be playing in Portland we’ll let you know!

    More info on Fighting Politics and Matt “The Law” Lindland:

    Another film with Portland roots is The Waiting List, a film about parents who spend the night in a preschool in order to get their kids enrolled (based on a real experience). The Waiting List was shot this summer at Springwater Environmental School in Oregon City, as well as at Voodoo Doughnuts II. It is currently in contention for spots at a number of film festivals nationwide. We’ll let you know when The Waiting List has its first Portland showing!

    More info on The Waiting List:

  • Categories

    Twilight – Pure Romance

    Twilight - Pure Romance
    Twilight - Pure Romance

    If you are a teenage girl, in love with the romance genre, then Twilight is your Citizen Kane. Not since Stanley Kubrick locked Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in a room together for hours and hours in Eyes Wide Shut have we seen more screen time devoted to the relationship of just two people.

    Based on the best selling novel by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight tells the story of the deep attraction and constantly unconsummated relationship between two high school students, Bella and Edward. These two star crossed lovers would have little standing in their way were it not for the unavoidable fact that Edward is a vampire.

    This conflict, “Will he lover her or will he eat her?” is the core of Twilight, everything else feels tacked on to fill out the movie. On paper this makes Twilight a fairly superficial and thin film. Ancillary characters, like Bella’s father, are thinly drawn and only exist to bridge the gaps between scenes with Bella and Edward. Sub plots involving rival vampires and mysterious murders are completely throw away and again, only serve to connect us to scenes between the two lovers. What Twilight lacks in depth it more than makes up with passion. There’s enough passion in Twilight to fill up an entire series of films. So much so, I fully expect teenage girls to literally swoon after seeing this film.

    Robert Pattinson, who is sure to become a ‘teen idol’, plays Edward as a wonderfully pained and brooding character. Pattison’s performance seems to be inspired more by Hamlet and Romeo than Dracula and Angel and his character feels oddly un-vampiric. Kristen Stewart does a solid job playing Bella, the every girl grappling with the attention of a boy so captivating she can’t help but become obsessed with him.

    If there’s a third star to Twilight it’s the Pacific Northwest. I can’t recall a film that has celebrated the overcast rainy weather more than Twilight. Oregon and Washington come off stunningly with key scenes shot from tree tops looking across wooded valleys. The Viewpoint Inn, the setting for the finale of the film is also stunning and is sure to become a hot destination for fans of the film.

    In many teen oriented romantic films issues of high school politics, popularity, social circles and just ‘fitting in’ tend to dominate.. With Twilight the issues are much more internal. Bella is less concerned with fitting in and more concerned over whether or not she’s done something to keep Edward from loving her. This internal struggle of self confidence in relationships is sure to strike a deep chord with the intended audience especially combined with the deep level of complex and unconsummated teen love.

    As a vampire movie, Twilight reinterprets the traditional vampire myth through almost superhero eyes. In the Twilight universe vampires don’t have fangs, aren’t effected by garlic (even a golden one) and don’t burst into flames in the sunlight. The Twilight vampires have more in common with The X-Men than they do with Buffy The Vampire Slayer. At times Edward seems almost celestial despite his constant proclamations to the contrary.

    But summing all this into a recommendation is extremely difficult. Twilight is one of those movies where film criticism really doesn’t matter all that much. Odds are audiences are going to make up their minds to see this film based on the novels or at least the popularity of the novels. It’s just one of those movies so connected to the book series there’s no way to really un-teather it.

    For my part, I feel that Twilight does one thing well, it captures a passionate romance between teenagers and embodies the highs and lows of that experience. Beyond that I think the film is a little weak. But for the target audience I think it’s going to be more than enough.

    I’ve seen much worse than Twilight, but as a parent bringing my pre-teen to a movie I found that it was engaging enough not to be a miserable moving going experience (something I can’t say for many of the films aimed at her demographic).


    Coraline Full Theatrical Trailer

    While there’s been a lot of buzz this week over the locally shot film Twilight, the buzz is just getting started for another film shot in Portland: Coraline. Directed by Henry Selick (who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas),  based on a book by Neil Gaiman, and shot at Laika studios in Portland, Coraline could be another huge notch in Portland’s belt as a top destination for filmmaking.

    While Coraline doesn’t hit theaters till early 2009, the full trailer has been released, and it looks fantastic!