Alice Through the Looking Glass
An unholy concoction of Lewis Carroll's brilliant nonsense shoehorned into every ass-backward cliché from every cut-rate screenplay-writing night-school class in Los Angeles County. There are moments when the outrageousness and visual cacophony almost push this sequel to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland into fits of surreal inspiration. But the horrible storyline—centered on a deeply stupid MacGuffin in the form of time-travel machine called the Chronosphere—and profoundly awful performances from Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway make this a tough sit. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
So. Much. Whimsy. Mission Theater.
The American Side
Actor Greg Stuhr and director Jenna Ricker wrote this loving tribute to hard-boiled detective stories, and The American Side has some terrific things going for it: the use of Buffalo, New York, as a location; a goofy conspiracy involving lost inventions of Nikola Tesla; a solid supporting cast including Robert Forster and Matthew Broderick. But Stuhr doesn't really work as a leading man, and the film's individual ingredients never really cohere into anything worth watching. Filmmakers in attendance on Fri July 8 and Sat July 9. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.
Best of the Northwest Filmmakers' Festival
Every year, the NW Film Center focuses on filmmakers from our broad geographical neighborhood with the Northwest Filmmakers' Festival. The 2016 fest isn't until November, but you can see the best collected shorts from last year and start getting amped for the fall. Troy Moth and Josh Lambert's three-minute doc Two Roads stands out for its commercial-quality nature cinematography and thoughtful meditation on First Nations diaspora, narrated by an elder of the Anishininaabe people, while Robert Sickels' Seven Ways from Sunday reveals unusual montages of toy animal chaos, edited to match a voice-over of interviews about visual misconception. Those are my top picks, but by the time this collection of artsy shorts wraps up, I'm betting the narrative-driven, children-in-animal-masks charm of Dead Hearts, Stephen W. Martin's unapologetic Wes Anderson emulation, will prove the audience fave. Filmmakers in attendance. SUZETTE SMITH NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Bette & Joan
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were two of the biggest stars in old Hollywood's studio system, a stardom gained through talent, timing, and a willingness to fight for the respect they absolutely deserved. Most times they were fighting the institutional sexism of the system itself, but sometimes the two titans would take big swipes at each other. NW Film Center pays tribute to these legends with an expansive collection of films featuring Crawford and Davis at their over-the-top, melodramatic best—or worst, depending on your point of view. Vist nwfilm.org for a full list of titles and showtimes. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
As slow as the first half of The BFG is, Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison get much more right than wrong, allowing large chunks of Roald Dahl's world to remain in the realm of mystery, and never over-explicating every strange and wondrous thing on screen. Spielberg seems to have once again tapped that particular vein of childhood logic where strange things are to be explored and experienced rather than feared. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War isn't so much a Captain America movie as the third flick in the Avengers series. While Cap may be the heart and soul of this film, Marvel made sure to cram in as many of their products as humanly possible. But what should've been a 2.5-hour mess is another seemingly inconceivable Marvel miracle: Civil War may be an exploding roll of firecrackers, but it's also a mature meditation on friends, loyalty, and taking responsibility for the individual while serving the greater good. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
"Oh yeah, I'm big into 'corns," says Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), who's wearing a T-shirt with a unicorn on it and is delighted to talk about the magical creatures. He's also happy to talk about his favorite movie, Sixteen Candles, his jorts, and how he's spent the past 20 years idolizing Calvin (Kevin Hart), the only guy who wasn't a dick to him in high school. While Calvin was the coolest kid in school, see, Bob was dorky and fat and bullied (we witness this, naturally, in a flashback featuring the Rock, CGI-enfattened). But now Bob looks like the Rock, and he's in the CIA, and he needs Calvin's help, so: Central Intelligence, a mediocre comedy made enjoyable by the Rock, who, yet again, proves he can make anything enjoyable. The Rock is more magical than unicorns. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Conjuring 2
For horror fans accustomed to wandering through acres of dreck for a meager jolt, James Wan is the real deal. The Conjuring 2, the director's return to the horror game after the amiably knuckleheaded Furious 7, is a brilliantly staged, strangely exhausting work of a filmmaker in complete thrall to his chosen genre. This is a movie where virtually every scene is designed expressly for the purpose of causing the viewer's colon to have an out-of-body experience. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Everybody Wants Some!!
Most movies get male athlete group dynamics so wrong that when you actually find kernels of relatability, it feels like a revelation. In Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater's take on hazing ("everybody is going to be the chump at some point, it's how you handle your turn that defines you") is refreshingly unsensational. As is the movie as a whole. You know how in Magic Mike you kept expecting one of the characters to OD on drugs or get paralyzed in a car accident in order to teach everyone a valuable lesson? Then it never happens and you're happy to have avoided the moralizing? Everybody Wants Some!! is like that. It's about college, not learning. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
Fashion in Film
Eden Dawn and former Mercury fashion maven Marjorie Skinner present a special screening of a film that belongs just as much to Jean-Paul Gaultier as it does Bruce Willis, The Fifth Element. When not marveling at Milla Jovovich's costume (apparently made entirely of seatbelts) or Gary Oldman's hair (which is, amazingly, now the preferred hairstyle of choice for Portland singles), or the skin-rending screech of Chris Tucker as Prince as Ruby Rhod, you may also marvel at the unveiling of a new collection by Portland's own Jason Calderon of West Daily. It'll be hot Hot HOTT! Hollywood Theatre.
Nobody needed a sequel to Finding Nemo, but Finding Dory is, at least, better than Pixar's so-so original: It's funnier and more emotional, and it's intriguing to watch the antics at a marine life rescue park, which largely serves as Dory's setting. (Post-Blackfish, Pixar is careful to note the captive sea creatures inside are meant to be rehabilitated then released, not to be exploited and degraded for human amusement.) COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
It's difficult to describe what happens in director Anna Rose Holmer's The Fits without making it sound deeply ordinary: A little girl in Cincinnati, Toni (an amazing Royalty Hightower), accompanies her brother in his boxing training at a community center, but becomes entranced by the resident all-lady drill team. What follows resembles Shane Carruth's Upstream Color in its privileging of sound and image over any kind of clear-cut narrative, and evokes everything from the catharsis of art to supernatural ideas of demonic possession to the horrific reality of Flint, Michigan's contaminated water to the precarious nature of being a girl whose gender expression isn't normatively feminine. MEGAN BURBANK Living Room Theaters.
Free State of Jones
Gary Ross, writer/director of such sermonizing entertainments as Pleasantville and Seabiscuit, has returned with another didactic drama, Free State of Jones, starring an appropriately unhygienic Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight, a Mississippi man who rebelled against the Rebels during the Civil War and gathered a small army to fight conscription. (There's also a completely irrelevant subplot, set 85 years later, about Mississippi's legacy of segregation.) Ross' intentions are probably good, whatever they are, but he tries to cram an eight-hour miniseries' worth of material into one overlong movie, resulting in an airless history lesson. ERIC D. SNIDER Various Theaters.
Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier's Kickstarter-aided 2013 calling card, fashioned a diabolically inventive revenge movie that repeatedly headed down unpredictably satisfying avenues. The writer/director's larger-budgeted follow-up, Green Room, gathers up that earlier promise and just goes sick with it, taking an intentionally stripped-down premise and jacking it up to ferocious speeds. Inspired by the director's experiences with hardcore punk shows, the story follows an idealist thrash band (led by Alia Shawkat and a terrifically spacy Anton Yelchin, RIP) reduced to gas-siphoning between concerts. While spinning aimlessly through the Northwest, they take a gig deep in the Oregon woods at a venue crammed to the rafters with neo-Nazis, fronted by an ominously velvet-voiced Patrick Stewart. Things do not go well, in ways that made a theater full of jaded critics repeatedly suck in their collective breath. ANDREW WRIGHT Laurelhurst Theater.
A unique documentary from directors Jillian Elizabeth and Neil Dalel, allowing audience members a narrator-free experience in a deep forest ashram with Swami Dayananda Saraswati as he teaches a small class of outsiders how to find peace in their daily rituals. Cinema 21
Independence Day: Resurgence
Twentieth Century Fox did not screen Independence Day: Resurgence for critics, probably because the film is so good it would annihilate critics' ranking systems. For how does one give a film "five stars" when it deserves all the stars in the universe? How does one offer "two thumbs up" when a more accurate assessment would be to have each person on Earth join together to raise all of our thumbs to the heavens? And how does one rate "10 out of 10" when one knows ∞ is the only numerical concept that could come close to representing Independence Day: Resurgence? ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Jungle Book
I'm not convinced remaking The Jungle Book was absolutely necessary, but Disney's latest navel-gazing foray into its own archives delivers everything it needs to: The kid who plays Mowgli is adorable. The digitally animated jungle inhabitants are as warmhearted as they are slick-looking. Do you need more baby animals in your life? The Jungle Book has you covered! You'll squee all the way through as you watch a delightful parade of baby elephants and baby wolves. MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
Lawrence of Arabia
Ridley Scott's misguided Prometheus was crammed absolutely full of stupid characters doing really dumb shit. About the only sensible thing to have happened in that sci-fi fumble came early on; a handsome android, alone on a spaceship, decides to pass the time using the ship's big screen to watch David Lean's masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia. Luckily for you, one doesn't have to be a dickhead robot on a doomed spaceship to enjoy watching this miracle of cinema on a 50-foot wide curved screen. You can just to go to the Hollywood this weekend, where they're screening a 70mm print as part of their month-long 90th birthday celebration. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The Legend of Tarzan
This time around, we begin with Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) as a British aristocrat who's forced to reconnect with his animalistic past after he travels to the Congo. At its best, The Legend of Tarzan is akin to Steven Spielberg's goofy Hook, and both movies feature a similar arc—a grown-up protagonist reluctantly returning to the role of hero. But this Tarzan is also one of the slowest blockbusters I've ever seen: The first hour of the film consists largely of flashbacks that dumbly assume moviegoers aren't already familiar with its culturally ubiquitous subject. You'll see Tarzan reared by his adoptive gorilla family, you'll see Tarzan develop a relationship with Jane (Margot Robbie), and you'll see Tarzan do these things over and over again. MORGAN TROPER Various Theaters.
Len and Company
Old people have a hard time connecting with young people. It's a basic fact of life. It doesn't matter if you're a librarian, a pharmacist, or Rhys Ifans as an aging rock producer trying to connect with both his estranged son (Jack Kilmer) and his pink-haired pop star creation (Juno Temple) after they both unexpectedly barge into his personal life. Cinema 21.
Here's the thing about The Lobster, the thing that'll either make you want to see it or never see it: It captures what it feels like to be single. And not just that—it captures what it feels like to be single in a society obsessed with everyone having someone. That's not a particularly fun thing to address, but it's not particularly awful, either, so The Lobster splits the difference: surreal and heartfelt, it's both laugh-out-loud funny and eerily melancholy. One minute, characters are wondering if they'll ever find a partner; the next, they're deciding which animal they'll turn into if they end up single. Oh, right—that's the other thing about The Lobster, in which singles visit an austere resort, where, hopefully, they'll find someone to spend the rest of their lives with. But if they don't? Then they turn into an animal. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
It feels unfair to compare a movie that's as undeniably good as Maggie's Plan to lesser contemporaries, but it's hard not to see it as a corrective to so many other failed relationship comedies set in academia. Finally, here's one that's as funny as it is clever, that depicts pompous characters without itself being pompous. It's the perfect movie for anyone who appreciates Woody Allen's wit and intellectual dialogue, but always dreamed of pairing them with self-awareness and realistic women. VINCE MANCINI Laurelhurst Theater.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
See review, this issue. Various Theaters.
It's 1988. Anthony Edwards still has hair. It's kinda disconcerting. It's late and he's just had a pretty damn good night with Mare Winningham. He walks by a pay phone. It rings. He picks it up. The voice on the other end lets him know that the nuclear apocalypse will have laid waste to the Earth by the time the sun rises. The movie that follows is a little-seen, highly-regarded VHS-era classic, a tense, frantic thriller whose heart pumps pure paranoia. Director Steve De Jarnatt in attendance. BOBBY ROBERTS NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
There is a point at which you will discover whether or not you are cut out for the campy-yet-heartfelt joys within Baz Luhrmann's 2001 musical Moulin Rouge! (exclamation point!), and that point comes less than 30 minutes in—our adorable hero (Ewan McGregor) enters the titular club and a Fatboy Slim-fueled mashup of the Can Can and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" immediately starts high-kicking you in the face. No one would blame you for fleeing from that tacky-ass kaleidoscope exploding all over your eyeballs, but if you stay, chances are good you will experience the sort of foolishly giddy emotional release not felt since the loving application of a carefully lettered label to the first mixtape you ever made for a high school crush. It's like singing along in the car to every guilty pleasure love song that comes on the radio—but as a ridiculous movie musical. BOBBY ROBERTS Mission Theater.
The Music of Strangers
See review, this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
How much you enjoy Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising depends on how much leeway you give it for having its heart in the right place—even when its brain is slightly addled, and even when it's constrained by the limitations of its format. Neighbors 2 is a hell of an effort, see, to do something meaningful with an inherently soulless vessel—the studio-mandated comedy sequel, in which anything successful gets another chapter, whether it needs one or not. In this case it's Neighbors, which sort of felt like a marketing plan in search of a story to begin with. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
The Neverending Story
In 1984, celebrated German director Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot) made his first English-language film, an animatronic-stuffed adaptation of half a children's book. It concerns a bullied bookworm who retreats to an attic to lose himself in a stolen tome, and manages to literally lose himself within it. This movie is one of the most '80s things ever made, with a cast of vaguely disquieting pseudo-Muppets assisting an androgynous horse-mounted rockstar on a synth-drenched journey through a Yes album cover to save a nameless princess. The movie is shaggier than the flying dog that steals every scene he's in with a lecherous charm, but there is still a strange, cheesy magic (barely) holding everything together. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
The Nice Guys
In one form or another, Shane Black has been trying to make the comedy noir The Nice Guys since 2001, and now that it's finally here, it doesn't disappoint. The script, by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, checks off Black's trademarks: There's razor-sharp banter, a Christmas carol or two, and a profound appreciation of the comedic qualities of violence. And in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, Black's got a duo who are excited to play along. Crowe, growly and shambly and with a trusty set of brass knuckles, pushes through The Nice Guys' twists with wry determination; Gosling, sporting a cast, a dangling cigarette, and a look of constant confusion, reveals a heretofore unknown talent for ultrasonic shrieks and physical comedy. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
Now You See Me 2
STUDIO EXECUTIVE 1: I want more money. Let's make an unnecessary sequel. STUDIO EXECUTIVE 2: Okay. SE1: How about Now You See Me? That was a movie. SE2: I forgot about that movie until just now, when you reminded me that it existed. Was this that relatively contained dumpster fire about sexy magicians? SE1: Yes. The greatest magic trick from the original is that it made viewers almost immediately forget it. This will make the sequel very easy. Because who cares? Nobody! ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
OMSI Sci-Fi Film Festival
See Film, this issue. OMSI's Empirical Theater.
Our Kind of Traitor
Ewan MacGregor and Naomie Harris are a bit too glamorous to convincingly play a poetics professor and his lawyer wife, but Stellan Skarsgård is great as a Russian gangster who befriends them on their vacation in an attempt to go clean. The camerawork, saturated in unnatural blues and golds, is distracting and diffused, but John le Carré's source book makes for a ripping great story, in which international intrigue is shot through with a surprising amount of heart. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
The Panic in Needle Park
Considering what an outsized presence Al Pacino has become in his later years, it shouldn't be all that surprising his first lead in a major motion picture was playing a manic junkie in 1971's The Panic in Needle Park, which might as well be subtitled Fuck Subtlety, Let's Watch Two People Destroy Themselves. Director Jerry Schatzberg was doing Requiem for a Dream-type stuff before Dream director Darren Aronofsky was out of diapers. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Plan 9 from Outer Space
It's your opportunity to gather atop the Hotel DeLuxe parking structure, stuffing yourself with sandwiches, chasing them with gourmet beer, and listening to live music as a charmingly delightful prelude to the magic of a Northwest sunset blooming, the surrounding Portland skyline twinkling into illuminated life all around you, all of which comprises the beautiful backdrop behind the outdoor screen upon which will be projected one of the single biggest pieces of pure shit that ever gracelessly fell from cinema's butthole. Part of NW Film Center's Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series Hotel DeLuxe.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
"Ever since I was born, I was dope," Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) intimates at the beginning of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, 2016's answer to 1984's rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Popstar's greatest strength is its topicality: It's fascinating to watch a movie where the strongest jokes are completely reliant on the audience's fluency in recent pop culture. While flaming hoverboards and EDM DJ headgear that looks "like the tip of Optimus Prime's dick" might not be funny in five years, right now, it's hard not to laugh along. CIARA DOLAN Various Theaters.
The Purge: Election Year
While the Purge films have always been tense bursts of ugly violence, I just can't with this third one. The Purge: Election Year repeatedly puts a diverse cast of people of color in harm's way, while white privileged people try to gun them down with semi-automatic weapons. Yuck. Where 2013's original was economical and claustrophobic, and 2014's The Purge: Anarchy was world-expanding and relevant, his third installment sees franchise director James DeMonaco ramping up the social, religious, and racial tensions, combining an all-too-real dystopian future with cringing levels of election-year frenzy. It's about as fun as watching the news. Afterward, I had to watch Chicken Run to stave off despair. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
This month's installment of the Hollywood's queer-focused series is the late '90s coming-of-age drama Beautiful Thing, about two working-class London teenagers discovering themselves and their sexuality. Hollywood Theatre.
There was a time when Emilio Estevez held an entire world in thrall. In those days, friends, he starred in Alex Cox's sci-fi/comedy/crime flick Repo Man, one of the most cult of all cult classics. Behold its beloved weirdness on the big screen, and behold Estevez as he ever shall be, in each of our hearts. Screens as part of the Hollywood Theatre's Harry Dean Stanton series, celebrating Stanton's 90th birthday. Hollywood Theatre.
The Secret Life of Pets
At a time when promising directors are swallowed up by the remorseless blockbuster machine, there's something admirable about a filmmaker like Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, Run All Night), who's seemingly content to stay a rung or two down on the respectability ladder and continue refining his chops. The Shallows, Collet-Serra's new screamer, may not be his best work—that honor still falls to the wonderfully sick Orphan—but its single-minded devotion to getting viewers to grip their armrests is really something to see, as an erstwhile med student (Blake Lively) heads to a remote beach to catch some solo waves—only to discover that the water isn't as empty as she thought. (Okay, you've seen the trailer, it's a huge freaking shark.) Clocking in at a lean 86 minutes, The Shallows shows just how bracing and propulsive a good B-movie can be, especially in the hands of a director who knows exactly when to linger on a shot of beautiful scenery—and when to dip the camera below the waterline for maximum unease. It's pulp, but artful pulp. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Swiss Army Man
If you want your dreams to be weird for the rest of your life, see Swiss Army Man, directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano. Radcliffe, working hard to quash your beloved associations of Harry Potter, portrays a farting corpse—a farting corpse that serves as a companion, prop, and man Friday to Dano's very sad young bearded man. The exploits that follow are distasteful enough that I fully anticipate theater walkouts, but I'm glad I was trapped by professional obligation—because if I'd walked out, I would have missed one of the most touching love stories I've seen onscreen in recent memory. I wish I could explain this—how a movie that is in many ways unwatchable becomes so ineffably heartwarming—but I can't. MEGAN BURBANK Hollywood Theatre.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
A cash-in stuffed with names and faces fanboys and girls demand (Bebop! Rocksteady! Baxter Stockman!), enough fart and booger jokes for the kids, and some of the laziest plotting you'll see: something about three relics of anonymous origin required to open up a hole to Dimension X. And in Dimension X? Krang! One of the weirdest, most stupefyingly great villains of my childhood! A creepy, weird alien brain that should have unnerved and delighted us in his first-ever trip to the big screen! He does none of those things, though. The Krang of Out of the Shadows is merely another generic, Brad-Garrett-voiced CGI villain, dispatched with little difficulty. He'll be back in another film, you can be sure, and will still be terrible in his mediocrity. It is the greatest betrayal of our time. DIRK VANDERHART Various Theaters.
See review, this issue. Various Theaters.
Warcraft, a distinctly terrible movie from director Duncan Jones—who made a great movie once (Moon) and will likely do so again—is way less joyous and far more serious than it should be. Moreover, it leaves far too many important questions unanswered, like how orcs squeeze their gigantic shoulders in and out of their tents, or how they manage to eat soup around those tusks. NED LANNAMANN Azeroth.
See review, this issue. Cinema 21.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, July 8-Thursday, July 14, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.