Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
The film achieves the same high-pitched, broad humor of the series—even though at a scant 90 minutes, Ab Fab: The Movie is straining at the seams. While you may wonder, “Why was this made?” the hilarious presence of Joanna Lumley is reason enough. Her character Patsy is a stroke of comedic genius, and the world is always in dire need of that. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Cinema 21.
Abstractions: Films by Jon Behrens
The acclaimed experimental filmmaker from Seattle showcases some of his favorite works from his 25-year career, combining striking imagery with ambient synth score. Director in attendance. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Your monthly opportunity to literally check off a bingo card full of B-movie clichés. This month’s entry: The Magic Crystal. To clarify: I didn’t say The Dark Crystal. This is not a movie about freaky Muppets hissing and clicking at each other while an aggressive pomeranian-thing yaps at everything all fucking movie long. (Shut the fuck up, Fizzgig!) No, this is more or less what would happen if you asked someone recovering from massive head trauma to describe Big Trouble in Little China to you. You’d wind up with Cynthia Rothrock fighting for control of the Force as a green rock that lets you talk to E.T. telepathically while letting you get your Jean Grey on—but filmed for $5. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Since Bad Moms is a film about women made by the men who wrote The Hangover, it’s motherhood through bro-colored glasses: Drinking sequences, the word “vagina,” and blunt-force impact are mined for laughs, and just as modern moms are hamstrung by a lack of paid maternity leave and gender double standards, the film’s potential for revenge-flick fun or bawdy escapism is curbed through shallow sentimentality. KJERSTIN JOHNSON Read the rest of our review, this issue. Various Theaters.
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.
I have dreamt that it might be possible to raise my child in the woods, off the grid, to spare her this modern cultural hellscape filled with guns and Trumps. The fictitious Cash family, headed by Ben (Viggo Mortensen), gives us a taste of that life—good or bad, depending on how attached you are to warm showers and iPhones—in the sweet, funny, and overall wonderful Captain Fantastic. ELINOR JONES Fox Tower 10.
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 Laurelhurst Theater.
The Dead Zone
David Cronenberg’s creepy-as-hell 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling thriller was one of the few bright spots in film that year, featuring the most sensitive, nuanced, and disarming performance in Christopher Walken’s long career. Don’t worry, all his patented tics and quirks are still present and will elicit a chuckle or two as you’re watching from the comfort of 2016, but hold onto those brief moments of fun, because comfort will leave you, and joy will fade quickly, once you start to recognize a certain Cheeto-hued presidential candidate hiding within Martin Sheen’s performance. And then? Oh, then the dread and the helplessness will creep in, squeezing your chest in its cold fists, as you realize King saw this coming over 30 years ago and there are no psychic Walkens around to stop it. BOBBY ROBERTS 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.
I’d hoped this review wouldn’t center on the misogyny of our real world, but unfortunately, the world of Ghostbusters is mired in it too. The film’s badass, ghost-fighting heroes are played by Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones; as these women tackle the supernatural, they’re painted as hysterical by authority figures, then told to let men take credit for their work. They’re even harassed by online commenters—kind of like how Ghostbros thought the 2016 adaptation’s leads couldn’t reprise the roles of the original all-male cast. No doubt this film will cause even more petulant cries from Ghostbros—but for the rest of us, this Ghostbusters is a charming, witty movie about ghost catchers averting the apocalypse. CIARA DOLAN Various Theaters.
The Great Outdoors
Of all the movies John Hughes has either written or directed (or both), 1988’s The Great Outdoors is probably the least, holding down the bottom of his filmography with Baby’s Day Out when it’s even remembered at all. Which is kind of unfair to this mildly mean-spirited-yet-goofy family comedy. It quickly became a basic-cable staple in the ’90s, allowing audiences to savor the antagonistic interplay between John Candy and Dan Aykroyd reminiscent of Porky and Daffy cartoons, and enjoy the subplot about a vengeful bear with a raw ass. But above everything else, The Great Outdoors should be championed for finally revealing the dark truth behind one of America’s favorite processed foods: Hot dogs are made out of lips and assholes. BOBBY ROBERTS Mission Theater.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
In another director’s hands, this would be a touchy-feely character study about the rehabilitation of a juvenile delinquent, but Taika Waititi’s at work here, taking the absurd, pitch-perfect sense of humor that made What We Do in the Shadows one of the funniest movies of the past few years and applying it to a heartfelt, real-world story. Wilderpeople is a hugely loveable movie that’s suitable for date night or the whole family, and I know that sounds like a hacky movie poster blurb. But when a movie’s this good, it’s tough to avoid clichés, so I’ll leave you with another: Don’t miss it. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21.
It may be impossible to completely screw up an undercover cop movie, with the very nature of the premise guaranteeing some vicarious hopscotching over the morality line. Judged on plot alone, The Infiltrator is a solid, mid-level walk on the seedy side, with enough based-on-fact dirty business to hold the interest. When you factor in a terrific-even-for-him lead performance by Bryan Cranston, however, it zooms up the ranks into something well worth leaving the couch for. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
A dour but often beautiful film that adds another layer of hideousness to WWII, The Innocents is difficult to watch. Centered around a convent of Polish nuns who have been raped and impregnated by Russian soldiers, its tragic events don’t even include depictions of the original crimes. That’s not to say the film is gruesome—there’s a little surgical blood, but mostly a host of elegant but extremely grim implications. Were it not for Innocents’ gorgeous look and moments of unusual, relieving radiance, it would be harder to watch it wallow along somberly at its glacial pace (maybe try taking a shot every time one of the sisters is told to “go to your cell”). As a Red Cross nurse secretly providing them medical aid, Lou de Laâge’s performance provides color and balance to the cold stone of the convent, but let it be known that this one is strictly for lovers of slow, painful jams. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
When alien gourds start replacing everyone you love and civilization devolves and A DOG RUNS AROUND WITH A HUMAN FACE, who would you want at your side? Correct: Jeff Goldblum. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
See review, this issue. Various Theaters.
There’s just so much to get film-drunk on with John Huston’s 1948 noir Key Largo. There’s Karl Freund’s amazing black-and-white cinematography, of course. There’s the forever-mesmerizing chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, seasoned to perfection in their fourth and final team-up on film. There’s the amazing bounty of hard-boiled dialogue ripping out of everyone’s mouths like bullets spat from the business end of a tommy gun. But above all, there’s Edward G. Robinson as Johnny Rocco, soaking in a bathtub, chomping on a cigar, serving notice that while Sopranos and Corleones might rise in his wake, none will possess the lasting power of his swarthy, malevolent majesty. You wanna see some gangster shit? This is some gangster shit. Part of NW Film Center’s Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series. BOBBY ROBERTS Hotel DeLuxe.
Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett’s gritty 1977 portrait of a Watts ghetto, has a lot to live up to—namely, its own hype. Burnett made Killer of Sheep as a UCLA film student for $10,000, using friends and neighbors as actors and shooting on weekends for over a year. The resulting film has been heralded by the National Society of Film Critics as one of the 100 Essential Films of all time, and was called “one of the most striking debuts in movie history” by GQ. Not only does Killer of Sheep live up to its own mythology, but transcends it as a fascinating, melancholy, and entertaining work of art and social realism. Part of a double feature with 1987’s Walker from director Alex Cox. CHAS BOWIE Fifth Avenue Cinema.
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.
A steady array of enjoyable oh-shit moments, chock full of opportunities for a murderous ghoul to move in and out of the visible spectrum. If you’re a horror fan, this will get where you want to go. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Here’s the thing about The Lobster: 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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Men Go to Battle
A Civil War drama about a pair of Kentucky farmboys whose close relationship is severed in a drunken fight as the country itself splits in two. Clinton Street Theater.
Microbe and Gasoline
With the world seeming like it’s thiiiis close to imploding into chaos, it’s worth considering what art should do: add insight to, or distract from, humanity’s mounting troubles. When the latter impulse calls, Michel Gondry’s latest, Microbe and Gasoline, seems to step out of better times. It may not be all that monumental, but this small, eccentric tale of teenage friendship offers much-needed optimism. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the directing team behind Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3 and 4, and the new teen-oriented cyber-thriller Nerve, know how to affect coolness and currency without seeming to try too hard—a rarity in Hollywood. But all the street cred in the world can’t un-dumb this ludicrous, self-serious dud, which stars Emma Roberts as a timid Staten Island girl who’s peer-pressured into competing in a smartphone game of public dares with Dave Franco (an obvious red flag). Though fitfully engaging and periodically watchable, Nerve can’t overcome its inherent weakness: it’s about idiot kids doing idiot things. ERIC D. SNIDER Various Theaters..
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Maybe the most perfectly constructed film in cinema history. Maybe. I’m sure someone out there has an argument on deck, but I’m betting their champion of choice doesn’t include a giant pit of snakes; a fight inside, on top of, and hanging off the front of a truck at 50mph; a holy box that melts nazi faces like Totino’s Party Pizza; and—most importantly—the presence of peak Harrison Ford in all his sweaty, smirky, silly-yet-sexy glory. Screens in 35mm at the Hollywood Theatre, and digitally at the Academy Theater in celebration of its 35th anniversary. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater, Hollywood Theatre.
It’s not every day you get the chance to watch an impressionistic documentary about Spanish finance! If that doesn’t sound particularly enticing, keep in mind that it draws plenty of disturbing parallels to America’s own troubled housing markets, while also providing an uplifting look at how regular citizens can (and do) mobilize and agitate for a better way of life. Directors Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat in attendance. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Star Trek Beyond
Thanks to Justin Lin’s nimble direction, a pitch-perfect cast, and an adventurous script from Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, Star Trek Beyond nails the fun, goofy tone of the original series—and works so well in its own right that it ends up being one of the best entries in the 50-year-old franchise. It’s smart, too, touching on themes that other blockbusters don’t dare engage with—asymmetrical warfare, isolationism, idealism in the face of cynicism. (In 2016, this stuff feels more than a little topical.) Lin—yet again proving to be one of the sharpest directors working today—keeps Beyond balanced between smarts and spectacle, and also, god bless him, figures out how to shoehorn in a space motorcycle. More than anything else, though, Beyond is fun: a fast-paced, heartfelt, funny blockbuster that promises a bold future for Trek. Plus, it’s the first Star Trek movie that actually gives Bones something to do! Bones! Bones is the best. ERIK HENRIKSEN 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 Fox Tower 10.
As Tickled begins, co-director David Farrier introduces himself as an offbeat reporter who’s found his next “wacky” story—a video of young men in Adidas gear stoically eliciting giggles from an unlucky but ebullient athlete on a wrestling mat. But when Farrier reaches out to Jane O’Brien Media—the creators of the video—he’s hit with crass emails, threatened with lawsuits, and told, in no uncertain terms, to stop digging. When Farrier deadpans, “This tickling wormhole was getting deeper,” it’s hard to tell if he’s joking. But as the film progresses, it becomes clear that tickling videos are (sorry) no laughing matter. By the end of the film, Farrier’s revelation that “This tickling empire is way bigger than we ever imagined” might chill your soul. KJERSTIN JOHNSON Living Room Theaters.
A Touch of Zen
One of the first historical martial arts epics, A Touch of Zen came out in 1971 and went on to inspire many classics in the genre—including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Alex Cox (Repo Man) bid adieu to the Hollywood studio system in 1987 by taking Universal Pictures’ money, going into Nicaragua, and making a not-so-America-friendly film with the help of the Sandanista government—Walker, about the life of William Walker, a mercenary lawyer who thought turning large swaths of Latin America into slave states under his control was a great idea, and thus usurped the Presidency of Nicaragua for a year, prompting multiple armies to join forces to get rid of his ass. Part of a double feature with 1978’s Killer of Sheep from director Charles Burnett. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Obviously the wiener dog dies, and obviously Todd Solondz doesn’t grant her a peaceful passing. But the protagonist pup—who, at different points, goes by the names “Wiener Dog,” “Doody,” and, uh, “Cancer”—is primarily a vehicle for Solondz to move through four vignettes of his characters’ fucked-up existences. His tableaus of human vice are bitingly funny, especially as an unforgiving roast of pet owners with savior complexes. But he misses the mark a few times with oddly forced jabs that seem to flirt with backward racist, sexist humor. It’s unbecoming, especially for a director who seems so acutely aware of humanity’s grossest failings. CIARA DOLAN Laurelhurst Theater.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, July 29-Thursday, August 4, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.