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 Various Theaters.
Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
Director Michael Rapaport was originally going to title this film Beats, Rhymes, and Fights, but the story told in this documentary is way more than the cheap Behind the Music-style cash-in that title suggested. Rapaport takes a mix of talking heads and head-nodding beats, and scatters it between scenes of the group awkwardly and charmingly (dashikis! floppy hats! overalls!) rising to hip-hop legend status, creating one of best meditations on the struggles of brotherhood I’ve seen in a while. Rest in peace, Phife Dawg. BOBBY ROBERTS Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Church of Film
The screening series presents Malombra, a decadent film from Italy’s fascist period, about a woman consigned to live in her uncle’s castle who comes to believe she’s been possessed by his first wife. North Star Ballroom.
Concerto: A Beethoven Journey
Phil Grabsky’s documentary captures pianist Lief Ove Andsnes’ interpretations of Beethoven’s piano concertos, and through attempted mastery of his works, the man himself. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Don’t Think Twice
One member’s overnight success upends an improv group, forcing its thirtysomething theater kids to reassess their careers, their futures, and their simmering resentments. What makes Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice such a smart, universal comedy is the core friendship of the group: You can feel the genuine waves of affection coming off Birbiglia & Co. They’ve got each other’s backs, even as their relationships start to go sideways. It’s beyond refreshing to see a comedy where friends aren’t pitted against each other to manufacture conflict. COURTNEY FERGUSON Cinema 21.
Florence Foster Jenkins
Does a person deserve praise for doing something hard if they’re bad at it? That’s the question in Florence Foster Jenkins, a fine, sunny movie based on the true story of a 1940s Manhattan socialite (Meryl Streep) who wanted to be an opera singer despite having an awful voice. Coddled by her manager and platonic husband (Hugh Grant), who lovingly hides unhappy truths from her, Madame Florence is genuinely oblivious to her ineptitude, a pitiable figure so endearing we can’t bear to see her feelings hurt. Simon Helberg is funny as her wee, pixie-eyed pianist, and director Stephen Frears glosses over the story’s sad subtext with cheerful deliberation. Never mind self-awareness, he suggests; self-confidence is admirable, too. ERIC D. SNIDER Various Theaters.
There’s a lot of history tied up in tonight’s screening of Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent classic. Firstly, it’s being shown as part of the Hollywood Theatre’s 90th anniversary. Secondly, it was actually shot in Oregon—Cottage Grove, specifically. Why Oregon? Well, when the plot of your story centers on a Southern railroad engineer thwarting the designs of dastardly Union soldiers, why not film in what was, at the time, likely the single most racist state in that union? No better double for the South than Cottage Grove, right? With live score by composer Mark Orton. Hollywood Theatre.
Samwise Gamgee and Doc Block ask Short Round, a chubby exhibitionist, and a bad Michael Jackson impersonator to join them on a treasure hunt on the Oregon coast, where Joey Pants and the FBI dickhead from Die Hard are illegally detaining an ex-football player with encephalitis. Will this motley gang of misfits find Captain Dick Joke’s secret stash of gold coins before they’re brutally murdered by an English bulldog in a dress? Will everyone speak solely in perforated shrieks and yelps? Will you start to wish you were just playing the old NES game again instead of sitting through your 50th viewing of this tired nostalgia exercise that constitutes roughly 17 percent of Astoria’s economy? Hah! C’mon. Goonies never say die, right? It’s our time down here! BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
Turns out when John Waters isn’t making people eat dog pickles on camera, he’s got some pretty decent pop sensibilities. But just because Hairspray fizzes over like a freshly shaken bottle of effervescent sunshine doesn’t mean Waters took a break from tweaking the squares. The surface-level joys—the dancing, the music, the sense of style that makes Effie’s Hunger Games couture look like a burlap sack and a barrel—constitute the deliciously campy candied shell coating messages about institutionalized racism in 1960s Baltimore and the multiple ways society unfairly judges its children, especially its girls. Part of NW Film Center’s Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series. BOBBY ROBERTS Hotel DeLuxe.
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, Hollywood Theatre.
The story of a headstrong Jewish boy who goes to college in Ohio in 1951, feels repressed religiously and romantically, then receives a first-date sexual favor that derails his life. Ah, college! Tawdry though it may sound, Indignation is a prudent, old-fashioned movie, based on a Philip Roth novel and directed by James Schamus, writer/producer of several of Ang Lee’s highest-brow films. Logan Lerman (the once and future Percy Jackson) excels in his first mature role—notably in an erudite showdown with the college dean (Tracy Letts)—and is a sympathetic figure in this coming-of-age story about the consequences of youthful pride (and BJs). ERIC D. SNIDER Living Room Theaters.
Our Little Sister
A slow, quiet, and occasionally very funny and touching movie about a family of women—three sisters in their 20s who’ve been essentially abandoned by their mother, and whose father has just died after abandoning them years before. When they find out he left behind a daughter—their half-sister Suzu (Suzu Hirose)—Sachi (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa), and Chika (Kaho) decide to adopt her, bringing her into their household in a gesture that would seem excessively sentimental were it not for some complex dynamics brewing under the surface. MEGAN BURBANK Cinema 21.
Queer Horror: The Craft
The bimonthly series, hosted by Carla Rossi, returns with a 20th anniversary screening of The Craft, the basic cable-staple that inspired an interest in knee-high socks, smoking, and wicca almost as intense (and brief) as Swingers prompted an interest in ska, cigars, and swing dance. The late ’90s was a strange-yet-magical time. And kinda scary, too. Especially if you were stuck in a room with Fairuza Balk for longer than a couple minutes. Hollywood Theatre.
Ian Sundahl goes into his personal film vaults to unleash “Boob Tube Shrapnel,” a program of bizarre 16mm gems from the early days of television history, including an afterschool special starring Diff’rent Strokes’ Dana Plato, a celebrity billiards competition with Minnesota Fats, some what-the-fuckery from 1960s-era KPTV, and vintage commercials so out there that Donald Draper would have probably pulled a Lane Pryce if they’d happened on his watch. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The 21st century has done weird things to us. For example, Citizen Kane is now “the movie where the fat guy clapping .gif comes from!” and Scanners is “Exploding Head.gif: The Movie.” There is, of course, a lot more to Scanners than seeing heads pop like balloons filled with ketchup and dog food (although that moment, which comes very early in the film, is still fucking horrifying, even after 35 years.) It’s a David Cronenberg movie, how could there not be more to it? And not only is this classic sci-fi thriller being screened in 35mm, but the master head-popper himself, one of the baddest badasses in all of cinema, Michael Ironside, will be in attendance. Ask him some stupid bullshit question at your own peril. And don’t ask him to scan you. Also see Film, this issue. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Some Like It Hot
Those unfamiliar with the decades of acclaim this 1959 Billy Wilder classic has racked up in the last 50-plus years might look at its poster and go “Oh. Marilyn Monroe. And Jack Lemmon in a dress. That seems... unappetizing.” Seems easy to jump to the conclusion it’s ancient cornpone aimed at easy-to-impress rubes. But the reason the film has survived this long with a reputation this high is entirely due to its transgressive comedy and forward-thinking relationship politics, considered so out of bounds by the studio that it went out sans approval from the Motion Picture Production Code, whereupon its huge success both spited the prudes running the industry and ultimately killed that code. So yeah, historically, it’s really important. But more importantly, it’s still funny as hell. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Craig Baldwin’s documentary about the original “culture-jammers,” Negativland, their long and drawn out battle with the band U2, and in a larger sense, with pop culture itself. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
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.
Two documentaries offered under the Sublime Frequencies banner: Sailing a Sinking Sea and Palace of the Windsi. Directors in attendance. More info: sublimefrequencies.com. Hollywood Theatre.
It begins as a promising supervillain movie about bunch of selfish, homicidal maniacs: when they hit the bar to throw back shots, it’s hard not to think that if anyone can upend Hollywood’s boilerplate superhero clichés, it’ll be this motley crew. Which makes it all the more disappointing when they don’t: Some goofy Stargate shit promptly threatens the planet, and soon enough, everybody’s gawping at a roaring vortex of CGI that’s either some kind of portal or some kind of monster. Does it matter which? It’s the same generic, airless spectacle that’s shown up in a dozen Marvel movies, in a couple of Transformers, in the new Ghostbusters, in however many X-Men we have now, in Pacific Rim, in (sorry) Batman v Superman. 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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
It’s a documentary about yarn. Clinton Street Theater.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, August 12-Thursday, August 18, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.