It’s not hard to imagine how Ben Affleck was convinced to sign on to The Accountant. “Hey Benny!” director Gavin O’Connor shouted into the phone, probably. “Gotta real good movie for ya. So this accountant guy, he’s just like Good Will Hunting, but also he’s Batman!” “I’m in,” grunted Affleck, and voila! Movie magic is made. The problem, though, isn’t that The Accountant is two ill-matched movies smooshed together—it’s actually more like five or six, and none of them are thought-out enough to carry the day. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
I don’t care how hot your wife is: Nazism is always a dealbreaker. This is common sense, and it’s utterly lacking in Robert Zemeckis’ dreadful Allied, which tries SO HARD to sell a sentimental load of garbage in a WWII-era love story between two spies (Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt), one of whom might be a Nazi. MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
Hollywood Theatre curators Greg Hamilton and Nick Wells present their annual holiday showcase of rare short films from creators like Will Vinton and Rankin & Bass, with appearances from characters like Woody Woodpecker, Mickey Mouse, Jack Frost, and more. Hollywood Theatre.
Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s gorgeous Aquarius centers on Clara (Sônia Braga), a 65-year-old retired music critic, breast cancer survivor, and wealthy widow who refuses to sell her seaside apartment in an otherwise empty two-story called the Aquarius. Whether she’s dozing in an opulent fringed hammock, flirting with the handsome young lifeguard at the beach across the street, or swimming in Brazil’s sparkling turquoise waters, Clara moves through her daily routine with formidable elegance. That is, until the building’s owner and his grandson reinvigorate their often-uncouth efforts to shake Clara loose like dust from an old carpet and finally vacate the property to make way for a new high-rise. CIARA DOLAN Cinema 21.
In the bright light of something shiny and new, it’s easy to declare that thing an outlier: To smile and point and proclaim that here, at last, is a thing that makes everything that follows a little bit different. I saw Arrival Monday night, which means it’s undoubtedly just a bit too soon to declare it a science-fiction classic. Given that we’re finally (finally, finally) coming to the end of 2016, though, it’s probably fair to declare it this: One of the bright points, and one of the greatest movies, of this horrible, awful year. It’s also likely the best film yet from Denis Villeneuve, the director behind the excellent Sicario and Prisoners—and who, with Arrival, offers something entirely different. Arrival is an ominous, thrumming, beautiful thing that starts out being about aliens who need a decoder ring. It ends up being about something quite different. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Bad Santa 2
A Christmas movie doesn’t have to be that good to make it into the yearly holiday rotation. (Cases in point: Elf. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Love Actually. Don’t @ me.) So when a Christmas movie is just a little bit better than it needs to be, it’s reason to rejoice. After all, we’re gonna be stuck watching the damn thing every year for the rest of our lives, so every little bit counts. Bad Santa is one of those above-average Christmas movies. Bad Santa 2 is not. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Director Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women arrives in theaters at an oddly appropriate moment. As America gazes in disgusted fascination at the spectacle of a misogynistic boil being lanced on the most public of stages, Reichardt’s delicate but powerful triptych of Montana-set tales is a reminder of how quietly radical it can be to tell stories about women’s lives—simply, and with unforced empathy. MARC MOHAN Laurelhurst Theater.
Somewhere around a decade back, it became fashionable to answer “Die Hard” when asked “What’s your favorite Christmas movie?” People would laugh and go, “Yeah, I guess that counts.” But then—like bacon, unicorns, and LOLcats—the shit got played the fuck out, to the point where people now say “anything but fuckin’ Die Hard. God! Ugh!” Here’s the thing, though: No matter how many corny dipshits might vomit up this title as their go-to response? They’re not wrong. You could do a hell of a lot worse than arguably the single best action film ever made as your pick. So pull up a seat, kick off your shoes, and make some fists with your toes. Christmas has a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Doctor Strange first appeared in the 1963 Marvel Comics anthology Strange Tales as a crippled neurosurgeon apprenticed to a wise Tibetan sorcerer, the Ancient One. After ascending to the position of Sorcerer Supreme, Strange went on to defend Earth from magical attackers and, eventually, chill with the Avengers. As recently as 2011, Strange was loaning the Avengers his manservant, a Chinese man named Wong. It was kind of fucked up. Now the action-packed, eye-popping Doctor Strange movie reboots Dr. Stephen Strange’s origin story, and Marvel is finally trying to make good on that bad. Doctor Strange might have a lot of baggage, but more than anything else, it’s fun. SUZETTE SMITH Various Theaters.
Don’t Blink: Robert Frank
Laura Israel’s documentary about her friend, photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank, who’s still pursuing his muse at the age of 90. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
The Edge of Seventeen
Get ready for a classic take on high school experience where all the characters are wealthy in ways we can’t identify with (pools 4 everyone!) and played by 30-year-olds (not creepy to find them attractive, whew!). Edge of Seventeen proposes we accept well-timed, adorable stammering as signs that these characters are weird. None of us ever sounded this good. BUT this is produced by James L. Brooks, so even though a lot of it is sanitized and the ending is slapped on, I liked the jokes. The sins of John Hughs are passed down to first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig, who writes a smokin’ hot Korean-American guy (Hayden Szeto) as a runner-up love interest to a medium-for-Hollywood white dude (Alexander Calvert). PLEASE STOP DOING THAT SHIT. Otherwise I’m giving you a pass, Craig. Do better on the next one. SUZETTE SMITH Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Are we pretending that this a holiday classic now? Are we the ones who sit upon a throne of lies? Academy Theater.
A creepy sci-fi/horror flick directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, who turns the tables on body horror gender roles in a tale of not-quite-human breeding experiments on an isolated island populated by pale women and little boys. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
“I annoy people,” says Eddie Redmayne in the opening half-hour of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first in a five-part Harry Potter prequel series. Redmayne ain’t lying. “Annoying” is the perfect term for his portrayal of Fantastic Beasts’ hero, Newt Scamander, a shrugging, slumping sack of stammers and tics. He’s like Doctor Who with gout, and yet—just like the good Doctor in even his lamest incarnations, there’s just enough charm glimmering beneath the surface and shining through the contrivances that you can’t write him off entirely. See? Pretty fucking annoying. BOBBY ROBERTS Various Theaters.
Grindhouse Film Festival: Silent Night, Deadly Night
It’s time for my favorite Christmas event: the Hollywood’s annual screening of the 1984 grindhouse flick Silent Night, Deadly Night. Much like admiring holiday decorations, watching Santa brutally murder people with an ax gets the holiday juices flowing. Who doesn’t love an antisocial St. Nick who’s hell-bent on mayhem? Nawww-teeeee! COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
Part of consuming media is making peace with the people who created it, and that’s not always easy. I’m proudly Jewish, but I also love Lethal Weapon and Apocalypto, so evidently I’ve found a way to make my peace with Mel Gibson. But I don’t expect you to, for any number of reasons. We each decide where we draw the line, and while Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is an interesting film, it isn’t so good that I’d suggest you cross yours. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
Holiday Hecklevision Spectacular
What the hell could Hecklevision possibly gift its adoring audience of comedic text assasins? Only the finest in cannon fodder, of course, with three TV specials (including ALF and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) being hung on the Hollywood’s screen for so much holiday target practice. Hollywood Theatre.
It’s a Wonderful Life
The holiday classic beloved by those valiantly fighting the slow, crushing, inevitable truth that their lives have not mattered at all. Hollywood Theatre, Laurelhurst Theater.
Leonard Cohen: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
Mississippi Records and the Hollywood Theatre come together to pay tribute to the dearly departed Leonard Cohen with a screening of this documentary capturing Cohen at the age of 35, barely awake and yet awakening the minds of everyone attending 1970’s Isle of Wight festival. Proceeds benefit the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Hollywood Theatre.
“I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country.” Hollywood Theatre.
This is a heck of a time for a movie like Loving. The historical drama/romance, from director Jeff Nichols, examines the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial Virginia couple who were jailed for their marriage, and who won a 1967 Supreme Court case that declared any existing laws prohibiting interracial marriages as unconstitutional. It’s a story of civil rights, of the power and persistence of love, of the victory of human decency over hatred and prejudice. It’s positively brimming with the type of hope America needs right now. And it’s... kind of boring. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Manchester by the Sea
The history of American men on screen is the history of repressed emotion. From Marlon Brando’s animalistic slow boil to Cary Grant’s Teflon-coated savoir-faire, movie icons have embodied the masculine inability to just say what they feel, for God’s sake. It is this rarified company to which Casey Affleck seeks admittance with his emotionally constipated performance in Manchester by the Sea. I’m being a little snarky, because it’s an impressive performance, especially coming from Casey Affleck. Damn it, there I go again. I like Casey, and it has to be tough trying to escape big brother Ben’s shadow. But as a grieving (and grieving, and grieving) New England handyman who’s unexpectedly put in charge of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Affleck seems to be trying a bit too hard, straining towards a profundity that he can’t quite grasp. MARC MOHAN Hollywood Theatre.
If you need hope for the next generation, look no further than Disney’s latest. Moana provides a great message for little girls (and grown ones) in a time when their feminine power and the sanctity of the environment are under threat. JENNI MOORE Various Theaters.
Moonlight is a movie about what it’s like to grow up male in America. Moonlight is also a movie about what it’s like to grow up gay in America. And Moonlight is, in addition, a movie about what it’s like to grow up black in America. That inevitably makes Barry Jenkins’ justly acclaimed film sound like it will appeal primarily to gay, black, and/or male audiences. And indeed, people who share some or all of its protagonist’s characteristics will be overjoyed at the belated depiction of lives like theirs on screen. But Moonlight, if I can swoon for a moment, does what all true art aspires to do. It shares something unique but universal about what it’s like to be human. MARC MOHAN Cinema 21.
Fashion-designer-turned-director Tom Ford’s second film (and his first since 2009’s A Single Man) looks great, and the story is intriguing and disturbing. But the movie’s a downer, and it has the misfortune of showing up in theaters exactly when we really don’t need a downer—especially one about the emotional scars of rich, well-dressed white people. MARC MOHAN Various Theaters.
Office Christmas Party
There’s nothing more depressing than a bad office Christmas party. The music is schmaltzy, the eggnog has a skin growing on it, and Walt from marketing starts getting reeeeal enthusiastic about getting you into the copy room. But a good office Christmas party gives everyone the chance to let their hair down, to show off a saucy side their buttoned-up workday personas don’t allow for. As evidenced by the title, Office Christmas Party is not a particularly imaginative movie, but it does place some incredibly charismatic TV actors in a new setting, giving them a chance to improvise and earn a hefty paycheck in the process. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
The Polar Express IMAX 3D
A corpse-eyed CGI Tom Hanks abducts innocent children and imprisons them on a hellish train. Various Theaters.
Queer Horror for the Holidays
The bimonthly series, hosted by Carla Rossi, gets dressed up in its Christmas finest, which in Carla’s case means transforming this holly jolly holiday into a freaky, fucked-up nightmare full of gruesome short films and live performances from adventurous Portland artists. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Re-run Theater: Holiday Special Double Feature
The Hollywood celebrates not only the Christmas season, but five years of bringing the absolute best—and cringiest—television to the big screen via its Re-run Theater series. As an example of the best: A Black Adder Christmas Carol. As an example—nay, the example—of the cringe: The Star Wars Holiday Special. With vintage commercials during the ad breaks, as well as opportunities to win prizes, including the debut of Re-run Theater T-shirts! BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Rules Don’t Apply
TV may get all the shine nowadays, but old-fashioned movie-star charisma goes a long way. Case in point: Warren Beatty, who’s returned to movies after a 15-year hiatus. He wrote, directed, and stars in Rules Don’t Apply, a wholly fictitious movie about billionaire Howard Hughes (Beatty) that foregrounds a forbidden romance between two of Hughes’ employees, starlet-in-the-making Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and her driver Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich). Narratively, the movie’s a mess. But like a bowl of melted ice cream—in this case, Hughes’ preferred flavor, Baskin-Robbins’ Banana Nut—it’s still pretty delicious. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.
The directing team behind award-winning nature documentaries Winged Migration and Oceans close out their loose trilogy with Seasons, following the adventures in the air and at sea with a look at the wildlife living in the European forests. Cinema 21.
Things to Come
One of two Isabelle Huppert dramas you can catch this winter, Things to Come follows Nathalie (Huppert), a middle-aged philosophy teacher. All at once, her husband leaves her, her aging mother declines, and her publishers note that while her textbook is certainly prestigious, it’s no longer marketable. Nathalie confronts these challenges against a backdrop of her students radicalizing—an act she respects ideologically but also resents, perhaps because her students bring her bourgeois problems into focus. Thanks to the cast and the script by writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve, Things to Come is tranquil but never boring: there are no monotonous shots, no Deeply Meaningful Looks, no tortuous pacing to convey emotion. Like its resilient protagonist, the film takes its domestic upheavals in stride. KJERSTIN JOHNSON Various Theaters.
Time and Tide: Portraits of Place
This installment of the Northwest Tracking series features Alain Letourneau’s Kelley Point, a documentary short about the Portland park, and Nick Peterson’s Nihon Kyuukei, a short similar to Letourneau’s, but focused on the Kanto prefecture of Japan. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
John Landis’ 1983 comedy is the latest in the Hollywood’s ongoing “This is Your Theater” series, meaning the audience picked it, likely based on warmly nostalgic memories of catching it on cable as a young’un, snickering at the crude and silly joys found within. Well, memory plays tricks on you, and nostalgia is a motherfucker, because everyone in that theater is about to discover what a boring, tone-deaf, mean-spirited, racist piece of shit this movie really is. Maybe three or four solid laughs (almost all belonging to Paul Gleason as Clarence Beeks) have survived being entombed in this rancid turd. In 1983, it explained to audiences that Eddie Murphy really could carry a movie. In 2016, it explains how someone like Max Landis came out the way he did. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
A showcase for Portland’s female filmmakers, featuring 12 short experimental and documentary films, including the Portland premiere of Shadow Cast, a documentary about the Clinton’s cast of Rocky Horror midnight performers. Clinton Street Theater.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, December 16-Thursday, December 22, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.