The Awful Truth
A special screening of Leo McCarey’s award-winning 1937 screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a married couple making shit way harder on themselves than it needs to be. Part of NW Film’s Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series, preceded by live music and local short films Hotel DeLuxe.
B-Movie Bingo: First Action Hero
Your monthly opportunity to literally check off a bingo card full of B-movie clichés! This month, we are served up a solid slab of Italian silliness in the form of 1994’s First Action Hero, which seems like it should be a riff on the self-aware (and ahead-of-its-time) Schwarzenegger lark The Last Action Hero, but isn’t much more than a bunch of Italian guys sweating through rayon dress shirts while bringing their graceless, ultra-low-budget Miami Vice fanfiction to... life, I guess? Life-ish? This thing is so B-grade that it’s being screened off VHS. Your card is guaranteed to black out. It’s just a question of how quickly it happens. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ Baby Driver
Edgar Wright’s latest is wall-to-wall music, and it might take you a track or two to fall into the stylized rhythm that marks his work—from Shaun of the Dead to Hot Fuzz to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—and drop-kicks naturalism to the curb. But once its tires grip pavement, Baby Driver becomes a full-throttle ballet of motion, color, and sound. The tunes are great, the getaway chases will leave you breathless, and the motley team of robbers—which includes Kevin Spacey, Eiza González, and an excellent Jamie Foxx—comes from the kind of screenplay you wish Tarantino still wrote. NED LANNAMANN Cinemagic, Hollywood Theatre.
★ The Beguiled
Sofia Coppola has crafted an enchanting, dark, sometimes funny Civil War-era battle of the sexes that’s one of the more smartly provocative movies of the summer. Whichever characters you end up thinking the title applies to, it’s just as likely to refer to viewers. MARC MOHAN Various Theaters.
★ The Big Sick
The Big Sick doesn’t sound like anything extraordinary. But that’s what makes it so enjoyable—this is the type of sweetly told, small-scale story that has all but evaporated from movie screens, and wouldn’t work as a TV show. It’s also got one or two things to say about being a Muslim in America, so it’s not only different from the usual white-bread romantic comedies, it’s very much connected to this political moment, too. Maybe this is putting too much significance onto a story this small. But I think The Big Sick is up for it. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
★ Classic French Cinema
The NW Film Center’s series of French cinema arrives with the dog days of summer, meaning that between now and the end of August, there are some excellent alternatives to the late-summer multiplex doldrums. The series appears to be curated around French director Bertrand Tavernier’s new three-hour documentary My Journey Through French Cinema, a far from comprehensive but enjoyably heartfelt survey of his country’s film history. That means the series eschews obvious touchstones like Truffaut, Godard, Malle, and Chabrol. Rather, the maverick Jean-Pierre Melville is represented by two of his greatest films (1967’s grimly meditative, hugely influential Le Samouraï and 1969’s bleak French Resistance thriller Army of Shadows), as is poetic realist Marcel Carné, whose sweepingly tragic work, such as 1939’s Le jour se lève and 1945’s two-part epic Children of Paradise (both screening), was considered laughably outdated when the French New Wave rolled around. The Melville films, especially Le Samouraï, are must-sees for contemporary audiences, as is the tense, paranoid Classe tous risques, a 1960 thriller from director Claude Sautet that juxtaposes film-noir and gangster-film tropes onto a heartbreaking domestic story. More at nwfilm.org. NED LANNAMANN NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Dave Made a Maze
A movie about a frustrated artist who builds a fort in his living room and gets trapped in his own imagin—holy shit this is directed by Bill Watterson!? The Bill Watter—wait. No. No, it’s not that Bill Watterson. It’s some other dude. Not the Calvin & Hobbes guy. I guess this guy played “Diner Manager” in Ouija. But still, there aren’t a lot of movies in theaters right now about getting lost in a living room fort. So there’s that. Not screened for critics. Cinema 21.
★ David Lynch: A Retrospective
A friend once told me he imagined David Lynch as a nice dad who’d serve you quinoa while discussing the benefits of transcendental meditation. Maybe that’s a weird way to describe the filmmaker behind such horrors as Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet, but I get it. Lynch’s movies aren’t comfortable, but the strong emotional engagement they elicit feels like a gift, and so does NW Film Center’s Lynch retrospective. More at nwfilm.org. MEGAN BURBANK NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Despicable Me 3
Does anyone even still give a fuck about Gror or whatever it is Steve Carell plays? Grub? There’s apparently a whole plot centering on him and his twin brother Grop or some shit, but c’mon—it’s another Minions flick. That’s all it really is. It is a thing that has Minions in it and so you are duty-bound to take whatever crotchfruit have tumbled from your loins into the theater, and shove Minions into their eyes until they’re placid, like the quarters and crayons they’ll ram up their noses when you’re not paying attention. Such is the way of things. Congratulations on your successful procreation. Various Theaters.
The Driller Killer
Usually, midnight movies are goofy, fun-loving affairs where fans gather together and power through a familiar favorite fueled by sugar and warm nostalgia. But Fifth Avenue Cinema has decided midnight movies need to be a little bit raw again, revisiting the irresponsible nastiness of Abel Ferrara’s 1979 directorial debut The Driller Killer, about a starving artist who is so scared of becoming homeless he becomes a mass murderer whose weapon of choice is a fucking power drill. Good night and good luck ever sleeping again, midnight moviegoers. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Because of its faithfulness to historical fact, some may complain that Dunkirk isn’t dramatically satisfying, at least in a traditional sense. At well under two hours, it’s among the shortest films Christopher Nolan has ever made, yet it might be the most grueling experience you have at the movies this year. The deliberately lean story loses its legibility at times; certain sequences don’t quite make sense, while others never find the towline of narrative to pull viewers out of the confusion of events. And yet even these shortcomings feel right—Dunkirk reminds us of the experiential power of film. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
The Emoji Movie
The only possible saving grace of this thing is that the producers somehow roped Patrick Stewart into voicing a literal coil of shit with eyeballs shoved into it. Look: Everything is fucked, nothing will be good again, and nobody will really hold it against you if take a 90 minute respite from the outside world by ducking into a theater and indulging the brain-dead “charms” of this animated film starring a collection of pictographs that will soon represent the sum total of all human language in what little dystopian future is left to us by the disgusting, ambulatory colostomy bags running our country. Co-starring Rachael Ray as Spam. Various Theaters.
★ A Ghost Story
There are a lot of arthouse movies about grief and grieving, and most of them are bad. A Ghost Story is so much more than that, but to understand what writer/director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) is playing at, you have to forget what you’ve learned from other grief narratives. A Ghost Story will take you somewhere, if you let it. VINCE MANCINI Cinema 21.
★ Girls Trip
Girls Trip doubles as a $19-million ad for the Essence Festival (I’ll be attending next year), but I was pleased that the comedy isn’t just a Black woman’s rendition of The Hangover, and nor does it contort itself into a cheesy romcom. The central love story here is that of the “Flossy Posse,” four college friends who used to slay dance-offs in the ’90s. Ryan (Regina Hall) seems to have it all, Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) needs to get laid, and Sasha (Queen Latifah) is a gossip blogger. But Tiffany Haddish steals the show as Dina, the life of the party who routinely gets the girls into trouble, and will get buck to defend her friends from fuck niggas or “Instagram ho” villains. Is Girls Trip a hilarious, turnt-up celebration of Black womanhood and sexuality? YAS! But at its core, it’s about personal integrity, self-love, and female friendship. JENNI MOORE Various Theaters.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Oh my God they’re all so fucking little it’s so goddamned adorable I could barf. Kennedy School.
★ Hedwig and the Angry Inch
With its charming pop-art magical realism, cinematic flashbacks, and the ability to present intimate documentary-style footage of Hedwig’s misfit band on tour with their charlatan business manager, the movie version of Hedwig is able to emphasize the rich plot far better than the stage version did. Although, admittedly, the movie ending—a Christ-like nude walk across a city street with a close-up on Mitchell’s ass—is still wildly obscure. (I could never figure out Tommy or Rocky Horror either.) JOSH FEIT Clinton Street Theater.
The latest entry into the illustrious genre of Indie Movies About Sad Old Men, The Hero follows Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott), a 71-year-old movie star who’s keenly aware that he’s about 40 years past his prime. If you’re guessing what Lee needs is a visit from a manic pixie dream girl, well, hey, look who it is: thirtysomething stand-up comedian Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who’s got a thing for older dudes and a ready supply of molly. There’s a fair amount of meta-ness going on in The Hero—characters keep telling Lee how much they like his mustache and his old movies where he played a cowboy—and Elliott remains as gruff, likeable, and watchable as ever. That real-life baggage goes both ways, though; no matter how seriously writer/director Brett Haley takes all this, it’s never not going to be weird to watch Donna from That ’70s Show making out with The Stranger from The Big Lebowski. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst 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. 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 Alberta Park.
★ It Comes at Night
It Comes at Night tells the story of Paul (Joel Edgerton), who lives in a secluded woodland house with his wife (Carmen Ejogo) and teenage son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). The world is sick—probably dying. An unnamed plague, fatal and incurable, has fragmented what we can see of society. In 2017, it’s easy to bounce off of grueling apocalyptic dramas like The Walking Dead and The Road—in those stories, like life, the sense of doom can become overbearing. It Comes at Night balances on the knife edge between hope and despair, counterweighting the dire nature of its world with genuinely moving moments of warmth. This family seems worth saving, and the destruction that hovers over them, for all its menace, never feels inevitable. BEN COLEMAN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Come on. It’s fucking Jurassic Park. It is always wonderful, best on the big screen, and you don’t have to beg for an advance on your allowance to see it this time. ELINOR JONES Academy Theater.
The Little Hours
Though nuns are often portrayed as beacons of purity, they’re anything but in The Little Hours, Jeff Baena’s film set at a convent in medieval Italy. These sisters unleash torrents of profanity, violently lash out at men, chug sacramental wine, and explore their sexuality with wild abandon. The Little Hours finds comedy in mundanity; its jokes, thankfully, make up for its unoriginality. CIARA DOLAN Cinema 21.
★ Raising Arizona
“Edwina’s insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.” Mission Theater.
★ Red Rock West
If you missed John Dahl’s 1993 neo-noir classic when it was first released, count yourself among... well, everybody. The film basically went straight-to-video in the days where straight-to-video didn’t mean Netflix. It meant people had to stumble over it as they wandered Blockbuster like a Saturday night zombie, and gamble on a VHS cover featuring Nicolas Cage in a Canadian tuxedo, one of the Twin Peaks girls, and King Koopa from the Super Mario Bros. movie. And the people who took that bet got their socks rocked off by the darkly funny, cold-as-ice crime thriller expertly executed by Dahl, with a supporting cast that includes the quietly creepy Dwight Yoakam and the always great J.T. Walsh. BOBBY ROBERTS Laurelhurst Theater.
Score: A Film Music Documentary
Matt Schrader’s long-in-the-making documentary on the art of film scoring, containing a murderer’s row of the industry’s all-time best talking about their careers via new interviews and archive footage. Legends appearing onscreen include John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, Elmer Bernstein, and Max Steiner, juxtaposed against up-and-comers like Bear McCreary, Tyler Bates, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, and Junkie XL. Basically: If you’ve ever left a movie theater humming something from the soundtrack, the person who wrote that melody is in here, helping show just how necessary music is to making a film great. Kiggins Theater.
★ Spider-Man: Homecoming
I will not start off this review by saying all previous Spider-Man movies were garbage—because they weren’t. Some were mediocre, and the rest were garbage. So let’s never speak of them again, because Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t only the best Spider-Man film ever made—it might just be the current reigning champion in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk
Corbett Redford’s documentary features interviews with the musicians who made up Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street collective, a group who became the epicenter of the Bay Area’s ’90s punk renaissance. Narrated by Iggy Pop. Cinema 21.
★ Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
From its awe-inspiring opening montage, Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets immediately immerses its audience in a brilliant, idiosyncratic sci-fi universe—one that’s unlike anything we’ve seen for 20 years, since Besson’s last brilliant, idiosyncratic sci-fi universe, in The Fifth Element. Those of us who loved The Fifth Element will get exactly what we’ve been missing with Valerian. It’s a delight. SUZETTE SMITH Various Theaters.
Vernacular Viewings with Robert Sickels
A program of short documentaries from Walla Walla-based filmmaker Robert Sickels, focused on day-to-day life inside his hometown, covering wiffle-ball tournaments, lawnmowing aficionados, and other random human interactions. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes may not be a full-blown argument for the end of the human race, but the film does make the case that if a natural or unnatural calamity befalls our species, no one will be able to say we didn’t ask for it. SEAN NELSON Various Theaters.
Wet Hot American Summer
“Douchebags are hygienic products; I take that as a compliment. Thank you.” Clinton Street Theater.
★ Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The miracle of this film isn’t so much that animation and live action were blended so seamlessly (although that’s still legitimately fucking amazing to behold), nor is it that the novelty of seeing Daffy and Donald Duck onscreen at the same time has yet to wear off (although it probably never will)—the real miracle is that underneath all of Robert Zemeckis and Richard Williams cel-shaded polish and technical achievement, an honest-to-god twisty-turny noir film is humming on all cylinders, delivering a Chinatown-styled commentary on the powers that be selling out its own citizens and turning their homes into parking lots all for a little extra scratch. But! If you just wanna watch Roger spit all over Eddie and turn into a steam whistle, it’s still fun as hell and worth a watch on the big screen. BOBBY ROBERTS Fifth Avenue Cinema.
★ Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is exciting and fun—even though it devolves into typical blockbuster spectacle near its end, I’d recommend it to anyone who loves action films, and there’s also just enough subtext to feed a philosophical mind. How much harm does Wonder Woman do when she strides boldly into war? Is this what power looks like? Is it cool just because she’s a woman? Hopefully these questions will be answered in future films. For now, Wonder Woman is a thrilling start. SUZETTE SMITH Various Theaters.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, July 28-Thursday, August 3, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.