Awake: The Life of Yogananda
An "unconventional biography" of the Hindu Swami behind Autobiography of a Yogi. Hollywood Theatre.
Big Hero 6
Similar to The Incredibles in tone, timing, and humor, Big Hero 6 tells the heartwarming tale of a bright young genius, his science friends, and an inflatable robot. SUZETTE SMITH Various Theaters.
There's no doubt that Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest is very clever about what it says. The question is if it has anything to say. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
For their third feature, Laika takes a small step toward the lighter side of children's fare: While there are still slightly grotesque, strangely alluring creatures at the heart of The Boxtrolls, this time they're the heroes, unlike the undead of ParaNorman or the Other Parents of Coraline. While the elaborate set pieces get bigger and bigger as the film moves along (including a dazzling, dizzying dance sequence), the story gets muddled. Laika—for the first time in their short cinematic history—tries to squeeze in a Message, with screenwriters Irena Brignull and Adam Pava straining under the effort. ROBERT HAM Various Theaters.
Films selected and introduced by Portland film critics. On Thurs Dec 4, the Mercury's Erik Henriksen presents Guillermo del Toro's Cronos (1993); on Thurs Dec 11, the Oregonian's Marc Mohan presents Alan Arkin's Little Murders (1971); on Fri Dec 12, KGW's Shawn Levy presents John D. Hancock's Bang the Drum Slowly (1973); and on Wed Dec 17, Willamette Week's AP Kryza presents Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1973). Hollywood Theatre.
Dear White People
The central conflict in Dear White People is driven by Sam (Tessa Thompson, AKA Jackie from Veronica Mars!), a fired-up young activist who hosts a satirical radio show where she instructs white people on the nuances of how to behave in a multiracial world. There's entirely too much plot, but Dear White People shines interpersonally, as its characters navigate how race factors into relationships, self-presentation, and group identification. And it doubles as a catalog of how creepy even the most well-intentioned white people can be—if you haven't yet gotten the "don't touch black people's hair" memo, there are some skin-crawlingly effective scenes that will drive the point solidly home. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
Dumb and Dumber To
Dumb and Dumber To might be dumber than its predecessor, but it's not as funny. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
El Mar, Mi Alma
A 16mm documentary about the surf communities in Chile. Clinton Street Theater.
(1) Denzel Washington is a great actor, and can almost make you forget you're watching another entry in the "Angry Granddad" genre. Almost. (2) Lots of The Equalizer's action takes place in a Home Depot... which is so awesome. Every action movie should take place in a Home Depot, because there are so many possibilities! And believe me, Denzel makes use of every one of them—including wince-inducing violence involving barbed wire and power drills. (3) The Equalizer also features one of filmdom's greatest/most hilarious tropes—where the hero blows up the villains' entire operation, and walks away from the explosion without ever looking back. Why? Because Angry Granddad don't give a single fuck about being hit by shrapnel! WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Fanny and Alexander
Ingmar Bergman! 1982! Fanny! Alexander! Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The Found Footage Festival
See Film, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Like the claustrophobic, blood-splattered WWII tank in which it's largely set, Fury rumbles on, solidly, brutally doing its job. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Getting to Know YouTube
Local presenters fire up YouTube and explore "the boundaries of what tubes and you were meant for." Hollywood Theatre.
Gone With the Wind
Someday, far in the future, once all the old people have finally died off, we'll all be able to publicly admit that this movie isn't very good. Hollywood Theatre.
The Great Invisible
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
John Waters' 1988 classic. On Fri Dec 5 and Sun Dec 7, Hairspray will be followed by films from Shorty Shorts: A Queer Film Festival. Clinton Street Theater.
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour is widely credited with catapulting the French New Wave into existence, and for good reason: Resnais used a screenplay by experimental novelist Marguerite Duras, crews in France and Japan, and quick cuts mirroring memory (revolutionary for the time) to make a movie that isn't so much about the bombing of Hiroshima, but about the impossibility of describing the horrors of World War II on screen. Resnais' leads, Eiji Okada and Emmanuelle Rivas, are perfectly cast as a Japanese architect and a French actress who discuss violence and forgetting before never seeing each other again. MEGAN BURBANK Cinema 21.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Horrible Bosses 2
Here's the legacy of Horrible Bosses 2, the inscription on its gravestone, its one-sentence summary in some future compendium of unasked-for sequels: "The movie where Jennifer Aniston tells someone to poop on her." ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Hunger Games:
Mockingjay Part I
Mockingjay Part I is The Empire Strikes Back of The Hunger Games, which is to say that things don't look good for anyone. Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss finds herself in the cone-shaped underground city of District 13, where the seemingly trustworthy but definitely shifty President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, whose truly bizarre colored contacts distract from what is otherwise a solid performance) is in charge, assisted by game-master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose presence is reassuring, then sad). MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
To say too much about the journey of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his small team of astronauts—Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi), and two friendly robots (!)—would kneecap Interstellar's eye-widening moments of fear, excitement, melancholy, and above all else, discovery. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See Film, this issue. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Like the best Keanu Reeves characters, John Wick is a man of few words. He lets his actions speak for themselves. Given that John Wick is an action movie, he ends up saying quite a bit; given that John Wick is a really fucking good action movie, what he says is great. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Judge is interminably long, but I suppose that's what happens when a film has a multifaceted murder trial and an involved family drama filled with pathos; it can be a grind on the ol' stopwatch. Good thing Robert Downey Jr. is there as a hot-shot lawyer to ooze charm and charisma all over the procedural proceedings. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Kung Fu Theater
The Hollywood's Kung Fu Theater series presents a rare, 35mm screening of 1976's Master of the Flying Guillotine. Jaws wasn't the only movie that year responsible for blowing minds—there are stunts in this movie that still don't make any goddamned sense, that modern filmmakers still haven't equaled. Hollywood Theatre.
Lynn Shelton's Laggies is another movie about fetching young women who don't have their shit together. The women in question are an actual adolescent, Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz, proving once again she's one of the best young actresses around) and 28-year-old Megan (Keira Knightley), underemployed and recently engaged to her high school sweetheart. The two strike up a friendship that leads Megan to take full flight from her adult responsibilities, hiding out at Annika's house and reliving her teenaged glory days with Annika and her funny crop of misfit friends. This premise, though, suggests more self-awareness than the film ultimately delivers. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
Mike Henderson: The Blues and the Abstract Truth
Cinema Project presents a program curated by archivist Mark Toscano, featuring several restored 16mm prints, blending Henderson's passions for music and art. More at cinemaproject.org. Hollywood Theatre.
Monty Python's Life of Brian
See My, What a Busy Week! Academy Theater.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
"When Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse!" Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
A pulpy rush that's shot to mirror the nocturnal, grainy world of freelancers who monitor the police scanner and speed to crime scenes to be the first one with sensational video. Unblinking and gaunt, Jake Gyllenhaal's Bloom is a fascinating misfit who discovers his strengths in this new, macabre calling. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Penguins of Madagascar
Hey, this should shut your kid up for a few hours. Various Theaters.
See Film, this issue. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Hey, look, it's another crappy looking horror movie that wasn't screened for critics. This one's about a pyramid! Various Theaters.
The Hollywood is calling this program Christmas in Space because telling people it's a straight-up screening of The Star Wars Holiday Special is like asking people if they'd like to get skullfucked by a wookiee as Bea Arthur watches. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Longtime viewers of The Daily Show will recognize former Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari as a frequent guest on the program. In 2009, he appeared in a segment that also featured Daily Show contributor Jason Jones pretending to be a spy. It was meant as a joke, but it led, in part, to Bahari's incarceration. The Daily Show's host, Jon Stewart, felt kind of bad about it. So he took a summer off from the show and directed a movie about Bahari, writing the script with J.J. Abrams and casting Gael García Bernal as the Iranian Canadian journalist. Whatever greenness Stewart displays as a filmmaker is offset by his earnestness in telling Bahari's story. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
Sex Workers Film Series
A series offering "the best films by and about sex workers." This month: American Courtesans. More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
The Shop Around the Corner
The 1940 romance starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. Hollywood Theatre.
The Wachowskis' Speed Racer might not be much more than a visually mind-blowing sugar rush, but goddamn, I kind of love it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
St. Vincent is contrived. It's contrived in the best way. Do you want to watch Bill Murray act like a sarcastic prick, but secretly have a heart of gold? Do you want him to have an unorthodox-yet-rewarding relationship with a precocious young boy like all the best parts of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Bad Santa, and Bad Words? Do you want these adversarial relationships eventually to lead to understanding? Yeah, St. Vincent is about as procedural of a feel-good Sundance comedy as Law & Order: SVU is a cop show—but when the dialogue is sharp and the acting is perfect, that's a pretty damned fine thing to watch. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Princess Kaguya is based on a Japanese folktale, wherein a childless bamboo cutter finds a tiny princess in a stalk of bamboo. It's a good fit for Studio Ghibli, but Kaguya breaks out of the studio's traditional animation style, leaning into a more ethereal, motion-centered combination of brush strokes reminiscent of a watercolor piece. The effect is startlingly beautiful and original: Generally when people think of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke come to mind, but Princess Kaguya was directed and co-written by Miyazaki's partner and Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, a creator of beloved films in his own right (Pom Poko, Grave of the Fireflies). SUZETTE SMITH Academy Theater, Kiggins Theatre, Laurelhurst Theater.
The Theory of Everything
A romance about Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), and a not-that-smart movie about a really smart guy. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, December 5-Thursday, December 11, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.