See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See Film, this issue. Living Room Theaters, iTunes, VOD.
Bad Movie Nite
A mystery series featuring "some of the cheapest, cheesiest, and most unintentionally hilarious B-movies ever made." More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
Tim Burton's latest. Read our review in next week's Mercury. 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.
Once a year for 12 years, director Richard Linklater summoned a cast of actors to film Boyhood, an utterly unique story of an utterly conventional American childhood. Boyhood is set in the 21st century, so there are divorced parents and videogames; it's Texas, so there are guns. It unfolds over 12 years, from 2002 to the present, but there are no title cards to tell you that time is passing—instead, the years are ticked off with pop songs and Harry Potter book release parties, new haircuts and new best friends. The story is fictionalized, but the passage of time is real; the nearly three-hour result is an affecting, heartfelt masterpiece. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
The British Arrow Awards
Yes: This is a collection of British commercials. And yes: It is totally worth watching. While I have dumb moral qualms about YouTubing American ads (because that is precisely what The Man wants us to do, and I don't want to be a part of his System), I had no problem enjoying these. For one, they advertise products with adorable names, like "gu" and "weetabix" and "rugby," and for two, they are fantastically done. ELINOR JONES NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A big chunk of the striking Citizenfour was shot in Edward Snowden's Hong Kong hotel room, and it's an up-close look at history being made (a seriously up-close look—the hotel room is small). But director Laura Poitras doesn't limit her focus: Pulling in NSA whistleblower William Binney, hacktivist Jacob Appelbaum, the NSA's gargantuan Utah data storage facility, and the Obama administration's unprecedented persecution of those who speak out against it, Citizenfour is an overview of where we are and how we got here—a surveillance state so surreal that Snowden feels the need to remind us "it's not science fiction." ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
"Oh, John! What the fuck are you doing? How the fuck did you get into this shit?" Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
A big, loud, pompous retelling of a very familiar story. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Fashion in Film: Poison Ivy
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
Life is pain, even in the gorgeous French Alps. What starts as a perfect family vacation goes hideously awry in Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund's darkly hilarious and/or darkly horrifying tale of a marriage on the rocks. Or maybe that should be "on the slopes"? I don't know. The important thing is that these people are fucked. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
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.
The latest from Marky Mark. See our review in next week's Mercury. Various Theaters.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Hating Disney purifies my soul and simplifies my worldview, but despite being a mass-market product produced by an evil empire, Guardians of the Galaxy somehow feels like it was made just for me. It's so good! There's no way I'm going to be able to write about it without every word evoking the sound of saliva being sucked over a retainer. Adios, professionalism, you were no match for Chris Pratt and a talking raccoon. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire's 1942 Christmas classic. Significantly more enjoyable than spending time at an actual Holiday Inn. Hollywood Theatre.
As an actor, Tommy Lee Jones has been in some of the greatest films in the genre, from Lonesome Dove to No Country for Old Men, but few expected him to start directing great westerns, too: First there was 2005's fantastic The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which slipped under most people's radars and which most people should watch as soon as humanly possible, and now there's the similarly outstanding The Homesman, based on Glendon Swarthout's 1988 novel. Like Three Burials, The Homesman smooths over its pitch-black cynicism with a surprising amount of pitch-black humor—but there's no mistaking the film's central truth that life is hard and unfair and some of us aren't able to handle it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
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.
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.
"Sure, let's make a comedy about killing Kim Jong-un," Sony said. "What's the worst that could happen?" Read our review in next week's Mercury. Various Theaters.
Into the Woods
Johnny Depp's here to save Christmas for musical theater nerds! Read our review in next week's Mercury. Various Theaters.
It's a Wonderful Life
A digital restoration of the holiday classic that's beloved by those valiantly fighting the slow, crushing, inevitable truth that their lives have not mattered at all. Hollywood Theatre.
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.
Chris Marker's 1997 sci-fi film that "uses cyberspace to explore a chapter in wartime Japan." NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Michael Caine plays Scrooge, the Muppets play everybody else. Maybe Christmas isn't terrible after all. Just kidding, it's still terrible! But this movie makes it a little bit less so. Academy Theater.
The great Frederick Wiseman points his camera at scenes in a major London museum. As with his other documentaries, Wiseman humanizes the institutional process. We feel, in the details of the gallery, the life of humans—their eyes, their art, their movements, their sitting, their listening, their silent thoughts. There is no explanation for this documentary, no obvious goals, nor a narrator to guide us. We just watch and listen. National Gallery is Wiseman's most beautiful documentary since La Danse, about the Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris. CHARLES MUDEDE Living Room Theaters.
Night at the Museum:
Secret of the Tomb
Exactly one year ago, Ben Stiller was hoping for an Oscar with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Look how well that worked out for him. Various Theaters.
The 1997 anime thriller from Satoshi Kon about the stalking of a Japanese pop idol. Hollywood Theatre.
The Princess Bride
R.O.U.S. alert. 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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
A series of holiday themed short films presented by members of "Portland's Santa community." Clinton Street Theater.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
It's no Black Christmas, but 1984's inevitable Santa-turns-slasher bloodbath Silent Night, Deadly Night has a few likeable qualities nonetheless: You've got your sex with nuns, you've got a multitude of arbitrary victims introduced and subsequently murdered in roughly one half of one scene, not to mention a smattering of increasingly ludicrous Christmas songs that all seem to be composed specifically for the movie. On the downside, you've got the needlessly expository first two-thirds of the movie, plus perhaps the least convincing horror villain of all time: a dashing, doe-eyed WASP-y dude in a Santa suit whose creepy one liners alternate between the equally un-scary "Puuunish!" and "Naaaw-tee!"—delivered in a nearly unintelligible monotone. ZAC PENNINGTON Hollywood Theatre.
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 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.
Chris Rock invited all of his friends to make a movie. And because his friends are Cedric the Entertainer and Jerry Seinfeld and Questlove and DMX, Top Five—like Rock himself—exists at the vibrant intersection of hiphop and stand-up comedy, drawing from both worlds without comment or conflict. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Angelina Jolie's film about Olympian Louis Zamperini's less-than-fantastic times during WWII. Read our review in next week's Mercury. Various Theaters.
Why Don't You Play in Hell?
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre, iTunes, Vimeo.
As a whole, Jean-Marc Vallée's adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's harshly beautiful memoir works phenomenally well, and at its best, it's as striking and intense as the book. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.