Jesse Eisenberg plays an amiable corner market clerk in a small West Virginia town who discovers he's an amnesiac super spy and that the CIA is trying to kill him with some other amnesiac, somewhat-less-amiable super spies. (Because at this stage in American politics, would anyone really be terribly surprised if that happened?) American Ultra's action is of the "guy hits a series of well-trained goons with ordinary household objects" school, and it's clearly shot and occasionally clever, even if nothing in the film approaches the flair of an old-school Jackie Chan sequence or the urgency of a Bourne takedown. There are really only so many household objects you can see people bludgeoned with. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
An American Werewolf in London
No tribute to special effects would be complete without a nod to Rick Baker, and no film better showcases his skills than John Landis' 1981 flick An American Werewolf in London, which, 32 years down the road, still boasts the greatest, goriest, and most horrifying man-wolf transformation ever. Screens as part of the NW Film Center's "pop-up outdoor film series" at the Zidell Yards, along with Clueless, Jurassic Park, North by Northwest, and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure; more at nwfilm.org. H. PERRY HORTON Zidell Yards.
From a distance, it's hard to tell how much celebrity suffering is theater. Asif Kapadia's shattering documentary Amy certainly qualifies as theater in its own right, piecing together great amounts of archival, never-before-seen video footage of late musician Amy Winehouse with dramatic effectiveness. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
The Art of Reinvention: Paul Thomas Anderson & His Influences
All seven of Paul Thomas Anderson's features, paired with 14 films by directors that influenced him, either explicitly or indirectly. The series illuminates Anderson from all sides, providing some much-welcome context to some of his more inscrutable pieces. The devastating bleakness that characterizes his work is threaded throughout, of course, but we're reminded of the long, sustained passages of giddy hilarity in them, too. See "Motorcycles and Milkshakes," Film, July 22. NED LANNAMANN NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Hollywood's film series where audiences check off a bingo card full of wonderful B-movie cliches. This month's entry: Possibly the only Van Damme movie that actually works as a movie, Timecop. It's still full of more cheese than Tillamook County, yeah, but it's also full of Ron Silver at peak douchebag—and that is guaranteed entertainment. Hollywood Theatre.
In this ass-clenching exploration of the filthy underbelly of Reagan-era suburbia, a Hardy Boy-esque Kyle MacLachlan discovers a severed ear and tumbles headlong into a mystery that turns darker and uglier by the second. Good times! WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Laurelhurst Theater.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Watching The Diary of a Teenage Girl is like being hugged by a Lisa Frank panda while floating on a sea of Hitachi Magic Wands and cotton candy. Its color palate is Indica-laced rainbow sherbet. Its heart is a sentient mug of hot cocoa. Its eyes are Bel Powley's cartoonishly gigantic, wide-open baby blues. It's also about statutory rape, and that juxtaposition's caused no shortage of controversy for Marielle Heller's directorial debut. That's too bad, because at its core, Teenage Girl is about a 15-year-old coming into her own as an artist, a storyline I wish more people cared about enough to write into movies. MEGAN BURBANK Cinema 21.
Digging for Fire
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters, On Demand.
The End of the Tour
When a writer means as much to you as David Foster Wallace means to so many, you really don't need to see him impersonated on-screen by that dude whose dick you saw in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. For the rest of us, though—the more moderate fans who marvel at Wallace's essays and short stories, even as our copies of Infinite Jest remain permanently dog-eared at page 281—there's much to appreciate about The End of the Tour. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
After a creepy fucker like Gordo shows up at your front door, bearing a suspiciously wrapped gift, you might never answer the door again. The Gift's writer, director, and star Joel Edgerton is that redheaded weirdo on the doorstep, staring in like an overeager puppy at the home of Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall). Unlike frothy '80s stalk-porn like Fatal Attraction, The Gift is a slow-seething psychological thriller that takes its characters through unexpected layer peels as their triangle gets ever pricklier. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Charlie Salas Humara and Marius Libman's X-Ray FM talk show—now in video form! Hollywood Theatre.
Hitman: Agent 47
Video game adaptation Hitman: Agent 47 fails to distinguish itself from pretty much every other B-picture featuring skinny ties, copious bullet-time, and guns in every available hand. For a movie based on a game that prides itself on offering multiple paths to an objective, it sure does rely on the tattered old John Woo playbook. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Jail Break for Joe Gibbons
The Oregon Department of Kick Ass presents a screening of work from the bank-robbing documentarian, including Confessions of a Sociopath, along with readings of letters from Gibbons. More at hollywoodtheatre.org. Hollywood Theatre.
Love & Mercy
Although the Beach Boys became one of the most successful enterprises in popular music, their only truly significant work is confined to two records: 1966's Pet Sounds and its famously aborted (though eventually released) follow-up, Smile, which began production in late '66 and was shelved in '67. That's the period dramatized in the better parts of Love & Mercy: Paul Dano pulls off the idiosyncrasies of the young Brian Wilson perfectly. By comparison, a parallel arc with John Cusack portraying Wilson in his 40s—an overmedicated, incapacitated man-child at the mercy of despotic pseudo-psychiatrist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti)—can't help but feel dull. MORGAN TROPER Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
Probably the best thing that can be said about No Escape is that it features an amazing scene where Owen Wilson throws a little girl off a building. It really is amazing! He chucks her right off. In slow motion! Actually, okay, there's more: There are a bunch of solidly impressive action sequences in No Escape—propulsive, nerve-jangling stretches that're stressful and scary—along with a few injections of humor from Wilson and a grizzled-up Pierce Brosnan. Problem is, the story—which finds Wilson relocating his wife (Lake Bell) and their two horrid children to a conspicuously unnamed Southeast Asian country, where they're promptly chased through the streets by nameless, machete-wielding rebels—is... ah... pretty racist? (Gruff ol' Brosnan gets one speech where he tries to explain the geopolitics behind the coup, but no one's really listening.) There's probably something to be said about how the bloody, skeevy No Escape could work as an allegory of white Americans' fear of their diminishing status in a more complex and globalized world, but that'd get in the way of Owen Wilson fleeing from the screeching hordes of the Other. At least No Escape offers a useful bit of vacation advice: Always travel with a James Bond. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Hitchcock's 1946 thriller, starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains. Hollywood Theatre.
It is just barely the end of WWII, and survivors are washing up from the camps, living proof of everything the German people want to pretend never happened. Among these is Nelly (Nina Hoss), a woman who was shot in the face and left for dead. Reconstructive surgery leaves her beautiful but unrecognizable, and she ferrets out the husband whose betrayal led to her arrest—not out of revenge so much as a stumbling, fugue-state of shock, unable to process that the life ripped away from her is irretrievable. His inability to recognize her reflects the mass denial that surrounds them, and the film becomes a tragic allegory for a nation at wits' end, filmed with a Hitchcockian moodiness that transcends the less believable moments in the plot. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
Portland Film Festival
See Film, this issue. Various Theaters.
See this film in the unlikely event that you're with your woo-woo friends and have some edibles on hand. Otherwise don't. SUZETTE SMITH Fox Tower 10.
Ricki and the Flash
Should you find yourself in a situation where viewing Ricki and the Flash is unavoidable, prepare yourself by watching the trailer. While the trailer is the nadir of human artistic accomplishment, lo these 200,000 years, it does serve as an effective inoculation against the movie itself. Pin your eyelids open so you can't blink, and let it enter you. Fill yourself with Meryl Streep's gravely croon. The no-she-didn't joke about her graying pubic hair. The forced sentimentality of a mother trying to reconnect with her estranged children. Your body will activate the necessary defenses, so that when you go see the movie, the cringey highlights of the trailer will fade into the background of a standard-issue family drama that thinks it's more outrageous than it is. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
1983 Tom Cruise is so tiny! Even tinier than he is now! Academy Theater.
Sex Workers Film Series
A series offering "the best films by and about sex workers." This month: My Own Private Idaho. Proceeds benefit STROLL (Sex Traders Radical Outreach & Liberation Lobby); more at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
Does the world really need another movie about a gritty white boxer from the wrong side of the tracks, who gets as good as he gives, whose struggles in the ring mirror his struggles in his personal life? Absolutely not. And yet the sheer, unblinking earnestness with which Southpaw tries to convince you that it does almost works. It sticks to the formula so closely that it becomes a mantra, an incantation. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
Straight Outta Compton
In one of Straight Outta Compton's most powerful shots, two men walk toward a police line. Held between them are a blue and a red bandana, knotted together, signifying unity in the face of a common enemy. It's part of a scene that recreates the chaos of the Rodney King riots, the political event that cuts closest to the heart of what N.W.A. represented, and continues to represent, as the country stumbles along a crooked path of institutionalized oppression. It's depressing how relevant "Fuck tha Police" still is, and that makes Straight Outta Compton essential viewing. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Good movies can sometimes give off a hum—a feeling that the energy and chemistry on screen can't be constrained by the edges of the frame. Tangerine fits this description and then some, creating a kinetic rush with enough spillover juice to light up LA for a year. ANDREW WRIGHT Laurelhurst Theater, On Demand.
Top Down: Rooftop Cinema
The final screening of NW Film Center's annual rooftop screening series, held on top of the Hotel deLuxe's parking garage. Screening Thurs Aug 27 is Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. More at nwfilm.org. Hotel deLuxe.
Amy Schumer fans should take heart: I'm with you. As far as I'm concerned, she's a national treasure, so it's weird to see her sharp-edged humor dulled by a movie that essentially hews to a classic boy-meets-girl-plus-problem format. MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
"I kept asking Clarence why our world seemed to be collapsing and things seemed to be getting so shitty. And he'd say, 'That's the way it goes, but don't forget—it goes the other way, too.'" Hollywood Theatre.
A modern tribute to the kind of '80s-era Mad Max-meets-Masters of the Universe dystopian fantasy schlock that, back in the '80s, would have likely starred Michael Ironside. Starring Michael Ironside. Hollywood Theatre.
We Are Your Friends
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The seven Angulo siblings—six boys, one girl—spent their childhoods confined to a four-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side. The brothers were home-schooled, barely socialized, and let outside only a handful of times a year—"one particular year," one boy says, "we never got out all." Movies are the Angulos' connection to the world: They watch their favorites over and over, and create detailed, elaborate costumes and props to film their own reenactments. "If I didn't have movies, life would be pretty boring, and there wouldn't be any point to go on," says one. First-time director Crystal Moselle is the first guest to have ever been invited to the Angulos' apartment. Rather than wallow in the details of their insane childhood, Moselle focuses on their creativity, their camaraderie, and the pleasure they derive from their wide-eyed forays into the outside world. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
Z for Zachariah
See review this issue. Cinema 21, Kiggins Theatre, On Demand.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, August 28-Thursday, September 3, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.