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.
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.
Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott's 2003 documentary, screening as a fundraiser for Bernie Sanders. Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
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. If you love Angela Chase, or Rory Gilmore, or Tavi Gevinson, or, I don't know, HARRIET THE SPY, you will love Minnie Goetze, the film's sex-obsessed, Aline Kominsky-worshipping, budding cartoonist heroine. MEGAN BURBANK Cinema 21.
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 Hollywood Theatre.
The End of the World
Works from the Vancouver-based Iris Film Collective. Directors in attendance. More at nwfilm.org. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
"Let's get down to brass tacks. How much for the ape?" Academy Theater.
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.
A Girl Like Her
Ann Fessler's 2012 documentary, screening as part of the Clinton's Reproductive Justice Film Series. Clinton Street Theater.
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.
KBOO at the Clinton
Films presented by local radio station KBOO. This time: Arresting Power. More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
Kung Fu Theater
This is the only known 35mm print of the Shaw Brothers classic Buddha's Palm—the story of a man saved from certain death by a kung fu master, and possibly the most acid-infused, psychedelic kung fu flick ever made. Basically, it's like getting your ass kicked by a bag of shrooms. BOBBY ROBERTS 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. Cinema 21.
Even if Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's latest project together feels like an afterthought when compared to Greenberg and Frances Ha, it's also their most consistently amusing, cleverly self-critical film to date. KATHY FENNESSY Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
As Sherlock Holmes, Ian McKellen is magnificent. It's often argued that cinematic spectacle can't be truly experienced unless it's projected onto a 50-foot screen, but I'd argue that it is also worth employing that increased scale to watch the planes of McKellen's face shift, almost imperceptibly, from mood to mood. BEN COLEMAN Living Room Theaters.
Time to revisit David Lynch's 2001 film, yeah? Lynch's films get richer and more nuanced the more times they're viewed. (Face it, you didn't like whiskey the first time you tried it, either—and now look at you.) COURTNEY FERGUSON Laurelhurst Theater.
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? ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Portland Film Festival
When it comes to quality vs. quantity, the Portland Film Festival chooses the latter. This year boasts 80 features and 134 shorts—which, on paper, seems like it'd give a bunch of independent, up-and-coming talent an opportunity to shine. But the reality is that without better curation, few films have a chance to stand out. PFF seems to assume audiences are more interested in mingling with mid-range celebrities at after-parties than in actually watching any movies à la carte. See "Quality vs. Quantity at the Portland Film Festival," Film, Aug 26. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
Portlander Sean Brown (Kakoon, Boo Demon vs. La Cerveza De Muerte) has been mad-busy making local-centric B-movies. Radio Silence is the third in his loosely knit series, but stands on its own as a queer-horror radio drama set to film. Evoking War of the Worlds and Night of the Living Dead—and cut with hysterical zings on NPR—this is a solid, if unevenly paced, low-budget flick. But, you know, for a $500 budget, it looks pretty damned good. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
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 gravelly 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.
I had my doubts about Paul Feig's latest Melissa McCarthy vehicle, but right around the moment I realized I'd get to see McCarthy beat the shit out of lunky Bond villains for 120 minutes, I knew they were unfounded. I also physically could not stop laughing. MEGAN BURBANK Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
Like director Alex Gibney's last documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine tries to cram way too much history into way too short of a runtime. And like Going Clear, the results are disjointed and disappointing. This time, Gibney takes on the life and works of Steve Jobs, using everything from interviews to randos' YouTube videos to some truly unfortunate animation to tell a story that sometimes feels like a polemic and sometimes like a tabloidy hit piece. Jobs' personal history is largely, frustratingly skimmed over (both Jobs' family and Steve Wozniak are mentioned only briefly), but Gibney still casts Jobs in his now-familiar role of technological messiah and interpersonal asshole. Gibney spends a lot of time on Apple's stock options scandal, wrings his hands over tech addiction (Gibney notes that when he reaches for his iPhone in "every idle moment," his hand is "like Frodo's hand to the Ring"), and dwells on Apple's conflict with Gizmodo; only rarely does Steve Jobs focus on any one thing long enough to make a point. (One such sequence, about the brutal working conditions in Apple's Chinese factories, is more than welcome—only to be dispensed with all too quickly.) By the time Steve Jobs ends, with Gibney voice-overing some goofy philosophy over an image of a powered-down iPhone, one has long since realized these two hours could've been better spent rereading Walter Isaacson's biography. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters, On Demand.
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. While chock-full of innovations both welcome (a story about transgender characters, played by transgender performers) and potentially eye-strainingly worrisome (the movie was shot entirely on tricked-out, stabilized iPhones), the main takeaway is just how alive it seems. ANDREW WRIGHT Laurelhurst Theater.
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.
The Transporter Refueled
A not-screened-for-critics rehash of 2002's The Transporter. Jason Statham isn't involved, which means there's no fucking point in us wasting another goddamn sentence on this. Various Theaters.
A Walk in the Woods
See review this issue. Various Theaters.