Alvin and the Chipmunks:
The Road Chip
Fuck this fucking shit. Various Theaters.
A collection of rare 16mm and VHS short films from creators like Will Vinton and Rankin & Bass. In fitting with the warm spirit of delightful holiday cartoons, "some material may be slightly upsetting to very young or impressionable children." Hollywood Theatre.
With the exception of that time she played an assassin in Hanna, Saoirse Ronan is often confined to roles unworthy of someone who can actually act (see: The Lovely Bones). So it's exciting to see her carry a well-constructed film once again with Brooklyn, an understated study of a young Irish woman caught between her ancestral home in Ireland and 1950s New York. MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
Spike Lee's ambitious new film tackles inner-city Chicago violence through the power of the pussy (I wish I was exaggerating). This film boils down inner-city violence to beef and ego: Gang members hang out under bridges on abandoned furniture, stroking their guns and listening to music on a boombox, like discarded characters from The Wire turned into actual trolls. Meanwhile, Chi-Raq's women are reduced to walking vaginas. Did you know that in inner cities, black men are just walking around shooting each other all day, and black women are walking around in hot pants just waiting for the men to put down their guns for five minutes in order to sex them with their flesh-guns? They don't work, they don't have hopes or dreams, they don't do anything but get fucked by dudes. And because that's all they do, their vaginas have been imbued with such power that they can change the world. No, they don't change the world with their intellect or their work, they change the world by refusing access to their golden vaginas. IJEOMA OLUO Cinema 21.
The latest entry in the Rocky franchise isn't only a loving homage to Rocky, it builds upon the legend while maintaining the original film's heart and purity. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
"It's not a ghost story," Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) says in Crimson Peak. "It's a story with a ghost in it." Edith isn't talking about Crimson Peak, though she might as well be. Guillermo del Toro's latest is a visually sumptuous gothic romance—one that, amidst all the melodrama, offers slivers of sly wit, loving nods to classic horror, and, by the time it's over, quite a bit of blood. It also has a ghost in it. Or two. Or three. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Danish Girl
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Death Cafe Goes to the Movies
A series focused on films about death, with post-film discussions. This month: Love Story. More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
The Dennis Nyback
Local film archivist Dennis Nyback presents a selection of holiday-themed 16mm shorts from the 1930s through the 1960s. Hollywood Theatre.
Are we pretending that this a holiday classic now? Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
The Good Dinosaur
A boy-and-his-dog story where the boy is a talking dinosaur and the dog is a little grunting caveman, The Good Dinosaur is one of Pixar's best. It's just about guaranteed to make you laugh and also probably cry, and it's gorgeous to look at, and it features a cowboy Tyrannosaurus rex that has Sam Elliott's voice, which isn't a thing that anyone of us even knew we wanted, but now, clearly, is the apex of human artistic achievement. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino's latest western, shot and shown (for a limited time, in select theaters) in Ultra Panavision 70. Not screened for critics; for more, see next week's Mercury. Hollywood Theatre.
Heart of a Dog
Laurie Anderson has been through a lot. The iconic New York artist lost husband Lou Reed in 2013, and among other friends who've recently passed is her beloved rat terrier Lolabelle—the titular focus of Anderson's first film in a decade, Heart of a Dog. Despite the essential grief folded into the project, Dog is a soothing, therapeutic film: ramblingly personal, strong, and gently funny. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
Hero of the Underworld
John Vincent's drama, in which a manager at an expensive hotel has to save a drug lord's abused girl while facing his own heroin addiction. Not to be confused with Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, or Underworld: Awakening. Clinton Street Theater.
"Hitchcock had freed Truffaut as an artist, and Truffaut wanted to reciprocate by freeing Hitchcock from his reputation as a light entertainer," Bob Balaban narrates in Kent Jones' documentary. Heavy on the Hitchcock and light on the Truffaut, Hitchcock/Truffaut is pieced together from the audio tapes recorded when Truffaut interviewed Hitchcock for his 1966 book—but also boasts interviews with contemporary directors who fanboy out over Hitchcock's work, including David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Olivier Assayas, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Linklater, and Wes Anderson. (Vertigo is of particular interest: "What I love about Vertigo is it's just so perverted. It's just so perverted," Fincher says, while Scorsese notes that film's "plot is just a line that you can hang things on. And the things that he hangs on there are all aspects of cinema poetry.") More than Jones' sometimes pointy-headed film analysis, what really resonates here—50 years after Truffaut's book was first published—is hearing Hitchcock discuss his masterful use of time, space, suspense, and Jimmy Stewart's erection. "I personally am interested in the audience. I mean that one's film should be designed for 2,000 seats and not one seat," Hitchcock says, shortly after explaining why "all actors are cattle." ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinema 21.
A Christmas thought experiment: On one side of you sits an incontinent Cousin Fuller, guzzling Pepsi and shooting you a deranged look that strongly suggests—if not outright promises—he plans to purposefully urinate on you in your sleep. On the other side, a pair of dangerous burglars threatening their own brand of sadistic and unnecessary wetness. How to avoid that hot urine? How to dodge that felonious drenching? And how to do it all while discovering some real shit about Christmas? This is young Kevin McAllister's burden. Come, marvel as he shoulders it. (Involves shooting a guy in the dick.) DIRK VANDERHART Academy Theater.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Jim Carrey one :( Hollywood Theatre.
In the Heart of the Sea
Hollywood's latest riff on Moby-Dick; based on Nathaniel Philbrick's book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, Ron Howard's film aims to tell the true story that inspired Melville's novel. In the Heart of the Sea clocks in at only two hours, but those two hours feel long enough to reread Moby-Dick. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
It's a Wonderful Life
The holiday classic beloved by those valiantly fighting the slow, crushing, and inevitable truth that their lives have not mattered at all. Hollywood Theatre.
I went into James White with the relatively low expectation that it would be one of those mopey, desperate indie dramas. I was somewhat correct, but the directorial debut from writer/director Josh Mond (who also wrote the script) delivered an emotional ass-whup that was blindsiding. Crucial to the punishing experience are the performances, led by Christopher Abbott as the titular character, a 20-something New Yorker who balances his time between getting absolutely blotto and caring for his mother (Cynthia Nixon), who suffers through stage-four cancer. The mother/son relationship is deep, as is the pull of oblivion on James; this is a well-executed misery, but one that struggles to find its purpose. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Krampus operates like a feature-length Twilight Zone episode: Take some lightly sketched stock characters (Adam Scott as drinky dad, Toni Collette as uptight mom, David Koechner as Randy Quaid), thrust them into slowly escalating supernatural peril, and watch the dramatic gears grind out a morbidly satisfying conclusion. While it lacks the zany spark that animates Gremlins or the deconstructionist bent of something like Cabin in the Woods, Krampus is a solid exercise in form and function. Also, the creature designs are super creepy (and mostly teeth). If you see one movie this winter about a goat-hoofed anti-Santa, make it Krampus. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
Out of all of Shakespeare's back catalog, Macbeth has perhaps been the best cinematically served, with such Hall of Famers as Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, and Roman Polanski applying their distinctive worldviews to the material. (Polanski's 1971 version, his first film following the death of Sharon Tate, is still an amazingly tangible, all-encompassing ode to mud and blood and smoke and shit.) From the first frames of relative newcomer Justin Kurzel's adaptation, which stars Marion Cotillard and Marion Cotillard, it becomes apparent that his method of putting his stamp on the prose is to, well, ruthlessly pare away much of the prose. While the Big Scenes are rendered with a ravishing starkness, the connective tissue that's allowed to remain tends to fall away into a low-toned dirge. Even those viewers unfamiliar with the source material may sometimes feel like they're flipping through a brutally gorgeous set of CliffsNotes. ANDREW WRIGHT Living Room Theaters.
The Night Before
Perhaps the only Christmas movie that offers both a whole lot of dick pics and the sad, lonely sense of desperation that defines the holidays. It also features Seth Rogen throwing up all over a midnight mass. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Orson Welles at 100
The NW Film Center's retrospective brings together a wide array of movies that reflect our current understanding of Welles' work as director and actor. This overview takes into account works that made him a legend, like 1941's Citizen Kane and his infamously troubled masterpiece The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), while also offering up less-appreciated gems like Journey Into Fear (1943), in which Welles has a minor but very memorable role as a Turkish police captain; his bold yet sensitive performance as Falstaff in 1965's fascinating Shakespeare amalgam Chimes At Midnight; and his brooding turn in Compulsion (1959). See "From Genius to Pitchman: Orson Welles at 100," Dec 9. ROBERT HAM NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
While some wish to celebrate the coming of Jesus this holiday season, the Hollywood wants you to remember the glorious awakening of the Prophecy series, born in the black ichor of VHS' dying days, via parents Christopher Walken (Gabriel) and Viggo Mortensen (Lucifer!). Alas, the series died after four shitty sequels, but is survived by its goofy, lantern-jawed offspring—the CW's Supernatural. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
A wood-paneled, coke-fueled, late-'70s gift from your friends at the Hollywood. First up is animated (and Canadian!) TV special A Cosmic Christmas, which serves as a far-out appetizer for the main course: The infamously unwatchable Star Wars Holiday Special, which features Bea Arthur, Jefferson Starship, Art Carney, and the first-ever filmed example of VR pornography (as demonstrated by a Chewbacca's horny dad, who is named Itchy). BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Denis Villeneuve's new drug thriller is phenomenal. Its story is both personal and political, a scathing portrait of the drug war, as well as an elemental allegory in which moral dilemmas are depicted by characters crashing violently into each other. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d'Arcy James play the Boston Globe's "spotlight" team of investigative journalists who were tasked with looking into child molestation charges leveled at Boston's beloved Catholic Archdiocese. Translating a highly detailed true story to film could sound like a staged reading of a Wikipedia page, or worse, trivialize the victims' experiences—and Spotlight walks dangerously close to this precipice. However, other than a few hammy moments, this film somehow manages to pull it off. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Bryan Cranston plays screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted for being a communist in the 1950s. Unsurprisingly, Cranston is good, and Trumbo's story is undoubtedly interesting—but the makers of Trumbo seem to think that good writing is magic rather than hard work. Look at this weaver of story, this spinner of yarn, making silver-screen pixie dust with every clickity-clack of his typewriter! NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
Vintage Christmas clips from various VHS relics, compiled by Seattle's Scarecrow Video. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, December 18-Thursday, December 24, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.