13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
The Hollywood's film series where audiences check off a bingo card full of B-movie clichés. This month's entry: Robot Jox, about jocks who pilot robots and fuck shit up. Directed by Stuart Gordon, the same dude who had a talking zombie head perform fellatio in Re-Animator. That doesn't happen in this movie, though. But there are robots fucking shit up, so hey. Hollywood Theatre.
The Big Short
There's nothing subtle about The Big Short. Director Adam McKay (Anchorman) uses every trick in the Martin Scorsese handbook—freeze-frame, montage, fourth-wall-breaking narration—to tell the true story of a few investors who predicted the catastrophic financial crisis of 2008. Christian Bale, not exactly a low-key performer to begin with, is given Asperger's, a stutter, and a glass eye; Steve Carell's grieving money manager can't help but speak his mind; and Ryan Gosling is apparently the biggest sleaze in finance—an industry already oozing sleaze out of its finely tailored seams. These guys, among others, foresaw the burst of the housing bubble and invested against it—hoping to profit on Wall Street's unrepentant greed. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
"The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping." Academy Theater.
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 Cinema 21.
Carol is set in the 1950s, which was not a great time for gay people getting to live the lives they deserved. That makes it all the more remarkable that the film, based on the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt, doesn't punish its characters by dooming them to misery or early death, like most of the non-straight narratives Hollywood offers up. If creativity thrives within limits, Carol makes a pretty good case that love can, too—although it certainly shouldn't have to. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Spike Lee's ambitious new film tackles inner-city Chicago violence through the power of the pussy (I wish I were 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 Various Theaters.
Creed is the latest entry in the Rocky franchise, though it's the first that doesn't include a writing credit from Sylvester Stallone. It probably took a lot of nerve for the star to allow relative newcomer Ryan Coogler (who gave us 2013's excellent Fruitvale Station) to take the directorial reins—but the payoff is oh-so-worth it. Creed is not 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.
From Bombay to Bollywood: 50 Years of Indian Cinema
NW Film, with the help of the Government of India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Portland's own DJ Anjali & the Incredible Kid, has put together a 10-film retrospective on the width and breadth of the Indian film experience. It ain't all singing and dancing at weddings, you guys. More at nwfilm.org. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino's nasty new western isn't an epic. Sure, it's three hours long and shot in 70mm, but The Hateful Eight is a deceptively simple chess game that has more in common with Reservoir Dogs than Tarantino's last two films. Even the title is misleading: I counted nine, possibly 10 characters that could be considered "hateful." Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is bringing wanted murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the Wyoming town of Red Rock to be hanged. Along a snowy mountain pass he encounters another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), along with Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), supposedly Red Rock's new sheriff. The group seeks shelter at Minnie's Haberdashery, where other mysterious men are waiting out a blizzard. At least one standoff is inevitable. Despite the roadshow rollout, this isn't so much a grand-scale epic as an Agatha Christie-style chamber piece. (In other words, you'll be fine if you see it at the multiplex.) Sure, the photography is rich and pictorial—we see icicles dripping from the horses, and the deep focus works wonderfully for the lengthy interior sequences. But the characters and their shifting alliances drive Tarantino's wicked stagecoach. The very slow first half pays off in the grisly second, and the performances are spectacular (particularly Leigh and Goggins). Tarantino's suspenseful puzzle box requires patience—and rewards it. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
King: A Filmed Record—From Montgomery to Memphis
A free screening of Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1970 documentary, collecting archival footage of Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinton Street Theater.
Normally a jubilant time would be had watching babyfaced Jennifer Connelly alternately fuss and frolic in a Muppety wonderland full of magic dancing and farting bogs. But this viewing of the Henson classic will be a bit bittersweet, as the otherworldly allure of David Bowie's singing, dancing, and tossing a stripey baby around comes with the sobering knowledge that we're now watching this in a post-Bowie world. Laurelhurst Theater.
No one over the age of 30 will be allowed to attend this screening. Ha! Just kidding, old people! You can totally go! (But you will be murdered afterward.) Clinton Street Theater.
The Man Who Fell to Earth
Thomas Jerome Newton wasn't the first role David Bowie played—he'd been hiding behind characters like Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust since the beginning of his music career—but The Man Who Fell to Earth was Bowie's first major film role, and it's so ideally suited that it's difficult to tell where the actor ends and Newton begins. Bowie's unearthly gauntness and mismatched eyes already made him look alien-like, but when Newton reveals himself to his earthling girlfriend, Mary-Lou (Candy Clark), stripping off his nipples, contact lenses, and genitalia, it's one of the creepiest moments in science-fiction history. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater.
Set in a fantastical near-future in which America adequately funds its space program, The Martian is the best ad for NASA since Ahmed Mohamed's T-shirt. Just about every frame reinforces a core sentiment: It's time to start caring about space again. The fact that The Martian manages to sell this idea—convincingly and rousingly, with a fair amount of humor—is all the more impressive given that it follows a man who's been marooned 140 million miles away and is forced to spend his days desperately trying to delay his all-but-inevitable death. It's funnier than it sounds. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Moonwalkers has all the makings of deliciousness—Rons Weasley and Perlman meet the swinging '60s in a swirl of conspiracy theories, mod dresses, and psychedelic sets. A CIA agent with PTSD (Ron Perlman) must stage a fake moon landing with the help of a loser band manager (Rupert Grint) instead of his intended helper, Stanley Kubrick. And yet, this little film with all these awesome elements is clunky, unsatisfying, and meandering. You're better off getting stoned and looking at the movie poster. COURTNEY FERGUSON Cinema 21.
See review this issue. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The latest from Birdman's Alejandro González Iñárritu is based on the book by Michael Punke (which, in turn, was inspired by the life of a particularly unlucky 19th century frontiersman). This is a movie in which Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) tries to make his way through the Montana wilderness to kill John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the dickhead who left him to die in a shallow grave. After crawling from the frozen earth, Glass is reborn as a kind of unkillable ghost—determined to bleed, crawl, float, limp, and tumble his way to vengeance. And so the suffering commences, and continues, and continues, until The Revenant starts to feel less like a survival story and more like a live-action Looney Tunes. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Ride Along 2
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Room is about a boy who is born in the garden shed where his mother, "Ma" (Brie Larson), has been kept captive for seven years, ever since she was abducted at age 17. Five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has never seen the world outside of the shed—he doesn't even know such a world exists—and when Ma decides Jack is finally old enough to help carry out an escape attempt, the plan she concocts is dangerous and thrilling. But there's much more to this story: Room is based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Irish Canadian author Emma Donoghue. I read the book in one sitting—in a paroxysm of anxiety and emotional investment that kept me awake until 3 am—and came away impressed by its thoughtful, unexpected treatment of incredibly disturbing subject matter. The film succeeds by the same token. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
What's the opposite of evaporate? Whatever it is, that's what Sicario does. When so many movies and TV shows disappear from memory as soon as you're finished watching, Sicario lingers. It clots. Denis Villeneuve's new drug thriller is a personal, political, and 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 Laurelhurst Theater.
Son of Saul
The Cannes Grand Prix-winning Holocaust drama from Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
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.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens starts like Star Wars, has a middle like Empire Strikes Back, and ends like Return of the Jedi. It's a best-of Star Wars mixtape. But one doesn't go to the seventh chapter in the most-watched series of all time seeking originality. It's not a question of whether there's a lot of new here (although this is easily the prettiest, most kinetic film in the series), it's a question of whether director J.J. Abrams can do justice to one of cinema's best-loved pop songs. And thanks to stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, and the best work from Harrison Ford in decades, Abrams hits the notes he needs to, clearly and strongly. BOBBY ROBERTS Various Theaters.
Synecdoche, New York
The best of writer Charlie Kaufman's previous films (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) were helmed by Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry—both of whom succeed in translating Kaufman's cerebral scripts into films that, while intellectual exercises of a sort, were nonetheless engaging, funny, and affecting. But with Synecdoche, New York, Kaufman directs, and disappointing as it is to admit this, the product is a chore—a dour collection of inexpertly packaged ideas that simply doesn't inspire the intellectual curiosity necessary to understand it. ALISON HALLETT Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The title of Paolo Sorrentino's new film is a bit of obvious misdirection. Make no mistake: Youth is about getting hella old, and to its credit, it makes becoming creaky and gray look like it's maybe not the worst thing in the world. It helps that composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and film director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) have been hugely successful in their work—their moneyed lifestyles permit them an extended visit at the incredibly plush Swiss spa where almost all of Youth is set. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, January 15-Thursday, January 21, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.