Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
See review, this issue. Century Clackamas Town Center, Cinema 21.
Maybe Spike Lee's most adventurous and experimental film, Bamboozled stars Damon Wayans as an executive producer who tries to get himself fired by developing an actual minstrel show for television, which of course becomes hugely successful, because the American media is racist as hell. When it was released in 2000, it was criticized for being pretty ham-fisted and more than a little unrealistic. Sixteen years have transformed it from mean-spirited dystopic fantasy to very goddamned prescient satire. You're gonna laugh. It's gonna hurt when you do. BOBBY ROBERTS Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Bette & Joan
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were two of the biggest stars in old Hollywood's studio system, a stardom gained through talent, timing, and a willingness to fight for the respect they deserved. Most times they were fighting the institutional sexism of the system itself, but sometimes the two titans would take big swipes at each other. NW Film Center pays tribute to these legends with an expansive collection of films featuring Crawford and Davis at their over-the-top, melodramatic best—or worst, depending on your point of view. Vist nwfilm.org for a full list of titles and showtimes. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
As slow as the first half of The BFG is, Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison get much more right than wrong, allowing large chunks of Roald Dahl's world to remain in the realm of mystery, and never over-explicating every strange and wondrous thing on screen. Spielberg seems to have once again tapped that particular vein of childhood logic where strange things are to be explored and experienced rather than feared. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
I have dreamt that it might be possible to raise my child in the woods, off the grid, to spare her this modern cultural hellscape filled with guns and Trumps. The fictitious Cash family, headed by Ben (Viggo Mortensen), gives us a taste of that life—good or bad, depending on how attached you are to warm showers and iPhones—in the sweet, funny, and overall wonderful Captain Fantastic. ELINOR JONES Fox Tower 10.
"Oh yeah, I'm big into 'corns," says Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), who's wearing a T-shirt with a unicorn on it and is delighted to talk about the magical creatures. He's also happy to talk about his favorite movie, Sixteen Candles, his jorts, and how he's spent the past 20 years idolizing Calvin (Kevin Hart), the only guy who wasn't a dick to him in high school. While Calvin was the coolest kid in school, see, Bob was dorky and fat and bullied (we witness this, naturally, in a flashback featuring the Rock, CGI-enfattened). But now Bob looks like the Rock, and he's in the CIA, and he needs Calvin's help, so: Central Intelligence, a mediocre comedy made enjoyable by the Rock, who, yet again, proves he can make anything enjoyable. The Rock is more magical than unicorns. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A series showcasing "Latin American classic cinema from the golden era of film." This time out, that classic cinema comes from a very specific genre: Lucha Libre! Lucha Mexico is a documentary about the top performers and personalities in Mexico's ongoing superhero soap opera, with a cast of outlandish characters that could not only stand toe-to-toe with the best that Marvel could offer, but would lay most of them flat with their blend of mysticism, muscle, and heart. Hollywood Theatre.
The Conjuring 2
For horror fans accustomed to wandering through acres of dreck for a meager jolt, James Wan is the real deal. The Conjuring 2, the director's return to the horror game after the amiably knuckleheaded Furious 7, is a brilliantly staged, strangely exhausting work of a filmmaker in complete thrall to his chosen genre. This is a movie where virtually every scene is designed expressly for the purpose of causing the viewer's colon to have an out-of-body experience. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
See review, this issue. On Demand.
Escape From New York
John Carpenter has made better movies than this over his long and incredibly varied career, and he's definitely made worse (cough—Ghosts of Mars—cough cough), but 1981's Escape from New York could be the most Carpenter of all Carpenter's films, the one most consistently peppered with the director's signature touches. If, by some weird happenstance, you haven't seen one of his films before (that's crazy), Escape is the best introduction, not just due to Kurt Russell's career-defining performance as Snake Plissken, or Isaac Hayes' somehow cuddly-but-menacing Duke, but because there's a treasure of a performance by Harry Dean Stanton in it. Stanton is the reason for this season. Celebrate accordingly. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
See Film, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Nobody needed a sequel to Finding Nemo, but Finding Dory is, at least, better than Pixar's so-so original: It's funnier and more emotional, and it's intriguing to watch the antics at a marine life rescue park, which largely serves as Dory's setting. (Post-Blackfish, Pixar is careful to note the captive sea creatures inside are meant to be rehabilitated then released, not to be exploited and degraded for human amusement.) COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
I'd hoped this review wouldn't center on the misogyny of our real world, but unfortunately, the world of Ghostbusters is mired in it too. The film's badass, ghost-fighting heroes are played by Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones; as these women tackle the supernatural, they're painted as hysterical by authority figures, then told to let men take credit for their work. They're even harassed by online commenters—kind of like how Ghostbros thought the 2016 adaptation's leads couldn't reprise the roles of the original all-male cast. No doubt this film will cause even more petulant cries from Ghostbros—but for the rest of us, this Ghostbusters is a charming, witty movie about ghost catchers averting the apocalypse. CIARA DOLAN Various Theaters.
Grindhouse Film Festival
This month's entry into the Grindhouse canon is a rare 35mm print of Zombie, Lucio Fulci's 1979 gross-out epic, known among film fans as both "that one where a zombie gets in a fistfight with a fucking shark" and "that one where a woman slowly has her eyeball shoved into the biggest splinter of all time." It's by no means one of the best bits of zombie fiction, but it's sure as hell a memorable one. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
In another director's hands, this would be a touchy-feely character study about the rehabilitation of a juvenile delinquent, but Taika Waititi's at work here, taking the absurd, pitch-perfect sense of humor that made What We Do in the Shadows one of the funniest movies of the past few years and applying it to a heartfelt, real-world story. Wilderpeople is a hugely loveable movie that's suitable for date night or the whole family, and I know that sounds like a hacky movie poster blurb. But when a movie's this good, it's tough to avoid clichés, so I'll leave you with another: Don't miss it. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21, Hollywood Theatre, Kiggins Theatre.
Ice Age: Collision Course
Pretty sure this is the last one of these. We didn't actually watch it to make sure, but the trailer shows one of these things making it into outer space somehow, which is usually the last gasp of a dying series before descending into direct-to-video hell waiting for a resurrecting reboot later (Leprechaun, Friday the 13th). Good news for the young ones, though: If they've been craving jokes based on the concept of sloth nipples, that thirst will be slaked. Various Theaters.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Twentieth Century Fox did not screen Independence Day: Resurgence for critics, probably because the film is so good it would annihilate critics' ranking systems. For how does one give a film "five stars" when it deserves all the stars in the universe? How does one offer "two thumbs up" when a more accurate assessment would be to have each person on Earth join together to raise all of our thumbs to the heavens? And how does one rate "10 out of 10" when one knows ∞ is the only numerical concept that could come close to representing Independence Day: Resurgence? ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
It may be impossible to completely screw up an undercover cop movie, with the very nature of the premise guaranteeing some vicarious hopscotching over the morality line. Judged on plot alone, The Infiltrator is a solid, mid-level walk on the seedy side, with enough based-on-fact dirty business to hold the interest. When you factor in a terrific-even-for-him lead performance by Bryan Cranston, however, it zooms up the ranks into something well worth leaving the couch for. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Jia Zhangke: A Guy from Fenyang
A documentary by Brazilian director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) chronicling the life of renowned Chinese director Jia Zhangke, whose acclaimed Mountains May Depart screens Friday, July 22. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Jungle Book
I'm not convinced remaking The Jungle Book was absolutely necessary, but Disney's latest navel-gazing foray into its own archives delivers everything it needs to: The kid who plays Mowgli is adorable. The digitally animated jungle inhabitants are as warmhearted as they are slick-looking. Do you need more baby animals in your life? The Jungle Book has you covered! You'll squee all the way through as you watch a delightful parade of baby elephants and baby wolves. MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
The Legend of Tarzan
This time around, we begin with Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) as a British aristocrat who's forced to reconnect with his animalistic past after he travels to the Congo. At its best, The Legend of Tarzan is akin to Steven Spielberg's goofy Hook, and both movies feature a similar arc—a grown-up protagonist reluctantly returning to the role of hero. But this Tarzan is also one of the slowest blockbusters I've ever seen: The first hour of the film consists largely of flashbacks that dumbly assume moviegoers aren't already familiar with its culturally ubiquitous subject. You'll see Tarzan reared by his adoptive gorilla family, you'll see Tarzan develop a relationship with Jane (Margot Robbie), and you'll see Tarzan do these things over and over again. MORGAN TROPER Various Theaters.
See review, this issue. Various Theaters.
Here's the thing about The Lobster, the thing that'll either make you want to see it or never see it: It captures what it feels like to be single. And not just that—it captures what it feels like to be single in a society obsessed with everyone having someone. That's not a particularly fun thing to address, but it's not particularly awful, either, so The Lobster splits the difference: surreal and heartfelt, it's both laugh-out-loud funny and eerily melancholy. One minute, characters are wondering if they'll ever find a partner; the next, they're deciding which animal they'll turn into if they end up single. Oh, right—that's the other thing about The Lobster, in which singles visit an austere resort, where, hopefully, they'll find someone to spend the rest of their lives with. But if they don't? Then they turn into an animal. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Liberty Theatre.
It feels unfair to compare a movie that's as undeniably good as Maggie's Plan to lesser contemporaries, but it's hard not to see it as a corrective to so many other failed relationship comedies set in academia. Finally, here's one that's as funny as it is clever, that depicts pompous characters without itself being pompous. It's the perfect movie for anyone who appreciates Woody Allen's wit and intellectual dialogue, but always dreamed of pairing them with self-awareness and realistic women. VINCE MANCINI Laurelhurst Theater.
Microbe and Gasoline
See review, this issue. Living Room Theaters.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
One thing that's nice about 2016 is that there are some good-faith attempts to treat women like fully formed humans in film and on television. It's a better time for representation, but it's still not a great time. For example: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, in which chronically terrible brothers Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are at risk of Mike-and-Dave-ing their sister's upcoming nuptials in Hawaii. Their family's solution? They must bring dates—like adult women—to be their babysitters. OKAY. HOW DUMB AND ARCHAIC OF A SOLUTION IS THAT?!? ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
More Pay, Less Work
The Hollywood screens a newly-restored 35mm print of this 1926 silent comedy, which was the first film the theater ever played, as part of their month-long 90th anniversary celebration. With live organ accompaniment. Hollywood Theatre.
Mountains May Depart
A special screening of Jia Zhangke's 2015 film following a small-town Chinese family as their hopes and ambitions scatter them across two continents and 25 years, and deposits them back in a contempoary China that's much different. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
My Neighbor Totoro
The word "genius" gets batted around with regard to filmmakers with a numbing, reductive frequency. But if Hayao Miyazaki doesn't qualify for that title, who does? Since making his directorial debut with 1979's The Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki has blazed his own distinct trail, blending atomic-clock action timing with an awe-inspiring, hand-rendered sense of the infinite. Nobody else can balance exhilarating weightlessness with moral gravity in quite the same proportions. ANDREW WRIGHT Academy Theater.
The Nice Guys
In one form or another, Shane Black has been trying to make the comedy noir The Nice Guys since 2001, and now that it's finally here, it doesn't disappoint. The script, by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, checks off Black's trademarks: There's razor-sharp banter, a Christmas carol or two, and a profound appreciation of the comedic qualities of violence. And in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, Black's got a duo who are excited to play along. Crowe, growly and shambly and with a trusty set of brass knuckles, pushes through The Nice Guys' twists with wry determination; Gosling, sporting a cast, a dangling cigarette, and a look of constant confusion, reveals a heretofore unknown talent for ultrasonic shrieks and physical comedy. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Valley Theater.
I feel like I should enjoy the themes (soccer, girl power, drag kings) of this Iranian film about young women illicitly sneaking into the Iran/Bahrain Word Cup qualifying match—but it sure is a snoozer. Under Iranian law, women aren't allowed into Tehran's football stadium, so a group of girls sneak in wearing baggy shirts and pants, and are consequently caught by Iranian soldiers. The remainder of the film is spent listening to the back-and-forth banter of the girls and the young soldiers, while the exhilarating game is heard in the background. Never do we see the match. Instead we're trapped outside the entry gates, tantalizingly close to something quite exciting, but never seeing any action. Might I recommend catching a game on ESPN instead? COURTNEY FERGUSON Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The Parallax View
In the 1970s, director Alan J. Pakula went back-to-back-to-back with three top-notch political thrillers steeped in the kind of skin-crawling paranoia the decade did so well. The first was Klute, and the last was All the President's Men, and sandwiched between those Academy Award-winners was this bleak, bitter pill of a film starring Warren Beatty as a newspaperman who discovers a conspiracy behind the assassination of the President, and sinks so deep into his investigation that he finds himself becoming part of it. BOBBY ROBERTS Laurelhurst Theater.
A monthly screening series showcasing films directed by women. This month: the 2014 documentary Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile about the unlikely prospect of enriching Tibetan identity through a western-styled beauty pageant. Clinton Street Theater.
The Purge: Election Year
While the Purge films have always been tense bursts of ugly violence, I just can't with this third one. The Purge: Election Year repeatedly puts a diverse cast of people of color in harm's way, while white privileged people try to gun them down with semi-automatic weapons. Yuck. Where 2013's original was economical and claustrophobic, and 2014's The Purge: Anarchy was world-expanding and relevant, his third installment sees franchise director James DeMonaco ramping up the social, religious, and racial tensions, combining an all-too-real dystopian future with cringing levels of election-year frenzy. It's about as fun as watching the news. Afterward, I had to watch Chicken Run to stave off despair. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Normally, this monthly series sticks to "showing vintage and contemporary films that are obscure, neglected, and from the fringe." But this month, they might wanna think about adding "with highly questionable timing" to that description, as they screen Death Race 2000 in 16mm this month. You know—the film about people driving vehicles into pedestrians on purpose. Not to say that watching David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone grunting their way through this slab of '70s exploitation doesn't have its unique charms, it's just... you know. Timing. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Remove your socks, rock your finest pastels, and hell—borrow an alligator if you can, because Re-run Theater is hosting their fifth annual Vice Fest, featuring two episodes from Miami Vice season one: "Smuggler's Blues," with special guest star Glenn Frey, and "No Exit," with special guest star Bruce Willis. It's that last one prompting the sale of golden wine coolers at the Hollywood bar for the evening. And now you've got that Seagram's jingle stuck in your head. And if you don't, you will—they'll be screening classic '80s-era ads and videos during the commercial breaks. It's an evening so '80s-tastic you'll grow shoulder pads and sneeze cocaine by the time it's all over. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The Secret Life of Pets
DID YOU KNOW: The full trailer for Universal's latest family film was the first movie advertisement to feature an animated rabbit blowing a tiny hailstorm of pelleted shit from its fuzzy hindquarters to the freshly befouled floor? So far as potential replacements for the record scratch cliché goes, it has its charms. There's also a whole movie from which this landmark moment was dislodged, but we did not review it: Once you've seen Kevin Hart as a rabbit literally defecating all over a theater screen, no further critical assessment is necessary. Either you (and your kids) are into that sort of thing, or you're not. Various Theaters.
At a time when promising directors are swallowed up by the remorseless blockbuster machine, there's something admirable about a filmmaker like Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, Run All Night), who's seemingly content to stay a rung or two down on the respectability ladder and continue refining his chops. The Shallows, Collet-Serra's new screamer, may not be his best work—that honor still falls to the wonderfully sick Orphan—but its single-minded devotion to getting viewers to grip their armrests is really something to see, as an erstwhile med student (Blake Lively) heads to a remote beach to catch some solo waves—only to discover that the water isn't as empty as she thought. (Okay, you've seen the trailer, it's a huge freaking shark.) Clocking in at a lean 86 minutes, The Shallows shows just how bracing and propulsive a good B-movie can be, especially in the hands of a director who knows exactly when to linger on a shot of beautiful scenery—and when to dip the camera below the waterline for maximum unease. It's pulp, but artful pulp. ANDREW WRIGHT Century Clackamas Town Center, Mt. Hood Theatre.
She's Gotta Have It
Spike Lee's 1986 debut contains plenty of the classic Spike-isms you'll come to know and love from his later films, including: Really improbably named protagonists! Spike playing someone hyper-annoying! Complicated and sometimes troubling sexual politics! Ernest Dickerson's beautiful cinematography, and a (mostly) deft blend of serious subject matter and comedy. Part of the NW Film Center's Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series. BOBBY ROBERTS Hotel DeLuxe
The Hollywood's music documentary series pays tribute to Pacific Northwest sludge demigods the Melvins with the Portland premiere of their new documentary, The Colossus of Destiny: A Melvins Tale, featuring interviews with King Buzzo, Dale Crover, Jello Biafra, Chris Cornell, Krist Novoselic, Josh Homme, Mike Patton, and more. Directors in attendance. Hollywood Theatre.
A Space Program
A documentary(-ish) expansion of Tom Sachs' "bricolage" art installations, using old items to create new, scientific(-ish) interactive sculpture reflecting his interests in space exploration, pop-culture absurdities, and goofing on existentialism, all poured into a story about two women taking a trip to Mars. Living Room Theaters.
Star Trek Beyond
See Film, this issue. Various Theaters.
Swiss Army Man
If you want your dreams to be weird for the rest of your life, see Swiss Army Man, directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano. Radcliffe, working hard to quash your beloved associations of Harry Potter, portrays a farting corpse—a farting corpse that serves as a companion, prop, and man Friday to Dano's very sad young bearded man. The exploits that follow are distasteful enough that I fully anticipate theater walkouts, but I'm glad I was trapped by professional obligation—because if I'd walked out, I would have missed one of the most touching love stories I've seen onscreen in recent memory. I wish I could explain this—how a movie that is in many ways unwatchable becomes so ineffably heartwarming—but I can't. MEGAN BURBANK Hollywood Theatre.
The Third Man
Everyone thinks of The Third Man as an Orson Welles movie—despite the fact Welles neither wrote nor directed it, and despite the fact he doesn't even show up until the film's already been rolling for a long stretch. In true Welles style, once he does show up, he makes everyone else seem superfluous. As Harry Lime—an ostensibly dead expat in a Vienna that's rubbled and scarred from WWII—Welles is both sinister and mischievous, charming and menacing; all he needs to do to catch everyone off-guard, be they onscreen or in the theater, is give his brow an impish twist or take a quick step forward. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
As Tickled begins, co-director David Farrier introduces himself as an offbeat reporter who's found his next "wacky" story—a video of young men in Adidas gear stoically eliciting giggles from an unlucky but ebullient athlete on a wrestling mat. But when Farrier reaches out to Jane O'Brien Media—the creators of the video—he's hit with crass emails, threatened with lawsuits, and told, in no uncertain terms, to stop digging. When Farrier deadpans, "This tickling wormhole was getting deeper," it's hard to tell if he's joking. But as the film progresses, it becomes clear that tickling videos are (sorry) no laughing matter. By the end of the film, Farrier's revelation that "This tickling empire is way bigger than we ever imagined" might chill your soul. KJERSTIN JOHNSON Hollywood Theatre.
It's possible that if you don't live in New York City or follow politics, the first time you heard about Congressman Anthony Weiner was when he sent a picture of his package over his public Twitter account. It was May 27, 2011, the day the headlines wrote themselves. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's documentary Weiner picks up with this moment firmly acknowledged. It's 2013, post-Bulgegate, and Weiner's putting the past behind him and running for mayor of New York City. But just as his campaign is picking up steam, a crop of new explicit images and exchanges surface, putting his comeback in jeopardy. I remember what happened next, and you probably do, too. Weiner unfolds just like you remember: the headlines, the late-night jokes, the doomed campaign. There's no new information to exonerate or condemn, just a replay of the inevitable fallout. KJERSTIN JOHNSON Laurelhurst Theater.
Obviously the wiener dog dies, and obviously Todd Solondz doesn't grant her a peaceful passing. But the protagonist wiener—who, at different points, goes by the names "Wiener Dog," "Doody," and, uh, "Cancer"—is primarily a vehicle for Solondz to move through four vignettes of his characters' fucked-up existences. His tableaus of human vice are bitingly funny, especially as an unforgiving roast of pet owners with savior complexes. But he misses the mark a few times with oddly forced jabs that seem to flirt with backward racist, sexist humor. It's unbecoming, especially for a director who seems so acutely aware of humanity's grossest failings. CIARA DOLAN Living Room Theaters.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, July 22-Thursday, July 28, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.