Even if it ends with some incongruous gore and an oafish tie-in to the other Conjuring films, Annabelle: Creation still looks great, aces the Bechdel test, and audibly scared the bejesus out of everyone at the preview. I can think of more shameful ways to nourish your fear of dolls. JOULE ZELMAN Various Theaters.
Atomic Blonde is a hyper-stylized graphic novel adaptation with all the bright lights and artsy gore this usually entails, but more importantly, Charlize Theron’s spy is so perfect that I want to climb inside her life, boots, hair, and sunglasses, even though I abhor violence, hard work, and heightened political climates. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
★ Baby Driver
Edgar Wright’s latest is wall-to-wall music, and it might take you a track or two to fall into Wright’s stylized rhythm that drop-kicks naturalism to the curb. But once its tires grip pavement, Baby Driver becomes a full-throttle ballet of motion, color, and sound. The tunes are great, the getaway chases will leave you breathless, and the motley team of robbers—which includes Kevin Spacey, Eiza González, and an excellent Jamie Foxx—comes from the kind of screenplay you wish Tarantino still wrote. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
David Lynch: A Retrospective
A friend once told me he imagined David Lynch as a nice dad who’d serve you quinoa while discussing the benefits of transcendental meditation. Maybe that’s a weird way to describe the filmmaker behind such horrors as Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet, but I get it. Lynch’s movies aren’t comfortable, but the strong emotional engagement they elicit feels like a gift, and so does NW Film Center’s Lynch retrospective. More at nwfilm.org. MEGAN BURBANK NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
The Dark Tower
In a career known for Going Big, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series stands apart. Beginning as an enigmatic, mashup between Sergio Leone and Tolkien, it developed into a gloriously overstuffed, wildly imaginative mix of authorial insertions, ties to King’s other works, and metaphysical hooey. Unfortunately, what’s ended up on screen is thoroughly mediocre. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
★ Dawn of the Dead
The Hollywood pays tribute to one of the most impactful voices in filmmaking, George Romero, with a screening of what is widely considered his masterpiece, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. Some might think it a little over-the-top to ascribe such an important place in film history to “that zombie guy with the big glasses,” but looking through those glasses makes it that much easier to see his contributions to pop culture, and how lasting and powerful they’ve become. As much as any socially-conscious documentarian, Romero’s zombie films shine a harsh spotlight on our worst impulses and instincts. Monsters as allegory for modern society wasn’t a concept invented by Romero, but his execution was so potent that it is now the standard. Dawn of the Dead is still the stick by which every like-minded entry is measured—and by which every like-minded entry falls short. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The Day He Arrives
Hong Sang-soo’s 2011 drama about a film director hanging out with a film critic, getting drunk with a professor of film studies at a bar tended by a woman who looks like his ex. Hilarity and awkwardness ensue because obviously this is a recipe for rational, emotionally mature conversation. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
It’s July 1967. The Summer of Love, right? All across America, young people are smoking dope, holding Be-Ins, and growing hair at a rate previously unobserved in human history. The strains of Sgt. Pepper waft through the air, and the universal victory of peace and love is just a tie-dyed T-shirt away. That, of course, is the white privilege version of history, as Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit vividly reminds us. 1969 was dubbed the “Days of Rage” after Chicago cops started cracking the skulls of white college students, but the burned-out neighborhoods of Watts and Newark testified to a different, more personal kind of rage—one based not on opposition to foreign wars, but to racial injustice at home. It’s almost as if there were two Americas. Imagine that. MARC MOHAN Various Theaters.
★ Ed Wood
Ed Wood is Tim Burton’s best movie. Everything you’d ever need to understand Tim Burton as a creative being is right up front, lovingly shot in beautiful black and white. Even if you don’t like Burton (or Johnny Depp, a situation that’s recently become a lot more likely), it’s hard not to love Ed Wood. A huge part of that is thanks to the award-winning work by Martin Landau, playing a ragged, sad, but still-explosive Bela Lugosi. It’s a turn both hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes in the same scene, sometimes in the same second, and now that Mr. Landau has left us, the poignancy of his performance will pack that much more punch. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Fading Landscapes: The Films of Linda Fenstermaker
The Seattle-based experimental filmmaker shares a selection of her 16mm and Super 8mm shorts. Fenstermaker in attendance. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ Girls Trip
Girls Trip doubles as a $19-million ad for the Essence Festival (I’ll be attending next year), but I was pleased that the comedy isn’t just a Black woman’s rendition of The Hangover, and nor does it contort itself into a cheesy romcom. The central love story here is that of the “Flossy Posse,” four college friends who used to slay dance-offs in the ’90s. Ryan (Regina Hall) seems to have it all, Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) needs to get laid, and Sasha (Queen Latifah) is a gossip blogger. But Tiffany Haddish steals the show as Dina, the life of the party who routinely gets the girls into trouble, and will get buck to defend her friends from fuck niggas or “Instagram ho” villains. Is Girls Trip a hilarious, turnt-up celebration of Black womanhood and sexuality? YAS! But at its core, it’s about personal integrity, self-love, and female friendship. JENNI MOORE Various Theaters.
The Glass Castle
On paper, The Glass Castle must have looked like a sure bet. I had high hopes, too: (1) Jeannette Walls' bestselling memoir, from which the film takes its name, is a richly-detailed work about seriously irresponsible parents and their surprisingly functional kids, (2) Destin Daniel Cretton previously directed Brie Larson (who plays the adult Jeannette) in an acclaimed performance in Short Term 12, (3) There isn't much Naomi Watts (as Jeannette's mother, Rose Mary) can't do, and (4) Larson and Woody Harrelson (as Jeannette's father, Rex) already depicted a believably strained father-daughter relationship in Oren Moverman's Rampart. So it comes as a disappointment to find that Cretton's adaptation just doesn't work. The actors give it their all, but they look awkward and uncomfortable, and Cretton doesn't have a feel for the material—not least because he invests Walls' clear-eyed remembrances with soft-focus sentimentality. KATHY FENNESSY Various Theaters.
★ Grindhouse Film Festival: Cutter’s Way
Of all the Hollywood’s tributes to departed cinematic heroes this week, the Grindhouse Film Festival’s screening of 1981’s Cutter’s Way is probably the most special. It contains the best performance of John Heard’s long career, and co-stars Jeff Bridges in one of the first real glimpses of the legendary actor he’d become in later years. Cutter is a weird little crime and conspiracy flick about Vietnam vets back home and in over their heads, but what makes it a treasure of a film is Heard’s portrayal of that one fucking friend you can’t cut out of your life even though everything about him is screaming for you to leave him behind. Heard makes the inexplicable decision to keep that guy around feel right, even as everything keeps going wrong. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
If movies about benignly dysfunctional families are a fast-track to crying for you, prepare yourself appropriately for Gillian Robespierre’s Landline, which stars Edie Falco and Jenny Slate. This thing reduced me to a puddle—but as any enthusiastic movie crier can attest, while it may have looked horrible from the outside, I was actually having a really good time. And you will too, especially if you also loved Robespierre’s last film, Obvious Child, a movie that still makes me laugh whenever I recall Slate and Gaby Hoffman’s irreverent bathroom chat about abortion. MEGAN BURBANK Fox Tower 10.
Neither Wolf Nor Dog
I’d call Neither Wolf Nor Dog a polemic if that term didn’t have such a negative connotation—and considering the film deals with the effects of cultural imperialism on Native American culture, there’s already plenty of baggage. But there’s some knowledge to be dropped here. Adapted from Kent Nerburn’s 1994 novel, Wolf is structured as series of dialogues between Nerburn (played by Christopher Sweeney) and fictional characters inspired by the author’s experiences in Native communities. Nerbern sets himself up as a sort of well-meaning avatar for white cluelessness, to be instructed and occasionally fucked with by his two elder guides (Richard Ray Whitman and the late David William Beautiful Bald Eagle). The result is a series of well-shot North Dakota landscapes, punctuated by monologues on Native American life and a few uncomfortable teaching moments. BEN COLEMAN Cinema 21.
The Princess Bride
This movie is 100 percent pure charm in film form. That’s not to say Rob Reiner’s adaptation of William Goldman’s bestselling novel isn’t also shot through with moments of real romance (“As you wish”) and cathartic satisfaction (“I want my father back you sonofabitch,”) but the reason this movie occupies such a precious place for so many is the charm radiating off its styrofoamy sets, through a score that sounds like it’s coming out of a Casio keyboard’s single built-in-speaker, humming under dialogue written so beautifully the actors can’t help but smile at the magic flowing out of their mouths. It proves you don’t need $200 million and two years of post-production to realize pure imagination. Not when you’ve got a big heart and all the charm in the world. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
Queer Horror: Death Becomes Her
The bimonthly series, hosted by Carla Rossi, puts a lesser-known landmark in special effects history up on the big screen, Robert Zemeckis’ sassy symbiosis of noir and satire: Death Becomes Her, starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn as two warring flavors of deliciously awful, with a slightly less awful (and never more nebbish) Bruce Willis caught between them. Some of the visuals are still firmly lodged in “how the fuck did they do that” territory, while others have aged about as well as your average undead ghoul. But should the film not fully satisfy with its campy delights, Rossi’s pre-film dance battle with Pepper Pepper will surely slake that thirst. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ Re-run Theater: Elvis
Chuck D, noted scholar and ’80s-era prophet of rage, once shouted words that rang to my young ears as some of the truest shit ever written: “Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me.” Fortunately for Kurt Russell, Chuck was a decade too late to have affected Elvis fan and filmmaker John Carpenter, who hired Russell to play Presley in a two-part TV movie that aired on ABC in 1979. As a document of Presley’s life, it’s maybe not that insightful—more like a hagiography than anything. As a document of the first time Carpenter and Russell worked together, it’s pretty illuminating watching the birth of a creative partnership that would flourish in later films like Escape From New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ Seven Samurai
If you’re going to see a movie, see a fucking movie. Like, say, Akira Kurosawa’s all-time classic Seven Samurai (1954), one of the finest adventure stories (and dramas, and romances, and comedies, and action flicks...) ever put on film. The Hollywood’s got all three-plus hours of this can’t-miss movie on the big screen, in 35mm, and in gorgeous black and white. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
★ Wind River
Actor Taylor Sheridan certainly came bolting out of the gate as a screenwriter, with his scripts for 2015’s Sicario and last year’s Hell or High Water displaying a firm grasp of pulp storytelling dynamics and an eagerness to explore the darker aspects of the human condition. Wind River, Sheridan’s first attempt at directing one of his own scripts, is a similarly tough, intelligently elevated B-movie, bolstered by unexpectedly deft novelistic touches and an exceptional, contents-under-pressure lead performance by Jeremy Renner. It’s got a kick. ANDREW WRIGHT Fox Tower 10.
★ The World’s End
Like director Edgar Wright previous “Cornetto Trilogy” entries (2004’s Shaun of the Dead and 2007’s Hot Fuzz), The World’s End is a fantastic genre movie that ends up accomplishing far more than most genre movies do: On the surface, it’s a funnier, smarter Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but dig a bit more, and it’s an affecting movie about how you can’t go home again, even if your crappy hometown isn’t literally besieged by mindless automatons. But I’ve neglected to mention the thing that is, by far, most important: The World’s End is phenomenally, relentlessly funny. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, August 18-Thursday, August 24, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.