The first WolfCop was a fun, crass, Canadian B-movie that dared to ask, “What if RoboCop, but a werewolf?” Unlike a lot of other low-budget action/horror/comedy pastiches, WolfCop worked because the creators came at it from a place of love (admittedly, a love of schlock ’80s movies and werewolf sex) rather than trying to make a bad movie for the “it’s so bad it’s good” crowd. Another WolfCop is another a fun, crass, Canadian B-movie that slightly expands on the premise by daring to ask, “What if WolfCop played hockey, and Kevin Smith was the mayor?” Most of the gang from the first WolfCop returns, and they’ve got an easy camaraderie that overcomes the film’s technical limitations (although the horrifically gory werewolf transformations are consistently great). So if you’re still reading this: Grab a sixer of Labatt Blue and get your WolfCop on. BEN COLEMAN Clinton Street Theater.
B-MOVIE BINGO: STRIKE OF THE PANTHER
Your monthly opportunity to literally check off a bingo card full of B-movie clichés! This month features Stunt Rock and BMX Bandits director Brian Trenchard-Smith hosting a screening of 1988’s Strike of the Panther, starring tank-topped beef stick Edward John Stazak as Jason Blade, whose problems with commitment get solved for him when an army of ninjas kidnap his girlfriend and he has to kill his way to her to prove he is worthy of her love (and also to stop a bomb). BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
THE CAT RETURNS
Studio Ghibli’s 2002 cartoon about a magical cat, playing on the big screen for the enjoyment of cat-crazed Portlanders. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Coco, the new Pixar film that’s set in Mexico during Dia de los Muertos, handles the subject of death with humor, lightness, and depth. The “Coco” in question is the oldest living relative of the film’s young protagonist, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), but the story is driven by Miguel’s passion for becoming a musician—and the conflicted relationship he has with his family, who label music as “bad” for reasons he has yet to learn. But Miguel is tenacious when it comes to performing (“I’m gonna play Mariachi Plaza if it kills me!”), and after his abuelita smashes his guitar, Miguel steals the guitar of a famous ancestor. Since taking from the dead is a big no-no—especially on Dia de los Muertos—Miguel crosses over into the Land of the Dead. JENNI MOORE Various Theaters.
Probably the last thing Bob Zemeckis did that could truly be considered “good,” before he wandered into the mo-cap wilderness to flounder away whatever filmmaking goodwill he’d accrued to that point. And there was a lot of it following this adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel, featuring one of Jodie Foster’s best performances as Dr. Ellie Arroway, a researcher who becomes an astronaut in order to finally meet the extraterrestrial life she’s been trying to communicate with all her life. For this 20th anniversary screening, Contact will be introduced by former SETI director (and Ellie inspiration) Dr. Jill Tarter, who will be signing copies of her biography, Making Contact. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ DEAD MAN
Get your Jarmusch on. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
FASHION IN FILM: EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
Eden Dawn and former Mercury fashion maven Marjorie Skinner present Tim Burton’s 1990 love-letter to his own gentle goth affect, Edward Scissorhands, a quiet romance that celebrates every last ounce of pale adorability buried at the center of its grotesquery—be it the constricting leather confining Johnny Depp or the conformity of suburbia suffocating Winona Ryder. In honor of Edward’s transformative artistic impulse, the screening is preceded by a presentation from the scissor-wizards at Windowwall hair salon. Hollywood Theatre.
Spike Jonze’s best film is the one in which a man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his phone’s artificially intelligent operating system (Scarlett Johansson). Hack critics have written about how Her is a film about our relationship with technology, but it isn’t. Her is a film about our relationships. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Before I can give Justice League a fair critical assessment, one thing must be said: For the first third of the movie, Aquaman swims in JEANS. That alone is an abomination that can never be forgiven—because I can accept an Aquaman that doesn’t have gills, or even fins... but if you expect me to accept an Aquaman that swims in jeans, you are eternally fucked in the head. Thanks for that aside. Now, despite the previously mentioned abomination, Justice League is not all bad. However, it is mostly not good. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ morality play uses the myth of Iphigenia—who was sacrificed by her father to appease the gods—as a springboard, but it’s the mythology of cinema that Lanthimos is intent on exploding as he uses sterile, slow, almost Kubrickian imagery to interrogate the story. The surreal hilarity of Lanthimos’ last film, The Lobster, is totally absent here; Sacred Deer is, in the moment, an unpleasant experience. But as the director is careful to announce early on, this is not a film about what you see—it’s about what you realize hours, maybe days, after you’ve left the theater. Lanthimos gets under your skin and stays there. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater.
In the late 1940s, a guy named Thor Heyerdahl and a small documentary crew clambered into a homemade balsa raft and paddled their asses from Peru to Polynesia just to prove it could be done. Their 60-minute film chronicling that voyage won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1951, and tonight’s screening benefits the Human Access Project. Hollywood Theatre.
★ LADY BIRD
Watching Lady Bird is kind of like reopening your high school yearbook for the first time in years, wincing and smiling in equal measure. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is sweet, tragic, and sentimental, which is exactly how a coming-of-age movie should be. CIARA DOLAN Hollywood Theatre.
★ LAST FLAG FLYING
What is the value of a comforting lie? That’s the question at the heart of Last Flag Flying, Richard Linklater’s sort-of sequel to 1973’s The Last Detail, in which three Vietnam vets reunite after decades apart to bury a casualty of the Iraq War. None of them can quite agree on how much truth can be humanely dispensed in the wake of a tragedy. Fuck if I know either, and fuck if Linklater knows, but he sure is willing to puzzle it out. Like a lot of Linklater movies, Last Flag Flying is better at asking questions than responding to them, and there are no easy answers here. So Linklater does what he does best: He establishes characters who feel like real people, then set them against problems that are hard to solve. If they haven’t solved them by the time the credits roll, well, that’s how it goes sometimes. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
We’ve already had a few fine cinematic attempts to tell the story of the brilliant yet tortured Vincent Van Gogh. Loving Vincent, the latest from animators Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela, is the first to get it right. That’s because the entire film is comprised of actual paintings: The international production employed over 100 artists to paint each frame of the film on canvas, copying the thick brushstrokes and brash colors of Van Gogh’s most celebrated works. The resulting movie is stunning—a dream-like vision that flutters and vibrates with energy. ROBERT HAM Cinema 21.
THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS
“Invented” is a rather melodramatic overstatement, but The Man Who Invented Christmas is still an affable, gentle holiday biopic that covers the two months in 1843 in which Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. As presented in Susan Coyne’s mostly accurate screenplay, the kind-hearted but financially struggling Dickens (Dan Stevens) is on a tight deadline, and he’s having trouble with the story. He interacts with his imagined characters (including a fine Christopher Plummer as Scrooge) in a manner that’s thankfully less precious than it could have been, though director Bharat Nalluri does delight in showing Dickens stumbling across details that will make their way into the book (e.g., a ghostly waiter named Marley). The charismatic Stevens finds depth in Dickens’ flaws—notably his disdain for his embarrassing father (Jonathan Pryce)—and carries us through the author’s own Scrooge-like mini-redemption. It’s a warm, hearty yuletide tale, perfect for visiting relatives. ERIC D. SNIDER Various Theaters.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
The mustache has got to be real. Right? Everything else about Murder on the Orient Express—Kenneth Branagh’s stodgy, grandmother-friendly adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 mystery novel—is so sumptuous that there’s no way they would skimp on such an obviously fake-looking mustache, not when it’s plastered to Branagh’s face so prominently. The cast is overstuffed with prestige, the sets are detailed and geographically consistent, the dramatic mountainous backdrop is computer-enhanced at great expense, and the 70mm camerawork is fancy-pants as all get out. And yet Branagh’s mustache, a gratuitously frosted thing that emerges from his nose to bisect the entire front half of his skull, looks so absurd and unnatural that it takes you out of the movie every time the actor/director is onscreen. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.
Remember Jake Gyllenhaal’s bulging eyes in Dan Gilroy’s excellent thriller Nightcrawler. They were the eyes of a man who almost entirely lived in his head. The main character in Gilroy’s latest, Roman J. Israel, Esq., also lives deep inside of his head, but we see his extreme-mindedness not in his eyes but his walk. Played by the great Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel is a lawyer who has a monstrous memory. He can recall with no effort all of the details of dead and forgotten cases; he lives in his dreams of a better and more just American society; he walks like his mind has no idea that it has a body. The film is not Washington’s best, but it, and that walk, will not disappoint Washington’s fans. CHARLES MUDEDE Various Theaters.
Richard Donner has a tendency to let the manic energy of his filmmaking slide into shrillness. Films that played as madcap hijinks on release (The Goonies, Lethal Weapon 2) are, on second viewing, just annoying noise. But 1988’s Scrooged—arguably the last great movie Donner made—is different. Rewatches reveal an underlying sweetness and patience it didn’t get credit for at the time—audiences and critics were likely distracted by its on-the-nose parodies of then-crass-but-now-quaint television programming and the evergreen joy of seeing Carol Kane swing a toaster like a mace. But Bill Murray’s expert blend of acid and schmaltz (along with the genius idea of making Bob Goldthwait into Bob Cratchit) turn what could have been a mean-spirited misfire of soured sentimentality into a Christmas gift that is both 100 percent of the decade that spawned it, and better than that decade deserved. BOBBY ROBERTS Various Theaters.
Through the eyes of a satirist, the world of contemporary art museums is what one might call a “target-rich environment.” Pretense, hypocrisy, decadence—they’re all there, just waiting to be mocked. And the mercilessly acerbic Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund, whose Force Majeure was one of the sharpest critiques of matrimony and masculinity in recent memory, would seem to be just the person to do it. And he does so in smart and entertaining fashion, at least until a drawn-out final act turns The Square from a sharp-tongued takedown into an example of the kind of high-minded narcissism it decries. MARC MOHAN Cinema 21.
Dario Argento is a sick man. He makes sick movies. They look like the sort of rancid fever dreams a sick brain would sweat out under slicked-up satin sheets. 1977’s Suspiria is the distillation of every twisted, nightmarish filmmaking fetish Argento’s ever had, poured straight into this lurid, glossy, beautifully disturbing masterpiece of giallo-inspired horror. BOBBY ROBERTS NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ THOR: RAGNAROK
Thor: Ragnarok begins with an imprisoned Thor dangling from a chain in the bowels of some reeking hellscape, taunting a world-destroying demon. Then “Immigrant Song” shudders and shakes the theater’s speakers, and Thor—wielding his trusty hammer Mjolnir, and really feeling the music—lays righteous waste to a skittering army of the undead. Then there’s some hyperspace travel. And a lot of dragon blood? And a Shake Weight! Ragnarok gets weirder, funnier, and better from there. I watched the whole thing with a big stupid grin on my big stupid face. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
★ THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Let’s talk about Sam Rockwell for a minute. There’s a lot of other talent in the awkwardly, memorably titled Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Frances McDormand is predictably, fiercely awesome; Woody Harrelson demonstrates unexpected nuance; and writer/director Martin McDonagh takes his patented mixture of profanity and profundity to new levels. But I’d argue that Three Billboards is Rockwell’s movie. He takes a character who at first seems to be little more than a cartoon of a bumbling, racist cop, and transforms him into the moral center of a powerfully moral film. MARC MOHAN Various Theaters.
John Landis’ 1983 comedy has survived into the 21st century by coasting on warmly nostalgic memories of catching it on cable one weekend or another, snickering at the crudely silly joys found within. Well, memory plays tricks on you, and nostalgia is a motherfucker, because Trading Places is a boring, tone-deaf, mean-spirited, racist piece of shit. Maybe three or four solid laughs (almost all belonging to Paul Gleason as Clarence Beeks) have survived their entombment in this rancid turd. In 1983, Trading Places explained to audiences that Eddie Murphy could carry a movie. In 2017, it explains how someone like Max Landis came out the way he did. BOBBY ROBERTS Clinton Street Theater.
Maybe consider doing something nice for once and take your grandmother to a Bing Crosby movie, you ungrateful, selfish little jackass. Hollywood Theatre.
It’s easy to live a snarky life. I see a lot of movies that are god-awful, and the world around us is also pretty god-awful, and without wanting to, I seem to have “This is stupid” on the tip of my tongue more often than not. So when a movie comes along that is good—legitimately, sincerely good, like flowers or soup or dogs—I find myself grasping at a way to describe it. Wonder, directed by The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s Stephen Chbosky, is that good movie. It’s about a little boy, Auggie (Room’s Jacob Tremblay), and his mom (Julia Roberts), his dad (Owen Wilson), and his older sister (Izabela Vidovic). Auggie was born with a condition that makes him look different, so that’s what Wonder focuses on—but it’s not really what this movie is. This is a portrait of a group of humans—grown-ups and kids, but mostly kids—who are whole, complicated people, who have opportunities to be selfish and opportunities to be kind. Wonder defaults to kindness in a manner that feels both totally inspiring and completely organic. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Todd Haynes has been in the zone for quite some time now, creating a remarkable streak of films that establish glorious illusions, and then burrow deeper for the real, messy deal. Wonderstruck, the director’s first movie for a younger audience, feels like an anomaly in other, less intriguing ways—including an atypically slack narrative and an occasional case of the cutes. But then the third act kicks in, and everything gets terrific. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, Dec 1-Thursday, Dec 7, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.