A special screening of a 35mm print on loan from the Library of Congress, starring Humphrey Bogart before he was primarily known as a hangdog gumshoe spitting smoke and sardonic one-liners out the corner of his mouth. Black Legion isn't concerned with devilish dames and inky shadows—its darkness is much more relevant. Black Legion is about frustrated white men using racism as a lever to acquire financial and professional status. Of course, being as it's a film from the '30s, the victims of this racism are other white people, but the message at the center of this socially aware pre-code classic is still sound, and that sound still resonates. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
There aren’t many films that can paint a picture of the extravagant turmoil of young romance without lapsing into clunky cliché. But Call Me by Your Name is such a film—and it succeeds by seamlessly juxtaposing the lush Italian countryside with the burgeoning desires and tumultuous emotions of a lovesick teen, creating a sumptuous world of dreams and romantic loss. WM.™ STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
DEN OF THIEVES
Christian Gudegast, writer of A Man Apart and London Has Fallen, makes his directorial debut with Den of Thieves, and it’s everything he’s been building toward as a creator of generic, testosterone-driven crime dramas. Gerard Butler stars as hungover L.A. cop Nick Flanagan, whose crew finds a ring of bank robbers, headed by Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), who may be responsible for a string of unsolved “highly sophisticated, well-executed heists.” They lean on Merrimen’s associate, ex-con bartender Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), to infiltrate the group before they hit their next target: the L.A branch of the Federal Reserve. This is fine material for a heist movie, and Den of Thieves eventually becomes a reasonably entertaining one. But it’s weighed down by delusions of gravity, spending too much time on Nick’s personal life (his wife is leaving him, of course) and camaraderie among the crooks (who also include 50 Cent). When we get to the day of the heist, the movie’s been on for 70 minutes ... and it’s only half-over. ERIC D. SNIDER Various Theaters.
Lana Wilson’s 2016 documentary on Ittetsu Nemoto, a man contemplating the costs of his journey through life, including stops as varied as “troubled punk,” “Zen Buddhist priest,” and “suicide counselor.” NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
DIRECTOR: CARL THEODOR DREYER
A retrospective on the work of Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, whose stellar filmography stretches from the silent films of the 1920s into the turbulent decade of the 1960s. Films include Voices of Light: The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr, Gertrud, and more. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
"This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred." Clinton Street Theater.
THE FINAL YEAR
There are probably more important things you can do in response to the Trump era than spend 89 minutes of your time watching The Final Year, a wistful documentary about former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy worldview. Having given 89 minutes of my own time to this film, I feel it’s likely the people in it—Obama, former Secretary of State John Kerry, former UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes—would agree you should do something else. Or, at the very least, something more. By the end of the movie, as all of them grapple with the unexpected 2016 presidential election results, the unanimous consensus seems to be that the tens of millions of Americans who helped propel Obama to two terms in the White House are now a sort of ark. They are, in this view, the repository of noble ideas and aspirations temporarily washed out of power by a perfect storm of resentment, technological disruption, media failure, and enthusiastic demagoguery. Answering this frightful reality by watching nostalgic movies does not seem to be anyone’s idea of how decent Americans, including ex-Obama officials, should be leaping into action. ELI SANDERS On Demand.
I AM CUBA (SOY CUBA)
An anti-American, Cuban-Soviet-produced propaganda film from 1964, that suggests a fruitful, wondrous future under the caring, guiding hand of Fidel Castro. The politics of the film might not hold up after all these years, but director Mikhail Kalatozov’s audacious skills behind the camera certainly do. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
★ KING KONG (1933)
This past Tuesday, Kong: Skull Island was Academy Award-nominated for Best Visual Effects. It joins its predecessors (Peter Jackson’s 2005 film, the Dino DeLaurentiis-produced simian tearjerker from 1976) in being recognized for bringing malevolent monkeying around to visceral life. It’s also maybe one of the shittiest films to have been released in 2017, a complete failure as both basic storytelling and coherent action filmmaking. Say what you will about the racist, colonialist undertones of the 1933 original (which aren’t very “under” at all, really) but it at least managed to competently combine story, character, and action with its (still) mesmerizing effects. Méliès might have invented visual effects as we know them now, but Willis O’Brien literally sculpted and moved them into the future one historic frame after another with his work on Kong—work you absolutely need to see on a big screen to properly appreciate. BOBBY ROBERTS NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE
See review, this issue. Various Theaters.
★ PHANTOM THREAD
A phenomenally fucked-up romantic comedy, Phantom Thread manages to be pitch-black funny and profoundly disconcerting, sometimes within the same scene. Novelistic, mean, and funny, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is unlike anything else out there, and it’s great. At least, I thought so? As the end credits rolled, a distressed lady in front of me huffed out, declaring, “Well, that’s not the kind of love I like.” Fair enough, lady! But there’s more truth in Phantom Thread’s love—a kind of love that’s as unavoidable as it is frightening and co-dependent—than in most feel-good films’ soulless romances. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
★ THE POST
We’ve seen a lot of iterations of Steven Spielberg, from Sci-Fi Spielberg (Minority Report, War of the Worlds) to Prestige Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Lincoln) to Middlebrow Schmaltz Spielberg (The Terminal, War Horse). The Post reveals yet another Spielberg: Message Spielberg. The Post is Spielberg’s clear and passionate ode to the adversarial press, and not only is it a refreshing departure from his past work, it also turns out to be a good fit for his slick storytelling style. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
RE-RUN THEATER: STAR TREK VOYAGER—SCORPION
This month’s tribute to classic television might be stretching the definition of “classic” just a touch, depending on which Star Trek fans you ask. But considering Star Trek fans tend to have the shittiest definitions of what good Star Trek even is, maybe let’s not ask ‘em. Let’s do this instead: Did you like First Contact? That’s the one where the farmer from Babe is a drunk rocket scientist and Professor X takes a machine gun to a bunch of robot zombies. Well this is kinda like a sequel to that, but with a coffee-swilling captain (the unfairly maligned Kate Mulgrew) who has to face not only robot zombies, but poorly rendered scorpion monsters, while also trying to rehabilitate one of the robot zombies so she can become the show mascot and fight Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a future episode. So yes, this is television history. Bear witness. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
THE ROAD MOVIE
See review, this issue. Various Theaters.
RUN LOLA RUN
Tom Tykwer’s 1998 film, originally titled Lola Goes for a Jog. Laurelhurst Theater.
A top-secret screening for supporters and members of the Hollywood Theatre! *Fingers crossed* please be Kong: Skull Island, please be Kong: Skull Island. Hollywood Theatre.
★ THE SHAPE OF WATER
Guillermo del Toro’s latest is strange, sweet, and wonderful, and easily the greatest film ever made about a mute cleaning lady who falls in love with an amphibious fish man. The Academy apparently agrees, having nominated it for 13 awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actress, and Original Screenplay. Also see “Guillermo del Toro Discusses the Tragedy and Delight of The Shape of Water,” Film, Dec 13. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, January 26-Thursday, February 1, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.