Do not be distracted by the beautiful celebrities: Aardvark is one of the worst films I have seen in years. It’s a sex thriller starring Jenny Slate, Jon Hamm, and Zachary Quinto—three great actors who I’m pretty sure were blackmailed into doing this movie. The premise is intriguing: Joshua (Quinto) thinks his estranged brother, hunky TV actor Craig (Hamm), is a shapeshifter who visits him disguised as other people. He seeks help from Emily (Slate), a dysfunctional therapist who really isn’t in a position to be giving anyone advice. That’s proven when she and Craig begin a secret relationship. Aardvark could’ve been a great film, but between the scrambled eggs plot, awkward dialogue, and nonsensical resolution, it’s just plain bad. CIARA DOLAN Fox Tower 10.
This movie is called Blockers, but the poster has a little rooster over the word “Blockers” because obviously it’s meant to be Cockblockers. This is the first of many examples of this movie flirting with raunch and then wussing out and biting its tongue. The creepy premise of Blockers is that some parents find out that their teen daughters plan to lose their virginities on prom night and they want to stop them. WHOA, right?! Leslie Mann stars as the needy mom, Ike Barinholtz is the cool dad, and John Cena is the over-protective alpha dad from a commercial for life insurance or a college savings plan. These are all very pleasant humans, but I wholly rooted against their stupid characters because their daughters are self-possessed young women whose bodies and choices are theirs alone and OBVIOUSLY the way to get young people to make smart decisions about sex is NOT by preventing them from having it. Also, maybe it’s not the right time in American life for adults to suggest they’re smarter than teenagers. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
BLUMHOUSE’S TRUTH OR DARE
The worst thing about Truth or Dare is its premise: A group of college kids go to Mexico for spring break, where they meet a mysterious dude who lures them to an abandoned convent to play truth or dare. When they return to SoCal, the friends realize the game never ended, and that the consequences of being dishonest or failing to complete a dare are deadly. The story of Americans visiting an “exotic” place and catching an evil virus is old, stupid, offensive, and also boring. In all other areas, though, Truth or Dare delivers as another dumb-but-fun horror movie from dumb-but-fun horror movie machine Blumhouse Productions, with plentiful jump scares, self-aware millennial humor (i.e. when they comment that a demon makes people’s faces look like a fucked-up Snapchat filter), and plenty of true-blue horror tropes, like “Oh no, the demon says we have to have sex or we’ll die!” I probably wouldn’t spend money to see this in a theater, but it’s satisfying junk food for those who enjoy testing their adrenal glands. CIARA DOLAN Various Theaters.
CONTACT DANCE FILM FESTIVAL
NW Film Center and Bodyvox join forces to present new collaborations between filmmakers, dancers, and choreographers. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
In Diva’s Paris, everyone lives in huge dark lofts, maintains highly individualized states of philosophical melancholy, and finds transcendent bliss in the process of buttering a fresh (but not too fresh) baguette. In short, it is an elder conceptual Paris, more true to its love of discretion than today’s world of all-access and high rents, in which French Vogue Editor Carine Roitfeld is broadcast worldwide every time she changes her clothes, and in which no half-assed postman could afford a loft so vast it contains an automotive graveyard, as does that of Jules (Frédéric Andréi), the unwitting protagonist of this eccentric thriller from 1981. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
★ ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Of the multiple miracles of modern filmmaking that occur throughout the runtime of Eternal Sunshine—including such feats as “Jim Carrey underplays things,” “Kirsten Dunst isn’t annoying,” and “Michel Gondry doesn’t twee his movie to death”—the most notable? This sci-fi tragedy about a broken relationship is maybe the most poignantly romantic film of the last 25 years. BOBBY ROBERTS Clinton Street Theater.
When dealing with a director of dubious quality such as the other Paul Anderson—the one with the W.S. in his name and Mortal Kombat, Alien vs. Predator and the Resident Evil series on his resume—claiming one film to be his “best” doesn’t really mean all that much. But its hard to deny there are some legitimate scares embedded in the thick slab of (badly) computer generated cheese that is Event Horizon. A bizarre mishmash of Alien ripoff and Nine Inch Nails video, Horizon stars Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne as a sad scientist and a stoic soldier. They board an abandoned spaceship only to discover it literally went to Hell and back, and is now possessed and murder-thirsty. Many a DVD pause button was worn out as gorehounds tried to parse the Bosch-esque nightmare of the ship’s log, a strobey nightmare that leads to maybe the best single line reading of Fishburne’s entire career. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
FASHION IN FILM: THE CELL
Eden Dawn and former Mercury fashion maven Marjorie Skinner present Tarsem Singh’s 2000 debut, The Cell, a film known almost entirely for its riot of visual stimuli at the expense of anything even remotely resembling coherent storytelling. In Tarsem’s defense, story just kinda gets in the way when all you really wanna do is marvel at the succession of frames packed full-to-bursting with candy-coated fistfuls of “What the fuck am I looking at.” The film is preceded by a showcase for bags, accessories, and bondage gear as designed and created by local leather line Colty, with runway walkers including models, twins, and minotaur men. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Who killed famed actress Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz)? Was it her doting assistant? Her lesbian lover? Her bad-boy ex? The grumpy director whose project she blew off? The creepy paparazzo with the camcorder? The slightly obsessive fan? These are the questions writer/director Aaron Katz (Cold Weather, Land Ho!) wants you to be turning over in your head you watch his latest feature, Gemini, rather than the question that will be plaguing you throughout: When is something interesting going to happen? Beautiful to look at but empty inside, this is the cinematic equivalent of a drained bottle of Cristal. ROBERT HAM Cinema 21.
HEARTS OF THE DULCIMER
Goddamn I hope you’re ready for some fuckin’ dulcimer magic up in this piece because you’re sure as shit gonna get some! Filmmakers and a fuckin’ shitload of badass dulcimers in attendance! Hollywood Theatre.
★ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE
Ask a fan what their favorite Miyazaki film is and they’ll probably make pained noises for about 10 straight minutes before gingerly settling on at least three of his cinematic delicacies with “I can’t pick just one!” Ask Miyazaki which film is his favorite and he’ll say Howl’s Moving Castle with no hesitation. The story of a cursed girl who comes to live in the enchanted, claw-footed castle of a secretive magician, Howl features some of the most impressive animation and design in Miyazaki’s filmography, using all the charm and beauty imbued in his imagery to fuel the film’s strong anti-war narrative. Part of Hollywood Theatre’s Hayao Miyazaki Celebration film series. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ ISLE OF DOGS
Superficially, Isle of Dogs dazzles. Wes Anderson’s second foray into stop-motion animation—following 2009’s unassailably wonderful Fantastic Mr. Fox—is full of delectable visual treats. (This time, the director’s grade-school diorama aesthetic floods your ocular circuits with a retro-futuristic version of Japan, where all the dogs of Megasaki City have been exiled to Trash Island following an outbreak of snout fever.) Things get a little more... complicated below the surface, as Anderson’s depiction of the film’s Japanese humans leaves something to be desired. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
In a world where we’re always connected—to a sometimes-frightening degree—there’s an added value to truly foreign experiences. We travel to get out of our ordinary environment, and we’re generally thrilled by how vast the differences are. Take comfort, then, in the strangeness found in Japanese Currents—the annual NW Film Center-hosted overview of noteworthy and contemporary Japanese films. It’s proof that the internet hasn’t succeeded (yet) in drumming out the idiosyncrasies of culture. MARJORIE SKINNER NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE
Beloved director Hayao Miyazaki frequently acknowledges his admiration of Disney, but Uncle Walt and all his filmmaking descendents ain’t got shit on Miyazaki’s ability to conjure up pure animated magic. Kiki’s Delivery Service is one many examples of Miyazaki’s fantastical-yet-low-key genius, telling the story of a 13-year-old delivery witch (and her cat) who falls in love and learns to overcome her insecurities. When many of us are caught up in daily maelstroms of angst and cacophony out in the real world, calling time out to experience Kiki’s quiet, winsome triumphs on the big screen is a welcome, necessary respite. Part of Hollywood Theatre’s Hayao Miyazaki Celebration film series. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
MARY JANES: THE WOMEN OF WEED
Windy Borman presents her documentary about the rapidly-expanding legal cannabis industry and the women within it “breaking the grass ceiling.” Screening preceded by a panel discussion with Borman, Executive Director of Oregon NORML Madeline Martinez, Batterby Group founder Sara Batterby, The Weed Blog co-owner Leah Maurer, and CEO of Empower BodyCare Trista Okel. Clinton Street Theater.
★ QUEER HORROR: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII
Carla Rossi knows that you can’t just let an actual Friday the 13th pass without watching at least one of the films in Jason’s tattered, raggedy canon, and so the Hollywood hosts a Rossi-engineered party centered on the... questionable rewards found in The New Blood, known better to horror fans as “Oh yeah, the one where a girl drops a fuckin’ house on Jason... with her mind.” The New Blood turns 30 this year, and Carla celebrates the milestone with a pre-show tribute to Camp Crystal Lake. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ A QUIET PLACE
The horror films that linger into the wee small hours after watching are often the simplest ones. A Quiet Place, director/co-writer/actor John Krasinski’s startlingly good monster movie, quickly establishes a lean, mean scenario and then cranks up the tension. This is a ruthlessly efficient primal scream generator, and audiences are going to go bananas. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
READY PLAYER ONE
There’s a phenomenal sequence early in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One: Countless vehicles rev their engines at a starting line, the air electric. There’s the DeLorean from Back to the Future. There’s Adam West’s Batmobile. There’s Speed Racer’s Mach 5 and the Akira motorcycle. But it’s not important what the vehicles are so much as what Spielberg does with them: The race starts and the cars peel out, speeding and skidding over twisted, contorting roads, launching into the air and spinning into crashes. It’s such a great car chase—even before King Kong and Jurassic Park’s T-rex show up—that you forget it’s all CGI. It’s just motion and color and sound, expertly cut together, telling a story that thrills and delights. It’s a reminder that when Spielberg’s firing on all cylinders, nobody else even comes close. And then, from this high, Ready Player One plunges straight downhill. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Tatiana Huezo’s 2016 film eschews the structural norms of typical documentary storytelling to tell the tales of two women caught up in Mexico’s private prison system, disappeared from their own lives and made to suffer for the wrongdoings of others. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The 1995 Palme d’Or winner about anti-Nazi black market arms dealers in WWII who decide not to tell the refugees they’re sheltering that the war has ended. Cinema 21.
WHERE IS KYRA?
The title Where is Kyra? suggests that someone named Kyra cannot be located. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer) is pictured in close-up for at least 90 percent of this film. Here is Kyra, taking care of her elderly mother. Here is Kyra, stressed out and sad. Here is Kyra, making bad decisions. Here is Kyra, smooching up on Kiefer Sutherland. Where is Kyra? is quiet and uncomfortable in that oh-so-arthouse kind of way, and while Pfeiffer does an elegant job of capturing this challenged woman’s humanity, the extensive close-ups don’t make it any easier to watch. Where is Kyra? She’s right up in your face, making everyone else sad and uncomfortable, too. ELINOR JONES Fox Tower 10.
★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday-Thursday, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.