A perfectly serviceable airport novel of a movie, Beirut has enough espionage-y twists to keep you occupied for 109 minutes and mostly distracted from the fact its best parts never fully develop. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
★ BEST IN SHOW
“We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks. But we saw each other at different Starbucks, across the street from each other.” Hollywood Theatre.
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.
THE DEATH OF STALIN
It’s a bad time for political satire—things are simply feeling a little too real right now. The rawness of our current moment is really the only problem with The Death of Stalin, the historically accurate comedy from Armando Iannucci (Veep) about the infighting between Joseph Stalin’s lackeys after the Russian dictator’s death in 1953. There are very funny performances from Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, and Monty Python’s Michael Palin, whose comedic influence can be felt throughout Iannucci’s script, particularly in a sidesplitting funeral scene. But there’s something legitimately upsetting about witnessing the incompetence and corruption of the banally evil; each laugh sticks deeper in your throat until you don’t really feel like laughing anymore. Oh well—at least we’ve got our own revolution to look forward to. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.
ESSAYS OF A CITY
Oregon filmmaker Stuart Eagon presents his experimental documentary in three parts, shot on Super 16mm, charting the decay of various urban landscapes. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
So many questions with Goodfellas. Is it Scorsese’s best movie? Is it better than The Godfather? Is it the best mafia movie ever? It’s definitely Ray Liotta’s best movie, right? Can you even cut garlic so thin with a razor blade that it just liquefies in the pan? How is that possible? How many times do you think you’ll shout “Oh shit it’s that one dude from The Sopranos!” before whoever you’re watching with punches your shoulder and tells you to shut the fuck up already? Is there anything funnier than Morrie’s wig falling off his melon-head while Robert De Niro chokes him with a phone cord? That last one has an answer. That answer is no. BOBBY ROBERTS Clinton Street Theater.
★ THE GREAT SILENCE
A mute Jean-Louis Trintignant faces off against psychotic bounty killer Klaus Kinski in Sergio Corbucci’s 1968 spaghetti western. Shot in wintertime snow with plenty of bloodshed, The Great Silence is a bleak, great movie, highlighted by an Ennio Morricone score and a memorably tragic ending. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
★ GRINDHOUSE FILM FESTIVAL: CISCO PIKE
This month’s entry in the Hollywood’s celebration of Grindhouse cinema is a rare 35mm print of director Bill L. Norton’s 1972 crime drama starring a young Kris Kristofferson—or as “young” as Kris Kristofferson can be (pretty sure he was born at age 37 and simply accumulated crags from that point forward) as a hard luck musician forced into indentured drug-dealing servitude by Gene Hackman as a crooked cop. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The Oregon Latino Oral History Project presents this series of local short films telling the stories of the everyday heroes who inspired the paths that community leaders are walking today. Filmmakers in attendance. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ 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.
★ JAPANESE CURRENTS
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.
★ LEAN ON PETE
Andrew Haigh’s fantastic and harrowing new film explores the sadness and danger of an upbringing that affords altogether too much freedom. Charley (Charlie Plummer) is the son of a single father who can barely keep himself out of trouble, let alone make ends meet, but the 15-year-old doesn’t rebel in the typical teenager ways. Instead, he’s constantly on the lookout for the stability his home life can’t provide, leading him to spend time at a nearby racetrack, where he does odd jobs for a horse trainer, Del (Steve Buscemi), and bonds with a quarter horse named Lean on Pete. The film was shot in Portland and the southeastern Oregon town of Burns, and Haigh’s screenplay is adapted from the excellent 2010 novel by local writer/musician Willy Vlautin. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
★ LOVE, SIMON
If you’re one of those people who only reads the first sentences of movie reviews, here you go: Love, Simon is FANTASTIC, and you should see it IMMEDIATELY. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
★ NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND
Almost everything you could, should, and do love about Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Avatar (both the blue-kitty-people version and the kid-with-the-arrow-on-his-head version) was already present in this 1984 anime classic, but made more visually interesting and emotionally engaging (if you can believe that, and you should), thanks to the beautiful mind of legendary storyteller Hayao Miyazaki. Part of the Hollywood Theatre’s Hayao Miyazaki Celebration series. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
THE OUTHOUSE: THE FILM 1985-1997
Punk did not live solely on the coasts and in the big cities. One of the more legendary enclaves of youthful rebellion sprouted up in the flatlands of Kansas amidst the cornfields, and it was called the Outhouse. Bradley Norman’s documentary details the brief-but-furious life of this venue, with interviews from Henry Rollins, Ice-T, Ian MacKaye, and more. Cinema 21.
★ 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.
Rampage is a searing indictment of the military-industrial complex, the privatization of space, and unrestricted corporate modification of genetic code. The fruits of humanity’s hubris are laid bare in this harrowing vision of a world we are utterly unprepared for. Just kidding! Rampage is an expensive video game movie about a giant monkey and flying wolf and a spiky lizard and they all fight each other. It’s exceptionally dumb, exceptionally fun, and weirdly faithful to its 16-bit source material. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
★ RE-RUN THEATER: SATURDAY MORNING MELTDOWN
For many kids, Saturday morning in the ‘80s consisted of pouring a big bowl of puffed corn and cow juice, laying two feet away at most from the family’s tube TV, jamming your elbows into the carpet, the heels of your hands under your chin, mainlining poorly animated 30-minute toy commercials into your eyeballs. This is your chance to relive all of that, but with beer, pizza, and the Hollywood’s big screen replacing that tube TV as the medium (barely) containing the furry majesty of Thundarr the Barbarian, Scooby Doo, and the live-action sci-fi curiosity Ark II (with special guest Jim Backus!) BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
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.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME
Before J.J. Abrams resurrected Star Trek with his candy-coated 2009 adventure, the most popular Star Trek film was this big-screen sitcom from 1986, most commonly known as “The one with the whales.” That sounds like a slam, but it’s really not—sitcoms are a staple of pop-culture because people very much enjoy just spending time with beloved characters as they bounce off each other. A story doesn’t need to be a fraught, revenge-soaked tragedy in order to mean something, and director Leonard Nimoy’s decision to lower the stakes (sorta—the film is about impending world destruction), dispense with overt villainy, and just enjoy the company of the Enterprise’s crew not only reminded longtime fans why they fell in love with the series, but inspired a lot of then-casual fans to become not-so-casual about that fandom afterwards. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
★ YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
A tormented veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) uses his particular set of skills to locate kidnapped girls, and then go absolutely primal on their captors. (He favors hammers.) During an especially high-profile case, his strictly maintained veil of anonymity slips. Director Lynne Ramsay’s first feature since We Need To Talk About Kevin strips the righteous vigilante genre down to the bare fixtures, then brilliantly tweaks whatever remains, with gritty and occasionally surreal results. (An early action sequence viewed entirely through security cameras is a sterling example of almost giving the viewers what they want.) As for Phoenix, an actor who can occasionally seem like a collection of overdetermined tics, he’s magnificent here—somehow maintaining a thousand-yard-stare even while blinking away tears. A fierce, brief, and thoroughly hypnotic movie, with a score by Jonny Greenwood that aims directly for the spine. ANDREW WRIGHT 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.