★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday-Thursday, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.
AIRPORT CINEMA SHOWCASE
A screening of the locally-made shorts currently playing at Hollywood’s microcinema at the Portland Airport, including John Rosman’s Rajneeshees in Oregon, Shelby Menzel’s The Famished Frog, Cheryl Green’s In My Home, and more. Hollywood Theatre.
Aliens is the best film James Cameron ever made. Not the biggest—lord knows the man himself has apparently conflated the two terms as his career exploded all over the box office in ever louder, ever-more-simple pandering blasts of spectacle—but the best. Imagine the audacity to follow up one of the most influential horror films ever made by turning it into a Vietnam War allegory that is also a metaphor for motherhood that is also an action film so perfectly paced that most people don't realize it takes over an hour before a single fanged penis-beast from outer space shows up. And imagine executing on that idea so well that movies, comics, and video games spend the next 30-plus years strip-mining every inch of it for inspiration. Cameron never wrote another script this tight, never directed actors this precisely, and never made a film this palpable—almost unbearable—again. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
★ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Marvel’s attempt to put an exploding bow on 10 years of corporate synergy is a lurching, ungainly colossus of a blockbuster, with far too many characters and storylines stretching across a series of planets that resemble ’70s prog-rock album covers. The thing is, though, while you’re watching it? None of these elements feel like debits. Sometimes, excess hits the spot. ANDREW WRIGHT Every Theater, Resistance Is Futile.
BELLE DE JOUR
I fell in love with Catherine Deneuve in the mid-’90s, when I caught a restored print of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at Cinema 21. To call Jacques Demy’s 1964 mini-opera a transformative experience would not be hyperbole. The movie, and the girl at its center, seemed to exist out of time: magical, romantic, alluring. Not long after, I caught Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967) on cable, and though altogether different than Cherbourg, the deal was sealed. Demy’s film is a musical melodrama about young love; Buñuel’s is a strange, chilly tale of a bored housewife turning to prostitution for thrills. Though worlds apart, they are hallmarks of Deneuve’s career and defining dichotomy: Her best movies are either light love stories or disturbing psychological dramas. JAMIE S. RICH Cinema 21.
A 35mm screening of Larry Cohen’s 1973 blaxploitation remake of Little Caesar, featuring a score by James Brown and starring vocal Trump supporter Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. Note that the film contains a rape scene that even the film’s costar, Gloria Hendry, described as “shocking” in the 2009 book Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. Williamson will be in attendance for a Q&A and to charge $20 for his autograph. Hollywood Theatre.
THE BLUES BROTHERS
“S’pose we ain’t got no union cards, and we go in there and start playin’ anyway, now what you gonna do ’bout that, huh? You gonna stop us, Stein? You gonna look pretty funny tryin’ to eat corn on the cob with no fuckin’ teeth.” Clinton Street Theater.
In Taken and its clones, bad guys realize they’ve messed with the wrong family when it turns out Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills. Skills gleaned from a lifetime of... I don’t remember, being a secret agent assassin or something. In this gender-swapped version—pioneered first by Halle Berry in Kidnap and now genericized further by Gabrielle Union in Breaking In—the bad guys realize they’ve messed with the wrong family when it turns out the mom has a particular set of skills. Skills gleaned from a lifetime of... well, being a mom. That’s really it. There’s no backstory. Moms are just moms, nothing more. Union turns into a badass when her kids are threatened because moms love their kids. And even within a framework that uninspired, Breaking In is still shockingly lazy. It's choreographed like someone was late for lunch and shot like an overdue homework assignment. Uh, happy Mother's Day? VINCE MANKIND Various Theaters.
BUSHWICK BILL: GETO BOY
A rough-cut screening of Gregy Roman’s documentary charting the tumultuous life of hip-hop pioneer Bushwick Bill, including a post-film Q&A with Bill himself and filmmaker/podcaster Shane Bugbee. Clinton Street Theater.
★ THE ENDLESS
The Endless feels like one graceful, continuous spiral, with optical illusions and death-defying phenomena adding to the uncertain buzz in the air. The film straddles the genres of sci-fi, psychological thriller, and horror, but most of its terror stems from one question: Is something watching us and manipulating our world? CIARA DOLAN Hollywood Theatre.
In the tradition of horror classics like Creepshow and Trick ‘r’ Treat, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s anthology presents three short horror films, laced together in ghoulish ways. Cinema 21.
HIGH PLAINS FILMS
The Montana-based nonprofit film collective High Plains Films shares a selection of ecological-themed documentaries directed by Doug Hawes-Davis and Dru Carr. Directors in attendance. 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 Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Kalina Bretin’s documentary uses dreamlike imagery and inventive editing to attempt to make sense of the ways mental illness impacted her family. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
MEASURE OF A MAN
See review, this issue. Various Theaters.
★ QDOC: PORTLAND QUEER DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
Remember before streaming, when everyone was always sad that we had all these channels but nothing was ever on? (Does this paper have readers young enough to not know that agony?!) Anyway, QDoc, Portland’s annual gay and lesbian documentary film festival, presents the opposite problem: There aren’t a ton of movies in each year’s festival, but the movies are generally excellent. See next week’s Mercury for more info. ELINOR JONES Hollywood Theatre.
See review, this issue. Cinema 21, Hollywood Theatre.
REPRESSED CINEMA: FINE ART ON 16MM
This month's deep dive into vaults of mostly-unseen cinema history makes the case that you can study fine art without having to enter a museum, with five short films on 16mm that examine the ways painters paint, sculptors sculpt, and creators create. There's also going to be a lot of berets on display and very stylish smoking—in fact, if you can successfully rock that simple-yet-fancy look, you might win a door prize. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
RIDDLES OF THE SPHINX
The landmark experimental film by Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, realizing of many theories posed in Mulvey’s 1975 text Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Writer/director Chloé Zhao follows up the acclaimed drama Songs My Brothers Taught Me with this story of a rodeo cowboy from South Dakota who has to find meaning and purpose in his life when a head injury prevents him from doing the thing he loves most. Living Room Theaters.
★ THE SHORT ADVENTURES OF WALLACE AND GROMIT
There is almost no way to inject more family friendly magic and comedy into a weekend afternoon than to sit down in front of Nick Park's stop-motion shorts starring a cheese enthusiast named Wallace, and a Wallace enthusiast named Gromit. This weekend, NW Film Center screens every Wallace and Gromit short there is, starting with 1989's A Grand Day Out and ending with 2008's A Matter of Loaf and Death. BOBBY ROBERTS NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
The mouse-eared entertainment monopoly that is Disney wasn't always a grinning, white-gloved goliath at the box-office. In 1960, something like their adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson was seen as Disney swerving way outside its lane. An honest-to-god widescreen adventure epic, Swiss Family Robinson was about as risky (and weird) for 1960 as Pirates of the Caribbean was in 2003. But both bets paid off, and while Robinson seems a little quaint and quiet in comparison to the rummy, hammy pleasures of Pirates, watching the studio's first forays into big-budget live-action still makes for a satisfying trip to the movies. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
I LOVE Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, but their latest made me never want to have children in the same way that Blue Valentine made me never want to get married. Yikes! Like she did in the very underrated Young Adult, Charlize Theron turns in a typically solid performance, here as an exhausted mother aided by a helpful night nanny (Halt and Catch Fire and Blade Runner 2049’s Mackenzie Davis, who can do no wrong) because her husband is a hapless sitcom spouse. While Tully has moments of levity—and while I’m always glad to see any movie dig into the complicated and not-always-adorable reality of parenting and childhood—it’s a bummer to see Theron pushed into an exhausted, maternity-induced fugue state. I mean, it’s real, but too much of anything gets banal after a while, misery included. MEGAN BURBANK Laurelhurst Theater.
WENDY AND LUCY
Wendy and Lucy is not easy to watch. Our protagonist Wendy (Michelle Williams) is waylaid on her journey from Indiana to Alaska. Supremely under-funded, all she has is a crappy Honda Accord, a small pile of quickly dwindling dollar bills, and her dog, Lucy. Reichardt's film could almost be called unkind as it slowly drags the viewer through the tedious realism of Wendy's worsening situation: her car breaks down, she gets busted shoplifting, and most anxiety-producing of all, Lucy goes missing. So we shift uncomfortably in our seats as we're made privy to the harsh lights of gas station bathrooms where Wendy gives herself bum-baths, long, cold, merciless shots of lost and orphaned dogs at the pound, and the furrow of Wendy's brow as she balances pragmatism and panic.MARJORIE SKINNER NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ 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 Various Theaters.