★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday-Thursday, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.
One half of the Hughes Brothers (Albert) directs this adventure about a boy in the Ice Age who makes friends with an injured wolf, and in the process, invents dog ownership. Thanks, kid! Various Theaters.
It’s difficult to know what to make of Spike Lee’s latest joint—a fact that positions BlacKkKlansman almost perfectly within the filmmaker’s larger oeuvre. Few directors with as many films to their name as Lee have such an incredible body of work that is both brilliant and eye-rollingly annoying, often in the same movie. And while BlacKkKlansman never hits the rocky depths of Lee’s more troubled or narratively uneven films, it also falls short of the inspired artistry that defines the director’s best work. DAVID F. WALKER Various Theaters.
★ COWBOY BEBOP: KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR
As a subgenre, “Movies Based on TV Shows” isn’t the most reliably successful. For every Miami Vice (shut up, it’s fuckin’ good) there are like five of Car 54, Where Are You? But one of the best examples of a show making the leap is also one of its least mentioned—probably because the show was an anime that most Americans only saw if they (1) knew what the fuck Adult Swim was in 2001, and (2) were up late enough on Sunday nights to watch it. If they did, they saw Cowboy Bebop, arguably the finest anime series ever made, a laid-back explosion of style that demanded you acknowledge just how fucking cool it was. In less sure hands, this story of interstellar bounty hunters who reluctantly become something like a real family would be a tryhard melange of clichés. But through the eyes of director Shinichiro Watanabe, every ingredient (sci-fi, jazz, noir, screwball comedy, action, mystery, suspense, sitcom hijinks) is perfectly measured and blended with such surety that the result feels breezily effortless—at least, until the cumulative effect of the storytelling sneaks a breath-stealing gut punch into the final minutes. So went the series, so goes this movie. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ CRAZY RICH ASIANS
I’m going to start with the thing everybody wants to talk about: Crazy Rich Asians is the first major motion picture starring a predominantly Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club came out in 1993. That is BONKERS, and it makes this film’s release noteworthy. Great! Let’s talk inclusion! I love it. Thumbs up, Hollywood! Now let’s talk about the next most important thing: Crazy Rich Asians is romantic comedy gold that should be celebrated not only for its cast but also for its perfect execution of light, breezy escapism. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Eva Wunderman’s documentary about former Nunavut Territory commissioner Edna Elias. Director in attendance. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
John Carpenter has made better movies than this over his long and incredibly varied career, and he’s definitely made worse (cough—Ghosts of Mars—cough cough), but 1981’s Escape From New York could be the most Carpenter of all Carpenter’s films, the one most consistently peppered with the director’s signature touches. If, by some weird happenstance, you haven’t seen one of his films before (that’s crazy), Escape is the best introduction, primarily due to Kurt Russell’s career-defining performance as Snake Plissken. BOBBY ROBERTS Portland State University Parking Structure 2.
★ GRINDHOUSE FILM FESTIVAL: INFRA-MAN
Normally, the Grindhouse Film Festival focuses on the down-and-dirty side of ’70s cinema. But this month, there’s no tortured addicts scrounging for one last score, no bloodthirsty victims out for bone-cracking revenge, and no crooked cops bucking a broken system. Instead, you’re getting a rare 35mm print of the Shaw Brothers’ 1975 psychedelic superhero freakout Infra-Man, about an ordinary man who, thanks to science and sensible costuming, can shoot lasers out of his hands and feet—that is, when he’s not already using those limbs to punch and kick the ever-living shit out of every floppy rubber mutant monster summoned from the depths by a whip-wielding demon princess. If you have ever in your life considered yourself—even fractionally—a fan of shit like Power Rangers? You absolutely owe it to yourself to catch this ridiculousness on the big screen. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
THE LAST MOVIE
Dennis Hopper’s re-acceptance into popular culture is generally credited to his performance as a barely-dried-out drunk riding the bench next to Gene Hackman in 1986’s blindingly white basketball drama Hoosiers. But what did he have to come back from? Well, aside from his reputation as a never-dried-out pain in the ass to everyone he’d ever worked with, the large-scale failure of 1971’s The Last Movie is a pretty big reason why Hopper disappeared. It’s essentially a metatextual musing on Hopper’s creative impulses, with key assists from his friends Sam Fuller, Rebel Without a Cause screenwriter Stewart Stern, and Kris Kristofferson. It’s also, as Roger Ebert famously put it, “A wasteland of cinematic wreckage.” The Last Movie is kind of a tough sit, but the trip into Hopper’s (obnoxious, self-indulgent) young mind does reap its own odd rewards. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The problem with The Meg isn’t that it’s dumb, it’s that it isn’t dumb enough. This is a movie about Jason Statham fighting a giant prehistoric shark that eats submarines, which isn’t the sort of material that demands the My Dinner With Andre treatment (although I would watch that). All a super-shark chomp-em-up like this needs is a series of increasingly improbable chompings and a cast willing to gnaw more scenery than their ravenous, doll-eyed counterparts. Deep Blue Sea got this formula pretty close to right 19 years ago, but The Meg hasn’t learned much from history. BEN COLEMAN 99W Drive-In, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas.
MEN IN BLACK
“Red-letter from last night, we had an unauthorized landing somewhere in upstate New York farm country. Keep your ears open for this one, K. We’re not hosting an intergalactic kegger down here.” Academy Theater.
★ MYSTERY TRAIN
Director Jim Jarmusch and cinematographer Robby Müller present the unlikely events of one leisurely magic night at a Memphis hotel, spent with three different sets of protagonists (including Joe Strummer and Steve Buscemi) all scrambling for some semblance of meaning under the city’s lights, the spectre of Elvis, and the watchful eyes of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ RE-RUN THEATER: 1983—THE YEAR IN VIDEOS
In 1983, MTV was barely two years old and their programming of choice, the music video, was still primarily a promotional tool—simple, lip-synced commercials shot on smeary VHS to increase record sales. But 1983 was also the year that the artistic possibilities of the music video became apparent; by the end of that year, its Citizen Kane (as proclaimed by producer Quincy Jones) was unleashed upon the world. John Landis’ Thriller blew the doors off popular culture just in time for Christmas, and MTV barreled straight through that opening, becoming one of the biggest influences on world culture for the remainder of the decade. This installment of Re-Run Theater puts that landmark year’s best clips on the Hollywood’s screen, including iconic imagery from the Eurythmics, Culture Club, Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran, and of course, Prince. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ STOP MAKING SENSE
“Hi. I have a tape I want to play.” As far as opening lines go, this flat declaration sounds more like something the weirdo who sat behind me in fourth grade would blurt out than a great rock ‘n’ roll entrance. Shot by Jonathan Demme the Talking Heads’ final tour in 1983, Stop Making Sense would never have held up if it was predicated entirely on such subversions. As smart and fun as these aspects are, they exist only to support an incredible performance of equally incredible music. To capture the complexity of their studio work, the band enlisted five additional musicians (including P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell), and the resulting chemistry is almost impossible to discuss without lapsing into hyperbole. CHAS BOWIE Academy Theater.
TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.
William Friedkin is “the Exorcist guy” and he’ll never not be. But he’s also “the French Connection guy,” and the guy who made the less-well-known-but-just-as-unrelenting Sorcerer. And for all those would-be (and should-be) classics, it could be argued the ultimate Friedkin film is 1985’s To Live and Die in L.A., a neo-noir beautifully photographed by Robby Müller, starring an often-sweaty and wild-eyed William Petersen as a Secret Service agent investigating a young, unfathomably creepy Willem Dafoe as a counterfeiter. Essentially, To Live and Die is Friedkin is playing a game of “can you top this” with his own filmography; the psychological drama and mounting pressure of Sorcerer, the fascination with inscrutable madness from Exorcist, the “holy shit how did he shoot that” technical show-offery of French Connection. The results aren’t quite enough to change his perception as “the Exorcist guy,” but goddamn it’s exhilarating to watch him try for two hours. BOBBY ROBERTS NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
TROOP BEVERLY HILLS
As part of the Hollywood Theatre’s new ongoing film series Isn’t She Great, Elizabeth Teets and Anthony Hudson host this screening of the 1989 Shelley Long vehicle Troop Beverly Hills. This was Long’s last ditch at film stardom after leaving Cheers in 1987, and unfortunately, it didn’t catch. She returned to TV (and to Cheers) shortly afterwards, only attaining theatrical success in Betty Thomas’ Brady Bunch Movie in 1995. Thomas is her scene-stealing co-star in Troop Beverly Hills, but the most fascinating thing about the movie is watching child stars Jenny Lewis, Carla Gugino, Tori Spelling(!) and Kellie Martin playing off the pure ham Long is serving up. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
While Easy Rider gets all the attention for ushering in a new era of American cinema, Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop, a quiet B-movie from Universal, is just as potent an example, and maybe a little more impressive due to how unlikely a success it was. It starred non-actors/musicians (James Taylor and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson), it cast the forever-malevolent Warren Oates as a pathetically dandy sociopath, and through very little dialog and a lot of atmosphere, it subtly captured the last days of a terminal Americana—at least until George Lucas cleverly revived it as a golly-gee nostalgia trip a year later with American Graffiti. Blacktop isn’t a direct commentary on the spoiled idealism of Baby Boomers as the ’60s slipped into the ’70s like Easy Rider is, but the sense of futility (sometimes noble, mostly not) is still strongly felt. BOBBY ROBERTS NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Everyone knows about Woodstock. Not as many people know about Wattstax. And of the people who do, more than a few (incorrectly) believe the latter was simply a soul music version of the former. It wasn’t. Woodstock didn’t really have shit to do with why Stax Records organized their all-star concert in the summer of 1972. Wattstax was a benefit celebration for the community of Watts, a remembrance of the Watts riots seven years prior, and a celebration of soul music and Black excellence, featuring performances from the Staple Singers, Richard Pryor, Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes, The Bar-Kays, Jesse Jackson, and more. Mel Stuart’s film (shot by legendary cinematographer John A. Alonzo) can’t fully capture what it was like to be there—no concert film has ever managed that feat—but there’s more than enough electricity coming off the screen and soul pouring out of the speakers to uplift an audience 50 years later. BOBBY ROBERTS NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.