Ash Is Purest White

Alita: Battle Angel
I have never recommended seeing a movie in 3D, let alone IMAX 3D, because films should either succeed in 2D or they aren’t worth seeing. But for Alita: Battle Angel, I will—for the first time—tell you to splurge on the IMAX. With this visually stunning adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga, we should applaud Alita’s depth, not split hairs over the titular character’s oversized anime eyes—which, in the film, are irresistibly beautiful. (Now playing, various theaters) SUZETTE SMITH

Ash Is Purest White
Director Jia Zhang-Ke’s Ash Is Purest White is a gangster epic interrupted. Qiao (Zhao Tao) is the girlfriend of mobster Bin (Liao Fan), and the insular, unstable underworld of the northern Chinese city of Datong is their oyster. It’s mostly a life of cigarettes and mahjong, but eventually Bin’s power is challenged, in a scintillatingly choreographed fight scene that will tear the top of your head off. The rest of the movie is much more subdued, as Qiao roams a culturally and economically changing China for two decades, trying to figure out where she belongs. It’s far more poetic and surprising than that sounds—and it’s occasionally daffy, too, with a UFO showing up for a split-second. (Opens Fri March 22, Fox Tower 10) NED LANNAMANN

Birds of Passage
Directors Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego's critically acclaimed crime drama follows a Colombian Wayuu family caught in the drug trade. (Opens Fri March 22, Living Room Theaters)

Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel is a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and MCU movies are generally good-to-excellent, and Captain Marvel is no different. It’s smart, funny, and deliriously self-aware, and there are a bunch of cool explosions. It’s great! There you go! Review over! “But wait,” you say. “It is different. Aren’t you going to mention... [points at boobs, from one to the other, back and forth, maintaining eye contact, making things weird]?” Ugh, FINE. I’ll say it: Yes, Carol is a woman, and this is the first Marvel movie centered on a woman. In that sense, this is different from the stuff that came before it! It’s even better! I’ve really enjoyed my Bruce Bannerses and Steve Rogerses, but I liked my Carol Danvers even more. It was great to see someone who looked like me straight-up destroy alien bad guys. (Now playing, various theaters) ELINOR JONES

Captive State
A kinda-Cloverfield-y, sorta District 9-ish sci-fi drama about aliens occupying Chicago, and the struggles of both the occupiers and the occupied. Written and directed by the guy who made Rise of the Planet of the Apes and was subsequently replaced by a guy who made two way better sequels. Not screened for critics. (Opens Fri March 15, various theaters)


Castle in the Sky
The word “genius” gets batted around with regard to filmmakers with a numbing, reductive frequency. But if Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t qualify for that title, who does? Since making his directorial debut with 1979’s The Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki has blazed his own distinct trail, blending atomic-clock action timing with an awe-inspiring, hand-rendered sense of the infinite. Nobody else can balance exhilarating weightlessness with moral gravity in quite the same proportions. (Fri March 22-Thurs March 28, Academy Theater) ANDREW WRIGHT

With Climax, controversy-courting director Gaspar Noé—the enfant terrible behind Irreversible, Enter the Void, and Love—does everything within his power to fuck with viewers’ perceptions. The movie begins with the final moments of the story to come, followed quickly by the closing credits (running backwards, naturally). About a third of the way into the film, he drops the eye-popping opening credits, and throughout, Benoît Debie’s camera dips, rolls, and spins. Climax is Noé’s most palatable film to date, in spite of his usual predelictions for both pretention and forcing his female characters to suffer constant violence and abuse. (Now playing, Cinema 21) ROBERT HAM

The Dirt
What better combination than the director of the Jackass trilogy and the writer of 2005’s pick-up bible The Game to tell the story of Mötley Crüe, the skeeviest hair metal band the ‘80s ever yarked into a tape deck. Despite the universe’s best efforts to keep this skidmarked stripe of music history tucked under Vince Neil’s strained leather pants (this film’s been in various stages of production since 2007), Netflix decided this sordid tale of sustained mediocrity needed to be cinematically realized. We’re a long way from Roma, ladies and gentlemen. Starring Machine Gun Kelly as Tommy Lee aaaaaand you just broke out in weird hives, sorry. (Streams Fri March 22, Netflix)

Fantastic Planet
A 1973 film collaboration between French and Czech animators, Fantastic Planet’s based on a science fiction novel by Stefan Wul called Oms en Série, but the movie’s theme has a lot to do with Czechoslovakia’s occupation by Soviet forces in the late ’60s, which brought about the close of the Prague Spring era. In the film, a race of blue giants, called Draags, co-exist with the human-like Oms. Oms are either considered by Draags to be mice-like pests or are kept captive as cute little pets, while the Draags are an enlightened, intelligent race with a sophisticated government and extensive rituals of mediation. Yet they consider Oms to be inferior beings, perhaps because of their size. (Cue allegory.) The story holds up completely, but the imagery is what’s really amazing: Although the animation itself is choppy and primitive, the drawings are nothing short of spectacular. It’s been described as a mixture of Salvador Dali, Hieronymous Bosch, and Terry Gilliam, and that drool-inducing assessment is not far off. There’s also a swanky ’70s progressive rock score, which is awesome and hilarious at the same time. (Madlib sampled the shit out of it.) (Sat March 16, Hollywood Theatre) NED LANNAMANN

Fantastic Planet

“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.” (Fri March 15-Thurs March 21, Academy Theater)

Fighting with My Family
A heartfelt family wrestling movie from the comedy writer partly responsible for the UK version of The Office? The quality of Stephen Merchant’s directorial debut was never going to be as preordained as the outcome of a pro-wrestling match, but this scrappy underdog might be the most charming, entertaining movie of the young year. The phenomenal Florence Pugh plays real-life wrestler Paige, who went from the youngest in a working-class wrestling family in Norwich, England, to a WWE superstar. Her journey, with family conflicts and self-confidence issues, is not an especially unpredictable one, but Merchant gets every note exactly right, from producer Dwayne Johnson’s appearance as himself to Paige’s rough but irresistibly loveable family (Lena Dunham, Nick Frost, and Jack Lowden). Vince Vaughn as Paige’s coach, too, is perfectly cast—for once—and the movie’s one of those miraculous things that makes you laugh and cry and clap for joy. It just works. (Now playing, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN

Five Feet Apart
A proof-of-concept motion picture testing the hypothesis that John Green doesn’t have to write a book about terminally ill teenagers falling in love before one can make a film with that premise. Directed by the CW’s Justin Baldoni (Jane the Virgin) and starring the CW’s Cole Sprouse (Riverdale) and ABC Family’s Haley Lu Richardson (Recovery Road). Not screened for critics. (Opens Fri March 15, various theaters)

Gloria Bell
Anybody who’s seen Gloria—the 2013 Chilean film from A Fantastic Woman director Sebastián Lelio—will feel some major déjà-vu watching Gloria Bell, a remake set in Los Angeles and starring Julianne Moore, in which Lelio recreates the original almost shot-for-shot. As someone who’s seen both, I’m going to be honest: I didn’t like Gloria Bell as much as Gloria. But it’s still great! Gloria works at an insurance company by day, spends her nights dancing at a disco-themed singles bar, and struggles to cede control in her relationships with her adult children. But Moore’s portrayal of the divorcée reveals the nuances of her personality and the complexity of her seemingly unremarkable middle-aged existence, whether she’s doing laughter therapy, dunking her boyfriend’s phone in soup, or walking barefoot through Caesars Palace. (Throughout the film, Gloria’s mood can be gauged by whether she’s belting along to ’80s hits in her car or driving in silence, along with her willingness to coexist with a Sphynx cat that keeps mysteriously appearing in her apartment.) Though Gloria ostensibly centers on a new romance, the reality is far more interesting: Lelio’s film captures an internal tide change with unexpectedly transformative results, and is a joyful celebration of the world’s countless Glorias. (Opens Fri March 22, various theaters) CIARA DOLAN

Chloë Grace Moretz plays Frances, a recent transplant to New York City who’s grieving the death of her mother and perhaps unconsciously seeking a bond with a surrogate maternal figure. Enter Isabelle Huppert, Queen of France, who plays the titular Greta—a lonely widow with shiny black fingernails filed into points, a habit of leaving stylish leather purses on the subway, and a daughter-shaped hole in her heart. Greta is billed as a “twisted little thriller,” and if you don’t take it seriously, it’s 98 minutes of campy fun riffing on the trope that naïve newcomers will get “eaten alive” by New York City. But under closer examination, it’s just another example of a harmful narrative in which young women are violently punished for trusting a stranger. I think we see enough of that in real life. (Now playing, various theaters) CIARA DOLAN

Fighting with My Family

House of Flying Daggers
In the early 2000s, there was a brief love affair between mainstream American cinema and the wuxia epics of China, sparked by the critical and financial success of Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and extended through the efforts of director Zhang Yimou, who made Hero and this film back-to-back. Daggers is arguably the most visually striking of the three, and definitely the least coherent. It's to Yimou's credit as a visual storyteller that narrative coherence ain't shit when there's this much kinetic beauty in every frame. None of what's happening really makes any sense, but the intended feelings kick you in your chest all the same. Screens on 35mm. (Fri March 15-Sun March 17, Fifth Avenue Cinema) BOBBY ROBERTS

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Heads up: If you’ve ever owned a dog, a cat, or a dragon, the final 20 minutes or so of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World will reduce you to a wheezing, weeping, snot-soaked wreck, and because this will happen at the very end of the movie, as soon as you stumble out of the theater, everyone is going to know that a children’s movie about friendly dragons just reduced you to a wheezing, weeping, snot-soaked wreck, and this is a thing you will have to deal with for the rest of your life. Another heads up: The rest of the movie isn’t very good. ERIK HENRIKSEN (Now playing, various theaters)

Isn’t It Romantic
In Isn’t It Romantic, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is unlucky in love... until she suffers a blow to the noggin that transforms her world! It’s impossible for me to explain how much I absolutely loved this movie without reminding myself (and everyone else) how much I hated the last romcom about a woman who suffered a brain injury that altered her reality: Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty. But Isn’t It Romantic is everything that I Feel Pretty wasn’t: it’s smart, it’s hilarious, and most importantly, it doesn’t punch down. Plus, it has what I never realized every film needs, which is a bare-chested Liam Hemsworth playing the saxophone. (Now playing, various theaters) ELINOR JONES

The Kid
Remember that crummy remake of The Magnificent Seven from a couple of years ago? Three of its titular septet—Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, and Vincent D’Onofrio—have reteamed for another western, perhaps to make up for the shortcomings of their previous attempt. While The Kid isn’t exactly good enough to right past wrongs, it’s a mildly diverting entry into a genre that you either love or don’t give a shit about. In other words, it’s a western, and if you love westerns, you’ll get something out of The Kid. Everyone else should probably just go see Captain Marvel. (Now playing, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN

Love, Death & Robots

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part squarely occupies (sorry!) a middle ground between the first The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie: The premise is played, but there’s still some fun to be had, and you can see it with your kids. The sneaky bold messaging of the first film isn’t present here, and the morality slides off after 15 minutes so. But it’s nice that the movie tried to teach me how to share, even though the message probably won’t stick. (Now playing, various theaters) SUZETTE SMITH

Love, Death & Robots
David Fincher teams up with Deadpool director and visual effects artist Tim Miller for a Netflix collection of sci-fi animated shorts for mature audiences. Back in 2012, Fincher and Miller raised over $400,000 on Kickstarter to fund the preproduction of The Goon, a mature-audiences animated feature based on Eric Powell’s comic book—only to ghost from that project, leaving backers hanging. (Was I one of those left-hanging backers? Why yes, yes I was.) While Love, Death & Robots wasn’t screened for Portland critics, here’s hoping this promising project has a better fate than the poor old Goon. (Streams Fri March 15, Netflix) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Made in Abyss: Journey's Dawn
Made in Abyss: Journey's Dawn condenses the first half of the Made in Abyss anime series that follows Riko, a 12-year-old girl, as she searches for her mother in a cursed abyss. It’s basically Journey to the Center of the Earth meets Dinotopia meets anime’s ongoing problem with sexualizing children. Made in Abyss is one of those anime that gives the whole genre a bad name, and it infuriates me that anyone thinks some world-building and a few cool monsters justify all the lewd shit in this story about child genitalia. Come at me with an argument about the worst of it being in Akihito Tsukushi’s ongoing and unfinished web manga that Made in Abyss is based on. Why is any of it in any of these adaptations? This story made the journey from manga to TV series to film, and there are still characters talking about hanging nude children from the ceiling to punish them for being disobedient. It isn’t cute, and defending it isn’t cute either. (Wed March 20 [subtitled], Mon March 25 [dubbed], Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Lloyd Center 10) SUZETTE SMITH

Narcissister Organ Player
PICA presents this self-directed documentary by the titular performance artist, known for her masks, merkins, and her blending of comedy, costuming, and eroticism. Part of the Hollywood Theatre’s 2019 Feminist March film series. (Mon March 18, Hollywood Theatre)

Obvious Child
A great abortion romcom, starring the great Jenny Slate. Part of the Hollywood Theatre’s 2019 Feminist March film series. (Fri March 22, Hollywood Theatre) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

Portland International Film Festival
PIFF stretches into its second week, and there’ll be plenty of cinema from around the world to broaden your horizons. Our picks include China’s inverted gangster epic Ash Is Purest White (Thurs March 14), Germany’s meta World War II mystery Transit (Fri March 15), Kenya’s lively, uplifting Supa Modo (Sat March 16), England’s gorgeously miserable Ray & Liz (Sun March 17), and the locally made documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin (Sun March 17 & Mon March 18). (Through Thurs March 21, Cinema 21, Cinemagic, Fox Tower 10, NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium, OMSI Empirical Theater) NED LANNAMANN

Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival (POW Film Fest)
Portland’s annual collection of work from women filmmakers. For more, check out the next issue of the Mercury on Wednesday, March 27. (Wed March 27-Sun March 31, various theaters)

Queer Horror: The Stepford Wives
The Hollywood’s bimonthly Queer Horror series is a goddamn Portland treasure, featuring scary flicks with an LGBT bent. March’s offering is The Stepford Wives, because... well, let’s hear host Carla Rossi tell it: “I actually saw The Stepford Wives for the first time this last December and it blew my mind, thanks to the relationship between Katharine Ross’ Joanna and Paula Prentiss’ Bobbie. Their friendship feels so real and earnest and is completely independent of the men in the film, and the destruction of that friendship by their husbands is a gut-wrenching tragedy. For a satirical ’70s paranoia thriller it feels shockingly, terrifyingly contemporary, and it only makes sense that Jordan Peele pulled so much from it for Get Out.” Part of the Hollywood Theatre’s 2019 Feminist March film series. (Fri March 15, Hollywood Theatre)


Re-run Theater: Wonder Woman 1979
The two-parter “The Boy Who Knew Her Secret,” starring Lynda Carter, which originally aired in May 1979. Part of the Hollywood Theatre’s 2019 Feminist March film series. (Wed March 27, Hollywood Theatre)

After much anticipation, Shrill—the Hulu comedy based on former Mercury contributor Lindy West’s hilarious bestseller of the same name—has arrived. And, surprising no one, it’s super funny. It’s also full of real-looking bodies and people of color. Actually, my first impression of the Portland-set Shrill was that it makes our city seem way more diverse than it actually is. But hey, it’s a comedy! Its setting is the world we want to live and laugh in, not the crappy one we have. Shrill is at its best—and its most real—when it addresses all the bullshit that fat people go through in their day-to-day lives, including the guilt and grief that often comes from their very own families. (Streams Fri March 15, Hulu) SUZETTE SMITH

This lean maritime thriller, directed by Wolfgang Fischer, balances a gorgeous idyll with a tense moral dilemma. A German emergency doctor (the superb Susanne Wolff) is brilliantly competent in all aspects of her work—and she brings that fearlessness with her on vacation, when she charts a solo course from Gibraltar to a remote island in the Atlantic. After a storm, her small sailboat encounters a distressed ship packed with refugees, and her precision and rectitude collides with desperate chaos against the unforgiving backdrop of an endless, blue-gray ocean. It’s suspenseful as all hell, but it’s intensely emotional, too. (Opens Fri March 15, Living Room Theaters) NED LANNAMANN

Subterranean Light: Films Beneath The Skin Of The American Dream
Much like name of this screening, Portland filmmaker Vu Pham’s short films are pretty intense. Pham writes stories that can feel like nightmares, but always remain relatable due to their grounding in his personal history, and fans of David Lynch will enjoy the ominous, shifting reality of his heists gone wrong and his wonderful use of noisy, textured scores. This particular screening collects shorts Pham co-directed with Joe X. Jiang (yes, of the Slants!), including a mood reel of their in-development feature, The Horizon is a Scar, My Love. (Fri March 22, Pacific Northwest College of Art) SUZETTE SMITH

They Shall Not Grow Old
For They Shall Not Grow Old, Peter Jackson and his team his team got their hands on archival footage from WWI, then used computers to colorize, clean up, and speed-correct the film to make it more realistic. With the addition of narration from veterans recorded by the BBC years later and some unobtrusive, newly recorded foley, the documentary gives us a fresh, immersive look at images from more than a century ago. It looks incredible. (Now playing, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN

The “gimmick” with Transit is pretty simple: It’s based on a World War II novel, but it’s set in the present day, without further explanation. German director Christian Petzold (Phoenix) could be saying something about borders, refugees, displacement, and resistance, but here the personal outweighs the political, and the result lands somewhere between Kafka and Hitchcock. Fleeing from occupied Paris to the port of Marseille, Georg (Franz Rogowski) assumes the identity of a dead author, and comes into the orbit of his widow and a young, fatherless boy. There’s paranoia and purgatory, but like the best of film noir, the twists and turns are elevated by an inescapable emotional undercurrent. (Fri March 22, Cinema 21) NED LANNAMANN

Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier
Excellent diretor J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost, Margin Call, A Most Violent Year) takes on a script by excellent screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) about five former soldiers who try to pull of a South American heist—oh, and the excellent cast includes Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac, and Garrett Hedlund, and jesus, that’s a lot of firepower for a movie that’s just kind of quietly popping up on Netflix. Triple Frontier has been in the works for years (at one point, Kathryn Bigelow was attached to direct, while Tom Hanks, Tom Hardy, Channing Tatum, and Johnny Depp were all rumored to star); while the film wasn’t screened for Portland critics, whatever the hell it ends up being will be something interesting. (Streams Wed March 13, Netflix) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral
“What is dead may never die.” —The Drowned God of the Iron Islands (Now playing, various theaters)

See review. (Opens Fri March 22, various theaters)

The Wedding Guest
A new Michael Winterbottom thriller starring Dev Patel as a mysterious British man making his way across Pakistan and India. (Opens Fri March 15, Fox Tower 10)

Woman at War
A chorus teacher, Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), is also Iceland’s most notorious eco-terrorist, and we follow her skulking around the countryside and taking out the country’s power lines, in protest of the government’s alignment with the foreign interests that are plundering Iceland’s natural resources. It’s a fun, funny movie whose two extended sequences of Halla in action are suspenseful and terrific—Jóhann Sigurðarson as her accomplice (and possible cousin) steals every scene he’s in—but the rest of the movie sags in comparison. (A subplot about Halla’s identical twin sister also feels like a reach.) But there’s a lot to like here, including the musicians and singers who appear onscreen, providing a live soundtrack and wry visual commentary. (Opens Fri March 22, Living Room Theaters) NED LANNAMANN

Wonder Park
A kid imagines an amusement park run by colorful talking animals. They ride the rides ‘n’ shit, I guess? This used to be the sort of story you’d tune out after five seconds of high-pitched yammering from your bedwetting crotchfruit. But in 2019 insanely rich morons routinely pay $100 mil to overwork a small army of hunchbacked animators in the hopes it’ll become the new Hotel Transylvania or something. (Opens Fri March 15, various theaters)

The directorial debut of actor/writer/DJ/balladeer Idris Elba, Yardie is a crimey trip to 1970s Kingston, Jamaica, telling the story of a young man in a soundclash crew see king revenge on the gangsters who murdered his brother. Not screened for critics. (Opens Fri March 15, Living Room Theaters)