Re-run Theater: Firefly Fox

The Art of Self-Defense
The current cultural discourse has, of late, become filled with stories of aimless, lonely young men who, feeling they're being ignored and left behind, find direction and a kind of community through toxic and bizarre means. It’s part of what has fed the growth of hypermasculine extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer. For Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), the weedy accountant shuffling through his beige existence in writer/director Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense, that feeling leads him to a karate class, where he's intoxicated by the eloquent yet stern Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), who describes martial arts as a pathway to inner and outer strength. But soon, Sensei’s sinister intentions become clear, and the emotional and psychological impact he has on the people in his orbit—especially Anna (Imogen Poots), the steely young woman who teaches the kids’ class—becomes harder for Casey to swallow. (Opens Fri July 19, various theaters) ROBERT HAM

Crawl
What Alexandre Aja’s new film dares to ask is, “What if a massive hurricane decimated a Florida town, and people didn’t evacuate... and then KILLER ALLIGATORS SWAM IN?” Finally, a film that dares to examine the real threats of climate change. (Now playing, various theaters)

The Dead Don’t Die
Jim Jarmusch has been on a streak lately. 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive was one of the best films in the 66-year-old writer/director’s astonishingly rich oeuvre. Three years later, Paterson was just as good. And after that, he headed into documentary territory, sharply profiling Iggy Pop and the Stooges for Gimme Danger. Iggy is back in Jarmusch’s latest, The Dead Don’t Die, as is Paterson star Adam Driver—but aside from that, Jarmusch’s zombie comedy comes hard out of left field. It’s goofy, gory, and great, and it’s exactly the kind of rambling, light-hearted movie that should never be discussed using obnoxious phrases like "astonishingly rich oeuvre." (Now playing, various theaters) ERIK HENRIKSEN

The Farewell
The Farewell’s story—about a Chinese American family keeping a terminal cancer diagnosis from their grandmother—might be familiar to you from its 2016 incarnation as a particularly good segment on This American Life. Now writer/director Lulu Wang’s The Farewell expands into a stunning portrait of a complicated, caring family that spans two cultures and continents. It might sound like kind of a downer, but I promise, at least half of the time I was laughing as Wang’s proxy Billi (Awkwafina, showing us yet another level of depth to her acting ability) and her richly characterized family gathered around their Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) for a sudden, farcical wedding. I didn’t expect such visual delights from cinematographer Anna Franquesa Solano, who peppers the film with truly lovely natural light. This should have come out around a holiday, so you could see it with your family, but don't wait until then to see it. (Opens Fri July 26, various theaters) SUZETTE SMITH

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Inspired by a true story, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is about the city’s rapid gentrification and those crazy looks white folks give Black and brown people for daring to feel at home in their own neighborhoods. While there are lots of subtle clues about San Francisco’s vile history of gentrification, Last Black Man still comes off as empathetic toward gentrifiers. “These aren’t bad people,” the movie seems to say. “They’re just complicit.” With the film refusing to place any blame, it’s unclear why its story needed to be told. (Now playing, various theaters) JENNI MOORE

The Lion King
Following the humiliating bombs of Avengers: Endgame and Toy Story 4, the Walt Disney Company desperately attempts to scrape together a few dollars before the sure-to-fail Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (Opens Thurs July 19, various theaters)

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
Marianne Ihlen was a free spirit of the ’60s. A Norwegian expat living on Hydra, a sun-soaked island off the coast of Greece, she joyously juggled several simultaneous sexual relationships, imbibed whatever drink or drug was passed her way, and lived out the kind of perma-vacation that, these days, is only an option for the wealthy. But most importantly, according to Julie Felix, a British-based folk musician, she was a “terrific muse.” Ihlen was, after all, the inspiration behind “Bird on a Wire,” “Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” and “So Long, Marianne,” three songs made famous by their creator, Leonard Cohen. It’s Ihlen’s passionate, tempestuous, and inspiring on-again/off-again relationship with Cohen that Nick Broomfield explores in his documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love. Unlike many of the director’s previous docs, like 1998’s Kurt & Courtney or 2017’s Whitney: Can I Be Me?, this film isn’t pitched for controversy, nor does it dig up salacious details about his subjects. It’s an uneven but affectionate portrait of two people who are drawn together, creating sparks and conflagrations whenever they came into contact. (Now playing, Living Room Theaters) ROBERT HAM

Midsommar
Much of Ari Aster’s Midsommar plays out like a sun-drenched companion to Hereditary: Both films are stories of mourning colored by the director’s fascination with occult practices and gross-out shocks. But by stretching the pace of his storytelling and allowing small veins of comedy to cut through the tension, Aster manages to get an even firmer hold on the audience. It’s a slow squeeze that gradually turns into a tight death grip, and when Aster finally lets go—via a stunner of a final shot—the relief and delight that follows is glorious. (Now playing, various theaters) ROBERT HAM

Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood
This might be Quentin Tarantino's best movie since Jackie Brown. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it's even better than Jackie Brown? I know. Crazy! In part, at least, that's because for long stretches, Once Upon a Time doesn't have the self-conscious, This Is a Quentin Tarantino Film™ feel of the filmmaker's past few movies. While The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, and Inglourious Basterds couldn't help but poke you every few minutes to remind you that you were watching a great movie, Once Upon a Time is content to just be a great movie—and the result is something that's funnier, more affecting, and more genuine than anything the filmmaker's made in decades.(Opens Thrus July 25, various theaters) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Paris 1900
A summer-long celebration of the Parisian Belle Époque period, in conjunction with Portland Art Museum’s exhibition of the same name. More at nwfilm.org. (Through Sun Sept 1, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium)

Re-run Theater: Firefly
On December 20, 2002, Fox premiered "Serenity," the pilot episode of Joss Whedon's sci-fi western series Firefly. No, wait—that's not right. On September 20, 2002, Fox premiered "The Train Job," the second episode of Joss Whedon's sci-fi western series Firefly, using that episode as the "pilot," because they didn't like "Serenity." "Serenity" wasn't aired until three months later, after Firefly had already been canceled. Scheduling scrambles like these were hardly the only mistakes that contributed to untimely demise of Firefly; eventually, Whedon's weird, clever, whip-smart genre mash-up would end up with a dedicated but microscopic fan base. (A few years later, Universal commissioned Whedon to repurpose Firefly as a theatrically released movie, Serenity—which, despite being just as good as the show, also proved to be a financial disappointment.) Re-run Theater's now dusting off the stunted-but-beloved series' original pilot, "Serenity," for a big-screen showing; 17 years after the show's cancelation, fans will be delighted to see it, and 17 years later, they'll still be grumbling about how, in a just and fair universe, there would have been a whole lot more Firefly. (Wed July 24, Hollywood Theatre) ERIK HENRIKSEN

South Side
South Side, an absolutely hilarious new show that’s not just set in Chicago but honest-to-god filmed there, is a warm, loving window into a city that’s been demonized by our idiot president, and it provides the kind of insider perspective you can only get from actual Chicagoans. Luckily for us, these Chicagoans are funny as hell. (Premieres Wed July 24, Comedy Central) NED LANNAMANN

Spider-Man: Far from Home
For those who have been salivating for a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming—and more Spidey than we got in the last two Avengers movies—you can relax. Spider-Man: Far from Home is pretty freaking good! It has almost everything you loved from Homecoming, plus better action sequences. That said, while Homecoming crackled with originality, Far from Home is far from what made its predecessor so great. Sure, it’s got snappy jokes, terrific characters, top-notch action, and loads of delicious teenage awkwardness. But it lacks the one thing Homecoming had in abundance: a laser-sharp focus on the emotional horror of being a teen. (Now playing, various theaters) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

The Sword of Trust
Filmmakers and producers took long enough to figure out that the only thing to do with Marc Maron is to let him be Marc Maron. GLOW lets him do that, much to that show’s benefit, and so does Lynn Shelton’s inviting new comedy Sword of Trust. Maron, in another slight variation on his actual crotchety personality, plays Mel, a pawn shop owner who gets embroiled in an underground network of conspiracy theorists when he tries to help a lesbian couple (Michaela Watkins and Jillian Bell) sell off a Union Army sword that somehow proves the South actually won the Civil War. As with most of Shelton’s work, the plot becomes incidental, letting these characters riff, argue, and reveal intimate parts of their lives. (Opens Fri July 26, Living Room Theaters) ROBERT HAM

Top Down: Rooftop Cinema
This summer, the Northwest Film Center is condensing its yearly tradition—outdoor movie screenings atop downtown buildings—to four nights. It’s a good four nights, though: Thurs July 25 is Otto Preminger’s 1944 noir Laura; Fri July 26 is the Kiwi comedy Boy, directed by What We Do in the Shadows’ Taika Waititi; Sat July 27 is 1984’s campy sci-fi flick Night of the Comet; and Sun July 28 is Penelope Spheeris’ utterly magnificent Wayne’s World. Party time. Excellent. (Thurs July 25-Sun July 28, Portland State University Parking Structure 2) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Support The Portland Mercury

Veronica Mars
You’ll need a scorecard to keep up with the landslide of clues, suspects, and red herrings—or you can just lie back and let this cerebellum-wrecking mystery wash over you. But there’s a dark undercurrent that flows beneath all the snappy dialogue and occasional comedy. Veronica and just about everyone in her hometown of Neptune are fucked-up in their own particular way, and everyone—including our heroes—are corruptible. How Veronica, her dad, and others wrestle with this corruption is what makes every season (and perhaps especially this one) of Veronica Mars so watchable. (Streams Fri July 26, Hulu) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

Wild Rose
Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) is an aspiring, gifted country singer, but she’s stuck in hard-knuckle Glasgow—half a world away from Nashville. With terrific performances by Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo, Wild Rose is nonetheless a showcase for the talents of Buckley, who singes holes into the screen. (Now playing, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN

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SLAY Film Fest
In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30