Sonic the Hedgehog Paramount Pictures and Sega of America

63 Up
With 63 Up, director Michael Apted brings his long-running documentary series—charting the lives of 14 Britons, starting at age seven and checking in every seven years—back to the issues of class in England, something that was only alluded to in the original TV program. As he’s followed his subjects through this series, we’ve been able to see their prospects rise and fall, often due to the opportunities afforded them by their financial station. But the main issue hovering over the film is life’s finiteness. No matter how rich or poor you are or what color your skin is, you’re going to die. That’s our future. (Now playing, Cinema 21) ROBERT HAM

The Assistant
Kitty Green's The Assistant works quietly in its condemnation of abusive men in power. There's no passionate monologue about how a system enables a predator like Harvey Weinstein to comfortably exploit women, nor any cathartic scenes of abusers getting their comeuppance. Rather, the film focuses on the minutiae of office operations and existence, centering the person least in power—a female assistant—as a means of exploring exactly how abusers are enabled by everyone around them. While The Assistant is pretty self-contained, it’s perhaps one of the first films in this #MeToo-era to grapple with the people (men and women alike) and corporate structures that allow for abusers to flourish. They didn't arrive into their respective scenes that way, rather, a misogynistic culture that mandated we "look the other way" helped to normalize their behavior. Green did well to focus on the small actions of an assistant like Jane—the devil is in the details, after all. (Opens Fri Feb 14, Cinema 21) JASMYNE KEIMIG


Birds of Prey Claudette Barius

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipa—
whoops nevermind they already changed the title to just
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey is Harley Quinn/Margot Robbie’s show, and just like in the not-so-great Suicide Squad, it’s a show she clearly steals. Cathy Yan’s direction is both spry and delicious, and if the plot occasionally drags, the action and fight scenes are wild, juicy, comically over the top, and the choreography is better than any superhero movie (DC or Marvel) in recent memory. Birds of Prey is a feisty, fun, and distinctly feminist take within a glut of male-oriented superhero cinema. (Now playing, various theaters) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes
A doc about the legendary label that was home to the likes of Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, and John Coltrane. Screens as part of the 2020 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival; for more on the fest, see Things to Do, pg. 24. (Wed Feb 19, Hollywood Theatre)

The Call of the Wild
Basically, this dog, Buck, is growing up in this house in the country, and he’s a big dog. Spoiled and stuff. Then he gets dognapped and taken to the Arctic and gets recruited by some person’s sled team to deliver the mail. The mail team gets canceled and he gets put with a mean master, and then Buck almost dies and he goes on an adventure with Han Solo. It was a really good movie. Also it was really heartfelt at the end. Like the part where Han Solo said he was going to leave in the morning to go home and leave Buck in the woods. I knew that the dogs were CGI, but that’s not a bad thing. It was glaringly obvious, but it also wasn’t glaringly obvious. It was somewhere in between. You could notice it, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, that looks gross.” Overall, I would give it 4.3 out of five dogs. It’s not like a perfect movie but it’s still really good. (Opens Fri Feb 21, various theaters) SIMON HAM, AGE 12

Cascade Festival of African Films
The 30th annual Cascade Festival of African Films features “five weeks of more than 30 feature, documentary, and short films by established and emerging African directors from 18 countries.” In other words, this free festival showcases works through the lens of Africans, rather than a festival curated for a Western audience. The amount of interesting flicks is almost overwhelming, from Eritrean film Life Is Fare to Faraday Okoro’s Nigerian Prince. More at africanfilmfestival.org. (Fri Jan 31-Sat Feb 29, Hollywood Theatre and PCC Cascade’s Moriarty Arts & Humanities Bldg) JENNI MOORE

Cunningham
A 3D film paying tribute to the work of choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham, “featuring stunning excerpts from iconic Cunningham dances, performed by the last generation of his dancers.” (Opens Fri Feb 7, Cinema 21)

Downhill
The obvious question is "Why?" Why remake a film that was its own slice of perfection in the first place? The remake in question is Downhill, the new Will Ferrell/Julia Louis-Dreyfus flick that's practically a carbon copy of Ruben Östlund's 2014 Swedish dark comedy Force Majeure, in which a married couple faces an existential crisis while on a skiing holiday in the Alps. While "money" is certainly a reason to remake anything, I'd be very surprised if the producers of Downhill recoup whatever they put into it, for while Ferrell and Dreyfus are certainly an enticing comic draw, this movie is a FUCKING BUMMER, gang. (Opens Fri Feb 14, various theaters) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

De Cierta Manera
Fifth Avenue Cinema presents Sara Gómez’s Cuban feature, noting that the 1977 film “critiques larger institutional forces of race, gender, and class while also intersecting and dissolving the boundaries of documentary and fiction filmmaking.” (Fri Feb 21-Sun Feb 23, Fifth Avenue Cinema)


Fantasty Island christopher Moss

Essential Cinema: Cane River
Made by a cast and crew that was entirely African American, Horace B. Jenkins’ 1982 romance screens from a new 4K restoration. (Sun Feb 23, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium)

Fantasy Island
Blumhouse revamps the old-timey TV show as a modern-day horror. Please say Gilligan’s Island is next. (Opens Fri Feb 14, various theaters)

Foreign Affairs: Touchez Pas Au Grisby
The 1954 thriller starring Jean Gabin, Jeanne Moreau, and Alf. Wait. Alf isn’t in this! (Thurs Feb 20, Hollywood Theatre)

Ganja & Hess
One of the more unique takes on vampire mythology ever filmed, 1973’s Ganja & Hess was commissioned to be a cheap Blacula ripoff. Director Bill Gunn was not interested in being a party to something so simple, and instead took the $350,000 it was budgeted, cast Night of the Living Dead’s Duane Jones, and made a rich, kaleidoscopic fever-dream of existential horror. (Fri Feb 14-Sun Feb 16, Fifth Avenue Cinema) BOBBY ROBERTS

Locke & Key
Locke & Key is a fantasy show that’s also a horror show that’s also a romantic teen dramedy, and that’s a hard tightrope to walk even if the vision is focused and the execution is on point. But Locke & Key’s execution feels like they did two takes of a rough draft, then threw the hard drives and some Spotify playlists at the editing team like, “Good luck, assholes!” There’s nothing this show is trying to do that isn’t being done exponentially better by a dozen other Netflix shows—most of which will probably occupy the same row as Locke & Key when you open the app. (Now streaming, Netflix) BOBBY ROBERTS

Ordinary Love
Liam Neeson and Phantom Thread’s Lesley Manville play a couple wrestling with a breast cancer diagnosis. That’s a difficult situation, and one that requires a very particular set of skills. (Opens Fri Feb 14, various theaters)

PeeWee’s Big Adventure 35th Anniversary Tour with Paul Reubens
Earlier this month, the Hollywood Reporter wrote that Uncut Gems and Good Time filmmakers the Safdie brothers are “considering” making a new PeeWee film that would see Paul Reubens playing a digitally de-aged PeeWee who “emerges from prison to become an unlikely yodeling star; then moves to Hollywood and becomes a movie star; then he develops a severe pill and alcohol addiction that turns him into a monster.” Perhaps attendees of this event—in which Reubens will screen Tim Burton’s PeeWee’s Big Adventure and share anecdotes about the making of the film—will learn more about this upcoming project, including, presumably, details about how anyone who sees it will instantly go bat-fucking-shit insane. (Fri Feb 14, Newmark Theatre) ERIK HENRIKSEN

The Photograph
LaKeith Stanfield and Issa Rae star in writer/director Stella Meghie’s romance. (Opens Fri Feb 14, various theaters)

Portland Black Film Festival: Do the Right Thing
This year’s Portland Black Film Festival got a strong start last week with a 70mm screening of Malcolm X, and it continues this week with another must-see Spike Lee joint: Do the Right Thing, a movie that electrified audiences like a lightning bolt in 1989. Starring Lee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, John Turturro, Danny Aiello, Samuel L. Jackson, and Rosie Perez, it stands as one of the best movies of the 20th century—with a story that unfolds over a sweltering day and night in Bed-Stuy, Do the Right Thing combines unforgettable characters, blazingly vivid cinematography, and a fearless dive into America’s roiling racial tensions. More than three decades after it was made, it’s still jarringly, heartbreakingly relevant. (Through Fri Feb 21, Hollywood Theatre) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Queer Horror: Child’s Play 2
Year after year, Queer Horror shows that it knows how to do Valentine’s right. This year: A 35mm print of 1990’s Child’s Play 2 that proves, yet again, that no night of romance is complete without Chucky third-wheeling it. (Fri Feb 14, Hollywood Theatre)


The Call of the Wild Twentieth Century Fox

Re-run Theater: Soul Train Express Plus
The Hollywood Theatre’s monthly tribute to the orange-hued, fuzzy-edged, polyester glories of classic television turns up like a mutha tonight as they pay tribute to the legend Don Cornelius and the show he hosted for more than 20 years, Soul Train. Tonight’s program features two straight hours of Soul Train’s finest performances, including Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Ike & Tina, and a whole lot more. And just to keep the train moving at top velocity, Re-run Theater will be peppering the program with vintage soul videos from people like Prince and the Gap Band. The Hollywood’s got some pretty wide aisles—don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of people cutting that rug all night long. Or maybe... join in? (Wed Feb 26, Hollywood Theatre)

The Rhythm Section
Adding to the fine tradition of tales in which an everyday average Joe is pushed past their breaking point (Death Wish, Peppermint, The Brave One, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), Paramount Pictures presents The Rhythm Section, a spy origin story about Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively), an assassin who isn’t very good at killing. Mark Burnell’s Stephanie Patrick spy novel series (this film is based on the first) debuted in 1999, so maybe that explains Rhythm Section’s dated anti-terrorism plot. But the involvement of two James Bond producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, led to speculation that this film could be the start of a new, woman-led spy franchise. Alas, this is a spy movie in which a woman James Bond isn’t very good at killing, tradecraft, or anything other than looking sad. (Now playing, various theaters) SUZETTE SMITH

Shrill
Shrill’s second season picks up right after the previous season’s climax, with Annie ( Aidy Bryant) running through the streets of Portland, high off confronting an online troll in person and throwing a rock at his car. And that’s only the beginning of the sweet-tempered madness that is Shrill season two, a show that’s narrative trajectory could be summed up pretty easily as “the arc of Annie learning to be an amazing bitch.” It’s worth noting that Shrill’s second season loses the vivid, Portlandia-style visual zhuzh of season one, there are still plenty of gorgeous moments, like the brightness of Annie’s eyes against the flush of her skin after she pukes in a bathtub. (Now streaming, Hulu) SUZETTE SMITH

Sonic the Hedgehog
Let us first thank the laundry list of producers and studios behind Sonic the Hedgehog for acceding to the demands of the moviegoing public, replacing their nightmarish vision of the title character (WHY DID IT HAVE HUMAN TEETH?!?!) with a CGI creature that is far less nauseating to stare at for 90 minutes. Then let us regret that the last spurts of their budget were used up on that digital redux, leaving nothing to rescue the rest of the film from its oppressive mediocrity and copious fart jokes. As fun as it is to see Jim Carrey once again making use of his rubbery screen presence as Sonic’s nemesis Dr. Robotnik, no one else—especially our most milquetoast-y of movie thespians, James Marsden—dared to tap into a similar vein of campy insanity. (Opens Fri Feb 14, various theaters) ROBERT HAM

Stage Meets Screen: Yentl
Amazingly, it took until 1983 before Hollywood let a woman write, direct, produce, and star in a major motion picture. That woman had to be Barbra Streisand in order to do it, and it took her 15 years of fighting (and eventually agreeing to huge pay cuts and financial penalties) in order to get it done. At which point Yentl—a musical adaptation of a Isaac Bashevis Singer play about a woman who has to go to extraordinary lengths to get the same education as a man—became a box-office success, won Streisand a Golden Globe for Best Director... and was promptly turned, along with its writer/producer/star, into an industry punchline for the rest of the decade. It’s 2020, Streisand is still the only woman to have won a Globe for Best Director, and maybe it’s time to give Yentl the fair shake it’s almost never gotten. (Mon Feb 17, Hollywood Theatre) BOBBY ROBERTS

Star Trek: Picard
Ah! Better than an ice-cold glass of Romulan ale! (Now streaming, CBS All Access) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Tender Table: Tampopo
Juzo Itami’s 1985 film defies easy description. The director himself calls it a “ramen western,” due to the main story of a couple truckers helping a woman named Tampopo establish herself as master of noodles. But it’s also a comedy, a romance, a surreal gangster movie, and an erotic screwball farce. Its steaming collection of disparate ingredients gets pretty messy at times, but the result is one of the most sensual movies of the 20th century. (Wed Feb 26, Clinton Street Theater) BOBBY ROBERTS

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
So, this dude named Timmy Failure (Winslow Fegley) lost his father and he’s trying to make up for it by imagining a polar bear for him to act as his parental figure. He’s trying to solve a variety of mysteries using his detective agency. And he talks in this weird way. Like most fifth graders don’t talk like that. And then he crashes a car into his teacher’s house. This kid has done a number of illegal things and should likely go to prison. I would give it four out of five polar bears. (Now streaming, Disney+) SIMON HAM, AGE 12

Support The Portland Mercury

Underscan: Bound
The Northwest Film Center’s genre-focused series brings the Wachowskis’ 1996 debut back to the big screen. Long before The Matrix, Sense8, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, and Jupiter Ascending, Lana and Lilly Wachowski told a far different, noir-tinged tale about two women in love (Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly), the mob, and Joey Pants. Regardless of decade or genre, the Wachowskis’ work is always singular, ambitious, and personal, and Bound is no different. (Sun Feb 16, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Varda by Agnès
A near-complete retrospective of the pioneering work of Agnès Varda, kicking off with a double feature of 1955’s La Pointe Courte and 1962’s Cléo from 5 to 7 and including decades’ worth of Varda’s shorts and features before wrapping up with 2019’s Varda by Agnès. More at nwfilm.org. (Through Sat Feb 29, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium)

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