20 Feet From Stardom
A documentary that turns the spotlight away from the biggest music stars of the last 60 years and onto their backup singers. These singers—often women, mostly black—are responsible for some of the most memorable sounds of popular music. Most of us don't even know their names. 20 Feet from Stardom is fabulous for its music, interviews, and amazing concert and studio footage spanning several decades. But it's more than just eye candy for wannabe rockers and sentimental boomers; it also asks some big questions about fame, art, and giving credit where it's due. ELINOR JONES Hollywood Theatre.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
"WHAT? OVER? DID YOU SAY 'OVER'? NOTHING IS OVER UNTIL WE DECIDE IT IS! WAS IT OVER WHEN THE GERMANS BOMBED PEARL HARBOR? HELL NO!" Film critic Jeff Jaeckle in attendance. Bagdad Theater.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
The Hollywood's series features B-movies, with the audience marking down clichés on a custom-made bingo card. This time around: 1994's Cyber Tracker. Hollywood Theatre.
Back to School
"Hi. I'm Kurt Vonnegut. I'm looking for Thornton Melon." Laurelhurst Theater.
When they were in their 20s, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) had a whirlwind, one-night romance in Vienna (Before Sunrise); nine years later, bruised and a little wiser, they reunited in Paris, rekindling the spark of their first meeting (Before Sunset). Before Midnight leaps nine more years into the future, finding the couple in a troubled long-term relationship that's facing some major life changes. Thanks to our nearly two decades of history with these characters, when Jesse and Celine really dig down into their true feelings, it resonates stronger than ever. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
With terrifying, nerve-wracking intensity—Blackfish might be a documentary, but it plays like a horror flick—director Gabriela Cowperthwaite examines the role of killer whales in marine parks. Using video and testimony from researchers, activists, and passionate but disillusioned former SeaWorld employees, Cowperthwaite makes a case that's impossible to reasonably ignore: Places like SeaWorld can't help but fuck whales up. And when whales get fucked up, they lash out—attacking each other and, in a shockingly large number of incidents, humans. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
Woody Allen has been making "the best Woody Allen movie in 20 years" for nearly 20 years. In the past decade alone, critics have gone so far as to knight Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and even the (real talk) actually totally shitty Midnight in Paris with the dubious title. It's a critical cliché as lazy as it is meaningless, and I suspect you'll be hearing it a lot in relation to Blue Jasmine, this year's innocuously titled entry into the annual Allen cannon. If you're anything like me, you'll roll your eyes and temper your expectations. So let me be the first to say this definitively: Blue Jasmine is not the best Woody Allen movie in 20 years. But it is one of the best dramas he's ever made. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Between 1952 and 1986, Eugene Allen served as part of the White House's service staff, personally attending to the administrations of eight American presidents. Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, a fictional composite that borrows only the broadest and most narrative-serving strokes of Allen's life—a life which serves as an effective (and surprisingly affecting) vantage from which to tell the story of civil rights in the 20th century. The Butler puts forgivably little effort into eschewing the clumsy, cause/effect conventions that make most biopics so totally insufferable—though rest assured, it's a film with its fair share of montages and awkward facial prosthetics. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Whichever way you turn the movie, it catches some light: This way, the plight of millennials; that way, the stylistic nods to French New Wave. There's a whole trend piece to be written about the young female writers (star Greta Gerwig co-wrote the script) who are changing the way women are depicted in popular entertainment, and then there's parsing how this generous, optimistic film fits into the context of writer/director Noah Baumbach's previous work. What a tremendous relief it is to find a movie that acknowledges that women are interesting—that a woman can be the protagonist in a story that doesn't end in romance or a makeover, and that all the vitality and confusion and excitement of being young can be refracted just as well through a woman as a man. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
The Buster Keaton flick, screening to celebrate the Hollywood's fancy-pants new marquee (The General came out in 1926, the same year the Hollywood was built). Plus: Live organ accompaniment from Dean LeMire. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Oh god make it stop make it stooooopppp Academy Theater.
In a World...
In a World... digs down into the subculture of voice artists—the men (it's mostly men) who provide voiceovers for commercials and movie trailers. There's a power vacuum after the death of an industry heavy hitter, leaving Sam (Fred Melamed) and his chosen successor, Gustav (Ken Marino), to take on the biggest jobs. But Sam's daughter Carol (Lake Bell) is a vocal coach who has her eye on bigger things, and when she lands a succession of high-profile voiceover gigs, she suddenly finds herself a contender to do the trailer for The Amazon Games, a four-film "quadrilogy" set in a world... where Amazon warriors battle prehistoric cavemen, a Hunger Games joke that could be funnier. The film takes on too much, but the supporting cast is excellent, including Bell's Childrens Hospital co-stars Marino and Rob Corddry, as well as Tig Notaro and Demetri Martin, and Bell herself is a sturdy, likeable protagonist. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Ashton Kutcher manages to nail one side of the Apple co-founder: He's a gifted con artist who sells himself as a willful visionary, and his aggressive desire to rope his marks into outlandish schemes (say, turning a garage-based startup into a fully functioning computer manufacturer) never come across as mean-spirited. But Kutcher can't convince us that this Steve Jobs is especially smart. Instead, he deftly copies Jobs' mannerisms—his grandiose hand gestures, his pigeon-like walk, his tense stare—and hopes that the slavish mimicry will convince you to pay no attention to the fact that that special light in Jobs' eyes, the spark of genius, simply isn't there. PAUL CONSTANT Various Theaters.
A tedious rehash. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
David Bowie's junk. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater.
Low: Movie - How to Quit Smoking
Philip Harder has been filming Minnesota band Low for their entire 20-year existence, making videos and short films around the band's hushed, intense music—most typically, shooting in what look like very cold Duluth winters. Now he's repurposed the footage for a feature, which could've been a golden opportunity to definitively tell Low's fascinating, unique rock 'n' roll story. In interviews, Harder's said that Low: Movie is more than a stitched-together collection of his old music videos, but you could have fooled me. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
The Mortal Instruments:
City of Bones
This movie is bad. Like, crazy bad. It is so comically bad that it is kind of... wonderful. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is based on the first in a series of YA books that leapt from the furiously masturbating internet world of Harry Potter fan fiction. As Potter fanfic writer Cassandra Clare's pieces grew in popularity, she changed the names, the story evolved, and now it's this thing that is kind of different from fanfic but still very obviously just fanfic. The film adaptation is exactly as cheap and ridiculous as its source material. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Now You See Me
STUDIO EXECUTIVE 1: Okay, let's get Mark Zuckerberg and Haymitch and a Franco brother and a hot girl to be badass con-men. STUDIO EXECUTIVE 2: WHAT?!?!?! Yes, please! The only thing that idea is missing is Morgan Freeman! And... magic tricks? SE1: Whoa, yeah, let's put Morgan Freeman in it! And sure, magic, okay whatever. Wait... maybe they can steal stuff with magic? Then maybe... the Hulk tries to stop them? SE2: Oh, shit yes! Wait. Can we add Batman's butler? I like Batman's butler. SE1: Sure! Okay. ELINOR JONES Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Milwaukie Cinemas, Valley Theater.
The latest from Portland filmmakers Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher (October Country), about people who use prescription meds in non-prescribed ways. Hollywood Theatre.
One Direction: This Is Us
A concert film about some limeys that tweens like. Various Theaters.
In anyone else's hands, Pacific Rim would've been a generic blockbuster; in Guillermo del Toro's, it's something thrilling and fun and weird. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Avalon, Jubitz Cinema, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Liberty Theatre, Milwaukie Cinemas, Mt. Hood Theatre, St. Johns Theater and Pub, Valley Theater.
Portland Film Festival
A new, non-profit, broadly programmed festival started by local filmmaker and businessman Josh Leake. Possible highlights include "the largest free outdoor film screenings in the history of Portland" in the Pearl's Fields Park (films include food doc Growing Cities and the dark comedy Mon Ami); a Chuck Palahniuk reading that includes a screening of Romance, a short based on his story; a slew of shorts programs; and events from screenwriting classes to tours of LAIKA. The festival boasts Cinema 21, Portland Parks & Recreation, and the City of Portland among its sponsors, but it's also aiming remarkably high for a first-year event, filling up screens with a combination of theater partnerships along with the more dubious "four-walling," in which theaters are rented out entirely by the festival. It'll be interesting to see how this goes down. The festival runs from Tues Aug 27 to Sun Sept 1; see portlandfilmfestival.com for more info and a schedule. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinema 21, The Fields, Living Room Theaters, Mission Theater, World Trade Center Theater.
This documentary is so nice I watched it twice. I’m one of the hopeless geeks that Rewind This! partially pays tribute to—the nostalgic nerd, that refuses to throw away the VHS player, and almost cries at the idea of losing the stacks and stacks of VHS cassettes, still hidden away in the closet. Josh Johnson’s new doc focuses not just on nostalgia for VHS-rental stores (and the so many hundreds of weird, straight-to-VHS releases—from cheap cheesy comedies to low-budget horror to early Japanese porn). The film also makes you think about how we're consuming and saving (or rather, NOT saving or archiving) our current personal and greater cultural memories. This movie will make you miss early independent films, look differently at Hollywood, and probably look a lot closer at that VHS bargin bin at the thrift store. Interviews with director Charles Band (director of '80’s gems like The ReAnimator and Puppet Master) and one of the leaders of the new “so-bad-it’s-good” movement, Dimitri Simakis of Everything Is Terrible!, are icing on the the cake. Director in attendance. KELLY O Hollywood Theatre.
The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now is based on a popular YA novel about a young man trying to navigate interpersonal relationships while handicapped by unresolved issues of his own. It's one of the better teen movies that the past decade has coughed up. ALISON HALLETT Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, Cinetopia Vancouver Mall 23.
Summer Documentary Series
A weeklong documentary series, put together by NW Documentary and the Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival (POW Fest), including everything from a NW Documentary retrospective and greatest hits from POW Fest to an appearance from Dig! and We Live in Public director Ondi Timoner. More info: mcmenamins.com. Mission Theater.
We're the Millers
For big-budget, mainstream comedy fare, you could do infinitely worse. You could also do so, so much better. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The World's End
The latest from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright, the trio that made 2004's Shaun of the Dead and 2007's Hot Fuzz. Like those films, The World's End is a fantastic genre movie that ends up accomplishing far more than most genre movies do: On the surface, it's a funnier, smarter Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but dig a bit more, and it's an affecting movie about how you can't go home again, even if your crappy hometown isn't literally besieged by mindless automatons. But I've neglected to mention the thing that is, by far, most important: The World's End is phenomenally, relentlessly funny. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Well, well, well, what do you know... there's a damn fine horror film out right now. Trust me, I'm as shocked as you are. You're Next is a funny, smart, and bloody, and even if we're all a little sick of mysterious house invaders wearing whimsical masks, this tight little film takes scary-movie conventions and turns 'em upside down. And amazing things are done with a blender. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.