American Made is a movie about Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who smuggled weapons for the Contras and cocaine for the Medellín Cartel in the ’80s. Well, ostensibly it’s about Barry Seal. American Made, like all movies starring Tom Cruise, is actually about Tom Cruise. I don’t think there’s a single scene in the movie that doesn’t feature Cruise flashing his famous billboard grin; looking boyish as ever, he scurries and sweats across each frame like the most tenacious kid in movie-star class, working his little tail off to make sure that you are having a darn good time at the picture show. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
★ Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049, which stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, now on the third leg of the greatest hits tour he began with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, comes with some heavy-duty talent: brilliant director Denis Villeneuve (who crafted a sci-fi classic of his own with 2016’s Arrival), unparalleled cinematographer Roger Deakins, and Hampton Fancher, one of Blade Runner’s original screenwriters. 2049 not only has to stay true to original director Ridley Scott’s circa-1982 concept of the future, but also has to deliver a future that feels plausible in 2017. The result—in large part thanks to Deakins’ jaw-dropping talent—doesn’t disappoint. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Catherine Gund’s documentary about Mexican folk singer Chavela Vargas offers a fair amount of intrigue and a great window into an equally wild life. An unapologetic lesbian, Vargas performed in pants and a poncho and sang love songs about women just as women were getting the vote in Mexico—and in the process, seduced half of Mexico and maybe all of Hollywood. Filled with Vargas’ haunting music, the biggest problem with Chavela might be that it isn’t long enough. ELINOR JONES Cinema 21.
Citizen Blue: The Life and Art of Cinema Master James Blue
University of Oregon professor Dan Miller presents his latest documentary, focused on the legacy of Oscar-nominated filmmaker James Blue, known for films such as The Olive Trees of Justice and The March. Director in attendance. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ The Craft
Andrew Fleming’s 1996 entry into teen movie history hit at just the right time, capitalizing on a cultural curiosity with the occult that culminated in a pop-goth bubble that briefly boosted sales of black makeup, stripey socks, suspenders, and clove cigarettes (this was weird, but not as weird as the ’90s also simultaneously resurrecting ska and swing dance). What caused The Craft to endure and enjoy teen classic status is the highly entertaining cast (Fairuza Balk is off her fucking nut in the best of ways), and the delicate balancing act between Heathers-esque black comedy and legitimately freaky supernatural horror. BOBBY ROBERTS Clinton Street Theater.
Ernest & Celestine
Dark enough for adults and mild enough for children, this animated feature tells the tale of two social misfits who bridge the barriers of species (she’s an artistically gifted mouse, he’s a dancing bear) to form a friendship. Compelling visuals, charming dialogue, and moral instillation suggest they do still make ’em like they used to. MARJORIE SKINNER NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Ex Libris: The New York Public Library
See review, this issue. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Jackie Chan plays Quan, a frumpy dad with secret Special Forces training on quest for vengeance through a complex web of contemporary British counter-terrorism and North Ireland politics. Quan is a man hollowed out by grief, and Chan translates his talent for demanding physical comedy into a keenly observed body language of hunched shoulders and shuffling steps. Paired with Pierce Brosnan’s effortlessly menacing charm, there’s a lot of, well, acting, in a genre that’s usually reserved for stoicism and grave intonation. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
Friday the 13th (1980)
It’s strange that Friday the 13th enjoys an elevated standing in genre canon and pop culture in general; especially when you consider how brazenly cheap and soulless it began life in 1980, and how frequently sub-par (even compared to its slasher brethren) its sequels are. Friday the 13th is like peeking into a universe where Pro Keds consistently outsold Nike. Not to say Pro Keds can’t be comfy shoes, or that there aren’t brief and simple charms to be found in each Friday chapter (the first is one of the few that attempts engaging any part of your brain that’s not reptilian), but when people complain about naked pandering, cheap cash-ins, and artless hackery? That’s Friday the 13th all over. You’re not here for the moviemaking, and you’re damn sure not here for shit like story or characterization. You’re here to watch the visceral transformation of children into corpses. That’s it. BOBBY ROBERTS Various Theaters.
Happy Death Day
I mean, we all make bad decisions. People start smoking every day. They refuse to wear bike helmets. They don’t like seatbelts. And this weekend about a million people will voluntarily spend about $10-12 to watch a $3 slasher from Blumhouse called Happy Death Day with no expectations as to getting anything of worth in return. Is that person you? Various Theaters.
In theory, It should work: Many of the things that make Stephen King’s book so remarkable are here, and all those elements are better than those of the 1990 miniseries. But for a movie with so much blood, It feels disappointingly bloodless. Maybe its sequel—which promises to tell the second half of the story—will find the scope and the horror missing from this chapter, but for now, It feels less than the sum of its parts. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Masaki Kobayashi’s 1965 anthology film tells four separate stories of ghosts and demons, but it’s not really a horror movie. Rather, the segments are based on Irish-Greek writer Lafcadio Hearn’s retellings of Japanese folk tales, and they’re spooky and surreal rather than outright frightening. While the film moves incredibly slowly, the theatrically stylized sets and backdrops are jaw-dropping, and the result is hypnotic and dreamlike. NED LANNAMANN NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
We’ve already had a few fine cinematic attempts to tell the story of the brilliant yet tortured Vincent Van Gogh—Loving Vincent, the latest from animators Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela, is the first of these biopics to get it right. That’s because the entire film is comprised of actual paintings: The international production employed over 100 artists to paint each frame of the film on canvas, copying the thick brushstrokes and brash colors of Van Gogh’s most celebrated works. The resulting images are stunning—a dream-like vision that flutters and vibrates with energy. ROBERT HAM Cinema 21.
Before shuffling off this mortal coil at 91, Harry Dean Stanton filmed his last starring role as Lucky, a chain-smoking realist who’s as prickly as the saguaros in his dusty small town. It’s very slow—the film follows Lucky’s molasses-paced daily routine as he agonizes over his crossword puzzles, does yoga in his underwear (those long shots of Stanton’s wrinkly flesh are something), and sips Bloody Marias at the same dive every night. David Lynch makes an appearance as Lucky’s drinking buddy, Harold, who spends the film pining over President Roosevelt, his runaway pet tortoise. But Lucky is also very sweet—even though Lucky’s convinced that death will plunge him into a void of nothingness, he still gets up each morning and keeps living. Lucky plays like a final wink from Stanton, so prepare to have those tears jerked right out of your eyeballs. CIARA DOLAN Cinema 21, Hollywood Theatre.
Darren Aronofsky’s latest is the kind of movie that’ll have some declaring it a work of genius and others decrying it as a piece of garbage. (I’m guessing zero people will land in the middle; nobody’s leaving Mother! with a shrug.) And good luck trying to classify it: Is it an arthouse horror movie? A thriller? A twisted romance? Sure, Mother! could be a trippy take on a disintegrating marriage, or it could serve as a Biblical allegory for the creative process. Is it a far-reaching indictment of America’s lifestyle consumerism, or just a movie about how far Aronofsky has his head up his ass? Is it brilliant? Is it terrible? Is it both? It’s Mother! ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
The Mountain Between Us
How much time do you want to spend with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet on a mountain? That’s the only question you need to ask yourself here. “I’d listen to Morgan Freeman read the phone book!” is a common refrain, but would you? Would you really? I bet it’d be kinda boring. The Mountain Between Us is a good date movie for a couple that can’t stomach gauzy, Nicholas Sparks-style faux-drama. These are two well-drawn, reasonably flawed people learning how to work together, and while some of the dialogue gets a bit clunky, there’s a lot to like in how Elba and Winslet go about delivering it. At any rate, I bet it’s more fun to watch than Morgan Freeman read that phone book. BEN COLEMAN Various Theaters.
★ The Omen (1976)
If you learn anything from Richard Donner’s The Omen, it should be this: when you’re at the hospital, and a priest sees you mourning the loss of your child, and he tries to cut you in on a super-sweet deal for a free replacement baby? You should probably turn him down. Gregory Peck had that chance, and he didn’t take it, and next thing you know, he’s got to explain to his poor wife that their creepy little anklebiter dressed like the guitarist from AC/DC is actually the son of Satan. That kinda shit will get you put in the doghouse real quick. You also run out of babysitters pretty fast that way. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
Shot on 70 mm, Jacques Tati’s 1967 masterpiece Playtime is a film with barely any plot and a lot of activity—people moving in and out of glass and steel structures. The dialectic between old world and modern Paris is gone, and all that remains is the domination of international architecture. People are simply thrown into this Paris without debate or resistance. There is no way out of it. In one scene, we see couples, friends, families, entirely from the outside of a boxy steel-and-glass apartment complex. They are in the building in the way a fish is in a fish tank. They must breathe this new air and be transformed by its severe spaces. The film is incredibly beautiful, and the old Paris, the old modernism, represented by the Eiffel Tower, is reduced to a mere reflection on a glass door. CHARLES MUDEDE NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Portland Latin American Film Festival: Olé, Olé, Olé!—A Trip Across Latin America
A documentary telling the story of classic rock dinosaurs the Rolling Stones somehow staving off their long-past-due extinction in an unexpected and admirable way: attempting to stage an unprecedented open air concert in Havana, Cuba in 2016. Hollywood Theatre.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Angela Robinson’s biography of the man who created Wonder Woman as a feminist character that little girls could look up to—a character who was also a blank canvas upon which Marston enjoyed projecting his personal fetishes, with the help of his wife and their lover. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Repressed Cinema: 16mm Horror Smorgasbord
Halloween hits the Hollywood’s screen a little early this year, with a finely curated program of weird, creepy, and rare film shorts that are just as fascinating and bewildering as they are potentially disturbing, including silent-era scares and low-budget Sacramento werewolves. And if you know anything about Sacramento, you know that their werewolves are nothing to fuck with. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The Sound of Music (70mm)
The hiiiiiills are aliiiiiiiive with the sound of goose-steppin’ Nazis and annoying Austrian brats. Hollywood Theatre.
★ The Thing (70mm)
John Carpenter’s 1982 classic, starring a very hairy Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and an exploding dog head. Well, it doesn’t so much explode as it peels back like a self-opening banana, revealing a glistening, snarling Lovecraftian horror full of snaking tubes and hissing malevolence. This is only the fourth- or fifth-most horrifying and unnerving thing in the film, which is a tidal wave of unrelenting paranoia so effective it took most people a good decade-plus to get over their initial revulsion and (correctly) rate it as one of the best horror films ever made. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Working in Protest
Michael Galinski and Suki Hawley’s documentary on the history of activism in America turns on the cameras and watches as events unfold at protest actions including Occupy Wall Street, Confederate flag celebrations, Trump rallies, and more. Filmmaker in attendance. Clinton Street Theater.
Wyrd War Presents: Rocktober Blood
What good is the Halloween season if you're just gonna rewatch the same five horror classics for the umpteenth time? Give that Elm Street Blu-ray a rest and let Wyrd War stab your eyeballs with uncut heavy metal insanity: 1984's Rocktober Blood dumps every ridiculous '80s stereotype into a hot tub and then fills it with blood and majestic, headbanging riffs from Stunt Rock's Sorcery! BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, October 13-Thursday, October 19, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.