From a distance, it's hard to tell how much celebrity suffering is theater. Asif Kapadia's shattering documentary Amy certainly qualifies as theater in its own right, piecing together great amounts of archival, never-before-seen video footage of late musician Amy Winehouse with dramatic effectiveness. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21, Hollywood Theatre.
Perhaps sensing their audience was growing weary and overwhelmed with Marvel's ever-expanding universe, Ant-Man's creators realized it was time for a smaller, character-driven film. Paul Rudd may not be anyone's definition of a hero, but he's great at playing characters the audience can root for. And with Michael Douglas supplying the dramatic backbone, along with a strong comedic supporting cast, Ant-Man has provided Marvel with something they haven't really pulled off since the first Iron Man—a story you actually care about. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
The Art of Reinvention: Paul Thomas Anderson & His Influences
All seven of Paul Thomas Anderson's features, paired with 14 films by directors that influenced him, either explicitly or indirectly. The series illuminates Anderson on all sides, providing some much-welcome context to some of his more inscrutable pieces. The devastating bleakness that characterizes his work is threaded throughout, of course, but we're reminded of the long, sustained passages of giddy hilarity in them, too. Taken together, his muses—Jason Robards, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Robert Ridgely—evolve into cornerstones. His sometimes punishing plot points reveal a consistent ethos. And his abundant passion for film, apparent in every frame, can't help but inspire, making this series richly rewarding from beginning to end. See "Motorcycles and Milkshakes," Film, July 22. NED LANNAMANN NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Cobain: Montage of Heck
See review this issue. Cinema 21, HBO.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters, On Demand.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
"It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder." Screens as part of the PDX Drive-in Movie Spectacular; more at expocenter.org. Portland Expo Center.
The Decline of Western Civilization, The Decline of Western of Civilization Part II: The Metal Years & The Decline of Western Civilization Part III
See Film, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
"Maybe it was a pervert or a deformed kid or something." Academy Theater.
From Ex Machina's relatively realistic opening moments—it subtly calls to mind both Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs and David Fincher's The Social Network—things spiral to stranger, creepier places. It's not as if the themes explored in Ex Machina are new—from Asimov to Blade Runner, we've pondered them before—but they're handled here with a depth and intelligence that gives them jarring impact. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Far from the Madding Crowd
Hollywood has a nasty habit of ruining classic pieces of literature by adapting them into movies. Less often, it will do us a favor by taking dry 19th-century novels we maybe wouldn't have delved into and converting them into something accessible for our limited modern attention spans and vocabularies. Lucky for us, Far from the Madding Crowd falls into the latter category. I've never read Thomas Hardy's book (am I right that it's dry?) and I'm glad I didn't bother; the movie is fully satisfying. ELINOR JONES Laurelhurst Theater.
Fashion in Film
For her Fashion in Film series, the Mercury's Marjorie Skinner screens Scorsese's 1995 classic Casino. Bring your own vise! Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
I Am Chris Farley
Many of the clips in I Am Chris Farley are impossibly, shockingly funny; I laughed more, and more deeply, during this documentary than I do during most comedies. And the clips aren't just from SNL, either: Blurry VHS footage captures Farley's Second City performances, showing Farley's earliest days as a comedic hurricane. They're interspersed with interviews with those who knew, and worked with, Farley: his brothers, his college buddies, his old improv coaches, and everyone from Mike Myers to Adam Sandler, David Spade to Molly Shannon—there's Lorne Michaels, Bob Odenkirk, Tom Arnold, Dan Aykroyd, Jay Mohr. Throughout, there's a great warmth and a rare sense of reverence. But as Farley's addictions and stints in rehab come into play, something else creeps into those interviews—a darkness, an anger. It's the sort of anger people can only have towards someone they love. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
Infinitely Polar Bear
Written and directed by Maya Forbes—and based on her own childhood—Infinitely Polar Bear is an excellent example of why story matters more than plot. Unlike the overstuffed blockbusters its stars Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana sometimes appear in, Infinitely Polar Bear is stripped down and focused, letting the characters' thoughts and hopes become ours. When Maggie (Saldana) moves to New York for graduate school, she leaves her daughters with her semi-estranged husband, Cameron (Ruffalo)—giving Cameron two major responsibilities that, with his biopolar disorder and ping-ponging focus, he may or may not be up for. The resulting story spans days, then weeks, then months: Cameron tries, Cameron succeeds; Cameron tries, Cameron fails. Everybody's trying to do their best. Sometimes their best isn't good enough. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
Are you the type of barren, childless adult who feels weird going to Pixar movies by yourself? Well... maybe you should. BUT! I strongly advise you to put those feelings aside (or rent a kid from your neighbors or the Duggar family) and see Inside Out, Pixar's latest kids movie that's actually for adults. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Remember the joke Woody Allen tells in Annie Hall about the two old women in the Catskills? The gist is this: One woman complains that the food is terrible, and the other replies, "I know, and such small portions." Allen's films in this later part of his career are so innocuous, so wisplike, so slight, that while they're not exactly terrible, they do make you feel like a Catskills grandma, given a stingy portion of something that's not very good to begin with. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
Nobody whooped when Samuel L. Jackson's arm fell off in the first movie, yet the crowd I watched Jurassic World with straight-up applauded when one minor character was mauled to death by a trio of dinosaurs. Are we supposed to feel like this? Is there some greater point being made about capitalism and human destruction? Are we, the viewers, being metaphorically eaten by this franchise? Whatever! ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Kung Fu Theater
A screening of a rare 35mm print of Dragon Princess, starring Sue Shiomi as a girl who must avenge the savage beating of her father, played by Sonny Chiba. And when Sonny Chiba says you need to avenge him? Motherfuckers are getting avenged with thunderous prejudice. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
A Lego Brickumentary
Remember when The Lego Movie was about to come out and everybody was like, "Ugh, it's just going to be a shitty ad for toys," but then it turned out it was hilarious and delightful and amazing? Well, now there's a documentary about Legos, and guess what: it's just a shitty ad for toys. Obnoxiously narrated by Jason Bateman (who shamelessly reads copy like "the genius of the Lego system..."), A Lego Brickumentary fawns over the massive Danish company and its products while visiting Lego conventions (where women are so uncommon they're referred to as "one-by-fives"—the same term used for a rare Lego piece), pandering to "AFOL"s ("adult fans of Lego"), talking to artists who sculpt with the toy (one spends "over six figures annually" on bricks), and fitting in sound bites from the likes of Trey Parker, Ed Sheeran, and Dwight Howard. This rambling infomercial eventually spends a few minutes talking about stuff that's actually interesting—like how how autism therapists and NASA scientists have found inventive uses for the toy—but by then it's too little, too late. Everything is not awesome. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
Listen to Me Marlon
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Mad Max: Fury Road
A brutal, beautiful, two-hour action overdose injected with a welcome feminist bent. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Magic Mike XXL
Sequels need to trade off the success of the first film, so they need a similar story. But they also have to at least pretend to offer something new. In dance, a cappella, or cheerleading movies, this usually means rounding up everybody from the first movie, then sending them to a national competition of some sort—one last hurrah, but for real this time. So I wasn't very enthusiastic when I heard we were getting a sequel to 2012's excellent Magic Mike. Do we need to see this same cast of beefheads grind on each other some more, I wondered, but with higher stakes? Does anyone need more of this? Answers: Yes and OMG YES. FUCK YES. SO MUCH. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
The latest entry in my favorite cinematic genre: Teen Movie; Subcategory: Quirky Misfits. On balance, it's a respectable entry in the field: All the familiar tropes are here, deployed with a wry humor that feels knowing rather than derivative. Me and Earl is self-aware and witty, and the coming-of-age tale at its nougaty center is good-hearted and enjoyable, despite a few major missteps. ALISON HALLETT Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Hey, you do know Inside Out is currently playing, right? And that, unlike some children's movies we could mention, it isn't cynical garbage? Various Theaters.
Tom Cruise does not do anything halfway. Tom Cruise goes all in, with a fearless, relentless ability to entertain. Tom Cruise knows how he looks when he runs. Tom Cruise doesn't care, because if he's going to run, he's going to run. I will say nothing of Tom Cruise's running in Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, other than to note that the very first time we see Tom Cruise in Rogue Nation, he is running—at which point he leaps onto the wing of a taxiing aircraft, runs up the wing, and manages to cling to the fuselage just in time for the plane to scream into the sky. This is only the first of Rogue Nation's many clever, intense, and largely wordless action sequences, and Tom Cruise does not do it halfway. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
1987's PG-13 horror-comedy kids flick, co-written by Shane Black and featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. It's kind of like The Goonies, except worth watching. Laurelhurst Theater.
Brian Lindstrom, the director of Alien Boy, returns with a documentary about the Family Preservation Project at Wilsonville's Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Screens with Lindstrom's 2007 documentary Finding Normal. Director in attendance. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
As Sherlock Holmes, Ian McKellen is magnificent. It's often argued that cinematic spectacle can't be truly experienced unless it's projected onto a 50-foot screen, but I'd argue that it is also worth employing that increased scale to watch the planes of McKellen's face shift, almost imperceptibly, from mood to mood. BEN COLEMAN Living Room Theaters.
Oma & Bella
A documentary following Regina Karolinski and Bella Katz, two friends who survived the Holocaust and have lived with each other in Germany since the war. Hollywood Theatre.
If every teen movie ever made was thrown into a blender and pulverized into a thick white paste, and then that paste was reconstituted back into a movie, that movie would be Paper Towns. Its blandness is overwhelming, soporific, almost soothing. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
In Swedish director Roy Andersson's best work, he eschews traditional plots almost completely, instead presenting a broken-up series of small moments—mini melodramas or tiny tragicomedies that play out in front of a static camera and mix the sensibilities of Ingmar Bergman and Jacques Tati. Andersson's scenes are haunting—but more importantly, they're often hilarious, with inventive juxtapositions (a man getting slowly fucked while he describes his bank losing nearly all of his retirement savings), lots of deadpan, and surreal turns. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is his latest. ROBERT HAM Living Room Theaters.
The basic conceit of Pixels, lifted from an enjoyable 2010 short film by Patrick Jean, is that aliens are attacking the planet using tactics learned from old-school arcade games. Enter Adam Sandler, Kevin James (as the president), Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad—a cliché '80s kid misfit squad, now all grown up and ready to save the world. It's classic childhood wish fulfillment: Someday they're gonna be sorry. Or, even sadder: Someday the thing I loved as a kid will be important again. (Hey, when's the next Avengers movie out?) Creativity, diversity, eccentricity, passion—all the things that make actual nerd communities genuinely interesting—are missing; instead, our Nerd Squad is another gang of schlubby, entitled white dudes with strong opinions about women's bodies (sigh). ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Ricki and the Flash
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
One of the least watchable movies I've seen in years. It doesn't even work to judge it solely on the merits of its special effects, as it's impossible to illustrate catastrophe without humanity, and the California of San Andreas feels about as lifelike as Sim City (although I suppose one could argue that's a pretty accurate portrayal of Los Angeles). MORGAN TROPER Academy Theater.
Shaun the Sheep Movie
The latest from Aardman Animations (Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and, uh, Flushed Away), starring a sheep. Named Shaun, presumably. Various Theaters.
Sitting on the Edge of Marlene
Ana Valine's feature tells the story of a teenage girl drawn into the family business (crime) while waiting for her father to come home (from jail). Director in attendance. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Does the world really need another movie about a gritty white boxer from the wrong side of the tracks, who gets as good as he gives, whose struggles in the ring mirror his struggles in his personal life? Absolutely not. And yet the sheer, unblinking earnestness with which Southpaw tries to convince you that it does almost works. It sticks to the formula so closely that it becomes a mantra, an incantation. VINCE MANCINI Various Theaters.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Essentially a straightforward thriller that reenacts the famous experiment conducted by Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo in 1971—in which students paid to simulate a prison environment quickly devolved into the roles of sadistic guards and shattered victims—The Stanford Prison Experiment spares pitifully few minutes to reflect on how it happened or what it meant. MARJORIE SKINNER Laurelhurst Theater, On Demand.
Good movies can sometimes give off a hum—a feeling that the energy and chemistry on screen can't be constrained by the edges of the frame. Tangerine fits this description and then some, creating a kinetic rush with enough spillover juice to light up LA for a year. While chock-full of innovations both welcome (a story about transgender characters, played by transgender performers) and potentially eye-strainingly worrisome (the movie was shot entirely on tricked-out, stabilized iPhones), the main takeaway is just how alive it seems. ANDREW WRIGHT Cinema 21.
Top Down: Rooftop Cinema
The NW Film Center's rooftop screening series, held on top of the Hotel deLuxe's parking garage. Screening Thurs Aug 6 is Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; screening Thurs Aug 13 is Rock 'n' Roll High School. More at nwfilm.org. Hotel deLuxe.
Amy Schumer fans should take heart: I'm with you. As far as I'm concerned, she's a national treasure, so it's weird to see her sharp-edged humor dulled by a movie that essentially hews to a classic boy-meets-girl-plus-problem format. MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
This reboot of National Lampoon's Vacation is a spirited tribute among a rash of far more embarrassing reboots (looking at you, Dumb and Dumber To), but there's only so much mileage you can get from nostalgia. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
What We Do in the Shadows
A mockumentary (wait, keep reading) about vampire roommates (just a little further) from the Flight of the Conchords brain trust. Blissfully, consistently silly throughout (Jemaine Clement's virile Coppola posturing gets funnier with every frame) with some knowingly wobbly effects by Peter Jackson's gang that only enhance the giggles. ANDREW WRIGHT Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, On Demand.
It's no surprise that director Alain Resnais' 2009 film is on the inscrutable side—Resnais, whose credits include Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad, has never been particularly concerned with conventional narrative structure. Wild Grass is about the chance circumstances that bring together an aging couple—its characters' motivations are generally baffling, but an offbeat sense of humor and sly visual gags give the audience something to cling to when everything else has stopped making sense. ALISON HALLETT Fifth Avenue Cinema.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, August 7-Thursday, August 13, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.