In this biopic of Canadian folk visualist Maud Lewis, Sally Hawkins embodies the mid-20th century painter with incredible resilience. The whimsy Maud pours into her colorful landscapes is a tonic to her painful relationship with her husband Everett (Ethan Hawke) and her severe arthritis. Maud meets Everett when, looking for an escape from living with her Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose), she signs up to work as his housekeeper. Hawkins' portrayal of resisting physical decay is deeply touching, and Hawke, one of Hollywood's most prolific emoters, exercises ultimate restraint as Everett, breaking his wife's heart as a grumbling, nearly unreachable soul. As a couple, they're "like a pair of odd socks," Maud waxes in one of the film's most touching moments. It's a moment to relish, because hardship is far more common in their remote Nova Scotia cottage—the one Maud gradually turns into a four-walled canvas, illustrating petals and birds on every surface. It's not that Maudie wastes these two remarkable performances, they're just the only two hues on its palette. Otherwise, it's a paint-by-numbers biography that resets constantly and clunkily with folk arpeggiating, and never really digs for Lewis' deeper character or philosophies in its script. Who knows what made her great, the film says, but her essence was innately good. PG-13. CRITIC'S RATING: 2/4 stars. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Living Room.
War for the Planet of the Apes
While the title tags of its two predecessors, 2011's Rise and 2014's Dawn, are virtually interchangeable, the "War" in War for the Planet of the Apes could scarcely speak louder. The third installment in the new Apes saga is designed like a classic Hollywood combat epic. Though he's now gray around his tortured eyes—the ones so human they continue to feel like a motion-capture miracle—the Messianic chimpanzee Caesar can find no peace. He must now face down an army colonel who resembles Brando's iconic Kurtz in every way except for being played rather casually by Woody Harrelson. Marred by irredeemable, indistinct human characters, War feels every bit the technological achievement of Dawn without the inter-primate intrigue. While the second film examines the hazards of tribal communication, War finds its meaning in suffering. In their quest for sanctuary, Caesar's dwindling band of Muir Woods apes resembles history's most abused populations. It's operatic, very long and intentionally little fun. The stakes are cataclysmic enough to end this franchise, though they probably won't. PG-13. CRITIC'S RATING: 2/4 stars. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bridgeport, Cascade, Clackamas, Ceder Hills, City Center, Division, Eastport, Evergreen, Lloyd Center, Tigard, Vancouver.
Newton's third law of wishes states that for every wish granted by a numinous foreign artifact or spiteful djinn, an equal and opposite blood debt must be repaid. Basic physics aside, Wish Upon is the story of unpopular high schooler Clare Shannon (Joey King), who is haunted by memories of witnessing her mother's hanging suicide when she was a child, and now lives with her father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe) and dog in the same house 12 years later. Clare's daily torment includes being nearly run over by her more popular texting-and-driving peers as she rides her bike to school, and later we see her engaged in an all-out lunchroom brawl with one of those same classmates. It's never easy being a teenager, and Jonathan, realizing that Clare's circumstances are tougher than most, tries to be a doting father and surprises her by gifting her a scary-looking antique Chinese music box scavenged from a neighbor's dumpster. Clare comes to learn that the music box is not actually very useful if you just want to hear a little ditty, but it does purport to grant its owner seven wishes. Ignorant of the strings that usually come attached to such things, she begins making wishes. Wish Upon doesn't offer anything new to the "be careful what you wish for" trope, but there are a generous handful of tense moments and amusing bits of dialogue. The film is well-paced, and all in all, you could do worse if you're looking to see some blood. R. CRITIC'S RATING: 2/4 stars. R. MITCHELL MILLER. Clackamas, City Center, Division, Stadium, Tigard.
Even if you've never seen Breathless before, it created you and everyone else with a quirky yet cool aesthetic. One of Jean-Luc Godard's most iconic films, the romantic tradjedy is one of the more accessible products of the French New Wave movement. Mission, July 15-22.
Bonnie and Clyde
Starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde broke the seal on American cinema's desire for sex and violence. But it's also a seriously awesome outlaw tale that's both alluring and bleak. Pix Pâtisserie, July 12.
David Lynch's second feature film tells the tale of John Merrick (John Hurt), a man whose facial deformity was exploited for entertaiment in Victorian England. Even with Anthony Hopkins' killer performance as Dr. Treves, Elephant Man is perhaps the most understated work in Lynch's filmography. But it's still deeply haunting and blooms with Lynch's empathy for every corner of humanity. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, July 14-15.
Who knows what today's mind-fucking films would be like if it weren't for La Strada. Arguably Federico Fellini's magnum opus, La Strada is a surreal, winding story of banality told through circus performers traveling through rural Italy. It screens as a film that influenced David Lynch's career in NW Film Center's retrospective of his work. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, July 17.
Stop Making Sense
New York New Wave swelled to high tide the moment David Byrne, wearing a loose-fitting suit, introduced "Psycho Killer" by pressing play on the cassette player he carried out on stage. Captured by director Jonathan Demme, the documentary of a Talking Head's 1983 concert is equally essential to the history of pop music and music documentaries. Clinton Street Theater, July 17.