A German Youth
Arthouse collective Cinema Project's penultimate screening, A German Youth, chronicles the ultra-left-wing terrorist group Red Army Faction, which carried out a string of bombings, assassinations and robberies across West Germany during the Cold War. NR. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorum, 7:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 10.
Critic's Grade: C "Here at NASA, we all pee the same color," bellows Kevin Costner, after dismantling a "Colored" restroom sign with a crowbar. He's desperate to make it a rousing moment. All movie, we've seen mathematics virtuoso Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) forced to run—in rain, in heels, in fear of her reputation—to the segregated toilet across the NASA campus. Hidden Figures argues this workplace discrimination was an imposing obstacle to putting the first Americans in space in 1961. Tellingly, it's Costner who gets the biggest, racism-busting line in a movie supposedly illuminating underappreciated black women, like Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). These STEM pioneers, along with some baffling arithmetic, are the "hidden figures." Yet, when racism and sexism aren't labeled with signs, the drama has trouble pointing out how these biases historically buried these women's contributions. Even as Henson, Monáe and Spencer push for guile and camaraderie in their performances, Hidden Figures adds up to sap, not a proper reappraisal. On the other side of the equals sign is a movie calibrated through the same white, patriotic eyes that failed to recognize Katherine Johnson in the first place. PG. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Clackamas.
In a Texas jail, three offenders in this documentary attend a "peace class" to try to rebuild their lives. NR. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Tuesday, Jan. 10.
The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
Critic's Grade: A- The prison industrial complex isn't confined to the steel bars and razor wire of its federally funded physical locations. This may be why Brett Story's debut documentary chronicles people and places affected by the system without ever entering a prison. We are warned that we might get hit by a Nerf dart as we take a tour through the infuriatingly upbeat Quicken Loans headquarters in Detroit, a company that's found the loan-sharking, er, mortgage business booming while the rest of the city languishes around it. Then we visit what amounts to a kangaroo court held in a high school gym near St. Louis. Here, the multitudinous municipalities fund themselves with harassment campaigns targeting low-income and black residents through the fastidious enforcement of minor civic violations. Example: One woman spends 15 days in jail for leaving the lid off her trashcan. The film is more impressionistic than investigative, and it sometimes takes some work on the part of the viewer to connect each spoke back to the hub. There's no narration, no statistics-cluttered slides. The subjects of the film, more often victims of the system than academics or experts, do the explaining. But the pill works. If you don't want to change this shit by the end, you weren't watching. NR. ZACH MIDDLETON. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. 7 pm Friday-Sunday, Jan. 6-8.
Martin Scorcese's new film diverts from the course by venturing to 17th-century Japan, where Portuguese monks Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield try to track down their master, Liam Neeson, while spreading Catholicism. See next week's issue for a review. R. Theaters.
Two Trains Runnin'
Critic's Grade: B+ On June 21, 1964, two unrelated groups of blues lovers successfully completed the same implausible quest: locating long-lost musicians Skip James and Son House. On that same date, civil rights activists James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman disappeared while traveling through Mississippi. They were found dead six weeks later, murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Directed by Academy Award nominee Samuel D. Pollard (Eyes on the Prize), Two Trains Runnin' follows two seemingly separate historical narratives that collide in astounding coincidence as unwitting music buffs journey to Mississippi, finding themselves in the heart of the civil rights movement. Narrated by rapper Common and featuring brief performances by Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Jr., and Lucinda Williams, the film reminds viewers that both blues music and activism remain important and influential aspects of American culture. In joining the story of a hunt to preserve the legacy of country blues with an an all too familiar account of hateful violence and loss, Two Trains Runnin' reflects on the triumphs that inspire the soul and the tragedies that continue to plague the fight for racial equality. NR. CURTIS COOK. Hollywood
Underworld: Blood Wars
Between this, the upcoming XXX reboot and a Republican presidency, it looks like the early 2000s are back. Kate Beckinsale stars as vampire assassin Selene, who juggles motherhood with trying to end an eons-long war with werewolves. Not screened for critics. R. Clackamas.
The Godfather (1972)
ATTENTION ALL DADS! Your favorite or second-favorite, if you prefer Part II, movie is playing on the big screen this week. Mission Theater. Jan. 9, 12 and 15.
La Nuit Fantastique (1942)
Denis works as a night porter to pay his way through earning his philosophy degree. While dozing off one night, he meets Irene, the literal and figurative girl of his dreams, whom he must save from the villains who occupy the deepest parts of his psyche. No longer content to show films from the Ukrainian poetic movement, Church of Film ups its game with a dip into the surrealism of Vichy France. Clinton Street Theater. 8 pm Wednesday, Jan 4.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Next week, OMSI kicks off its second annual retrospective of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki's many Studio Ghibli films. Bide your time until then with the 20th anniversary screening of one of his most revered movies, the epic tale of man versus forest gods set in medieval Japan. Clackamas, Century and Lloyd Center. Jan. 5 and 9.
Something Wild (1986)
A screwy road movie from Jonathan Demme, much better known for early-'90s prestige flicks The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, Something Wild stars Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels in an '80s-ed out take on nerd meets free spirit in a stolen car. Laurelhurst. Jan. 6-12.
The Thing From Another World (1951)
John Carpenter's 1982 take on the "shapeshifting alien hunting down government forces on an arctic base" story may be more recognizable today, but Howard Hawks' original is a campy classic of early sci-fi. Enjoy it this week on 35 mm. Academy Theater. Jan. 6-12.