Like last week, we're going by our new four-star rating system. Here's another run-through in case you missed it:
*: This movie sucks, don't watch it.
**: This movie is entertaining but flawed.
***: This movie is good. We recommend you watch it.
****: This movie is excellent, one of the best of the year.
A Cure for Wellness
Critic's Rating: * Don't concern yourself with the following spoilers, you don't want to go see this movie anyway. A piece of pseudo-arty Euro-horror shlock, A Cure for Wellness boorishly appropriates motifs from movies much better than it—forced dental surgery, incest, Holocaust imagery, mad doctors, dungeons and long white hallways—and offers no narrative payoff whatsoever. An overworked businessman (Dane DeHaan) gets sent by his firm to a mysterious Swiss spa from which no one ever leaves. The rest you'll piece together…except for one particularly upsetting sequence. To anyone producing media to be consumed by other humans: IF YOU'RE GOING TO INCLUDE CHILD RAPE IN ANY STORY, THERE MUST BE AN UNAVOIDABLE NARRATIVE NECESSITY FOR IT. It must be given the emotionally complex treatment it deserves. It is not a characterization technique to make your villain (Jason Isaacs) more villainous, nor is it a throwaway bit of horror-movie sideshow gore. It is baffling that after the 150-minute snooze that was The Lone Ranger, director Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean) was given another movie in the first place. This assures—please, please, God—that he'll never direct one again. R. ISABEL ZACHARIAS. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Tigard, Vancouver.
Fifty Shades Darker
Critic's Rating: ** However you feel about E.L. James' Fifty Shades trilogy of (essentially) softcore BDSM porn novels, the story examined as a cultural phenomenon is food for thought worth chewing. Just as much as the series has been heralded for normalizing consensual sub-dom sex, it's been harangued for glorifying abusive relationships and sexual violence. But here, somewhat shockingly, director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy, Love You More) has wrung out a perfectly watchable movie from James' crudely written fantasy. Hot, nubile college grad Anastasia "Ana" Steele (Dakota Johnson) meets hot, "complicated" billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). They have lots of kinky sex and fall in love accidentally, but Christian's naughty past gets in the way. While certainly no monument to feminism—Christian tells off Ana's attractive male boss with the explanation "He wants what's mine"—Fifty Shades Darker is ultimately centered on the female experience of heterosexual relationships. The graphic, multitudinous sex scenes are aaall about Ana's orgasm and make it clear that it takes more than penetration to get there. With unguarded humor and sometimes even something verging on wit, Darker discusses consent, sexual boundaries, trauma and relationship autonomy with a frankness that honestly makes it, despite soap-opera drama and predictability, a pretty good movie. R. ISABEL ZACHARIAS. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.
I Am Not Your Negro
Critic's Rating: **** Raoul Peck's new documentary is a story of guilt. James Baldwin's unfinished 1979 manuscript, Remember This House—a response to the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers—serves as this film's intellectual and emotional core. It begins with Baldwin's 1957 return to the United States from France after he could no longer participate in the Civil Rights movement from a distance. Peck develops Baldwin's personal story into his theory of American racism, which is articulated through a swirling procession of media: Clips of film, news and Baldwin's debates are interspersed with his correspondence with publishers and overlaid by gravelly narrations of his written words by Samuel L. Jackson. But Peck's film is more than a propositional telling of political philosophy. I Am Not Your Negro's indirect, impressionistic construction mirrors Baldwin's theory: White America's refusal to confront history has metastasized into a dehumanizing psychosis that prevents the country from enjoying the privileges its exploitation of people of color let it reap. Rarely is a story so personal, so complex and so important told with such empathy that the audience can "see" it through the teller's eyes. WALKER MACMURDO. Cinema 21.
A one-time screening of Brett Harvey's 2016 look into the role of the enforcer, the guys responsible for policing dirty play with their fists, in the NHL. A Q&A follows with Portland's recently retired Paul Gaustad, who played for the Winterhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators. Kiggins Theatre. 7 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21.
John Wick: Chapter 2
Critic's Rating: *** John Wick Chapter 2 starts with a wild car-fu chase and climaxes with a stab-happy shootout in a hall of mirrors. In between, fresh bodies pile up in the Roman catacombs, New York's homeless population reveals itself to be handy with weapons, an EDM show turns into a battleground and Keanu Reeves gets hit by approximately eight cars. It's a film that's as surreal as it is violent, and calling it violent is an understatement. Former Reeves stunt double-turned-director Chad Stahelski keeps what worked for the first film—the minimal cutting, fluid action, wry humor, lived-in mythology and bajillion headshots—and doubles down. This time, dog-loving assassin Wick is bound by a blood oath to murder the sister of a rival (Riccardo Scamarcio) seeking her seat at a powerful international assassins guild. That sends Wick to Rome, though not before a quick trip to the tactical tailor at the original film's enigmatic Continental Hotel and back, leaving a sea of bodies in his wake. Stahelski shows influences as diverse as John Woo, Gaspar Noé, Jean-Pierre Melville, John Boorman, and Seijun Suzuki in Wick's slick journey, but lest you get bogged down in the stylistic flourishes, don't forget that this is a movie in which Reeves constantly kills people with pencils, shotguns and his fists. John Wick was a surprise hit that might just be the best action movie of the decade. Its sequel could end up becoming a contender for second-best. AP KRYZA. R. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.
The Lego Batman Movie
Critic's Rating: *** Fast, funny and pleasingly drunk on the joys of mockery, this animated superhero spoof takes its not-so-dark knight on a zany adventure that should bring a smile to Adam West's face. Like 2014's The Lego Movie, Lego Batman is set in a world where everything is made of Lego bricks—people, buildings and even flashes of light. Here, Batman (Will Arnett) is a petulant and preening goofball who rocks out on an electric guitar and burnishes his ego by showering orphans with cool toys from his "merch gun." Meanwhile, both the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) and Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) seek to quash the caped crusader's self-important vigilantism. Yet the spunk of both Batman and the movie proves irrepressible. Despite some pandering lectures on the importance of family—which will insult the intelligence of even the youngest moviegoers—the film is a speedy romp that's so wacky that it finds a novel use for a new version of the "shark-repellent bat spray" from 1966's Batman: The Movie. Unfortunately, a disturbing specter of reality intrudes during the end credits: Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of the treasury, is listed as an executive producer. PG. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Bagdad, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Roseway, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Tigard, Vancouver.
Critic's Rating: ** Mermaids Golden and Silver (Michalina Olszańska and Marta Mazurek) left their shell bras on the seashore. After local band the Lure pulls the topless twosome from a beach in Poland, the psychedelic Abba-esque music begins. The pair join the band in an adult nightclub, where they flaunt their abilities both to carry a tune and transform their long legs into slimy fish tails with a spritz of water. But we quickly learn these alluring mermaids are at least part killer eel. The girls have several scenes lying alone, tails draped over the edge of a tub, singing sad Polish love songs as light gleams off their scales. Golden and Silver are seemingly irresistible to humans, but in true trashy thriller fashion, the over-sexualized murders they commit are more stomach-churners than enjoyable. If you can brave the cannibalism and flashy fantasy, The Lure has its entertaining parts. You have to praise this film for its originality, but sex and cannibalism never pair well, even above the ocean. NR. AMY WOLFE. Cinema 21.
Women Who Kill
This movie follows Morgan and Jean, two true-crime podcasters and former lovers whose relationship is thrown into tumult when Morgan meets Simone, who may not be who she says she is. Presented as part of the Hollywood Theatre's Queer Commons series, Ingrid Jungermann's debut won best screenplay at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15.