OPENING THIS WEEK
Fifty Shades of Black
Marlon Wayans wrote the script and himself into the role of Christian Black for this parody of the Heathman Hotel's favorite literary gem. Not screened for critics. R. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Bridgeport, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Center.
The Finest Hours
C Although the death-defying rescue mission depicted in this film was a proud moment in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard, The Finest Hours is for the wives. Based on a true story, its plot centers on Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), a newly engaged boatswain who braves a historically bad storm to rescue 30 men from a sinking oil tanker. The female-driven storyline of Webber's fiancee (Holliday Grainger) sashaying around the Coast Guard station and demanding assurance of her beloved's safety feels obligatory from writers Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, as post-Mad Max: Fury Road action movie writers are wont to do. She miraculously earns the respect of the town's crusty old seamen through her loyal wifeliness, but director Craig Gillespie fails to prove her as an independent character. The film's overall impact relies on the cinematic awe of watching a steel ship be ripped apart by brutal waves, amounting to a more patriotic version of A Perfect Storm for the current CGI-savvy generation. PG-13. LAUREN TERRY. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Pioneer Place, Tigard.
Kung Fu Panda 3
A- It's been five years since Kung Fu Panda 2, and Jack Black hasn't been in anything even close to that good since. Good for Black—his pudgy, clumsy panda Po is as endearing as ever. This time, Po must find true "chi" to beat Kai, a ripped yak creature that might be too scary for young kids. Po—who somehow thought he was the only panda in the world—is reunited with his father, who takes him to a secret panda land, where even Minions couldn't beat how cute the jiggly-belly pandas are. The film uses Eastern philosophies about inner peace to work out modern family issues, as Po journeys to find his true self. Besides good lessons, parents will appreciate the watercolor Chinese landscapes and cherry blossoms swirling to a soundtrack that sounds like Florence and the Machine, in a rare example of 3-D actually adding to the film. PG. SOPHIA JUNE. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Evergreen, Lloyd Center, Pioneer Place, Tigard, St. Johns Cinemas.
C- Raising more than three times its $600K target during the most successful Indiegogo campaign yet waged for a feature film, Austin's Rooster Teeth production troupe—beloved for its long-running Beckett-meets-Halo Web series Red vs. Blue—spent fans' largesse on a bucketload of digital effects and famous-of-a-sort faces—Disney Channel vet Allie DeBerry and Alan Ritchson (Smallville's Aquaman)—for a damnably professional jaunt through the latest indie sci-fi spoof. After Earth's leaders spent decades diligently preparing a champion to wield alien weaponry against an otherworldly menace, an errant fireworks launch leads the fateful armaments to bond instead with a quartet of West Texas bumblers. The QB now throws lasers, the sheriff projects a shield, the aging tailback-turned-drunk regains his speed, and the village idiot gets smarts (plus, in the film's best bit, an accompanying British accent). So far, so '80s, but any hopes of a literal Super Troopers are soon leveled by a barrage of tired gags, bloodless caricatures and 16-bit poignancy. JAY HORTON. Kiggins.
The 5th Wave
D The title The 5th Wave could easily refer to the fact that humanity has been under attack from wave after wave of young-adult post-apocalypse movies in the past 10 years. Sadly, there's nothing self-aware about this cookie-cutter story of a peppy teenage girl who is, obviously, Earth's best hope. Sixteen-year-old Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz from Kick-Ass) is a normal adolescent until a group of faceless aliens start killing everybody for no reason. They knock out most of the population with tsunamis and pandemics in the first couple waves, but then they inexplicably decide to finish us off with hand-to-hand combat. The "5th wave" of attacks comes in the form of body-snatching a bunch of adults and hot guys. Cassie has to fight back, but only after she deals with her inevitable love triangle. With dialogue like, "I didn't believe in love until I met you," you'll wish you'd died in the 1st wave. PG-13. ALEX FALCONE. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Center, Pioneer Place, Tigard.
C Michael Bay's latest big-budget war film doesn't have the star power you'd expect, but it's message is predicatbly patriotic: Americans are heroic, and Libyans are barbaric. This time, the heroes are six security contractors who save the day during a surprise nighttime attack by Libyan rebels. The film is essentially Call of Duty, often told in point-of-view shots with night-vision goggles, sniper targets and comically fake spews of bright red blood. A few moments do take aim at the American military, like when John Krasinski gazes up at the Libyan sky and says in a wavering Southern accent: "I'm going to die fighting in a war I don't understand." Mainly, the actors succeed at looking buff and running around to the Hans Zimmer soundtrack, but they fail to deliver genuinely emotive performances. To be fair, the meathead script didn't give them much to emote. In one of the most unintentionally comical scenes, the Americans mistake the Muslim call to prayer for another attack. In the other, one character muses about Joseph Campbell's philosophy. Like the film, both misfire. R. SOPHIA JUNE. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Center, Pioneer Place, Tigard.
B- It's a little creepy watching a stop-motion puppet perform cunnilingus on another puppet; creepier still when the foreplay turns into outright sex. Puppets aren't supposed to fuck—are they? Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) fills his movie with jarring moments like these, when our childhood associations of stop-motion animation collide with the very grown-up story that Anomalisa tells. But while the animation is undisputably nifty-looking, it can't redeem this deeply pessimistic film. To motivational speaker Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), everyone in the world looks and sounds exactly the same. The only person with a unique face and voice is a woman named Lisa, whom Stone meets and falls in love with at a Cincinnati hotel. Alas, just as his life is about to open up, the crushing conformity returns with a vengeance. We can never escape our ennui, the film heavy-handedly asserts. Morose and defeatist, Anomalisa might be an animated favorite for the upcoming Oscars, but it's also an early contender for feel-bad movie of 2016. R. RICHARD SPEER. Cinema 21, City Center.
The Big Short
A We're in a bubble of movies about the financial crisis, but The Big Short is the first good one. It's based on the book by Michael Lewis, who's known for making complicated financial topics into compelling stories, and adapted by Adam McKay, who is known for Talladega Nights and the "More Cowbell" sketch. Surprisingly, this combo works. The film focuses on three real weirdos (Steve Carell, Christian Bale and Brad Pitt) who were some of the only people to predict the collapse of the housing market in 2007. It's entertaining and informative, just like you'd expect from Michael Lewis and not at all what you'd expect from Adam McKay. R. ALEX FALCONE. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Cornelius, Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Living Room Theaters, Bridgeport, City Center, Evergreen, Lloyd Center, Tigard, St. Johns Cinemas.
Bridge of Spies
B- Steven Spielberg was born to convey viewers through weird and wonderful alternate realities, but the director's gift just doesn't shine as brightly when he contends with humanity's past. Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks as an insurance lawyer recruited by the U.S. government to negotiate a spy-for-spy trade with the Soviet Union, benefits from a caustic screenplay by the Coen brothers. While Spielberg is pretty good even when he's on autopilot, there is little here that doesn't feel perfunctory. PG-13. CHRIS STAMM. Academy, Kennedy School, Lake Theater, Laurelhurst, Living Room Theaters, Mt. Hood, Division, Vancouver, The Joy, Valley.
A- Based on the novel by Irish author Colm Tóibín and adapted by Nick Hornby (High Fidelty, About a Boy), Brooklyn is just the sweetest thing. Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) makes an adorable couple with Emory Cohen (Smash), and I could watch them court for hours, especially their awkward dinners with Cohen's Italian family. PG-13. ALEX FALCONE. Cinema 21.
A Like a long-gone grandparent, Portland director Todd Haynes' newest feature is an experience you remember mostly by token images—Cate Blanchett's lacquered nails, Rooney Mara developing film in her shabby apartment kitchen, Blanchett's lipstick stains on Mara's nipples. A romance between a young salesgirl and older housewife set against the picture-book 1950s, Carol in many ways echoes Haynes' Oscar-nominated Far From Heaven. It's an almost painfully beautiful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel, The Price of Salt, with Haynes' signature touches—magnetic actresses and gorgeous shots of them lighting slim cigarettes. This is the first Haynes feature with a lesbian couple front and center, and the first he didn't write. Framed to channel Vivian Maier's midcentury photography of Chicago, the film shows romance as tea sandwiches, abusive husbands and lindy hops in equal measure. And a sense of voyeurism colors the film—we sit in on the couple's first date, and in the final scene, Haynes transplants our eyes into Therese's head and makes them stare straight into Carol's. But Carol seduced you already, two hours back. R. ENID SPITZ. Hollywood, Lake Theater, Bridgeport, City Center, Fox Tower.
B+ If you're a fan of modern interpretations of classic Greek drama or showmanship in the style of Baz Luhrman, then this is the Spike Lee joint you've been waiting for. Based on Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata, Lee tells the tale of an indomitable heroine rallying women from both sides of the Peloponnesian War to withhold sex to force the armies to negotiate peace. Through the lens of modern, vibrant, Spike Lee-styled Chicago, the classic takes on a gritty texture. In an unsuccessful homage to its Grecian roots, much of Chi-Raq's dialogue rhymes, resembling a draft of "Dr. Seuss Goes to Englewood." R. LAUREN TERRY. Laurelhurst.
c- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air stars in a movie based on a GQ article about a coroner living in Pittsburgh who discovered brain damage in a retired football player and was hounded by the NFL to retract his findings. Unfortunately, even Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks and Big Willie Style (complete with a halfway decent Nigerian accent) couldn't make an exciting story out of microscopes, publishing scientific papers, and men sitting around conference tables lying to each other. PG-13. ALEX FALCONE. Academy.
A- Creed—the seventh movie in the Rocky franchise—is more like the original Rocky than its sequels because it's mostly good, but also because it's almost entirely the same movie as Rocky. It feels more like an apology for the mediocre Rocky movies we've endured, more like a series reboot than a sequel, featuring a stronger young actor in Michael B. Jordan. PG-13. ALEX FALCONE. Academy, Avalon, Clackamas, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Mt. Hood, Division, Valley.
B Will Ferrell hasn't exhausted the comedy of emasculation just yet—his argyle sweater vest-wearing persona still has some comic juice, especially teamed with The Other Guys co-star Mark Wahlberg's alpha male. Director Sean Anders sticks to sitcom setups and obvious gags. But compared to, say, the shapeless Sisters, Daddy's Home at least has structure and sincerity. PG. ROBERT HORTON. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, , Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen.
The Danish Girl
A In director Tom Hooper's first film since Les Miserables, Eddie Redmayne plays Einar Wegener, one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery, in the story from David Ebershoff's novel of the same name. Wegener and his wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), a fellow artist and his best friend, make the perfect, hip art couple of 1920s Copenhagen. R. LAUREN TERRY. Bridgeport, Division, Fox Tower.
Zac Efron as a stick-up-his-ass youth and Robert De Niro in his new stock role as an endearingly uncouth geezer take a road trip to Daytona Beach and have the sort of bro drama you'd expect from two guys named Jason and Dick. Not screened for critics. R. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Tigard.
The Good Dinosaur
B- The Good Dinosaur is a Little House on the Prairie-style rendering of pioneer life, except, of course, all the characters are talking dinosaurs living in an alternate reality where a certain fateful asteroid never made impact. PG. PENELOPE BASS. Academy, Avalon, Clackamas, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Mt. Hood.
The Hateful Eight
A- Quentin Tarantino's new mystery Western, The Hateful Eight is a lot of very good things. It's a spectacular bit of storytelling set against 70 millimeters of Wyoming grandeur, yet neat enough to fit together like the gears in a Swiss watch, with stellar character acting and crackling dialogue. But it's also very much a Tarantino film. Yes, there are buckets of bright red blood spilled on bright white shirts, copious use of the most offensive English-language word beginning with N, and a bloody Mexican standoff. Kurt Russell is John "The Hangman" Ruth, a bounty hunter charged with bringing the mysterious Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into Red Rock, Wyo., to hang. His stagecoach comes across snowbound and desperate Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins, and they're eventually trapped inside a country inn with four lodgers. It's a great setup, and the long and plentiful monologues are sharp, backstories emerge in a natural way, and the twists are unexpected until they're obvious. The cartoonish level of violence will give some pause—it's Kill Bill with fewer bodies but tighter shots—but that's to be expected of Tarantino, a man who's had 20 years to indulge his impulses, and who'll hopefully have 20 more. R. MARTIN CIZMAR. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Hollywood, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2
B Katniss Everdeen leads a group of rebels against the Capitol, which has been booby-trapped with hot oil, lasers, and an army of lizard people. PG-13. ALEX FALCONE. Eastport, Clackamas, Mt. Hood, , Bridgeport, Evergreen, Pioneer Place.
B+ Ben (Robert De Niro), an active widower and retiree in need of something to keep himself busy, applies to a senior internship program at "About the Fit," a Topshop-like online clothing site founded by the dedicated Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). It's a refreshingly modern concept, serving as a reminder that the timeless art of being a gentleman begins with respect. PG-13. LAUREN TERRY. Vancouver.
B+ Director David O. Russell takes his formula for American Hustle, wraps it in Christmastime and casts America's ass-kicking sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence as the woman who invented the self-wringing Miracle Mop. Joy (Lawrence) is the ultimate handyman, balancing her explosive father (Robert De Niro) and musician ex-husband (Édgar Ramirez) fighting in the basement, her antisocial and bed-ridden mother (Virginia Madsen), two kids and too many unpaid bills. She fixes plumbing, shoots rifles to let off steam, bleeds a widow (Isabella Rossellini) for money and gives Bradley Cooper's Home Shopping Network exec a piece of her mind. The movie is a joy to look at, but don't those mail-order deals always seem smaller in real life? PG-13. ENID SPITZ. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Hollywood, Bridgeport, Fox Tower, Tigard.
B- It's just a pretty good sci-fi yarn based on Andy Weir's book that stumbles on its own ambition. When a massive storm hits the Martian exploration project and Watney's team leaves him for dead, the skilled botanist realizes that the only way to avoid starvation and space madness is to "science the shit" out of his situation. PG-13. AP KRYZA. Academy, Avalon, Laurelhurst, Mt. Hood, Tigard, Vancouver, Valley.
A In remote Turkey, five orphaned sisters are strictly confined to their home while their uncle arranges their marriages. In this feature debut from director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Lale—the youngest sister—watches her siblings capitulate to suffocating patriarchy and searches herself for the strength to escape. PG-13. MIKE GALLUCCI. Kiggins Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
The Peanuts Movie
A bald child named Charlie battles questionable fashion choices, impossible odds and burgeoning hormones. G. Avalon, Vancouver, Valley.
Norm of the North
C- This 86-minute animated movie about a polar bear trying to save the Arctic feels more like a three-hour movie about animals dancing. Norm, the film's clumsy protagonist, is a less cute version of Po from Kung Fu Panda. When Mr. Greene—an evil developer who looks like Michael Jackson with a body made of a slinky—tries to build condos in the Arctic, Norm pretends to be a spokesman for the campaign and goes to New York to win the public's approval. As Norm reveals that the condos will actually destroy his home, the film takes unnecessary pains to explain things like the polar bear's ability to talk to humans. Meanwhile, we suspend our disbelief about the complex public relations techniques. Norm had the opportunity to be an environmental film that teaches kids about global warming through a cuddly talking polar bear, but instead it develops a plot based on a problem that doesn't currently threaten the Arctic. At least it has enough scenes of lemmings peeing and farting to entertain the kids. PG. SOPHIA JUNE. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Center.
A- In terms of pure spectacle and cinematic beauty, Alejandro González Iñárritu's The Revenant approaches masterpiece status. Fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) finds his trapping party on the receiving end of a bear attack that leaves him barely clinging to life. Playing Klaus Kinski to Iñárritu's Werner Herzog for what was reportedly a shoot of Fitzcarraldo-level difficulty, DiCaprio brings his A-game to an abstract role. It is one of the best wilderness survival films of all time—a violent, unrelenting and staggeringly beautiful cinematic experience that leaves you feeling battered by an angry mother bear by the time the credits roll, but ready to take the ride again. R. AP KRYZA. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, CineMagic, Mill Plain, Cornelius, Edgefield, Forest Theatre, Lake Theater, Moreland, Oak Grove, Cinema 99, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Hilltop, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Sherwood, Tigard, Wilsonville, Roseway Theatre, Sandy, St. Johns Theater.
B+ In this riveting adaptation of Emma Donoghue's novel, an abducted woman must raise her son in a confined space, To maintain a stimulating setting, Ma (Brie Larson) creates a social environment with anthropomorphized characters named Bed and Lamp. R. LAUREN TERRY. Fox Tower. R. LAUREN TERRY. Cinema 21.
C+ As Gen X plunges into the Big Four-O with all the grace of an arthritic Tommy Lee flailing about his gyroscopic drum riser, studios have released a slew of movies about the bummers of aging: You've got your Grown-Ups, your Hot Tub Time Machines, your Star Wars (I assume that's what Chewie's arc will be about), etc. This year, America's pre-eminent comedic minds, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, take a crack at it as the titular sisters who throw one last rager in their family house before their parents sell it. For the most part, it's a straight-up party comedy, replete with the requisite tropes, and given the preponderance of truly innovative comedians, Sisters is disappointingly standard. R. JAMES HELMSWORTH. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Bridgeport, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower.
C+ The 26th Bond film has it all, and more. The one thing it doesn't have is the ability to leave a lasting impression. Buildings crumble, helicopters do barrel rolls, and Daniel Craig nonchalantly causes millions in property damage. But from the minute Sam Smith's grating theme music starts, the movie slides downhill. Sure, there's fun to be had—Bond drives a tricked-out ride through Rome's narrow streets and engages in an Alpine plane chase before the anticlimactic conclusion lands with a dull thud. Considering everybody who's involved in Spectre, the very last reaction anybody expected was "meh." PG-13. AP KRYZA. Academy, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Vancouver, The Joy, Valley.
A- Spotlight inverts the usual comparison: It's a movie that feels like prestige television. Specifically, it feels like The Wire. An Oscar favorite recounting how a Boston Globe investigative team uncovered an epidemic of pederast priests abetted by the archdiocese, Spotlight borrows the rhythms of a propulsive TV procedural. It resists the temptation for self-congratulation. R. AARON MESH. Eastport, Cornelius, Bridgeport, City Center, Fox Tower.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
A- If there's one thing we know about Star Wars fans, it's that they're as resistant to change as any religious zealot. And so, the best thing that can be said about The Force Awakens is that it's almost old-fashioned. There's no Dark Knight-style brooding, no ring-a-ding-ding dialogue a la The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. The action is fairly nonstop, and the story is pretty simple: Some guys in helmets are threatening peace in the galaxy, and it's up to, well, you-know-who to stop them. PG-13. MATTHEW SINGER. Bagdad, Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Mill Plain, Cornelius, Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Cinema 99, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Hilltop, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Wilsonville, Sandy, St. Johns Cinemas.
C Despite coming from Italian filmmaker and Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino and starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as two graying artists, Youth ends up feeling like too much beautiful, existential pondering without enough teeth. Caine and Keitel sit around talking about the past and how much they piss, which doesn't sound cute or important, even from Caine. PG-13. ALEX FALCONE. Cinema 21, Laurelhurst.