Once upon a time, there was a filmmaker from Taiwan who could direct anything, from a Jane Austen adaptation to a psychedelic epic about a boy and a tiger at sea. Yet the Ang Lee who won multiple Oscars and possessed a versatility that put his contemporaries to shame has vanished and been replaced the Ang Lee who directed Gemini Man—a weary, unimaginative hack who cares so little about his work, it's baffling he still bothers getting behind the camera. The stars of the movie are Will Smith and a digitally de-aged Will Smith. They're assassins with beefs, which is the kind of plot Transformers director Michael Bay might have mined for crude fun. Lee, on the other hand, has made a movie too dumb to be art and too tepid to be camp. His failings make Gemini Man heartbreaking—it's almost unthinkable it's from the mastermind behind the bamboo-forest battle in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the gloriously heartfelt "I wish I knew how to quit you" scene in Brokeback Mountain. It's time for Lee to remember the compassionate visionary he once was—and to be that visionary again. PG-13. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Scappoose, Studio One.
Lucy in the Sky
Somewhere within Noah Hawley's first feature film (he's best known for creating and writing the acclaimed TV series Fargo and Legion) is an artfully presented tale of how seeing the world—literally, the whole world—from space can alter one's internal universe to a seismic degree. Unfortunately, that story is buried beneath Lucy in the Sky's cavalcade of jumbled ideas. Loosely inspired by NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, who made headlines in 2007 for reportedly wearing a diaper while driving 900 miles across the country to confront her former lover's new flame, the main character Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) attempts to keep her unraveling life together post-space exploration. Cinematographer Polly Morgan ably captures Cola's interstellar awe, but skilled camera work and Ellen Burstyn's enjoyable turn as the astronaut's sassy grannie can't save a film that too often gets lost in the loftiness of its astral ambitions. Despite Lucy in the Sky's attempt to showcase the many difficulties women face in a male-dominated field, Hawley's direction reduces Portman's heartfelt and nuanced performance to tabloid fodder, often presenting her as a hysterical cliché. R. DONOVAN FARLEY. Clackamas, Living Room, Bridgeport, Cascade, Division, Evergreen Parkway.
Pain and Glory
It's a short search for the "pain" in Pedro Almodóvar's latest. It twinges through sciatic nerves and plumes as heroin smoke, and constantly stiffens the face of creatively blocked film director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas). The "glory" is more elusive—suggested, but withheld to great effect by Almodóvar, the Spanish master known more for expressionism than subtlety after 21 films. We infer that at one point Salvador was a prolific artist, but not since his spine ailments and disillusion with cinematic acclaim confined him to his chic Madrid apartment with thoughts only of his health and mother. Per usual, Almodóvar operates in vibrant, symbolic colors, dives into the tragic webbing of family and returns to frequent collaborator Banderas, who is equally brilliant here at reining in the seduction he typically promises on screen. Granted, Pain and Glory is well-trodden subject matter for the 70-year-old auteur, whose last project (Julieta) also chronicled a long, melancholy lifetime in an urbanizing Spain. In all earnestness, though, Pain and Glory quite rightly asks its audience to appreciate Almodóvar while he's still mining his soul for melodrama every few years. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinema 21.