Birds of Prey
**** Even when features like Wonder Woman and Black Widow promise to finally redress the long-standing gender inequality of superpowered cinema, there's no movie smashing glass ceilings with greater delight than Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. First appearing alongside a rogue's gallery of B-list villains in 2016's Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie's character and revelatory performance proved the sole grace in a chaotic fan-servicing project. Now, this blood-soaked joyride following a bad breakup with the Joker declares that the candy-colored psychopath is very much her own woman. Written by Christina Hodson, whose screenplay for Transformers spinoff Bumblebee wrung similar magic from a forgotten sidekick, Birds of Prey eschews all caped-crusader narrative conventions as joyously as its anti-heroine shatters kneecaps. After introducing a string of memorable supporting players—disaffected nightclub singer Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), boozy good cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), WASP-y vigilante the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and tweener street thief Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco)—the film sets the stage for a battle with swaggering baddie Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). With a tone and storyline far more reminiscent of Guy Ritchie's violent Cockney capers than the slew of ponderous faux-epics littering the DC universe, there's an anarchic sensibility drawn from the lurid trashiness defining the source material. At long last, Birds of Prey is the manic pixie dream girl's song of awakening, told entirely on her own terms. R. JAY HORTON. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Bagdad, Beaverton, Cedar Hills, Cinemagic, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Milwaukie, Mission, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Roseway, Scappoose, St. Johns Pub and Theater, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
**** "Painting is a blind man's profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels." Picasso's famous quote could be the motto of Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is a painter in 1770 France who has been sent to an island to work on the portrait of an unwilling subject. Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) does not want her likeness captured on canvas since it symbolizes the loss of her independence—the finished work will be sent to her arranged husband-to-be in Milan—and won't sit for the portrait. The woman's mother arranges for Marianne to act as a companion while studying her features to paint them by memory, but their early moments together signpost the romance to come. Writer-director Céline Sciamma's examination of desire is as beautiful as the developing relationship. It's easy to get lost in the turquoise hues of the ocean surrounding the island that becomes the only place where they can love each other without judgment. Using light, framing and texture the same way a Rococo painter would in 1770, Sciamma has crafted a world that demands to be seen and felt. R. ASHER LUBERTO. Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Hollywood, Living Room.