20th Century Women
"How do you be a good man? What does that mean nowadays?" These are particularly vital questions in 2016, but Dorothea (Annette Bening) ponders them in the 1970s in Mike Mills' 20th Century Women. Her personal answer: tap Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Julie (Elle Fanning) to watch over her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) as he treks through the muck of adolescence. The result of this parental experiment is mildly catastrophic. Abbie's idea of mentorship is to squire Jamie to a bar and get soused, while Julie turns out to be little more than a sexist caricature for Jamie to lust after. All of this plays out under pastel Santa Barbara skies, and the movie's disposition is a little too sunny—Mills based the film partly on his own childhood, and he seems reluctant to confront the fact that Dorothea's parental negligence ultimately becomes borderline life-threatening. Yet there are moments when the movie is wittily revolutionary, especially when Abbie teaches Jamie the basics of feminism and later galvanizes a dinner party by coaching the guests to say "menstruation" in unison. The scene has a frankness that is welcome and rare in American cinema. We've come a long way, baby. Critic's grade: B. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Vancouver.
The inspiring, real-life story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), the down-on-his-luck salesman from Illinois who wrested control of McDonald's away from the McDonald brothers and created a multibillion-dollar fast-food empire. Review to come next week. PG-13.
NW Film Center's 34th Reel Music Film Festival, three weeks of new and old movies celebrating music, continues this week. See nwfilm.org/calendar for the full lineup. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. Through Feb. 5.
In April 2010, illustrations by famed British street artist Banksy began popping up on buildings and public spaces in San Francisco. including a massive rat on the side of a hostel in the historic Haight-Ashbury district. But San Francisco's graffiti policies didn't take a particularly nuanced approach to the question of street art, even the kind that fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction. The city ordered landlords to paint over the works, destroying most of them. Enter Brian Greif. The S.F. native was determined to save one of the Banksys, and this documentary follows his efforts to negotiate the removal of the Haight rat and donate it to a museum. But much like the city of San Francisco, Saving Banksy doesn't have a lot of time for nuance: The "radical" graffiti artists—often painting without property owners' permission—are countercultural prophets, and anyone who succumbs to the lure of a small fortune is a capitalist pig. The film grapples with the complicated issue of unsanctioned Banksy auctions, but it does so in a way that tends to oversimplify the motives of everyone involved. Critic's Rating: B. NR. GRACE CULHANE. Cinema 21.
In the new M. Night Shyamalan flick, James McAvoy stars as a guy with dissociative identity disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder) who kidnaps three teenage girls, who must convince one of his "personalities" to set them free. Review to come next week. PG-13. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.
Two Trains Runnin'
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 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. Critic's Rating B+. NR. CURTIS COOK. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. 7 pm Friday, Jan. 20.
XXX: Return of Xander Cage
Hell fucking yes: Vin Diesel returns as iconic hero Xander Cage to, hopefully, fire a rocket launcher at a Russian hacker mid-kickflip. Can't wait to see which Rammstein song this film opens with. Review to come next week. PG-13. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.