A Dog's Purpose
This is a movie about a dog dying several times that got swamped in an animal abuse scandal. Great fucking work, guys! Review to come next week. PG. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.
Critic's Rating: B Emily (Rachael Perrell Fosket) and Nathan (Michael Draper) are dressed in black. They eat dinner in silence. They are a young married couple in the midst of the first major low point in their relationship. They clearly love each other, but there is no discernible warmth. When Emily cautiously starts a conversation, it's to make plans for their weekly Bible study group—a topic that makes her husband noticeably uncomfortable. After Nathan suffers a lapse in faith that leads to an identity crisis, Emily is forced to fight to keep her marriage alive while her partner pursues his trite dreams of scotch-addled literary greatness. Writer-director Ryan Graves creates purposefully paced romantic drama about what happens when life pulls a couple apart. Filmed entirely in Portland with a local cast and crew, Emily makes good use of the city's sensibility. Emily is a coffee connoisseur and Nathan a copywriter who dreams of writing prose, and the sound of rain patters softly in the background. Despite the budgetary restrictions found in any independent feature, Emily is a compelling film. NR. CURTIS COOK. Living Room Theaters.
Critic's Rating: B Amid the past few years' McConaissance, did we fail to notice the Keatoning? A recent run of arthouse blockbusters evidently suggested late-career Michael Keaton had presence enough to power this period biopic detailing the drama-free rise of McDonald's impresario Ray Kroc. Make no mistake, he's loving it. From his first appearance addressing the camera with a marble-mouthed sales pitch, Keaton renders the struggling milkshake machine rep's desperation incandescent. When he stumbles on the original McDonald's, Kroc's sheer bafflement and delight at the gleaming vision of fast-food hyper-efficiency would make a vegan smile. Blessed with a wonderful supporting cast and quirkily stirring Carter Burwell score, the patient, warm-hearted, altogether Coens-ish direction by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) steers early scenes toward an enjoyably left-handed celebration of American gumption. Yet Hancock can't quite stomach our protagonist's inevitable heel turn, which required either mordant wit or There Will Be Ketchup-style ferocity for any meaningful closure. So closely focusing on an unremarkable man's preordained success robs larger issues of any nuance and renders the actual victims (first wife Laura Dern; former partner and real McDonald's founder Nick Offerman) less sympathetic than dizzyingly foolish. However grand a showcase for Keaton's gifts, the lingering effect is rather like one of those fine-dining gimmick entrees. You can grind up Kobe beef, drizzle it with truffle oil, slap artisanal buns on each side, and charge three figures. At the end of the day, it's still a hamburger. PG-13. JAY HORTON. Bridgeport, City Center, Clackamas, Eastport, Fox Tower, Vancouver.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Gold fictionalizes the 1993-97 Bre-X mining scandal in which a Canadian mining company fraudulently claimed to discover a massive gold deposit in the jungles of Indonesia. Review to come next week. R. Bridgeport, Tigard, Vancouver.
Critic's Rating: A- Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar has a proclivity toward lonesome, mysterious heroines. In Julieta, the writer-director of All About My Mother and Volver is perhaps more focused than ever on such a protagonist. We meet Julieta in her 50s, reneging on plans to move to Portugal with her lover. She can't tell him why, but her past traps her in Madrid. So Almodóvar submerges the audience in her three-decade saga: from roving young teacher to contented small-town wife to nearly catatonic mother. Played in two timelines by Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte, the character of Julieta lacks a clear personality. The film uses her more as a vessel for its ideas of fate, history repeating itself and children becoming their parents. The screenplay comes from a trio of Alice Munro short stories, whose modest prose tends to involve characters gazing out train windows to contemplate their lives. Almodóvar's filmmaking, meanwhile, heightens and seduces. Through the trials of Julieta's life, he stages a classical family epic disjointed by geographic isolation and the modern world. The stylistic amalgam is remarkable: a bold, painterly camera and a Nobel Prize-winning writer's ideas come together in a melodrama about the unspoken. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Fox Tower.
Critic's Rating: B+ Unlike Jackie, Pablo Larraín's literary biopic Neruda is more concerned with capturing the artistic and political atmosphere of an era than with creating an intimate factual study of its subject. The film explores the post-WWII rise of the Chilean police state through the lens of Inspector Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal), a cop tasked with hunting down the Nobel Prize-winning poet and outspoken communist Pablo Neruda (a resplendent Luis Gnecco). Over the course of a 107-minute cat-and-mouse game, Larraín grants his audience access to two almost diametrically opposite psyches: that of the meticulous officer and agent of the fascist state, and that of the hedonistic "Champagne communist" on the run from the authorities. With breathtaking landscapes and architecture, Neruda is visually stunning, but it often struggles to maintain a consistent tone, veering from playful to somber and back again at a clip that would grate in the hands of a lesser director. But Larraín is masterful with these shifts in mood, and Neruda succeeds in capturing—in addition to the contradictory, charismatic spirit of the poet himself—the wispy, ethereal quality of his work. It is a celebration of Neruda, but it's also a celebration of all that his work celebrates; an ode to the beauty of art and architecture and the natural world in honor of the master of odes. R. GRACE CULHANE. Kiggins.
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.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
The sixth and final (yeah, right) movie in the long-running franchise based on the video game series about zombies, starring an apparently ageless Milla Jovovich. Not screened for critics. R. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Tigard, Vancouver.
Critic's Rating: B+ The combination of James McAvoy's riveting performance as Kevin, a man with multiple personalities of varying impulses, and The Witch's Anya Taylor-Joy as a sullen teenager he kidnaps, make the perfect tinder for M. Night Shyamalan's take on the abduction thriller genre to ignite. Kevin is holding Casey (Taylor-Joy) and two of her high school classmates captive, introducing them to a different personality every time he turns the key. McAvoy pulls out all the stops, beaming with a jaunty New York accent one second, jaw set in a threatening growl the next. There are elements reminiscent of De Palma's Dressed to Kill, in the way Shyamalan pairs therapy sessions with Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) with the teenagers' observations through the keyhole to slowly reveal which personalities are running things and why. Perhaps influenced by his own set of daughters, Shyamalan shows the capable girls leaping at every opportunity for survival, using their heeled shoes to find an air duct in the wall, and manipulating Hedwig, Kevin's childlike personality with a lisp. A thoughtful contemporary horror with trademark Shyamalan notes of the supernatural and unresolved grief, Split rewards those who've kept faith after the last few projects from this divisive filmmaker. PG-13. LAUREN TERRY. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.
Critic's Rating: B Corporate politics, nudity and a very well-used set of false teeth fuel the blithe absurdities of this German comedy. For several bizarre days in Bucharest, the film plunks us into the frenzied life of Ines (Sandra Hüller), a consultant assisting an oil company with a dubious outsourcing scheme. Unfortunately for Ines, an unexpected visit from her father, Winfried (Peter Simonischek), threatens to upend her career, especially when Winfried reinvents himself as "Toni Erdmann," a leering trickster who wears a billowy wig to go with his gargantuan chompers. As Toni ingratiates himself among Ines' smarmy colleagues, you catch a whiff of lost opportunities—many of the movie's comedic moments, like when Toni scandalizes Ines' boss (Thomas Loibl) with a whoopee cushion, offer mild awkwardness instead of true hilarity, and it doesn't help that a 162-minute running time allows the story to sag and drag. Yet the film, which was written and directed by Maren Ade (Everyone Else), is often brilliantly weird and moving, especially during a climactic naked party scene that fulfills Ade's cinematic quest—to strip her characters of their inhibitions and let them revel in their beautiful ridiculousness. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cinema 21.
XXX: Return of Xander Cage
Critic's Rating: B Do we need another Fast and Furious franchise? The new Vin Diesel flick answers that question by flipping double birds while hitting a stoppie into a villain. Big Dies is back as Xander Cage, the legendary agent from the secret XXX program that recruits extreme sports enthusiasts and other Mountain Dew-styled badasses (Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Rory McCann, Nona Dobrev) to recover a stolen government superweapon from other badasses (Tony Jaa[!], Deepika Padukone, Michael Bisping, Donnie Yen). XXX 3 knows that it isn't 2002 any longer, and the then-nu-metal-fueled "extreme"aesthetic hasn't aged well. Thankfully, it avoids tonal pitfalls with a good dose of 2016 post-irony, ramping up the extremity to a scale so ludicrous and grating—neon-splattered title cards introduce many of the film's minor characters—that it's clearly tongue-in-cheek. No scene goes unchewed, no face goes unpunched. Fundamentally, XXX 3 is a film that sets up what's going to be the annoying little brother to the F&F franchise that Diesel now leads in a post-Paul Walker world: ensemble cast laden with international megastars, "we're all family" themes (minus the Furious schmaltz), stunt after stunt after stunt. We live in an obnoxious world now. Better make the most of it. R. WALKER MACMURDO. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.