We've implemented a new four-star rating system. Here's another run-through in case you missed it:
* : This movie sucks, don't watch it.
** : This movie is entertaining but flawed.
*** : This movie is good. We recommend you watch it.
**** : This movie is excellent, one of the best of the year.
Critic's Rating: * Yuri (Max Irons) is a talented young painter. He lives in a small Ukrainian village alongside Natalka (Samantha Barks), the love of his life. When Russian soldiers begin terrorizing Ukraine, the couple is separated by circumstance and forced to fight for survival. This period piece takes place during the Holodomor, the Soviet-made famine that claimed 7 to 10 million Ukrainian lives between 1932 and '33. The casual brutality of Stalin's vile tactics is reflected in the abundance of scenes featuring senseless killings and children sobbing over their parents' dead bodies. We're shown families starved to death in the streets and train cars filled with rotting corpses. Unfortunately, these solemn depictions of genocidal famine are poorly accompanied by Yuri and Natalka's sappy love story. Despite earnest performances, their romance is banal to the point of inauthenticity. So much time is spent establishing their melodramatic relationship that the film's other roles go undeveloped. Every character is an archetype, and even in the midst of nationwide starvation, it's difficult to care about a prosaic cast. Director George Mendeluk exposes audiences to an oft-forgotten historical tragedy, but the film's stark portrayal of Ukrainian suffering is stymied by a trite tale of young love. R. CURTIS COOK. Fox Tower, Cascade.
Featuring interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, Jamie Foxx, Amy Schumer and a zillion other comedians, this new documentary explores standup comedy through the relationship between the comic and the audience. NR. Clinton Street Theater.
The Great Wall
Critic's Rating: ** Within this fantasy-fusion epic's first few moments, we learn the Great Wall of China was originally erected to protect the Chinese from marauding forces embodying the depths of human greed. Shortly afterward, we realize The Great Wall was made for precisely opposite reasons. In clear hopes of bridging the planet's two largest cinematic markets, this mammoth production pairs veteran director Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) with the aspirational affability of Matt Damon, an 11th-century mercenary lost on the road to gunpowder. The result is utterly predictable tonal confusion. It is hard to argue the most expensive production ever filmed entirely within the Middle Kingdom shouldn't try to wring gold from its most famous monument, but The Great Wall seems irritatingly aware of its Westerosi counterpart. If casting Pedro "The Red Viper" Pascal as a wisecracking sellsword weren't overt enough, every scene of candy-colored soldiers prepping wall defenses suggests Game of Thrones' title sequence, as performed by Cirque du Soleil. However awkward and derivative, the efforts never feel cynical, and a childlike enthusiasm for antiquated novelties—magnetized ores, hot-air balloons, Willem Defoe—taps into the impassioned huckster grandiosity once fueling homegrown epics. The once and future Bourne proves a poor fit for the surrounding ethereal mechanics, but giving themselves so fully to the absurd mismatch, both manage to save face. PG-13. JAY HORTON. Beaverton Wunderland, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.
Long Live the King
Have you been admiring that sweet new Kong: Skull Island poster that pays homage to vintage kaiju flicks? Bide your time for that massive slab of blockbuster with this new documentary chronicling King Kong and his cinematic legacy. Playing as part of a double feature with the late John Fasano's Mystery Science Theater 3000-mocked Zombie Nightmare. NR. Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
The Red Turtle
Critic's Rating: **** The first non-Japanese animation from Studio Ghibli is a simple fable on paper, but this heart-rending depiction of a man stranded on a desert island is a tour de force in visual storytelling. The man initially sets out building a boat for himself, only to have it destroyed multiple times by a giant red sea turtle. Dutch writer-director Michael Dudok de Wit takes a more subtle approach than the usual anthropomorphized Ghibli fauna, eliminating any spoken dialogue or anthropomorphic expressions on the animals. The red turtle observes him without clear malice or interest, her face as impassive while his boat falls apart as it is when he strikes a blow to her head with a thick bamboo stalk. Without words or context, there is an underlying tension to the mystery of what happens next. The painterly style of the background landscapes is immersive, making the forest appear a solid wall of green sparsely populated with leaves. It is an escape to lose yourself in this progression of life without civilization, and gives gut-wrenching impact to the moments of connection between the man and the animals he encounters. PG. LAUREN TERRY. Cinema 21.
Trends in Experimental Latin American Animation
Sponsored by Pacific Northwest College of Art's Animated Arts, this selection of animated shorts from South and Central America produced between 2007 and 2014 explores new techniques, including stop-motion, drawing, film scratching and animation with painting and metal. Curator Lina X. Aguirre will attend. Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Friday, Feb. 24.
Two Lovers and a Bear
Starring Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) and Dane DeHaan, this Canadian indie follows a couple living in a small town near the Arctic Circle who flee to the wilderness after experiencing supernatural phenomena. R. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Wednesday-Thursday, Feb. 22-23.