A United Kingdom
Critic's Rating: ** There's no doubt A United Kingdom undertakes an interesting story, the politically forbidden 1947 marriage of Botswanan prince Sir Seretse Khama to English typist Ruth Williams. What's more, David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are two compelling performers for staging this battle of love over racism, and director Amma Asante (Belle, A Way of Life) has crafted convincing period scenery and efficiently storyboarded history. Yet, with all the pieces on the table, it's as if no one stopped to adapt these facts and faces into a piece of art. We careen into Ruth and Seretse's 20-minute meet cute montage, and most scenes are breathless exposition, never slowing to give the star-crossed lovers (or actors) a moment for chemistry's sake. We press on toward an ending conventional but still a little confusing: Love triumphs over a colonial conspiracy happening offscreen? South African apartheid and its ties to the British empire are mentioned constantly as the film's bogeyman. But the antagonists Oyelowo defeats with his well-practiced grandstanding skills are just haphazard bureaucrats. It's a premise much like 2016's Loving, a little-known anecdote of racial progress worthy of illuminating. The love is there; what's missing is the care. PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bridgeport.
Alex MacKenzie Presents Work From the Iris Film Collective
Experimental filmmaker Alex MacKenzie hosts a collection of new works from Vancouver, B.C.'s Iris Film Collective, a group of indie filmmakers who make experimental films. Boathouse Microcinema, 822 N River St., boathousemicrocinema.com. 7:30 pm Friday, March 3.
Before I Fall
Critic's Rating: * A mean girl learns to play nice in this slick, soulless riff on Groundhog Day that isn't half as heartfelt as it pretends to be. Based on a novel by Lauren Oliver, the film stars Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!) as Sam, a popular high school student who's killed in a car crash two days before Valentine's Day—and then condemned, by fate and director Ry Russo-Young, to relive that day repeatedly. As she experiences myriad pre-V Day permutations, Sam becomes less of a narcissistic bully, a transformation that the film uses to preach the power of everyday good deeds. Yet when Sam gives a pair of shoes to a lesbian classmate or delivers a pep talk to a girl who's about to cast herself in front of a moving car, you realize the film is less interested in inspiring compassion than it is in using marginalized women to showcase the nobility of its white, heterosexual heroine. By building its narrative atop that appalling hypocrisy, Before I Fall unwittingly unmasks the offensive implications of both its supposed good intentions and its pseudo-heroic climax, which nonetheless deserves credit for bringing this cheaply sentimental and borderline-unwatchable movie to a merciful close. PG-13. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Bridgeport, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Tigard.
Critic's Rating: **** Which is scarier: being asked for your ID by a police officer, or an isolated estate full of elderly, grinning millionaires bidding for your body? In his directorial debut, Jordan Peele of sketch-comedy Key and Peele fame posits that if you're a black man, it isn't unequivocally the latter. Brooklyn photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his new girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), head to the palatial estate of Rose's therapist and neurosurgeon parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) in upstate New York for the weekend. Despite the Armitages' outward friendliness, something is amiss. Their two black house servants are eerily polite, and Rose's brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), is hostile. Most horror movies progress on a logic of bad decisions, which Peele wisely abandons. As Chris, Kaluuya never overplays his hand, stoically taking every quietly patronizing slight without a flinch. The omnipresent problem of the cellphone's universal access to help is flipped into an expositive tool for Chris to converse with his scene-stealingly funny TSA agent-turned-amateur detective best friend, Rod (Lil Rel Howery). What emerges, with nods to the absurdist anxiety of Rosemary's Baby and the existential terror of Michael Haneke is a tightly wound, viciously funny comment on the quotidian horror of life in black America: You can make all of the right decisions, and still find yourself in mortal danger by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. R. WALKER MACMURDO. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Tigard, Vancouver.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
Critic's Rating: *** This surprise Grand Jury winner at last month's Sundance festival might explore the unlikely aspirations of a heretofore lumpen subject suddenly inflamed with purpose, but the Portland-shot dark comedy doesn't quite herald greatness for semi-lovable losers. The new Netflix release stars Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures, Togetherness) as an overly nice, under-socialized nurse's aide pushed toward vigilantism following a robbery and subsequent police inaction. An impromptu investigation enlists the help of shuriken-wielding, Bible-thumping neighbor Elijah Wood, leading to a confrontation with a band of villains that include ex-Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow. IDFAHITWA echoes the propulsive thrillers of first-time director Macon Blair's longtime friend Jeremy Saulnier—Blair starred in Saulnier's Cannes-blessed Blue Ruin and Patrick Stewart-headed Green Room—but the sharp focus on blurred characters and the drolly confident amble between distinct tones and genres harks back to an earlier generation of indie films, which fits all too well the less-than-lovely role handed to our fair city. A sloppily untrimmed, factory-damaged hipsterville peopled by feckless fantasists and maladjusted obsessives, this Portland is where the dreams of the '90s came to die. JAY HORTON. Netflix.
Critic's Rating: *** No Country for Old Mutants? Children of Mutants? The Wolvenator? Moments in, as the first blade pierces the first of many skulls, you'll notice that Hugh Jackman's last turn as Logan (aka Wolverine) is not the fun, kitschy romp the X-Men franchise tag may lead you to believe. In late 2020s San Antonio, Logan is an aging, hard-drinking limo driver who ferries prescription pills across the border to a nonagenarian Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his mutant-sensing caretaker, Caliban (Stephen Merchant). A tough situation gets even more complicated when a Mexican child, Laura (Dafne Keen), and her nurse appear offering him a bundle of money to take Laura to a safe house in North Dakota, with bionically modified mercenaries in pursuit. Logan is superhero movie as apocalyptic Southern gothic. Between artery-severing action sequences, which director James Mangold airs out with surgical glee, are long shots of terse conversations and English-Spanish screaming matches, all riveting thanks to Jackman, Stewart and Keen's effortless chemistry. But what quietly shines is Mangold's suffocating picture of a not-quite apocalyptic American heartland of militarized private security forces, building-sized industrial harvesters and surprisingly nightmarish driverless trucks. Despite tonal missteps, a major one serving as the film's transition to the third act, Logan is a thinking man's superhero flick: the best "gritty" offering we've had since The Dark Knight Returns. R. WALKER MACMURDO. Bagdad, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Cinemagic Theatre, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Tigard, Vancouver.
Portland Oregon Documentary All-Stars
The second screening at Portland DIY darling Matt McCormick's Boathouse Microcinema. A selection of works from Portland documentarians Michael Palmieri, Donal Mosher and the Emmy-nominated Andrew Hinton, with the filmmakers in attendance. Boathouse Microcinema, 822 N River St., boathousemicrocinema.com. 7:30 pm Wednesday, March 1.
Reel Feminism: Reproductive Justice Night
This iteration of the Clinton's monthly series on intersectional feminism features the 1995 doc Jane: An Abortion Service, chronicling a Chicago woman who performed more than 10,000 illegal abortions between 1969 and 1973, and the 2012 doc A Girl Like Her, a history of the "maternity homes" of the 1950s and '60s where single pregnant women were secreted to give birth and hand over their children for adoption. PG-13. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Tuesday, March 7.
Critic's Rating: ** Arriving one week after The Great Wall's top-budgeted assault on the American movie market, Rock Dog—China's most expensive animated feature—concerns itself with simpler hurdles. When a sitar-wielding young pup stumbles on his first radio and falls head over heels for the first taste of the devil's music, will Bodi (Luke Wilson) follow the family trade and protect a village of exceedingly dim sheep from wolven gangsters? Can our hero breach the gates of faded glam icon Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard as equal parts Bill Nighy and Bill the Cat) and inspire the burned-out superstar toward new creative heights? If Chinese financiers sent pop idol Zheng Jun's graphic novel Tibetan Rock Dog to U.S. animators, would the resulting movie make a lick of sense? Largely absent the weak verbal jabs and sitcom interpersonal complications usually dragging down kid flicks, studio Reel FX instead amps up the intensity of the visual gags and fine-tunes the characters with Looney Tune-ish nuance. Offering nary a moral lesson to be learned, the streamlined story zips from one joke to the next with welcome space for left-field absurdities and a casual momentum even the godawful musical numbers can't entirely neuter. The creators behind Rock Dog know nothing of rock 'n' roll—nor, seemingly, dogs. With cartoons, that may be a blessing. PG. JAY HORTON. Bridgeport, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Oak Grove, Tigard, Vancouver.
Bear with me here: A man's daughter is brutally murdered by a serial killer in a shack in the Oregon wilderness. After receiving a mysterious letter, the man returns in a deep depression to the shack, where he meets incarnations of God (Octavia Spencer), the Holy Spirit and Jesus. Based on the best-selling Christian novel by William Young. Not screened for critics. PG-13. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Tigard, Vancouver.
In a new comedy from mumblecore dons Jay and Mark Duplass, Anna Kendrick stars as a Eloise, who attends her friend's wedding after being dumped from the wedding party. Review to come next week. PG-13. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport.
Takashi Makino: Expanded Abstraction
A collection of short films from Tokyo experimental filmmaker Takashi Makino, who uses multiple-exposure techniques to craft abstract, nonlinear exploration of form. Makino will attend, and a Q&A will follow the screening. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Monday, March 6.