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Silver Screening: What's New in Portland Theaters July 15-21



 Amy Schumer is the absolute tops. She's right about way more things than she's wrong about, and she's absolutely killing it on your Facebook friends' walls with sketches from her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, but Trainwreck isn't worth the ticket price. Amy Schumer stars as Amy, a version of herself as a magazine writer instead of a comedy writer. She inexplicably falls in love with a boring guy (Bill Hader from Saturday Night Live) who loves her back unconditionally but for no apparent reason. It goes well for a while, then it doesn't for a couple days, then it does again. That's the entire plot, composed pretty much entirely of jokes, and many are straight from her standup. Not only does Amy Schumer sound like she's just quoting her standup, all the characters sound like they're quoting Amy Schumer's standup. It's as if a race of intergalactic Schumers invaded New York and decided to inhabit several human bodies: Amy Schumer stars in Invasion of the Sense-of-Humor Snatchers. Schumer's acting itself is a monotone smirk: Things are going well? Smirk. At a funeral? Smirk. Having sex? Smirk smirk smirk. Save your time, save your money, and most importantly, save your little heart from breaking over what this film could've been. R. ALEX FALCONE. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Mill Plain, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, St. Johns Cinemas.

Ai WeiWei: The Fake Case

Picking up where Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry left off, Andreas Johnsen’s documentary Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case finds its titular subject beaten but unbowed. Having been released from jail, where he spent three months on trumped-up tax-evasion charges, Ai is prohibited from leaving Beijing and barred from speaking to the press about his case. Exhausted and frightened, Ai continues his subversive campaign, publishing a screed in Newsweek and making a series of dioramas depicting his imprisonment. “I have a difficult life,” Ai says. “I just have to face it.” Ai is ostensibly unperturbed, and Johnsen’s film doesn’t satisfy our need to see a besieged hero unleashing holy hell. But that’s not the film’s failure—it’s the Chinese government’s victory. NR. CHRIS STAMM. NW Film Center. 4:30 pm Sunday, July 19.


B+  Ant-Man is a largely self-contained, breezy, hilarious and gorgeous heist film that manages a feat few recent superhero films do: It stands up well on its own. Ex-con Scott Lang (a beefed-up Paul Rudd) invades the home of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and finds a weird-looking suit that can shrink its wearer to insect size while granting super strength and the ability to telepathically control ants. He's nobody's favorite superhero, but director Peyton Reed is fully aware of this dopiness, and just runs with it. He deftly balances its awestruck visuals—from an ant's-eye view of a shower drain to a battle in a briefcase—with a sly humor. Ant-Man might be the most disposable superhero movie, but that makes it all the more enjoyable. If it was a comic book, it wouldn't be the kind you put in a Mylar bag. It'd be one that you read with greasy fingers and childlike relish.  PG-13. AP KRYZA. Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Mill Plain, CineMagic, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place, Tigard, St. Johns Theater.


C+  Land-grabbing marauders and native farmers along the Río Paraná clash in Pablo Fendrick's Ardor, a fever dream of violence and shamanistic deliverance that splits the difference between Werner Herzog's mythopoeic jungle sojourns and Sergio Leone's grandiose Westerns. Gael García Bernal stays quiet and mostly shirtless (not a bad thing) as the mysterious and quasi-mythical Kaí, who is summoned from the forest's depths to help a besieged farmer and his daughter defend against an especially brutal band of intruders. Fendrik's attempt to stage cat-and-mouse violence as a hypnagogic trip results in a few brief moments of strange magic, but Ardor too often slips into full-on sleep mode, as the nightmare logic of an intractable standoff unravels into plain old incoherence. NR. CHRIS STAMM. Clinton Street Theater.

Infinitely Polar Bear

B-  Mark Ruffalo stars as a bipolar dad forced to care for his two daughters alone when his wife (Zoe Saldana) moves to New York to pursue her career. As you'd expect, sometimes things are terribly awful and other times they're wonderful. Ruffalo is great throughout, though he does speak weirdly, which makes it seem like bipolar disorder turns you British. And it took me 20 minutes to stop worrying he would hulk out when he got angry. As is the way in these Sundance movies, there are moments of beauty, nothing much happens, and at one point somebody runs through the woods. You definitely won't enjoy it if (like me) you agreed to go because you assumed it was a Disney documentary about how polar bears mate for life. R. ALEX FALCONE. Fox Tower.

Lila & Eve

There's no saving a high-voltage revenge drama that relies on selfies for its big reveal. Even Viola Davis (The Help) couldn't fix it. Even with a gun and J-Lo as a mentor who becomes her sidekick. Even with the all-consuming rage of a mother whose son was senselessly murdered in a drive-by shooting as her fuel. It might've achieved the mediocrity of a guilty-pleasure chick flick rolling in the black Escalade of a 'hood drama, if director Charles Stone III had refined his focus on the support group that holds Lila & Eve's only ounce of human emotion. Instead, he gives us Step-Up 2, without any washboard abs, and Rent, without any heart. This amputated revenge flick is a cold case from the first shot. Why didn't the mastermind behind Nick Cannon as a Harlem drummer boy (Drumline) realize that a remake of J-Lo's mother-bear vendetta film Enough shouldn't be touched? Not with a 10-foot selfie stick. PG-13. ENID SPITZ. Cinema 21.

Mr. Holmes

C-  There's a reason we don't often follow our heroes into the sunset: retirement is pretty boring and aging is depressing. In Mr. Holmes, the great Sherlock (Ian McKellen), a celebrity thanks to Dr. Watson's embellished accounts, spends his days in a rustic estate struggling to remember his last case, allowing his health to deteriorate and tending to his beehives. Anyone looking for some enthralling beekeeping action will be enamored with director Bill Condon's endless shots of hives. This being a British prestige film, Holmes is reinvigorated with the help of a precocious little boy named Roger, who takes a liking to both Sherlock and beekeeping. Because everything here has bees. McKellen is fine in the role—he's Ian McKellen, with a top hat. Meanwhile, Condon's film skips all over the place. Without its famous name, this would be the story of a boring old man doing boring, old-man things. With Holmes in the title, it's even worse: a film that robs one of our greatest heroes of his sunset, thrusting him instead into a prolonged, dull twilight. PG. AP KRYZA. Clackamas

 A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

A+  The third in surrealist Swedish director Roy Andersson’s trilogy of “films about being human,” A Pigeon follows pale-faced, humorless ghosts as they mutter their way through a motionless, shadowless world and make awkward attempts at normalcy. Many of them die in the process—whether while uncorking a bottle of wine or fighting Russians alongside Sweden’s King Charles XII—and the survivors are caught up in the monstrous gears of bureaucracy. Believe it or not, this is all terribly funny, even if the film’s classic joke setups (two salesmen literally walk into a bar) often end in horrific mindfucks. Andersson could be compared to directors as disparate as Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Werner Herzog, but his slow visions—full of lost Victorians in suits, too tired to feign excitement—are entirely his own, and they will stick in your subconscious long after the credits roll. PG-13. CASEY JARMAN. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. July 17-20.

PlantPure Nation

PlantPure Nation echoes what health-nut Portlanders have known all along: “Eat your veggies.” After biochemist T. Colin Campbell’s mother-in-law died of colon cancer, the Cornell grad left his chicken-fried-steak family in the mountains of Virginia to spread the gospel of lentil loaf. Campbell (co-author of The China Study, on plant-based diets and the correlation between diet and disease) and his son Nelson launched the PlantPure Jumpstart program. In an attempt to convert Kentucky’s state legislature to the veggie way, they pointed to plummeting cholesterol and glycemic numbers in PlantPure participants. I thought everyone had already heard nutritional pyramid lectures from their pediatrician? The film is too ra-ra on vegetables, though. I left the theater craving greasy cheese fries after being subjected to quinoa clips for so long. Good thing 'Reel M’ Inn has chicken wings fried beyond all recognition, just up the street. NR. AMY WOLFE. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Wednesday, July 15, and Tuesday, July 21.

Songs She Wrote About People She Knew

B+  I laughed out loud more than once at Canadian playwright Kris Elgstrom’s latest compact comedy. Carol is caught in a crisis—her mommy issues piss all over her office job and her lousy friends. In the opening scene, she discovers art therapy as an outlet that encourages her to sing out her dilemmas, and her flat lullaby, “You’re an Asshole, Dave” ends up pulling the pin in her boss’s own grenade of unresolved issues. Together, they take an awkward and risky road trip to exorcize their respective demons, and the film gives us a ride that mixes the exquisite discomfort of The Office and an element of musical realism. The result is remarkably funny and rarely tiresome. None of these characters should be fun to spend 80 minutes with, but with consistently strong acting and tight direction, Elgstrom’s work begs to be remembered as a modest, cute and ultimately revealing indie sleeper film. NR. NATHAN CARSON. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. Director in attendance 7 pm Wednesday, July 15.


B+  Shot on an iPhone and featuring two first-timers in the leading roles, Sean Baker's fifth feature resembles a debut film. Taking place one sunny Christmas Eve, the film is led by two transgender prostitutes whom we first meet as they commune in the window seat of a Hollywood doughnut shop. Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is fresh out of jail after a 28-day stint and looking to find her unfaithful pimp boyfriend's lover. The quest narrative that follows is often hilarious, giving a more ground-level view of Los Angeles than in any other movie in recent years. In its unrestrained verve and verite approach, Tangerine is constantly threatening to jump off the screen and get in your face. Laughs abound, but so do moments of silent understanding in what's ultimately an exploration of friendships that form between people with no one else to care about. That may not sound like much, but when everything else unravels, it's more than enough. R. MICHAEL NORDINE. Cinema 21.

Vertigo in 70 mm

 A  There are few images in movie history more iconic than Kim Novak jumping into the bay beneath the bright red Golden Gate Bridge. Thanks to profound restoration efforts, that VistaVision image is not only preserved but can now be seen in the ultimate format on 70 mm film. In 1958, Hitchcock returned to color filmmaking and set about telling one of his most personal and enduring stories. Based on the French novel D'entre les morts, Vertigo transplants its mystery to cosmopolitan San Francisco, where Jimmy Stewart stars as a retired detective, drafted back into an investigation by the strange tale of a beautiful debutante wife possibly possessed by an ancestor. Initially advertised as Hitchock's masterpiece, the film was not a hit on release. Over time, though, it has nearly supplanted Citizen Kane in stature thanks to its director, cast, titles by Saul Bass, and an eerie score by Bernard Herrmann. PG. NATHAN CARSON. Hollywood Theatre. July 17-19.