The 31 Best Movies & TV Shows to Watch in Portland: Aug 2-15

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GLOW Ali Goldstein / Netflix

The Art of Self-Defense
The cultural discourse has, of late, become filled with stories of aimless, lonely young men who, feeling they’re being ignored and left behind, find direction and a kind of community through toxic and bizarre means. For Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), the weedy accountant shuffling through his beige existence in writer/director Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense, that feeling leads him to a karate class, where he’s intoxicated by the eloquent yet stern Sensei (Alessandro Nivola). But soon, Sensei’s sinister intentions become clear, and the emotional and psychological impact he has on the people in his orbit—especially Anna (Imogen Poots), the steely young woman who teaches the kids’ class—becomes harder for Casey to swallow. (Now playing, various theaters) ROBERT HAM

Beetlejuice
Michael Keaton’s performance as a guttural, gutter-born Robin Williams in dingy stripes, coughing and spitting one liners in every direction like a haywire lawn sprinkler, is what finally made him after all his pinballing around the ’80s in mostly mediocre comedies. But Beetlejuice is much more than a vehicle for Keaton’s madness, thanks in large part to (A) composer Danny Elfman achieving the apotheosis of his “gnome-hop” scoring style, and (B) director Tim Burton’s untouchable blend of camp, goth, horror, and corn. Of all the decade’s examples of bottled lightning getting captured at just the right moment in time, Beetlejuice is like a 2-liter of exuberance with a jet-black Mento dropped in. BOBBY ROBERTS (Sat Aug 3, Milo McIver State Park; Fri Aug 9-Thurs Aug 15, Academy Theater)

BH90210
The original stars—except for Luke Perry, RIP—of ’90s teen soap Beverly Hills, 90210 play versions of themselves (and not the characters they made famous) in this bizarre-sounding reboot. Related: You are one billion years old. (Premieres Wed Aug 7, Fox) NED LANNAMANN

A Black Lady Sketch Show
It’s right there in the title: This is the first-ever sketch-comedy TV show written entirely by Black women. That we’re still hitting historical precedents like this in 2019 is pretty embarrassing, but this looks damn funny, so better late than never. (Premieres Fri Aug 2, HBO) NED LANNAMANN

Black Sunday
As part of ther new Head Cleaner series, Northwest Film is skipping past a gentle scrubbing inside your skull, and going straight to the Comet and Brillo pad treatment with this rare screening of Italian horror legend Mario Bava’s 1960 breakout, Black Sunday, which is also known as The Mask of Satan, which is primarily known for making that year’s Psycho look like an episode of Howdy Doody. (Sun Aug 4, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium)

Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero
At the beginning of Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero, director Eric Mahoney reveals that Brainiac frontman Tim Taylor was killed in a car accident in 1997, right on the cusp of the agit-pop-punk group signing to a major label and hitting the big time. It’s the kind of detail most filmmakers would save for the third act, but putting that information front and center casts the story of this Dayton, Ohio, outfit in the proper light. The quartet’s promise was squashed instantly with Taylor’s death, and perhaps not surprisingly, only one of the surviving members went on to make any music after that tragedy. When you’ve reached the creative heights Brainiac did, besmirching that legacy must have felt all too possible. (Sat Aug 3, Hollywood Theatre) ROBERT HAM

Dora and the Lost City of Gold
“Oh God,” you might be saying, “another live-action adaptation of a kid’s cartoon. Enough already.” But the creative team behind 2011’s surprisingly sweet, hilarious, and affecting The Muppets are behind the camera, and that suggests there might be something special here. (Opens Fri Aug 9, various theaters)

The Farewell
The Farewell’s story—about a Chinese American family keeping a terminal cancer diagnosis from their grandmother—might be familiar to you from its 2016 incarnation as a particularly good segment on This American Life. Now writer/director Lulu Wang’s The Farewell expands into a stunning portrait of a complicated, caring family that spans two cultures and continents. It might sound like kind of a downer, but I promise, at least half of the time I was laughing as Wang’s proxy Billi (Awkwafina) and her richly characterized family gathered around their Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) for a sudden, farcical wedding. (Now playing, various theaters) SUZETTE SMITH

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Read our recap of the Democratic Debate, where Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw completely wrecked every Democratic candidate for president, as well as most of Samoa and the Ukraine. (Opens Thurs Aug 1, various theaters)

GLOW
After Marc Maron popped up on most peoples’ radars thanks to his WTF podcast, his work has gotten better and better. That goes for his sharp, clever, and insightful stand-up—which he’s bringing to Revolution Hall for two sold-out nights—and his acting, particularly with his great performance on Netflix’s excellent GLOW. You can scramble around online trying to find scalped tickets for his Rev Hall shows, but if that fails, you can also just stay home—because on the same weekend Maron’s in Portland, season three of GLOW premieres on Netflix. (Season three streams Fri Aug 9, Netflix) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Howl’s Moving Castle
Ask a fan what their favorite Miyazaki film is and they’ll probably make pained noises for about 10 straight minutes before gingerly settling on at least three of his cinematic delicacies with “I can’t pick just one!” Ask Miyazaki which film is his favorite and he’ll say Howl’s Moving Castle with no hesitation. The story of a cursed girl who comes to live in the enchanted, claw-footed castle of a secretive magician, Howl features some of the most impressive animation and design in Miyazaki’s filmography, using all the charm and beauty imbued in his imagery to fuel the film’s strong anti-war narrative. (Fri Aug 2-Thurs Aug 8, Academy Theater) BOBBY ROBERTS

The Kitchen
Comic book movies aren’t just stories of friendly fascists in fetish gear swooping around and punching poor people. Sometimes they’re animated biopics, like Persepolis, and sometimes they’re quiet Cronenberg crime epics, like A History of Violence, and sometimes they’re Andrea Berloff-directed period pieces based on Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle’s comic set in 1970s Hell’s Kitchen, about three women taking over their imprisoned husbands’ crime organization, starring Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, and Tiffany Haddish. That’s the kind of comic book movie we could use more of. Not screened for critics. (Opens Fri Aug 9, various theaters)

Las Chuntá
Genevieve Roudane presents this screening of her 2018 documentary about two gender-bent gangs facing off at their small town’s annual Fiesta Grande. Roudane hosts a post-film Q&A with Joaquín Lopez, Kaina Martínez, and Cambria Herrera. (Thurs Aug 15, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium)

The Lion King
Following the humiliating bombs of Avengers: Endgame and Toy Story 4, the Walt Disney Company desperately attempts to scrape together a few dollars before the sure-to-fail Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (Now playing, various theaters)

Midsommar
Much of Ari Aster’s Midsommar plays out like a sun-drenched companion to Hereditary: Both films are stories of mourning colored by the director’s fascination with occult practices and gross-out shocks. But by stretching the pace of his storytelling and allowing small veins of comedy to cut through the tension, Aster manages to get an even firmer hold on the audience. (Now playing, various theaters) ROBERT HAM

Mike Wallace Is Here
Avi Belkin’s documentary of 60 Minutes’ biggest star is essentially a mixtape of Wallace’s best interviews, using the conversations to trace the arc of broadcast journalism through the 20th Century. (Opens Fri Aug 9, Cinema 21)


The Mountain kino lorber


The Mountain
Rick Alverson’s films are slow to the point of stasis. That’s all the better to keep viewers locked in on characters—a swarthy trust fund man-child in The Comedy, a broken stand-up comic in Entertainment—that don’t evolve or grow but steadily unravel. It’s a theme that continues in his latest, The Mountain, but here, the methodical pace befits the period in which it is set (the ’50s), and the eventual breakdown of the main character, a haunted young man named Andy (Tye Sheridan). Andy, following the unexpected death of his father, becomes the assistant of a traveling psychologist (Jeff Goldblum) who performs electro-shock therapy and barbaric lobotomies. As with all of Alverson’s work, this devastating film unfolds with quiet precision, and Goldblum is a subtle, sleazy marvel throughout. (Opens Fri Aug 2, Regal Fox Tower 10) ROBERT HAM

Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End
A documentary about Dwayne Booth, AKA Mr. Fish, “one of the last truly dangerous satirists working in the editorial cartooning world.” Booth and director Pablo Bryant in attendance. (Sun Aug 4, Cinema 21)

The Nightingale
Review forthcoming at portlandmercury.com/film. (Opens Fri Aug 16, Living Room Theaters)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
This might be Quentin Tarantino’s best movie since Jackie Brown. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it’s even better than Jackie Brown? I know. Crazy! In part, at least, that’s because for long stretches, Once Upon a Time doesn’t have the self-conscious, This Is a Quentin Tarantino Film™ feel of the filmmaker’s past few movies. While The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, and Inglourious Basterds couldn’t help but poke you every few minutes to remind you that you were watching a great movie, Once Upon a Time is content to just be a great movie—and the result is something that’s funnier, more affecting, and more genuine than anything the filmmaker’s made in decades. (Now playing, various theaters) ERIK HENRIKSEN

The Peanut Butter Falcon
With a cast like Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, and Shia LaBeouf, you might think The Peanut Butter Falcon is some gritty indie drama. But instead, it’s a family-focused adventure film about a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from his nursing home to learn at the feet of the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church) and become a famous professional wrestler. (Opens Fri Aug 9, various theaters)

Preacher
The fourth season of the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg-created series—based on Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s comic—will be Preacher’s last, which hopefully means we’ll finally get to see the phenomenal Ruth Negga star in something other than this. (Season four premieres Sun Aug 4, AMC) NED LANNAMANN

Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark
A PG-13 adaptation of the children’s book series written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated with the absolutely horrifying art of Stephen Gammell. Can this movie be even half as creepy as Gammell’s art? Unlikely. (Opens Fri Aug 8, various theaters)

Showgirls
There is maybe nothing so disturbing in ’90s cinema—not Gregg Araki’s Apocalypse Trilogy, not the “Stuck in the Middle” scene in Reservoir Dogs, not the fact an entire generation of children grew up believing Space Jam was anything more than a shameless, shit-poor shoe commercial that debased everything Chuck Jones ever did—as this movie’s “love scene” between Kyle MacLachlan and Elizabeth Berkley. Firstly, it occurs in a pool, and sex in a pool is uncomfortable and gross and a good way to catch an infection, which makes it a great metaphor for the movie entire. Secondly, it looks like someone threw a toaster into the pool the second Berkley sits on MacLachlan’s lap. But hey, far be it for me to kink-shame. If you get off on electrocution-as-orgasm imagery, go on with your freaky self. This bedazzled log of campy trash is full of that kinda shit, and has become one of the more celebrated films of its era, which is just more proof the ’90s were nowhere near as cool as anybody remembers. (Sun Aug 11, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium) BOBBY ROBERTS

South Side
South Side, an absolutely hilarious new show that’s not just set in Chicago but honest-to-god filmed there, is a warm, loving window into a city that’s been demonized by our idiot president, and it provides the kind of insider perspective you can only get from actual Chicagoans. Luckily for us, these Chicagoans are funny as hell. (Wednesdays, Comedy Central) NED LANNAMANN

Succession
Succession’s second season—judging by the five episodes made available to critics—shows no sign of slacking off season one’s strengths. Perhaps part of the reason its become such a joy to watch is because another prominent American family—one we can’t avoid paying attention to—is so much more loathsome. But while the Roys are by-and-large despicable, they’re not dummies, and they’re not anti-heroes. They’re gladiators on the floor of the arena—and watching the one percent of the one percent hack themselves to bits is a refreshing reversal of what it’s actually like to live in America right now. (Season two premieres Sun Aug 11, HBO) NED LANNAMANN

The Sword of Trust
Filmmakers and producers took long enough to figure out that the only thing to do with Marc Maron is to let him be Marc Maron. GLOW lets him do that, much to that show’s benefit, and so does Lynn Shelton’s inviting new comedy Sword of Trust. Maron, in another slight variation on his actual crotchety personality, plays Mel, a pawn shop owner who gets embroiled in an underground network of conspiracy theorists when he tries to help a lesbian couple (Michaela Watkins and Jillian Bell) sell off a Union Army sword that somehow proves the South actually won the Civil War. As with most of Shelton’s work, the plot becomes incidental, letting these characters riff, argue, and reveal intimate parts of their lives. (Now playing, various theaters) ROBERT HAM

The Terror: Infamy
Although Infamy has zero connection, plot-wise, to the positively brilliant first season of anthology series The Terror, its milieu of Japanese internment camps during World War II sounds like an edifying (and terrifying) lens to tell a fascinating historical drama via horror-genre tropes—as that great first season did. (Premieres Mon Aug 12, AMC) NED LANNAMANN

Them That Follow
Review forthcoming at portlandmercury.com/film. (Opens Fri Aug 9, Century Clackamas Town Center, Regal Fox Tower 10)

Veronica Mars
You’ll need a scorecard to keep up with the landslide of clues, suspects, and red herrings—or you can just lie back and let this cerebellum-wrecking mystery wash over you. But there’s a dark undercurrent that flows beneath all the snappy dialogue and occasional comedy. Veronica and just about everyone in her hometown of Neptune are fucked-up in their own particular way, and everyone—including our heroes—are corruptible. How Veronica, her dad, and others wrestle with this corruption is what makes every season (and perhaps especially this one) of Veronica Mars so watchable. (Now streaming, Hulu) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

The Wizard of Oz
1939’s The Wizard of Oz is less a film than it is an American touchstone, a rite of passage for children of every generation. But when you set all that aside and actually watch it as a film—holy shit is it one fuckin’ weird movie. There’s a reason dipshit burnouts have been trying to make Pink Floyd its unofficial soundtrack for decades. (Fri Aug 9-Thurs Aug 15, Academy Theater) BOBBY ROBERTS