FilmWatch Weekly: Just the facts, man–documentaries dominate

With Hollywood churning out glorified video games and unasked-for sequels, reality is better than fiction this week

Describing this week’s wide-opening movie releases feels a bit like eavesdropping in a Hollywood studio pitch meeting: it’s the same old story.

A special effects-laden mediocrity based on a video game franchise and two sequels that exist only because their predecessors outperformed expectations at the box office—that’s what America’s multiplexes will be serving up to content consumers, or what used to be called “audiences.” If these pallid excuses for narrative don’t float your boat, though, the week does offer an unusually diverse array of documentaries to devour. Dig in!

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ARTSWATCH REVIEWS:


“Weiner”: This incredibly unfiltered look at disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner’s 2013 bid to become mayor of New York City is one of the most entertaining, cringe-inducing documentaries of the year. (Cinema 21) READ REVIEW

 

“Maggie’s Plan”: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, and Julianne Moore form a bizarre love triangle (or maybe a love-hate triangle) in this witty but conventional screwball comedy from writer-director Rebecca Miller. (Hollywood Theatre, Regal Fox Tower, & other locations) READ REVIEW.

 

“The Idol”: A persistent young singer from the Gaza Strip battles adversity and closed borders for a chance to compete on the TV show “Arab Idol” in this inspiring, fact-based story. (Living Room Theaters) READ REVIEW.

 

Documentary roundup: “Weiner” is the week’s must-see doc, but there are plenty of other worthy non-fiction movies dropping into Portland theaters this week. (various locations) READ MORE.

 

“Late Spring”: The first of legendary Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu’s late-career masterpieces, this 1949 drama about a widowed father and his loyal daughter is a gently crushing experience. (Northwest Film Center) READ MORE.

 

ALSO OPENING:

 

“Warcraft”: A peaceful human civilization is threatened by an invading army of orcs, much as promising director Duncan Jones must contend with the demands of making a CGI-heavy, big-budget Hollywood adaptation of a video game franchise. My money’s on the orcs. (multiple locations)

 

“Now You See Me 2”: Hey Hollywood, just because a movie grosses over $100 million at the domestic box office, there’s no law that says you have to make a sequel of it. Not even the law of supply and demand works that way. Here, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and the rest of their merry band of stage magicians return for more effects-assisted hijinks, and they’ve somehow roped Daniel Radcliffe into things. (multiple locations)

 

“The Conjuring 2”: Speaking of conjuring and unnecessary sequels, this is a follow-up to a reasonably well-reviewed, reasonably well-attended PG-13 horror flick. “The Conjuring” had a decent 1970s period vibe and a mildly compelling fact-based backstory, so, sure, let’s do that again. Why not? (multiple locations)

 

“3rd Street Blackout”: At least this isn’t the sequel to some movie called “2nd Street Blackout.” It is, however, a gratingly off-key romantic comedy about a young couple dealing with the revelation of potential infidelity against the backdrop of the post-Hurricane Sandy Manhattan blackout. People are dying and homes are burning not far away, but more importantly, will Mina and Rudy get back together? (Living Room Theaters)

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

Friday, June 10:

 

“Interview with the Vampire”: This is an “audience participation” screening of the 1994 Tom Cruise-Brad Pitt-Kirsten Dunst undead love triangle, so dress in your best frilly collars and come armed with your wittiest repartee. (9 pm, Clinton Street Theater)

“Persona”: Ingmar Bergman’s groundbreaking 1966 psychodrama about an actress (Liv Ullmann) and her caretaker (Bibi Andersson) is just about the most intense 83 minutes of movie you’re likely to find. 35mm. (5:30 pm, Northwest Film Center)

“12 Monkeys”: It must subliminally be Brad Pitt night at Portland’s indie theaters, because a half-hour after “Interview with the Vampire” starts, this dystopian thriller from director Terry Gilliam (which earned Pitt his first Oscar nomination) released the very next year, begins across town. And on 35mm, no less. (9:30 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

“Kiki’s Delivery Service”: Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki’s 1989 film follows the adventures of a 13-year-old witch in training who, accompanied by her black cat, starts a broomstick-based delivery business. (11:50 am & 4:20 pm [English dubbed], 9 pm [subtitled], repeats through Thursday, June 16; Academy Theater)

“The Manchurian Candidate”: John Frankenheimer directs Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, and Janet Leigh in this Cold War paranoia piece about a brainwashed politician (Laurence Harvey). (6:30 pm, repeats through Thursday, June 16 with 1 pm matiness on Saturday & Sunday; Laurelhurst Theater)

“When We Were Kings”: The Oscar-winning 1996 documentary looking back on the 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire is being screened to commemorate the passing of The Champ. Spoiler alert: Ali wins. (7 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

 

Saturday, June 11:

 

“Suspicion”: Alfred Hitchcock’s 1941 thriller stars Joan Fontaine (who won an Oscar) in the story of a woman who marries Cary Grant and comes to regret it. On 35mm. (2 pm, repeats on Sunday; Hollywood Theatre)

 

Sunday, June 12:

 

“Relation”: Shot in Portland and Kathmandu, this independent project tells the story of an American traveler and a taekwondo teacher who team up to help make life better for the Himalayan villagers. (5 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

 

Monday, June 13:

 

“Inequality for All”: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s 2013 documentary about the increasingly drastic disparity between the extremely wealthy and the rest of Americans is, shockingly enough, still relevant. (6 pm, Clinton Street Theater)

 

Tuesday, June 14:

 

“Snake Deadly Act”: Kung Fu Theater presents the only known 35 mm print of this 1980 martial arts saga that reportedly features not only Snake style, kung fu, but Lobster style as well. (7:30 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

 

Wednesday, June 15:

 

“The Case of the Three-Sided Dream”: Documentary profile of Rashaan Roland Kirk, the astonishing prodigy who could play three horns, and up to six jazz instruments, at once. Oh yeah—he was born blind. (7 pm, Clinton Street Theater)

“The Midnight Orchestra”: In the opening night film of the 24th Portland Jewish Film Festival, the son of a famous Jewish musician travels to Casablanca to reunite his father’s orchestra. (7 pm, Northwest Film Center)

 

Thursday, June 16:

 

“In Search of Israeli Cuisine”: As the crossroads of multiple histories, ethnicities, and cultures, Israel has one of the most diverse cuisines in the world, and this documentary explores them in mouth-watering detail. (7 pm, Northwest Film Center)

“Iggy Pop: Live in Basel 2015”: When the rest of us are dead and gone, and human civilization has been reduced to nothing, Iggy Pop and Keith Richards will team up to battle Henry Kissinger for the fate of the planet. This concert film might help you decide who to root for. (7:30 pm, Clinton Street Theater & Kiggins Theatre; repeats on Saturday, June 18 at 9:15 pm)

 

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