Local & Repertory Excinema Short films in this avant-garde omnibus come from

Local & Repertory

Excinema Short films in this avant-garde omnibus come from locals including Adam Sekuler, Eric Ostrowski, and Reed O’Beirne. (NR)

Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, grandillusioncinema.org. $5-$9. 7 p.m. Tues.

Mommy Xavier Dolan’s 139-minute domestic drama is a tornado of emotional (and sometimes physical) fury, with occasional joys sprinkled throughout. But man, is it a chore to watch. Teenage Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) suffers from extreme ADHD and acts out in violent ways. He’s home with his single mother, Diane (Anne Dorval), who can’t handle him—no one could. In Dorval’s superb performance, we get a full portrait of this woman: a middle-aged former wild child who is nobody’s idea of Mother of the Year, yet who watches over her son with ferocious, wolf-like attention. Yet Dolan’s scenes tumble across the screen in a helter-skelter way, as though Steve’s mercurial moods were dictating the progress of the movie we’re watching. Dolan has also shot Mommy in a square aspect ratio, which is really going to cause problems for home viewers who must have their widescreen TVs filled from side to side. The overbearing technique (which opens up at a couple of key moments) increases the sense of claustrophobia, I guess, even though your eye gets used to it after a few minutes. (R) ROBERT HORTON SIFF Film Center (Seattle Center), 324-9996, siff.net. $7-$12. 7 p.m. Mon.

NFFTY This year’s edition of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth features nearly 250 short films, screened in blocks, and made by directors aged 11 to 24. (NR)

Cinerama (2100 Fourth Ave.) and SIFF Cinema Uptown (511 Queen Anne Ave. N.). See nffty.org for tickets and schedule. Thurs.-Sun.


Noir de France The trench coat, the gun, the hat—take the standard props of American gangster flicks, give them a Gallic, movie-conscious spin, and you’ve got Le Doulos, a rarely-seen 1961 gem by Jean-Pierre Melville. It’s both homage and send-up of the double-cross plot, with particular reference to The Asphalt Jungle. Supremely charismatic Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a hood (also a police informant), who runs afoul of another. Is there no honor among thieves? That’s the moral/existential quandary Melville addresses, with unexpected results. Cops and robbers occupy the same black-and-white underworld, with a jazzy score and sexy broads. Man gets “nothing for nothing,” opines Belmondo, a cynical knight errant in an impeccable homburg. (NR) BRIAN MILLER Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, seattleartmuseum.org. $63–$68 series, $8 individual. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through May 21.

Planetary Guy Reid’s new eco-doc features NASA footage and environmentalist Bill McKibben. (NR)

Grand Illusion, $5-$9. 7 p.m. Sun.

Roar Apparently updated by star/director Noel Marshall since its 1981 release, this is the infamous folly starring his then-wife Tippi Hedren and stepdaughter Melanie Griffith alongside a bunch of lions and tigers. Hedren was mauled on the set. No surprise that she divorced Marshall soon thereafter. See website for showtimes. (PG)

Grand Illusion, $5-$9. Fri.-Sun.

Rope Made in 1948, this stagebound thriller is not one of Alfred Hitchcock’s better works. James Stewart stars as the cagey detective on the trail of two Leopold and Loeb-style thrill killers (also closeted homos), played by Farley Granger and John Dall. (See the 1992 Swoon for a more interesting take on the same material.) The real point of study here, for film buffs at least, is how Hitchcock famously filmed the drama in long, single-reel takes. See if you can spot the hidden edits every 11 minutes or so, when the camera passes close by a piece of furniture or a character’s back. Thanks to digital, films like Birdman and Russian Ark have pushed far beyond those single-magazine limits. (R)

Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $7-$9. 7 p.m. Fri. & Sun.-Tues.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival Eleven outdoor-themed docs are screened, ranging from snowboarding to big-wall climbing. (NR)

SIFF Cinema Uptown, washingtonwatertrust.org. $20 (includes reception). 5:30 p.m. Thurs.

Yako­na The San Marcos River in Texas, along with the indigenous peoples who once lived there, are the subjects of this meditative new documentary by Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda, who’ll attend the screenings. Reception and live performance of the score are part of your ticket price. (NR)

Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, nwfilmforum.org. $12-$15. 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat

Event Yadda. (NR)


Event Yadda. (NR)



Event Yadda. (NR)




Birdman A movie star in a career skid since he stopped playing a masked superhero named Birdman back in the ’90s, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is preparing his big comeback in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver stories, funded and directed by himself. Obstacles abound: Riggan’s co-star (Andrea Riseborough) announces she’s pregnant with his child; his grown daughter (Emma Stone) is his assistant, and not his biggest fan; a critic plans to destroy the play. And, in the movie’s funniest headache, Riggan must endure a popular but insufferable stage actor (Edward Norton, doing a wonderful self-parody) who’s involved with the play’s other actress (Naomi Watts). This is all going on while Riggan maintains a tenuous hold on his own sanity—he hears Birdman’s voice in his head, for one thing. To create Riggan’s world, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Gravity cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki present the film as a continuous unbroken shot (disguised with artful digital seams). Birdman serves so many heady moments it qualifies as a bona fide happening. It has a few stumbles, but the result is truly fun to watch. (R) ROBERT HORTON Crest

5 to 7 Brian (Anton Yelchin) is an unpublished 24-year-old writer who papers the walls of his nice Manhattan apartment with rejection letters, completely unaware of his privilege. (Brooklyn we could maybe believe.) He soon meets Arielle (Berenice Marlohe), a beautiful 33-year-old Parisian who tells Brian that she’s got a husband and two children, but maintains an open marriage between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. every weekday. And of course she’s the one who initiates the affair, after Brian hesitates for just one honorable nanosecond. Arielle is one of those effortlessly beautiful Frenchwomen, and Brian will be inspired by her muse. Sample voiceover: “She made me a writer. She made me a man.” Excuse me while I go vomit. Directed by Victor Levin, a producer on Mad Men and a veteran TV writer, 5 to 7 is trying to be Gilmore Girls trying to be a Woody Allen movie. I had high hopes for Yelchin after his stellar performance in the indie romance Like Crazy. Unfortunately, he and Marlohe—while both very attractive—have no chemistry. But, as Brian says, “Progress is not linear.” (NR) DIANA M. LE Sundance

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem A woman (Ronit Elkabetz) files suit for divorce against her estranged husband, which takes years to untangle. Why would it take years? Because the courtroom in Gett is not a civil one, but a religious one. The scenario feels like it was dreamed up by Franz Kafka on a grouchy day, but it’s one that is unfortunately still possible in Israel. Each grueling stage is enacted in the same cramped, dreary room, with much of the action played out across Elkabetz’s extraordinarily grave face (she was a memorable presence in the excellent 2001 Israeli film Late Marriage). She has to give a great performance with her face and body, because Viviane only occasionally has a voice—this matter is for the men to talk about and decide. The movie’s not entirely grim—there are colorful supporting characters and moments of comedy—but the experience is absolutely nerve-wracking. The star’s brother, Shlomi and Elkabetz, directs this unbearably claustrophobic drama. (NR) R.H. SIFF Cinema Uptown & Film Center

Merchants of Doubt Based on the 2010 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, this doc lays out a convincing, follow-the-money trail from the tobacco industry’s postwar efforts to prevent (or forestall) government regulation to a profitable lobbying specialty today. Fake scientific experts and “teach the controversy” subterfuge have now infiltrated all public-policy debates where billions are at stake. Harvard historian Oreskes, prominent in the film, helps advance the thesis that PR consultants perfected a strategy of obfuscation and delay (“There is no consensus”) during our government’s decades-long war against Big Tobacco. After those battles, a professional class of liars found eager new clients in the oil, chemical, and food industries. Merchants of Doubt is about D.C.’s permanent lobbying establishment and those false-front organizations always espousing individual liberty and responsibility. Constrained by fact, it’s not so entertaining as Thank You for Smoking, and most of its points are well familiar. And the consultants are winning. They’ve successfully tapped into a tribal belief system that trumps empirical evidence. “It’s all about distraction,” says Oreskes. (PG-13) B.R.M. Ark Lodge

The Salt of the Earth This is an unwieldy documentary portrait of the great Brazilian humanist photographer Sebastiao Salgado, made by two authors: Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, etc.), a professed fan who provides voiceover praise; and Juliano Salgado, the artist’s elder son, who’s part of the family enterprise. Stacked with stunning images (almost like a pedestal), this overlong doc can feel like a promo reel for Salgado’s ongoing Genesis photo series. No outside voices or critics dare interrupt the master or his tribute. Acclaim came in the ’70s and ’80s, as Salgado began haunting war zones, sites of famine and displacement, and scenes of brutal, back-breaking labor in the Third World. I have to say now that such stoic scenes of human misery and endurance have become commonplace, but that’s the legacy of Salgado’s success. Salgado himself speaks in contented aphorisms—sometimes sounding like Bono, so secure in his compassion for the world’s poor and downtrodden, all of whom remain voiceless within his expensive, expressive frames. (PG-13) B.R.M. Seven Gables, others

Song of the Sea Dazzling in its visual presentation, though not so thrilling in its conventional storytelling, the Irish-animated Song features a plot is drawn from Celtic folklore, specifically the tradition of the selkie, those mythological shapeshifters who can live on land or sea, as humans or seals. Our hero is Ben (voiced by David Rawle), a young lad whose mother vanishes under dramatic circumstances the night his mute younger sister Saoirse is born. They live on a wee shard of an island with their mournful father (Brendan Gleeson), a red-bearded lighthouse-keeper, but a series of marvelous events lead Ben into a secret world of magical creatures and spell-spinning songs. Director Tomm Moore lets the movie’s forward momentum run aground at various moments, but he and the Cartoon Saloon crew seem more interested in creating the gorgeous vistas that occupy virtually every frame. The character designs follow circular, looping patterns, and the visual influences seem inspired by anime and the line drawings of 1950s-era UPA cartoons (Mr. Magoo is not forgotten, people). (PG) R.H. Crest

Still Alice Adapted from the 2007 bestseller by Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist turned novelist, Still Alice is like experiencing only the second half of Flowers for Algernon: high-functioning start as Columbia professor, wife, and mother of three grown children; then after Alzheimer’s diagnosis at age 50, the brutal, inexorable mental degradation and loss of self. An academic, Alice (Oscar winner Julianne Moore) plays word games and self-tests her memory. She types constant reminders into her iPhone, which soon becomes her adjunct memory and, eventually, her intellectual superior—even the auto-correct feature seems poignant. And finally she records a video on her laptop addressed to her future self, conveying detailed instructions, that will later allow Moore to play both sides of a scene with herself: crisp professionalism versus foggy incomprehension. Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceanera) mostly avoid the sap, despite the score’s twinkly piano pathos. The filmmakers do add gauzy, sunny beach flashbacks to soften the sting, but mainly we’re left with the relentlessly linear narrative of decline, which isn’t very interesting to watch. (In Hollywood, Alzheimer’s isn’t so fruitful a disease as, say, bipolarity or alcoholism.) There’s a bit of tension as her family—led by husband Alec Baldwin, playing a fellow Ph.D.—tries to cope with Alice’s predicament, yet the Howlands’ rifts aren’t terribly dramatic either. (PG-13) B.R.M. Crest

True Story In this somber, fact-based account, journalist Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill) is soon booted from his plum gig at The New York Times Magazine for using composite characters. Back in snowy Montana with his girlfriend (Felicity Jones, from The Theory of Everything), his career is seemingly over. Then news comes that a Newport, Oregon, man named Christian Longo (James Franco) has been arrested for killing his wife and three kids. Chris was arrested in Mexico while impersonating Mike—he’s a fan who later grants Mike exclusive jailhouse interviews. Mike hopes his book (published in 2005) will prove his redemption, but should we really be surprised that Chris is using him? The stars and British director Rupert Goold are sure that Mike’s ingratiating himself with Chris, who has an agenda of his own, must mean something. Their character flaws and parallels will pay off, right? Hill has a knack for portraying earnest, sweaty, awkward characters lacking self-awareness; he’s good in his role, though Franco gives the superior, quieter performance—free of his recent tics and mannerisms. Still, this rather pat and schematic movie movie never gets beyond the obvious. While Mike keeps insisting on his “second chance,” you wish the film weren’t so aligned with that goal. (R) B.R.M. Bainbridge, Guild 45th, Pacific Place, Lincoln Square, Kirkland Parkplace, others


What We Do in the Shadows The premise is ’90s-stale: basically MTV’s The Real World cast with vampires, presented as direct-address documentary. This droll comedy comes from the brain trust behind 2007’s Eagle Vs. Shark: Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi, who play neck-biters Vladislav and Viago, respectively. Our three main vamps are a hapless lot. They can’t get invited into any of the good clubs or discos—ending up forlorn in an all-night Chinese diner instead. After all the aestheticized languor of Only Lovers Left Alive (and the earnest teen soap opera of Twilight), the silly deadpan tone is quite welcome. Clement and Waititi know this is a sketch writ large (forget about plot), so they never pause long between sneaky gags. The amsuing and essential conflict here is between age-old vampire traditions and today’s hook-up customs. These neck-biters have been at it so long that they’re only imitating old vampire stereotypes. Things have gotten to the point, Vladislav admits, where they’re even cribbing from The Lost Boys. (NR) B.R.M. Sundance, SIFF Cinema Uptown & Film Center, Majestic Bay


While We’re Young In outline, this is a routine Gen-X midlife-crisis movie: documentary filmmaker Josh (Ben Stiller) and producer wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are stalled in careers and marriage. He can’t complete his weighty, unwatchable opus (something to do with geopolitics and a disheveled Chomskyian scholar; together they’ve IVF’d once for kids, failed, and are settling into a staid, childless rut. They need a shakeup, and it arrives in the form of a spontaneous, fun-loving Brooklyn couple half their age: would-be documentarian Jamie (Adam Driver) and wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Noah Baumbach’s lively, career-best comedy sends cynical Josh into unexpected bromance, and much of the movie’s charm lies in our being swept along, too. Is Josh deluded and ridiculous? Of course he is, and yet that’s not the movie’s real source of laughter and inspiration. In denial about his fading eyesight and arthritis, Josh will discover that being foolish and confounded is good for the system, a tonic. If Jamie is a hustler, he’s also like a personal trainer—pushing his client (who forever picks up the lunch tab) into discomfort. Baumbach’s female characters aren’t so sharply drawn, though he provides nice supporting roles for Adam Horowitz (the Beastie Boys), as the only guy who can speak truth to Josh’s blind infatuation; and for Charles Grodin, who brings welcome, sour appeal as Josh’s disapproving father-in-law. (NR) B.R.M. Sundance, Ark Lodge, Kirkland Parkplace, others

Wild Though I have reservations about the fulsome emotional blasts of director Jean-Marc Vallee (like his Dallas Buyers Club), and though the adaptation by Nick Hornby (About a Boy, An Education) leans rather too hard on the death of bestselling memoirist Cheryl Strayed’s mother (played by Laura Dern), this is a movie that—like its solitary hiker heroine—cannot be stopped. Reese Witherspoon’s ironclad casting makes matters even more inevitable. Here is a woman who bottoms out—with men, drugs, and grief—then straightens out while hiking 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Oregon, even without disavowing all her past actions. Wild is essentially a memory trip, presented non-sequentially, as Cheryl plods north. Various men figure in her past (including a brother), but none memorably. In the movie’s second half, more maudlin than its smart start, Wild is all about mommy. Yet don’t mistake Wild for an easy, conventional healing narrative (though healing does of course come at the end). Rather, it’s more a coming-to-terms account. Or as our heroine puts it, “Problems don’t stay problems. They turn into something else”—in this case a book and surefire hit movie. (R) B.R.M. Crest

Wild Tales The opening sequence to Damian Szifron’s Argentine anthology movie sets up a Twilight Zone-style series of revelations, compressed into just a few minutes. Passengers riding on a suspiciously underfilled plane begin to realize that there might be a reason for their presence there, beyond the obvious business of getting to a destination. Szifron wants to get his movie started with a bang, and he does—though the rest of Wild Tales doesn’t live up to the wicked curtain-raiser. But there are enough moments of irony and ingenuity to make it worthwhile. In one episode, a lone driver has a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, which allows the slowpoke he antagonized earlier to stop by and exact revenge. In another, an explosives expert becomes enraged by a parking ticket—rage that leads him to lose everything. But there’s a twist. A lot of these segments rely on a twist, a technique that doesn’t quite disguise how in-your-face the lessons are. The twists also can’t disguise the way some of the tales rely on illogical behavior to allow their plots to develop. Wild Tales is a showy exercise (you can see why Pedro Almodovar signed on as a producer), and Szifron has undoubtedly punched his ticket for bigger and better things. (R) R.H. Sundance

Woman in Gold The last time Helen Mirren went up against the Nazis, in The Debt, it was really no contest. So you will not be surprised to learn that the Austrian art thieves of the Third Reich fare no better against her Holocaust refugee Maria Altmann. Woman in Gold takes its title from the alternate, Nazi-supplied moniker for Gustav Klimt’s 1907 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Adele was Maria’s beloved aunt, and Maria became the plaintiff in a long-fought art-restitution case, begun in 1998, against the Austrian government. As Maria’s sidekick in this true-life-inspired tale, Ryan Reynolds plays the unseasoned young attorney Randy Schoenberg (forever judged against his genius forebear Arnold Schoenberg). This odd couple is obviously going to prevail against the stubborn, post-Waldheim Austrian establishment. As Maria says, “If they admit to one thing, they have to admit to it all.” Were the writing better, this would’ve made a good courtroom procedural (Elizabeth McGovern and Jonathan Pryce show up as judges), but director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) instead chooses to add copious flashbacks to the Anschluss era and Maria’s narrow escape from the Nazis. So while this is a serviceable star vehicle that depends on Mirren’s reliably purring V-12 engine, two other actresses play Maria at different ages—depriving us of the regular pleasure of her smackdowns upon poor Randy. (PG-13) B.R.M. Guild 45th, Pacific Place, Ark Lodge, Lynwood (Bainbridge), Kirkland Parkplace others