Fall is one of the best times of year! Back to school, colorful leaves and the return of SpokeFest!
This year marks the eighth annual celebration of cycling, healthy lifestyles and environmental appreciation in Spokane. Experienced cyclists and newbies are invited to participate in whichever route suits their ability: Great Harvest 1 Mile Loop and Bike Safety Rodeo, Columbia Medical Associations Spokane Falls 9 Mile Loop, REI 21 Mile River Loop and Spokesman OUTDOORS Half Century (50 miles).
- KHS Alite 40 Mountain Bike with Helmet Value ($349.99)
- $200 Gift Card to Wheel Sport
- $100 Gift Card to Wheel Sport
Enter by visiting the Spokesman OUTDOORS booth at SpokeFest, Sunday, Sept. 13, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., on the corner of Spokane Falls Boulevard and Post Street, or complete the online form. Booth visitors between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. will be instant winners when they Spin the Prize wheel too!
We’re now in that weird in-between period all serial moviegoers dread: Summer tent-pole season has waned, Oscar season is still a month or so away and Hollywood’s output has slowed to a trickle. This week’s new releases include an odd mix of movies, but there are some small, more independent titles worth checking out. Here’s what you have to choose from:
“No Escape” – Owen Wilson stars as the American ambassador to a crooked U.S. company who moves his family to an unnamed Southeast Asian country just as a military coup breaks out.
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” – Set in San Francisco in the 1970s, this bittersweet coming-of-age story follows a sexually curious 15-year-old named Minnie (relative newcomer Bel Powley) as she documents her ascension to adulthood. Based on the acclaimed novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, the trailer gives me serious “Welcome to the Dollhouse”-meets-“American Splendor” vibes. And I mean that as a compliment.
“We Are Your Friends” – A sort of “Saturday Night Fever” for the Paradiso Festival set, the directorial debut of MTV personality Max Joseph stars Zac Efron as a young dreamer who just wants to be a celebrity DJ with a supermodel girlfriend. Ah, career goals.
“War Room” – The “war” of the title is a domestic one, as a seemingly perfect couple turns to (per the film’s publicity) “an older, wiser woman” about using prayer for transformative purposes. A Christian-themed film from the director of “Fireproof” and “Courageous.”
At the Magic Lantern:
“Meru” – A documentary about the 2008 attempt by three mountain climbers to scale a legendary Himalayan peak known as the Shark’s Fin. Harrowing, to say the least.
Below: The trailer for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.”
Science-fiction fans should be — and many likely are — excited that Worldcon has come to town (the Spokane edition is also named Sasquan). Some of the most famous sci-fi authors in the world are walking our streets. Nathan Weinbender posted a photo on Facebook of him sitting next to, of all people, George R.R. Martin.
But not everybody can afford the Worldcon admission prices. So now we have another reason to love the Spokane County Library District.
Kevin J. Anderson, whose books you can find on the shelves of pretty much any bookstore, will make a free appearance at 7 tonight at the North Spokane Library. Anderson will no doubt talk about his latest book, "The Dark Between the Stars," which has been nominated for a Hugo Award — the winners of which will be announced at Sasquan.
But he may also share stories of his working on the more than 120 books he has published, some 50 of which have made best-seller lists. For more information about the North Spokane Library, call (509) 893-8350.
And remember: Anderson's library appearance is … free.
Anytime you have a hard day's night, what's the thing you most need? Help, of course, which is something The Beatles knew well enough.
And so does Spokane Public Radio. Following last year's sold-out event, "SPR Goes to the Movies: 'A Hard Day's Night,' " the radio station decided to follow up with another Beatles movie extravaganza. This time it involves Richard Lester's 1965 Beatles film "Help!" which had a national U.S. opening on Aug. 25, 1965.
"Help!" will screen at the Bing Crosby Theater at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Unlike the "Hard Day's Night" screening, this event will not involve a live-taping of the "Movies 101" show. But "Movies 101" co-host Nathan Weinbender, along with longtime SPR personality Leonard Oakland, will be on hand to introduce the film.
Tickets to the screening are $10 (plus Bing operating fees) and are being sold through TickestWest. They also should be available at the Bing's box office (but as I wrote above, the "Hard Day's Night" screening sold out so …)
Anyway, I'd be there but I'm out of town. Poor me.
I can always use some … uh, "Help!"
Although there have been rumblings on the internet in the last couple of days, it’s finally been confirmed: Neil Young is playing the Arena on Oct. 2. This marks the first time the legendary rocker has performed in Spokane since his 2007 show at the INB.
Young’s touring band is the California-based four-piece Promise of the Real, which appeared on his latest album “The Monsanto Years” and is fronted by Lukas Nelson, son of country superstar Willie Nelson. Joining the band on tour is Lukas’ brother, guitarist Micah Nelson. Set lists on the first leg of the tour have spanned Young’s decades-long career, so expect to hear plenty of classics along with newer material.
Tickets go on sale through TicketsWest on Friday at 10 A.M., and prices range from $59.50 to $125.
Also announced this week: Paul Rodgers is scheduled to perform at Northern Quest on Nov. 15. Rodgers is best known as guitarist and vocalist for Bad Company, but he’s also had hits with Free and the Firm and toured in the mid-2000s as the frontman for Queen.
Tickets start at $65 and will be on sale as of Saturday morning. They can be purchased online or through the box office at (509) 481-6700.
Below: Paul Rodgers and Bad Company perform their 1975 single “Shooting Star.”
It's August and summer is hanging on, thank you. But going to the lake isn't the only thing you can do in your spare time. I'd go to a movie ("Straight Outta Compton" is worth seeing). Or you could attend a book reading. Like, tonight.
Seattle writer Elizabeth Guizzetti will read from her novel, a science-fiction tale titled "The Light Side of the Moon," at 7 at Auntie's Bookstore. It's the second in what she's calling her "Other Systems Universe" series.
Click here to access her website. And show up for her reading.
The lake will wait. And Auntie's has air conditioning.
Summer is starting to wind down, and the movies are following suit. That’s not to say the number of releases is dropping – there are six new titles scheduled to open this Friday – but the season of the blockbuster is more or less over. In fact, this week’s releases cover some pretty dark material – drugs, violence, depression and, uh, kidnapping ghosts. At least there’s a comedy in there to add a little levity. Here are the titles:
At the AMC:
“American Ultra” – Jesse Eisenberg stars as a perpetually stoned loser who discovers he’s a sleeper agent for the government, and the same people that programmed him to be a killing machine want him dead. Think “Pineapple Express” meets “The Bourne Identity.”
“The End of the Tour” – From director James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now”), this film festival favorite documents the five days in 1996 when journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg, again) followed late writer David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) on his “Infinite Jest” book tour. Expect plenty of footnotes.
“Hitman: Agent 47” – A dead-eyed, genetically-engineered assassin must take down a top secret corporation that holds the key to his mysterious origins…or something. “American Ultra,” this ain’t. Based on a video game series, previously adapted into a long-forgotten 2007 feature.
“Sinister 2” – This sequel to the not-that-bad 2012 chiller continues the urban legend of a creepy specter that murders families and swipes the children. Not exactly an ideal bedtime story.
At the Magic Lantern:
“Cartel Land” – Documentarian Matthew Heineman explores the ins and outs of the meth trade, focusing on the cooks, smugglers and peddlers on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The Stanford Prison Experiment” – A certain-to-be-grim docudrama inspired by the notorious sociological experiment conducted in 1971, in which students were divided into groups of prisoners and guards in a makeshift prison. Things did not go very well.
Below: The trailer for “The Stanford Prison Experiment”:
An audience of all ages took in the Dawes concert Saturday night at Pavillion Park in Liberty Lake. Spokesman-Review photographer and Dawes fan Dan Pelle was there and put together this photographic slideshow:
Here's a taste from the band's latest record, "All Your Favorite Bands," out now. This is called "Things Happen."
ON TAP is a proud sponsor of Oktoberfest at the River, Sept. 25-27, 2015, at the Spokane Convention Center!
Enter to win a one-day admission bundle for two, which includes two commemorative 1/2 liter beer steins and a beer! Plus, winners will receive two ON TAP t-shirts and drawstring bags to represent their love of local beer at Oktoberfest!
In partnership with the German American Society, Oktoberfest at the River is an all new family-oriented celebration with live entertainment by Manuela Horn, German cuisine provided by Das Stein Haus, beer from Paulaner USA and much more!
I've commented here and there — mostly on Facebook, I guess — that two of the books I read this summer that impressed me the most were "Stoner," a 1965 novel by U.S. writer John Williams, and "The Narrow Road to the Deep North," a 2013 novel (and 2014 Man-Booker Prize winner) by Australian writer Richard Flanagan.
"Stoner," which was reissued in 2003 by New York Review Book Classics, was featured in a New Yorker magazine story under the headline "The Greatest American Novel You've Never Heard Of." It tells the story of a man whose seemingly ordinary life gives meaning to the lone struggle of the individual.
Flanagan's novel, which is a harrowing tale of Australian soldiers struggling to survive in a Japanese forced-labor camp during World War II, was described in the Washington Post as a book that "will cast a shadow over your summer and draw you away from friends and family into dark contemplation the way only the most extraordinary books can."
So what's next? Well, I think I'm going to try "Station Eleven," the featured book of the annual Spokane Is Reading event. Author Emily St. John Mandel describes her book as "about a traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North America. It’s also about friendship, memory, love, celebrity, our obsession with objects, oppressive dinner parties, comic books, and knife-throwing.”
What could be better than that?
After playing a few weeks at AMC, the Bill Condon film "Mr. Holmes" is moving to the Magic Lantern. If you haven't yet seen it, you might want to. That, at least, is the argument I make in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:
In his early years as a student at Cambridge, Sir Ian McKellen took to the stage the way Gandalf the Wizard takes to magic – with a talent and flair that is as natural as it is thrilling for others to witness.
Those of us who never got the opportunity to see McKellen onstage can see at least a vestige of what it might have been like in the 1982 release of McKellan’s televised performance “Acting Shakespeare,” which I remember seeing on Spokane Public Television. Based on a series of one-man shows, which McKellan performed between 1977 and 1990, it features McKellen both explaining – and then performing – scenes from such plays as “As You Like It,” “Macbeth” and “Richard III.”
Since the 1960s, McKellen has also been active in television and film, though it took nearly four decades for him to become a familiar face. And that was due to two blockbuster franchises: “X-Men,” in which he portrays the villainous Magneto, and the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films of Peter Jackson, in which he portrays Gandalf.
Now we have McKellen – all 76 years of him – cast in a small movie based on a novel by Mitch Cullin titled “A Slight Trick of the Mind.” Directed by Bill Condon, who worked with McKellen in 1998’s acclaimed film “Gods and Monsters” – which earned McKellan an Oscar nomination – this new film, titled simply “Mr. Holmes” – again gives evidence of McKellen’s ample acting skills.
The year is 1947. And we find the 93-year-old detective living on a remote farm with only a housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker) as companions. Having just returned from Japan, where he both witnessed the smoldering remains of a devastated Hiroshima and searched out a rare herb, Holmes occupies himself by keeping bees and by trying to re-create the one case that still plagues him with unanswered questions.
Holmes’ quest is complicated by his failing mind, which is what gives Condon’s film particular poignancy. He attempts to write about the case, hoping to capture facts that his former partner and late friend John Watson tended to embellish in the series of novels that made Holmes famous. To capture facts and, perhaps, to heal a failing mind.
Much of Condon’s film works. Young Parker is just the latest in a long line of talented British child actors. And his interplay with McKellan is smooth and unforced. Linney, though, is another story. When so many talented British actresses must have been available, why Condon chose the all-too-American Linney is a mystery that even the redoubtable Mr. Holmes couldn’t solve.
Ultimately, as the movie takes us back and forth in time – from three decades before, when Holmes works on the case of a woman recovering from not one but two miscarriages, to his recent Japan trip and the present where he is aided in his reminiscences by the capable Roger – it is McKellen whose talents are on best display.
And he doesn’t disappoint. As Holmes, Gandalf or Hamlet, McKellen never does.
Yesterday, my fiancé and I were walking outside River Park Square on our way to lunch after a wedding errand. As we were about to cross Post Street, two strangers asked us for directions to Chase Bank, or “anywhere they could exchange international currency.” We pointed them east, and were about to cross that way ourselves when we were stopped again.
“Excuse me, are you giving directions to out-of-towners?” a middle-aged gentleman asked.
“Sure! Where would you like to go?” I responded.
He explained that he was in town from Salt Lake City and looking for a local place for lunch in the area. “Local,” he emphasized. “I can go to Red Robin anywhere.”
Staying on theme, I pointed east once again, recommending neighboring restaurants Durkin’s Liquor Bar or Madeleine's Cafe. My fiancé directed him across the river to Kendall Yards for Central Food or Veraci Pizza, or a number of the restaurants now open in that area.
He thanked us for our time and help, then we continued on our way. And we continued to think of great local restaurants in the downtown area, and beyond, where we could have sent him.
What local restaurant do you recommend to visitors?
When it comes to meeting new people, some things never change. In other words, it can be hard.
And that makes no difference if you're young or old — although those who are young probably agonize about it more than their elders. Whatever, a group in Coeur d'Alene is trying to make such meetings easier, especially for younger movie fans.
"Cheesy Superhero Movie Night," which is hosted by the Millennial Meetups — described as a "program for patrons in their 20s and 30s" — will hold a screening of "Guardians of the Galaxy" at 6:30 tonight in the Community Room of the Coeur d'Alene Public Library.
The screening is free and popcorn will provided. And if you're older (or younger) than the sponsoring millennials, don't worry. As one library employee told me, "They won't turn you away."
For more information, call (208) 769-2315.
Although it premiered on HBO in May, Brett Morgen’s documentary “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” is now getting a theatrical run. You can see the film about the late Nirvana frontman at the Magic Lantern starting Friday, and this release reportedly features a previously unheard Cobain demo on its soundtrack. Below is an excerpt from my review of the film, which originally aired on Spokane Public Radio:
Few artists who emerged in the last half of the 20th century have been mythologized, scrutinized and lionized quite like Kurt Cobain. We remember him as a tortured genius, as the godfather of the grunge movement, as a vocal resister of corporate rock, and we tend to forget that he was also just a guy.
Brett Morgen’s “Montage of Heck” isn’t the first documentary to put Cobain’s life and death under a microscope, though it is the first do so with the participation of his family (Cobain’s daughter Frances Bean served as an executive producer, and his wife Courtney Love is interviewed). To say the film humanizes Cobain might suggest that it’s blindly reverential, but it is not: We come to understand him as a man scarred by rejection, terrified of humiliation and undone by addiction, and whose 1994 suicide was probably unavoidable. It’s one of the most unflinching, harrowing portraits of a renowned cultural figure ever made.
This isn’t, however, a standard film biography that sits us down and patiently explains Cobain’s legacy. Sure, we get talking head interviews, concert footage and archival material, but Morgen’s approach is more experimental and cerebral. He’s not too concerned with the whats and whens of Cobain’s life, and a lot of basic expository details are completely glossed over. Anyone with only a passing familiarity of him and his music are likely to be left dazed and confused.
“Montage of Heck” gets its title from a “Revolution 9”-type audio collage Cobain made before he was famous, an eerie patchwork of seemingly random snippets from records and TV shows, and the movie adopts the same approach to both sound and image. This is almost a mixed media art piece, leaning heavily on Cobain’s drawings and journal entries and visualizing certain chapters of his life in animation, including a gripping sequence in which Cobain himself grimly details a failed suicide attempt when he was a teenager.
Many of Cobain’s fans have tried to rationalize his suicide, since it seemed unfathomable that someone so successful and effortlessly talented could have ever been unhappy. “Montage of Heck” does a masterful job of illustrating just how messy and unforgiving Cobain’s world was, and it becomes quite apparent that it wasn’t the fame that killed him but the scrutiny that came with it. Morgen (“The Kid Stays in the Picture”) hasn’t set out to inform in the conventional sense but to capture the turbulence of a life, and in doing so he’s made a film that is, like Cobain’s music, often visceral in its impact.
Below: The trailer for “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.”