7 Blog

Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

Be the 2014 WSU Super Fan!

The Spring Game Super Fan Sweepstakes is back. Enter to win tickets to the WSU Crimson and Gray Game, on April 26, at 1 p.m. at Joe Albi Stadium. 

You will receive two pre-game field passes, meet and get your photo taken with Head Coach Mike Leach, two WSU Football jerseys, two WSU hats, and $50 in iTunes gift cards.

One winner to be chosen on Monday, April 21, 2014.

Enter here!

Friday: Bears, aliens and big-brain Johnny Depp

Long before we get into the summer season of blockbuster wannabes, area movie fans have the chance to enjoy the flow of smaller films that drift in and (sometimes too quickly) out of area theaters. Other than “Heaven Is for Real,” which was delayed from last Friday and opens locally on Wednesday, Friday is the day to anticipate.

The week's openings:

“Haunted House 2“: In the long line of comedy spoofs, this sequel to last year's original features a mixed-race couple (Marlon Wayans and Jaime Pressly) dealing with the spirits haunting their new house. Gird your loins for a few jokes based on, uh, stereotypes?

“Le Week-End”: Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as an aging British couple who attempt to revive their marriage by revisiting the site of their honeymoon: Paris. Oh la la.

“Transcendence” (IMAX and regular, no 3D): Johnny Depp's mind gets downloaded onto a computer. God help us all.

“Under the Skin”: Scarlett Johansson, clothed and unclothed, plays an alien seductress who feasts on unwary souls in Scotland. Question is, would this be heaven or hell?

“Bears”: Another trademark Disney nature documentary, this one focusing on a mother and cubs striving to survive in Alaska. Just wondering, what do bears think of fracking?

And at the Magic Lantern:

“Ernest and Celestine”: This animated feature, based on the books by the late author-illustrator Gabrielle Vincent, follows the story of a bear named Ernest and his little mouse friend Celestine. Not just for kids.

“The Lunchbox”: Says IMDB, “A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an older man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox.” So, the subtitle should be “Hungry for Love”?

Preview the 2014 50 Hour Slam at the Magic Lantern

Every year about this time, it's not uncommon to see film crews running all around Spokane, furiously shooting scenes that feature some of the city's most famous backdrops. The reason for that, besides the mere expression of creativity, is most likely the annual 50 Hour Slam film festival/competition.

The 50 Hour Slam is a competition in which teams compete to see who can make the best film in a 50-hour period, Friday to Sunday night. On Friday they are given a task (say, a poem to somehow personify), sometimes a line of dialogue and some sort of prop that has to be incorporated into their short. Otherwise, they have to come up with a script, find a cast, doing the shooting, editing and complete all post-production within 50 hours.

Then the entries are judged (I am one of several judges), winners are chosen and everybody meets for a screening party to see who did what. This year, the Magic Lantern will preview the May 3 Audience Choice Screening (which will be held at the Bing Crosby Theater) by holding what it's calling The 50 Hour Slam Rewind at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24. The official press release reads as follows:

“Come see all the past winners of the 50 Hour Slam along with the organizers’ sentimental favorites they want to share with you. Don’t miss this opportunity to see Spokane’s indie talent at its best with short films from the last three years of the competition presented on the big screen at the Magic Lantern.”

Tickets are $5. You can get more information by clicking here. Or simply drop by the theater and ask.

Note: I added the information that the May 3 screening of the 2014 50 Hour Slam finalists will be held at the Bing Crosby Theater.

Below: “Chapters,” one of the 2013 award winners.

Rumsfeld: Getting to know the ‘Unknown Known’

Errol Morris’ new documentary, “The Unknown Known,” opens at the Magic Lantern tonight. (So does Vol. 1 of Lars Von Trier’s graphic exploration of sexual obsession, “Nymphomaniac,” but that’s something else completely.)

Anyway, if you plan on catching Morris’ movie, you might want to check out the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio. An edited version follows:

I hated high-school debate. Not only did I suffer from performance anxiety, which made it hard even to stand in front of a class much less to argue anything, I seldom did the required preparation.

That’s why, in senior civics class, when I was assigned to debate Warren King on some subject I can’t begin to remember, I reacted to his 10-minute presentation with a one-word query. “Why?” I said. It was my entire response, delivered without even leaving my chair. Our teacher, Miss Belda, was NOT amused.

I doubt Donald Rumsfeld has ever experienced a moment like that. As the subject of Errol Morris’ new documentary, “The Unknown Known,” Rumsfeld confirms what many of us already know about the two-time former Secretary of Defense: The man is a master not only of semantics but of dissimulation.

The title of Morris’ film is a play on one of Rumsfeld’s most famous quotes, which he made at a February 2002 news briefing. “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me,” Rumsfeld proclaimed, “because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.”

Whip smart, Rumsfeld is the kind of human who, if he does entertain doubt, he isn’t about to show it. Not in public. And perhaps not ever. Morris wanted him to do exactly that by answering questions, particularly about the war in Iraq. Morris had been relatively successful doing much the same thing in his 2004 film “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.” In that documentary, filmed in much the same way as “The Unknown Known” – mostly in one-on-one interview style – Morris had succeeded in getting McNamara, Defense Secretary under Lyndon Johnson, to express at least a sense of regret. Not so with Rumsfeld.

From the beginning of his word joust with Morris, it’s clear that Rumsfeld is prepared. Genial, but guarded. Just as he showed in those many new briefings he held during his tenures during the Ford and second Bush administrations, he is calm, controlled and unshakeable. McNamara, one of the Best and the Brightest guys who helped shape the policies that resulted in the ill-fated Vietnam War, ended up telling Morris, “I think the human race needs to think more about killing. How much evil must we do in order to do good?” But the most Rumsfeld is willing to concede to Morris is that, regarding Vietnam, “Some things work out. Some things don’t. That didn’t.” As for justifying the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld is even more succinct. “Time will tell,” he says.

“I’m not interested in cracking the nut,” Morris told Slate Magazine. “I’m interested in exploring the nut, if that makes sense.” Yes, it does, because Morris is a filmmaker, not a journalist. And as such, in addition to filling his film with the cinematic traits that have become his trademark – charts and graphs, shifting subtitles, copies of the thousands of Rumsfeld-written memos that he calls “snowflakes” – Morris tries not to force the truth from his subjects so much as create an interesting study of them.

And that, ultimately, is what he has done – however unsatisfying that may be to some of his audience. In the end, Morris’ success is, as he told Slate, to create a film that shows a man fully bent on finding a “retreat into language, used not just to hide the truth from others, but from yourself – a strange retreat into the castle of language.”

Indaba: Coffee and books and comfort, oh my

I've found a new favorite coffee place. New for me, that is.

Some of my Facebook friends have been raving about Indaba Coffee Bar & Roastery for months. But it was only recently that I took the time to drop by. And to my delight, if not surprise, the folks there serve their own roasted coffee — of varying types — and it meets my every demand. Taste is paramount (though as someone who drinks regularly at Starbucks my abilities in that arena are questioned by many).

Also as important to me, though, are friendliness, competence and speed of delivery — all three of which have been completed in an expert manner during both visits I have made.

Yes, Indaba Coffee has been open since 2009 (as the barista told me this morning) at its site on Broadway Ave. a few blocks west of the County Courthouse. So, clearly I am somewhat late in getting the word, period, much less getting the word out. But they've been roasting their own coffee for the past year or so. Any anyway, this is a great place to visit, especially since it has no drive-through feature.

And why is that a good thing? Because it means that you have to actually go inside, which allows you to order something to eat. Or sip your coffee as you browse the shelves of the attached Book Parlor, which is one of my particular interests. On my first visit, I found almost immediately not one, not two but three books that I wanted to purchase (I ended up settling for a paperback edition of Ernest Cline's 2011 sci-fi/gamer novel “Ready Player One”).

Great books, a friendly atmosphere and tasty coffee. If heaven did exist, this would be it.

Extras needed for zombie show to shoot in Spokane

Zombies are coming to Spokane.

A new SyFy network series, “Z Nation,” will begin filming in and around Spokane around May 1, and the Big Fish NW Talent agency is on the lookout for extras.

Lots of extras, some of whom will be asked to play zombies.

“Z Nation,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, is coming from executive producer Karl Schaefer, who worked on “Eureka,” and The Asylum production company, the folks behind “Sharknado.” As the Reporter said on Monday, “Z Nation” is set “three years after a mysterious zombie virus has gutted the country and follows a team of everyday heroes tasked with transporting the only known survivor of the plague from New York to California, where the last functioning viral lab waits for his blood.”

Potential extras will need to be registered with Big Fish to be considered. For information on how to do so, click here. Be prepared to submit a color headshot and full bodyshot. People of all ages, sizes, shapes and races will be needed.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, 13 episodes will be shot, and the series is set to air in the fall. 

Yeah, some people can’t stand Zach Braff

You don't have to look very hard to find some harsh feelings being directed toward Zach Braff. Most of it is trademark-Gawker snarky, which is an explanation all by itself. But much of the rest of it just seems … I don't know, misdirected? The same kind of feeling that you see when someone should be criticizing, say, Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer but who instead takes shots at a guy who uses the contacts and energies he accumulated through doing sitcom television to make little personal films that, while fiction, also reflect some aspects of his own life's concerns.

Of course, there is the little controversy about Braff's using Kickstarter to fund his latest effort. But that always seemed to me to be disingenuous. No one forced anyone to help Braff fund his film. Presumably, only his die-hard fans did.

Anyway, for you Gawker fans out there, I've embedded the teaser trailer for Braff's new movie, “Wish I Was Here.” Braff-haters will want to pay special attention at the :58 mark (that's when Braff's character gets punched in the face).

Grammar cops who insist on adherence to correct subjunctive use may enjoy that brief moment, too.

Look for the movie's general release on July 25.

Myles Kennedy, Slash, Aerosmith plan Gorge stop

Aerosmith, the long-running rock band, will hit the Gorge Amphitheatre on Aug. 16 on its Let Rock Rule Tour. Along for the fun is former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash with Spokane's own Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday through Ticketmaster and Live Nation. Ticket will range from $55 to $129.

Slash and Kennedy  - who fronted the Spokane band the Mayfield Four before getting national attention with Alter Bridge - have worked together before, releasing “Apocalyptic Love” in 2012. Kennedy and his latest band, The Conspirators, are working on Slash's next record, due out in September.

Also announced at the Gorge this week is KUBE 93's Summer Jam, now expanded to a two-day festival June 6 and 7. The headliners include Ice Cube, Chris Brown, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Big K.R.I.T. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m.  Saturday, again through Live Nation or Ticketmaster. Tickets are $39.75 for the Summer Jam Classic event  on June 6 (with Ice Cube) and $49.75 for the Summer Jam on June 7 (with Chris Brown). Visit LiveNation.com for details.

The change in “Captain America”? It’s political

You don't have to go very far to find critics who think nothing of panning the new “Captain America: The Winter  Soldier.” Go here. Or here. But, this may come as a surprise, I am not one of them. I actually like the movie.

It wasn't until I began searching out information about the co-directors, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, that I saw clearly why: As Joe Russo has said, “(Marvel) said they wanted to make a political thriller.” And once I realized that, everything fell into place.

It's not as if the uninitiated can easily understand everything that is going on in the Marvel universe. Captain America/Steve Rogers himself dates back to the early years of World War II, and he and his associates — such as colleague Nick Fury and foe the Winter Soldier — have long and complicated back stories. Click here for a rundown that contains plenty of spoilers.

But none of that is essential. Oh, you might want to know why the pirate Batroc is played by the French-speaking mixed-martial-arts champion George St.-Pierre. Or why Anthony Mackie can actually fly. But you don't really need the information.

Te Russos manage to make the fight scenes seem not only exciting, but they capture them — even in 3-D — in a way that doesn't lose any needed detail (the way so many second-rate filmmakers do). And the addition of a political undertone tends to make me like the character of Captain America even more because now he isn't a Greatest Generation apologist for U.S. foreign policy but is, instead, a clear-eyed champion of democratic principles.

Makes all the difference.

On Friday: A wide range of movie offerings

It's only Monday, but we already know what movies are (most likely) going to open on Friday in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. These are only the preliminary bookings, so things could change. But the range of material at this point is, to be sure, vast.

The openings:

“Rio 2” (in both 2-D and 3-D): After being forced to adapt to life in the Amazon, Blu (voice by Jesse Eisenberg) must now face his scariest foe — his father-in-law. BTDT.

“Heaven Is for Real”: When his son survives a near-death experience, and claims to have visited heaven, his father (Greg Kinnear) faces a difficult choice: accepting his son's story or getting him psychological help. This is Hollywood. You can guess what path he chooses.

“Draft Day”: Kevin Costner plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns who tries to pull off a tricky deal to save his struggling franchise. My wife is already giddy. “Yay,” she says, “my favorite genre — cheesy sports film!”

“Oculus”: I took this straight from IMDB: “A woman (Karen Gillan) tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.” No clue as to whether frogs fall from heaven (which is a better title than the Greg Kinnear movie above).

“The Raid 2”: The sequel to one of the best action films of the past several years, 2011's “The Raid: Redemption,” continues the story of Jakarta's only good cop, Rama (Iko Uwais), who goes undercover to root out the bad guys.If you like fight scenes. this is the movie for you.

And at the Magic Lantern:

“The Unknown Known”: Errol Morris interviews former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the man famous for writing thousands of memos known as “snowflakes.” Hint: It doesn't snow emotions.

“Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1”: Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier follows the story of Joe (Stacy Martin, Charlotte Gainsbourg), whose obsession with sex nearly destroys everything she touches. Including, perhaps, Von Trier's fading reputation. Caution: FULL FRONTAL EVERYTHING! (Vol. II opens April 18.)

‘Noah’ offers a lot of questions, few answers

You may have already seen Darren Aronofsky's film “Noah.” If so, you might be interested in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio. If not, you might take my review as a warning. Bring along a bottle of aspirin.

Here's my review:

When I was a freshman in college, I dated a girl whose parents were members of the Southern Baptist church. I would go with her family to Sunday service and get involved in spirited discussions about morality – this was in 1965, when the Vietnam War was heating up – and bible stories.

I was confused about the Bible. Being a naïve kid, I tended to ask fairly simplistic questions, such as – how is it possible for Adam and Eve to give birth to the entire human race? Then, one day, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “Da-an, it’s a me-ta-phor.” And this simple pronouncement, uttered by a girl who was still in high school, rocked my world.

I was reminded of that conversation when I watched Darren Aronofsky’s film “Noah,” which doesn’t replicate the story told in Genesis so much as use it for inspiration. The other inspiration, as writer-director Aronofsky has bragged about, is a poem he wrote at age 13 for his seventh-grade teacher – whom he rewarded by giving her not one but two small roles in the film.

Her reward was far better than the one I received, which – augmented by an IMAX-size screen – was a viewing experience that ended up giving me a raging headache. It was only later that I realized I had come down with the flu. But that’s a whole other story. And anyway I still blame the movie.

Regarding the biblical Noah, Genesis raises more questions than it answers (like the tale of Adam and Eve) It involves Noah and his family, the Arc and “two of all living creatures, male and female.” The question becomes, then, how from that limited genetic group do not just the human race but all living things “go forth and multiply”? I was anxious to see what answer Aronofsky would offer.

Turns out, “Noah” the movie doesn’t provide any answers. If anything, it poses even more questions. Such as, who are these rock creatures – supposedly fallen angels called “The Watchers” – who look like something from the set of “Transformers”? How does the character Tubal-Cain – yes, of THAT Cain line – not only manage to sneak aboard the Arc but live in seclusion for nine months without Noah suspecting? How about the animals – those that Tubal-Cain doesn’t eat, that is – what, they SLEEP for the entire voyage? And if everyone else has perished, who is Noah’s son Ham, who ends up doing an end-of-the-movie walkabout, supposed to hook up with? Isn’t everybody else dead? And if they aren’t, what … was … the … point?

Aronofsky doesn’t seem to care. He’s too busy directing Russell Crowe to another of his life-is-so-glum performances, too preoccupied dressing his cast up in cast-off post-apocalyptic outfits, too thrilled with his CGI world-comin-to-an-end effects. Thank the creator that he decided to cast Ray Winstone as the villain; someone had to show Oscar-winners Crow, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins how to carry a line.

Yeah, “Noah” looks good. Aronofsky is a skilled filmmaker; films such as “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan” prove that much. But style is no substitute for plot holes. Not everything can be a me-ta-phor.

EWU Get Lit! festival struts its alumni today

Since its inception, Eastern Washington University's annual literary celebration, the tongue-in-cheek-titled Get Lit! has offered area lit lovers access to a range of writing talent. Today, from 5-7 p.m. at the Red Lion Inn at the Park, the festival — which officially runs from April 7-13 — offers a preview of things to come that boasts a local flavor. It's called the Get Lit! EWU Alumni Reading.

EWU alumni such as Asa Marie Bradley, Aimee R. Cervenka, Scott Eubanks, Liz Rognes and Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal (author of the story collection “Godforsaken Idaho”), will both read from their respective works and talk about their lives as writers.

Tickets are $10 at the door and include hors d'oeuvres and, most important, a drink ticket.

Draw Your Dreams winners announced

Six area youth will be honored next month for their efforts in creating illustrations of their special dreams.

Earlier this year, Building Dreams, formerly Playhouse Project Spokane, invited budding young artists throughout the Inland Northwest to create original artwork as part of an annual auction for area community centers.

The “Draw to Dream” competition was open to ages 4 and under, 5-8 and 9-12, and artists were evaluated on creativity and adherence to the topic.  The top submissions in each age group received a variety of prizes including an iPad Mini for the overall grand prize winner. 

The winners will be recognized at the second-ever Building Dreams gala auction fund-raiser May 10 at the Spokane Convention Center.

Tickets are $40 per person, or $400 for a table of 10, and can be purchased by calling (509) 323-7480 or online at westcentralcc.org.  Raffle tickets are $1 apiece and available at any of the three community centers or at the Spokane Home Builders Premier Show April 11-13. 

Along with recognition of the artistic winners, the event will also include the auctioning of a variety of original playhouses and related other structures created by area builders and artists.

Last year, 12 unique structures were auctioned off, but this year, more items are available including dog houses, patio furniture, gazebos, grape arbors, pergolas, community library boxes, jungle gyms, dollhouses and greenhouses. 

Proceeds from the auction benefit the West Central Community Center, Northeast Youth Center and the Peaceful Valley Community Center.  These centers provide programs and services promoting education, recreation and positive life choices for at-risk youth. 

Last year’s event raised $48,344 for youth programs.   

To watch construction of structures being built for the auction, follow Building Dreams Spokane on Facebook.  To get more information on the auction or become a sponsor, call Kim Ferraro at (509) 323-7480 or visit westcentralcc.org. 

The “Draw Your Dream” winners included:

  • Grand Prize Winner – Paige Wilton, 8, Hayden, Idaho
  • Winner Ages 1-4 – Kailen Sandberg, 4, Spokane
  • Winner Ages 5-8 – Divine Maple, 7, Coulee City, Wash.
  • Winner Ages 9-12 – Mackenzi Sandberg, 11, Spokane
  • Honorable Mention Most Charitable – Gabriella “Gabby” Kelly, 10, Newman Lake, Wash.
  • Honorable Mention Most Creative – Stella Beadle, 9, Spokane

To see the winning entries, click here.

Check out ‘La Boheme’ on Saturday morning

I was taught early on in my journalism career never to use a question lead: As in, “Are you an opera fan?”

The reason? Because anyone who is NOT an opera fan will answer with a curt no and move on. But that's exactly why this lead is so effective for the post I want to write. Because if you are NOT an opera fan, then you're not going to care that a Metropolitan Opera production of Puccini's “La Boheme” will screen at 10 a.m. Saturday at Regal Cinemas' NorthTown Mall.

Click here for ticket information. And enjoy the singers, portly and otherwise.

Friday’s openings: From science to science fiction

Though only three movies are opening locally this weekend, movie fans should find the range of choices interesting if not actually daunting, particularly to those with a bent for science. The openings are:

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”: The only mainstream opening is a continuation of the Steve Rogers/Captain America story that Marvel Comics began in 2011's “Captain America: The First Avanger,” continued in 2012's “The Avengers” and briefly in 2013's “Thor: The Dark World.” Chris Evans, whose superhero duty includes playing Johnny Story/The Human Torch in the “Fantastic 4” series, returns as America's super-soldier. This time he faces the Winter Soldier, an enemy from the Cold War (and no, that's not code for Vladimir Putin). The movie will be screened in 3-D, regular 2-D and IMAX formats.

And at the Magic Lantern:

“Particle Fever”: Documentary filmmaker Mark Levinson explores the preparation and follow-through of the the Large Hadron Collider to attempt to find the elusive Higgs boson.  

“Moulin Rouge — The Ballet”: Debuting in 2009, the ballet production of “Moulin Rouge” is performed by Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet troupe. No, this is not Baz Luhrman's 2001 movie version.

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