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

No, 5 Seconds of Summer hasn’t been banned

Calm down, kids. The Australian boy band 5 Seconds of Summer has not been banned from future performances at the Spokane Arena.

The band played to about 4,000 very enthusiastic fans on Tuesday night.  Near the end of the set, drummer Ashton Irwin twice called fans down from their seats and urged them to fill the floor. The problem with that, said arena manager Matt Gibson, is that having too many people on the floor is not only dangerous, but it creates “a bad fire marshal situation where we have the floor over capacity.” When arena staff kept people in their seats, the mostly teenage fans were not happy.

Fans turned to social media to vent their frustrations.

Twitter user castaway (@fivesosaf101) wrote “just gained so much respect for @5SOS putting their fans first and telling them to fill the floor. #SLFLSPOKANE

There are others: 
5sos are such legends for bringing fans onto the floor and getting banned from the venue in spokane
 5sos got banned from spokane for doing a nice thing for the fans? that's ridiculous. i'm so proud of them for doing this for us
ROCK N ROLL WILL NOT CONFORM TO YOU, SPOKANE ARENA! GOD I LOVE
 5SOS being banned from Spokane just adds to the list of proofs that they love their fans so much.

 

And as one father, Clark Peterson, posted on Facebook – a post that has been shared multiple times on Twitter – “I’m sure the boys in the band will get a talking to from their lawyers, but it was the most rock and roll thing I’ve seen at a rock concert in a long, long time. Rock and roll isn’t dead, it lives with a bunch of Aussie boys!”

Irwin himself tweeted: “I always just want the fans too be as close as possible… The concerts are about you. Always. Rock on”

In fact, Gibson said, 5 Seconds of Summer’s security staff had briefed the arena folks earlier in the day, and asked the crew to keep fans safe. “Our staff did exactly what they were supposed to do in their professional manner and held people into their seating sections,” Gibson said. “Young people being as they are, and I have two daughters, so I know how dramatic situations escalate, a lot of tears and a lot of screaming resulted.”

But in the end, Gibson said, 5 Seconds of Summer’s security team thanked the arena crew for doing its job.

“It was a situation in which we were faced with a very difficult situation,” he said. “We want everyone to have a good time, but all that would have needed to happen is one young lady trip on the stairs and she gets trampled by three dozen other kids rushing the stage.”

And contrary to rumors on social media, 5 Seconds of Summer hasn’t been banned from future appearances at Spokane Arena.

“We would be more than happy to have them back,” Gibson said.

Weekend getaway: Halcyon Hot Springs

Several years ago, I would on occasion write a Getaway piece for The Spokesman-Review. The story would usually involve some place local that SR readers could visit for a quick … well, getaway.

 Which is exactly what my wife and I did Sunday and Monday. We drove six hours north, past Castlegar and Nakusp, British Columbia, to a resort called Halcyon Hot Springs. We rented a cabin, ate two nights at the resort restaurant, spent a lot of time soaking in the pools (there are four of them) and, in general, just relaxed.

 The resort, which fronts Upper Arrow Lake, has a number of rental choices, from chalets to cabins (ours was perfectly adequate for two of us, and it boasted a TV, a refrigerator and coffee fixings, though no kitchenette) to camping areas.

 The four pools includes a regular swimming pool (86 degrees), a hot pool (99 degrees), a hotter pool (104 degrees), and a cold-plunge pool (58 degrees). Guests get free access, including robes and towels, but outside access is available for a fee.

 The on-site eatery, the King Fisher Restaurant, offers a decent range of dishes, all appealing to our non-foodie palates. The above photo captures our Monday night meal, beef bavette in the foreground, roast lamb in the rear (served with an interesting veggie medley). And the wine made everything taste even better.

 (Our only complaint: Despite having called ahead to make a reservation, we were sat on Sunday next to the kitchen. We fixed that the next night by eating earlier.)

 On Monday afternoon, we drove 30 kilometers to the atmospheric little town of Nakusp. We checked out the Nakusp Hot Springs, ate lunch at the historic Leland Hotel, walked along the town’s boardwalk and enjoyed a post-lunch coffee at What’s Brewing on Broadway.

 I’m always amazed at the scenery in British Columbia. It rivals anyplace I’ve seen in the world, including New Zealand. And to think, it sits just a few hours drive north.

I’ll definitely be back.

Friday’s openings: Lighthouses and sci-fi mysteries

I've been on somewhat of a winning streak with movies of late, thanks to filmmakers such as Werner Herzog and Mike Birbiglia. Let's hope the coming week offers cinema half as enjoyable. Friday's opening movies are as follows:

"The Light Between Oceans": Based on the novel by M.L. Stedman, director Derek Cianfrance tells the story of an Australian lighthouse keeper and his wife who save a baby that washes up on shore, raise it as their own only to discover that their happiness is someone else's tragedy. Bring a hanky or three.

"Morgan": A young girl, "bioengineered with synthetic DNA," rebels against her corporate captors. Bad things happen. (See: "Ex Machina.")

"The 9th Life of Louis Drax": After suffering a near-fatal fall, a comatose boy becomes the center of a mystery that is at least as engaging as the film's title. Bring a sense of wonder.

Still no word on the Magic Lantern. I'll update as needed.

‘Kubo’ surpasses Vinton’s visual legacy

Family films have always tried to balance their appeal between two audiences: children and the parents who drive (and often accompany) them to the show. As I try to make clear in my review of the stop-action film "Kubo and the Two Strings," which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio, director Travis Knight does a decent job of hitting both groups:

Stop-action animation has come a long way in the past four decades. And though, yes, stop-action has been around for far longer than that – if nothing else, remember the 1950s cartoon character “Gumby” – it was the year 1974 that changed everything.

That was the year that a guy from Portland, Oregon, named Will Vinton submitted a little 8-minute film, a claymation effort he titled “Closed Mondays,” to the Cannes Film Festival. Not only was the film accepted, but it went on to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short.

Vinton would enjoy other successes, too, not least of which was the ad campaign for The California Raisins. But by the late ’90s, Vinton’s company had run into financial trouble, and Vinton himself was eventually bought out by Nike co-founder Phil Knight – and eventually replaced.

His replacement? Knight’s son Travis. But if nepotism so often can be considered a bad word, it can – at least sometimes – lead to good things. And a few of the good things that the new company, now called Laika, provided were the films “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” “The Box Trolls” and, now, a fictional tale from old Japan, “Kubo and the Two Strings.”

Using a blend of stop-action and computer-enhanced animation, Knight’s “Kubo” follows the story of a young boy whom we first meet as his mother is fleeing her past. We come to know him as a boy with magical talents, his skills as a storyteller matched by his abilities to strum his three-stringed shamisen and make paper origami figures fly. We also know him as a caretaker, watching over his mother in a remote, ocean-side cave.

Finally, we see him step into the role of burgeoning hero, a boy – protected by a magic monkey and a samurai beetle – charged with finding the three pieces of his lost father’s armor, the only charms that will protect him from his grandfather, the Moon King. In his quest, Kubo has to endure attacks from his two aunts, his mother’s sisters and witches who are doing the Moon King’s bidding.

From the movie’s first line – “If you’re going to blink, do it now” – to its last, “Kubo and the Two Strings” demonstrates well just how far stop-action animation has progressed, even since the early days of Vinton. Using many of the same techniques, which are featured during the movie’s closing credits, Knight smoothes out the process with Laika’s CGI to make the character movements far less jerky.

That, of course, isn’t all. These days, the company can afford to hire A-list talent, which is why Charlize Theron voices the monkey , Matthew McConaughey the beetle, Ralph Fiennes the Moon King and Rooney Mara as the sister witches.

Most impressive to me, though, is Art Parkinson, the 14-yar-old “Game of Thrones” star who gives voice to our protagonist – and who, even at his most heroic, never lets us forget that Kubo is still a boy.

Will Vinton’s company is no more. But the legacy he created lives on, in a film that could next March win its own gold statuette.

‘Closed Mondays’ is grandfather to ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’

In researching the background of the Portland-based film production company Laika, I stumbled onto a story about Will Vinton, the Portland guy who founded the company that Laika grew out of. The overall story, which runs under the headline "How the Father of Claymation Lost His Company," is a standard tale of a talented guy with big dreams who let things get away from him.

It's also about how a guy with lots of money (Nike's Phil Knight) bought an ailing company both as an investment and as a place for his talented son (Travis Knight) to work. That investment has resulted in such films as "Coraline," "ParaNorman," "The Box Trolls" and now "Kubo and the Two Strings."

After having seen "Kubo," and being impressed by its blend of stop-action and computer-enhanced animation, I was particularly interested in seeing "Closed Mondays," the 8-minute-long, 1974 claymation film that won Vinton an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film (embedded below).

 And I was interested to learn that Vinton's first submission, to a local Portland film festival, earned him a rejection. As the story points out, "within two minutes, the film was outright rejected. 'The judge didn’t even screen it,' recalls Vinton. 'It just wasn’t his cup of tea, or whatever.' "

Take a look and judge for yourself. And then consider how far stop-action has come in 42 years.

Movie lesson No. 1: Be your own critic

The notion that everyone's a critic is undebatable. We all make judgments of one sort of another, otherwise we'd never have the ability to make a decision about anything.

This applies particularly to moviegoing. With movie prices sitting in the $10 range, $14 or more for 3D and Dolby, such decisions are increasingly important.

But movie criticism is a kind of art, one that depends on temperament, personal biases and knowledge. To make intelligent moviegoing critiques, it helps to have seen a lot of movies, to have a discerning temperament and to have the ability to recognize personal prejudices and see past them — or at the very least to admit them.

Given all this, it's no wonder that critics exhibit a range of opinions, even about the same movie.

Example: the movie "Anthropoid," which is ending its run at AMC River Park Square on Thursday. The World War II move is based on a real incident, which involved the 1942 assassination of SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, and has been receiving lukewarm reviews. The website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 57 percent Tomatometer critics rating (73 percent among regular moviegoers).

But even in their disagreements, some critics find different things about the movie to love and/or hate. Contrast the three following responses:

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: "The movie builds - something infinitely preferable to a bold, brash beginning followed by a descent into anti-climax."

Joe McGovern, Entertainment Weekly: "Though Anthropoid lacks narrative ambition, the film justifies its reason for being thanks to a devastating final half-hour."

Linda Barnard, Toronto Star: "(T)he story … feels leaden and burdened by a false ending."

In other words, two like the ending and one does not.

This is why it's best to read as many reviews as you can, to get as complete a view of a film as possible. For me, I like this commentary, which offers a note of caution to all casting directors:

Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail: "While it's easy to sneer at the romantic subplot, it serves to humanize the characters and convey their intense fear. Otherwise we know too little about them — beyond the fact they are all impossibly good-looking."

Who among any of your friends and family is "impossible good-looking"? The lesson, which Hollywood fails to learn time and again: Eye-candy is a great diversion, but it doesn't always serve a dramatic story.

Below: "Nerve" is another movie that is ending its run on Thursday.

Indie rock showcase Bartfest canceled

Bartfest, the Bartlett’s annual music festival that was scheduled for the first weekend of October, has been canceled. The venue’s owners, Caleb and Karli Ingersoll, announced its cancellation on Facebook today, citing a lack of ticket sales.

“Canceling is definitely a self-protective move,” they wrote. “If people don’t buy tickets, our venue is put at risk because festivals are based on guarantees only and not percentages of ticket sales.”

Bartfest had struggled with attendance issues in the past. Last year, Karli Ingersoll told The Spokesman-Review that the festival had been downsized, both in lineup size and admission price, to attract bigger crowds.

“We’ve already pre-sold almost more than what we sold over the whole festival last year,” she said in 2015.

In what was to be its third year, Bartfest 2016 boasted a lineup that included such acts as Beat Connection, Tangerine, White Reaper and Soft Sleep. Twin Peaks and TOPS, two of the festival’s scheduled bands, will still perform in Spokane on Oct. 1, and tickets are currently available for those shows.

“Bartfest may re-emerge at some point, but for now we are going to focus on what we feel the most confident in – bringing in really great bands weekly and giving them a great space to play in,” the Ingersolls wrote.

All purchased festival passes will be refunded.

Friday’s openings redux: Not just comedy

And as we finalize the week's movie openings, let's add two more films to the list:

"Don't Think Twice": Mike Birbiglia ("Sleepwalk With Me") wrote and directed this look at the New York comedy scene and the hilarious but cut-throat atmosphere surrounding it. Starring Birbiglia, Gillian Jacobs and Keegan-Michael Key. It's all right … to laugh.

"Ignacio de Loyola": This historical drama is based on the memoirs of St. Ignatius of Loyola, former soldier and founder of the Jesuit order. And, no, he didn't play basketball.

See the real ‘True Grit’ tonight at the Garland

Though he was nominated twice for an Oscar, John Wayne was never much of an actor. Rather, he was a screen icon, one of those performers who imbued a role with the force of his personality. Though he'd made some 70 films previously, the true power of that force became obvious in the first film he ever starred in, John Ford's 1939 Western "Stagecoach."

Wayne was known for two types of film: Westerns and war movies. Thanks to his relationship with Ford and other directors (Howard Hawks among them), he was part of — and mostly the main attraction of — such Western classics as "Red River," "3 Godfathers," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "Rio Bravo" and "The Searchers."

As for war films, Wayne was first nominated for an Oscar for Allan Dwan's 1949 effort "Sands of Iwo Jima." Wayne can be seen also in "The Fighting Seabees," "Back to Bataan," "They Were Expendable" and a film he directed himself, "The Alamo" (which received a nomination for Best Picture).

So many notable performance, so few honors — except, of course, for fame and wealth.

And then "True Grit" came along. When he broke character to play the drunken lawman Rooster Cogburn in Henry Hathaway's adaptation of Charles Portis' novel, Wayne displayed a comic side that thrilled audiences. And the Motion Picture Academy. In a year that saw acting nominations for Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, Wayne — the sentimental favorite — won the little gold statuette.

In "True Grit," which co-starred Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper, Wayne stars as Cogburn, who is hired by the intrepid Mattie Ross (Darby) to find the man who murdered her father. The film's climax features one of the great showdowns, which includes one of Wayne's signature lines of dialogue (see embed below).

You'll have the opportunity to see Wayne at 7:15 tonight at the Garland Theater. "True Grit" will screen as part of the theater's Summer Camp 2016 series. (Note: This is NOT the 2010 remake, which was directed by the Coen brothers and stars Jeff Bridges.)

Billing itself as "Spokane’s Only Independent Encore Theatre," the Garland charges $2.50 for admission.

Inexpensive tickets and John Wayne starring in a Western. That's almost as good as an Oscar right there.

All Luddites: DVDs are cheaper than ever

Technology is changing faster than we can take advantage of it. From being able to see movies only in theaters, to being able to see them on film in your own home, to seeing them on VCRs, then laserdiscs and DVD players (upgrading to Blu-ray) and now online streaming, etc., the life of a movie fan has progressed in ways we once thought immeasurable.

Certain aspects of the progression linger on, of course. While some of us still own VCRs, and the aging tapes that feed them, far more common are DVDs and Blu-Ray. That their time is passing, though, is obvious with the closing of such businesses as, most recently, Hastings — not to mention why DVDs and Blu-ray were being sold for discount prices in the years before Hastings' decline.

But you can find deals on such products elsewhere. Turner Classic Movies, for example, is offering some 125,000 classic movies and TV series on DVD and Blu-ray. Movies such as "Singing' in the Rain" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," TV series such as "The Rockford Files" and "The Andy Griffith Show."

You can order from TCM online here, over the phone by calling 1-888-982-6746 or by mail or fax through the company catalog. The bargains are pretty good.

However you do it, enjoy. If using old technology doesn't earn you the title of Luddite now, it will sometime soon.

Friday’s openings: Never-say-die Statham

We're approaching the end of summer, which means the fall films should start hitting theaters soon. That usually means more artsy type movies, or at least those with a modicum of seriousness — in any event, movies that don't require 3D glasses to see.

Whatever, the coming week boasts at least four nation-wide premieres. Friday's openings are as follows: 

"Mechanic: Resurrection": Following in the does-Jason-Statham-ever-die? genre, this sequel has our intrepid assassination protagonist forced to pull off a series of jobs to protect the woman he loves. Note: Jessica Alba in a swimsuit.

"Don't Breathe": Blending heist and horror flick, this heart-grabber pits a bunch of robbers against the wealthy blind man whose house they target. Question: Whom do we root for?

"Southside With You": It's Chicago in the summer of 1989, and a guy named Barack goes out on a date with a woman named Michelle. And the rest, as they says, is herstory (which is as much a word as biopic).

"Hands of Stone": Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) fought his way to legendary status in the ring, but the trailers make this biopic (there's that word again) seem all about the trainer who helped him, Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro).

Still no word on when (or whether) the Magic Lantern will open. Stay tuned. I'll update as needed.

‘Gleason’: a raw, dramatic look at life

I finally got around to seeing the documentary film "Gleason," which is playing at AMC River Park Square, and I was not just impressed but moved. It's an unsparing look at a man, a woman, their son and the struggle the family faces when a deadly disease strikes. Following is the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio: 

One school of thought equates suffering with dignity. Another labels suffering a bit more precisely: as a struggle against pain and angst and a desperate plea for release.

Neither, however, is the point of the documentary “Gleason.” Oh, the subject of the film – former New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason – has a massive amount of dignity. Not to mention pride, as well as an earnest desire to be a good father, even if he’ll never be able to hug his son or even speak to him in his natural voice.

And for sure, director Clay Tweel spares neither Gleason nor his wife Michel – nor us, for that matter – in his depiction of Gleason’s multiple-year decline to the debilitating disease Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Gleason, a Spokane native who played football both at Gonzaga Prep and Washington State University, earned fame for a single play. On Sept. 25, 2006, the Saints played their first home game in 21 months, slightly more than a year after Hurricane Katrina. During that game, Gleason blocked a punt that a teammate returned for a touchdown, the first score in a game the Saints went on to win and that set the tone for their best season to that point – a tone that would, three seasons later, carry them to an NFL championship.

Gleason would be gone by then, his eight-year NFL career over. And while the end of every athlete’s playing years is sad, far worse news was waiting: In 2011, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. Shortly after that, Gleason began recording videos sharing his thoughts, both about what he was enduring and specifically leaving messages to his son, Rivers, who was born 10 months after Gleason received his diagnosis.

And if there is a theme to “Gleason” the movie, it’s that sense of legacy, especially regarding the father-son connection. Gleason and his brother, Kyle, talk about their own parents’ tumultuous relationship, which ended in divorce. And Gleason’s father, Mike, shows up, apologetic about his own parental failures but still somewhat clueless about his son’s feelings.

Cluelessness is not what Gleason wanted for his own son, especially not about a father who many would characterize as a “hero” – for his football exploits, for his fight with ALS and for the work his Team Gleason foundation has done to help other ALS patients. He wanted his son to know the plain truth.

So as his body deteriorated – leaving only his mind untouched – Gleason made video after video, expressing his feelings – his fears, his hopes, his love both for his wife and for his son. Director Tweel fills his film with many of those moments, pared down from hundreds of hours, along with shots of Gleason undergoing a series of procedures that would test the patience of Mother Theresa.

“Gleason” the documentary, then, is not simply another inspiring story of one man’s valiant fight against disease. In the end, it is real and raw, a true tale carrying its own kind of dignity.

Have a laugh at ‘Mothra’ tonight

Sometimes you want to take a movie seriously. Sometimes you just want to laugh. Tonight offers a chance at the latter when the comedy team RiffTrax presents a screening of the 1961 Japanese sci-fi thriller "Mothra."

The film, which will be screened live from the the Bellcourt Theatre in Nashville, can be seen at 8 p.m. local at two Regal Cinemas locations: the Northtown Mall 12 and at Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium 14.

RiffTrax features the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" crew of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. The three basically narrate the films they present, offering humorous aside — often at the movie's expense.

"Mothra" takes place on an island that previously had been used for atomic tests. When a crew of shipwreck survivors wash up on the island's shore, they discover strange inhabitants. Among them are a pair of miniature women. When a scoundrel kidnaps the women, intending to feature them in a live show, their haunting song attracts the attention of a giant moth — Mothra! — that then comes to raze Tokyo.

Even without the comic commentary, one critic described the 1961 film as "a marvelous mix of science fiction, monster movie and adventure fantasy filled with colorful characters and an unmistakable socio-political subtext."

A second screening is set for Tuesday. For more information on "Mothra" and other Fathom Events, click here.

Throw out those antacid tablets

Have a problem with your stomach? Do you pound the Tums to quell the pains in your tummy? Well, Leslie Kelly has the cure.

Once a food writer/restaurant reviewer for The Spokesman-Review, Kelly is now a staff writer for Allrecipes.com. Her latest piece is titled "These Recipes Helped Me Kick My Antacid Habit," which is pretty self-explanatory.

You can access it by clicking here. Then go out and enjoy a great meal.

Two days left to take the ‘Indignation’ challenge

Because movies tend to open on Friday, that means the movies being replaced usually close the day before. And because so many people seem to wait at least a week to see anything, those films that play a single week tend to go unnoticed.

One movie that is leaving after a single week is "Indignation." Written and directed by James Schamus, "Indignation" is adapted from a 2008 novel by acclaimed writer Philip Roth. Set in the early 1950s, it tells the story of an intense young Jewish man who leaves his New Jersey home to attend college in Ohio, only to experience troubles adapting to the very real adult experiences that are thrust upon him.

Roth is one of the world's great writers, having won a number of literary honors over the years, including a Pulitzer Prize and two National Book Awards. Schamus is known mostly as a producer and writer (he wrote the script for Ang Lee's masterpiece "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), and this is his first directed feature.

Schamus' film earned a 79 percent rating on both Rotten Tomatoes (a whopping 93 percent among regular moviegoers) and the more prestigious critics' site Metacritic. Here are some comments:

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: "With its mature perspective on distant formative years, the film feels true to the spirit of Roth; little from the deep wellsprings of the great novelist's fiction is lost in translation."

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: "Schamus gets the suffocating look of 1951 American academia just right, with its sweaters and skirts, and with a rose motif worthy of 'Citizen Kane.' What's missing is any real drama or purpose."

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: "Thoughtful and reserved, perhaps even to a fault, 'Indignation' winds up packing a wallop far greater than its modest parts might suggest."

In other words, "indignation" is a challenging view. You have two days left to take the dare.