Sometime in January, when I expect temperatures to drop into the teens or below and Spokane streets to be covered in snow or ice, I'm going to think back to Saturday afternoon, when my wife, my brother and I had lunch at Browne's Tavern.
Located in Browne's Addition, across the street from The Elk Public House, Browne's Tavern offers a full range of eats and drinks that fit a summer menu, in particular, quite well. The three of us opted for salads with shaved prime rib, and they ended up being just what we wanted (even if we weren't expecting the grilled green peppers, which were a nice touch).
The sun was out, we sat in the courtyard under the shade of an umbrella, and enjoyed the day, the salads, the service and the sun.
Especially the sun. Maybe the memory will help keep me warm as we enter the new year. One can always hope.
Trends in mainstream moviemaking have always involved size. Whether it be big sound, big names or big screens, bigger is considered synonymous with better – at least in the minds of Hollywood producers.
And that goes double for producers of summer blockbusters. Seeing something in IMAX or 3-D, with Dolby Surround Sound, tends to keep those of us in the audience so occupied that we typically don’t notice any lacking in the story unfolding on-screen. That realization usually comes only after the house lights go up.
Take the latest summer hit, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” fifth in the film franchise based on the popular 1960s-era television show. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie – Oscar-winning screenwriter of the 1996 thriller “The Usual Suspects” – this latest “Mission: Impossible” has the IMF team facing its biggest challenge ever: an evil doppelganger.
IMF, of course, stands for Impossible Mission Force, a super-secret group dedicated to doing jobs even the CIA can’t handle, working with stealth, deception and high-tech gadgetry to foil the enemies of the USA, USA, USA.
That doesn’t mean, however, that IMF team members, especially team leader Ethan Hunt – Tom Cruise, at age 53 still in vintage action form – aren’t above pulling off amped-up action stunts. “Rogue Nation” begins with Hunt’s riding the side of an Airbus 400 in flight to foil a theft of nerve gas.
After that, the plot begins in earnest: Attempting to prove the existence of its evil counterpart, known only as The Syndicate, Hunt faces torture by one of the group’s minions. With the timely help of one-time MI6 operative Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), he manages to escape. But the CIA director (Alec Baldwin) refuses to believe The Syndicate even exists. So he succeeds in getting the IMF disbanded, after which Hunt finds himself pursuing the mysterious evil organization without institutional support.
Not that Hunt is without resources. The IMF team that plays together, stays together, after all, which means that Hunt can depend on a number of former teammates, including tech-wizard Benji (Simon Pegg), old friend Luther (Ving Rhames) and reassigned-to-the-CIA cohort William (Jeremy Renner) – not to mention the who’s-side-is-she-on Ilsa.
McQuarrie clearly has a talent for rendering action, perhaps the No. 1 requirement for a “Mission: Impossible” franchise, whether we’re talking about the opening – in which Cruise actually did ride the side of an Airbus – or motorcycle chases, numerous fight scenes and a digitally constructed underwater stunt. But plot? Intrigues involving the CIA, an MI6 agent played by Simon McBurney, the head of The Syndicate (Sean Harris) not to mention the ubiquitous Ilsa, give McQuarrie’s outline an overly complicated feel.
Ultimately, though, the story progresses almost too directly – to a predictable ending that, just as predictably, keeps things open for a “Mission: Impossible 6.”
What does set “Rogue Nation” apart, beyond the dependable presence of Cruise, is the humorous subtext – best displayed by Simon Pegg, as funny here as he is in J.J. Abrams’ reboot of “Star Trek.”
The jokes Pegg tells may not be big, but they do make the movie’s concept feel … well, mission: passable.
This weekend is a big one for local music releases: Both the Sweeplings and Cathedral Pearls are putting out their first full-length albums and are celebrating the occasion with back-to-back shows at the Bartlett.
The Sweeplings is a project formed by Cami Bradley, the local singer-songwriter featured on NBC’s competition series “America’s Got Talent,” and Alabama-based musician and producer Whitney Dean. Their new LP, titled “Rise and Fall,” comes out on Friday, and Bradley and Dean will be at the Bartlett that night; physical copies of the LP will be available for purchase at the show.
“Etchings” is the first album by local indie four-piece Cathedral Pearls, a collection of ten tightly-crafted tunes a year and a half in the making. Cathedral Pearls has released several EPs in the past, but this marks their first LP, and the band will be performing at the Bartlett Saturday night with the new CD in tow. And this is pretty cool: The $10 ticket also includes a copy of the record.
But the local album releases don’t stop there: Spokane psych-rock trio Blackwater Prophet drops its new record “Ghost” on Aug. 14, which coincides with a show at – where else? – the Bartlett.
Below: Cathedral Pearls performs “Dynamite,” one of the tracks on the band’s upcoming album, “Etchings.”
Seattle rapper Macklemore, in town recently to film a video for an upcoming album with his producer Ryan Lewis, dropped some big news today: He's a dad.
His wife, Tricia, gave birth to Sloan Ava Simone Haggerty on May 29. In a post on his website, the wrote an essay about becoming a dad. He also wrote a song, with Lewis and an assist from Ed Sheeran. Read the message and check out the song here.
BTW, given the nature of "Growing Up: Sloane's Song," it's a safe bet this is not the tune Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) and Lewis (a former Spokane resident) filmed here late last month. That video should hit the Interwebs in the fall.
When I first moved to Spokane, a few months before Mount St. Helens blew in 1980, I was the father of a 16-month-old girl. And anyone who is both a movie lover and a parent of a young child knows that, back in the days before video/DVD/online movie viewing, the two didn't always mix.
I remember having to leave a screening of the movie "Magic" because my daughter, then a mere infant, woke up and began fussing. I suspect she was disturbed by a creepy Anthony Hopkins, too.
In 1980 Spokane, though, we discovered the solution: drive-in movies. Off the top of my head, I can recall at least six drive-in theaters that we attended on a regular basis — none of which exists today, few of which made even to the 1990s.
Which is why I am heartened to see that "Grease" will be playing at 7 tonight at a drive-in theater set up at the Spokane County Raceway in Airway Heights. Admission is $20 per car ($25 for VIP parking, whatever that means); outdoor seating is provided, too, and concessions will be for sale.
Movies have been screening at the racetrack every other Wednesday since June 10, and George Lucas' "American Graffiti" will play on Aug. 19. (Another drive-in site in Mead has been showing movies every other Tuesday since June 9, and "Dirty Dancing" is scheduled to play Aug. 19.) So if you don't want to see John Travolta and Olivia Newton John romp around tonight, you still have a couple of more chances.
We've covered the mainstream openings below. Now let's tackle the Magic Lantern, which opens only a single new movie. But that movie is something special. It's titled "Tangerine" and may be like nothing you've ever seen.
And that's not just because it was shot entirely on a pair of iPhone 5s.
Set in Los Angeles on a typical Southern California Christmas Eve, amid the flow of traffic mostly along Sunset Boulevard, "Tangerine" follows a transgender prostitute, just out of jail, as she prowls the night in search of her two-timing pimp. Along the way, writer-director Sean Baker introduces us to a cast of characters whose desires and dreams are no less real than any mainstream American.
Here are some of the critical shout-outs.
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: "As one character observes in 'Tangerine,' Los Angeles is 'a beautifully wrapped lie.' Baker has created a fitting homage to artifice and the often tawdry, tender realities that lie beneath."
Christy Lemire: " 'Tangerine' is a great Los Angeles movie and a great indie and a great reminder of the possibilities of creativity during a time when everything is a sequel or a reboot or a comic-book spectacle."
Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "Little is as it seems in 'Tangerine,' a fast, raucously funny comedy about love and other misadventures."
Caution: Click on the embed below only if you aren't easily offended.
Another summer blockbuster, Woody Allen's latest and a Meryl Streep weeper highlight the coming week of movies. Friday's openings are as follows:
"Fantastic Four": Rebooting a series with mostly 20-something faces, this update of the Marvel superhero quartet stars Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell. Hear that millennial roar!
"Ricki and the Flash": Meryl Streep stars as a veteran rock star who is forced to deal with the family she deserted. Her solution: Put another dime in the jukebox, baby.
"The Gift": When an old acquaintance shows up, a man's happy life begins to unravel. This is why it's unwise to drink overmuch at office parties.
"Irrational Man": A depressed philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix) finds new life through action, and the consequences reverberate through his small college town. Allen's film is being called a cross between "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and "Match Point."
"Dark Places": A quarter century after the fact, a woman (Charlize Theron) agrees to revisit the house where her family was butchered. Can you say, "Uh-oh"?
You know the drill by now. Go. See a movie. And enjoy.
The Bartlett announced the full line-up of the second annual Bartfest today with 18 beloved Northwest musical acts, including local favorites Marshall McClean Band and Mama Doll.
“Our lineup speaks for itself—talented, burgeoning artists whose ties to the Pacific Northwest (whether by location or fanbase) bring a unique brand of authenticity to their sound,” according to a press release.
The two-day festival, Oct. 9-10, will occur on two stages as neighboring venues, The Bartlett and Nyne Bar, in downtown Spokane. The Bartlett is an all-ages venue, and shows at Nyne Bar are all ages until 8 p.m. during the festival. Weekend passes, $30, are currently on sale at bartfest.com.
The Bartlett is also reprising its curated poster exhibit, which pairs local graphic designers, illustrators and artists with featured headliners to create a unique show poster. The posters will be displayed at multiple venues during the festival, with a Poster Exhibit Launch Party at the Bartlett on Thursday, Oct. 8 for weekend pass holders. Print sale proceeds will benefit the Spokane chapter of The Songs for Kids Foundation.
Looks as if AMC River Park Square is going to open a movie on Wednesday. "Shaun the Sheep Movie" is a stop-action animated film that comes to us from some of the guys who worked on such similarly made projects as "Chicken Run" and "Madagascar." It's based on the UK television series, which was a spinoff from the "Wallace and Gromit" cartoons.
Friday's final openings will be announced later. But among them, expect to see the "Fantastic Four" reboot.
My pal and former Spokesman-Review colleague Leslie Kelly has enjoyed (mostly) a varied career since leaving Spokane's paper. She worked for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the now-defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and has slaved away in various positions as a freelance food writer while living with her husband John within a shadow's length of Seattle's Space Needle.
Just recently, though, she snared a position for the website allrecipes.com. And, she reports, she's never been happier — which is a refreshing thing to hear from a writer in this era of low-paid web journalism.
It's not exactly easy to find her efforts on the site. But this link will take you to a recent story she wrote about deviled eggs. Click on it and learn something. Here's a link to some of her other stories.
Excuse me while you read. I'm heading for my kitchen to see if I can't replicate one of those deviled-eggs recipes.
This month’s BIG NIGHT OUT is actually a BIG WEEKEND OUT at Bumbershoot in Seattle, Sept. 5-7. Enter to win a pair of 3-day wristbands so you and a friend can enjoy a long weekend of music, comedy, dance, theatre, visual arts and much more (travel and additional accommodations not included).
Since 1971, Bumbershoot has drawn artists representing the best in music, film, comedy, spoken word, dance, theatre, performance, and visual arts to Seattle Center every Labor Day weekend! Over one hundred acts are scheduled, including music by The Weekend, Faith No More, Ellie Goulding and Hozier; comedy by Hari Kondabolu and Bridget Everett; author podcasts and panels with Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter; and much more. This year’s event also introduces Youngershoot, which offers entertainment and activities for the under 21 crowd and their caregivers.
Ken Hopkins, part of the popular morning show “Dave, Ken & Molly” on KZZU 92.9 FM, was badly injured in a bicycle wreck on July 13 and has lost feeling in his body from the chest down.
According to KHQ, Hopkins was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, which happened after his bike slid on gravel and he fell.
His co-hosts, Dave Sposito and Molly Allen, and fellow station employees helped put together a GoFundMe page with the aim of raising $50,000 toward Hopkins’ expenses. In two days, the site raised more than $35,000.
“I do have full use of my arms, hands and neck muscles and am hopeful for the return of other functions once the damages heal and swelling returns to normal,” Hopkins wrote on the GoFundMe page. “The list of rehab goals are staggering just to be able to reach the No. 1 goal of transitioning back into my own home but I do list one of my highest priorities as returning to the morning show and radio station that I have been privileged to be part of for the last 30 years.”
In addition to the GoFundMe campaign, Dutch Bros. stores in Spokane, owned by State Rep. Kevin Parker, on Friday will offer all 16-ounce beverages for $2, with $1 of that dedicated to Hopkins and his family.
“UnREAL” has been called one of the “the best TV shows you’re not watching” this summer. And it’s not surprising if you haven’t heard of it, as a weekly drama on Lifetime. And no one would blame you for dismissing it out of hand, as the series follows the production crew and cast of a fictional “The Bachelor”-type reality show.
Stay with me, though, because “UnREAL” is upfront about the ridiculousness of reality dating while creating characters whose identities aren't so easily defined as hero or villain. The show follows producer Rachel (Shiri Appleby), fresh off an on-set nervous breakdown and break-up, as she returns for the latest season of “Everlasting” to see if she can manufacture a love story between British playboy Adam (Freddie Stroma) and his league of potential brides without selling her soul.
You don’t have to like reality television to enjoy “UnREAL,” especially since most of your prejudices against the genre may be affirmed: it’s not real; the participants are out for fame, not love; the only people who are more screwed up than the contestants are the people running this circus.
And if you are a “Bachelor” diehard fan, you might be interested to know that “UnREAL” is based on a short film, “Sequin Raze”, written and directed by former “The Bachelor” producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, who co-created “UnREAL” with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” veteran Marti Noxon. The tried and true tropes of reality dating shows are so subtly documented that only faithful viewers (including all us hate-watchers) may notice them.
The series confronts some of the touchy subjects that its “real-life” counterparts handle without much grace, like race relations, antiquated gender politics, mental illness…even death. It gets really dark.
The season finale of “UnREAL” airs on Lifetime on Monday, August 3 at 10 p.m. Previous episodes are available through On Demand, the Lifetime App or mylifetime.com (cable subscription required for episodes 1-5).
Are you watching “UnREAL”? What do you think of reality dating shows? Let us know in the comments!