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

Lantern holds ‘Monday Movies’ series

If you were at the Magic Lantern Theater on Monday, you likely were there to watch the documentary film "Bending the Arc." A study of doctors working in Haiti to provide healthcare to the poor, the film is the first in a series titled "Monday Movies" that the Lantern will be screening through Nov. 27.

The series is a partnership between the theater, The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture and the newspaper The Black Lens. Its intent is to show movies that, according to Wendy Levy, executive director of The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture, "are all about transformative experiences we have as human beings, and the larger issues we must address together, as families and communities."

The first eight films in the series are, in the words of a press release, films "focused on dramatic personal stories about people, issues and experiences in the public health care system."

The series will continue Monday, Oct. 9. The schedule will be as follows:

Oct. 9, "Unrest": A Harvard graduate student faces the trial of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Oct. 16, "Motherland": Expectant mothers teams with care-givers in the Philippines' busiest maternity hospital.

Oct. 23, "Swim Team": Autistic children compete on a New Jersey swim team.

Oct. 30, "The Waiting Room": Four patients experience a day in the life of an emergency room in an inner-city hospital.

 Nov. 13, "The Genius of Marian": Filmmaker Banker White documents the struggles of his mother, suffering from Alzheimer's, as she tries to preserve the work of her artist mother — who also had Alzheimer's.

Nov. 20, "Private Violence": Two women who survived murder attempts help document the realities of intimate partner violence.

Nov. 27, "The Revolutionary Optimists": Healthcare activists in Kolkata work to get the Indian government to provide running water to their clinic.

Tickets to each screening run $8. 

Friday’s openings: ‘Blade Runner 2049’ leads

For fans of science fiction, particularly those who admire Ridley Scott's 1982 film "Blade Runner," the coming week should offer a treat like no other: the long-awaited sequel, "Blade Runner 2049."

That film will highlight the national Friday openings schedule, which features:

"Blade Runner 2049": Directed by Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival," "Sicario"), this followup to one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made stars Ryan Gosling as a new-generation blade runner who tracks down his predecessor, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), in the process of investigating a mystery. Can't wait.

"The Mountain Between Us": Following an airplane accident that leaves them stranded on a snow mountaintop, two strangers (Idris Elba, Kate Winslet) have to depend on each other to survive. And what did you do on your holiday?

"My Little Pony": "A dark force threatens Ponyville …" and that's as far as I got reading the IMDB description. Yes, another kiddie film based on a product for sale.

That's the lot so far. I'll update when the local listings become available.

Witt’s memoir to get an Auntie’s launch

As president, Bill Clinton faced a number of controversial issues. One of the more contentious of them came to be known by the somewhat simple slogan "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

That, of course, was the supposed solution to the supposed problem posed by gay men and lesbians serving in the military. It was no solution at all, actually, and in many ways made life even worse for the very personnel its aim was to protect.

The whole issue is explained in the memoir "Tell: Love, Defiance, and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights," which was written by Major Margaret Witt (with Tim Connor). It was Witt's lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force that ended up causing the government to abandon "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, Auntie's Bookstore will present a special 7 p.m. "launch" of Witt's book, which will include a signing. Witt is currently a rehabilitation supervisor for the Portland VA Health Care System in Portland, Oregon.

For a detailed look at Witt's specific legal case, including an interview, click here.

Warning: This could be a particularly popular event, and space is limited. So get there early.

Friday’s openings redux: It’s a ‘Tangled’ story

Here's an update to the blog post that I sent out Tuesday regarding Friday's openings:

Looks as if neither "A Question of Faith" nor "Til Death Do Us Part" will open locally. However, AMC River Park Square will screen the 2010 animated film "Tangled" as part of its Dream Big, Princess series.

"Tangled" received an 89 percent rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Among the critical comments:

Richard Corliss, Time magazine: "This is your basic, and very enjoyable, Disney princess musical, an empowerment tale to teach bright, dreamy girls how to grow to maturity — and outgrow the adults in charge." 

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Tangled braids strands of traditional storytelling and a contemporary sensibility with stylish if predictable results."

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: "The result is an uncommonly pretty visual experience, especially during a climactic scene when hundreds of lanterns are sent aloft into the night sky. One thousand points of light never looked so fetching."

‘The Princess Bride’ is still good at 30

If you had to name your favorite children's movie, what would it be? I'm not sure I could come up with just one.

But on the list somewhere — certainly among the top 10 — would be "The Princess Bride."

Based on the 1973 novel by William Goldman, who then adapted that book for the screenplay, the 1987 movie was directed by Rob Reiner. It was, in fact, Reiner's fourth feature film, following "This Is Spinal Tap," "The Sure Thing" and "Stand By Me" (not a bad trio of movies), and it provided conclusive evidence that Reiner was far more than just the "Meathead" he portrayed on the sitcom "All in the Family."

The casting helped. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright portray the young lovers, Wesley and Buttercup, while Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant the helpers of the Sicilian Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) who help foil the dastardly plans of Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) and his evil acolyte Count Rugen (Christopher Guest).

And a very young Fred Savage and Peter Falk provide the bookend story that sets everything in motion. If for no other reason, watching Savage's character grow interested in his grandfather's story is priceless.

But don't just listen to me talk about it. Fathom Events will celebrate the 30th anniversary of "The Princess Bride" with a pair of screenings at two Inland Northwest theaters, NorthTown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium cinemas. The screenings will be held at 2 and 7 p.m. on both Oct. 15 and 18.

"The Princess Bride" may not be the best children's movie ever made. But it comes pretty close.

Let’s get ready to ‘Rumble,’ Indian style

Get ready for some Native American rock 'n' roll when the Magic Lantern opens its doors on Friday. The theater will be screening "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World," which IMDB describes simply enough:

"Artists discuss the role that Native Americans have played in the development of American popular music."

Here are some critical comments:

Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times: "Inevitably cursory, it's nonetheless a fascinating introduction to the ways that core components of Americana wouldn't be eradicated. Or silenced."

Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter: "The influence of Native Americans on nearly a century of popular music is eloquently demonstrated in this engaging documentary."

Ken Jaworowski, New York Times: "It's been a terrific few years for music documentaries, and that winning streak continues with 'Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.' "

And, yes, it's OK to dance in your seat.

Friday’s openings: Remakes and resurrections

It looks to be a busy week coming up at the movie theaters. Following are the films listed on the national release schedule:

"American Made": Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity") directs and Tom Cruise stars in this action-packed film, based in fact, about an airline pilot who went to work for as a gunrunner for the CIA. Can you say freedom fighter?

"Flatliners": An update of the 1990 film about medical students stopping their hearts, briefly experiencing death, and then being revived — only to discover they've unleashed, uh, evil. #originalityisdead

"A Question of Faith": In the face of crisis, three families depend on their faith to pull them through. #canigetanamen

"Til Death Do Us Part": To escape an abusive husband, a woman flees her life and creates a new identity. But hubby doesn't give up easily. Now, that's an original concept — not.

As usual, I'll update when the local listings are finalized.

Jolie’s ‘First They Killed My Father’ a powerful film

If you have a Netflix account, one of the movies worth screening was co-written and directed by none other than Angelina Jolie. Following is my review of the film, which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

Angelina Jolie was born to be a movie star. The daughter of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, Jolie has starred in 40-odd movies and been the face of the “Lara Croft” and “Maleficent” franchises. She even won an Oscar of her own, Best Supporting Actress for 2000’s “Girl, Interrupted.”

But that’s only part of the story. Next time you go shopping, study the tabloids lining the check-out stands. The lead story is likely to be about Jolie’s divorce from Brad Pitt, or her Mia Farrow-like relationship with her six kids, just as in year’s past the headlines were about her breaking up Pitt’s marriage to Jennifer Aniston. Or even before that her wild time with previous husband Billy Bob Thornton, whose blood she reportedly wore in a vial around her neck.

And let’s not even get into her lip-locking relationship with her brother.

Since 2007, though, Jolie has been crafting an alternative life story, that of serious filmmaker. That year her documentary “A Place in Time” was released. Then came her first feature, 2011’s “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” her 2014 big-budget adaptation of the Louis Zamperini story “Unbroken” and her 2015 art film (with soon-to-be-ex Pitt) “By the Sea.”

Now we have “First They Killed My Father,” a film that opened both on Netflix and in a small number of theaters in the top movie markets. Based on a memoir by the Cambodian author/activist Luong Ung, “First They Killed My Father” tells the story of Luong’s family and its struggle to survive following the fall of Cambodia’s government to the Khmer Rouge.

Luong, her parents and her siblings were among the thousands of residents of Cambodia’s capital, Phmon Penh, who were forced to leave the city. Told that they were in danger of being bombed, but that they would be gone for only three days, the city-dwellers headed for the country side. It was only then that, inexorably, they discovered that this was to be their new life – scrambling for shelter and food, working in the fields, being indoctrinated into Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot’s new society and watching as, gradually but with extreme prejudice, anyone other than mere workers were taken away, never to be seen again.

And the first one of Luong’s family to be taken was her father.

Director Jolie documents all this with inordinate skill. She has been criticized for how she portrays the beauty of the Cambodian countryside, but that merely underscores the irony of war: As in the scene in “All Quiet on the Western Front” when Lew Ayrds reaches for a butterfly, horror can’t expunge natural beauty. In a weird way, it often enhances it.

Jolie’s best effect, though, is how she tells Loung’s story in a slow reveal, avoiding any overly dramatic moments until nearly the end. Instead, she keys on her cast – especially on young Sreymoch Sareum, who plays Luong – and in doing so gives the characters more meaning than mere headlines could ever express.

Which is something that Jolie herself is all too familiar with.

Friday’s openings redux: Inspiration and regret

I never updated the listings for what movies opening are locally on Friday. Let me correct that oversight right now.

In addition to what I listed before, these will play also:

"Stronger": Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this inspired-by-real-life story of a man who survived the Boston Marathon bombing. Bring a hankie.

"Brad's Status": While accompanying his son on a tour of East Coast colleges, a man (Ben Stiller) ruminates on the choices he made in his own life. Bring a shrink.

As a bonus for the kids, the 1998 Disney animated release "Mulan" will open as part of Disney's Dream Big, Princess Marathon. Bring a tiara.

That's the lot. So go, see a movie. And enjoy.

Magic Lantern goes all British historical

So, the Magic Lantern has finalized its Friday schedule. Spokane's art-house cinema will open "Viceroy's House," which is another of those looks at British historical that have become increasingly popular.

Following are some reviews:

Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service: "There's something pleasantly old-fashioned about 'Viceroy's House.' It feels like a Merchant Ivory period piece posing cultural questions within a safely cushioned environment. There are no guessing games, but also very little subtext."

Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times: "The film carries a trace of the sweep of a great screen epic along with the straightforward, explanatory qualities of mass-audience TV, and is never less than absorbing."

Stephanie Merry, Washington Post: " 'Viceroy's House' works, but mainly as a historical refresher on the 70th anniversary of Indian independence. As drama, it's a reminder that truth is sometimes more affecting than fiction."

Sounds like it'll be a royal time.

Reading: Race on the field and elsewhere

Above: Professor David Leonard is also author of  “Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema." (Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services)

Of the many issues facing the country today, one of the most prominent is race relations. And that's across the board, from immigration policy to community policing to questioning the need for certain kinds of public monuments.

And let's not forget sports.

David Leonard, a professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, is the author of a book titled "Playing While White: Privilege and Power On and Off the Field" (University of Washington Press). In it he argues "how and why whiteness matters within sports and what that tells us about race in the twenty-first century."

The questions concerning race in America are not new topics for Leonard. Among his other books are "Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema" (Praeger, 2006) and "After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness" (SUNY Press, 2012).

Leonard will read from his book at 7 p.m. Saturday at Auntie's Bookstore.

It should be an enlightening evening.

Friday’s openings: Social media and LEGO ninjas

Action, horror and comedy. Now that's the kind of week that Hollywood loves. And it's what the national movie release schedule for Friday promises. The scheduled lineup is as follows:

"Friend Request": From IMDB: "A popular college student graciously accepts a social outcast's online friend request, but soon finds herself fighting a demonic presence that wants to make her lonely by killing her closest friends." Paging Mark Zuckerberg.

"Kingsman: The Golden Circle": With their headquarters destroyed, the British superagents join forces with a similar kind of U.S. group to fight a common enemy. The name isn't Bond, James Bond.

"The LEGO Ninjago Movie": Third in the LEGO series, this one features a group of high-school-age ninjas whose greatest foe is one of their number's dad. What, no Batman?

I'll update when the local listings get finalized.

‘I Called Him Morgan’: a tale of jazz and irony

If you're searching Netflix for a decent documentary to watch, you could do worse than "I Called Him Morgan." Directed by Kasper Collin, it tells the story of an ill-fated jazz musician. But as I try to explain in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio, it rises above what might otherwise have been a mere headline-grabbing storyline:

It isn’t easy to reach a wide audience when making a movie about an artist who works in a limited arena. And let’s be honest here: Jazz is a limited arena.

Especially the kind of jazz that became popular in New York clubs from the 1950s on, the kind that was being defined by performers such as Charlie “Bird” Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and the lesser known trumpet player Lee Morgan.

Lesser known, of course, only to the mainstream. Jazz aficionados are well aware of Morgan, the wunderkind trumpet player who by his mid-teens was already impressing the likes of Gillespie and Blakey with his musical abilities. If Morgan is remembered at all by the general public it’s likely because of the sordid nature of his 1972 death, shot by his common-law wife Helen between sets at a jazz club called, appropriately enough, Slug’s Saloon. He was just 33.

Credit filmmaker Kasper Collin, then, for seeing beyond the sad circumstances of Morgan’s demise and attempting to capture the larger world that Morgan, his fellow musicians – and, yes, his wife – populated with such vigor.

Collin, who is Swedish, got interested in Morgan some 10 years after completing a documentary about another musician, the sax player Albert Ayler. And while searching for a way to tell Morgan’s story, he got lucky. He found a trove of photographs, taken by at least three people during both recording sessions and less formal gatherings. The pristine quality of many of these black-and-white photos could comprise a museum collection in and of themselves.

Even more important, Collin found a recording – maybe the only one ever made – of an interview that Morgan’s wife gave just before her death in 1996. The very basis of Collin’s film – including its title, “I Called Him Morgan” – is built on that tape, which reveals not only the back story but the pain and regret that Helen Morgan carried with her for the remainder of her life.

Add the photos and the tape to the interviews that Collin conducted – most notably members of Morgan’s group – and underscore all that with a taste of the music that was produced, and you have a film that is more than just another story about a flawed artist who dies young. You have something that is far closer to a work of art.

Not the least of which is the irony that colors everything. Like many of his peers, Charlie Parker included, Morgan fell prey to heroin. And it was Helen, an independent older woman, who came to his rescue. Not only did Helen save Morgan’s life, she helped him resurrect his career. And the two became so close, so interconnected, that it was hard for their friends to think of one without the other.

Which was why what developed – another woman, a jealous rage, a loaded handgun and sudden death – came as such as shock. And loss.

You can hear the loss in the voices that Collin captures on camera. And that Helen Morgan left on a single audiotape.

Experience again the magic of ‘E.T’

Even though he's done his share of adult features, Steven Spielberg is still best known for his films that feature children. Think of Sheriff Brody's sons in "Jaws." Or the look of wonder on the boy who senses the aliens in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Mostly, though, think of the kids in Spielberg's 1982 classic "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." This was the film had critics swooning.

One was the Washington Post's Gary Arnold: "Spielberg has always demonstrated extraordinary aptitude for filmmaking, but 'E.T.' is far and away his most satisfying work to date. He knows how to transform the raw material of his childhood into an appealing popular fable. There are sequences that touch you to the quick in mysteriously casual ways."

In their ongoing quest to bring people back to movie theaters, exhibitors are teaming with distributors to bring classic film (and other visual events) back for popular viewing. And among its many offerings, Fathom Events is thinking Spielberg.

Specifically, a revival of "E.T." The Extra-Terrestrial." Two Inland Northwest theaters, the Regal Cinemas' multiplex at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium, will screen a 35th-anniversary, remastered print of "E.T."  at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Wednesday.

Remember: "E.T." wanted to go home. Regal Cinemas wants you to go to the movies. Only you can make both happen. 

Catch Miyazaki’s first feature on Thursday

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the world's great animators. His films, which he began making in the early 1970s for Japanese television, include such classic titles as "My Neighbor Totoro," "Princess Mononoke" and the Oscar-winning "Spirited Away."

Fathom Events is in the midst of a Miyazaki festival. And at 7 p.m. Thursday, Miyazaki's first feature film — 1979's "The Castle of Cagliostro" — will screen at both NorthTown and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium Cinemas.

The film, which also is known under the title "Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro," tells the tale of a thief who steals what turns out to be counterfeit money and then hunts down the source of the fake currency. In the process, he struggles to help out a beautiful young princess.

Following are some critical comments:

Janet Maslin, New York Times: " 'The Castle of Cagliostro' … is an interestingly wild hybrid of visual styles and cultural references."

Tasha Robinson, The A.V. Club: "This caper film possesses Miyazaki's usual good-hearted charm, but he injects a manically energetic humor that his more sedate children's films never quite achieve."

Kenneth Brown, Blu-ray.com: " 'The Castle of Cagliostro' is a blast of a crime caper, but it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the earliest feature film work of a true master."

Miyazaki is 76 now and is more (or less) retired. But his legacy endures.