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

Fridays openings: Superheroes and teen rockers

When superhero movies open, they clearly take precedence — at least in Hollywood's eyes. Which must be why only two mainstream films are opening this week. Friday's openings are as follows:

"Captain America: Civil War": Even the best of friends, and Captain American and Iron Man are hardly that, have their differences. This time, though, those difference lead to … Super War!!! Ain't the movies Mervelous?

"Sing Street": A Dublin lad forms a band to impress the girl he likes. All of which proves that you, too, can be a rock success. (Get it?)

So go, see a movie. And enjoy.

SIFF 2016: Tickets on sale Thursday

I've already written about the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival, which runs from May 19 through June 12. This post is merely to inform readers that the SIFF box office will open to the general public on Thursday, May 5 (it opens a day earlier to SIFF members). Just go to SIFF.net (or merely click here) to get more information.

Not that Seattle needs anything more to brag about, but SIFF is one of the biggest, longest and most user-friendly film festivals in the country, if not the world. The Opening Night Gala, as I've already pointed out, is Woody Allen's "Cafe Society" which stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively. Festival passes and special event tickets are already on sale.

Perhaps most important, click here to see the 2015 A-Z festival lineup. And start drooling.

Linklater looks back with fondness

Richard Linklater knows a lot about growing up. He's made several films that key on that very process, the latest one being "Everybody Want Some!!" Following is the review of Linklater's film that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

When Bruce Springsteen sings about those “Glory Days,” he’s not looking back with fondness. He’s lamenting the kind of life that peaks too soon, one that no longer involves being good at baseball, being the attractive one in high school or even just being someone with a steady job.

Filmmaker Richard Linklater is noted for making films that look back. Unlike Springsteen, though, Linklater doesn’t tend to bemoan the experience. In 1993’s “Dazed and Confused,” he remembers the good and the bad – but mostly the good. Same with “Boyhood,” his Oscar-nominated 2014 film that – shot over a dozen years – follows a boy as he progresses through adolescence.

Now we have “Everybody Wants Some!!” Linklater’s nostalgic look at life as, presumably, he experienced it in college. And if the title itself isn’t clue enough that Linklater is far from lamenting anything, the fact that he places not just one but two exclamations points at the end of it certainly does.

Set a few days before college term begins in 1980 – slightly more than four years after the “Dazed and Confused” end-of-high-school party – “Everybody Wants Some!!” centers on Jake (played by Blake Jenner). Arriving on his Texas campus, Jake heads for a house set up especially for the school’s baseball team.

Once there, he is quickly drafted into the testosterone-laced atmosphere of 1980s-era Texas athletics, which includes everything from an I-hate-pitchers attitude (Jake IS a pitcher) to ritualized rule-breaking (from drinking to smoking dope to hosting young women on the taboo second floor) and impromptu philosophizing.

That latter activity is practiced by everyone, whether espousing a coda regarding the correct way to woo women or spotting the secret pro scout who supposedly haunts their every practice – but it is practiced best by the older-and-seemingly-wiser Finnegan (played by Glenn Powell) and the surfer-boy/pothead transfer Willoughby (played by Wyatt Russell, the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn).

Though clearly no pushover, freshman Jake is open to all of it. He’s especially drawn to the charms of another freshman, a performing arts major named Beverly (Zoey Deutch), who – unlike almost all of Linklater’s other films – is the movie’s sole talking/thinking female character.

And that points to the weakness of “Everybody Wants Some!!” Yes, it does portray a campus in which the “Everybody” of the film’s title seems to include women, at least in terms of what they want. Yet other than Beverly, only the guys get to talk about it.

Further, even in Texas, racial issues weren’t exactly unheard of in 1980. Yet other than a few extras, Linklater gives us a sole black character, Dale (played by J. Quinton Johnson). Dale ambles from one sequence to the next – even dancing in a country bar – with no sense of racial resentment. It’s nice to think this could be the case, but it doesn’t exactly reflect reality.

So, yes, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a loving look back. And, at times, it is hilariously politically incorrect. But we’ve come to expect more from Linklater than a simple, genial recollection of his own “glory days.”

Auntie’s evening: a pair of poets

Poetry is on the schedule at Auntie's Bookstore tonight. Regional poets Kevin Goodan and Kimberly Burwick will read from their new collections at 7.

Goodan, a professor at Lewis-Clark State College, was raised with his stepfather and brothers on Montana's Flathead Indian Reservation. He will read from "Let the Voices," in which "the speaker in these poems gives voice to childhood companions often hungry, both literally and figuratively, for a kind of salvation. In a splicing of lyric and narrative vignettes language becomes both subject and catalyst for recovering one's voice in a negligent world."

Burwick, who teaches in the English Department at Washington State University, will read from "Good Night Brother." As one reviewer wrote, " 'Good Night Brother' opens a world of experience as distilled and compelling as anything Dickinson or Plath might render, in a music wrought from anguish. Poem after poem stops us short, not only for its sheer courage, its willingness to confront the raw truths of a ‘deformed’ relationship, but for its craft, its nuance, its impossible restraint."

The reading is free and open to the public. 

Pre takes the track tonight at The Bing

On anyone's list of the most charismatic runners ever born, Steve Prefontaine would ranks at or near the top. The former University of Oregon runner never won an Olympic medal, but he is among the greatest U.S. runners in history, having once held every U.S. record from 2,000 to 10,000 meters (for those counting, that would be seven different events).

You can learn more about Prefontaine at 7 tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater when the 1997 film "Prefontaine" screens. Runners Don Kardong (who competed with Prefontaine) and Gonzaga University track coach Pat Tyson (who was Prefontaine's college roommate) will be on hand to share their memories.

As for the movie, which was directed by "Hoop Dreams" director Steve James, a pre-Oscar Jared Leto stars as the title character. Here are some critical comments:

Mike Clark, USA Today: "The Super-16mm film stock gives the film a grainy look that blends in artfully with the vintage videotape of ABC's '72 Olympics coverage."

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "Here is a sports movie in the tradition of the best sportswriting, where athletes are portrayed warts and all. You do not have to be nice to win races, but you have to be good."

Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle: "With hypnotic blue eyes and dirty blond hair, Leto captures the rock-star style Prefontaine affected, and he looks natural in fiery performances on the track, as well as off, where Pre affected a brash, confrontational style."

The screening is part of The Inlander's Suds & Cinema series. Admission is $5, and beer is $5 more.

SIFF 2016: Seattle plays host to world cinema

Long before every city, town village and burg organized its own film festival, a few such movie events attracted movie fans from all over. One of the most user-friendly was born 280-some miles west of Spokane in 1976. You can read a condensed history of the Seattle International Film Festival by clicking here.

From those humble beginnings, SIFF has transformed into a 25-day extravaganza featuring 100s of feature and documentary films, shorts and a year-round program of the best independent and foreign cinema imaginable.

The 2016 edition of SIFF begins May 19 and runs through June 12. Ticket packages and passes are on sale now, especially to the Opening Night Gala — Woody Allen's "Cafe Society," which stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively.

Even if you don't make the opening night, SIFF boasts a lot of good cinema during its near-month-long run. Plan a weekend and head west to experience one of the better films festivals in not just the country — but in the world.

Friday’s openings redux: Killers galore

Friday's final movie bookings are in, and we have two films — two similarly ultra-violent films — to add to the mainstream list (at least at AMC River Park Square):

"Term Life": When a heist he planned goes horribly wrong, a guy (Vince Vaughn in a bad hairdo) finds himself the target of both killer cops and killer … well, killers.

"Green Room": When a punk band witnesses a murder, the members must fight for their lives. They should have been happy with the brown M&Ms.

Friday’s openings: Kitties, robots and mommies

What with the weather switching from summer to fall and back again, usually all in one morning, the only dependably climate-controlled spot to seek out is in a movie theater. Friday's schedule opening are as follows:

"Keanu": Television won't be the same without Key & Peele, the Comedy Central duo who are now making movies. Their first team effort, this comedy about a couple of regular guys who adopt a kitty, see it get kidnapped by an urban gang and fight to retrieve it. Meooowwww, indeed.

"Ratchet & Clank": Straight from your kid's PlayStation, this game-originated, animated space duo must fight a villain bent on destroying every planet in the galaxy. It's a kids' world.

"Mother's Day": Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson and others star in this rom-com about three generations coming together to celebrate the day of the title. Are flowers and a card enough?

I'll have the official list, plus the Magic Lantern, when it's available.

Late note: The Magic Lantern will open the fashion/art documentary "The First Monday in May," which is a study of — according to Rotten Tomatoes — "The Metropolitan Museum of Art's most attended fashion exhibition in history, 'China: Through The Looking Glass,' an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton."

Prince’s “Purple Rain” returns to the big screen

If you’re mourning the loss of Prince, who died Thursday at the age of 57, you now have a chance to see the icon at the peak of his powers.

“Purple Rain,” the rock musical that helped rocket Prince to superstardom, is returning to big screens for a limited engagement, and Spokane’s AMC River Park Square location is one of 87 theaters set to show the film.

Shot in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, the semi-autobiographical film follows a struggling musician known simply as the Kid, who finds an escape from a troubled home life in the city’s lively rock scene. The story is a standard backstage melodrama, but “Purple Rain” is really worth seeing for its electric concert sequences and for its soundtrack, which features such classics as “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die 4 U” and the title tune.

“Purple Rain” was an unexpected smash when it was released in the summer of 1984, becoming one of the highest grossing movies of the year and garnering critical adulation (it turned up on both Gene Siskel’s and Roger Ebert’s year end top 10 lists). Its accompanying soundtrack album spawned four Top 10 hits and earned Prince an Oscar and two Grammys; Entertainment Weekly recently named it the second greatest album of all time, behind only the Beatles’ “Revolver.”

The film will screen at 1:45 p.m. and 7 p.m. from Saturday through Thursday. Advance tickets can be purchased at amctheatres.com.

For a literary trip, head to Fairfield

It's not often that a literary reading/signing is paired with a museum tour. But that's exactly what's happening tonight in Fairfield, Wash.

Tim and Beck Hattenburg, co-authors of “Death Ride: A Little Boy’s Night of Terror,” will read from their book at 7 tonight at the Fairfield Library, 305 E. Main St., in Fairfield (just off Highway 27, some 30 miles south of Spokane).

The Hattenbergs' book details events that occurred on a wintry night in 1937 when a man murdered the parents of then-5-year-old Larry Kuntz. The boy survived a brutal beating to finger the killer, who later was hanged.

Following the reading, attendees will be invited to go next door and tour Fairfield's newly remodeled museum.

The reading and tour, which includes refreshments, are free and open to the public.

Enter to win tickets to the next No-Li Small Batch

We hope you have May 16-22 blocked off on your calendar. It’s the second annual Spokane Craft Beer Week, of course, and it promises to be even bigger with more daily events and more beer from local breweries.

One such event is “Red, White & No-Li Small Batch Festival” on Saturday, May 21, and now is your chance to win a pair of tickets to the event overlooking the Spokane River at No-Li Brewhouse.

Entry to the event on Armed Forces Day includes access to 8+ limited release, infused and barrel-aged specialty No-Li brews, a commemorative t-shirt, pint glass and 5 drink tickets. Most Small Batch events sell out, so don’t miss out!

Enter to win at spokane7.com/contests. We’ll randomly draw two winners on Monday, May 9. Must be 21 and older to participate; see Contest Rules for details.

And don’t forget to SAVE THE DATE for SCBW Kickoff Party with ON TAP at Perry Street Brewing, Monday May 16, 5-8 p.m. Admission is free, and we’ll be giving away lots of ON TAP swag while raising a pint to local brewers. Cheers!

Friday’s openings (redux): Hanks and Miles

In addition to the two films mentioned below, Friday's movie openings include a biopic of jazz great Miles Davis, a new film from German director Tom Tykwer and another period-piece American study from Richard Linklater. The week's openings follow:

"Miles Ahead": Don Cheadle portrays Miles Davis, who for all his troubles — self-made and otherwise — was a genius on the jazz trumpet. Either way, he was kind of blue.

"A Hologram for the King": Tom Hanks portrays a man, trying to rebuild his life, whose job requires him to sell a new technology to the king of Saudi Arabia. Directed by the man who gave us "Run Lola Run."

"Everybody Wants Some!!": Linklater ("Dazed and Confused") follows the exploits of a college baseball team. Expect the same mix of sex, drugs and more than a bit of rock 'n' roll.

And at the Magic Lantern? Second-run openings of "Midnight Special" and "Hello, My Name Is Doris."

Friday’s openings: Strange tales from the past

A fictional prequel to a well known fairy tale and a fictional reimagining of a modern tale of weirdness highlight Friday's main movie releases. A tentative look at the week's main movie openings follows:

"The Huntsman: Winter's War": Taking place long before the events covered in "Snow White and the Huntsman," the world is split between two sisters — the narcissistic blond with that magic mirror and the ice queen (who, what?, emerged from "Frozen"). My favorite critical quote so far: "If all else fails, at least it’s a movie smart enough to know that, frankly, you can’t beat Charlize Theron, covered in gold, shooting lethal spiky tentacles out of her midriff."

"Elvis & Nixon": Yes, it's true that Elvis Presley did once visit President Richard Nixon in the White House. It's likely, though, that the meeting was nothing like what occurs in this film starring Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as the president.

I'll have the whole lineup, including the Magic Lantern, when it's finalized.

‘Hardcore Henry’: Shorter is better

If you love movies that put you in the midst of the action, you may want to check out "Hardcore Henry." Or not. Following is my review of the film, which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

Imagine that you wake up from a deep sleep. You remember nothing. All you see before you is a beautiful woman, a dream of a woman, and she is talking to you calmly, patiently.

She tells you a story. It’s your story, she says. You’re married, she says. But something happened. Something happened to you. And as she talks, she works. And you watch. You watch as she replaces a missing arm, a missing leg – your missing arm, your missing leg.

And you begin to realize that the replacements are not ordinary. Quite the contrary. They are the arms and legs of an android, limbs that possess incredible strength, and they are now part of you. And now you are not ordinary either.

But before you can get accustomed to this fact and all that it might mean, someone breaks into the room. Someone threatening. Someone who wants something that he thinks you possess. Only you don’t know what it is. But then, suddenly, the dream woman and you are running. Then you are falling. Then you are alone and being hunted.

Then, when all seems lost, a stranger saves you and beckons you to follow. And you do.

Welcome to “Hardcore Henry,” a film written and directed by Russian-born filmmaker Ilya Naishuller that is the closest movie equivalent yet to a first-person-shooter video game. Produced by, among others, Timur Bekmambetov – the visionary behind the fantasy-thrillers “Daywatch” and “Nightwatch” – “Hardcore Henry” is the big-screen version of what gamers who play “Halo” or “Call of Duty” or “Brother in Arms” experience every time they fire up their Playstation or Xbox.

That’s not to say that a videogame necessarily makes a good movie. After all, for every “Resident Evil” there’s an “Alone in the Dark” – the latter voted by Metacritic in 2010 as “the worst videogame adaptation of all time.”

And it would be hard to argue that “Hardcore Henry” is a good film. Oh, it’s clever enough. Naishuller and his crew keep the camera moving, with we the viewing audience seeing everything from our own perspective. And the sheer awesomeness of how we experience everything from our falling off buildings to fighting off gangs of bioengineered super-soldiers to tossing grenades and cleaving skulls is enough to keep anyone enthralled – at least for a while.

But then the feeling is likely to pale. Because unlike the best action films – say, the 2011 Indonesian-made “The Raid: Redemption” or the original “Die Hard”– “Hardcore Henry” has no more plot than what I’ve already shared. Henry must not only figure who he is, he must find a way to save his dream woman from the mysterious figure who, yes, is the genius behind all those super-soldiers. That’s about it.

Sharlto Copley is mildly entertaining as Jimmie, Henry’s stranger savior, especially in the various guises he adopts – all of whom engage in one extended sequence, a weird dance number that feels like Fred Astaire on psilocybin.

But the bludgeoning, butchering and bloodletting gets more than a bit old. And pretty soon, you may feel the urge – to fall back asleep.

Addendum: Actually, the concept behind "Hardcore Henry" is better realized in the videos that director Naishuller made as front man for the Russian band Biting Elbows. This one, for example, runs just over four and a half minutes. And when I first saw it awhile ago, I thought it was amazing. And it is. Just not for the duration of a full-length feature.

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Git Lit! Thursday: Poetry, whiskey and pie

Note: The following post has been edited.

The 2016 edition of Get Lit! continues Thursday night with a pair of events.

The first, at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Center's Monroe Ballroom, will feature a conversation/reading by Paul Harding and Nance Van Winckel. Harding is a novelist ("Tinkers," winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction), and Van Winkle is a poet and author ("Ever Yrs"). Entry is $15 general admission, free to students.

The second is a Pie & Whiskey Reading, which will be held at 9:30 at the Spokane Woman's Club. The event will be hosted by Sam Ligon and Chris Bovey and will feature a number of other regional writers, including Jess Walter and Kris Dinnison. Entry is $5 at the door (for ages 21 and over only).

And, yes, you had me at "pie."

As for tonight, you can catch a couple of competing events: "Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace," a reading by authors such as Kate Lebo and Brooke Matson at 7 p.m. at the Spark Center, 1214 W. Summit Parkway; and a reading by Corinna Nicolaou, author of "A None's Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam," at 7 p.m. at Auntie's Bookstore.