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

Magic Lantern set to screen ‘Purple Rose’

Above: Janel Parish ("Pretty Little Liars") stars in "The Purple Rose," which was filmed in Liberty Lake and Cheney.

So, there's at least one addition to the week's coming movie schedule. Beginning Saturday, the Magic Lantern will screen a special feature that was filmed last year in Liberty Lake.

"The Purple Rose," which was directed by Jodi Binstock, is based on a novel written by Liberty Lake author Christi Walsh. The film was adapted for the screen by Walsh's daughter, Sydney Ortman.

Here's the plot, according to a press release: " 'The Purple Rose' is a shadowy story of a beautiful young woman, Kate, who after narrowly escaping the clutches of a deadly stalker flees to a remote anonymous town where she rebuilds her life and finds the man of her dreams – until the man of her nightmares tracks her down."

According to novelist Walsh, both her novel and the movie were "inspired by the strong and independent spirit of my two daughters. Kate’s character is a vulnerable, yet tenacious woman who is determined to create the best possible life for herself.”

The movie's cast includes Janel Parrish, Rob Estes, Jonah Platt, Michael Welch and Tom Kiesche.

"The Purple Rose" will show in a limited run. So if you're interested in seeing it, check it out sooner than later.

Below: A 2017 KXLY news report on the movie.

Friday’s openings: Crime and punishment

Crime of one sort or another is on the menu for Friday, according to the national movie-release schedule. The preliminary bookings look like this:

"Ocean's 8": Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett lead a crew of jewel thieves in this variation on the original "Ocean's Eleven" heist flick. What's good for the gander …  

"Hereditary": A death in the family causes a creepy kind of reminiscence. Limited release but certainly a possibility.

"Hotel Artemis": Jodie Foster stars as the proprietor of an establishment catering to criminals. When they check out, they really check out.

And at the Magic Lantern:

"1945": It's a hot day in August when two men, dressed in black, arrive in town on the train. Fear spreads when the the villagers realize the men, Orthodox Jews, might be the first of their kind returning from the previously forced deportations. In Hungarian and Russian with English subtitles.

That's it for the moment. I'll update when the area theater finalize their listings.

‘Solo’ is quick-paced, simple summer action

I reviewed the new "Star Wars" movie for Spokane Public Radio. Here is a transcription:

No movie franchise has created more of its own mythology than what George Lucas produced with “Star Wars.” Drawing on virtually every aspect of 20th-century cinema, from theme and tone to character and crisis, Lucas made a simple story of good triumphing over evil into something that strives to carry all the weight of Greek literature.

Imagine if Homer had written science fiction and you’ll understand what I mean.

Not that Lucas can be compared to great literature in any way except for, perhaps, the intent that he gradually developed after his first movie – released in 1977 – proved more successful than even he imagined. From that humble beginning, Lucas has forged a whole mythos that has spawned not just the original trilogy, but a prequel trilogy, a sequel trilogy (the final installment of which is set for a 2019 release), a TV series, lines of toys, novels, video games, theme-park attractions and, to date, three stand-alone films.

The most recent of those latter films is titled “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and is an origin tale of one of Lucas’ most popular characters, the self-styled space pirate Han Solo – an arrogant narcissist who, true to his hero/antihero basis, ends up being one of the main figures in the Rebellion that brings down the Empire.

Long before that occurs, though, Han is just … well, Han, a guy living hand to mouth on the planet Corellia and trying to get off any way possible. After hatching a plan with his partner Qi’ra, Han does escape – but not in the way he expected and certainly the life he is forced to endure then is not the one he wants.

But mostly through brashness, he connects with a band of actual outlaws – led by the space mobster Tobias Beckett – and through him gets connected with his new best friend, the Wookie Chewbacca, reconnected with an old friend, and working for – more or less – the criminal enterprise Crimson Dawn.

All of this was originally outlined by “The Lego Movie” co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. But following their firing for "creative differences," producer Kathleen Kennedy brought in Ron Howard as a fixer. Whoever was responsible, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” unveils at breakneck speed: seldom slowing down for any viewer but the most “Star Wars”-literate to comprehend much more than a simple he’s-good-he’s-bad-shoot-fast-and-speed-off storyline.

But in this era of neo-mythology, where the likes of comic books such as “The Avengers” and young-adult novels such as “Harry Potter” are considered to be – by popular vote anyway – the modern equivalents of great storytelling, the simple adventure basis of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” feels just fine.

The casting helps. “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke effectively embodies Qi’ra, as do Woody Harrelson as Beckett and Donald Glover as a glam-happy Lando Calrissian. Playing Han, Alden Ehrenreich may not capture quite the swagger of a young Harrison Ford, but he does manage to imbue his Han with a callowness that at least hints of emotional depth.

Ehrenreich’s Han may not be Odysseus, but – then – he hardly needs to be.

Surf meets opioids: The Andy Irons story

Spokane is about as far from the surfing world as you can get and still be in the state of Washington. Yet, a bit of that world is coming to the Inland Northwest tonight.

The event is a screening of "Andy Irons: Kissed by God," a documentary film by Bruce Irons, Irons' older brother.

If you don't know the name — and I didn't — Andy Irons was a three-time World Surf League champion who rivaled Kelly Slater — whose name I do know — for the title of world's best surfer. Irons, who won world titled in 2002 through 2004, died in 2010.

Besides surfing, the cause of Irons' death is the other important aspect to the documentary. The surfer had battled with bipolar disorder and with opioid addiction, the latter of which reportedly contributed to a fatal heart attack.

The documentary, which will screen at 7 tonight at Regal Cinemas' theaters at Northtown Mall and at Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium, features a special introduction, a Q&A with the filmmakers and Irons' family and friends and an expert on opioid addiction.

Catch some sketchy comedy with ‘The Producers’

Comedy — or attempts at making comedy — is a tricky process. Just ask Daniel Tosh. Or Anthony Jeselnik. Or, most recently, Roseanne Barr.

One guy who knows something about comedy is Mel Brooks. And long before the current crop of comics came along, especially those who like to push the boundaries of comedy, Brooks was shaking things up on stage, on television and on the movie screen.

Take his original film "The Producers," which Brooks both wrote and directed. Starring two great comic talents, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, the film tells the story of two Broadway producers who seek to make money by putting on what they consider to be a sure-fire failure. So they agree to produce the musical "Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden."

Yeah, a Broadway musical that is a love letter to the world's most reviled dictator. And to the shock of both our protagonists, the play is a rousing success. So, too, was Brooks' film.

Not that everybody loved it. Writing in the New Republic, Stanley Kauffman opined, "The star not only indulges himself gluttonously, but the director seems to be doubled up with laughter at how funny he is being through Mostel; and the film bloats into sogginess."

But Kauffman was part of a tiny minority. Many more critics echoed the sentiments of Susan Stark writing for the Detroit News: "This shamelessly low-brow, fearlessly satirical Brooks movie may just be Hollywood's ultimate satire, a furiously witty 'reductio ad absurdum' worthy of the great Augustans like Pope and Swift." Writing some two decades after the film's premiere, Roger Ebert had a more succinct view: "This is one of the funniest movies ever made."

Brooks' satirical film has endured, experiencing revivals both on Broadway and on the big screen. Now, however, the original is being re-released in honor of its 50th anniversary. And those of us living in this part of the Inland Northwest will be lucky enough to experience it.

"The Producers" will screen at 2 and 7 p.m. on June 3 and 6 at Regal Cinemas theaters at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium.

Comedy isn't always comfortable. But the best of it tends to live on, making life that much more bearable — especially in hard times such as the ones occurring right now.

‘RBG’ doc moves to the Magic Lantern

It looks as if the three movies listed below are Friday's only mainstream openings. And "Let the Sunshine In" is opening at the Magic Lantern.

The Lantern is also picking up the documentary "RBG," which is a look at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. That movie, which played a short run at AMC River Park, is getting a good critical reception. It scored a 94 percent fresh rating on Rottentomatoes.com.

Here are some of the comments:

Kate Erbland, IndieWire: "It's the insights into [Ginsburg's] personal life that feel the most vital, moving "RBG" beyond the kind of information you could read on a Wikipedia page (as ably and entertainingly rendered as they may be on the big screen)."

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "The movie's touch is light and its spirit buoyant, but there is no mistaking its seriousness or its passion."

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: "You don't have to agree with the politics of it to be impressed by the civility of the discourse, and that's something so sorely lacking today that it seems almost quaint. What a shame."

Make a date to see some movies at SIFF 2018

The Seattle International Film Festival runs through June 10. You can get access to a daily watchlist by clicking here.

Or go on the festival website and consult the overall schedule.

SIFF is in its 44th year and is one of the longest film events in the world. If you dare to brave Seattle traffic, you just might find a film or two that you'll admire — if not love.

On Friday's edition of "Movies 101," which runs weekly on Spokane Public Radio, Nathan Weinbender will report on his recent six-day jaunt through SIFF 2018. Nathan has a number of suggested views that likely will be available for viewing sometime soon, either in local theaters or through streaming services.

Just as one example, a movie that is scheduled to open at the Magic Lantern on Friday — Claire Denis' "Let the Sunshine In" — recently played at SIFF.

And who doesn't want to see a movie starring Juliet Binoche?

Friday’s releases: Comedy, drama and love, oh my

What with "Solo: A Star Wars" story behind us, this coming Friday offers a variety of new releases. According to the national movie-release schedule, here's what to expect:

"Action Point": The owner of a low-rent amusement park (Johnny Knoxville) goes to extremes to compete with a new mega-park that opens nearby. "Jackass"-type hilarity ensues.

"Adrift": In this based-on-a-real-story tale of survival, a young couple (Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin) star as a couple of sailors who run into a hurricane and are forced to fight for their lives. SPF 80 needed.

"Upgrade": After a vicious mugging leaves his wife dead and him paralyzed, a man (Logan Marshall-Green) agrees to have an AI implanted that affords him near-superhuman powers. Revenge is sweet.

And at the Magic Lantern:

"Let the Sunshine In": Juliette Binoche plays a divorced woman who dates a number of men, many of whom are flawed in one way or another. Directed by Claire Denis from a script she co-wrote with Christine Angot (from a novel by Roland Barthes).

Thats the tentative schedule. I'll update when the local theaters finalize their schedules.

‘Deadpool 2’: Perfect blend of humor and action

Of all the superhero films that are opening this summer, the one I've anticipated the most is "Deadpool 2." I try to explain why in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

One cliché that my parents loved to throw at us kids is the all-too-familiar “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” It wasn’t until years later that I learned that that particular phrase, as originally written, actually made a lot more sense. How so? By reversing the twin subjects: “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.”

However you phrase it, though, the point is made: Some situations force you to choose between conflicting options. Say, for example, you may have enough money to buy that new Ferrari, but you may not have enough left over to buy any gas to drive it.

Or here’s one in movie terms: You can’t make fun of superhero action films and, at the same time, be a good example of one.

But if you look hard enough at every rule of culture, you’re likely to  find an exception. And the exception in the case of superhero action films is the “Deadpool” series. Not only do the films, both the 2016 original and now the sequel – “Deadpool 2” – crack with CGI-enhanced action, but both offer satisfyingly comical self-aware commentaries on the very kind of movie they are aping.

Both films, which were written by the team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick – with star Ryan Reynolds this second time added in – are based on a Marvel Comics franchise that was created in 1990 by writer Fabian Nicieza and writer/artist Ron Liefeld. Originally a villain, Deadpool – a guy with super-healing and other physical powers – gradually became the wise-cracking, fourth-wall-breaking character that Reynolds has portrayed in both self-titled features and in a couple of “X-Men” movies.

And when I say wise-cracking, think Daniel Tosh in red spandex dropping F-bombs and joking about kids with cancer. Get the picture?

As directed by David Leitch (the guy responsible for the Charlize Theron movie “Atomic Blonde”), “Deadpool 2” pretty much follows the pattern created by Tim Miller in the 2016 original. “Deadpool 2,” however, sets up even more of a challenge for itself: It attempts actual moments of emotion, mostly involving – spoiler alert – the almost immediate death of an important character.

That event becomes the underlying theme of Leitch’s film, which involves Deadpool – whose civilian name is Wade Wilson – temporarily joining a troupe of X-Men, battling a super-soldier from the future named Cable (played by Josh Brolin) and trying to protect, and reform, a young mutant with the ability to throw fire (played by Julian Denison of the New Zealand film “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”).

Leitch succeeds by not so much undercutting the film’s serious moments with comedy as by augmenting them. And by making it amply clear that he knows what he’s doing: Openly manipulating us in ways that directors such as, say, Zack Snyder, think are cleverly artistic.

Leitch succeeds, too, by having at his disposal Reynolds, a guy who co-star Brolin calls “the Daniel Day Lewis of comedians” and a guy who recognizes as well as anyone ever has that self-parody done right is the best way of gorging on cinematic cake while retaining ample portions to enjoy later.

Bing/CYT to screen Disney’s ‘Little Mermaid’

When my friend Ken's son was little, his favorite movie was Disney's 1989 animated film "The Little Mermaid." Unable to utter more than a few words, he would request the film by saying something like, "Bapoo, bapoo!"

No one could figure out what he was saying, but his parents certainly knew what he wanted: "The Little Mermaid."

It took years before the answer became clear. Since much of the animated film — which is very loosely based on the Han Christian Anderson folk tale — takes place underwater, it's only natural that in some scene you would see … bubbles.

Bapoo meant bubbles.

If Ken's son were still young, he'd likely still be saying "bapoo" today. And, beginning Friday, he would have good reason. Sponsored by CYT (Christian Youth Theater), the Bing Crosby Theater will screen Disney's film over the next two weekends.

Tickets to the screenings are $14 ($13 for children 12 and below) in advance, $16 at the door. Group rates ($12 a head) are available.

Here's another opportunity to see a Disney animated classic on the big screen. And it's not even necessary to ask for "Bapoo!"

Below: The original theatrical trailer for Disney's "The Little Mermaid."

SFF 2018: Catch Binoche and more on the weekend

Above: Juliet Binoche stars in Claire Denis' "Let the Sunshine In."

As my "Movies 101" partner Nathan Weinbender knows, the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival is under way. Nathan, who is movies and music editor at The Inlander, is spending this week seeing as many SIFF films as he can.

And you can join him, figuratively speaking. Tickets to most SIFF screenings are available one way or another, either buy purchasing them in advance or by simply showing up at the respective venue and waiting in line — that latter resort something that I've been known to do more than once.

Because sometimes in the past, SIFF tended to show movies that never made it to Spokane. That's not such a big deal in these days of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu. Still, there's nothing quite like sitting in, say, The Egyptian theater and watching a film with 500 other movie fans, as I have done more times than I can remember.

And which Nathan is doing right now. Here are his recommendations for Friday and Saturday:

Friday: The new Hirokazu Koreeda film "The Third Murder"; his other new film just won the Palme d'Or and he's one of my faves. "Summer 1993," which I know you like (and which played at the recent Spokane International Film Festival). "The Miseducation of Cameron Post," which won the Jury Prize at Sundance (plays Saturday, too).

Saturday: Claire Denis' "Let the Sunshine In" (Juliet Binoche!), the Mr. Rogers doc "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" (though that's basically sold out). "Summer 1993" plays again.

If you want to know what else SIFF will be screening over the weekend, just consult the festival guide. As for ticket info, check with the SIFF box office.

The festival will run through June 10.

Below: The trailer for the Spanish-made "Summer 1993."

As for ‘Solo,’ let’s just ‘Hope’ for the best

Friday will see the latest chapter in the ongoing "Star Wars" saga that George Lucas began way back in the late '70s. Since the premiere of that first film, which now goes by the overly long and involved title of "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope," the franchise has permeated pretty much every part of the entertainment empire — movie, book, comics, TV shows, toys, video games, etc.

But as anyone who has been watching knows, it hasn't always been an easy venture. The first three films (which are now the second part of the overall nine-film series) were, and remain, the gold standard by which all the others are compared. The second three, the "prequel" series, are less admired — mostly because of casting choices that Lucas himself made (Jake Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker in particular).

We're still in the midst of the final three, and the reviews while mostly positive among critics have been mixed among fans. And as they begin filming on the third entry in the "sequel," some serious plot problems have had to be resolved — the death of Carrie Fisher chief among them.

Apart from the main franchise, the movie spinoffs — the so-called "anthology" films — have had their own problems. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," which opened in 2016, was a whole film based on a few lines of dialogue from "Episode IV." And while many moviegoers, and critics, liked the idea of a "Star Wars" story offering something different, many others did not.

Now we are on the eve of "Solo: A Star Wars Story," which outlines more or less the origins of Han Solo and how he became a space pirate (or smuggler or whatever). It, too, has been a troubled production, mostly because of a well-publicized and controversial change in directors but also because of problems with the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as the title character.

The embed below — which offers an opinionated viewpoint — outlines the problems, dating back to when the Disney company purchased Lucasfilm and took over the franchise. Whatever you might think of the final product, the path the project took to get there is an interesting tale, almost as twisted as something the Emperor Palpatine might have dreamed up.

Lantern to screen a Hindi ode to the elderly

An elegy for aging will be on tap at the Magic Lantern come Friday. Along with a second-run opening of "Tully," Spokane's alternative moviehouse will screen a Hindi-language film:

 "102 Not Out": Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan stars as a 102-year-old man who wants both to break the record for world's oldest man and teach his son some life lessons. Another Bollywood legend, Rishi Kapoor, stars as the man's resentful 75-year-old son.

Here are some critical comments:

Simon Abrams, RogerEbert.com: "Kapoor deserves special praise: He scowls, sighs, and sinks his chest to his chin with consummate zeal. He also looks appropriately misty-eyed whenever his character has an emotional breakthrough. Kapoor generally does a great job of playing straight man to Bachchan's amusingly clueless Jiminey Cricket-like conscience."

 Rachit Gupta, The Times of India: "The ease with which the film portrays the bittersweet relationship between its characters is fantastic. Such films are like soft serve ice cream on a sparkly Sunday afternoon."

Friday’s openings: It’s a ‘Solo’ project

Way back when, at the time producers were working out their summer movie-release schedule, one thing was pretty clear: Nobody wanted their movie to go up against anything remotely "Star Wars."

Which is why "Solo: A Star Wars Story" is the only big-name movie set to open on Friday. Other movies are likely to premiere, too, but nothing approaching a blockbuster.

So, Friday's movie national openings look like this:

"Solo: A Star Wars Story": Another "Star Wars" spinoff, 'Solo" is an origin story for the franchise's most roguish character. Alden Ehrenreich, who was so good in the Coen Brothers' 2016 film "Hail, Caesar!" fills the title role originated by Harrison Ford. Expect a bit of criminal activity and lots of space-pirate action.

Oh, and Ron Howard directs (having taken over the reins from the original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of "The Lego Movie" fame). So there's a backstory here that might affect how the movie is received. But … more on that at another time.

‘Last Flag Flying’ is a bit too stagey

Richard Linklater makes a lot of different kinds of movies, though most have one thing in common: dialogue. I watched his most recent effort, "Last Flag Flying" on Netflix and reviewed it for Spokane Public Radio:

Every veteran has a different story to tell. Some of those stories involve heroism. Many are merely mundane. Most, though, involve some sort of connection.

At one time, I would have characterized that specific kind of connection as “brotherhood.” With the advent of women in the military, though, that term is as dated as it is clichéd. Still, the meaning remains: Those who have experienced war constitute a kind of family. At times dysfunctional, maybe, but typically united against outside threats.

And as filmmaker Richard Linklater demonstrates with his adaptation of Daryl Ponicsan’s novel “Last Flag Flying,” some veterans see those threats not just in the form of enemy troops but also in the very military leaders whose orders they are obliged to obey.

The year is 2003, and Linklater introduces us to three Vietnam veterans. Larry (played by Steve Carell) seeks out two men he served with, Sal (played by Bryan Cranston) and Richard (played by Laurence Fishburne). Larry served as a Navy corpsman, which earned him the nickname “Doc,” while Sal and Richard were Marines.

Doc has a specific reason to want to reconnect with these old buddies: His own Marine son has been killed while serving in Iraq, his wife has already passed on, and he wants – or, rather, needs – support as he goes to meet the plane bringing home his son’s coffin.

The task isn’t as easy as you’d think. Sal is a hard-drinking, cynical and foul-mouthed character – much like Jack Nicholson’s character Buddusky is in Hal Ashby’s 1975 version of an earlier Ponicsan novel, “The Last Detail.” Meanwhile, Richard is now the Reverend Richard, a former hell-raiser turned man of God. The often caustic interplay between Sal and Richard, even as they try to pay Doc back for crimes they all committed but only he was punished for, supplies most of the movie’s energy.

And while “Last Flag Flying” seems like an oddity among Linklater films – which range from the quintessential high-school study “Dazed and Confused” to the poignant exploration of love as portrayed in his “Before” trilogy – the fact that it is talk-heavy helps it fit right in.

The problem, for me, is that much of the talk in “Last Flag Flying” feels too mannered. As good as Cranston and Fishburne have proven to be in both film and TV over the years, the two of them feel here more like actors strutting on a stage than actors creating realistic characters for the screen. Cranston, in particular, tends to overplay Sal to the point, at times, almost of parody.

That sense of staginess extends to a scene involving the Marine friend of Doc’s son who is assigned the job of escorting the body home, and his commanding officer. As played out by J. Quinton Johnson as the Marine and Yul Vasquez as the officer, the scene plays out an acting exercise that should never have been included in the final cut.

Which is too bad. War stories don’t need such embellishments. The connections they portray, even when fictional, are real enough. Just ask any veteran.