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

Catch Miyazaki’s ‘Castle in the Sky’ beginning Sunday

And now comes "Hayao Miyazaki's1986 animated feature "Castle in the Sky."

GKIDS, the New York-based movie distributor, is continuing its Studio Ghibli Fest 2018 with both original-language and subtitled screenings of Miyazaki's film.

"Castle in the Sky" will play locally in versions dubbed in English at 12:55 Sunday and 7 p.m. Tuesday, in Japanese with English subtitles at 7 p.m. on Monday, at both Regal Cinemas theaters at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium.

As usual, Miyazaki's film — which he wrote and directed — offers up a child's view of a world threatened by outside forces. In this case, according to IMDB.com, the plot involves "A young boy and a girl with a magic crystal (who) must race against pirates and foreign agents in a search for a legendary floating castle."

Boasting a 95 percent fresh rating on the critics' website Rotten Tomatoes, "Castle in the Sky" was described as a "a frequently astounding animated feature" by Washington Post critic Richard Harrington.

"Miyazaki's world, so full of color and life, is always just across the borderline of imagination, its acute details softened by clouds and shadows, its principles revealed by actions more than words," Harrington wrote. "It's full of 'Star Wars'-style confrontation, but it's also nice to see it handled on equal terms by male and female protagonists."

"Castle in the Sky" is the last of Studio Ghibli Fest 2018. Can't wait for 2019.

Friday’s openings redux: Can you forgive the faker?

So, it looks as if the area movie schedule has been finalized, and we have a couple of additions:

"Boy Erased": Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman star, respectively, as the title character and his parents, the latter two of whom think that a religion-based "conversion therapy" will cure their son of his gay feelings. Note: Crowe and Kidman are both Oscar-winning actors.

"Can You Ever Forgive Me": In one of her rare dramatic performances, Melissa McCarthy stars as Lee Israel, a freelance writer who for a time forged letters from famous celebrities and sold them. No, the letters of Sean Spicer weren't among them.

"Boy Erased" will open also at the Magic Lantern, along with a second-run showing of "Mid90s."

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

Another chance to see McKellen as ‘King Lear’

Shakespeare clearly isn't for everyone. This has always been true, even in Elizabethan times.

Still, I was amused to see a recent story about how a group of pastors and parents protested a performance of Shakespeare's works at a North Carolina high school. According to a local news report, the production was stopped when one of the school superintendent's staff "realized there was drinking being portrayed as well as inappropriate language and portrayal of a suicide."

Imagine, drinking, "inappropriate language" and suicide in a Shakespeare play.

Well, gird your loins, kids, because all that and more is coming to the Bing Crosby Theater at 2 p.m. on Nov. 25. That's when the theater will screen the Stage to Screen production of Shakespeare's "King Lear," starring Ian Mckellen.

The production is the same that played in September and was directed by Jonathan Munby as part of the National Theatre Live series. This one was, apparently, a filmed recapturing of the previous performance at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

McKellen, perhaps the greatest Shakespearean actor of his age, is worth seeing in pretty much anything (even in such movie franchises as "The Lord of the Rings" and "The X-Men"). But seeing him as Lear is priceless.

As a critic for The Guardian wrote, "There is a sense of an actor putting the finest last touches to his majestic legacy: in McKellen’s incarnation as the arrogant ruler undone by age, infirmity and filial disobedience."

Friday’s openings: a witch’s brew of movies

Hollywood is still trying to recapture that Harry Potter magic, this time with the second in the prequel "Fantastic Beasts" series, which is among Friday's opening movies:

"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald": Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is enlisted to help battle the nefarious Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). Captain Jack Sparrow is now an evil wizard.

"Instant Family": Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg star as a clueless, childless couple who end up adopting a trio of orphans. As if the kids didn't have it hard enough already …

"Widows": Director Steve McQueen strays away from straight drama and tries his hand at this genre story about four women who react to the deaths of their husbands by completing a complex heist. If you want something done, give the task to a woman.

As always, I'll update when the local theaters finalize their bookings.

‘Happy Prince’ studies an unhappy Oscar Wilde

Fans of Oscar Wilde might have mixed feelings about "The Happy Prince," the biopic about the 19th-century Irish-born writer. I certainly did, an opinion I explained in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

Irony means, in its simplest definition, saying one thing when you mean exactly the opposite. As in, watching someone stumble and fall and then saying, “Well, that was graceful.”

Irony is behind the title of Rupert Everett’s film “The Happy Prince,” which takes its name from one of Oscar Wilde’s written works – his 1888 collection “The Happy Prince and Other Tales.” At the same time, it is the title that Everett – who not only wrote and directed but also stars in the film – applies to Wilde himself.

I almost said “the unfortunate Wilde.” But truth be told, much of Wilde’s life was anything but unfortunate. Yes, he did die in 1900, at the relatively tender age of 46, in a Paris apartment boasting bad wallpaper, alone except for a few friends left from when he was the toast of London’s literary world. But then there was that period of fame, which was immense and must have seemed enduring.

The Irish-born Wilde had earned his reputation as the witty author of such biting social satires as “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” Both of these plays, and other of Wilde’s writings, managed a delicate balance: They held a mirror up to London society, forcing the British upper classes to both see the ridiculousness of their social customs yet laugh at them at the same time.

Wilde, though, for reasons that Everett’s movie never makes clear, wasn’t good at maintaining any sense of balance, especially not in his private life. Though married, with two sons, Wilde was gay during a time in Great Britain when such a sexual orientation was considered not just shameful but was in fact illegal. And it was Wilde’s affair with a young man – along with his penchant for not just pushing but smashing social graces – that led to his downfall.

Condemned in court for “gross indecency,” Wilde spent two years in jail at hard labor. He also lost his family, most of his fortune, and he ended up fleeing to the continent – first Italy and then France – to find some sense of peace and, ultimately, to keep his date in Paris with that apartment lined with such unfortunate wallpaper.

Everett captures much of this, if necessarily in cinematic shorthand. This is, after all, a 105-minute movie and not a miniseries. And the production is well made, the costumes and sets authentic, the acting everything you would expect from its good British cast, which includes not only Everett but Colin Firth, Emily Watson and Colin Morgan as Wilde’s young lover, Alfred Bosie Douglas.

And Everett’s makeup is astounding, transforming his normal handsome features into the broad swaths of an older Wilde, aged before his time due to too much absinthe and, frankly, too much self-loathing.

Yet it’s exactly Wilde’s penchant for self-destruction that Everett doesn’t pursue enough. At some point, Everett – whose portrayal as Wilde is remarkable – has Wilde ask himself something like, “Why do I ride toward ruin? Whatever is the fascination?” A skilled actor, Everett, as a filmmaker, might have spent more time answering that particular question.

‘Marnie’ breaks from the Hitchcock mold

Every fan of older movies is familiar with Alfred Hitchcock. With movies such as "Vertigo," "Rear Window," "North by Northwest" and so many others, Hitchcock proved to be a true master of suspense.

But every filmmaker, no matter how talented, has made a few duds along the way. Stanley Kubrick gave us "Eyes Wide Shut." Steven Spielberg gave us "Always." The Coen Brothers gave us "The Ladykillers." The list goes on.

And Hitchcock gave us "Marnie."

Made in 1964, "Marnie" was Hitchcock's adaptation of a novel by Winston Graham. And it is, behind the performance by Tippi Hedren, supported by Sean Connery (in one of his non-James Bond roles), at best a curiosity. Here's how IMDB describes the film: "Mark (Connery) marries Marnie although she is a habitual thief and has serious psychological problems, and tries to help her confront and resolve them."

Here's what critic Eugene Archer wrote about "Marnie" in the New York Times: "At once a fascinating study of a sexual relationship and the master's most disappointing film in years."

Some critics have revised their opinion of the film over the years. But even more impressive is the fact that the film (and its source novel) inspired an opera, composed by Nico Muhly (libretto by Nicholas Wright). First performed by the English National Opera in 2017, it was then put on by the Metropolitan Opera just last month.

And now you'll have an opportunity to see this operatic version of "Marnie," directed by Michael Mayer and performed by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and baritone Christopher Maltman. The three-hour-17-minute opera will screen at 9:55 a.m. on Saturday, then repeat at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at both Regal Cinemas theaters at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium.

Alex Ross in The New Yorker calls the production "an absorbing, ambiguous, and haunting entertainment."

Doesn't sound disappointing at all.

Bollywood’s ‘Thugs’ hits the Inland Northwest

Above: Bollywood star Aamir Khan does his best Jack Sparrow in "Thugs of Hindostan."

So, the final bookings are in. And in addition to the openings already mentioned, including a wider release of "Beautiful Boy," there's another film to add to the list:

"Thugs of Hindostan": Along with screening other recent Bollywood features, AMC River Park Square will open this Hindi-language feature set in 1795 about the British using a secret agent in an attempt to foil a Thug uprising.

Boasting a reported budget of some $42 million, "Thugs of Hindostan" is said to be one of the most expensive Bollywood films ever. See what you think of the trailer below.

Magic Lantern to open ‘Beautiful Boy’

The jury's still out on exactly what movies are opening in this part of the world on Friday, but we do know this: "Beautiful Boy" is opening at the Magic Lantern.

"Beautiful Boy": Timothée Chalamet ("Call Me by Your Name") stars as a struggling drug addict whose ups and downs torture his family, especially his father (Steve Carell).

Having opened on a limited basis in mid-October, "Beautiful Boy" may also play at some area mainstream theaters, too. In any event, here are some critical comments:

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: "Chalamet now leaves no doubt that he's an actor of refined and profound gifts: His performance in "Beautiful Boy" helps elevate a boho-bourgeois melodrama to something that aspires to be more achingly real and human."

Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times: "The detachment at work in 'Beautiful Boy' suggests an attempt to speak clearly and truthfully, to resist the clichés of the addiction drama while acknowledging that those clichés can hardly be rewritten."

Owen Gleiberman, Variety: "Every last thing the movie shows us about addiction, and the effect it can have upon those who are trying to save an addict from himself, is entirely authentic."

Still waiting on final word on what else will be opening. Stay tuned.

Friday’s openings: Grinches, spiders and zombies

It's just past Halloween, some two and a half weeks until Thanksgiving, and already we're hearing the ad-heavy sounds of Christmas. Seriously, that's the noise made by Friday's national movie-release schedule:

"Doctor Seuss' The Grinch": The familiar Theodore Geisl story gets a facelift, this time with Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the title character. Oh, Sherlock, what have they done with ye?

"The Girl in the Spider's Web": Speaking of facelifts, this adaptation of the continuation of the mystery series created by the late Stieg Larsson stars Claire Foy (once Queen Elizabeth) as the title character. Following Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara, Foy take the throne.

"Overlord": American soldiers on D-Day encounter a secret German experiment to create … zombies? Night of the living dread.

That's the news so far. I'll update as the local theaters finalize their listings.

‘22 July’ details the horror that struck Norway

Turning to the streaming service Netflix, my "Movies 101" partners and I chose to watch Paul Greengrass' intense study of the tragic events that befell the citizens of Oslo, Norway, on July 22, 2011, titled simply "22 July." I then wrote a separate review of the film for Spokane Public Radio:

Everyone remembers 9/11. But who remembers 22 July? Yet it was on that date in 2011 when a man – I purposely won’t mention his name – ruthlessly murdered 77 people and wounded more than 300 more in and around Norway’s capital city of Oslo.

First he placed a bomb near Oslo’s government offices. Even before the explosives went off – killing eight but missing a major target, Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg – the man was driving to a nearby island where teenagers were congregating at a summer camp. There the killing continued.

It’s far from a pretty story but one, if we’re being honest, that is becoming more and more common across the world – especially here in the United States.

And it’s a story that attracted the attention of Paul Greengrass, the filmmaker most famous for directing two Jason Bourne films – 2004’s “The Bourne Supremacy” and 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

But Greengrass has another specialty, too. He adapts real-life events for the big screen, centering on the individuals involved and how what occurs affects all their lives.

2013’s “Captain Phillips” tells the story of a cargo ship’s crew being waylaid by Somali pirates. 2006’s “United 93” takes us inside the 9/11 plane that crashed into a Pennsylvania field. 2002’s “Bloody Sunday” details the day – January 30, 1972 – in Derry, Ireland, when a peaceful march ended with British soldiers shooting 28 unarmed protesters, killing 14.

And now we have the simply but aptly titled “22 July,” in which writer-director Greengrass – adapting the nonfiction book by Asne Seierstad – handles the Norway murders in much the same manner. By which I mean he re-creates the incident as it happened, acquainting us not just with the man behind the crime but also some of the victims the killer ends up targeting.

Here, though, is the difference. Only half the film is about the incident itself. The second half deals with the aftermath. We see the murderer (played by the intense Anders Danielson Lie), insisting that he is a soldier on a mission, being defended – albeit reluctantly – by a well-known Oslo attorney.

And we have one of the victims, Viljar Hanssen (played by Jonas Strand Gravli), who struggles not only to recover both physically and emotionally from being shot five times – but also to summon up the courage to face his would-be killer in court.

This, then, is the key to Greengrass’ film. The actual crime – or more accurately series of crimes – is portrayed realistically, graphic but not gratituitous, and carries with it an inherent sense of tension that makes “22 July” seem more like a documentary than a narrative film.

The court scenes, on the other hand, are necessarily slower and more meditative, whether we’re listening to the murderer attempt to justify his actions or watching young Hanssen forced to relive his nightmare in public.

Yet finally, Greengrass focuses on hope, on the message that a united front against hate is, in the end, the best way to fight back. And that’s a message that needs to be stated clearly – now more than ever.

Time to hear ABBA again, this time at home

In one of his ongoing Facebook posts, my former Spokesman-Review colleague Dan Mitchinson — who is now a morning radio-show host in Sacramento — announced how much he likes the film "Notting Hill."

 "I think Notting Hill is the perfect movie," he wrote. "I don't care if I have to turn in my man card."

I assured him that I'd lost all my man cards years ago, and good riddance. Which is why I can add here that I'm an avowed ABBA fan.

Yes, amid my totally eclectic taste in music, I reserve the right to listen to the likes of "Fernando," "Waterloo," "Dancing Queen" and, of course, "Mamma Mia."

Fathom Events, which specializes in showing special movie events, is featuring a 10th-anniversary showing of the 10th-anniversary of the 2008 film "Mamma Mia!" in theaters across the nation. BUT, unfortunately, the event will NOT play in this part of the Inland Northwest.

Don't let that stop stop you, though. Find the film on one of your streaming services (Netflix, for example, or just click on the YouTube embed below) or dust off that old DVD copy, and hold you own personal screening party.

The movie might be silly, but the music is infectious. So make sure you turn it up loud.

Nisbet details more Northwest history on Thursday

In 1994, Jack Nisbet gave us a book that detailed the exploits of one of the great white explorers of the Northwest: David Thompson. His book was titled "Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across North America" (Sasquatch Books).

Now Nisbet is back, and this time his book explores the life and times of a far less well-known figure: "The Dreamer and the Doctor" (Sasquatch Books, $24.95 hardcover) tells the story of a pioneer physician, Dr. Carrie Leiberg, and her Swedish-born husband, John Leiberg, who was a self-taught naturalist who as an agent for the U.S. Forest Commission sounded an early warning about potential ecological devastation.

 Kirk Johnson, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, had this to say about Nisbet's newest work:

“Jack Nisbet’s 'The Dreamer and the Doctor' is a textured, insightful history of the waning frontier days of the American West that reads like a novel. The featured couple, a female doctor and an obsessed botanist, provide an unusual lens to a time that is both familiar and antique, a time when science and medicine were rapidly evolving but were still intensely personal. Entwined in the narrative are the roots of the battle for Western public lands, the impact of federal science, and a growing awareness of the impact of forest fires.”

Nisbet will read from "The Dreamer and the Doctor" at 7 p.m. Thursday at Auntie's Bookstore.

Friday’s openings redux: A Wilde time for all

Along with the films already mentioned, one addition to Friday's releases needs to be added:

"The Happy Prince": Rupert Evertt wrote, directed and stars in this exploration of the final years in the life of the Irish-born playwright Oscar Wilde. It is, you might say, an earnest production.

Also, the Magic Lantern is picking up two films second-run: "The Old Man & the Gun" and the documentary "Free Solo."

That's the lot. I'll note any changes, if they occur. Until then, go out and see a movie. And enjoy.

Spokane makes another must-visit list

Spokane is becoming … cool? Seems so. It's showing up on the occasional "best of" list that typically forces you to flip through a number of pages, thereby exposing you to the obligatory advertisers — which is the whole point anyway.

Still, it's nice to see Spokane emerging from its traditional status as something still mired in the past, even if we suspect that much of what is good about the city is likely to disappear if people start flocking here.

That's progress, eh?

You can see the latest story, which is on this MSN Lifestyle page. Go past Hana (on Maui) and the San Juan Islands and flip directly to slide No. 11 and you'll discover once of the most gorgeous photographs of Spokane (courtesy of Shutterstock) ever taken. Even Jesse Tinsley or Colin Mulvany can't make the city look that good.

Friday’s openings: Music and a bit of magic

A bit of rock, a bit of Disney and a bit of Tyler Perry mark the coming week of movies:

"Bohemian Rhapsody": Rami Malek ("Mr. Robot") plays Freddie Mercury, the charismatic lead singer of the rock group Queen. And, yes, he was the champion.

"Nobody's Fool": Tiffany Haddish plays the lead in this new Tyler Perry film, which is about a woman released from prison who suspects her sister is dating a conman. Again: Tyler Perry.

"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms": Disney does a version of "The Nutcracker" that looks a lot more like "Alice in Wonderland" meets "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

As always, I'll update when the local theaters finalize their bookings.