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Archive: Movies / Spokane and North Idaho

Friday’s openings redux: Miles of jazz

In addition to the mainstream openings (see below), Friday will feature a second-run showing of the jazz biopic "Miles Ahead" at the Magic Lantern (the film played for a week previously at AMC River Park Square).

"Miles Ahead" stars Don Cheadle as the controversial, talented trumpet player Miles Davis, who died in 1991. Following are some of the critical comments about the film, which Cheadle wrote, directed and starred in:

Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer: "Miles Ahead is more a provocative character sketch than a meaty portrait, but it's a film that should be applauded for its daring, and for Cheadle's shape-shifting, soul-baring work."

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "Purists may howl, but they'll also miss the pleasure and point of this playfully impressionistic movie."

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: "Its freeform riffs on highs and lows from the musician's life are a fine example of structure emulating the ever-evolving style of an artist defined by unrelenting experimentation."

Other Magic Lantern news: The theater will be closed Thursday, May 5. On Friday, May 13, the theater is scheduled to open the Danish import "Men & Chicken."

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.”

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.

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.

Read full post ›

Friday’s openings: Straight from the jungle

Arts fashions come and go, but some art seems never to die. That's certainly the case with Rudyard Kipling, the Nobel Prize-winning author whose work "The Jungle Book" heads the week's list of movie openings. Friday's openings are as follows:

"The Jungle Book": A blend of live-action and computer graphics, this Jon Favreau-directed version of the 1894 story collection retells the story of a young boy named Mowgli, the jungle creatures he befriends — and one he does not. Call him the original Bear Grylls.

"Barbershop: The Next Cut": The third installment in the "Barbershop" series, this one featuring the characters teaming up to fight neighborhood gang violence. Two words: Ice Cube.

"Criminal": Kevin Costner plays a dead-eyed sociopath on death row who gets injected with a dead CIA agent's memories in the hopes that he will be able to foil a deadly plot. Guess who develops a conscience?

And at the Magic Lantern:

"Born to Be Blue": Ethan Hawke plays Chet Baker in this "reimagined" look at the late jazz musician's late-career comeback. Let's hope Hawke hits all the right notes.

"April and the Extraordinary World" (dubbed in English version): This French animated effort, set in 1941, follows a young girl who goes in search of her missing scientist parents. Quelle horreur!

And that's the list. Looks decent. You know what to do next. Go and see something.

Hardy proves twice hardy in ‘Legend’

I'm a big Tom Hardy fan. Following is a review of his film "Legend" that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

In March, when it was announced that Leonardo DiCaprio won the Best Actor Award for his performance in “The Revenant,” it seemed only fitting. While “The Revenant” might not have been DiCaprio’s best acting job – I’m still a fan of what he did as a 19-year-old in the 1993 film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” – it was a just reward for all he went through while making Alejandro González Iñárritu’s demanding Best Picture winner.

Actually, though, I think DiCaprio pulled off only the movie’s second-best performance. I think the best acting in “The Revenant” was done by British actor Tom Hardy, who portrayed the movie’s antagonist, John Fitzgerald.

You’ve likely heard of Hardy. He was the troubled brother opposite Joel Edgerton in 2011’s “Warrior.” Behind a virtual mountain of makeup, he was the villain Bane in 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” He appeared in any number of other films, from “Black Hawk Down” to “Star Trek: Nemesis,” “Inception” to “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

But if you want to see what Hardy is really capable of, you need to see the 2008 film “Bronson” and the 2015 film “Legend,” both now available in a variety of home-viewing formats.

In these films, Hardy doesn’t just act. He doesn’t just become a screen character. He embodies the real-life personalities he is attempting to portray and ends up achieving something that warrants such adjectives as dynamic and fearless and even unforgettable.

“Bronson,” directed by the Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn, tells the based-in-fact story of the man described as “the most violent prisoner in Britain.” And Hardy, beefed up, head shaved and equipped with a mustache that would make Harry Reems blush, imbues him with the kind of vigor that seems to jump off the screen.

Skip forward seven years, and now – in “Legend” – Hardy is playing the notorious Kray brothers, Reggie and Ronnie, those London mobsters of the 1950s and ’60s who previously were portrayed by the Kemp brothers, Gary and Martin, in the 1990 biopic “The Krays.” Director Peter Medek’s conceit was to use the twin Kemps to play the twin Krays.

The conceit of director Brian Helgeland in “Legend” is to use Hardy to play both Krays: the violent, more sensible Reggie AND the violent, sociopathically limited Ronnie. And Hardy doesn’t disappoint.

Appearing in virtually every scene, Hardy manages to imbue each Kray with a distinct personality. Told mostly through the eyes of the woman who would become Reggie’s first wife, which allows Helgeland to avoid the standard all-inclusive biopic storytelling style, we watch as the brothers devour post-war London with a ferociousness that impresses even New York Italian mobsters (cameo by Chazz Palminteri).

Besides Palminteri, Hardy is joined by the likes of former “Doctor Who” Christopher Eccelston, veteran actor David Thewlis and the lesser-known Australian actress Emily Browning. But “Legend,” in the end, belongs to Hardy, who chews up every scene he’s in with a singular sense of viciousness. It’s almost as if he’s the living reincarnation of the characters he is portraying.

And he does it twice over. Take that, Leo.

‘On the Waterfront’: dueling interpretations

You can look at Elia Kazan's 1954 film "On the Waterfront" in a number of ways. A multiple Oscar winner, snaring the top four — Best Film, Best Director for Kazan, Best Actor for Marlon Brando and Best Actress for Eva Marie Saint — the film is most obviously seen as a stirring saga of one man's battle to do the right thing.

That man is Terry Malloy (Brando), a former boxer, now punch-drunk dock worker who finds himself caught between the union boss who controls the docks (Lee J. Cobb) and those who want a work situation not tied to organized crime. Malloy is doubly caught because his brother (Rod Steiger) is the dock boss' flunky.

Then he meets Edie (Marie Saint), sister of a man Terry saw being murdered. And his growing affection for her causes him to question his long-held loyalties and consider taking a stand against corruption. Which, by agreeing to testify against the murderers, he ultimately does.

But "doing the right thing" means different things to different people. In 1954, the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was still a powerful entity. Formed in 1938 as a means of investigating suspected Communist activity in the U.S., it gradually became a witch hunt, extending to Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Witnesses were issues subpoenas forcing them to appear before the committee, then interrogated not only on what they believed or had done but also ordered to name others.

Those who refused could be accused of contempt of Congress and jailed. And many, whether arrested or not, were fired from their jobs and blacklisted by employers. The experiences of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and the other members of the Hollywood Ten were examined in the recent film "Trumbo," which detailed how many in Hollywood were treated.

Kazan and at least two of his "On the Waterfront" colleagues, screenwriter Budd Schulberg and actor Cobb, all testified before HUAC. And all named names (though Cobb, the story goes, struggled for two years and ultimately did so only reluctantly). As such, it's no great stretch to see "On the Waterfront" as a dramatic justification for the actions of people who agree to … well, name names.

However you view "On the Waterfront," though, no one can argue that it isn't a great film. Just as no one can argue that Kazan wasn't an influential stage and movie director.

You'll get the chance to judge for yourself on April 24 and 27 at Regal's NorthTown Mall and Coeur d'Alene Riverstone Stadium Cinemas. The movie has long been available in a variety of formats, but TCM is reviving it on the big screen for 2 and 7 p.m. showings. You can order tickets by clicking here.

Then go back and read your history. It's been more than six decades, but being true to one's ideals may be more important now than ever.