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Archive: Movies / Spokane and North Idaho

SIFF 2016: The world in a weekend

The second full weekend of the 2016 version of the Seattle International Film Festival commences this afternoon. And to think: The whole event, comprising a plethora of world cinema, is just four and a half hours away.

Some of the weekend's SIFF highlights include:


"Therapy for a Vampire": An Austrian film about a vampire seeking psychological help from none other that Sigmund Freud.

"The Island Funeral": A Thai study of three young people who head into the country's dangerous interior only to discover a mysterious new society.


"Oddball": An Australian heart-warmer about a farmer and his dog who stand between a penguin sanctuary and some hungry foxes.

"First Girl I Loved": A U.S. teen drama about a girl who falls in love with the most popular girl in her high school, which causes her more than the usual expected problems.

"Kingdom of Clay Subjects": A coming-of-age story about a 10-year-old Bangladesh boy who struggles to figure out how caste and gender work in his village.


"Seasons": The creators of "Winged Migration" tell the history of Europe told through the animals that populate the continent.

And then you'll have plenty of time to drive home Sunday afternoon.

And one more for Friday: ‘A Bigger Splash’

And now comes late word that the film "A Bigger Splash" will also open on Friday. The film, which was directed by Italian director Luca Guadagnino, is based on the 1969 French film "La Piscine." The story revolves around a rock star (Tilda Swinton) and her younger lover (Matthias Schoenaerts), whose life gets complicated when one of the rocker's former lovers (Ralph Fiennes) comes to visit with his Lolita-like daughter (Dakota Johnson) in tow.

As an aside: The film was shot in the Italian island of Pantelleria, a place where my wife and a spent a week recently. We spotted most of the shooting sites, which were fairly easy to find since you can drive the entire circumference in around two hours. But the stars and crew were long gone. As were the tourists. Maybe I'll write more about all that Pantelleria has to offer at a later time.

Friday’ openings redux: A bit of Austen lite

And an addition has been included in the mainstream movie lineup for Friday. The added opening is as follows:

"Love & Friendship": Whit Stillman ("The Last Days of Disco") gives us his comic take on a Jane Austen-type tale of manners. Kate Beckinsale stars as a scheming woman who invades a household intent on matchmaking, both for her daughter and herself. No doubt they drink tea, too.

Of course, if you're ambitious, you might drive to Seattle to try and catch a 7 p.m. screening of "Chimes at Midnight," the restored copy of Orson Welles' 1960 film that is a compilation of several Shakespeare plays. Welles' intent was to build a play around the character of Falstaff, who was the young King Henry V's drinking buddy. For more information, click here

But whatever you do, go see a movie. And enjoy.

Friday’s openings: X marks the apocalypse

Yeah, you can expect more from a Marvel-ous world on Friday, as well as an adventure involving mirrors, when the week's new movies open. A tentative list of Friday's mainstream movie openings is as follows:

"X-Men: Apocalypse": When an ancient threat arises, the mutant superheroes find themselves again split between self-interest, their dubious feelings toward ordinary humans and their ongoing sibling-like rivalries. In other words, life as usual in the X-Men world.

"Alice: Through the Looking Glass": Having disposed of Lewis Carroll's novel "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," Tim Burton gives way as director of this version of Carroll's follow-up novel. Since the same stars — from Mia Wasikowska to Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter — are involved, expect once again to disappear down a rabbit hole.

I'll update as needed, including the Magic Lantern.

SIFF 2016: The weekend is just the beginning

I've mentioned it before, but now it is here: The 2016 edition of the Seattle International Film Festival. Click here to get a look at the weekend's offerings. And know that if you jump in your car right now, you can catch several screenings today, besides those that will open Saturday and Sunday.

Here's one for today, though: "Our Little Sister," a Japanese film by director Hirokazu Kore-eda, that tells a story about sisters growing close as they pay last respects to their late father.

Friday’s openings redux: To vaxx or not to vaxx

You may remember a controversy that occurred last month at the Tribeca Film Festival. It involved a movie, a documentary titled "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” that had been initially accepted into the festival before being abruptly pulled from the lineup.

You can read about the controversy and other filmmakers' reactions here.

That film is scheduled to open Friday at the Magic Lantern Theater. Following are snippets from two very different reviews:

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: "It's a polemic. But it's a passionate advocate for its viewpoint, and that makes for compelling viewing."

Joe Leydon, Variety: "Slickly produced but scientifically dubious hodgepodge of free-floating paranoia, heart-rending imagery - lots of shots of cute infants who reportedly were damaged by vaccines - and anti-Big Pharma conspiracy mongering."

Stake out your own position and make a choice. The Lantern is also opening a second run of "Eye in the Sky."

‘Ferris Bueller’ takes it easy, again

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Truer words were never spoken, even from a fictional character.

In 1986, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” took Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck and Mia Sara an epic ditch day in Chicago. Helmed by the late, great John Hughes, the film was a hit with critics and audiences—and it’s even spawned “Fight Club”-inspired fan theories, not to mention cultural critiques of 80s-era politics, race, class and gender in academic circles.

Although the film premiered on June 11, Chicago is getting a jump on the 30th anniversary celebration this weekend at Ferris Fest with film screenings, actor Q & As, location tours and, of course, a “Twist and Shout” parade.

If you can’t make it to Chi-Town, Fathom Events and TCM Big Screen Classics are screening the film at theaters across the country, including Regal Cinemas Northtown Mall and Regal Cinemas Riverstone at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18.

Shake it up, baby.

The week’s openings: The yuks take precedence

Note: This post has been updated.

It's a week for laughter, assuming you find humor in movie versions of popular apps, mother-daughter comedies, buddy comedies and Seth Rogen. Anyway, Friday's scheduled mainstream releases are as follows:

"Angry Birds": It may be one of the most-downloaded apps of all time, but even when voiced by actors such as Peter Dinklage, Jason Sudekis and Kate McKinnon, what's needed here is a killer script. Or any script at all. Time will tell.

"The Meddler": Newly widowed, a woman (Susan Sarandon) moves across the country to be closer to her unmarried daughter (Rose Byrne). Imagine the potential for comic high jinks.

"Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising": Rogen and co-sars Rose Byrne and Zac Efron are back. But this time Efron and his pals are not the problem. The women of a local sorority are. As if.

"The Nice Guys": Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe star as mismatched investigators trying to find a young woman in danger in this period-piece crime caper/comedy. Let's hope all the good scenes haven't been wasted in the interminable trailers that have been running for what seems like the past three years.

That's it for the moment. Stay tuned for updates.

‘Sing Street’ may fill you with song

If you haven't yet seen "Sing Street," you might want to read the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

When the painful realities of life come crashing at you, growth tends to follow. That’s the kind of growth that Irish 15-year-old Conor, protagonist of John Carney’s film “Sing Street,” experiences when he is pulled from his Dublin private school and thrown into the relative hell of a state-supported high school called – and here’s where Carney got the title of his film – Synge Street, spelled S-Y-N-G-E.

That name has an obvious double meaning, and it is the other meaning that becomes so important in Conor’s life. After encountering the thugs at his school, from the one that makes him dance in the bathroom to the head priest who makes him walk around school in his socks – seems his shoes don’t fit the school’s uniform requirements – Conor seeks something, anything, for emotional release.

And he finds it in Raphina, a 16-year-old beauty whom he sees standing on a stoop, looking like a glass of champagne in a sea of diet carbonated beverages. Anxious to make a connection, Conor asks Raphina to be in a video he’s making for his band. And, soon enough, she says yes. Only problem: Conor doesn’t have a band.

So he has to form one. Luckily enough, his new friend Darren is a natural enough organizer. And he leads Darren to Eamon, who can play virtually anything. Together, the three summon enough musicians to make up a band that, thanks to his older brother Brendan, Conor has been dreaming about for some time.

And dreaming is something that Conor is good at. This is 1985, times are hard in Dublin, money is tight, Conor’s parents are eternally fighting, and Conor’s only release is the music his brother plays for him – The Cure, Depeche Mode, a-Ha are just a few – and the videos that they both watch on the musical variety “Top of the Pops” show.

What happens next is fairly predictable. Conor’s parents become further estranged, his relationship with Raphina grows complicated, he has continual run-ins with the head priest, he continues to write songs with Eamon and film videos (though, truth be told, the best videos never make it out of his head). And the film builds to an end-of-school-year event at which Conor’s band – which, of course, he dubs Sing Street (S-I-N-G) – gets to perform.

Writer-director Carney is best known this side of the Atlantic for two other films: his 2007 offering “Once,” which an Oscar for Best Song, and 2013’s “Begin Again,” starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. Both films offer a blend of sweet and bitter.

Just as “Sing Street” does. Much of what occurs feels close to what Bill Forsythe gave us in his 1981 film “Gregory’s Girl,” in which a clueless Scottish boy finally gets the girl – even if the bitter is all too real, and Carney’s ending feels more fantastical than, say, an a-Ha video.

The acting, especially from Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor and Lucy Boynton as Raphina, is solid enough so that while, in the end, “Sing Street” may cause you to grimace, it may also inspire you to find your own song.

Even if it’s only in the shower.

Friday’s openings: Monsters, money and otherwise

Note: The post below has been edited.

Refusing to challenge the latest Avengers saga, "Captain America: Civil War," Hollywood is opening only two movies this weekend. And neither is likely to bust the box office. Friday's openings are as follows:

"Money Monster": George Clooney plays a TV finance reporter who get waylaid by a gun-toting guy who's lost all his money, and Julia Roberts is his producer. Think "The Big Short" meets "Broadcast News."

"The Darkness": A family returns from vacation only to discover that an evil spirit home has stowed away in the family roadster. Nothing is more irritating, except for that time when dad ran over a skunk.

And at the Magic Lantern?

"Dough": From IMDB: "An old Jewish baker struggles to keep his business afloat until his young Muslim apprentice drops cannabis in the dough and sends sales sky high." So to speak.

The Lantern will be closed Thursday, May 19. On May 20, the theater is scheduled to open "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe." No comment, except for this.

That's the list. So go. See a movie. And have fun.

Key, Peele and the cutest kitty ever

If you haven't yet seen "Keanu," you might want to read the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

No comedy act in recent years has been more astute at satirizing American culture than the one performed by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. For five seasons, the duo wrote and starred in their own Comedy Central show, aptly and simply named “Key & Peele.”

Whether they were poking fun at race, class, gender or sexual orientation – or any combination of the above – they weren’t afraid to tackle common cultural tropes and turn them on their topical heads. Example: the skit “Substitute Teacher,” in which a no-nonsense inner-city teacher moves to a mostly white suburban high school and chastises the students for what he considers their mispronunciation of their own names: Aaron, he says, should be pronounced A-Aron, Jacqueline should be Jay-Kwellen, Blake should be B-Lakay … and so on.

In its better moments, that same sense of lampoonery permeates Key and Peele’s first big-screen teaming, the feature-length comedy “Keanu.” Overly long and, like most skit-comedy sketches stretched past the five-minute mark, it ends up offering too little content to fill its running time. At moments, though, “Keanu” feels inspired.

Key and Peele star as cousins Clarence and Rell, characters – similar to the actors who play them – who are both biracial and nerds to the core. Rell spends most of his time stoned, while Clarence dresses like a J. Crew model and boogies to George Michael’s “Faith” album.

When Rell gets dumped by his girlfriend, Clarence heads over to offer support. But by the time he arrives, Rell has rebounded, having adopted a kitten that could easily win a Cutest-Kitty-Ever contest. Rell names his new pet Keanu – “It means heavenly breeze in Hawaiian,” he explains – and becomes newly distraught when Keanu gets stolen by drug dealers.

This makes the cat the film’s McGuffin, the object sought not only by Clarence and Rell but of at least two bands of bad guys as well. As the cousins search, and find themselves in situations that are as dangerous as they are unfamiliar – especially to the family-van-driving Clarence –  Key and Peele find opportunities to play off the kinds of routines they’ve perfected over the years.

One particularly funny sequence occurs when Clarence, stuck on lookout duty with three gang members, not only is forced to explain why he drives a van (because, he says, it makes him less suspicious to cops) but he is then able to make a case for George Michael being truly OG.

“Keanu” the movies also boasts a lot of filler, from actress Anna Faris making a cameo appearance as herself to the obligatory cliché of clueless but motivated guys proving adept at using firearms. And most of the filler serves merely as a device that allows the cousins to channel their inner-gangsta as a way of finding, then saving, the kitty of Rell’s dreams.

Yet “Keanu” is better than what a lot of veteran “Saturday Night Live” comics have brought to the big screen, no small feat. And Key and Peele will no doubt improve.

They’ll just have to learn to do it without the cat.

SIFF 2016: Here are the movies

Above: The documentary "Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You" will screen at 11 a.m. Friday, May 20, at AMC Pacific Place.

This just in: The schedule for the 2016 edition of the Seattle International Film Festival is now online. Here's the accompanying message:

"We're thrilled to announce this year's lineup of films and events for the 42nd annual Seattle International Film Festival. This year, SIFF will screen 421 films representing 85 countries, including 54 World premieres, 56 North American premieres, and 27 US premieres - plus guests, tributes, parties, and more!"

Click here to see the movie treasures. The film below, Woody Allen's "Cafe Society," will screen May 19 during SIFF 2016's Gala Opening.

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.