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Archive: Movies / Spokane and North Idaho

Friday’s openings range from horror to the heat

We're looking at another varied week of film as everything from horror to hot documentaries opens on Friday.

The openings are as follows:

The Other Woman: A trio of women conspire to make life hell for the married man who has cheated on them all. Hell hath no fury … and so on.

Dom Hemingway: Jude Law stars as a mobster, just released after 12 years in prison, who is looking to make up for lost time. “You're nothing but a pestilence,” Dom says, “an uphill gardener with a weak chin.” And that's one of his clean quotes.

Brick Mansions: In one of his last films, the late Paul Walker stars as an undercover cop trying to stop the destruction of Detroit. As if anyone could tell …

The Quiet Ones: Jared Harris stars as a university professor who leads a team of student on a parapsychology research venture. And they stumble upon … Regan MacNeil?

And at the Magic Lantern:

Kid Cannabis: Based on the real story of a posse of Coeur d'Alene pot dealers, this adaptation of an Inlander article is a study in life lessons learned the hard way. 

Joe: Nicolas Cage, in full bloom, stars as a guy who — as the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern says — is “a violence-prone man who can't restrain himself from doing good.”

Anita: Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Freida Lee Mock reminds us of the devastating experience that Anita Hill endured while testifying during the U.S. Senate hearings of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. 

Magic Lantern to screen ‘Kid Cannabis’ tonight

My friend Kevin Taylor gets around the Inland Northwest. We first worked together more than 30 years ago at the short-lived Spokane Sports Journal. Then both of us graduated to The Spokesman-Review. Kevin later worked for the Pacific Northwest Inlander and is now a freelance writer who shops his stuff around, as all good independent journalists tend to do.

As the author of literally hundreds of stories, Kevin has immersed himself in many aspects of Pacific Northwest life. One of the stories that he did nine years ago for the Inlander, though, may be the only one that inspired a movie. “Kid Cannibis,” which will open Friday at the Magic Lantern Theater, is based on a story that Kevin wrote under the headline “B.C. Bud: The Region's Top Cash Crop.”

Here's the movie's synopsis, as provided by IMDB: “An 18-year-old high school drop-out and his 27-year-old friend start trafficking marijuana across the border of Canada in order to make money and their lives are changed forever.”

A special advance screening of the film will be held tonight at the Lantern beginning at 9:45. According to Kevin, those who attend will have access “to cheap wine,” which I don't think is a code phrase for anything other than … cheap wine. Damnit.

Whatever. Tickets are $10.

 

TriBeCa film reflects a real-life horror story

In 2001, two things occurred that led, however indirectly, to a movie that I saw last night at the TriBeCa Film Festival. Enjoying a short stay in New York, my wife and I decided to check out TriBeCa, one of the country's more storied film festivals. And the film we saw was a documentary titled “The Newburgh Sting.”

So what were the two things that occurred in 2001? One was the obvious: the events that occurred on Sept. 11. The other was the release of a documentary titled “Southern Comfort,” a study of transgendered people living in, of all place, rural Georgia. “Southern Comfort,” which was directed by Kate Davis, remains one of the most powerful, eye-opening cultural studies I've even seen.

And the tie to TriBeCa? Davis codirected, with David Heilbroner, “The Newburgh Sting,” which is a study of four men who were arrested in 2009 and convicted — of terrorism. All New Yorkers, poor and black, the men had been recruited by an FBI informant. They willingly cooperated with the informant in what was a plot to bomb a Jewish center in Riverdale, New York. But here's the thing: They were promised $250,000 to do so (which is more money than any of the four had seen in their lives); the informant provided the so-called weapons (a Stinger missile and two “bombs,” none of which was armed); and the informant drove the car they used to get from Newburgh (a town 60 miles from New York City) to pick up the “weapons” in Connecticut (which, not coincidentally, made the crime a federal offense and ensured the incident would attract headlines).

I'm no lawyer, but the machinations of the informant would seem to suggest the men were entrapped. But they were convicted anyway, mainly — the documentary argues — because the media didn't ask any real questions of the government. They bought, for example, the FBI's story that the defendants were revolutionary Jihadists who had met while in prison. False and falser; only one of the four had even visited a Newburgh-based mosque. Meanwhile, the government entities — federal and local — fell over themselves to take credit for breaking up a “terrorist ring.”

“The Newburgh Sting” is a horror story, one that shows just how easy it is to target and scapegoat America's poor. Meanwhile, the vast majority of those who have committed — and contintue to commit — economic terrorism on the world economy walk free. I'm no raging anarchist, and I don't want to occupy anything, but after seeing Davis and Heilbroner's movie, I'm feeling more than a bit angry. What's worse, I'm afraid.

We all should be.

‘The Raid 2’: It’s ultra-violent, and it’s art

It turns out that “The Raid 2” is sticking around for another week. This is good news for fans of action movies, though perhaps a bit disturbing to those movie fans who get upset over cinematic depictions of violence. As I point out in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio, “The Raid 2” is ultra-violent. That said, it's also — in its own way — a work of art.

My review follows: 

On occasion, I get together with a couple of friends to enjoy a Guys’ Movie Night. My pal Dan Fratini built a man-cave that is straight out of Science Digest, boasting a huge HD-TV, Blu-ray capability and a Surround-Sound system that – amped to 11 – would make your ears bleed. Our scotch-fueled screening of “It Might Get Loud” – Davis Guggenheim’s 2008 documentary featuring guitarists Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge – was, no surprise, legendary.

Last year,  I decided to energize things by bringing along a Blu-ray DVD of a movie out of Indonesia called “The Raid: Redemption.” Written and directed by Welsh-born director Gareth Evans, but shot in and around Jakarta – and boasting Indonesian dialogue – “The Raid: Redemption” is a taut, 101-minute thriller about an unauthorized SWAT team attack on a gangland lair that, almost immediately, goes wrong. Pretty soon, the platoon of cops is fighting, floor-by-floor, through a fortified apartment complex just to survive.

That movie’s protagonist – a rookie cop named Rama – is basically the only character who shows up in “The Raid 2,” which is now playing at AMC River Park Square. The only other survivors disappear, one way or another, within the sequel’s first few minutes. But Rama, having been taken into custody, is given a choice: Go undercover and help root out the crooked cops bankrolling the country’s criminal underworld, or go back to his regular life and know that he, his wife and his son will be marked for death. Not much of a choice, really.

So Rama agrees to go to jail, where – through a couple of amazing fight sequences, one set in a lavatory stall, the other in a mud-filled prison yard – he is able to ingratiate himself with the son of a noted mob lord. Once he is released, he goes to work for the son and ends up embroiled in a struggle featuring near-Shakespearean intrigue, ambition, deception and betrayal. What’s worse, even as Jakarta’s various crime factions begin to square off, Rama finds himself cut off, afraid to trust anyone – including the boss cop who recruited him.

Any competent filmmaker could do something with this richly detailed plotline. But Evans is far more than simply competent. Instead of making a mere action flick, he is channeling Martin Scorsese; “The Raid 2,” in fact, bears more than a passing similarity to Scorsese’s film “The Departed.” And Evans’ techniques, especially leading up to the fight scenes – all choreographed by star Iko Uwais – are virtual mini-classes in how to build cinematic tension – not to mention how to release it.

Granted, “The Raid 2” is overly long at 150 minutes. It’s complex enough to have you guessing not just what’s going on but also who is doing what to whom. And it’s as violent as any movie you’re likely to see outside straight torture porn. Maybe even snuff porn.

But unlike so many American directors, Evans doesn’t just exploit action: He uses it to probe larger issues of the human experience. I can’t wait to see “The Raid 3,” sitting in the comfort of my friend’s man-cave, preferably sipping a glass of 10-year-old scotch.

For something non-Disney, try ‘Ernest & Celestine’

Most U.S.-made animated features seem to work from the same basic plot basis: Some trouble happens, some character discovers an inner power he/she didn’t suspect existed, a crisis/villain is overcome (or a quest accomplished) and lessons are learned all around. Happy ending.

Disney-made features are even more transparent. While adhering to the above formula, they also work as tryouts for potential Broadway musicals. See: “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and the forthcoming “Frozen.”

Foreign-made animated efforts are different. Sure, they often involve challenges – even quests, if you will – and characters are forced at times to overcome daunting odds. But often they don’t. And anyway, they almost always have a different feel. Think of the work of Hayao Miyazaki, particularly his 1988 film “His Neighbor Totoro” or his 2001 Oscar-winning effort “Spirited Away.” In Europe, consider Jean-Francois Laguionie’s 2011 Oscar-nominated film “Le Tableau” (or “The Painting”).

Now we have “Ernest & Celestine,” a co-production of France, Belgium and Luxembourg that is based on a series of children’s books written by the late Belgian author Gabrielle Vincent. Vincent, whose real name was Monique Martin, wrote more than 30 books in the “Ernest and Celestine” series before she passed away in 2000. Vincent, who illustrated her own books, provided only minimal storylines and dialogue. Mostly she just set scenes in which an adult bear named Ernest shepherded, and resolved problems caused by, his little mouse charge Celestine.

When adapting Vincent’s stories into a feature film, the filmmaking trio of Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner had to come up with a story that would both service the characters and fill in a feature-length running time. So screenwriter Daniel Pennac came up with this solution: He sets Vincent’s characters in a world split between bears, who live above ground, and mice, who live below. Both societies believe they are superior to the other, and this prejudice – plus others – keeps them separated.

Then one day the orphan mouse Celestine runs into the ne’er-do-well bear Ernest. Mice have a fascination with teeth. And Celestine, who dreams of being an artist but who is expected to become a dentist, encounters Ernest – a poor, hungry bear who would rather busk in the city square than do just about anything, except maybe eat marshmallows and sleep.

After a few initial problems, which involve the lumbering Ernest being outsmarted by the clever, nimble Celestine, the two become friends. It’s only then that the film, no doubt influenced by Disney and its animated clones, becomes something familiar: Our two protagonists are ostracized by their respective communities. And though the two do commit a series of crimes – burglary, theft, destruction of property – they become outlaws mostly because they dare to break the taboo of cultural assimilation.

“Ernest & Celestine,” which opens Friday at the Magic Lantern, is a kid’s film, so you know a happy ending is forthcoming. But along the way, the filmmakers stress messages of tolerance, acceptance, loyalty and the power of love.

It doesn’t have a signature Broadway moment, with anyone warbling something about the need to “Let It Go,” but that’s actually one of the film’s good points. If you decide to see it, you’re likely to discover any number of others.

Friday: Bears, aliens and big-brain Johnny Depp

Long before we get into the summer season of blockbuster wannabes, area movie fans have the chance to enjoy the flow of smaller films that drift in and (sometimes too quickly) out of area theaters. Other than “Heaven Is for Real,” which was delayed from last Friday and opens locally on Wednesday, Friday is the day to anticipate.

The week's openings:

“Haunted House 2“: In the long line of comedy spoofs, this sequel to last year's original features a mixed-race couple (Marlon Wayans and Jaime Pressly) dealing with the spirits haunting their new house. Gird your loins for a few jokes based on, uh, stereotypes?

“Le Week-End”: Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as an aging British couple who attempt to revive their marriage by revisiting the site of their honeymoon: Paris. Oh la la.

“Transcendence” (IMAX and regular, no 3D): Johnny Depp's mind gets downloaded onto a computer. God help us all.

“Under the Skin”: Scarlett Johansson, clothed and unclothed, plays an alien seductress who feasts on unwary souls in Scotland. Question is, would this be heaven or hell?

“Bears”: Another trademark Disney nature documentary, this one focusing on a mother and cubs striving to survive in Alaska. Just wondering, what do bears think of fracking?

And at the Magic Lantern:

“Ernest & Celestine”: This animated feature, based on the books by the late author-illustrator Gabrielle Vincent, follows the story of a bear named Ernest and his little mouse friend Celestine. Not just for kids.

“The Lunchbox”: Says IMDB, “A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an older man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox.” So, the subtitle should be “Hungry for Love”?

Preview the 2014 50 Hour Slam at the Magic Lantern

Every year about this time, it's not uncommon to see film crews running all around Spokane, furiously shooting scenes that feature some of the city's most famous backdrops. The reason for that, besides the mere expression of creativity, is most likely the annual 50 Hour Slam film festival/competition.

The 50 Hour Slam is a competition in which teams compete to see who can make the best film in a 50-hour period, Friday to Sunday night. On Friday they are given a task (say, a poem to somehow personify), sometimes a line of dialogue and some sort of prop that has to be incorporated into their short. Otherwise, they have to come up with a script, find a cast, doing the shooting, editing and complete all post-production within 50 hours.

Then the entries are judged (I am one of several judges), winners are chosen and everybody meets for a screening party to see who did what. This year, the Magic Lantern will preview the May 3 Audience Choice Screening (which will be held at the Bing Crosby Theater) by holding what it's calling The 50 Hour Slam Rewind at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24. The official press release reads as follows:

“Come see all the past winners of the 50 Hour Slam along with the organizers’ sentimental favorites they want to share with you. Don’t miss this opportunity to see Spokane’s indie talent at its best with short films from the last three years of the competition presented on the big screen at the Magic Lantern.”

Tickets are $5. You can get more information by clicking here. Or simply drop by the theater and ask.

Note: I added the information that the May 3 screening of the 2014 50 Hour Slam finalists will be held at the Bing Crosby Theater.

Below: “Chapters,” one of the 2013 award winners.

Rumsfeld: Getting to know the ‘Unknown Known’

Errol Morris’ new documentary, “The Unknown Known,” opens at the Magic Lantern tonight. (So does Vol. 1 of Lars Von Trier’s graphic exploration of sexual obsession, “Nymphomaniac,” but that’s something else completely.)

Anyway, if you plan on catching Morris’ movie, you might want to check out the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio. An edited version follows:

I hated high-school debate. Not only did I suffer from performance anxiety, which made it hard even to stand in front of a class much less to argue anything, I seldom did the required preparation.

That’s why, in senior civics class, when I was assigned to debate Warren King on some subject I can’t begin to remember, I reacted to his 10-minute presentation with a one-word query. “Why?” I said. It was my entire response, delivered without even leaving my chair. Our teacher, Miss Belda, was NOT amused.

I doubt Donald Rumsfeld has ever experienced a moment like that. As the subject of Errol Morris’ new documentary, “The Unknown Known,” Rumsfeld confirms what many of us already know about the two-time former Secretary of Defense: The man is a master not only of semantics but of dissimulation.

The title of Morris’ film is a play on one of Rumsfeld’s most famous quotes, which he made at a February 2002 news briefing. “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me,” Rumsfeld proclaimed, “because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.”

Whip smart, Rumsfeld is the kind of human who, if he does entertain doubt, he isn’t about to show it. Not in public. And perhaps not ever. Morris wanted him to do exactly that by answering questions, particularly about the war in Iraq. Morris had been relatively successful doing much the same thing in his 2004 film “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.” In that documentary, filmed in much the same way as “The Unknown Known” – mostly in one-on-one interview style – Morris had succeeded in getting McNamara, Defense Secretary under Lyndon Johnson, to express at least a sense of regret. Not so with Rumsfeld.

From the beginning of his word joust with Morris, it’s clear that Rumsfeld is prepared. Genial, but guarded. Just as he showed in those many new briefings he held during his tenures during the Ford and second Bush administrations, he is calm, controlled and unshakeable. McNamara, one of the Best and the Brightest guys who helped shape the policies that resulted in the ill-fated Vietnam War, ended up telling Morris, “I think the human race needs to think more about killing. How much evil must we do in order to do good?” But the most Rumsfeld is willing to concede to Morris is that, regarding Vietnam, “Some things work out. Some things don’t. That didn’t.” As for justifying the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld is even more succinct. “Time will tell,” he says.

“I’m not interested in cracking the nut,” Morris told Slate Magazine. “I’m interested in exploring the nut, if that makes sense.” Yes, it does, because Morris is a filmmaker, not a journalist. And as such, in addition to filling his film with the cinematic traits that have become his trademark – charts and graphs, shifting subtitles, copies of the thousands of Rumsfeld-written memos that he calls “snowflakes” – Morris tries not to force the truth from his subjects so much as create an interesting study of them.

And that, ultimately, is what he has done – however unsatisfying that may be to some of his audience. In the end, Morris’ success is, as he told Slate, to create a film that shows a man fully bent on finding a “retreat into language, used not just to hide the truth from others, but from yourself – a strange retreat into the castle of language.”

Yeah, some people can’t stand Zach Braff

You don't have to look very hard to find some harsh feelings being directed toward Zach Braff. Most of it is trademark-Gawker snarky, which is an explanation all by itself. But much of the rest of it just seems … I don't know, misdirected? The same kind of feeling that you see when someone should be criticizing, say, Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer but who instead takes shots at a guy who uses the contacts and energies he accumulated through doing sitcom television to make little personal films that, while fiction, also reflect some aspects of his own life's concerns.

Of course, there is the little controversy about Braff's using Kickstarter to fund his latest effort. But that always seemed to me to be disingenuous. No one forced anyone to help Braff fund his film. Presumably, only his die-hard fans did.

Anyway, for you Gawker fans out there, I've embedded the teaser trailer for Braff's new movie, “Wish I Was Here.” Braff-haters will want to pay special attention at the :58 mark (that's when Braff's character gets punched in the face).

Grammar cops who insist on adherence to correct subjunctive use may enjoy that brief moment, too.

Look for the movie's general release on July 25.

The change in “Captain America”? It’s political

You don't have to go very far to find critics who think nothing of panning the new “Captain America: The Winter  Soldier.” Go here. Or here. But, this may come as a surprise, I am not one of them. I actually like the movie.

It wasn't until I began searching out information about the co-directors, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, that I saw clearly why: As Joe Russo has said, “(Marvel) said they wanted to make a political thriller.” And once I realized that, everything fell into place.

It's not as if the uninitiated can easily understand everything that is going on in the Marvel universe. Captain America/Steve Rogers himself dates back to the early years of World War II, and he and his associates — such as colleague Nick Fury and foe the Winter Soldier — have long and complicated back stories. Click here for a rundown that contains plenty of spoilers.

But none of that is essential. Oh, you might want to know why the pirate Batroc is played by the French-speaking mixed-martial-arts champion George St.-Pierre. Or why Anthony Mackie can actually fly. But you don't really need the information.

Te Russos manage to make the fight scenes seem not only exciting, but they capture them — even in 3-D — in a way that doesn't lose any needed detail (the way so many second-rate filmmakers do). And the addition of a political undertone tends to make me like the character of Captain America even more because now he isn't a Greatest Generation apologist for U.S. foreign policy but is, instead, a clear-eyed champion of democratic principles.

Makes all the difference.

On Friday: A wide range of movie offerings

It's only Monday, but we already know what movies are (most likely) going to open on Friday in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. These are only the preliminary bookings, so things could change. But the range of material at this point is, to be sure, vast.

The openings:

“Rio 2” (in both 2-D and 3-D): After being forced to adapt to life in the Amazon, Blu (voice by Jesse Eisenberg) must now face his scariest foe — his father-in-law. BTDT.

“Heaven Is for Real”: When his son survives a near-death experience, and claims to have visited heaven, his father (Greg Kinnear) faces a difficult choice: accepting his son's story or getting him psychological help. This is Hollywood. You can guess what path he chooses.

“Draft Day”: Kevin Costner plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns who tries to pull off a tricky deal to save his struggling franchise. My wife is already giddy. “Yay,” she says, “my favorite genre — cheesy sports film!”

“Oculus”: I took this straight from IMDB: “A woman (Karen Gillan) tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.” No clue as to whether frogs fall from heaven (which is a better title than the Greg Kinnear movie above).

“The Raid 2”: The sequel to one of the best action films of the past several years, 2011's “The Raid: Redemption,” continues the story of Jakarta's only good cop, Rama (Iko Uwais), who goes undercover to root out the bad guys.If you like fight scenes. this is the movie for you.

And at the Magic Lantern:

“The Unknown Known”: Errol Morris interviews former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the man famous for writing thousands of memos known as “snowflakes.” Hint: It doesn't snow emotions.

“Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1”: Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier follows the story of Joe (Stacy Martin, Charlotte Gainsbourg), whose obsession with sex nearly destroys everything she touches. Including, perhaps, Von Trier's fading reputation. Caution: FULL FRONTAL EVERYTHING! (Vol. II opens April 18.)

‘Noah’ offers a lot of questions, few answers

You may have already seen Darren Aronofsky's film “Noah.” If so, you might be interested in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio. If not, you might take my review as a warning. Bring along a bottle of aspirin.

Here's my review:

When I was a freshman in college, I dated a girl whose parents were members of the Southern Baptist church. I would go with her family to Sunday service and get involved in spirited discussions about morality – this was in 1965, when the Vietnam War was heating up – and bible stories.

I was confused about the Bible. Being a naïve kid, I tended to ask fairly simplistic questions, such as – how is it possible for Adam and Eve to give birth to the entire human race? Then, one day, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “Da-an, it’s a me-ta-phor.” And this simple pronouncement, uttered by a girl who was still in high school, rocked my world.

I was reminded of that conversation when I watched Darren Aronofsky’s film “Noah,” which doesn’t replicate the story told in Genesis so much as use it for inspiration. The other inspiration, as writer-director Aronofsky has bragged about, is a poem he wrote at age 13 for his seventh-grade teacher – whom he rewarded by giving her not one but two small roles in the film.

Her reward was far better than the one I received, which – augmented by an IMAX-size screen – was a viewing experience that ended up giving me a raging headache. It was only later that I realized I had come down with the flu. But that’s a whole other story. And anyway I still blame the movie.

Regarding the biblical Noah, Genesis raises more questions than it answers (like the tale of Adam and Eve) It involves Noah and his family, the Arc and “two of all living creatures, male and female.” The question becomes, then, how from that limited genetic group do not just the human race but all living things “go forth and multiply”? I was anxious to see what answer Aronofsky would offer.

Turns out, “Noah” the movie doesn’t provide any answers. If anything, it poses even more questions. Such as, who are these rock creatures – supposedly fallen angels called “The Watchers” – who look like something from the set of “Transformers”? How does the character Tubal-Cain – yes, of THAT Cain line – not only manage to sneak aboard the Arc but live in seclusion for nine months without Noah suspecting? How about the animals – those that Tubal-Cain doesn’t eat, that is – what, they SLEEP for the entire voyage? And if everyone else has perished, who is Noah’s son Ham, who ends up doing an end-of-the-movie walkabout, supposed to hook up with? Isn’t everybody else dead? And if they aren’t, what … was … the … point?

Aronofsky doesn’t seem to care. He’s too busy directing Russell Crowe to another of his life-is-so-glum performances, too preoccupied dressing his cast up in cast-off post-apocalyptic outfits, too thrilled with his CGI world-comin-to-an-end effects. Thank the creator that he decided to cast Ray Winstone as the villain; someone had to show Oscar-winners Crow, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins how to carry a line.

Yeah, “Noah” looks good. Aronofsky is a skilled filmmaker; films such as “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan” prove that much. But style is no substitute for plot holes. Not everything can be a me-ta-phor.

Check out ‘La Boheme’ on Saturday morning

I was taught early on in my journalism career never to use a question lead: As in, “Are you an opera fan?”

The reason? Because anyone who is NOT an opera fan will answer with a curt no and move on. But that's exactly why this lead is so effective for the post I want to write. Because if you are NOT an opera fan, then you're not going to care that a Metropolitan Opera production of Puccini's “La Boheme” will screen at 10 a.m. Saturday at Regal Cinemas' NorthTown Mall.

Click here for ticket information. And enjoy the singers, portly and otherwise.

Friday’s openings: From science to science fiction

Though only three movies are opening locally this weekend, movie fans should find the range of choices interesting if not actually daunting, particularly to those with a bent for science. The openings are:

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”: The only mainstream opening is a continuation of the Steve Rogers/Captain America story that Marvel Comics began in 2011's “Captain America: The First Avanger,” continued in 2012's “The Avengers” and briefly in 2013's “Thor: The Dark World.” Chris Evans, whose superhero duty includes playing Johnny Story/The Human Torch in the “Fantastic 4” series, returns as America's super-soldier. This time he faces the Winter Soldier, an enemy from the Cold War (and no, that's not code for Vladimir Putin). The movie will be screened in 3-D, regular 2-D and IMAX formats.

And at the Magic Lantern:

“Particle Fever”: Documentary filmmaker Mark Levinson explores the preparation and follow-through of the the Large Hadron Collider to attempt to find the elusive Higgs boson.  

“Moulin Rouge — The Ballet”: Debuting in 2009, the ballet production of “Moulin Rouge” is performed by Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet troupe. No, this is not Baz Luhrman's 2001 movie version.

Morris on Rumsfeld: The known remains unknown

For weeks, it seems, movie fans were asking about Wes Anderson's “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” When, they wanted to know, was it coming to Spokane? And on Friday, it finally did.

Funny but I haven't noticed anyone asking about Errol Morris' “The Unknown Known.” Following the format of Morris' 2003 Oscar-winning Documentary feature “The Fog of War,” his “The Unknown Known” is based on the 33 hours Morris spent interviewing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The title comes, of course, from Rumsfeld's famous (or should that be infamous?) statement, made in response to a question during a 2002 news briefing: “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.”

First screened in August 2003 at the Telluride Film Festival, “The Unknown Known” has been working the festival circuit and is only now slowly getting a mainstream release. Available through On Demand services this Friday, it's scheduled to screen April 11 at the Magic Lantern.

To read Morris' own recollection about the experience, click here.

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