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Archive: Movies / Spokane and North Idaho

See ‘Chef’ hungry, then go find some food

Above: John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau eat well in “Chef.”

I post mostly about movies. On occasion, though, I post about a decent meal I've had (here was the night we stumbled into the Wandering Table). The post I am writing at the moment combines both movies and food: That's because it concerns the movie “Chef,” which I saw this afternoon at AMC River Park Square.

As a movie, “Chef” is all over the place. It starts as a typical drama, involving a guy (played by writer-director-star Jon Favreau) trying to make his cooking career work with his duties as the divorced father of a 10-year-old boy. It evolves into a father-and-son adventure, then turns into a road trip and ends up being a kind of modern fairy tale with the happiest of endings.

All that said, “Chef” is one of the most delicious looking movies since “Big Night.” Or “Mostly Martha.” Or “Babette's Feast.” Or “Eat Drink Man Woman.” From the dishes that Favreau's character dreams up in his home kitchen to the Cuban sandwiches he makes on the road, all the food in “Chef” looks tasty to the max.

If you go, make sure to go early. And hungry. Then head someplace for a good dinner afterward. You'll be glad you did.

Want to see a movie? Pick this ‘Locke’

If you have time this weekend, you might want to take in the film “Locke.” Written and directed by Stephen Knight, the guy who wrote “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things,” “Locke” is unique in the way it unfolds. After playing for a week at AMC, it has now moved to the Magic Lantern. Following is the review of “Locke” that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

A simple rundown of the plot that veteran screenwriter Stephen Knight dreamed up for his second directorial venture, which bears the single-word title of “Locke,” sounds like the outline for a what-NOT-to-do engineering tract.

Leave your job on the eve of a historically big project, put your shaky second-in-command in charge, attempt to give him directions – and support – over the phone while driving down the highway and fielding calls from a number of other concerned parties. What could possibly go wrong?

Knight’s movie begins with a man we come to know as Ivan Locke leaving an urban construction site. After removing his boots, and rolling up his sleeves, the man fires up his BMW and heads out on the dark highway. Once his Bluetooth comes online, he begins to make calls. And it is through those calls that we gradually learn who Locke is, what he is doing – and what the likely consequences will be.

Who Locke is, on the surface at least, is the chief manager of the work site he has just left. He is married, the father of two boys and – from all appearances – a loving parent and husband. What he is doing – again, from all appearances – is throwing his career, indeed his very life, into the trash.

He tells his assistant, the befuddled Donal, that he will not be back in the morning when a concrete pour – the largest ever such pour in Europe – is scheduled to happen. And, he stresses, Donal must take over. But he assures his panic-stricken assistant that he – Locke – will talk him through the process. And everything will be all right, just as long as Donal lays off the drink. What do you think the chances of THAT will be?

Then the other calls begin. Locke has to explain what he is doing to his own boss, who is as prone to panic as Donal. And far harder to placate. He has to explain to his wife why he won’t be returning home that night. He has to make calls to city officials that Donal cannot. Most important, he talks to a mysterious woman who, we come to learn, is in the process of giving birth – and who, we also come to learn, is the McGuffin that has set Locke on his life-altering course.

All of this occurs in real time, over the course of Knight’s 85-minute film. And other than the switches from one caller to the next, continual shots of traffic as it passes by, and Locke’s own inner dialogue – portrayed as a one-way conversation with his non-existent father – everything is centered on the actor Knight wisely chose to portray his protagonist.

You’ve seen Tom Hardy before in films such as “Inception,” “Warrior,” the insipid romantic comedy “This Means War” and behind a mask as the villain Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” But you’ve never seen him like this: so effective as a man, driven to do what he thinks is right, even if it means losing everything he loves.


SIFF 2014: Leave work early, see some film

The third weekend of the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival begins on Friday. So if you take off work early (and who wouldn't if you had a chance to see some great movies?), you might want to catch any one, or at least some, of the following suggested views (all quotes come from the SIFF online catalog):

“To Fool a Thief” (Spain), 3:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown: A heist film that pits two thieves, Sebastian and Natalia, bent on stealing the same work of art. “Nothing is what it seems to be in Ariel Winograd’s crowd-pleasing heist comedy.”

“The Sleepwalker” (Norway), 4 p.m., Harvard Exit: “This intriguing psychodrama from first-time director Mona Fastvold is a dual portrait of two sisters’ very different ways of dealing with the traumas of their shared past, and the high-stakes difficulties of distinguishing personal fiction from reality.”

“The Trip to Italy” (UK), 4:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown: “The sequel to 2010’s largely improvised ‘The Trip’ finds buddies Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on a driving tour through the Italian countryside, musing on life while indulging in scenic and gastronomic delights.”

“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” (Sweden), 6:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown: This offering “from actor-turned-director Felix Herngren is one of 2013’s highest-grossing comedies in Sweden. Based on the bestselling novel by Jonas Jonasson, this anarchic film follows the journey of Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson), who yearns to escape from his 100th birthday party at his retirement home.”

“Marmato” (US, Colombia), 7:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown (also 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Harvard Exit): “Underneath the Colombian village of Marmato lies one of the world’s biggest gold reserves, and the local men risk their lives every day to mine for it. Marmato is a documentary about the foreign investment that caused this corporate gold rush and the individuals who must fight to maintain their way of life.”

“Frank” (Ireland), 9:30 p.m., The Egyptian: Michael Fassbender plays the leader of an avant-garde rock band who hides his genius behind a papier-mache head. Sounds wild.

“Wetlands” (Germany), 10 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown: “Unapologetically vulgar and played out with sparkling energy, Wetlands follows fearless teenager Helen’s coming-of-age escapades. Based on Charlotte Roche’s worldwide bestseller.”

“Dead Snow: Dead vs. Red” (Norway), 11:55 p.m., The Egyptian: For the late night, this Norwegian flick follows seven students on a mountain vacation who confront the living dead. “This horror-comedy splatter film sequel is exploding with zombie Nazis, gore, sex, and Molotov cocktails.” What’s not to like?

Friday’s openings: Disney vies with deadly ‘West’

After one of the busiest weeks of the year, one in which some half dozen worthy films opened all at once, we return to a bit of quiet, with the mainstream taking the lead. Friday's openings are as follows:

“Maleficent”: Angelina Jolie stars as the presumed “evil” fairy who decrees that the young princess (Elle Fanning) will prick her finger on a spinning wheel, thus falling into her long nap. But this is revisionist, live-action Disney, so don't expect a reprise of the 1959 animated effort.

“A Million Ways to Die in the West”: Two words — Seth MacFarlane. That's pretty much all you need to know about this comic look at a western town and the many comically dangerous things that the “Family Guy” creator finds funny about the Old West.

Meanwhile, the Magic Lantern picks up two of the more interesting films that screened all of one week at AMC River Park Square, both of which are much better fits for Spokane's only art house:

“Locke”: Tom Hardy plays a man driving, driving, driving as he struggles to do what he thinks is right while his life falls apart around him. I'm reminded of the old tagline for the TV series “The Naked City”: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

“Only Lovers Left Alive”: Jim Jarmusch makes a vampire film with two of the coolest bloodsuckers imaginable, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Not much happens, but it all happens with … style.

Three for a memorable weekend

The theaters I saw movies at over the Memorial Day weekend weren't particularly crowded. I'm not sure that's because of where I spent my time (mostly at AMC River Park Square) or because people had better things to do (the weather being, for the most part, fairly sunny).

Whatever, it made my own movie-theater navigation easier. Here's what I saw:

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” — Bryan Singer's latest “X-Men” variation is the best of the lot. By using a plot conceit that usually feels like a cheat, namely time travel, he (aided by his crew of storytellers) is able to tell a more comprehensive, weighty story and still be true to the various characters he uses. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are particularly good.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” — Jim Jarmusch's trademark movie style always has been the epitome of cool, even when that cool predated the hipster life as portrayed in such films as “Stranger Than Paradise” and “Mystery Train.” His latest is, of all things, a vampire movie. But while the bare-bones plot might confound some moviegoers, I found the atmosphere his characters — mainly Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton — inhabit alluring. And, though different in most ways, the movie deserves to be ranked in the company of “The Hunger” and “Let the Right One In” as among the most unique vampire movies ever.

“Locke” — I knew going in that “Locke” was based on a plot device, which is that nearly the whole of this one-of-a-kind movie takes place in a car traveling on an English freeway. And during its 85-minute running time, actor Tom Hardy is shown portraying a character speaking, either on the phone or engaged in an imagined conversation with his absent father. Credit writer-director Stephen Knight, whose other screenplays include “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things,” for casting the right guy: Hardy (“Inception,” “Warrior”) gives his character the gravitas/vulnerability that kept me intrigued until the very end.

Expect the “X-Men” film, based on its box-office success, to be around awhile. But the other two? They're likely one week and gone. So see them as soon as you can.

‘Fed Up’ will feed your appetite for change

Of all the interesting movies opening this weekend, it's likely the last one you'd want to see is a documentary about America's ongoing struggle with individual weight gain. That, however, is precisely why I chose to review “Fed Up” for Spokane Public Radio. It, and the Magic Lantern, need the support.

If you choose not to go, and I wouldn't blame you, you might want to check it out in another format. I would suggest you do so — along with seeing something else at the Lantern (the indelibly creepy “Under the Skin” maybe?).

Anyway, here's my review: 

Breakfast-cereal lovers of the world, take note: The price of your favorite frosted flakes could rise by some 30 percent over the next decade and a half. The reason? Shifting weather patterns are already wreaking havoc with the climate, and if things get much worse – as they likely will – the result might well be double the price for such commodities as corn and rice.

That, at least, is what a study released by the social-action group Oxfam International alleges. And the possibility of this occurring is certainly bad news, especially for the world’s poor, who depend more than the rest of us on such cheap foodstuffs. It turns out, though, there’s good news as well: All of us would benefit greatly by eating less processed food, including sugar-laced breakfast cereals.

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Millions of Americans are affected by obesity, some 93 million according to the non-profit Obesity Action Coalition. This is one of the statistics cited by filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig in her documentary “Fed Up.” While following a number of children who are battling severe weight issues, Soechtig investigates a number of attendant concerns.

One involves attitude: It’s all too easy to point a finger at overweight children and label them as merely lazy, as pretty much all media sources – but especially the more conservative ones – do on a regular basis. The problem, which should come as no surprise, is more complicated. Genetics and family finances both play a role, as do eating habits. But, as Soechtig takes pains to point out, in the arguments over America’s obesity problem – similar to the ongoing debates about climate change – facts tend to be less important than long-held opinion.

This is especially true when, “Fed Up” charges, those opinions are reinforced by a food industry that, like the tobacco industry before it, seems more concerned with protecting its bottom line than in promoting health. Lobbying by the Nestles, the Coca-Colas and the McDonalds of the world are why, Soechtig claims, senate committee investigations have been waylaid, why government reports have been buried, why government itself has been characterized as a “nanny state” and why so many Americans – despite libraries full of self-help books and hopeful remedies such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program – continue to struggle with their weight.

Directed by Soechtig, narrated by former network news anchor Katie Couric and produced by Laurie David of “An Inconvenient Truth” fame, “Fed Up” – which opens today at the Magic Lantern Theater – is bound to stir up controversy. Some of its claims have been denied and even derided by the Grocery Manufacturers Association in a sponsored website called “Fed Up Facts.”

All of which makes it important for each of us to do our own fact-checking. “Fed Up,” like many such activist documentaries, might not offer the whole truth. But it offers enough fuel to spark a fire of discussion.

A discussion, by the way, that would probably go better with a plate of fresh fruit than a bowl of Captain Crunch.

SIFF 2014 offers a full Friday lineup

Let’s assume you’re a movie fan. And now let’s assume that you’ve decided to take Friday off and head to Seattle to see movies at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival. Considering it’s about a comfortable five-hour drive from Spokane, and considering that most people would choose to get on the road by 10 a.m., I’ve put together a list of some suggested Friday views.

I’ve started with 3 p.m. showings (so don’t tarry at the Moses Lake Starbucks).

“Fifi Howls From Happiness” (Iran, U.S., Italy), 3 p.m., SIFF Cinemas Uptown: I saw this documentary at last fall’s Vancouver International Film Festival. It’s a portrait of the artist Bahman Mohasses, once an Iranian celebrity and later a recluse living in Rome. This is what I said in October: “More impressionistic than a full, chronological study, and certainly postmodern in an always self-aware style, “Fifi Howls From Happiness” – which is taken from one of Mohassess’ paintings – offers a unique portrait of an unforgettable man.”

“Fasten Your Seatbelts” (Italy), 4 p.m., The Egyptian: I’m a sucker for Italian movies (“Allacciate le cinture” – é la lingua bella, no?), so I’d probably opt for this study of a young woman balancing what the SIFF online program describes as “the demands and rewards of intimacy over 13 years of passion, friendship, and heartache with the two great loves of her life.”

“The Two Faces of January” (UK, U.S., France), 6:30 p.m., The Egyptian (also 1:30 p.m. Saturday, The Egyptian): Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst star in this period-piece noir (set in 1962 Greece). “When two con-artists find themselves in serious trouble, their reliance on a local tour guide turns into a twisted, sensual game of interdependence.”

“Desert Runners” (U.S.), 6:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown (also 1 p.m. Saturday, Harvard Exit): I also saw this at VIFF in October, and it played a month later at the Magic Lantern. It’s about four runners who compete in ultra-marathons. Here is what I wrote: “(Director Jennifer) Steinman manages to find an engaging storyline, focusing mostly on the four athletes' back stories, but also by giving us an inside look at a sporting event that appeals more to the average person than top-of-the-line competitors. Just exactly what's needed for an intriguing and engaging documentary.”

“Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger” (U.S.), 9:30 p.m., AMC Pacific Place (also 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Lincoln Square Cinemas): “Oscar-nominated documentarian Joe Berlinger (the “Paradise Lost” trilogy) investigates the corrupt relationship between the FBI and James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, the infamous Boston crime lord who led authorities on a 16-year wild goose chase.”

And, finally, for the late-night warriors among you:

“Rigor Mortis” (Hong Kong), 11:55 p.m., The Egyptian (also 10 p.m. Saturday, AMC Pacific Place): “A dejected, washed-up horror film actor moves into a decrepit housing estate with every intention of ending his life, but finds that the apartment complex is teeming with bloodthirsty vampires and other assorted supernatural beasties.”

Enjoy, film fans.

Your movie recommendations for tonight

Looking for a movie to see tonight? If you haven't yet seen Wes Anderson's “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” it screens at AMC River Park Square at 6:55 p.m. The film is playing only through Thursday, so take advantage to see it on the big screen while you can.

If you're in the mood for a documentary, though, you might want to check out “Finding Vivian Maier,” which plays at 7:30 at the Magic Lantern. Co-directors John Maloof and Charlie Siskel have constructed a film that is both an investigation and an appreciation of a photographer whose work might have been lost forever.

Those are hardly the only good movies playing in Spokane. But they're among the best. And trust me: So many more open on Friday, that you should see them while you can.

Friday’s openings: X-Men, vampires and Sandler

The term “embarrassment of riches” dates back to to the 18th century. But the central idea pertains more than ever to the coming week in Spokane theaters when more intriguing movies open than any rational person could see in any such abbreviated period. From the obligatory blockbusters to the atmospheric indies, the week has it all.

Following is the film-by-film rundown:

“X-Men: Days of Future Past”: Bryan Singer continues his exploration of Marvel's X-Men phenomenon with this alternate history, one that sends Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past in an attempt to ward off a war that threatens both mutants and humans. Balls of adamantium.

“Chef”: Jon Favreau directs himself in a return to his independent-film origins about a chef, newly jobless, who starts over with his own food van. Notice I did not use the term “roach coach.”

“Blended”: Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore try to recapture their former magic as a mismatched couple who, while on an African vacation, find their soul-mateness. Think I'll sit through “50 First Dates” again.

“The Immigrant”: James Gray (“Little Odessa,” “The Yards”) cowrote and directed this noir about a young woman (Marion Cotillard) who finds herself manipulated into prostitution by a brutal stranger (Joaquin Phoenix). Is this what they mean by immigration reform?

“Only Lovers Left Alive”: Jim Jarmusch (“Mystery Train,” “Night on Earth”) was late in making a vampire flick, but expect the best from this reunion of blocs-sucking lovers played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Where are you now, Bram Stoker?

“Belle”: When a mixed-race girl is raised in an upper-class English family, issues of race and class abound. Not that such things still happen in America.

“Locke”: Tom Hardy plays a guy who, over the course of the film's 85-minute running time, is seen driving a car and carrying on one conversation after the next as he struggles to save his marriage, his career and maybe his very life. To quote New Yorker critic Anthony Lane, “The movie’s greatest asset by far is Hardy, whose rich, unflappable tones, even in times of high emotional pressure, bear a distinct echo of Richard Burton.”

And at the Magic Lantern:

“Fed Up”: Think you're fat because of how much you eat? Think again. According to this documentary, what you eat is even more important than how much.

“Under the Skin”: Already having played at both the AMC and the Lantern, this intriguing little film continues. Nathan Weinbender just might include it one his year-end list, so check it out while you can.

Read full post ›

SIFF 2014 opening was a grand movie party

Above photo: McCaw Hall fills up for Thursday's SIFF 2014 opening-night Gala Screening.

Here's how painless it was to attend the opening-night movie of the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival.

First, we'd booked a room at the Hampton Suites, a hotel that sits something like a four-block walk to McCaw Hall, which is located in the Seattle Center and is home to both the Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet. So it took me all of 10 minutes to get there.

When we arrived at 6:25 (for the 7 p.m. event), online-printed tickets in hand, we were ushered right up the stairs, given our orange bracelet (which included two drink tickets to the after-screening Gala Party) and into the theater. No waiting at all.

Other than the reserved center sections, we had our choice of seats. And with the help of a super-friendly usher, we opted for a pair of box seats on the second level that provided more leg room than you get Virgin Airlines business class (not that I've even flown Virgin, but you get my analogy).

And so there we sat, fully comfortable during the screening of “Jimi: All Is by My Side,” which included some 45 minutes of pre-screening announcements, speeches and bouts of self-congratulation by SIFF officials. We also stuck around for the post-screening interview of writer-director John Ridley and movie co-star Hayley Atwell.

From there, we trooped next door to the Gala Party — where, as usual, we got lost in the crowd, were able to score a couple of drinks, got turned off by the looooonnnnngggg lines at the food table and, after about 20 minutes, took off to meet up with our friend Leslie Kelly and find something substantial to eat.

All in all, it was a good evening, though. And I offer all this as a preview of what you might be able to enjoy during the coming weekends through June 8. SIFF is well worth checking out. Click here for ticket-buying info.

And enjoy.

With ‘Neighbors’ like these, I give up

I haven't been shy about saying how much I loathe the would-be comedy “Neighbors.” In fact, on Facebook I described it as the “worst movie ever.” Hyperbole aside, my attitude about the movie is fairly clear.

I've had some pushback. Rotten Tomatoes actually gave the film a 74 percent Tomatometer rating, and this among “top critics” (the audience rating is 78 percent). Among some of the comments:

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: “As as tensions escalate, Teddy and Peter's partnership proves just as central and perhaps more vulnerable than Mac and Kelly's. Score one for growing up.” (Really?)

David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer: “It's the most rollicking frat comedy since 'Revenge of the Nerds II.' (Miss you, Booger.)” (Oh, that's high praise indeed.)

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: “The most shocking thing about the hard-R comedy 'Neighbors' is that - surprise - it's actually rather endearing.” (What the hell is she talking about?)

Not all critics are fans. Here's Christopher Orr of The Atlantic: “It's Apatow without the Apatow, all ornaments and no tree.”

And Anthony Lane of The New Yorker: “It's a promising setup, but it gets frittered away - partly by narrative laziness (the involvement of other neighbors is dismissed out of hand) but mainly by a flaccid belief in the power of the gross-out.”

One of my Facebook friends, former Spokane resident Chris Jensen, agreed - mostly - with my three-word review: “Just saw it. I didn't think it was terrible so much as lazy — lazy writing, lazy improv. And I'm really, 'really' getting tired of Seth Rogen trying to get laughs out of his clear discomfort with gay dudes.”

More locally, my young friend Eric McGaughey, had this to say: “Saw 'Neighbors' … hardly the worst thing I've ever seen. I found a lot of the scenes to be pretty funny, but I felt that those scenes were strung together rather poorly. That said, I found Dave Franco's De Niro moment to be extremely hilarious.”

I had planned to write a full review, running down each and every problem with “Neighbors.” But I just couldn't summon up the energy. We go to comedies to get a lift, to laugh away our cares. And I sat through “Neighbors” with my posture gradually slumping, looking at the mess on the screen with a growing sense of despair. It wasn't only the homophobia, which is rampant enough. It wasn't the lack of maturity of people who pretend to be parents, which was distinctly lacking. It was just that I didn't laugh. Not once.

And I wasn't alone. Unlike other comedies I can name — everything from “Animal House” to “Three Men and a Baby” to “Home Alone,” all of which evoked so much laughter I could barely hear dialogue — “Neighbors” elicited only a few titters around me, coming mostly from the young women who were obviously thrilled by Zac Eprhon's physique.

Anyway, I'll stick with the sentiments expressed in my follow-up Facebook post: “Neighbors” is bad. Seriously, stupidly bad.



Worldly SIFF 2014 commences tomorrow

As I wrote in a previous post, the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival begins its 25-day runs this weekend. Following Thursday's Opening Night Gala offering “Jimi: All Is by My Side,” the festival commences in full on Friday. Click here for ticket-buying information.

Following are some of the interesting-sounding films set to play this weekend. I’ve included time (some have multiple showings) and venue. The descriptions come directly from the SIFF online catalog.

Friday, May 16

“The Search for General Tso” (documentary; U.S., China, Taiwan): 11 a.m., AMC Pacific Place (also 3:45 p.m. Saturday, Lincoln Square Cinemas; 6:30 p.m. Sunday, AMC Pacific Place): “The producers of ‘King Corn’ quest after the origins of the ubiquitous dish General Tso’s Chicken, with enlightening and delicious results. The brisk and appetizing culinary detective story uncovers the history of Chinese food in America, as well as a tale of immigration, adaptation, and innovation.”

“Canopy” (Australia, Singapore): 1:30 p.m., AMC Pacific Place (also 7 p.m., Sunday, June 8, The Egyptian). “During the 1942 Japanese invasion of Singapore, an Australian airman and an injured Chinese resistance fighter are stranded in the jungle as a cacophonous battle rages around them. An engrossing survival thriller ensues as they navigate the language barrier, perilous surroundings, and external enemies.”

“Tracks” (UK, Australia): 3 p.m., The Egyptian (also 9:30 p.m. Saturday, The Egyptian). “Based on Robyn Davidson’s thrilling memoir, director John Curran’s Tracks tells the story of a singular traveler who faces all the beauties and challenges of vast and unforgiving nature. Mia Wasikowska gives a rich and riveting performance as Davidson, a young woman who decides to trek by foot from Australia’s Alice Springs across the country’s large and exacting desert to the Indian Ocean – a staggering distance of nearly 2,000 miles.”

“Chinese Puzzle” (France): 4 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown (also 8:30 p.m. Sunday, SIFF Cinema Uptown). “SIFF and César award-winning director Cédric Klapisch completes his trilogy (2002’s ‘L'Auberge Espagnole,’ 2005’s ‘Russian Dolls’), following soulful everyman writer Xavier to New York City in the hopes of winning back his estranged wife and their two children.”

“Attila Marcel” (France): 7 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown (also 7 p.m. Sunday, Lincoln Square Cinemas and 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 27, at SIFF Cinema Uptown): “Oscar-nominated director Sylvain Chomet (‘The Triplets of Belleville,’ ‘The Illusionist’) makes his live-action debut in this effervescent, musical, candy-colored charmer about a mute piano prodigy unlocking his repressed childhood memories.”

“Words and Pictures”: 7 p.m., Lincoln Square Cinemas (also 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Harvard Exit). “Private school English teacher Jack (Clive Owen) bristles when accomplished painter Dina (Juliette Binoche) arrives to teach art. Struggling to inspire their students, Jack proposes a challenge: a face-off between the power of words versus the power of art.”

“20,000 Days on Earth” (UK): 10 p.m., Lincoln Square Cinemas (also 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, SIFF Cinema Uptown). “An enthralling and unclassifiable immersion in the twilight world of Aussie polymath musician Nick Cave. Falling somewhere between fact and fiction, Cave visits a shrink, makes music, digs into his archives, and reminisces with friends in this deconstruction, providing a glimpse of an icon at his most exposed.”

Saturday, May 17

“Fight Church” (documentary): 1 p.m., AMC Pacific Place (also 4 p.m. Sunday, Lincoln Square Cinemas and 12:30 p.m. Monday, May 26, Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center): “This action-packed documentary explores the ways in which several churches’ underground fight clubs assist with their members’ faiths, and the viewpoints of those staunchly against these God-fearing men beating the holy hell out of each other.”

“Difret” (Ethiopia): 6 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown (also 3:30 p.m. Sunday, AMC Pacific Place and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 24, at Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center): “Based on the extraordinary true story of 14-year-old Aberash. After being kidnapped, she kills her attacker. Her act of self-defense pits Aberash and her tenacious lawyer against Ethiopia's long-standing tradition of marriage by abduction. Winner of Audience Awards at both Sundance and Berlin.”

“Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed” (Spain): 6:30 p.m. Lincoln Square Cinemas (also 6:30 Thursday, May 22, at The Egyptian and 4 p.m. Friday, May 23, at SIFF Cinema Uptown): “It’s 1966 and Antonio is using Beatles’ songs to teach English. When he learns that John Lennon is filming in Almería he rushes to meet his idol, with two young misfits along for the ride, in this captivatingly lyrical road movie. Best Film, Best Director, 2014 Goya Awards.”

“White Shadow” (Germany, France, Tanzania): 8 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown (also 1 p.m. Sunday, AMC Pacific Place): “In Tanzania, young albino Alias is on the run after witnessing his father's murder. He finds city life as fraught with danger as the bush, in this intense and stunning feature debut centering on crime perpetrated because of superstition.”

“The Congress” (Israel, France, Germany): 9:30 p.m. SIFF Cinema Uptown (also Saturday, May 24, Lincoln Square Cinemas): “Israelis filmmaker Ari Folman follows his ‘Waltz With Bashir’ with this “surreal, vivacious, live action-animation hybrid about an aging actress (Robin Wright playing a version of herself) who sells her image to a movie studio-turned-cinematic dream world.”

“We Are the Best!” (Sweden): 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit (also 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, AMC Pacific Place): “In 1982 Stockholm, three 13-year-old misfits deal with their suffocating surroundings, as well as the onslaught of adolescence, by forming a riotous, all-girl punk trio. Based on the graphic novel ‘Never Goodnight’ by Coco Moodysson.”

“Grand Central” (France): 9:30 p.m., Lincoln Square Cinemas (also 7 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at Harvard Exit and 1:30 p.m. Monday, May 26, at The Egyptian): “Incendiary French star Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color) plays an engaged woman who embarks on a risky affair with Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) in the nuclear power plant where they both work.”

Sunday, May 18

“Regarding Susan Sontag” (documentary): 3:30 p.m., Harvard Exit (also 4 p.m. Monday, May 19, at Harvard Exit): “Meticulously constructed from a plethora of interviews and archival footage and accompanied by Patricia Clarkson’s terrific voiceover, this engrossing documentary about one of the most prominent and fascinating voices and figures of the 20th century.

“Bad Hair” (“Pelo Malo”) (Venezuela, Peru, Germany): 9 p.m., Harvard Exit (also 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at AMC Pacific Place). “Nine-year-old Junior and his frustrated single mother clash over Junior’s desire to straighten his kinky hair. The tower blocks of Caracas, Venezuela are the backdrop for a subtly powerful domestic drama.”

Look for ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Gigolo’ this Friday

Monsters, gigolos and cheesy sports films are on tap Friday as the new movie openings hit Spokane-Coeur d'Alene. The lineup is as follows:

“Godzilla” (all formats, including IMAX 3-D): This most recent telling of the Godzilla tale, as directed by Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”), has featured some of the most impressive trailers in some time. And it stars Bryan Cranston. But can it match the hype?

“Million Dollar Arm”: Jon Hamm stars as a down-on-his-luck sports agent who decides to risk everything on the chance that a couple of Indian cricket players might make the transition to major-league baseball. Think “Jerry Maguire” meets “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“Fading Gigolo”: One of AMC's alternative films, which is likely to play one week to minimal crowds and disappear, involves a guy who decides to become a professional gigolo to help a needy friend. The twist? Though directed by John Turturro, it features none other than … Woody Allen. Wouldn't Rob Schneider have been a better choice?

And at the Magic Lantern? Spokane's art-house theater reopens “Le Week-End,” while holding over “The Lunchbox,” “Joe,” “Finding Vivian Maier,” “The American Nurse” and “Particle Fever.”

Happy viewing. 

RIP, H.R. Giger, 1940-2014.

You may have noticed the passing of H.R. Giger, the Swiss artist whose dark-themed art became a staple of Hollywood sci-fi and horror. The news of Giger's passing is especially timely for Spokane-area movies fans since Giger is featured in the documentary “Jodorowsky's Dune,” which plays for three more days at AMC River Park Square.

Directed by little-known Frank Pavich (this is only his second film), “Jodorowsky's Dune” tells the tale of what some people describe as “the greatest film never made.” While that might be just a bit of an overstatement, there is no debate that much of the crew of “spiritual warriors” that the Chilean-born filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky hired to help him adapt Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi novel went on to do other things.

Most notably, screenwriter Dan O'Bannon and Giger. O'Bannon went on to write what would become Ridley Scott's “Alien” (which spawned the whole series), and Giger created the alien monster's design.

Pavich's film works mostly because Jodorowsky is such a passionate interview. But O'Bannon, who died in 2009, and Giger are both featured prominently. And, yes, Giger comes across every bit as strange as you might think. The, uh, “interview” embedded below isn't that far from the truth.

And catch the documentary at AMC if you can. It's not going to get a Magic Lantern run, so you're only other chance will be to see it online or through your On Demand service.

SIFF 2014 begins on Thursday

This coming weekend is one that Pacific Northwest film fans have been waiting a whole year for. It marks the opening of the Seattle International Film Festival, which begins Thursday with its opening film — “Jimi: All Is by My Side” — and then continues through June 8. Its length, and the sheer number of movies — comprising some 539 hours of film — make it one of the biggest, if not best, film festivals in the country. You can find all the ticket and schedule information you need by clicking on the link above. And if you need a bit of navigational help, check out this handy guide from the Seattle Times. And enjoy the movies.

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