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Archive: Movies / Spokane and North Idaho

When ‘Good Time’ means more than one thing

It's hard to think that an actual actor could emerge from the "Twilight" series. But at least two have. One is Kristen Stewart, and the other is Robert Pattinson.

Pattinson is highlighted in the review of "Good Time" that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

Connie Nikas is desperate. He’s short of money, which is one reason he decides to rob a bank in a manner so crazy that it just might work – until he makes one in a series of stupid errors.

But that’s Connie, the principal character in the Safdie Brothers’ half-ironically titled film “Good Time.” He veers from crazy-smart to crazy-stupid during a night-long frenzy in which the bank heist is only the beginning.

Connie has already broken his mentally challenged brother, Nick, out of a treatment center. His excuse: Nick doesn’t like the place. But then he brings clueless Nick along on the robbery scheme, so as with pretty much everything he does, Connie’s motives are more than a bit self-serving.

And not to press the point, but this is just the beginning. Connie is forced to deal with the bank-job aftermath, which includes Nick getting pinched by the cops. Connie first tries to get bail money for his brother by taking advantage of the obviously troubled woman he has been seeing (a bedraggled Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Then, learning that Nick has been transferred from jail to a hospital, he haunts the building’s corridors, looking for a chance to sneak Nick out. This scheme, too, ends up having its drawbacks.

From there, Connie – played, surprisingly well, by former “Twilight” heartthrob Robert Pattinson – uses his charm and good looks to inveigle his way into a woman’s home. And yet the night is far from over, as it involves both his seducing the woman’s impressionable daughter and then taking her along as he breaks into an amusement park, looking for what promises to be a bundle of stolen loot.

And the “Good Time” doesn’t stop there. Not even close.

The Safdie brothers, Benny and Josh, have been making films since they were both in high school, even if only now is their work getting national attention. Josh and Ronald Bronstein wrote the script, Josh and Benny co-directed and Benny stars along with Pattinson, making an impression as the often confused Nick.

The directing style they use is a blend of the breathless and the claustrophobic. Their camera closes in on the actors’ faces so much you may feel the need to pull away from the screen. Meanwhile, watching Connie’s headlong sprint from one insane plan to the next is likely to leave you dizzy.

In terms of context, “Good Time” doesn’t have much to offer. It’s not as if, when Connie’s sojourn comes to an end, the Safdies have any real life lessons to impart – unless you need a reason NOT to lie, cheat and steal. They’re content to just let the energy of their film speak for itself.

Much of that energy is generated by their cast. Benny Safdie makes Nick into something far more than mere caricature. Buddy Duress shows up as one of Connie’s biggest mix-ups and adds a bit of “Mean Streets” to the mix.

But it is Pattinson who shines. Once a vampire hunk, he has grown into the kind of actor the camera loves – even if preteen girls no longer will.

Get ready: ‘Wrath of Khan’ is coming

One of the nice things about having access to cable television is that, depending on the day, I can get all the "Star Trek" I want.

Some days it's "Star Trek" (TOS). Others it's "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Still others, it's "Star Trek: Voyager" (a show I think has the best theme song of all).

Of course, if I jump on Netflix, I can see all of the above and in the order of release (not to mention all of the movies). But there's something about the randomness of the regular cable TV showings that I enjoy.

So, by now it's pretty obvious that I love to watch the shows that Gene Roddenberry created (or, in some cases at least, inspired). So I'm fairly excited about the prospect of the movie event that will be coming Sept. 10 and 13 to both the Regal Cinemas' theaters at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium.

That movie is none other than 1982's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." It's the 35th anniversary of the film, which stars all the principals of the original series, including Willian Shatner as Capt. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelly as Bones and Nichelle Nichols as Uhura. The chief villain is played by the great Ricardo Montalban (pictured above).

And it's the Director's Cut, Nicholas Meyer being the filmmaker, and it includes an interview with Shatner.

There will be two screenings each day, at 2 and at 7 p.m. I'd go into the plot and stuff, but you can find all you need to know by clicking here.

Excuse me now. I have to go. I think another episode of "Voyager" is on.

Friday’s releases redux: Get ready for ‘Patti’

I'm sometimes amazed how much the local movie theaters can make out of an otherwise nothing week. In a post below, I mentioned that not much was going on this week'd national release schedule.

But as anyone who checks the regular release schedule knows, there's always something waiting to play in theaters.

So this part of the Inland Northwest will be getting a variety of film openings after all. In addition to those already mentioned, here are Friday's releases:

"Patti Cake$": A New Jersey woman seeks fame as one of the most unlikely rap stars ever. #nosnoopshe

"Valley of Bones": A paleontologist with a besmirched reputation is pointed to what may be a massive discovery, but a drug gang gets in the way. #nodinosforyou

"Marvel's Inhumans": This theatrical screening of the first two episodes of a coming TV series centers on a group of superhumans struggling to survive after military coup. #noworldforwolverine

Take a “Trip to Spain’ at the Lantern on Friday

One of the more entertaining comedy duos that have come along in the past decade is the one that features Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Both are known in Britain, though less so on this side of the Atlantic, for their individual work — much of it on the BBC.

It was on the BBC that they teamed to do a series called, directly enough, "The Trip." Out of that series, with the help of director Michael Winterbottom, they've shaped three feature films: 2010's "The Trip," 2014's "The Trip to Italy" and this year's "The Trip to Spain."

It is that third film, which again teams the two as old friends — in the sense of an old married couple — who go around first England, then Italy and now Spain — staying in posh spots, eating good food (that Coogan's character is supposed to be reviewing) and trying to one-up each other with comic bits. Mostly impressions.

No one does Michael Caine better than these two. Even Caine himself.

"The Trip to Spain" opens Friday at the Magic Lantern. And if you needed any more reason to see the film, check out these reviews:

Christopher Kompanek, Washington Post: "The mercurial nature of fame acts as an ideal metaphor for the fleeting and uncertain nature of life itself - all of which, in the masterful hands of Brydon, Coogan and Winterbottom, goes down more smoothly than a glass of Rioja."

Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice: "The Trip to Spain is a breezy study of aging men afraid they've lost their potency, their command of life, their once-certain enshrinement in the culture. It is at once a desperate echo of long-gone glories and a glory itself."

David Sims, The Atlantic: "A gentle, relaxing delight, with just enough uproarious conversation and a touch of regret. In other words, it's a perfect piece of British comedy comfort food."

And who doesn't love comfort food, even if it is British?

Friday’s releases: Tulips and another phone home

At first glance, it appears that the coming week will be a light one for moviegoers. The good news? That should give you plenty of time to catch up seeing those movies you've missed.

The listed national releases are:

"Tulip Fever": Oscar winner Alicia Vikander stars as the young wife of a Dutch businessman (Christofph Waltz) who falls for a young painter (Dane DeHaan). Up for a bit of flower power.

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind": On its 40th anniversary, Steven Spielberg's 1977 film is getting a re-release. The scheduled one-week run gives a whole new generation the chance to enjoy watching Richard Dreyfuss build a mountain out of mashed potatoes — and listen to one of the most familiar set of notes ever to be featured in film.

I'll update as the local listings are finalized.

‘Wind River’ has a number of problems

Note: In the original version of this review, I wrote that the Wind River Indian Reservation was in Colorado. Wrong. As more than one reader pointed out, the reservation is in Wyoming. Not Colorado. Stupid, stupid error. And I apologize. Now corrected. As for my take on the film, I stand my ground.

The movie "Wind River" is getting a number of good reviews. But it had a different effect on me, a fact I tried to explain in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

One question critics tend to get is, “Hey, I read your review. But I never could figure out whether you liked the movie or not. Well, did you?”

It’s a fair question, I guess, even if – sometimes – there is no easy answer. And a good case in point is Taylor Sheridan’s film “Wind River.”

On the surface, what Sheridan has given us is a well-made, standard murder mystery. Set on the Wind River Indian Reservation of West-central Wyoming – but filmed in the scenic mountains just outside Park City, Utah – “Wind River” begins with a haunting scene: As a female narrator recites a poem, we watch a young woman running, as if for her life, barefoot across a snowy landscape.

Later, a character named Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) discovers the woman’s frozen corpse. And so the investigation into her death begins. Since the incident has occurred on federal land, an FBI agent is called in. But as a sign of either bureau budget restrictions, lack of available personnel, lack of interest or a blend of all three, the agent who shows up is young Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen).

Though woefully unprepared, Banner is smart enough to ask Lambert – a hunter/tracker employed by the wildlife service – for help. And pretty soon, the two of them – assisted by the tribal police chief (played by the always dependable Graham Greene) – are on the trail.

Sheridan, the screenwriter-turned-director who wrote the scripts for the movies “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” doesn’t clutter his plotline with a lot of digressions. Once Banner starts paying attention to Lambert, who can see what the land has to tell him, they fairly quickly stumble onto what happened.

Sheridan deserves credit for how he uses the landscape to underscore both the beauty, and the desolation, felt by the characters who live on the reservation. He proves capable of portraying sharp scenes of quick violence, of which the movie has two. And the role he has provided for Renner is the kind of meaty opportunity that an actor of Renner’s talent can make into something particularly special.

But there are two big problems here. One is that Sheridan, for all his good intentions, shuffles the Indian characters – from Greene as the sheriff, to Gil Birmingham as a grieving father, to Kelsey Asbille as Lambert’s estranged native wife – off to the side. Wind River may be their home, but this is Lambert’s story. He, in the end, is the great white savior – which is a plot device Hollywood has been using since well before the days of John Ford and Howard Hawks.

And Sheridan is his own worst enemy. In a film postscript, he notes that young women have been disappearing off reservations at an alarming rate. This, he has said in interviews, is what inspired him to write and direct his movie.

And certainly, that’s an admirable aim. But how is a murder mystery centered on white characters the right way to address that particular problem?

So, did I like “Wind River.” Well, yes. And yet no. I really can’t be any clearer than that.    

Late addition: For a ‘Good Time’ call …

And another film joins an already crowded movie menu for the coming week. The addition is:

"Good Time": Directed by the filmmaking brothers Benny and Josh Safdie, this little genre piece stars Robert Pattinson as a guy desperate to get his mentally challenged brother released from jail. Straight from the mean streets.

Doesn't sound to your liking? It might not be. But the film is attracting decent reviews (a 90 percent rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes). Here are a few comments:

Guy Lodge, Variety: "(T)he film works … social and psychological nuance into what otherwise amounts to a breathless, battering pulp thriller. …"

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: "Most crime movies, even alleged indies, make it easy for the audience to take sides and establish clear rooting interests. 'Good Time' is better than that: It's not always easy to take, yet you can't look away."

Emily Yoshida, New York Magazine: " 'Good Time' is a film about a destructive love - and loving someone despite not having the right kind of love to give them. Ignore the deceptively convivial title: This is the kind of thrill that sticks."

Of course, A.O. Scott of the New York Times describes "Good Time" as "stale, empty and cold."

Hey, you can't please everybody. 

The Lantern unveils a cinema frozen in time

I typically appreciate the movies that play at the Magic Lantern. From when I started going to the theater, sometime in late 1980 when it was still located in the Atrium Building, I liked its mix of foreign, independent and documentary films.

Back then in particular, you couldn't see such films anywhere else.

Now, of course, things are different. AMC regularly plays the occasional independent film. And with such viewing services as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu — not to mention sites that allow you to see pretty much anything without paying — the need for a theater such as the Magic Lantern is far less necessary.

Still, Spokane is lucky to have such a place that's devoted to showing interesting, illuminating and often educational film on a screen far bigger than anything you could put in a house not owned by Bill Gates.

I'm particularly interested in a film that will be opening there on Friday. "Dawson City: Frozen Time" is a documentary that should intrigue both lovers of classic cinema and those interested in history. Click here to read a review.

The Lantern is a Spokane treasure. It deserves our support, especially when it screens great films.

Below: Filmmaker Bill Morrison explains the value of his work.

Friday’s openings redux: Don’t ignore Ingrid

Turns out there will be a couple of additions to Friday's movie openings menu, which I listed yesterday. They are:

"The Only Living Boy in New York": A young New Yorker, freshly graduated, discovers that his father (Pierce Brosnan) is having an affair and decides to break things up. Oedipus, much?

"Ingrid Goes West": Aubrey Plaza plays the title character, a social media stalker who heads for the West Coast intent on befriending a woman whose online presence obsesses her. A disturbing tale, only with laughs.

Oh, and at this point AMC River Park Square will be offering a special screening of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" in 3D.

I'll update as needed. Until then, go out and see a movie. And enjoy.

Friday’s openings: Movies you gotta see!

Doesn't look like a particularly big upcoming week for the national movie scene, what with only three movies getting moderately wide openings. The movies scheduled to open around the country on Friday are:

"Leap!": An animated tale about an French orphan girl who wrangles her way into Paris' Grand Opera. In the words of Gene Kelly, "Gotta dance!"

"Birth of the Dragon": The "Dragon" in this case is Bruce Lee. And this movie is being marketed as a story about his origins as a master martial arts practitioner. Gotta kick!

"All Saints": John Corbett stars as the pastor of a closed church who teams with a group of Southeast Asian refugees. Gotta dream!

And at the Magic Lantern:

"Dawson City: Frozen Time": Footage of old Dawson City, in Canada's Yukon, lost for half a century before being found in 1978, is compiled to tell how a fishing village was transformed into a gold mining town. Gotta dig!

I'll update when the local listing become finalized.

Bigelow’s ‘Detroit’ tackles American racism

If you haven't yet see the film "Detroit," you might have questions about it. I try to address some of them in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

The riots that occurred in Detroit over five days in July 1967 were hardly the first such incidents in American history. Major cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles had seen similar outbreaks, and Detroit itself had been the site of a major three-day riot that took place in 1943.

Based on incidents such as those that happened a couple of years ago in Ferguson, Missouri, and more recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, racial strife in the United States is not going away anytime soon.

That overarching sense of history, as dark as it is, underscores everything in Kathryn Bigelow’s film “Detroit.” Written by Mark Boal, who teamed with Bigelow previously on “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Detroit” is a riveting, near-minute-by-minute look at both the beginnings of the turmoil and, even more closely, at one particular episode that occurred at a place called the Algiers Motel.

Just as Bigelow’s film overall can be seen as a larger statement about race relations in today’s America, her look at what happened at the Algiers is both her and Boal’s attempt to capture the worst of what happened in the city itself over those turbulent five days.

The filmmakers do so by keying on a number of individuals, some of whom are composites of actual historical figures, others of whom – including a trio of white Detroit police officers – have had their names changed. We follow the three officers as they patrol the burning streets, their resentment slowly growing. And we are introduced to a private black security guard whose intent is both to protect property and to act as peace-maker.

The racially mixed group congregating at the motel – which at first seems like an oasis separate from the fear and violence plaguing the adjacent streets – includes two black friends, Fred and Larry, who flirt with two young white women from Ohio, Karen and Julie.

The four join a larger group of people looking for a good time. Pretty soon, though, because of a mix of fear and adrenalin-induced rage, inflamed by a stupid if inherently harmless act, the Algiers becomes the place where all our principals end up. And the motel itself evolves into a cell of nothing less than torture and death.

Bigelow’s use of her cast is impressive, even if limited screen time means that no one actor has what amounts to a starring role. John Boyega, best known for his part in the latest “Star Wars” reboot, plays the security guard. But Will Poulter as the cop in command and Algee Smith as Larry are arguably more important in how Boal’s script plays out.

For his part, Boal has admitted that he used what he calls "poetic license" to dramatize the real story. But he insists that his script is "built on a sturdy base of journalism and history." As for Bigelow, she keeps things moving well enough, even if her trademark stylisms are lacking and the animated intro that provides a historical backdrop is fairly confounding.

Not nearly as confounding, though, as the ongoing fact of racism itself.

The ‘bugs’ will come out on Monday

In 1997, the Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven adapted Robert Heinlein's novel about elite Earth soldiers waging a war against an insect race, which the Earthers refer to simply as "bugs." Both the book and the movie were called "Starship Troopers."

Verhoeven was, in many respects, a master filmmaker. After his career in The Netherlands, in which he made such riveting studies as "Soldier of Orange," which starred future Hollywood actors Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé, he moved to Hollywood. And he was a hit.

Among Verhoeven's Hollywood films were the original "RoboCop" and "Total Recall," films that blended impressive — for the time — special effects with a rousing sense of sci-fi action. He made one of the biggest losers of all time with 1995's "Showgirls," but he rebounded two years later with the Heinlein adaptation.

His "Starship Troopers" was an overblown, effects-heavy satire on Heinlein's militaristic novel. But it had its appeal, as Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan explained: "A jaw-dropping experience, so rigorously one-dimensional and free from even the pretense of intelligence it's hard not to be astonished and even mesmerized by what is on the screen."

Now, 20 year later, Verhoeven is conspicuously absent from the animated film "Starship TroopersTraitor of Mars," a Fathom Events presentation that will screen at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, at Regal's NorthTown Mall Cinemas. Instead, the film was co-directed by Japanese filmmakers Shinji Aramaki and Masaru Matsumoto from a script by Edward Neumeier.

The screening will include a special introduction by Neumeier and cast member Casper Van Dien, plus behind-the-scenes footage and filmmakers' interviews.

It'll be interesting to see a version of Heinlein that isn't Verhoeven's. If nothing else, it might be closer to what Heinlein actually wrote.

Auntie’s to host signing by military historian Kelly

On Friday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., author Christopher Kelly will appear at Auntie's Bookstore in support of his new book, "America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil" (History Invasions Press, 414 pages).

"America Invaded," which Kelly, who lives in Sacramento, wrote with British co-author Stuart Laycock, is described as "tour of past conflicts waged on American soil, from the Atlantic to the Pacific."

Kelly is the author also of "America Invades: How We've Invaded or Been Involved with Almost Every Country on Earth," which a Kirkus reviewer described as "An intensive compendium of America’s interactions, both good and bad, with other countries that rightly leaves out the philosophizing."

Kelly was interviewed on Historynet.com. In it, he says this about "America Invaded": "Our new book ranges from the first arrival of Europeans in the New World to terrorism in the 21st century. In addition to history this book will offer tourist information, making it a kind of passport for readers to begin their own exploration of our nation’s amazing military history."

Considering how freely some people who Tweet are interpreting American history these days, Kelly's book is likely worth checking out. Auntie's is located at the corner of Main and Washington.

Friday’s openings redux: Mysteries, docs and more

In addition to heists and hitmen (see below), the coming week will offer an array of choices for the discerning moviegoer. An amended list of Friday movie openings follows:

"Wind River": While investigating a murder on an Indian reservation, an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) is forced to team up with a veteran tracker (Jeremy Renner). Cowboys and feds?

"Brigsby Bear": "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kyle Mooney stars as a character who, when his life is suddenly changed, becomes obsessed with finishing the story of a fictional bear named Brigsby. Not Winnie?

"13 Minutes": Based on a real story, this German film explores the story of Georg Elser, a man who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1939. Timely story.

"Step": This documentary explores the story of girls attending an inner-city school in Baltimore as they prepare for a regional step dance competition. Gotta dance.

And at the Magic Lantern:

"The Last Dalai Lama?": Another documentary, this one profiling the 14th Dalai Lama and sharing the effect he has had since leaving Tibet in 1959.

That's Friday's lineup. Now go. See a movie. And enjoy.

Friday’s openings: Heists and hitmen

Comic action, some of it no doubt farcical, will be on the movie schedule Friday when the new slate of movies opens. Friday's national openings are as follows:

"The Hitman's Bodyguard": Ryan Reynolds stars as a professional bodyguard who is hired to protect a notorious professional assassin (played by Samuel L. Jackson). Expect a few uses of the F-word. A few.

"Logan Lucky": A pair of not-so-bright brothers attempts to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race. The cast is interesting, from Adam Driver and Channing Tatum as the brothers, to Daniel Craig, Hilary Swank and Katie Holmes as supporting players. But the key hire: Steven Soderbergh as director. Can't wait.

As usual, I'll update as the local listing become final.