Tonight in Seattle:  

Film

Gone Girl

{Gone Girl opens in Seattle on Friday, 10/2 – with some screenings Thursday evening at the Regal Meridian, The Big Picture Seattle, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, and The Majestic Bay}

Firstly: I am one of “those people” who ripped through Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl novel in record time, gasping the entire way and freaking out over every last sordid, surprising detail—so when they announced the Gone Girl movie adaptation was underway and that David Fincher was directing it, I WAS THRILLED. Hell, even when they announced my least favorite actor in the entire world was playing the male lead, I was still pretty thrilled. If anyone can play an unlikeable husband, it’s surely Ben Affleck.

Secondly: I don’t want to ruin anything with those damned spoilers, BUT. I am also one of “those people” who got kind of upset when it was leaked that they had changed the ending, with Flynn reportedly rewriting the whole third act for the screenplay, because I feel like it’s pretty essential to the story. What I will say is: fear not, faithful lovers of the novel, because the film does actually follow the book pretty closely.

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Tusk

Michael Parks as Howard Howe in Kevin Smith's Tusk

{TUSK officially opens in Seattle on Friday, 9/19 – but there are some Thursday night showings starting at 8pm! Screening at Regal Meridian 16 and Oak Tree Cinemas}

A horror movie from Kevin Smith? Based on one of his smodcasts? About a guy who lures unsuspecting victims to his home in order to turn them into … walruses? 

Yup. Tusk is all of those things. And while the premise IS ridiculous, the first two-thirds are actually pretty terrifying, and then it all falls apart thanks to a cameo by a high-profile star who really, really, really loves to wear fake noses and adopt funny accents.

At the start, we meet podcaster Wallace Bryton (Justin Long). Wallace is kind of a douche; his “Not-see Party” podcasts are built around making fun of unfortunate souls on the internet—like a boy who cuts his own leg off with a sword—in which he travels to meet them in person and then comes back home, describing his adventures to his podcasting buddy, Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment).

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Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas

{Happy Christmas starts an exclusive screening engagement on Friday, August 08th at the Landmark Varsity Theatre}

I’m not sure if Director Joe Swanberg intended for Happy Christmas to pass The Bechdel Test, but I’m happy to report that Happy Christmas DOES, indeed, have two women in it (that have actual names) who talk to each other, about something other than a man.

This is yet another Swanberg film that is essentially about nothing; not that nothing happens, but—there are no huge traumas or obstacles to overcome. It’s just about … life -- which is honestly refreshing, and makes me grateful that directors like him exist. It is SO nice to watch a film about a couple that is just dealing with every day stuff: no cheating, no big fights, no earth-shattering revelations. Just regular, every day, figuring things out, stuff.

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Beyond the Fest: SIFF films that will (hopefully) open soon

The Babadook

With over 400 films playing the 40th Seattle International Film Festival, there was NO WAY I was going to be able to watch and write about what got me into those theater seats before the festival was over—or, more importantly, before they screened for the last time during it.

Here’s a quick list of films that I recommend tracking down for viewing. Fingers crossed they will ALL show up at Seattle theaters soon! 

The Babadook {tentative release date: October 2014}
Holycrap, you guys. HOLYCRAP. I was not prepared for how awesome this Australian horror film would be. I mean, how scary can another spin on The Boogeyman actually be, right? The answer, though, is REALLY F’ING SCARY. The basics: grieving mom, out-of-control son, creepy book, unleashed creature, possession, and some really amazing imagery. The Babadook is a non-stop ball of tension from beginning to end, the acting is freaking amazing, the creature F/X are great. I can’t even express how surprised I was by this movie, and how utterly terrified I was while watching it. Bonus: The Babadook pop-up book featured in the film is so goddamn cool! I hear the filmmakers are considering a kickstarter to produce it for real, and I am prepared to throw my money at them as soon as they do.

Fight Church
Bryan Storkel brings us another tale of the secret lives of Christians, but instead of showing us pastors who gamble, this film dives into pastors who moonlight on the mixed martial arts/cage fighting circuit. Wait, what? Let’s just say it’s a lot scary than Holy Rollers—particularly when you realize these guys are teaching their beliefs about beating the crap out of other guys being a “spiritual” thing to their kids, and even moreso when it extends beyond the arena to the gun range.

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Best of SIFF 2014 series {6/12-6/19}

Dior & I

If for some reason over the past month you’ve missed the TIG SIFF team's extensive coverage, overlooked the 'round-the-block queues at some of our fine local movie houses, and/or remained oblivious to the palpable cinematic energy felt throughout the 206 and surrounding area codes, you've been at least vaguely aware that our local cinema megathon was going on at some point between opening night mid-May and closing night Sunday.

On Thursday SIFF Cinema kicks off a ‘best-of’ series that whittles down the gargantuan festival lineup to 18 programs (17 features and a shorts package) of festival award winners and audience favorites, all screening at the Uptown and Film Center through Sunday, with a few multi-screening engagements through next week. Perfect opportunity to see what all the buzz was about if you missed out on SIFFing altogether for some reason, or if the insane schedule made you pick a certain film over something else you really wanted to see, or if the #SIFForty SIFFatigue got to you early and just caused you to give up.

Or maybe none of those scenarios applies and you're just interested in checking out some good films. In any case, you're in luck, because there are some genuinely fine cinema experiences to be had. Here’s the lowdown on the lineup.

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SIFF Take: How to Train Your Dragon 2

It feels a bit unseemly to trumpet such a mainstream movie during this Festival of the Wonderfully Obscure, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 is absolutely wonderful and deserves trumpets. It opens 5 years after the events of the first film. Berk is now an idyllic, gravitationally precarious but architecturally impressive hamlet with a thriving population of dragons. The biggest issue is that Stoic wants Hiccup to be the next Chief, and Hiccup is ambivalent at best. This very quickly becomes not the biggest issue when a Very Bad Guy enters the picture, bent on enslaving all dragons.

All of the battles are exciting and suspenseful, and the dialog is snappy and funny, but this film is special because of the strength of the story. The plot isn’t merely a series of set-ups for set-piece battle scenes. It wrestles, sincerely and unironically, with issues including family, loyalty, duty, free will, and the pursuit of peace. Peace! Punchline of hippie skits and Miss America parodies. The movie declares peace an achievable concept, worth striving for. By the end, I wanted to stand and salute.

{How to Train Your Dragon screens one more time at SIFF on Sunday, 6/8, 10:30am at Pacific Place} 

SIFF 2014: Closing Weekend Highlights

The Great Museum

The end of this year’s cinema mega-thon is nigh, and if you've slacked on your SIFFage there's still time to do something about it. Here I present to you seven sure-fire hits that I personally guarantee will provide you some major cinematic enjoyment, all unspooling (digitally) over the next few days.

DON'T MISS:

The Great Museum
{screens June 7 at 2:30pm at the Uptown}
Absorbing year-in-the-life documentary following directors, preservationists, curators, and general staff of Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum during a major renovation and re-brand. The film offers fascinating visual treats aplenty – art and artifacts in various states of exhibition, decomposition, and restoration – with new (old) surprises constantly being unwrapped and unveiled.

La Mia Classe
{North American premiere. Screens June 7 at 8:30pm at the Uptown, and June 8 at 4:30pm at the Harvard}
A group of aspiring Rome-based immigrants take a mandatory Italian language class and encounter shared grief, social integration, and humanity. This is actually a movie about itself – the students are real, the teacher is an actor, and we see fourth-wall ruptures via shot setups and off-script developments that inform the third act. Do see it, and when you find yourself unsure of what’s fiction and what (if anything) is not, don’t worry: it’s all saying the same thing, and the point is a profound one. Director Daniele Gaglianone is scheduled to attend these SIFF screenings, and I wonder if Q&A sparks will fly here like they did in Venice.

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Rigor Mortis (Geung si)

{Rigor Mortis opens in Seattle on Friday, 6/6, and is screening at AMC Pacific Place}

I was pretty psyched to watch Rigor Mortis (especially since I’d just missed it at SIFF), mostly because I knew that Takashi Shimizu was involved as a producer, and I love all incarnations of his Ju-On films—including the American remake that he also directed—beyond any acceptable level of reasoning.

What I didn’t know, and probably should have going in, is that Rigor Mortis is actually one big in-joke, specifically related to the 1985 horror-comedy Mr. Vampire (which I have never seen). Mortis shares several actors with Vampire, and makes reference to both the hopping vampire at its center and the priest who’s tasked with stopping him.

Watching it without that lens, I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on—only that it was a LOT, and I wasn’t sure how any of it was connected.

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Latest comment by: imaginary embracey: "

I still haven't forgotten those twin ghosts crawling up the damn walls! They were very CGI, but still (imho) pleasantly disturbing.

"

SIFF Take: God Help the Girl

God Help the Girl

Prior to seeing God Help the Girl, I’d only been a somewhat-interested fan of Stuart Murdoch and Belle & Sebastian—hearing their most popular songs in passing. Sure, I listened to plenty of friends rhapsodize about The Boy with the Arab Strap and agreed with them that it sounded great; I just never cared enough to scrape up enough pennies to buy it in the pre-download era 90s.

But ALL THAT HAS CHANGED now that I’ve seen the glory of Murdoch’s directorial debut, based on his 2009 album of the same name, in which he wrote a story-telling album about a troubled girl and hired a bunch of relative unknowns to sing his words. Wait. What? Why I had never heard of this before? I am clearly WOEFULLY out of touch and desperately un-hip. Liz Riley, I am sure this must be something you have a copy of on vinyl, correct?

But anyway, let’s get to the film. Murdoch wins the award for best casting ever in everything, because Emily Browning is PERFECT. Man, that girl can SING. And also ACT, which is equally as important, given the multi-layered performance required. Browning plays the title “girl,” Eve, who escapes the boredom of her treatment facility to attend a rock show one night and falls into friendship with adorable guitar player James and his piano student Cassie. Summer fun times lead them to form a band together, but Eve’s fragile mental state threatens her relationships with the only people in her life who have ever provided stability.

Olly Alexander & Hannah Murray also do an excellent job as James & Cass, and the trio’s hipster-perfect outfits and video-cammed antics make you want to jump in and join the fun. But don’t be fooled: what looks (and sounds) like a twee pop rock musical actually dives into some seriously deep issues. Look past those bright pop montages, watch Browning emote 1,000 things with just her eyes, and really listen to the lyrics to get the full picture. Short story: God Help the Girl is simply gorgeous, and I can’t wait see it again.

{God Help the Girl screens one more time at SIFF on Tuesday, 6/3, 7pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown} 

Chinese Puzzle (Casse-tête chinois)

Chinese Puzzle

{Chinese Puzzle opens in Seattle on Friday, 5/30, and is screening at Landmark’s Seven Gables Theatre}

Cédric Klapisch continues his story of writer Xavier Rousseau—and the women that surround him—in Chinese Puzzle, the third film in a trilogy that started in 2002 with L'Auberge Espagnole and continued in 2005 with Russian Dolls.

Now 40, Xavier is a successful novelist married to Wendy (Kelly Reilly), with whom he has two kids. The couple has maintained a happy relationship for almost 10 years ... well, kind-of. Once Xavier’s friend Isabelle (Cecile de France) asks him to help her and her female partner have a baby, things that have been starting to unravel between them completely fall apart, and Wendy leaves Paris with their kids for a new life (and new man) in New York.

Unable to live so far away from his children, Xavier packs up and moves to New York too, where conveniently, the now-pregnant Isabelle and her girlfriedn Ju live, so he's able to snag a sweet apartment in Chinatown with their help while he continues to work on his latest book and navigate his divorce with the help (?) of a New York lawyer.

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