Tonight in Seattle:  

Film

SIFF Take: The Intruder {TONIGHT!}

The Intruder

It's no secret that I'm a fan of all things blood & gore - and that coupled with the promise of "thousands and thousands of snakes" meant that I had to see the Thai horror-thriller The Intruder (Kheaw Aa-Kaard). If you're also a fan of cunning reptiles that not only spew venom, but appear to be fond of eating flesh, than I recommend you head over to The Neptune tonight at 9:30pm to see its final SIFF 2011 screening.

The plot is simple enough - a cast of characters get trapped in their low-rent apartment building when legions of King cobras descend upon the hallways, thirsty for blood. While the rest of the rag-tag band of survivors fight over one remaining vial of anti-venom, crazy-eyed Aunt Prai roams around performing rituals and trying to conceal a terrible secret. Just think of it as "Snakes in an Apartment Building" with a little more creativity , and you've got it. Naturally I had a whole lot of fun watching, but it might be a little too over-the-top for some (get ready to cover your eyes when one of the wanna-be rockers breaks out a giant pane of glass to "help" her boyfriend out. I'm just sayin'). Totally worth your time and money it if you're into - and craving - some massive amounts of splatter!

{The Intruder screens at SIFF one more time, tonight, Wednesday 6/8, 9:30pm at The Neptune}

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "

heh. I'd LOVE that, Chris! That would be so much fun.

"

SIFF Double Take: 2 for the environment tonight - Sushi & Revenge {6/8}

Sushi: The Global Catch

It's been a great year for documentaries at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival. I just saw probably one of my favorites of the year, Errol Morris's Tabloid, which is a off the recent (brilliant) war train for the director, The Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure, to focus on a narcissistic, psychopathic sex worker who enlisted a bunch of dupes to dominate a missionary in the 70s and then, well, I'll let Embracey take it from there.

Meanwhile, the two SIFF documentaries that have made the most impression on me otherwise are both playing tonight {Wednesday, 6/8}: Sushi: The Global Catch (USA, 2011, directed by Mark Hall, 75 minutes), at the Admiral Theatre, 7pm (and then Friday 6/10, 4:30pm at the Harvard Exit); and Revenge of the Electric Car (USA, 2011, directed by Chris Paine, 99 minutes), premiering in Kirkland at 8:30pm (and then 6/10, 7pm at the Egyptian, and 6/12 at 4:30pm at the Harvard Exit).

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SIFF Double Take: Tornado Alley and The Bengali Detective

Tornado Alley is pretty standard IMAX documentary fare: extremely well-produced, slightly slender on detail, and laden with breathtaking shots of its titular subject—in this case, tornadoes. Bill Paxton narrates. Besides showing a lot of 6-story shots of tornadoes and vertiginous views of roofless houses, the movie follows two teams of storm chasers, often aiming for the same storms but with radically different goals.

The first team is a government-funded research squad called Vortex 2, with a fleet of radar equipment and a bunch of adorable/awesome-looking standalone data gathering pods that they deploy in coordinated missions, like nerdy soldiers. Their goal is to surround the storm as completely as possible to gather as much data as possible, and ultimately better predict when tornadoes will form. The second is led by Sean Casey, the guy from Storm Chasers on Discovery. He’s built a tornado-chasing tank designed to hunker down so that they can get inside of a tornado.

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Latest comment by: JJ: "Found Bengali Detective to be fun at times and liked the lead but was a shame because did not hold up as a feature length film and the dance competition scenes felt contrived as if were set up by the director."

Recommended SIFF: Damien Jurado and the Russian Avant-Garde {6/8}

Damien Jurado

Dearest Imaginaries - I can't tell you how excited I am that the SIFF event I have been waiting for is FINALLY almost here! Our beloved Damien Jurado is taking the stage at The Triple Door on Wednesday night (6/8) for a special peformance: he'll be providing a live musical soundtrack to Russian filmmaker Dimitri Kirsanof's avant-garde shorts!

The Damien Jurado and the Russian Avant-Garde show starts at 7pm and is all-ages. So to recap, you get to listen to Damien peform while watching gorgeous vintage short films made from the 20s-50s. At $15 a ticket, this qualifies as a total steal.

Latest comment by: imaginary liz: "This just in from our Facebook friend Jill: the 9:30pm show has been cancelled. Go grab your tickets for the 7pm show now!!! {thx for the tip Jill!!!}"

STIFF Take: The Sandman

{The Sandman screens as part of Seattle's True Independent Film Festival at The Jewelbox Theater (at the Rendezvous) on Tuesday 6/7 at 4pm}

Bright, beautiful, romantic, and incredibly bizarre The Sandman is a must see film. It would easily be one of my top films of SIFF 2011, except for the fact that it's playing at STIFF instead. The only reason that's really disappointing is it means a single screening at a somewhat inconvenient time for those on a 9-5 schedule. But it's worth the extra effort, and if you miss it, be sure to put a note down somewhere to catchup on this German language gem out of Switzerland.

Benno is an ultra-uptight neat freak who works in a stamp shop. When he's not ripping off the gullible he obsesses about his weight each morning, provides brutally critical feedback to friends about their life's work and gives untold grief to a young woman who works in the coffee shop below his apartment.  All in all a real mensch - or perhaps not. Then out of nowhere he develops and unusual affliction. He begins to leak sand. And not just regular sand, but magical instantaneous sleep inducing sand. Which similarly to normal sand tastes horrible in pasta.

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SIFF Take: The Off Hours

The Off Hours

Pretty waitress Francine (doe-eyed Amy Seimetz) sleepwalks through diner shifts and time spent playing video games with her foster brother/roommate Corey (Scoot McNairy, Monsters), and an unfaithful boyfriend. Enter truck driver Oliver, whose ease, friendliness, and kindness spark an instant connection, and a desire for something that may be beyond her reach.

Two side-plots—one involving alcoholic diner owner Stu and heart-breaking exchanges between him, his ex-wife (played expertly by Lynn Shelton!), and teen daughter, and the other focusing on a second waitress: a widowed Russian mail-order bride—enhance the viewers' wish for Francine to break free of her static, lonely life.

Seattle-based director and writer Megan Griffiths' shooting style and script both command strong performances, complemented perfectly by cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke's Hopper-esque diner shots and dusk-colored landscapes. The Off Hours is a rich, emotionally charged slice of cinematic goodness that shouldn’t be missed.

{The Off Hours screens at SIFF June 6, 7pm and again June 7, 4:30pm at the Neptune Theatre}

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "

Chris, I know, right??? Lynn absolutely rocked it - as well the rest of the actors. So perfectly cast, shot, and directed! A really nice job, and I can't wait to see what Griffiths does next.

"

SIFF 2011: Week Three Highlights

The Sound of Noise

SIFF 2011's concluding week is upon us, and the festival's wily programmers have saved some of their best cinematic treats for last. Tickets will move fast in the final days, but there's still ample opportunity to catch several incredible documentaries, a Dutch financial-collapse drama, or (if you must) a Northwest Bigfoot tale; all are set to unspool between now and June 12's closing night brouhaha.

DON'T MISS:

Buck
{screens June 8 at 7pm at SIFF Cinema and June 9 at 6:30pm at Kirkland Performance Center; both screenings are on standby status}
Moving documentary about wise Montana cowboy and real-life "horse whisperer" Buck Brannaman, whose humane training methods counter medieval "breaking" practices in place for most of America's history. The film effectively takes us from nightmarish childhood experiences (terrifying parent, rodeo circuit, '70s Corn Pops TV-ad appearances) to a current-day personal and professional life of gentleness and grace. Buck demonstrating his legendary skills at "helping horses with people problems" is wondrous to behold, and his simple strive-to-be-better actions and attitude are superbly inspiring.

Circumstance
{screens June 6 at 4:15pm at the Egyptian}
Teen besties Atafeh and Shireen explore Tehran's underground scene, fantasize about lesbian bars and the relative freedom of Dubai, and take the occasional road trip with Atafeh's family (at the beach, the gals must remain covered head-to-toe while the guys' asscracks and bulges hang out for Allah and the world to see). And Atafeh's brother, a once-promising musician home from rehab, has replaced his substance addiction with something more sinister. A languid but gripping film that will make your blood boil.

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Latest comment by: shimmy: "I have enjoyed these weekly roundups so much. I never would have given Buck a thought without your endorsement but I got to see it last night and (as a former resident of a Wyoming ranch) it has really changed my life. Venice and African Election were also excellent ...

Recommended SIFF: The Whisperer in Darkness

Filmmakers Sean Branney and Andrew Lehman have kicked some serious ass once again with their stylish interpretation of HP Lovecraft's short story, The Whisperer in Darkness.

Their previous effort, The Call of Cthulu, was done as a classic silent film. This one is shot in B&W and set in the 30s, with the creators took this period piece one step further by making it look and feel like it was MADE in that era--complete with snappy noir-ish dialog, dramatic lighting and sets, and all the elements of an entertaining vintage sci-fi.

Professor Albert Wilmarth is onto something big, the discovery of an entire town caught up in a legendary myth about monsters inhabiting the hills behind them and abducting people who venture too close to their lair. After receiving a letter from one claiming there is proof that the beings exist, Albert is drawn into a sinister plot involving brains in jars, body snatching, and an ancient ritual to open the gates of hell!

I cannot express how absolutely RAD this movie is. And I can't really do it justice by describing it here. I just know it was some of the most fun I've had watching a film, and I recommend you get out to see it play at SIFF.

{The Whisperer in Darkness screens at SIFF tonight, Friday 6/3, midnight at The Egyptian, and again on Sunday, 6/5, 9pm at The Neptune}

Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "

I hope you did, Rich! I loved it - and have an interview to post with the very nice guys who made it (soon!). ;)

"

STIFF Take (No, That's Not a Typo & I Am Happy to See You...)

The final (sniffle) week of SIFF approaching portends the beginning of another annual Seattle film tradition, STIFF.  This Friday {6/3} the Seattle True Independent Film Festival opens it's doors to go mano-a-mano with their more established counterpart SIFF.  Yeah, yeah - I get that there's a tradition of counterprogrammed fests, more voices are good, yada yada yada.

When the Charlie Brown style adult voices end all I'll I've heard is that I'm gonna have to make some choices (i.e. miss some films) because the two events overlap. But that doesn't mean one should stick their head in the sand and ignore the extra bounty. STIFF is here and worth paying attention to. Focusing more on english language independent that on international fare, it's different enough to make some sense (see, I can be nice).  Plus it's hard for me to be too critical about MORE film choices. So in the spirit of hey it's here, all-access passes are only $50 (and include more films all year) parties are included and all venues serve alcohol - let's peruse the schedule together ...

 

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Latest comment by: Anonymous: "Hey Three Imaginary Girls, Thanks for the Little Blue Pill mention. I'm glad it's on your list of films you are curious about. See it and let me know what you think! Aaron (el director)"

SIFF Double Take: Detective Dee & Marrow

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
I have two SIFF recommendations today at the complete opposite ends of the cinematic spectrum. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is a non-stop Chinese action fantasy involving spontaneously combusting diplomats, masters of disguise, a whip-weilding female warrior, and so much CGI it looks like the characters are walking around inside a video game. Still, watching how it all unfolds is nothing short of delightful - if this is the kind of thing you like, that is.

After a few dudes catch on fire (from the inside!) while building a giant buddha, the evil empress of China gets clued into the fact that someone is probably trying to kill her. Naturally she decides to let her greatest enemy out of prison - the formidable Detective Dee (yay, Andy Lau!) to help her solve the case. There are sword fights and horse chases and over-the-top battle scenes, but what's really thrilling is the way the plot twists and turns to throw your suspicion in a different direction every 5 minutes. LOVED this and highly recommend.

{Detective Dee screens at SIFF Wednesday 6/1, 7pm at the Neptune and again Monday 6/6, 9:30pm at the Egyptian}

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Latest comment by: Ismael: "nice writeup! I saw Marrow last night & agree with what you wrote. much like the father's memory stays with the daughter, this movie should stay with one for a long time."