Tonight in Seattle:  

film

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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Latest comment by: mathewforend: "It was shown already so I missed it. I need to go through the podcast to know more about your stuffs, especially Tusk, pokies tips "

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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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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SIFF Take: Time Lapse

Time travel movies, particularly lower budget ones, are starting to be so prolific at festivals that it’s easy to get jaded, or to at least to have lowered expectations. I still try to check almost every one of them out, only drawing the line at the new Ethan Hawke film at SXSW this year. Understandable really, as it’s a pretty terrific genre to work within, and many of us are constantly looking for the next Primer (or perhaps Timecrimes). Time Lapse may fall just shy of those, but it’s a heck of a good time and smart enough  to satisfy the secret inner nerd in me. OK, giant obvious nerd - but who’s counting. Run, don't walk to add Time Lapse to your SIFF to-do list this year.

The setup is straightforward as it is new (to me) - what if you had a camera that could take a picture of the future? More specifically, what would you do if you discovered giant, immobiile camera that took a picture of your front window once a day and the inventor of that machine was nowhere to be found. Now throw in three roommates with questionable life goals of their own (art, money, domestic bliss, and a bit of shopping) and you’ve got yourself a movie. A really darn entertaining one at that. 

It’s probably not going to be a surprise to anyone that confronted with a magical machine that seems like it could make all your dreams come true things will inevitably go very, very bad. Especially if that “making all your dreams come true” part involves a bit of ethical flexibility. Confronted with the paradoxes inherent in time travel, the easy life, and a dash of jealousy things get complicated quickly for roomies Finn, Jasper, and Callie. But it’s the sort of complicated that’s fun to watch and twist your brain about - even if you may want to hit one of them over the head at times. Things degenerate for our heroes at a rapid rate in the well-calibrated film, ratcheting up the intensity over what feels like a brisk 104 minutes.

Bottom line: Time Lapse is one of my favorite SIFF experiences so far. The sort of thing I turned on too late in the evening and couldn’t stop watching until it was over. Which frankly is my amongst the highest praise I’ll give a film most days.

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Maleficent

{Maleficent opens in Seattle on Friday, 5/30, and is screening at AMC Pacific Place, Pacific Science Center IMAX®, Ark Lodge Cinemas, the Varsity Theatre, and Majestic Bay}

My mom took me to see Disney’s Sleeping Beauty when I was a small child, and the character of Maleficent scared and thrilled me so much that she quickly became (and has remained) my favorite Disney villain, ever. I mean, how can you not love a glamorous dark fairy with a pet raven and a penchant for casting really twisted spells? In the 1959 adaptation of the fairy tale, in addition to cursing the innocent Princess Aurora, Maleficent also kidnaps Prince Phillip, aka: Aurora’s one true love, intending to keep him her dungeon for 100 years and THEN release him to go kiss the sleeping beauty and awaken her. Damn, girl. That’s just extra cruel.

The shiny new version of Maleficent does a fine job reimagining its main character as a fairy whose evilness stems from being betrayed by the one she loves, and Angelina Jolie does a fine job playing her. She injects her performance with traits from the classic animated character, including chilling evil laughter, haughty line delivery, an arched eyebrow, and some fiery glances

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Latest comment by: Cathy Simon: "Amie is right, I did like this movie very much. The only stupid parts were when the 3 fairies (who were given the task of raising Aurora) were on the screen. Thankfully they disappeared for most of the movie. I may be biased, but the rest of Amie' s review is ...

SIFF Take: Born to Fly

Born to Fly at SIFF 2014

If Evel Knievel had been into dance, a bit LESS risk averse, and had a borderline cult-like following then Born to Fly would be about him. Instead, it's about Elizabeth Streb, the founder of "pop action" dance: a mash-up of stunt work, acrobatics, dance, and general disregard for the laws of physics and good sense. Oh, sometimes with giant mechanical apparatuses thrown in for good measure.

The dance is truly something to behold onscreen as company members throw themselves at walls, dodge rotating I-beams, and generally make dance look more suicidal (or at least more masochistic) than I'm used to seeing. The picture alternates between Streb's history, performances, and interviews with her dancers. It's hard not to note the bordering on deity worship that has the young men and women literally risking life and limb to aspire to Streb's punishing esthetic ideals while barely making ends meet. But then again, they seem to be having a hell of a lot of fun with their extreme take on motion arts. I just wouldn't want to foot the bill for their post career medical coverage.

It's hard to believe I'm enthusiastically recommending a dance documentary outside the Step-Up* series - yet here I am. This is an interesting documentary both somewhat about why people do irrational things and the wow of watching them. I hope people will notice it amongst the multitude of other options during the festival this year.

* No - I'm not interested in being told those aren't documentaries. They just seem so reasonable and realistic all the way through.

{Born to Fly screens at SIFF 5/26, 5:30pm and again 6/6, 1 pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown, and 5/28, 4:30pm at AMC Pacific Place}

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