Tonight in Seattle:  


SIFF Take: Cockneys Vs. Zombies

Cockneys Vs. Zombies is about a zombie invasion that breaks out in East London, which starts when a couple of construction workers accidentally break open a sealed tomb. The film focuses on two groups of people have to fight their way out of the middle of the flesh-eating infected. 

The younger group is made up of two brothers and their misguided friends who attempt to rob a bank in order to save their granddad's retirement home from being sold to a huge developer. They end up bungling the job, but a zombie attack happens just as they're about to confront the waiting cops, and they escape (with a couple of hostages). 

The older group is made up of the aforementioned granddad's retirement home (including Honor Blackman and Alan Ford!), but don't worry -- they know how to take care of themselves. Er, well, some of them do. Just in case, though, the younger crew starts making their way across the city to save them, and, of course, both groups suffer more than a few casualties along the way. 

There's plenty of good Zombie-genre jokes in the script -- for instance, the fact that an old person using a walker can outrun the slow-moving undead -- plus lots, and lots, and LOTS of splatter (and entrails. and decapitated heads. and bitten-off body parts). SO yeah, obviously I loved it. It's a hell of a lot of fun, and a perfect choice for SIFF's Midnight Adrenaline

{Cockneys Vs. Zombies screens at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival on Saturday 6/8, midnight, at The Egyptian Theatre, and again on Sunday, 6/9, 8:30pm at the Kirkland Performance Center. Director Mathias Hoene is scheduled to attend both screenings} 

SIFF Take: Wish You Were Here

A married couple, the wife's sister, and the sister's handsome new boyfriend head to South East Asia for fun party times on the beach. But sometime during the revelry, the boyfriend goes missing and as the search for him continues, all kinds of dirty little secrets are revealed. 

I mostly agree with what Embracey said about Wish You Were Here in his Closing Weekend Highlights post, but I want to add that though the flashbacks do get a little grating and the reveal about what really went down could have been handled more smoothly, the strong performances more than make up for that (I completely disintegrated into sobs more than a few times).  

Overall, it's a solid thriller with great acting and direction -- which is a pretty good way to spend a few hours of your weekend. Also, I have absolutely no problem staring at Joel Edgerton for 89 minutes. NO ONE should. 

{Wish You Were Here screens at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival on Friday, 6/7, 09:30pm at the Egyptian Theatre, and again on Sunday, 6/9, 3pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown} 

The Prey (La proie)

{The Prey opens in Seattle on Friday, 6/7 and is screening at Oak Tree Cinemas}

In The Prey, Franck Adrien is a convicted bank robber who shares a cell with mild-mannered Jean-Louis, a convicted child molester who claims he's innocent -- and later gets released when it's proved he's not guilty. Since Franck was about to get out of prison but bought himself another 6 months by protecting Jean-Louis from a gang of brutal felons, JL promises to protect Franck's family until he's released … but his motives aren't quite what they seem. 

Adrien stashed a large sum of the money he stole away in order to provide for his wife and daughter, and Jean-Louis wants it. Oh, and uh, turns out Jean-Louis is actually a sadistic serial killer. AWESOME.


SIFF 2013: Closing Weekend Highlights

Last Flight to Abujah

The last few days of the festival are upon us, and if you've slacked on your SIFFage, there's still time to do something about it. Judging by what I've seen in advance, the programmers have saved some of the best for last: Closing weekend (6/7 - 6/9) has at least five sure-fire hits that I personally guarantee will provide you some major cinematic enjoyment. So get to SIFFin'!


The Bling Ring
{screening as part of the SIFF 2013 Closing Night Gala, June 9 at 6:30pm at the Cinerama}
Following up 2010's dour Chateau Marmont-set drama Somewhere, Sophia Coppola stays in L.A. and this time serves up some grade-A good trash. There's already been a Lifetime movie dramatizing the real-life subjects portrayed here: a group of fame- and celeb-obsessed teens who in 2008-2009 habitually waltzed right into celebrities' vacant (often unlocked!) homes, promptly helping themselves to clothes and jewelry and cash -- sometimes carrying the loot off the premises in (also stolen) designer handbags. The Bling Ring doesn't really have as much to say as a Lost in Translation, or even a Marie Antoinette, but it's slick and fun... and occasionally horrifying. (Imaginary Amie and I saw this together, and I reckon her review will be similarly positive.)

Die Welt
{screens June 7 at 3pm at the Uptown}
An unaccountably captivating fiction/documentary hybrid set in contemporary urban Tunisia. Told in four distinct chapters, the loose narrative begins with 23-year-old DVD salesman Abdallah attempting to convince one of his customers not to purchase Transformers 2 -- his lengthy, thoughtful, very funny diatribe conveys a beautifully region-specific POV. We continue to follow Abdallah through a series of gorgeously-shot daily-life sequences, each with its own little stories and yearnings, all of which ultimately support his vivid conceptions of a better life in Europe. A wonderful film that would've made an excellent double-feature with its thematic cousin Una Noche.


SIFF Take: Putzel

Walter Himmelstein, aka "Putzel" (Jack Carpenter, who could not be MORE perfect for this role), has grown up in a small section of the Upper West Side his entire life and has never left it. Waiting to take over his family's smoked fish deli, Putzel seems like he's constantly on the verge of a breakdown; exhibiting nervous scratching ticks, second-guessing everything he does, and in serious denial about the cumbling state of his marriage. But he's still determined to take hold of the business and make it a success. 

And then two things happen that throw a wrench into Putzel's carefully composed "40-year plan": his Uncle Sid (John Pankow, who I love watching on Episodes), decides to sell the deli and move to Arizona, and an enchanting bartender/dancer named Sally (Melanie Lynskey, please just marry me already) waltzes into the deli one day, managing to capture the heart of both Sid and Putzel. 

There's plenty of hilarious moments in this film, including the most-awkward dirty talk-sex scene I've ever seen, and the best cameo from Fran Kranz EVER (Hello, my name is Salmon). It's an adorable romantic comedy with adorable leads set in an adorable part of New York, and yes, even Director Jason Chaet is adorable (and very, very funny). It's a great film to laugh yourself silly through. 

{Putzel screens at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival one more time on Friday, 6/7, 1pm at AMC Pacific Place} 


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SIFF Take: 9 Full Moons

In 9 Full Moons, Frankie (Amy Seimetz, I sure do like seeing you in everything!) is so broken, that she drinks herself into oblivion hourly and even brushes off getting raped with a vague indifference and an admission that it was probably her fault for not fighting back. And Lev (Bret Roberts) is so broken that he barely registers any emotions and is so closed off that it would be impossible to ever know who he is. Hell, he probably doesn't even know.  

Frankie wants to be a traveling gypsy. Lev wants to break into the music biz ... and neither one of them know how to be happy. It's a match made in heaven, right? I'm being snarky, but it's kind of true. These broken people are so broken that only they could even begin to understand how broken the other one is. And you really, really want them to make it -- but you know they're probably just going to end up even more broken in the end. 

This film is gritty and dark and depressing as hell. But the screenplay is solid, the acting is fucking brilliant, and Donal Logue and Dale Dickey (again! man, I love that woman) are in it too. Definitely one you shouldn't pass up. 

{9 Full Moons is premiering at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival on Thursday, 6/6, 7pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. There will be a red carpet arrival with cast & crew, and a Q&A afterwards! It's also screening again on Saturday, 6/8, 1:45pm at The Harvard Exit. Director Tomer Almagor is scheduled to attend both screenings} 


SIFF Take: The Girl with Nine Wigs

The Girl with Nine Wigs is a German drama about the real life of Sophie van der Stap, who found out she had a rare form of cancer when she was 21 years old, blogged through the entire process of treatment, and then wrote a book about it. 

But it's not just about the daily chemo drips and stark white hospital rooms and radiation treatments -- altho there is plenty of that (which is really, really hard to watch). It's about how she reclaimed her identity and continued to explore life by buying a bunch of awesome wigs and embracing them as different characters, which helped her get through even the roughest times.  

Of course there are moments of levity, as there would HAVE to be. Because otherwise, ow my heart. Lead actress Lisa Tomaschesky does a fantastic job expressing every complex emotion Sophie goes through, and Director Mac Rothemund grounds the whole story in beautiful reality. It definitely feels like an actual true-life story, as opposed to an adaptation of that story. 

It's really an important film to watch in terms of understanding what people who have cancer have to go through -- how their life is both different and the same as everyone else's. I just have to warn you that even though the outcome isn't as tragic as it could have been (don't feel like I'm spoiling anything here, but I apologize if you think I am), it's still a tough film to get through. It's worth it though, for sure. 

{The Girl with Nine Wigs is screening at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival on Wednesday, 6/5, 6:30pm at AMC Pacific Place, and again on Friday, 6/7, 3:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Actor Lisa Tomaschewsky and subject Sophie van der Stap are scheduled to attend both screenings} 

Photo Essay: SIFF hip-hop documentary The Otherside Premiere

Imaginary Rich hit the SIFF red carpet once again for the premiere of The Otherside last Friday night, and got some great photos of everyone who showed up to support the film, including Macklemore! Below are a some highlights, and you can see the whole set on Flickr here

TJ Santos and Macklemore

{More photos after the jump}


SIFF Review: Jump

Jump is an exhilirating time-running-out heist movie with meatheaded goons, a sadistic low-level crime boss, The Last Job, a crime that could save someone’s ass… all the stuff you'd look for from that genre. It’s also a girl’s-night-out comedy, with missed connections, shots lined up in a bar, flirting, escaping through a bathroom window, and some casual shoplifting. And there’s some meet-cute romance thrown in for good measure, although the meet cute is less standard: goons dangle the boy over the side of a bridge to dissuade him from searching for his brother, while the girl (who’s the goon’s boss’s daughter) is about to kill herself by jumping from the same bridge. Kismet! 

Jump puts all of these genres in a blender, throws in the chronology of the story, and presses puree. It’s as dense and layered and as out-of-order as the new season of Arrested Development, which means it only makes sense as you watch it, so I'll skip the plot summary. But as original and fresh as the pacing feels, there are two other, more striking things about it.


SIFF Review: Short Stories

{Imaginary Embracey also wrote about Short Stories in his weekly SIFF wrap-up

WARNING: The preview video is NSFW, y'all.

Director Mikhail Segal stayed after the screening on Sunday to answer some questions, and he admitted that the device he uses to link the 4 stories in Short Stories is kinda lame, as devices go. But lame devices are easily forgiven when the result is so satisfying. The device in question is that a writer pitches his book of short stories to a publishing company, which passes because it’s not a novel. But the manuscript gets passed around the office, and each person who reads it becomes (not literally, just in a device-y sort of way) the main character in each story.

The film is only Segal’s second, but it’s confidently and beautifully shot, with a clear, distinctive point of view. Each story offers social commentary on the state of middle-class Russian life, ranging from bemused to scathing. I suspect my limited knowledge of Russian culture and history will rightfully subject my attempts at deciphering the messages to ridicule by those more informed, but here’s what I got. (Although I should preface these impressions bit by saying I was totally baffled by what was happening until well into each segment, so if you’d like to experience the revelations for yourself, just skip all this and go see it. In other words, SPOILERS.)