Local & Repertory •  Avant-garde Cinema from Ex-Yugoslavia Before the violent ’90s

  • Tuesday, May 12, 2015 11:53am
  • Film

Local & Repertory

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Avant-garde Cinema from Ex-Yugoslavia Before the violent ’90s breakup of that country, filmmakers under the communist rule of Tito and Milosevic made some pretty good movies, despite obvious constraints and censorship. This survey runs from the early postwar era into the ’80s. (NR)

Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380. $6-$11. Runs Wed., May 20-Sun., May 31. See nwfilmforum.org for schedule.

Big Trouble in Little China John Carpenter’s 1986 action comedy is an enjoyable mash-up of classic Westerns, Saturday-morning serials, and more Chinese wuxia than any of the Indiana Jones movies, with Kurt Russell in full bloom as Carpenter’s de rigueur hard-drinkin’, hard-gamblin’, wise-crackin’ loner hero—a bowling-alley John Wayne. When I was all of eight, this seemed like just about the greatest movie ever made, and like much of Carpenter’s work, it has aged well. (PG-13) SCOTT FOUNDAS Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $7-$9. 9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. & Mon.-Tue.

Films by Derek Weber The avant-garde filmmaker presents an hour-long program of shorts. (R)

Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, grandillusioncinema.org. $5-$9. 5:15 p.m. Sat.

Noir de France

Confidentially Yours is a 1983 thriller starring Fanny Ardant and Jean-Louis Trintignant as two murder suspects on the run from a murder investigation. Francois Truffaut directs. (NR)

Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, seattleartmuseum.org. $63–$68 series, $8 individual. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.

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SINGLES Cameron Crowe once confided to us that the studio delayed releasing his 1992 Singles by almost a year to better capitalize on our nascent grunge rock scene—making his sweetly observant music/rom-com seem more opportunistic than prophetic. It remains a deserved Seattle favorite, even if the nifty soundtrack seems dated and most of the local music figures who made cameos have long receded from the charts. Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, and Matt Dillon star in the roundelay. O for those slacker days of yore! (R) BRIAN MILLER Central Cinema, $7-$9. 7 p.m. Fri., 3 & 7 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Mon.-Tue.

Slow Wes

t Fresh from SIFF, this revisionist Western has a Scottish immigrant teenager (Kodi Smit-McPhee, from The Road) seeking his lost love in the dangerous frontier regions. Michael Fassbender plays a mysterious stranger who may be helpful or dangerous to the lovestruck youth. (R)

Sundance Cinemas, 4500 Ninth Ave. N.E., 633-0059, sundancecinemas.com. Opens Fri., May 22.

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Event Yadda. (NR)

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Event Yadda. (NR)

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Event Yadda. (NR)

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Ongoing

Avengers: Age of Ultron Writer/director Joss Whedon balances comedy and derring-do with dexterity, and this sequel to 2012’s top grosser doesn’t stall the franchise. Plus it’s got new characters to geek out about, villains especially. Ultron is an artificial-intelligence “murderbot” inadvertently created by billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.)—also known as Iron Man, of course—and scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), aka the Hulk. Ultron changes robotic shape during the film, but his voice is provided by James Spader, who sounds like a tiger mellowed out on expensive brandy. He’s fun, if perhaps overly humorous for a creature who seeks to end mankind’s dominance on Earth. But Whedon, an encyclopedia of pop culture, can’t help himself—earnestness about this nonsense is for 20th-century suckers. It’s not easy to out-irony Downey, but Spader succeeds; Ultron wouldn’t be out of place as a campy Austin Powers villain. “I’m glad you asked that,” says Ultron in response to one of Stark’s questions. “Because I wanted to take this time to explain my evil plan.” He then destroys everything in sight. (PG-13) ROBERT HORTON Cinerama, Sundance, Ark Lodge, Majestic Bay, Kirkland, Bainbridge, Admiral, others

Danny Collins As related in this simultaneously hackneyed and likable rock-’n’-roll redemption tale, there really was a guy who, 40 years after the fact, discovered that John Lennon had written him a letter telling him to stay true to his art. Al Pacino plays Danny as a music celebrity living high on his legacy, doing what looks like a lounge-act version of Mick Jagger on the casino circuit. He’s on showbiz autopilot, performing his greatest hits for the AARP demo. The belated arrival of the Lennon letter sends Danny to a sleepy New Jersey Hilton. From there, he hopes to finally connect with his neglected son Tom (Bobby Cannavale), born from a backstage hookup. It’s hard to get worked up over the emotional journey of a spoiled celeb who’s milked a bubblegum pop anthem into a fortune. What exactly happened to the earnest young folk singer of the prologue? We never learn. Yet such questions fade as Danny becomes part of Tom’s family. Pacino’s chemistry with Cannavale and Annette Bening (as his not-quite-but-getting-closer-to-age-appropriate love interest) overrides the plot contrivances. Like Danny, Pacino has also been a showman verging on—if not spilling over into—self-parody in recent decades, but he turns Danny’s showmanship into a character trait, a reflexive instinct to connect with and charm everyone he meets, whether a sold-out concert hall or a gobsmacked parking valet. Even in a momentary bit of banter, Pacino makes that moment feel genuine. (R) SEAN AXMAKER Crest

Far From the Madding Crowd Thomas Vinterberg’s new version of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel collapses the action so the movie can trot in at 118 minutes. We’ve just established the impossible relationship between prideful-but-poor Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) and sensible Gabriel Oak (Belgian rising star Matthias Schoenaerts) when she inherits her uncle’s estate, flirts with neighboring landowner William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), and falls under the spell of caddish soldier Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge). The melodrama that has room to breathe in the 170-minute 1967 adaptation of the story is so rushed here that it looks faintly ridiculous. Maybe that was Vinterberg’s purpose; he was one of the Danish filmmakers whose Dogma credo—as embodied in The Celebration—was supposedly against this kind of old-fashioned material. The movie’s clumsiness is so desperate that Bathsheba is given a one-time-only burst of voiceover at the beginning of the film in order to plead ignorance about her supposedly mystifying name (no one has told her the Biblical reference?), as though preparing a 21st-century audience for something unfamiliar. (PG-13) R.H. Sundance, Kirkland, Lynwood (Bainbridge), others

Heaven Adores You Director Nickolas Dylan Rossi here takes very different approach than 2009’s doc Searching for Elliott Smith, which director Gil Reyes delved deep into the darkness of its subject (1969-2003). Smith’s family wasn’t on board with that prior effort, so none of his music was included. And, let’s be honest, a Smith documentary without those cascading finger-picked melodies is a tough sell. However, the same can be said of a film that doesn’t delve into the darkness that fed Smith’s art. His family evidently cooperated this time, so fans will enjoy this doc for the music alone. And it’s not just the hits here. Before Rossi gets to “Waltz #2” and “Say Yes,” he traverses the efforts of a younger Smith. A montage of archival imagery and modern-day street scenes from Smith’s three artistic homes (Portland, New York, Los Angeles) provide visual cues, while old interviews with the plainspoken artist are, somewhat eerily, interwoven with commentary from nearly 30 close friends and colleagues, as well as his sister. The stories are entertaining, sometimes funny, often enlightening, and at times moving. But the darkness, which clearly informed Smith’s art and made the 2013 biography Torment Saint feel so complete, is held at bay. (NR) MARK BAUMGARTEN Northwest Film Forum

Hot Pursuit The new buddy cop flick starring Reese Witherspoon as an uptight ding-dong police officer and Sofia Vergara as a sexy drug-cartel wife is by no means capital-G good, but it’s undeniably funny. Officer Cooper (Witherspoon) jumps at the chance to leave her desk in the evidence department to escort Mrs. Riva (Vergara) and her drug-dealing husband from San Antonio to Dallas to testify against the kingpin. After realizing the errand was a set-up, Cooper and Riva flee from all kinds of undesirables in a shiny red convertible. Anne Fletcher (Step Up, 27 Dresses, The Proposal) directs this outlandish everything-that-can-go-wrong-will comedy with a very refreshing undercurrent of female friendship. Witherspoon and Vergara exude onscreen chemistry in this flimsy but fun chase vehicle, so I definitely wouldn’t say no to a sequel. (PG-13) DIANA M. LE Guild 45th, Meridian, Lincoln Square, Oak Tree, Cinebarre Mountlake, Cinnebarre Issaquah, others

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Iris Among the final projects of documentary giant Albert Maysles, who died in March, was this somewhat unexpected but very entertaining film. It’s a profile of Iris Apfel, a nonagenarian fashion legend and colorful collector (and wearer) of baubles, bangles, and beads. (The soundtrack of the movie is accompanied by the clacking of Iris’ Bundt-cake-sized bracelets.) If this seems a fluffy subject for Maysles, recall Grey Gardens: zany ladies, full of opinions, dressed to kill. Iris is resplendent with common sense (so absent in Grey Gardens). She goes to thrift stores and haggles over already-inexpensive merchandise; she shrugs at the idea of criticizing the fashion choices of others. (“Who am I to tell them how to look?”) She’s had a happy marriage—hubby Carl turns 100 during filming—and the Apfels ran a successful business for decades, manufacturing classic textile designs for clients including the White House. Yes, Iris and Carl are eccentric, but they’re also brimming with self-possession. (PG-13) R.H. Sundance

McFarland, USA Kevin Costner plays Jim White, who provides our perspective into McFarland, a largely Mexican-American town in the California desert. There White soon loses his football coaching position and creates a cross-country team. His prejudices and assumptions are mirrored right back at him by a glib coach from an affluent school, a nice moment that Costner handles with a mix of shame and self-reflection. As a coach, White sees the untapped speed and endurance of his Cougars; as a person, he’s got no idea of their real lives. This is, after all, a town where the prison is across the street from the high school to remind kids that it’s pretty much their only alternative to working the fields. Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) stirs Southwestern spices through the usual scrappy-little-team-that-could ingredients. The kids are types rather than characters with agency or aspirations. Otherwise the film favors easy sentiment over sociology. All these kids needed was someone who believed in them—preferably a flinty but compassionate white guy who can overcome his preconceptions in the process. Go, Cougs! (PG) S.A. Crest

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Mad Max: Fury Road Tom Hardy takes the title role in George Miller’s much-anticipated Mad Max reboot. The equally impressive Charlize Theron plays a buzzcut-wearing, one-handed turncoat named Furiosa. Though this movie makes me feel like driving fast through the desert, there’s no way I’d stop to offer either of them a ride. Regardless how thrilling the action in this near-constant chase movie, Max and Furiosa haven’t got anything interesting to say. Miller and his co-writers have some sort of dense desert mythology in mind, though the internecine conflict is hard to follow. The accents and engine noise make the dialogue and exposition mostly unintelligible, and I don’t think Miller really cares. Furiosa has liberated the five nubile wives of a masked Geezer of Oz, who with his marauders sets out in pursuit of Max and company. (One of the villain’s pasty-white minions, Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult, will eventually switch sides.) The 3-D Fury Road is masterfully kinetic and often downright berserk, with endless amounts of sand, car parts, spears, harpoons, grenades, chainsaws, and fists being flung in your face . . . I mean Max’s face. And, frankly, the more stuff being thrown in your face, the less time you have to worry about the plot holes or rushed heap of an ending. It’s a thrilling, exhausting picture. (R) B.R.M. Majestic Bay, Ark Lodge, Pacific Place, Thornton Place, Sundance, Kirkland, Bainbridge, Seattle Center IMAX, Lincoln Square, others

Pitch Perfect 2 Everything about this sequel is bigger. We’re talking Snoop Dogg subplot big. Green Bay Packers cameo big. Coachella-style competition big. And possibly better? Let’s just say I nearly cried. Twice. It was comforting to come back to this world where nerdom is celebrated and young women are unapologetically being themselves—weirdos who love mainstream pop music. The film’s story is a recycled version of the 2012 hit: The disgraced Barden Bellas must come together to find their sound and regain good standing in the world of a capella. However, the film (directed by Elizabeth Banks) focuses more on the musical performances than it does story. These underdogs prove that girls really do run the world. (Yes, they perform Beyonce!) And to paraphrase John Michael Higgins’ ammusingly sexist announcer, “This is what happens when you send girls to college.” (PG-13) DIANA M. LE Big Picture, Lincoln Square, Oak Tree, Guild 45th, Kirkland, Bainbridge, Ark Lodge, Meridian, others

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel The plot devices in this sequel are so stale that the movie itself loses interest in them halfway through its dawdling 122 minutes—and this is a good thing. By that time the contrivances of Ol Parker’s script have done their duty, and we can get to the element that turned the film’s 2011 predecessor into a surprise hit: hanging around with a group of witty old pros in a pleasant location. There are many worse reasons for enjoying movies. Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) mostly allows Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, and Penelope Wilton to float around on many years’ worth of accrued goodwill. (New to the expat ensemble is Richard Gere.) Especially fine is the spindly Bill Nighy, whose shy Douglas is a hesitant suitor to Dench’s Evelyn, a still-active buyer of fabrics. Even when the story has him fulfilling sitcom ideas, Nighy maintains his tottering dignity and sense of fun. Second Best will be a hit with its original audience, and maybe then some. The languid mood is laced with an appreciation for getting to the End of Things, especially as Smith’s formerly snappish Muriel mellows into a melancholy leave-taking. (PG) R.H. Crest

Welcome to Me Kristen Wiig’s ability to slip from broad humor to quietly devastating insight is already well documented. Here she plays an unfortunate soul named Alice Klieg, whose borderline-personality disorder has cast her into the margins of society—until, that is, she wins the lottery, which means she can bankroll her own cable-TV talk show. The show gives her a chance to air her grievances—she has many—prepare recipes, and sing. It’s a trainwreck, but she keeps throwing money at the production company and they keep pocketing it. (James Marsden, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Wes Bentley play her befuddled coworkers.) Director Shira Piven has a great cast and she handles it well, although it would be nice to find out more about Alice’s best friend and ex-husband, especially with ready-to-roll Linda Cardellini and Alan Tudyk playing the roles. The idea of Alice as an avatar for a collective fantasy about getting rich and famous keeps the movie interesting, but there’s something a bit off about the delivery. (R) R.H. Varsity

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What We Do in the Shadows The premise is ’90s-stale: basically MTV’s The Real World cast with vampires, presented as direct-address documentary. This droll comedy comes from the brain trust behind 2007’s Eagle Vs. Shark: Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi, who play neck-biters Vladislav and Viago, respectively. Our three main vamps are a hapless lot. They can’t get invited into any of the good clubs or discos—ending up forlorn in an all-night Chinese diner instead. After all the aestheticized languor of Only Lovers Left Alive (and the earnest teen soap opera of Twilight), the silly deadpan tone is quite welcome. Clement and Waititi know this is a sketch writ large (forget about plot), so they never pause long between sneaky gags. The amsuing and essential conflict here is between age-old vampire traditions and today’s hook-up customs. These neck-biters have been at it so long that they’re only imitating old vampire stereotypes. Things have gotten to the point, Vladislav admits, where they’re even cribbing from The Lost Boys. (NR) B.R.M. Crest

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While We’re Young In outline, this is a routine Gen-X midlife-crisis movie: documentary filmmaker Josh (Ben Stiller) and producer wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are stalled in careers and marriage. He can’t complete his weighty, unwatchable opus (something to do with geopolitics and a disheveled Chomskyian scholar; together they’ve IVF’d once for kids, failed, and are settling into a staid, childless rut. They need a shakeup, and it arrives in the form of a spontaneous, fun-loving Brooklyn couple half their age: would-be documentarian Jamie (Adam Driver) and wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Noah Baumbach’s lively, career-best comedy sends cynical Josh into unexpected bromance, and much of the movie’s charm lies in our being swept along, too. Is Josh deluded and ridiculous? Of course he is, and yet that’s not the movie’s real source of laughter and inspiration. In denial about his fading eyesight and arthritis, Josh will discover that being foolish and confounded is good for the system, a tonic. If Jamie is a hustler, he’s also like a personal trainer—pushing his client (who forever picks up the lunch tab) into discomfort. Baumbach’s female characters aren’t so sharply drawn, though he provides nice supporting roles for Adam Horowitz (the Beastie Boys), as the only guy who can speak truth to Josh’s blind infatuation; and for Charles Grodin, who brings welcome, sour appeal as Josh’s disapproving father-in-law. (NR) B.R.M. Sundance

Wild Tales The opening sequence to Damian Szifron’s Argentine anthology movie sets up a Twilight Zone-style series of revelations, compressed into just a few minutes. Passengers riding on a suspiciously underfilled plane begin to realize that there might be a reason for their presence there, beyond the obvious business of getting to a destination. Szifron wants to get his movie started with a bang, and he does—though the rest of Wild Tales doesn’t live up to the wicked curtain-raiser. But there are enough moments of irony and ingenuity to make it worthwhile. In one episode, a lone driver has a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, which allows the slowpoke he antagonized earlier to stop by and exact revenge. In another, an explosives expert becomes enraged by a parking ticket—rage that leads him to lose everything. But there’s a twist. A lot of these segments rely on a twist, a technique that doesn’t quite disguise how in-your-face the lessons are. The twists also can’t disguise the way some of the tales rely on illogical behavior to allow their plots to develop. Wild Tales is a showy exercise (you can see why Pedro Almodovar signed on as a producer), and Szifron has undoubtedly punched his ticket for bigger and better things. (R) R.H. Crest

Woman in Gold The last time Helen Mirren went up against the Nazis, in The Debt, it was really no contest. So you will not be surprised to learn that the Austrian art thieves of the Third Reich fare no better against her Holocaust refugee Maria Altmann. Woman in Gold takes its title from the alternate, Nazi-supplied moniker for Gustav Klimt’s 1907 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Adele was Maria’s beloved aunt, and Maria became the plaintiff in a long-fought art-restitution case, begun in 1998, against the Austrian government. As Maria’s sidekick in this true-life-inspired tale, Ryan Reynolds plays the unseasoned young attorney Randy Schoenberg (forever judged against his genius forebear Arnold Schoenberg). This odd couple is obviously going to prevail against the stubborn, post-Waldheim Austrian establishment. As Maria says, “If they admit to one thing, they have to admit to it all.” Were the writing better, this would’ve made a good courtroom procedural (Elizabeth McGovern and Jonathan Pryce show up as judges), but director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) instead chooses to add copious flashbacks to the Anschluss era and Maria’s narrow escape from the Nazis. So while this is a serviceable star vehicle that depends on Mirren’s reliably purring V-12 engine, two other actresses play Maria at different ages—depriving us of the regular pleasure of her smackdowns upon poor Randy. (PG-13) B.R.M. Pacific Place, Kirkland Parkplace, others




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