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Arnaldo! and Divalycious are back for the holidays
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Betty Buckley charms with Seattle Men's Chorus
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A conversation with up-and-coming talent Brandon Ivie
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Morrissey on solid ground at Paramount
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Peaches 'fucks her guitar' at the Showbox
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Chick Corea's legendary trio to play Jazz Alley
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Early Music Guild celebrates Couperin and Telemann
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- Gay Watch - Jon Stewart
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Taj Mahal, amazing voice and skillful instrumentals
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Ninja brings buckets of blood to the holidays
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Wes Anderson unleashes a fantastic Mr. Fox
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The Road a bleak, challenging stunner
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WINDING DOWN 2009: Cake, Deck the Hall Ball
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Passion Pit, Michael Buble, Norah Jones, and Lambert
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A few thoughts on the Tacoma tragedy
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Deep Inside Hollywood - Romeo San Vicente
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Book Marks
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Ninja brings buckets of blood to the holidays
by Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid - SGN A&E Writer

Ninja Assassin
opening November 25


In one scene in the new martial arts spectacle that is Ninja Assassin, the action is so fluid that it almost seemed like a gory ballet. My partner, who went to the movie with me, agreed, and also commented on the buckets of fake blood used in the film's grimmer scenes. The mayhem starts in the opening 10 minutes, when some Yakuza baddies get sliced and diced by quick and deadly ninjas. The plot - what there is of one - resembles any GI Joe type of film. A spunky government agent (pretty Naomie Harris) tries to get her boss (Ben Miles) to listen to her concerns about a gang of "invisible" clans killing people. He pooh-poohs the idea at first, but as orders from up top start showing up via "men in black" types searching his office and seizing files, he starts to change his mind and begins to worry that his co-worker might not only be on to something, but that they're both in grave danger. Oh, and there's a muscled "rogue ninja" (Rain) getting ready for a showdown with the ninja clan he betrayed years ago when he refused to follow orders to kill a runaway ninja female warrior/trainee.

Mostly though, there are singing katanas, body parts being flung through the air as sword and bodies meet in gruesome, but almost beautifully violent clashes in one battle after another between our rogue ninja and his former cohorts. One can recognize the work of the Wachowski brothers (makers of the Matrix films) in the choreographed fight scenes that very much resemble Neo's battle with the Mr. Smiths in the last Matrix film. James McTeigue directs Ninja Assassin, but the Wachowski brothers produce, so this film is more action than good dialogue or plausible plot. Still, even though there's enough blood flying around to fill four bathtubs and very little other interaction between the characters, Ninja Assassin is fun.

Even if you like your action fast, furious and full of bloody fight scenes - which, I have to admit, I do - some of the scenes may make you put your hand over your mouth in horror and astonishment. That the movie is opening on Thanksgiving is a bit macabre, but this seems to be a tradition Hollywood is sticking to; introducing movies that cater to the dark side in the dark time of the year, rather than giving us loads of sticky-sweet holiday fare.

Bottom line, this is not a film for the timid of heart, but ninja fans and action fans will love it. Just don't take any little ones (as some stupid person did on the night of the screening), as this will undoubtedly give them nightmares for weeks. While it won't win any Oscars, it is one helluva thrill ride.


Wes Anderson unleashes a fantastic Mr. Fox
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Opening November 25


After a chicken robbery goes dangerously wrong, the confidently easygoing Mr. Fox (George Clooney) trades a career of death-defying exploits and escapes for the quiet life of a newspaperman, at the urging of his pregnant wife Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep). But domesticity is not all it's cracked up to be, and after 12 quiet years, the cagey animal returns to his wild ways and targets the farms of evil and mean Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness) and Bean (Michael Gambon) for his triumphant return to thievery.

While at first things go well, the frazzled farmers attempt to exact their revenge trapping the Fox family - including son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and his cousin Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) - and the rest of the local animal community underground in the sewers. Running out of food and time, Mr. Fox bands everyone together to use their own natural instincts to combat their foes, save their lives and make Boggis, Bunce and Bean look like the grotesquely grubby fools they are.

Based on the classic books by Roald Dahl, writer (working once more with Noah Baumbach) and director Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop-motion marvel that just so happens to be a perfect addition to his quirky character-driven filmography. Like Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited before it, this animated sensation is an odd, wildly funny enterprise that ranks as one of the year's finest achievements.

In all honesty, I'm not sure how much Dahl is left in Anderson and Baumbach's highly anachronistic screenplay. Mr. Fox, his family and his friends don't speak with any of the same cadences you'd find in, say, Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, acting instead like the same arch, supremely focused and highly sarcastic souls found in just about all of the director's works. These characters are Anthony Adams and Dignan all over again, but while they're still walking around on two legs their inherent natures are far more, if you'll excuse lingo, animalistic.

Yet the spirit behind all the chaos and insanity is still distinctly Dahl's. The irreverence is of the author's world, and watching it I couldn't help but think he'd applaud if he'd ended up having the opportunity to see what Anderson had done with his story. Dahl liked to buck convention, loved to show people - most of all youngsters - facing their obstacles with tenacity and courage. He liked to show that authority is sometimes worth mocking, all the while offering up a warmhearted moral that spoke to the way life should be.

On a purely narrative level, this is easily the director's best film since Rushmore. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a consistent marvel, going from highs to lows to all the places in-between with a cocksure confidence that's perfectly awesome. The characters pop off the screen, and between the sublime animation to the superb vocal work there isn't a single moment or scene that doesn't ring hysterically true.

I'm not sure what else there is to say. So many moments and lines are beyond sensational, verbal jousts between Clooney and Bill Murray (playing the lawyerly Mr. Badger) twisting into a series of grunts and snarls before morphing back once again into pleasantly silly conversations about the health of the wife and kids. For me, Schwartzman's Ash has many of the best lines - his dismantling of his lab partner is so on the money that just thinking about it now is making me giggle even as I try to write this review.

Like all of Anderson's surreal creations, I imagine his form of comedy isn't going to be for everyone. Combined with the stylized animation and the eccentric vocal work of his all-star cast, I fear a lot of this is going to fly right over the majority of viewers' heads. Pity, because if that ends up being the case, audiences are going to miss out on a film that will tickle their funny bones like little else this year. When all is said and done, Fantastic Mr. Fox is, well, fantastic, and to call it anything else would be a horse (or maybe a fox) of a different color.


The Road a bleak, challenging stunner
by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

The Road Now Playing

How do you solve a problem like The Road, the oft-delayed John Hillcoat helmed film based on Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel? Rumor has it the powers that be couldn't decide when to unleash the dark apocalyptic tale on an American public weary from economic uncertainty and perpetual wars.

The big guns decided Thanksgiving weekend 2009 would be the perfect release date. So, if you're still stuffed with food and gratitude after last week, drop by the local cineplex and take in this bleak stunner; it will take the shine off your holiday weekend.

The Road is the tale of a father's determined journey to survive an unnamed catastrophe long enough to deliver his son to safety while dodging miscreant cannibals and fending off starvation in the decimated landscape. Have a nice day!

The Road is a tough proposition all around. Figuring out a release date was probably easier than putting together a marketing plan. How do you convince folks to shell out hard-earned dollars to witness the end of civilization? To exacerbate the situation, this isn't cartoony crap like 2012; this is the real deal and you'll leave the theater pondering things you don't want to.

We don't like to think about it, but our existence is tenuous. Political stability is little more than a socially prudent illusion that could implode quite easily. The planet gets smaller and smaller as six billion (and counting) humans vie for basic resources like food and water. And the Earth is just a transient speck in a solar system among countless other solar systems in an ever-expanding universe. Do you see why we don't like to think about it?

The Road is a good, if challenging, film. The relationship between the man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is central to the narrative. As the fabric of society falls apart, a more elemental drive takes over. This isn't just about getting the kid to a safe place; this is about the survival of the species. The boy watches as his father loses his humanity. Morality and civility become situational and even detrimental.

This is heady stuff. This is why I like The Road. It is unwavering in its aims. It does not let the viewer off easily. It stays with you long after you leave the theater.

Mortensen is terrific as the unnamed man trying to protect his preadolescent progeny. He is an actor that conveys a page of inner dialogue with little more than his eyes. The subtlety of his desperation is devastating.

Robert Duval reminds us why he should always be counted a cinematic treasure. He owns the screen in the small but pivotal role of the old man.

Michael K. Williams, best known for his portrayal of Queer Robin Hood Omar Little in HBO's The Wire, turns in an excellent performance as the thief.

Unfortunately, Smit-McPhee's performance doesn't measure up to these heavyweights. The youngster gets lost under the power of the veterans. He struggles to find a way to portray his connection to his father and to make us believe he's a little horrified by what he witnesses. On one hand, he is a young actor working against an accent (Kodi is Australian) and a complex character in an impossible setting. On the other hand, young actors have triumphed in similar roles (think of Anna Paquin in The Piano).

It is fun to see the scenes shot in Astoria, Oregon and around Mt. St. Helens and the cinematography is beautiful, even when capturing images of utter annihilation.

The Road is not without hope. Hillcoat sprinkles subtle notes of rebirth throughout the film. A few blades of grass or a beetle are rife with meaning in this landscape.

That brings me to the ending. I can't say much about it, because giving even the slightest hint of why I didn't like it would give it away. Suffice to say, I did not like the ending. For those who have read the novel, it takes that ending one step further - one step too far, in my opinion.

Maybe Thanksgiving was the perfect day to release The Road after all. This flick will certainly make you consider all the little things, and big ones, you should be thankful for. And, who knows? This could have been the last Thanksgiving ever.






 
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