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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 31, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 53
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Regal Speech a kingly achievement
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

The King's Speech
Now Playing
King George V (Michael Gambon) is nearing the end of his days. His eldest son Edward (Guy Pearce) is next in line for the throne, but that doesn't mean he isn't going to do his best to make sure younger son Albert (Colin Firth) is prepared for royal duties just in case. After all, Edward seems more content to gallivant across the countryside with his thrice-divorced paramour, so there is the real possibility he might be unfit to be the King of England.

Albert isn't sure he wants or deserves to be king. While he loves his country, he doesn't think he should be the head of it. Thanks to a horrible stuttering problem, his public speaking skills are atrocious, and while he and his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) have done almost all they can think of to solve this problem, no treatments, no doctors, and no therapies have proven successful.

Enter Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). An Aussie speech therapist whose tactics are hardly orthodox, he believes he can help this unconfident member of the British Royal Family. Soon the pair verbally spar in a manner that is hardly proper, and the prince and the commoner transition from pupil and teacher to trusted friends whose relationship will last for decades.

The King's Speech is a gloriously old-fashioned historical drama that the British seem to do better than just about anyone. Directed by Tom Hooper (The Damned United) and written by David Seidler (Tucker: The Man and His Dream), the movie is obvious Oscar fodder that doesn't so much rise to the occasion as vault right over the top of it. It is one of the best films of the year and a clear Best Picture frontrunner, while Firth is a virtual shoo-in to walk off with the Academy Award for Best Actor.

None of that means a darn thing, however, if the movie itself isn't a crowd-pleasing winner. Happily, The King's Speech is all that and a bag of chips - and the contents of the gosh-darn refrigerator! For a dialogue-heavy picture, this one is exhilarating, and by the end I'd moved all the way forward in my seat - to the point I was leaning on the one directly in front of me. Like a great thriller, I was on pins and needles. Like an uproarious comedy, I was chortling out loud. And, most importantly, like the best in drama, this one had me shedding honestly earned tears of joy during the breathtaking climax.

Seidler's script is astonishing. Literate and heartfelt, intricate and complex, yet intimate and relatable, this is the sort of thing that can take a person's breath away. These are three-dimensional human beings, all of them breaking forth from the confines of the screen in a manner that ends up making them seem as if they're sitting in the seat next to you. I was captivated and enthralled, and there didn't seem to be a false note or beat anywhere to be found.

Needless to say, this is an actor's showcase. I've already stated the fate I feel Firth is destined for, but he's just so gosh-darn amazing there are not enough superlatives to describe his accomplishment. He's been so good for so long that a person almost takes for granted just how talented he is, but after last year's A Single Man and now this, I doubt I'll ever do anything like that again.

Rush, with the far more showy role (at least on the surface) rises up to meet Firth, matching wits with his fellow thespian as if they were both expert fencers tipping lances. This is the type of character the former Oscar-winner could easily have taken over the top and into the stratosphere, but he chooses instead to underplay his more offbeat tendencies to make his outbursts more emotionally effective.

There is a familiarity to this. There is a long history of British period costume epics standing out from the crowd, relatively recent examples including Howard's End, Shakespeare in Love, Pride & Prejudice, and The Queen. But just because it feels familiar doesn't mean anything going on is sub par or not up to snuff. A good film is a good film, and this one is absolutely marvelous, and I seriously doubt those who appreciate quality cinema are going to find anything to nitpick.

For my part, The King's Speech was rousing entertainment that made me feel energetic and alive. I left the theatre in rapture, and it was all I wanted to talk about as I made the trek back home. This was a movie that had me wrapped around its little finger so tightly I never wanted to be released. The film is a crowning achievement, and everyone involved should feel honored and proud to have been a part of it.


Updated Gulliver a giant waste of time
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Gulliver's Travels
Now Playing

Someplace, somewhere, Jonathan Swift is hanging his head in shame. It almost goes without saying that director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens) and writers Joe Stillman (Planet 51) and Nicolas Stoller's (Get Him to the Greek) adaptation of his timeless classic Gulliver's Travels isn't very good. In fact, there are moments where the team's modern-day version starring Jack Black is downright offensive, and the majority of the picture is a tired and joyless exercise in tedium that had me bored out of my mind.

Black plays Lemuel Gulliver, a timid clerk in the mailroom for The New York Tribune who harbors a secret crush on the paper's lovely travel editor, Darcy Silverman (Amanda Peet). After going online and plagiarizing some travel pieces to present as a portfolio, Gulliver is sent to the heart of the Bermuda Triangle to research and write a piece about the infamous locale. When a weather anomaly blows him into the center of a reverse whirlpool, he ends up in the Kingdom of Lilliput, and after a brief misunderstanding, he befriends the country's diminutive inhabitants and becomes their gigantic protector.

Unlike, say, Little Fockers or Clash of the Titans, I can't say this new Gulliver's Travels is a complete and total disaster or ranks as one of the year's biggest train wrecks. There are several moments that are at least partially amusing, including a semi-inspired bit where Gulliver uses moments from The Empire Strikes Back and Titanic (admittedly stolen from the underrated Christian Bale/Matthew McConaughey apocalyptic fire-breathing dragon adventure Reign of Fire) to puff up his life story for the Lilliputians. Jason Segel is reasonably charming as his newfound pint-sized friend Horatio, while Emily Blunt has a couple of nice scenes as the country's headstrong princess.

But it all feels very stale and by-the-numbers. There are two musical numbers, one gag where a Lilliputian ends up in a giant's bum, and another where Gulliver literally uses the banana in his shorts to pee out a fire and save Lilliput's king (an embarrassed-looking Billy Connolly). Our hero learns to have faith in his own abilities, to trust his friends, and that honesty is the best policy when it comes to fostering meaningful relationships. The bad guy - in this case the duplicitous Lilliput General Edward (Chris O'Dowd) - doesn't win, while the good guys, Gulliver and Horatio, go above and beyond to save the day.

There are no surprises. There is nothing that is unexpected. There is less that is funny. The movie just is, moving from scene to scene with the energy and the vitality of a root canal. I can't imagine anyone, even the kids whose direction most of this is pointed in, will muster up the energy enough to care. The height of the film's wit and inspiration is for Gulliver to channel Edwin Starr to ease the tensions between Lilliput and the Blefuscians. It's understandably absurd but boringly so, and for every minor laugh there are countless groan-worthy sequences that fall apart before they even have the chance to begin.

The bottom line is that this movie just isn't entertaining, but it's not horrible enough to be something I want to spit fire, brimstone, and vitriol at, either. But I still maintain that Swift would have been pretty much aghast as to what has become of his cherished literary chestnut, and while I doubt he's rolling over in his grave, he's certainly not smiling. No, this Gulliver's Travels is nothing more than a dumb waste of time, and anyone thinking about seeing it should do themselves a favor and just reread the book instead.




Dashboard Confessional, Interpol kick off 2011 with a bang
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Didn't get enough fireworks? Try any of these five concerts headed to a live music venue near you, all in the month of January.

Makana w/ Taimane Gardner
January 9
The Triple Door

Two slices of paradise arrive at our doorstep in early January, when Oahu-based musicians Makana and Taimane Gardner perform their equally potent blend of Hawaiian music. The former is in a category of his own, fusing slack key guitar with an array of sounds, from classic rock to bluegrass, and the latter is a ukulele standout who plays at fiery top speeds - I've seen Gardner in action, and she's unbelievable. The concert serves two purposes: to bring a dash of warmth to this bitter wintry season and to encourage you to visit Hawaii in the near future, where music like this can be listened to on a lanai with macadamia nut ice cream at any time of the year. Read an interview with Makana in The Music Lounge column this week. For tickets, visit www.thetripledoor.net.

Dashboard Confessional
January 13
Neumos

Tattoos cover Chris Carrabba like cream cheese smothers a bagel. The lone member of alternative rock act Dashboard Confessional, the young singer-songwriter has brought sexy back again and again with his boy-next-door looks and bulging biceps fully covered with intricate body art. Carrabba has embarked on a winter-spring tour to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of his album The Swiss Army Romance, which catapulted the Florida native to emo stardom. Dashboard Confessional, who can probably max out larger venues than Neumos, will perform the 2000 album in its entirety, and the show coincides with the all-vinyl re-release of a remastered version of The Swiss Army Romance, complete with five seven-inch records, guitar picks, handwritten lyrics, and more. For tickets, visit www.neumos.com.

Thirty Seconds to Mars
January 18
Paramount Theatre

Jared Leto has been stopping traffic on Gay boulevards for years, going back to his acting duties on My So Called Life - who didn't fall for those gorgeous eyes? Since then, he's gone through an assortment of dye jobs, skinny jeans, interesting movie roles, and celebrity girlfriends - supposedly, Scarlett Johannsen wants seconds. Besides all that, he's managed to front a rock band for several years, Thirty Seconds to Mars, which has successfully put out three albums and recently gained some MTV love for their music video 'Kings and Queens.' Thirty Seconds to Mars also includes Shannon Leto, older brother of aforementioned dessert Jared, and Tom Millicevic. The group's latest work is last year's This Is War. For tickets, visit www.stgpresents.org.

Guster
January 18
Moore Theatre

Thanks to me, pop-rock band Guster got a bit Gayer when I wrapped colorful beads around their necks during Pride weekend a few years back. This was after they played an in-store gig at Easy Street Records, and before my coffee date with lead singer Ryan Miller at Caffe Ladro. The group has never quite hit mainstream, though has posted consistently good albums - 2006's Ganging Up on the Sun is brilliant and featured stirring tracks, like 'Satellite,' 'Lightening Rod,' and 'The New Underground.' Guster returns to Seattle to promote 2009's Easy Wonderful album, which has produced the single 'Do You Love Me' and a music video for 'Stay With Me Jesus.' If we're lucky, they might just bust out their cover version of 'In the Air Tonight.' For tickets, visit www.stgpresents.org.

Interpol
January 28
The Showbox SoDo

Without a doubt, one of rock's best vocalists is Paul Banks. The lead singer of the band Interpol almost sounds like he's from a vintage British act, a la Morrissey, and witnessed personally on a festival stage he's beyond riveting. The New York-based group has downsized to a three-piece, following the amicable departure of bass guitarist-keyboardist Carlos Dengler. Pulling full speed ahead, Interpol wraps up an Australian tour in early January and then begins a near-full year of live shows in North America and Europe, including dates with U2. The trio's self-titled 2010 release features the awesome track 'Barricade' and is very likely to make it onto their Seattle set list. For tickets, visit www.showboxonline.com.


Perez Hilton tops list as most Googled Gay person of 2010
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The best theater of 2010
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Strapped a strong, sexy, and affecting drama
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Jim Carrey speaks out against anti-Gay bullying
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A Dyke About Town: The Bobs make audience laugh out loud
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Peter Hook tries to keep Joy Division flame alive
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VIDEO - President Obama Signs Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell
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Regal Speech a kingly achievement
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Updated Gulliver a giant waste of time
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Dashboard Confessional, Interpol kick off 2011 with a bang
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Hawaiian artist Makana talks slack key, food, and Seattle favorites
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Northwest News
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Letters
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