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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 28, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 39
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Autumn 2012 film preview (part 2)
Your guide to the season's new releases
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

November and December are loaded with tons of potentially intriguing titles, most of which will have screened at either the Toronto or New York film festivals long before their respective releases. But potential Oscar-winners aside, there are plenty of genre popcorn entertainments to get excited about, not the least of which are the return of James Bond, Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, Peter Jackson's return to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, and Quentin Tarantino tackling a Sergio Leone-style Western. Oh yeah, Bella and Edward finally see their romance come to its supposedly epic conclusion. Thank goodness for small favors.

The following titles are scheduled to hit Seattle theatres during the last two months of 2012. As always, release dates are subject to change.

NOVEMBER 2
Flight - Robert Zemeckis leaves the motion-capture world (thankfully) behind and directs his first live-action film since Castaway. Denzel Washington stars as an airline pilot who saves his plane after a disastrous malfunction threatens to kill everyone aboard. Oscar buzz is high on this one, especially for Washington.

The Man With the Iron Fists - Rap star RZA writes (along with Hostel filmmaker Eli Roth) and directs, Quentin Tarantino produces, and the likes of Russell Crowe, Rick Yune, Lucy Liu, and Pam Grier star in this genre mashup about a blacksmith (RZA) in feudal China forced to defend himself when a group of assassins descend upon his village to showcase their skills.

Wreck-It Ralph - The story of a 1980s video-game villain who gets tired of being the bad guy and decides to see what it would be like to finally be the hero, jumping from game to game to find a new one to call his own. Can't wait to see this one - it looks terrific.

NOVEMBER 9
Lincoln - Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Screenplay by Tony Kushner (Angels in America). Based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin. There's not a lot more to say.

Skyfall - Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, Agent 007 - the iconic Ian Fleming spy celebrating his 50th anniversary on the silver screen.

This Must Be the Place - Sean Penn is a retired rock star living in London who returns to New York to reconcile with his estranged father and discover the identity of the man persecuting him, an ex-Nazi war criminal now hiding out in the states.

NOVEMBER 16
Anna Karenina - The word out of Toronto was all over the map for this visual extravaganza, directed by Joe Wright (Atonement). Some called it an instant masterpiece while others labeled it a visually resplendent misfire. The one consensus? Star Keira Knightley is extraordinary, and might just land herself a second Best Actress Academy Award nomination.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 - Bella, Edward, Jacob, a baby, the Volturi & wake me up when this laborious supernatural saga is finally over.

NOVEMBER 21
Life of Pi - Ang Lee's (Brokeback Mountain) 3D adaptation of Yann Martel's supposedly unfilmable novel. The early looks are eye-popping - here's hoping the final product lives up to the hype.

Red Dawn - Long-delayed (thanks to MGM's bankruptcy two years ago) remake of the still-popular John Milius 1984 original staring Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen). Wolverines!!!

Rise of the Guardians - Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, and the Tooth Fairy join forces to save the day from a villain intent on stealing innocence away from the world's children. Based on the acclaimed book by William Joyce.

Silver Linings Playbook - The most talked-about film out of Toronto (even more so than The Master), David O. Russell's (The Fighter) latest has announced itself as an instant Best Picture front-runner while star Jennifer Lawrence has become the instant consensus pick to win Best Actress. Bradley Cooper is a former mental patient who moves back in with his parents while he tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.

Rust and Bone - Cannes favorite with Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard and Baghead star Matthias Schoenaerts, involving a brother and sister reconnecting after the latter suffers a horrific accident involving some killer whales. Directed by the great Jacques Audiard (A Prophet).

NOVEMBER 30
The Collection - Bizarre-sounding thriller about a young man escaping the clutches of a killer known as "The Collector" only to be abducted by the wealthy father of another young woman snatched by the madman and then forced to lead a group of mercenaries back into his lair to free her. A B-movie, sure, but one that has me strangely intrigued.

Killing Them Softly - Andrew Dominik's (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) latest garnered rave reviews out of Cannes and revolves around a professional enforcer tasked with learning the truth behind a heist during a mob-protected poker game. Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini star.

DECEMBER 7
Playing for Keeps - Gerard Butler as a former soccer star forced into coaching his son's team, finding redemption in the process. Yeah, doesn't sound particularly original to me either.

Hyde Park on Hudson - Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt - that's the eye-catching headline as far as this dramatic comedy from director Roger Michell (Morning Glory, Venus) is concerned. The word out of Toronto wasn't exactly euphoric, but I'm still curious to get a look at this one.

DECEMBER 14
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Director Peter Jackson returns to the Shire and the world of J.R.R. Tolkien with this first of three film adaptations of the author's famed The Lord of the Rings prequel novel. (Sorry, no Smaug until the second film.)

Les Misérables - Tom Hooper follows up The King's Speech with this adaptation of the Broadway musical, itself adapted from the classic novel by Victor Hugo. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway star.

DECEMBER 19
Monsters, Inc. 3D - Disney follows up the recent 3D conversion of Pixar's Finding Nemo with another re-release, this one auguring the arrival of Monsters University in the summer of 2013.

Zero Dark Thirty - Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal follow-up their Oscar-winning thriller The Hurt Locker with this minute-by-minute examination of the incursion into Pakistan that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. One of the year's most anticipated films.

DECEMBER 21
The Impossible - Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) directed this drama about the 2004 Thailand tsunami, staring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as a vacationing husband and wife desperately searching for one another (and their kids) after the initial waves devastate the country's coastline.

Jack Reacher - Tom Cruise takes on the guise of author Lee Child's popular antihero, the driven detective finding himself in the middle of a conspiracy involving a military sniper who may have murdered five supposedly random civilians.

Not Fade Away - Writer/director David Chase (The Sopranos) brings us the story of an up-and-coming New Jersey rock band in the 1960s. Not exactly original, but considering Chase's resume, I'm moderately intrigued.

On the Road - Walter Salles' (The Motorcycle Diaries) star-studded (Amy Adams, Garrett Hedlund, Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart, Steve Buscemi, Sam Riley, Terrence Howard) adaptation of the iconic Jack Kerouac novel finally hits the screen for its general release, the director supposedly having tinkered mightily with it after its premiere at Cannes and before its recent screening in Toronto.

This Is 40 - Judd Apatow's sorta-sequel to Knocked Up, focusing on the couple portrayed by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, profiling their lives a few years after the events of that earlier film.

DECEMBER 25
Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino's latest B-movie genre mash-up stars Jamie Foxx as a former slave teaming up with a professional bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), intent on freeing his wife (Kerry Washington) from a despicable plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) known for his sadistic treatment of all those who come into his line of fire.

The Guilt Trip - Barbra Streisand returns as a driven mother eager to help her son (Seth Rogen) sell his latest invention. Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) directs from a screenplay by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love).

Parental Guidance - Billy Crystal and Bette Midler team up in this comedy as a pair of loving grandparents who find themselves in over their head when their beleaguered daughter (Marisa Tomei) asks them to look after her kids when she's forced to head out of town for work.


Big River a new spin on Finn
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
VILLAGE THEATRE
Through October 21 (Issaquah)
October 26 November 18 (Everett)


Village Theatres latest production is a rollicking, feel-good experience, sometimes a bit at odds with its subject matter - the last days of slavery, as told by Mark Twain. The music and lyrics by Roger Miller are often upbeat and exuberant. The choreography by Daniel Cruz envelopes the whole stage, often with huge ensemble numbers that lift your spirits.

There is a whole lot to like, as is usual for Village productions, in this musical. Aside from the excellent choreography, director Steve Tomkins gets great support from an amazing set by Scott Fyfe  a rustic system of piers that appear and disappear as needed, even flying into the ceiling at one point!  along with expressive lighting from Tom Sturge, down-home costuming from Melanie Burgess, and a beautifully rendered score from music director Tim Symons.

Twains seminal characters, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, are presented as trouble-making scamps in an early would-be pirate gang, though they imagine themselves much more troublesome than they really are. Huck has to escape from an abusive father and decides to fake his own death. Then he finds that Jim, a local slave, has escaped as well and, somewhat dubiously, Huck decides to raft down the Mississippi with Jim. Thus their adventures begin.

In an outstanding introduction to the local theater community, Jim is played by Rodney Hicks, who recently moved to the Portland area after starring on Broadway in The Scottsboro Boys and other shows. He is riveting every time he takes stage, with a ramrod-straight posture and a mellow, commanding baritone.

His tormented gaze pierces the audience, who cannot help but feel his pain at being a slave. The ensemble of African-American actors who play slaves also are a suitably mournful bunch and it is just painful to see them with chains on.

Hicks is joined by Randy Scholz as Huck. While Scholz has a very easy-to-listen-to vocal quality and can handily manage the choreography, hes got two aspects that work against his performance. First, hes even taller than Hicks, which plays against his teenage-ness and visually jars, and second, he doesnt deepen the emotional content of the role, staying on the surface. He neither seems upset at getting beaten by his father nor fearful of going on a journey into the unknown almost alone. While the vocal blend of Hicks and Scholzs voices is quite lovely, that emotional disconnect fails the production as a whole.

But there are other standout performances. Unusually for them, both Greg McCormick Allen and Rich Gray play bad guys. Funny bad guys, but Allen and Gray are almost always funny good guys onstage. David Anthony Lewis gets a hysterical moment as the terrible father figure. Having recently been the hysterically funny-bad Nazi in Villages The Producers, Lewis is in danger of being typecast as the bad guy with the hysterical song! Hes so great at it!

Cheryl Massey-Peters and Jayne Muirhead have a great time as aunts to Huck. Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako and Stacie Pinkney Calkins offer a couple of great vocal moments. Taylor Niemeyer is entrancing as a love interest, and on-stage musicians John Patrick Lowrie and Eric Chappelle add wonderful ambience.

For more information go to www.villagetheatre.org or call (425) 392-2202.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.


Many perks to viewing near-perfect Wallflower
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
Opens September 28


It's been longer than I care to admit, but I still can recall my high school years like they were yesterday. I remember wandering the halls without a pass, heading out on the practice field after stretching in the gym, engaging in heated debates about what story to put on the front page afterhours in the journalism room, and standing in the corner at the Homecoming dance chatting with my friends. I can recall more of my four years as a John R. Rogers Pirate than many of you might think - the highs, lows, and in-betweens in many ways feeling as if they happened yesterday.

I'm not sure I've felt more kinship with a motion picture in recent memory than I have with screenwriter and director Stephen Chbosky's stunning adaption of his own 1999 novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. At the very least, I haven't seen a movie in 2012 that's affected me quite so intimately, that's moved me in ways difficult to describe and maybe even harder to comprehend. What I do know is that the characters that make up its story, the travails all of them go through, freshman and senior alike, were all ones I felt affiliation with, allowing the funny, heartfelt, and deeply moving drama to become an instant favorite I'm positive I'll return to numerous times in the future.

Of course, there are certain aspects (I don't remotely intend on ruining anything here, so don't expect me to elaborate) that are not close to anything I experienced during my own high school journey. At the same time, the mood of the piece - the way the characters related to one another, the way the haves and the have-nots mingled, made use of one another, became friends, and allowed exterior forces to make them enemies - all of it felt natural, honest, and true. The simple fact is the mistakes we make are the ones we tend to hold onto the longest, our most magnificent triumphs often paling compared to our most insignificant failures.

But that first kiss, that first caress, the first time we held someone else's hand and realized there was a connection going way beyond the physical, all of that and more comes to the forefront in Chbosky's miraculously multifaceted narrative. These are kids we know, definitely of the here-and-now, but also of the 1991 the film is set in. More than that, though, the angst they feel, the apprehensions and the fears they share, the community they create, and the bonds they celebrate are universal, speaking to the kid in all of us no matter what our age or which generation we call ourselves a part of.

I admit I was apprehensive and nervous about the film before entering the theater. Part of me couldn't help but feel that I needed to see another teenage coming-of-age story like I needed someone to slap me across the face with a two-by-four. What new was there to say? What roads not already well-traveled could this group of characters hope to go down? It all sounded like a two-hour festival of melodramatic clichés, and even though I knew of the acclaim Chbosky's novel had achieved, that didn't mean I was willing or ready to believe the adaptation would be more than ordinary.

Color me wrong. This movie may journey into familiar territory, may not always be able to avoid convention entirely, but that doesn't mean it is anything other than magnificent, start to finish. Every time I thought Chbosky was going to take a wrong turn, every time I feared he'd let the proceedings drown in rote cliché, somehow he managed to surprise me, showing a form of hypnotic restraint that held me spellbound.

And what is that story? In all honesty, my summarizing it here isn't particularly important. Just know that what transpires is seen through the eyes of Pittsburgh high school freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman), a teenage loner still reeling from the dual losses of his best friend from middle school via suicide and his beloved Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey), thanks to an auto accident a handful of years prior. In high school, he comes into contact with seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), a brother-sister combo (by marriage, not blood) who decide to take him under their wing, bringing him into their tight-knit circle of friends.

What happens from there? I'm not going to tell you, but by and large it's not that difficult to anticipate a lot of it. Save for a couple of third-act revelations, where the movie is headed is never in doubt, Charlie's voyage of self-discovery as tried and true as any that's been told. It's the getting there that makes what happens so special, the way that Chbosky understands his characters and how he manufactures the world around them, allowing the film to resonate on a mystifying, innermost level few others covering similar terrain have matched.

The cast is uniformly excellent. Lerman, a bit out of his element in both the recent remake of The Three Musketeers remake as well as in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, acquits himself beautifully as Charlie, his performance building with a subtle eloquence that took me by surprise. Harry Potter standout Watson also proves that she's got more in her than that particular saga - a pair of scenes with Lerman, both inside Sam's bedroom yet profoundly different from one another, are so outstanding they might be the best individual moments I've seen all year.

Yet it is Miller, so good in both We Need to Talk About Kevin and City Island, who blew me away. His performance as Patrick is one of the best of 2012, deserving of as many accolades and awards that could be thrown his way. The places he goes to, the emotions he mines, all of it comes together in a way I couldn't help but be enamored with, and as great as everyone else is - and they are outstanding - his is the performance I'll cherish the longest after the dust settles and my euphoria begins to wane.

Not that I expect said waning to happen anytime soon. Chbosky's movie is a revelation, a marvel of dramatic simplicity and model of a narrative integrity numerous other filmmakers should take note of. He proves that you can take familiar material and make it something special, can find a way to transcend inherent melodrama and take things to a lofty plateau that's as profound as it is true-to-life. The Perks of Being a Wallflower took me back to my own high school years allowing me to revisit them in ways I haven't in eons, the experience of watching it a cathartic free-for-all I can't wait to revel in again.




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Autumn 2012 film preview (part 2)
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