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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 2 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 18
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Little undead about Jarmusch's bloodsucking Lovers - As evanescent as it is particular, the film is a timeless parable of heartbreak, longing, togetherness and romance speaking to greater truths
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
Now playing

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is an underground rock musician attempting to live in total anonymity in the deserted rundown wilds of Detroit. His only contact with the outside world is Ian (Anton Yelchin), a young man with an uncanny ability to procure the most unusual and eclectic of objects - musical or otherwise - and an even better attribute in that he asks few questions and expects zero answers.

Eve (Tilda Swinton) is living in Tangier. She adores books, the written word exciting her to no end, the world-wise woman collecting vintage first editions of all classifications all in a lustful, almost carnal desire to voraciously consume each syllable hidden in plain sight on every page. Her best friend is Marlowe (John Hurt), his body aged and breaking down, but his mind as sharp as ever, the stories he has cannily hidden behind his eyes ones that would blow historians' minds around the world, if they ever happened to come into the light.

These two will find a way to unite under the same moon, and there's a reason he's called 'Adam' and she's called 'Eve,' the answers to numerous questions readily apparent to every Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Joss Whedon or, sad to say, Stephenie Meyer fan worth their collective salt. Safe to say, his suicidal brooding about the world's collective ills and her cooing caresses uttered under a icily cold moonlit sky hint at something larger, a little undead and brazenly supernatural, their love story a centuries-long affair showing no signs of coming to an end.

In many ways Only Lovers Left Alive is the most unlikely film to ever have been crafted by cult impresario Jim Jarmusch. At the same time, the interior elements aren't as far removed from independent classics like Down By Law, Broken Flowers, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Night on Earth and Dead Man as one might initially assume. The writer/director is still focused on how the human heart beats in direct synchronicity with the larger world around it, his commentary on the ills assaulting peoples of all shapes, sizes, creeds and backgrounds as razor-sharp and as eviscerating as ever.

What's interesting is just how easygoing and nonchalant much of this is, while at the same time it so effortlessly speaks to larger universal truths at the exact same time. Adam frets and whines about the state of the world, while Eve calmly and confidently tells him they've seen it all before, and that nothing happening is any more traumatic or catastrophic than anything else they've experienced. They say little, but seem to take in and understand everything, ever-observing and always experiencing, while revealing little of the ferocious, carnivorous desire lurking within.

Tranquility is shattered with the arrival of Eve's sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), a chaotic whirlwind who bites first, barely pausing to question her actions afterwards. She is, in many ways, representative of the world's whims, her fast-paced lifestyle and unthinking shenanigans holding a mirror up to current me-first stereotypes which place fame, prestige and narcissism at a premium, and selflessness and restraint as traits to be scoffed at and ridiculed.

Initially, it appears as if Jarmusch is spinning in circles, presenting disconnected ideas and concepts, as if in an odd, almost disaffected attempt to see which ones will stick and which he should discard and no longer care about. But it's all an intricately composed trick, an interlocking puzzle of human emotions and lofty ideals beholden to darker, more animalistic desires that sometimes consume and devour the very hand yearning to caress them. He tricks the viewer into lowering their defenses bit by bit, the overarching themes coming more into tune at the same time the musical discord intricately composes itself into a hypnotic cadence impossible to stop humming.

Hiddleston and Swinton make a magnificent pair, the two veteran character actors slinking and slithering their way through the bohemian undead lovers with seductively lascivious ease. They have undeniable chemistry the moment they begin communicating, easily hinting at an all-encompassing, sometimes damaging, most often emboldening love that breaks barriers and defies convention. The two smolder and saunter their way through the proceedings with exhilarating grace, everything building to conclusions that are as obvious as they are startling, each of them opening themselves up in ways that feel raw, authentic and achingly pure.

Jarmusch is a great filmmaker, his one-of-a-kind filmography speaking for itself. With Only Lovers Left Alive he adds another borderline masterwork to the list, changing gears once again to deliver a supernatural love story hiding a deftly insightful social commentary within its intelligently labyrinthine layers. As odd as it is familiar, as evanescent as it is particular, the film is a timeless parable of heartbreak, longing, togetherness and romance speaking to greater truths just as it dives into the most intimate of interior corners. Most of all it is an innately personal experience harkening to the best we could ever hope to be, while hauntingly reminding that the worst elements of the human condition callously hide within the center of our very own souls.


Uneven Quiet Ones still an emotionally haunting experiment
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE QUIET ONES
Now playing


Esteemed Oxford Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) is out to prove that things considered supernatural and otherworldly are nothing more than the creation of an injured mind and thus can be controlled and, with care, nurturing and assistance, ultimately destroyed. Aided by graduate students Krissi Dalton (Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne), Coupland enlists budding moviemaker Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) to document their progress, hoping his images will calm doubts and prove to all that the professor's thesis is correct.

Their subject is the mentally unhinged Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). An orphan who has been thrown from home to home with little apparent thought to her well-being, she claims there is a malevolent spirit residing within her known as Evey. Is she possessed? Is she faking it? Or is Jane just mentally ill, years of abuse and abandonment forcing her to retreat inside her own psyche, creating this devilish spirit as a way to unleash the rage and the vitriol she's always been too timid and apprehensive to openly express?

Even though The Quiet Ones, like so many other paranormal genre films, proclaims to be inspired by actual events, it shouldn't come as too big a surprise or a shock to any potential viewers that the answers to all those questions is concretely tinged with all the apparent elements of the supernatural. Professor Coupland might be on the right track, but he'll never truly know, the entity possessing Jane Harper far more authentic and real than anyone involved with the experiment cares to recognize. She's dangerous, carnage and devastation traveling alongside her, the desire to save their subject potentially the undoing of the entire research team, as all are slow to recognize just how much peril they are in fact collectively in.

The crew behind this film is as eclectic a mixed bag as any I've come across in quite some time. Director and co-writer John Pogue has composed scripts for films as varied as The Skulls, U.S. Marshals, the Rollerball remake and Ghost Ship. Another screenwriter, Craig Rosenberg, was responsible for composing After the Sunset and The Uninvited, while the final scribe making up this odd trio, Oren Moverman, is a bona fide Oscar nominee known for The Messenger, Rampart, Married Life and I'm Not There. It's a fairly disparate group, to be sure, and as such the ebb and flow of the film itself is oftentimes a relatively uneasy one as the changes in tone and direction aren't nearly as organic or as natural as I personally would have wanted them to be.

Is this because there were too many cooks baking away inside the kitchen? I can't answer that.

What I can say is that the elements and pieces of the film that work best are the subtler ones; the segments that don't telegraph their scares or their surprises, but instead allow them to sneak up on you with intelligently constructed authenticity. When The Quiet Ones works, it does so rather stunningly; and I love the fact that Pogue, Rosenberg and Moverman have placed the emphasis on character and story more than they have on either shock or awe. They present much of this with a matter-of-fact aggressiveness, recalling John Hough's 1973 shocker The Legend of Hell House, watching Brian trying to navigate the ins and outs of all he's documenting absorbing in its sinister nervousness.

And yet, there are times where the focus gets out of whack, where either Pogue's handling of the material grows uncertain or all the elements contained within the script fail to join together with any sort of cohesion. The rules of their paranormal adventure waver and change based more on whim than they appear to for any other more discernible or concrete reason. And while there are shocks galore, they don't resonate with an emotional truth, which could potentially allow them to be more long lasting.

Not that the actors aren't up to the challenges put in front of them all the same. Richards, in particular, is an effervescent jolt of electricity and excitement, mining the meandering dynamics of her character with relative ease, making her eventual devolution into terror and despair all the more effective in the process. Cook and Fleck-Byrne are also both quite good, the former doing the best she can with a relatively underwritten character, while the latter adds layers and nuances to his portrayal the script itself only appears to hint at.

As for the two leads, Harris and Claflin are excellent, each making the most of what they've been handed, allowing events to shape and mold them in ways that are consistently interesting. Claflin, eschewing the grandiose posturing that made him an instant heartthrob after his performance in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, isn't afraid to open up, to allow his apprehension and fear to show, even while his affections for Jane blossom uncontrollably. Harris, meanwhile, is all pomp and bluster; but it's only a façade, the real engine driving his desire to see the young woman cured coming from a place of familial tragedy, tinging every move he makes and syllable he utters. It's a wonderful portrait of hubris and regret battling for control, everything leading to a place of pain that's as horrifically foregone as it is achingly unfortunate.

I do like The Quiet Ones a fair little bit. If it doesn't come together as well as it might have, if pieces don't always feel as connected to the whole as they maybe should have been, the core of this haunted little tale of possession and discovery is still a strong one, making the final images a haunting series of mistakes and misbegotten heroics that are as understandable as they are catastrophic. Pogue's grip on all of this might be tenuous, but he knows how to maintain control and deliver the goods when it matters most, the climax a terrifying maelstrom of emotional misery that left me shaky and unsettled long after the screen had faded into black.


Little amazing about latest Spider-Man
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Now playing


Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has a pretty good handle on being Spider-Man. Stop a plutonium robbery in the morning and still make it to his high school graduation by lunchtime? Check. Sell photos of the wall-crawler to the Daily Bugle while professing total ignorance to those closest to him that he actually knows the guy? Got it down to a science. All the same, his relationship with sweetheart Gwen (Emma Stone) isn't as strong as it used to be, visions of her dead father Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary) reminding him of a promise he made to the man on his deathbed, a promise he's been breaking nearly every day since.

Not that he has a lot of time to ponder his options as far as that is concerned. Old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) has returned to New York City, taking over the running of Oscorp after the death of his father Norman (Chris Cooper). He's afflicted with the same genetic disorder his old man ultimately succumbed to and he believes the secret to curing his ailment is hidden within the genetic coding of a certain friendly neighborhood superhero he thinks Peter can procure a sample from. But Peter's understandably reticent to hand something like that over, knowing the potential for calamity that might arise with doing so is too monumental to ignore.

If this were the only story The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was interested in telling, then returning director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) and his cadre of storytellers (four are credited, including Star Trek and Transformers scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) might have crafted something worthwhile. But that doesn't happen, the team overstuffing their 142-minute opus to the point none of the plot tangents matter and opportunities for emotional connections are obliterated long before they have a chance to compose themselves. Add in some of the worst dialogue this side of a Star Wars prequel, some distracting visual effects making things look like a late-1990s Pixar cartoon and a main villain who's so laughably nondescript he's practically nonexistent, the sequel is an oddly unappealing mess that buries its strengths while highlighting its weaknesses. It's bad, plain and simple, even the things I like about it not masking that simple, unfortunate truth one little bit.

Say what you will about the Sam Raimi directed trilogy (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3), he knew how to maintain focus. More than that, he also knew how to develop plot tangents and character relationships over time, making the friendship between Peter and Harry mean something. That meant that when things eventually fell apart, and fall apart they must, the viewer could experience that pain alongside them, the line between right and wrong, truth and justice, suitably ephemeral, their collective plights having emotional weight and heft they otherwise wouldn't have known.

But if you thought Spider-Man 3 was brimming with too many villains and subplots, wait until you get a load of what Webb and company have come up with here. Not only do we have a surreal, The Dark Knight Rises-esque opening sequences with Peter's parents (Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz) on a plane, we've also got the emergence of a supervillain calling himself Electro (Jamie Foxx) who starts off as Spidey's biggest fan only to instantly morph into his most fearsome enemy. Throw in some side issue of Gwen going to study at Oxford coupled with Aunt May (Sally Field) becoming a nurse and you suddenly have enough material for six adventures, let alone one, and because of that none of it is developed and even less matters that's even passingly memorable.

The crazy thing is that the elements that worked well in The Amazing Spider-Man still work here. Heck, if anything, they're even better. Garfield and Stone are magnetic, the pair generating sparks even when they're just speaking to one another over a phone. Additionally, Webb's confidence as far as staging action scenes has improved substantially, an early showcase with our hero battling various Russian mobsters (including an unintelligibly belligerent Paul Giamatti) suitably spectacular. The initial battle with Electro in Times Square is also excellent, the director doing a fine job of setting the scene, making the resulting chaos and mayhem crackle with excitement. There's even an air of tragedy hovering over the climax that's more affecting than I thought it would be, making a heroic resurrection moderately more successful than it otherwise would have been.

And yet, the film as a whole is still nothing short of a disaster. Harry is an insufferable prig right from the get-go, the talented DeHaan unable to do anything to change that. As for Electro, his motivations might be more plausible than the villain's in the last episode were (no one is trying to change an entire city into lizards) but that doesn't make them any less absurd. His desires to stomp Spider-Man under his foot are vague at best. More than that, he's just not interesting, and while Foxx does what he can, there's just not enough complexity to make his transformation from disgruntled, overlooked tech wiz into an electromagnetic force of evil matter in the ways it potentially could have.

That's what The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does best: waste inherent potential. It's got a great actor as the main character and does almost nothing with him. Has a wonderful actress as the female lead and gives her embarrassingly little to do. Casts two great stars - one up and coming, the other a bona fide Oscar-winner - as the bad guys and gives them precious little of substance to do. Little works and even less matters - even the attempt at world-building in hopes of giving things a grandiosity on the scale of The Avengers failing to be intriguingly developed, the final portions crashing to earth with a resounding thud that echoed throughout the theater. As already stated, this is a bad movie, and as summer's initial tent pole out of the gate, it gets the ignominious tag of also being its first, and potentially biggest, disappointment.


2014 Summer Preview - May & June
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

Even though Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a summer movie shrouded in April clothing, the real silly season at multiplex as far as major Hollywood studios are concerned begins today with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It's the first in a rather large, and admittedly expected, collection of big budget sequels, remakes, spin-offs and reboots hitting theaters between now and the end of August, all of them hoping to match the $1.2 billion worldwide gross of 2013's Iron Man 3.

This year's crop of tent pole sequels includes X-Men: Days of Future Past (which culls cast members from both the original X-Men as well as X-Men: First Class in an Avengers-style superhero team-up), Transformers: Age of Extinction (with Mark Wahlberg stepping in for Shia LaBeouf), the animated How to Train Your Dragon 2, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (which takes place after a worldwide apocalypse has left humanity in a seemingly hopeless state of disrepair), 22 Jump Street, The Expendables 3, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Other big budget enterprises hoping to bring new life to old standbys include Godzilla, Disney's live action Maleficent, a Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson assuming the mantel of Greek hero Hercules.

On the comedy side of the equation, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore team up for the third time in Blended, Melissa McCarthy hopes to see her star continue to rise with Tammy, Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel reunite for Sex Tape, Kevin Hart and company return for Think Like a Man, Too, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron are a pair of extremely unfriendly Neighbors and Seth MacFarlane tries to prove Ted wasn't a fluke with the Mel Brooks-like western A Million Days to Die in the West. As for the original properties, Disney tosses out the baseball drama Million Dollar Arm, Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the Broadway smash Jersey Boys steps onto the stage, Tom Cruise goes sci-fi Groundhog Day-style with Edge of Tomorrow, Andy and Lana Wachowski return to their interstellar roots with Jupiter Ascending while Twister-wannabe Into the Wind storms into theaters eager to blow away the competition.

For those wanting more serious (or at least more independent) fair, as always there's plenty to choose from just as long as you're willing to put forth the effort to see it. There's Richard Linklater's 12 years in the making Boyhood, Jon Favreau's star-studded dramedy Chef, the faith-based gross-out female-driven comedy (make sense out of all of that, I dare you) Mom's Night Out, Jim Jarmusch's fascinating vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive, the UW-set Decoding Annie Parker, the spooky sci-fi shocker The Signal, real-time (and real world) thriller Locke with Tom Hardy, and Australian director David Michôd's unsettling looking The Rover, while the late Philip Seymour Hoffman pops up twice appearing in both May's God's Pocket and July's A Most Wanted Man.



The following is a small sampling of films and events hitting Seattle screens between now and the end of June. (I'll work up a separate preview for July and August in a few weeks.) As always, release dates are subject to change so make sure and check with local theaters to make sure the movie you're aching to see is actually going to be playing.

May 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Decoding Annie Parker, Hateship Loveship, Only Lovers Left Alive, Watermark

May 2-12
Seattle Cinerama Sci-Fi Film Festival - The Cinerama stages it's second-ever Science Fiction Film Festival and not only is the lineup itself extraordinary, so are the guests: Sam Jones (Flash Gordon), Tom Skerrit (Alien), Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: First Contact) and legendary visual effects wunderkind Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Brainstorm, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) all scheduled to attend.

May 8-11
Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival - Three Dollar Bill Cinema presents its ninth annual Transgender Film Festival, a full weekend of flicks spanning the gender spectrum on display including the North American premier of Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger as the closing night selection.

May 9
Fading Gigolo, Fed Up, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, Locke, Mom's Night Out, Neighbors, Teenage, Young and Beautiful

May 15-June 8
Seattle International Film Festival - It's baaaack & Seattle's favorite film festival returns for its 40th big screen cinematic adventure, kicking things off with director John Ridley's highly anticipated Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side starring Outkast megastar André Benjamin in the title role.

May 16
Chef, God's Pocket, Godzilla, Million Dollar Arm

May 23
Belle, Blended, Cold in July, The Double, X-Men: Days of Future Past

May 30
A Million Ways to Die in the West, Chinese Puzzle, Filth, The Grand Seduction, Maleficent

June 6
Edge of Tomorrow, The Fault in Our Stars, Gore Vidal: the United States of Amnesia, Obvious Child, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, Trust Me, Words and Pictures

June 13
22 Jump Street, Evergreen: The Road to Legalization, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Lucky Them, Palo Alto, The Signal

June 20
Jersey Boys, The Rover, Think Like a Man, Too, Venus in Fur

June 27
Snowpiercer, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Yves Saint Laurent




Seattle Rep presents Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - a terrific production of a challenging work
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Seattle's amazing - ambiguous - history in intricate detail, now at Book-It Rep
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Franz Ferdinand gets it right again at The Showbox SoDo
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Alchemy Tap Project's BeatScience 3 a fantastic and unbeatable show
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AN INTERVIEW WITH EDMUND WHITE
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A celebration of Kiki Sanchez' life
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Northwest News
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LETTERS
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Beyonce and Jay Z coming to Safeco Field
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Little undead about Jarmusch's bloodsucking Lovers - As evanescent as it is particular, the film is a timeless parable of heartbreak, longing, togetherness and romance speaking to greater truths
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Uneven Quiet Ones still an emotionally haunting experiment
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Little amazing about latest Spider-Man
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2014 Summer Preview - May & June
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