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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 2, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 05
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Glitzy Freak puts on a heck of a show
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

FREAK SHOW
Now playing


After his free-spirited mother Muv (Bette Midler) sends him to live with his buttoned-up businessman father William (Larry Pine), gender queer Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) has no clue what he's walking into when he steps through the doors of his posh new ultra-conservative high school. Immediately labeled a freak, noticeably bullied within the first few minutes of announcing his presence, the confident teenager is determined to make the best of what he realizes is a terrible situation. Managing to make friends with a fellow outcast (AnnaSophia Robb), thinking he's finally making inroads with the superficial clique led by the frighteningly bubbly Lynette (Abigail Breslin), Billy instead is ambushed by a group of masked students who deliver a horrific beating, star football player Flip Kelly (Ian Nelson) stopping the attack before it can turn deadly.

Based on the popular book by author James St. James, working from a satirically-minded script by Patrick J. Clifton and Beth Rigazio, director Trudie Styler's festival favorite Freak Show might not break a lot of new ground or go anyplace unexpected but thankfully that doesn't make this freewheeling opus any less entertaining. Sort of a Mean Girls meets Sixteen Candles meets But I'm a Cheerleader meets Saved! meets The Edge of Seventeen variation with a teen bullying angle that's uncomfortably timely, the movie is a heck of a lot more engaging than I anticipated it was going to be. The filmmakers manage to maintain a level of dramatic comedic absurdity throughout that's both humorous and heartfelt, granting the finished feature an emotional resonance that's somewhat surprising.

The big twist here is that, after recovering from his injuries and trying to fit in with the other students as best he can thanks to Flip's urging, Billy finally realizes uptight, hate-filled one-dimensional shills like Lynette will never recognize him for who he is as long as he refuses to fit inside her definition of what he is supposed to be. As such, he decides to run for Prom Queen, knowing that by doing so he'll hopefully become a figurehead for fellow outcasts who for whatever reasons are too scared or apprehensive to come out of the shadows. It becomes a story of forgiveness and understanding; the ultimate reveal being that you can't expect others to accept you for who you are until you learn to do the same, not just in regards to them, but as it pertains to yourself, as well.

There's some obvious stunt casting, and not all of it works. While Midler is divine as Muv, other high-profile members of the supporting cast don't fair nearly as well. I like that there isn't a big deal made in regards to Laverne Cox's appearance as a determined television reporter covering Billy's run for Prom Queen. Still, the actress overplays her hand, if only slightly, a few of her reaction shots feeling moderately false and slightly phony. She makes out better than John McEnroe does as the high school's mouthy gym teacher and football coach, however, and while I respect Styler's intention to cast the tennis bad boy against type his scenes still lack any sort of intelligent edge that would have allowed them to come off as anything other than pandering and facile.

Just as crucially, I wish there was more in the way of complexity as to how Clifton and Rigazio's script dealt with Lynette. She's a shrew caricature of a high school queen bee. She's Regina George without the intelligent venomous bite, Heather Chandler without the memorably pithy one-liners that shock just as much as they amuse. No, Lynette is a blonde-haired stereotype who never goes beyond doing or saying the expected, her hate-filled diatribes so obnoxiously extreme their power to provoke or offend is sadly nonexistent. More, Breslin looks uncomfortable trying to portray her, almost as if she's whispering a quiet apology to the audience every time Lynette has to open her mouth and say something hateful about Billy.

All the same, I enjoyed a great deal of what it was Freak Show had to offer. I love the way Styler chose to portray Billy and his situation while at the same time giving Lawther plenty of room to craft the character in a way that is far more complicated and emotionally grounded than I initially assumed he was going to be portrayed. The way in which the young man's friendship with Flip evolves so organically is just plain lovely, and I liked that there's never a misunderstanding as to what is going on and that signals aren't being crossed as far as any romantic possibilities might be concerned. There's also a terrific moment between father and son that is achieved with an elegant simplicity that's touching in its quiet intimacy, Billy and William's familial dynamic developing in a manner that, while hardly original, is still filled with an understated heartfelt warmth that's luminous.

I must admit, some of the gender-bending stereotypes annoyed me at first, but as things went on I managed to get on Styler's wavelength in a way that went beyond these well-worn queer film clich├ęs. The director is attempting to sucker the audience in with a little flash and even more glitz only to craftily pull that bedazzled rug out from underneath the viewer right when they least expect it. Freak Show has more to say than initially meets the eye, the face hiding behind the false eyelashes, heavy foundation and glamorous makeup not all that different than our own.


Energetically convoluted Death Cure brings the Maze Runner saga to a close
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

MAZE RUNNER:
THE DEATH CURE
Now Playing


After being betrayed by Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the surviving Gladers Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) make the decision to do whatever they have to in order to free Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from the clutches of WCKD and the scientist behind everything they've endured, the mysterious Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson). Setting out for the last surviving city to save their friend, the trio are joined by rebels Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and her devoted adopted father figure Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito), the former strangely showing no signs of infection from the Flare virus after being bitten by an infected mutant six months prior.

Chief of WCKD security Janson (Aidan Gillen) anticipates Thomas and his friends will be coming to rescue Minho, and so when cameras pick him up outside the city walls he's hardly surprised. Yet Teresa wants her former friend captured alive, especially after she makes a startling discovery that could potentially lead to a cure for the Flare virus, and with Paige's backing the orders to bring him into custody unharmed are summarily given. But Janson has a score to settle with Thomas, and he's not so certain these women have humanity and WCKD's best interests in mind, and as such he's determined to do whatever it takes to make this former Glader and his friends suffer for every indignity and setback he believes they've violently sent his way.

Picking up relatively soon after the events of 2015's Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the final chapter in author James Dashner's best-selling series finally hits screens after something of an unexpected delay. While shooting Maze Runner: The Death Cure star O'Brien significantly injured himself filming a key stunt sequence. As such, series director Wes Ball and studio 20th Century Fox were forced to put the sequel on hold, having to wait almost an entire year before he was healthy enough to finish shooting and to bring core cast members back to the production after they finished other contractual obligations.

I can't say the delay hurt the film in any noticeable way, as this series, for all its visual flourish and visceral action theatrics has always tilted more in the director of Divergent and its ilk than it does The Hunger Games. Even so, the fact Ball and the studio insisted on ending things with one final story and refused to split Dashner's book into two pieces works decidedly in the movie's favor. This is easily the most self-contained and streamlined story of the series, and while watching or having watched either The Maze Runner or its sequel would be beneficial, newcomers shouldn't find themselves all that lost by anything that transpires.

None of which means that returning screenwriter T.S. Nowlin's scenario isn't needlessly convoluted and obnoxiously overwrought in a number of fundamental ways. There are odd subplots that tend to go nowhere, the chief one involving an infected messiah who knows how to get into WCKD's heavily protected city, played with theatrical exuberance by the always watchable Walton Goggins. There is also the resurrection of a key, assumed dead character from the first film, a surprise revelation that is a bit more goofily laughable than the filmmakers arguably intended. Additionally, the relationship between Thomas and Teresa, the core element that helped drive events in the previous films, is frustratingly distant this time around, and I can't say I was drawn into their emotional melodrama as fully as I found myself wanting to be.

Yet, even at an epic 142 minutes, gosh darn it all if I didn't still get a kick out of watching The Death Cure. Ball continues to impress, and this time around his handling of the film's massive action sequences, pyrotechnics and obvious practical effects is extraordinary. If anything, I'm slightly surprised more people weren't injured making this trilogy capper, and I hope the stunt people working on this were paid overtime for their accomplishments. There's one shot of an exploding car tumbling down the street like a bowling ball that literally had me jumping out of my seat, while a climactic siege on WCKD's headquarters is as heart-stopping as it is exciting.

I'm not sure if O'Brien is ever going to make the jump to international superstardom but he is certainly a more effective a presence in this series than he was in last year's espionage terrorism thriller American Assassin. Even with the delay to recover from his injuries he still manages to deliver a full-throated performance, watching Thomas finally come into his own as a leader suitably satisfying. Gillen also continues to be a fine foil, the 'Game of Thrones' actor having a noticeably giddy time bearing Janson's teeth as he attempts to pummel his nemesis into the dirt as if he were gleefully stomping up and down upon a helpless ant colony.

I have no idea what fans of the series or rabid readers of Dashner's novels will think of this installment, and considering how many tangents it flies off in and how many loose ends it needs to tie up, staying interested for every second is a bit more difficult than I initially assumed it would be. But overall I was fine with how Ball and his team wrapped things up, and while Maze Runner: The Death Cure doesn't completely satisfy, it does so just enough to make me think heading out to a matinee screening to give it a look would be worth the effort it takes to do so.


Three Dollar Bill Wednesday series kicks off February 7 with 'Queer Fast Flirting' and 'Date Night Short Films'
For the first event in 2018's Three Dollar Bill Wednesday series, Three Dollar Bill Cinema and Little Gay Book, LLC are partnering to bring you 'Queer Fast Flirting' and 'Date Night Short Films' on Wednesday, February 7, at Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave.) on Capitol Hill! Let's ring in Valentine's Day with a bang!



'Queer Fast Flirting' (find friends or dates) at 5pm costs $35. For complete details about Fast Flirting visit www.threedollarbillcinema.org.

'Date Night Short Films' (of the queer variety) at 7pm costs only $3 for members of Three Dollar Bill Cinema! For not-yet-members the cost is $12. To become a member, visit https://www.threedollarbillcinema.org/participate/membership/ 'Date Night Short Films' is presented by Seattle Pride.

You can buy tickets to one or both of these events! Each event has a separate ticket page.



From Three Dollar Bill Cinema's '2017 TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival' and 'Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival,' 'Date Night Short Films' presents this collection of highly-rated date-night-themed short films:

CALL YOUR FATHER (Jordan Firstman; 2016; USA; 20 min.)
Josh and Greg's first date quickly spirals out of control, and they realize the generational divide between them is the least of their worries.

BROWN GIRLS: EPISODE 4 (Sam Bailey; 2017; USA; 13 min.)
An intimate story of the friendship between two women of color: while Leila and Patricia come from completely different backgrounds, their friendship is ultimately what they lean on to get through the messiness of their mid-twenties.

THE CURSE (Danny Tayara; 2017; USA; 3 min.)
Jesse's got a date, but it's leak week...and they can't seem to catch a break. Starring Karl Cassel of Seattle band Creature Hole.

MORE THAN GOD (Kev Cahill; 2015; 9 min.)
A pious doctor tries to uncover his wife's affair and is confronted by his religion, the boundaries of his love for his daughter, and his obligation to resuscitate her lover's husband.

IN A HEARTBEAT (Beth David & Esteban Bravo; 2017; USA; 5 min.)
It's hard to keep a crush contained, especially when your heart flies out of your chest to chase your true love!

THE ESCAPE HATCH (David Willing; 2017; Australia; 9 min.)
Wonder Woman walks into a bar on a Saturday night, trying to save a friend from bad dates!

ENCUENTRO (Florencia Manovil; 2016; USA; 17 min.)
A night of drinking with her friends turns eye-opening when young Claudia encounters the captivating foreigner Isabel, who challenges her perceptions of Latinos- and her understanding of herself.

QTPOC Crush (Jaq Nguyen Victor; 2017; USA; 5 min.)
A crush confession and first date proposal from one queer trans person of color to another highlight the public expression of interracial love and longing.

CURMUDGEONS (Danny DeVito; 2016; USA; 17 min.)
Senior citizens Ralph and Jackie (Danny DeVito) balance their relationship with a mixed foundation of potty-mouth deadpan humor and endearing sweetness. There has never been an assisted living facility so lucky.

About TDBC
Three Dollar Bill Cinema strengthens, connects, and reflects diverse communities through queer film and media. They provide access to films by, for, and about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and their families, and a forum for LGBTQ filmmakers to share and discuss their work with audiences. They curate themed screenings throughout the year and produce programs in partnership with other arts, cultural, and service delivery organizations in the Greater Seattle area.

More information at www.threedollarbillcinema.org

Please check out our Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/298263490683931/

Courtesy of Three Dollar Bill Cinema






Announcing #HAM4HAM lottery for Hamilton tickets in Seattle 40 tickets for every performance (except three) @ $10 each
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February 2018 theater openings
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Grammys 2018: Jennifer Higdon and Benj Pasek lead LGBT artist wins; Elton and Miley, Lady GaGa and Kesha give memorable performances in overall lackluster telecast
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Country-folk duo First Aid Kit shines at the Moore with bravura performance
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Howard Jones opts for stories over music in Benaroya Hall show
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Do we really want to go Camping with Henry and Tom?
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Kitten LaRue reflects on 10 years of 'J'ADORE!'
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Seattle Humane - Pets of the Week
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Help create a social and support network for LGBT veterans
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Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band squeeze lots of songs and fans into The Neptune performance
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Glitzy Freak puts on a heck of a show
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Energetically convoluted Death Cure brings the Maze Runner saga to a close
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Three Dollar Bill Wednesday series kicks off February 7 with 'Queer Fast Flirting' and 'Date Night Short Films'
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