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Local film suggestions to brighten the holidays
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Local film suggestions to brighten the holidays

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

A new year is upon us and that can only mean one thing to movie fans: We're sick and tired of overblown Oscar bait, sentimental Christmas schlock, and sumptuous costume dramas. That statement may be a bit hyperbolic, as the truth is we never get sick and tired of overblown Oscar bait, sentimental Christmas schlock, and sumptuous costume dramas, do we? But we might like something a little different to shake us out of our cloudy short-day Seattle winter torpor. Here are a couple of suggestions from the local movie scene.

Army of Darkness
Midnight Movie at the Egyptian Theatre
January 1-2 at midnight

I can appreciate a wide range of movies. Sure, I like the stuff that makes me think and challenges my worldview, but I also like a good, old-fashioned sophomoric rib-tickler, and that's exactly what Sam Raimi's 1992 installment of the Evil Dead trilogy is.

Army of Darkness was made for 14-year-old boys, and sometimes I like to channel the 14-year-old boy inside me. I'm fairly certain everybody has a 14-year-old boy buried deep within their psyche. If you haven't let yours out in a while, you should definitely see Army of Darkness and try to set said 14-year-old boy free. I find it quite refreshing to let mine out every now and then.

Our hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) is fresh out of the second film's narrative (as recapped in the opening sequence) and finds himself immediately pulled into a vortex that lands him, his shotgun, his chainsaw, and his '73 Oldsmobile somewhere in England circa 1300 A.D. Never mind the contrived plot devices; once our hero drops into the 14th century, the fun begins.

The one-liner groaners are over the top, but so is everything else so they seem right at home. I'm not even a diehard AoD cult member, and I found myself saying the best lines out loud as I watched. Who can resist lines like, "All right, you primitive screw-heads, listen up! You see this? This ... is my boom-stick!" and, "I've got news for you, pal. You ain't leadin' but two things right now: Jack and shit ... and Jack left town."

The best sequence involves the Jonathan Swift rip-off in which little Ash dudes pop out of a broken mirror and wreak havoc before subduing Big Ash. The special effects are fun, the comedy is classic, Campbell is a brilliant physical comedian, and this scene alone is worth the price of admission.

The Vanished Empire
Northwest Film Forum
January 2-7, 7 and 9:15 p.m.

If you're looking for something a bit more intellectually challenging, try this Russian-made gem. It's a serious cultural examination masquerading as a standard coming-of-age story.

Take one 18-year-old guy who loves girls, jeans, beer, and rock 'n' roll music, add a couple of buddies, a bleak home-front in flux, a potent blend of teenage angst/ennui, and the requisite beautiful girl, and what do you get? You get a tried-and-true all-American coming-of-age story, right? Right, unless, like The Vanished Empire, the film happens to be set in the Soviet Union circa 1973.

Sergei (Aledsandr Lyapin) is the 18-year-old scion of Russian intellectuals who does little more than show up for school. His real passion is running the drab streets of Moscow with his buddies Stepan (Yegor Baranovsky) and Kostya (Ivan Kupreyenko), looking for black-market rock albums and careening around in a Czech-made Tatra automobile.

Writer/director Karen Shakhnazarov takes an affectionate look back at the historical curve of the Soviet post-war ideological wasteland and its impending spasms of cultural rebirth instigated by the ubiquitous black-market consumerism of '70s-era Soviet youth. He gets this all done under the guise of a simple teenage sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll flick. It seems the mighty Soviet propaganda machine could fend off everything except the Rolling Stones.

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