Sunday, Aug 18, 2019
 
search SGN
SERVING SEATTLE AND THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST FOR 40 YEARS!

click to visit advertiser's website


Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by dhtml-menu-builder.com

Last Weeks Edition
   
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website




 

 
 

 

 

[Valid RSS]

click to go to advertisers website
to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 4 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 14
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
  next story
Ambitious Noah an imaginative biblical epic
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

It is doubtful there will be a more ambitious film than Darren Aronofsky's Noah released this year. A Biblical epic unlike anything I've seen before, the movie is an eye-popping take on faith and family that's as much a treatise on theological dogma as it is a disaster epic depicting a calamity on the most massive of imaginable scales. It treats ancient pieces of text with modern sensibilities, everything mixed together in a stew of human desperation, regret, sacrifice and forgiveness that's as filling as it is tasty.

This is still the story we all know. A man named Noah (Russell Crowe) is given a vision by God (here dubbed 'The Creator') of the world's end, a great flood being sent to wipe away all of humanity's sins so that the Earth can be given a fresh chance to start anew. With his family he travels to meet with his wise ancestor Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) where he learns the task that has been set forth for him to accomplish. He will build a great Ark, a ship of mammoth size and scale, inside of which his kin and two of every animal will reside until the waters subside and land can be felt underfoot once again.

Aronofsky, working with his The Fountain writing partner Ari Handel (a movie this one resembles in no small part), is building compositions and growing ideas on a grand scale, refusing to kowtow to so-called Fundamentalists, instead choosing to craft a story that challenges expectation and assumes the viewer is an intelligent one. He imagines this ancient world as best he can, crafts a story of a father faced with an impossible task and forced to get his family on board with what he is doing even though he knows none of them are likely to survive the ordeal. It is Noah's internal struggle to do as he believes he's been commanded that gives the movie its drive, its central thrust, giving the story a familiar human element all people of all faiths should, I would think, be able to relate to.

Will they? That's an altogether different question. Aronofsky is building the core elements of this story out of the Book of Genesis, but as that's understandably pretty vague about a great many of the particulars, he and Handel are forced to figure out many of the more minute characteristics all on their own. They attempt to show why an angry Creator would be willing to end the lives of his most beloved creations on such a scale. At the same time, they juxtapose the plight of Noah's family, most notably middle son Ham (Logan Lerman) and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson), all of them dealing with the fact that life as they know it has irrevocably changed forever.

Aronofsky refuses to show Noah as a perfect man, instead building him up with the frailties, misgivings, second thoughts and uncertainties that have shaped human understanding right from the start. He looks at this story much in the same way Martin Scorsese took on the life of Jesus with The Last Temptation of Christ, mixing the human and the divine in ways that are natural, eternal and pure, allowing for a more profound examination of faith than otherwise would have been possible.

Then there are the fantastical elements. The gigantic sentient rock creatures known as the Nephilim. Methuselah laying waste to never-ending hordes of barbaric killers with a flaming sword. A shimmery Adam and Eve making their way through the Garden of Eden. Throngs of creatures of all shapes, sizes and species marching towards the Ark in peace. This and more are presented by the filmmaker, Aronofsky laying it all out like some sort of Hayo Miyazaki meets Peter Jackson meets Terrence Mallick meets William Wyler meets Ridley Scott psychedelic fever-dream, the pieces melding together in ways that are a continual surprise.

Those Miyazaki and Mallick comparisons are not made lightly. There are elements on display that reminded me of some of the more beauteous, naturalistic segments of Princess Mononoke, while many of Noah's visions can't help but recall The Tree of Life, especially the birth of the universe sequence at the heart of that one. Yet there is also a handsome religious fervor that brings to mind old school Hollywood epics like The Ten Commandments and The Robe, Aronofsky embracing insights old, new and everywhere in-between as he connects all his dots.

Not all of it works, but considering the scope and the imagination fueling everything, this is hardly a surprise. Some of the performances are extraordinary - Crowe hasn't been this wonderful in ages, Jennifer Connelly reminds us all just how terrific she can be, while Watson shines with an emotional purity that's inspirational. While others are almost too cartoonish and broad to be taken with anything other than a cross-eyed grain of salt - Ray Winstone, in particular, has a damnable time trying to get a handle on his character, while Lerman, so amazing in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, seems to be in a constant struggle trying to find Ham's core, making his decisions feel more rashly obnoxious than they do anything else.

None of which makes Noah any less monumental. Aronofsky has made a movie set in times barely hypothesized, let alone known, and yet somehow has managed to craft a parable about the world as we know it at this very moment. All that's being talked about here, all that is discussed: these are many of the same conversations in constant play this very second. Staple of talk radio and of right wing media sound reasonable in theory, but more often than not are hideous in practice. Many of the words coming out of Winstone's self-proclaimed King Tubal-Cain sound similar to what's spouted by supposedly God-fearing Christians like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck each and every day. Aronofsky fearlessly condemns both their practices and their words with unsubtle ferocity, allowing Crowe's true man of reason, understanding and, yes, faith to preach far reaching truths it would benefit many to take heed of.

The thing so many in this recent spate of faith-based entertainments (films like recent hits Son of God and God's Not Dead) get wrong is that they treat their viewers like dogmatic sheep unable to think for themselves. They belittle their values and their beliefs at the same time they purport to embrace them, afraid to get into a debate involving other points of view and ideologies for reasons that are barely fathomable let alone make a modicum of sense.

Aronofsky shows no such timidity. If anything, his film is a celebration of faith in all its voluminous forms and is far more celebratory of what many refer to as 'Divine Grace' than the majority of features that attempt to make their stock and trade in both. The filmmaker wants to have a discussion, is eager to engage in the debate, and as such the film becomes a far more vital and effective cinematic endeavor in the process.

The filmmaking acumen is unquestionably high, of that let there be no doubt, so my taking time to go into the technical facets, all of which are exemplary, isn't crucial. What is essential is to know that Aronofsky has taken a big time budget and done something risky with it. He challenges us, makes us question ourselves and our beliefs in ways that can be upsetting and uncomfortable, trusting that as viewers we're all smart enough to figure out what it is we hold dearest to our hearts.

More than that, though, he has made a movie that looks at one of the primary staples of religious mythology in a way that is fresh, vital and important, while also celebrating people of faith without an air of persecution or judgment. Whether one believes in this tale as one of gospel or just looks at it as a grandly amazing yarn of sacrifice and salvation, Aronofsky's Noah is a Biblical epic that transcends easy generalizations becoming a significant achievement worthy of multiple viewings.


Insightful Anita a rousing call to action
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

In just 77-minutes, Academy Award-winner Freida Lee Mock (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision) manufactures an absolutely essential piece of documentary cinema with Anita. More than just a two-plus decades later recounting of the events that made Anita Hill a household name, the movie is a magnificently effective call to action for women and minorities of all ages to take charge of who they are and what it is they want to be in their respective lives. It shows how those Senate confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas profoundly changed things, one woman's courage to speak the truth opening minds and doors in ways those at the center of the carnage never could have imagined possible at the time.

This is the first time Hill has spoken in any sort of depth about the hearings, about what they meant to her and the effect they ended up having on her life. She's shockingly raw about it all, not pulling punches yet maintaining a level of introspective grace and elegance that bellies the grilling she received from 14 white men who knew nothing of what it meant to be either African American or a woman. More than that, while her testimony didn't end up doing anything to derail Thomas' ascension to the Supreme Court, it did substantially change the way people think about gender and equality in the workplace, setting precedents still reverberating into today.

It's easy to forget how filled with venom and innuendo those Clarence Thomas hearings were. What Hill was asked, the way she was treated, none of it seemed real. How could Senators allow something like this to take place? Were they truly this clueless? Was their bubble of race and gender so small it never occurred to them the firestorm that would take place when they let Thomas off the hook and treated Hill as if she were standing trial?

In today's world, when Republicans hold hearings about women's reproductive rights and invite a cadre of men, most of them white, to speak on the subject, between the Internet, social media and Cable News, the subsequent maelstrom is virtually instantaneous. When Hill took the witness stand to speak out about what had happened to her, the resulting firestorm was born of grassroots fury, the disbelief that anyone, let alone a smart, driven, Ivy League educated and highly successful African American woman, could have this happen to them all-encompassing.

At the same time, Mock refuses to see things through entirely rose-colored glasses, asking Hill a series of tough questions that speak far more truth to her courage than soft-peddling around the edges ever could have. More, she showcases how this woman's bravery has inspired so many over the past 20 years, her willingness to stand up and speak the truth even though those in power would have rather she remained silent pretty much saying it all. Anita, refreshing in its candor, lives up to the standard set forth by its subject, the documentary as rousing a statement of independence, equality and freedom today as Hill's testimony to Congress was way back in 1991.


Authoritative Winter Soldier fights the good fight
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

CAPTAIN AMERICA:
THE WINTER SOLDIER
Now playing

After the events in New York when The Avengers initially assembled, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), known to the world as Captain America, is starting to wonder if the causes and truths he fought for back in World War II survived into the modern day. On a recent endeavor to rescue hostages being held on a S.H.I.E.L.D spy ship, he discovers that agency director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) had an alternate agenda involving information behind held in the vessel's computer banks. Rogers doesn't like to be left in the dark, and secret side missions are not his cup of tea, and as this seems to be Fury's modus operandi the relationship between the two has unsurprisingly been fragmenting.

Things are going to get worse. After an assassination attempt on Fury's life leaves more questions than answers, with vital information unlocking a massive global conspiracy suddenly at his fingertips, Rogers finds himself being hunted by the very agency he's been serving. To his absolute horror everything links back to Captain America's own WWII origins and to a shadowy organization he thought he personally put an end to when he dispatched the Red Skull seven decades prior. Unsure where to turn, being stalked by a mysterious operative known only as the Winter Soldier, Rogers joins forces with S.H.I.E.L.D. superspy Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Afghanistan war veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to put the pieces together and stop an unimaginable threat before millions of lives are wiped off the face of the planet almost as if they never existed in the first place.

Captain America: The First Avenger is my favorite film in what Marvel calls their 'Marvel Cinematic Universe' or MCU. It was a fresh, vibrant, electrically alive superhero adventure, the movie awash in wide-eyed glee as to what being a hero could mean to someone born to the life, but trapped in a physique not quite able to rise to the occasion. It was a lush, exuberantly energetic and blissfully free-spirited origin story that embraced all aspects of the character and everything he stood for, and as such it was a film that happily wore its heart on its sleeve with few, if any, questions asked.

Its sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is almost as good, if at the same time polar opposite in tone, theme and style than that of its predecessor. Returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have taken the beloved character and dropped him into a moral quagmire, eschewing the late 1940s tone of unabashed patriotically inclined Americana for a nervy and inspired turn into 1970s conspiracy imbroglio. Black and white are gone for Rogers and his gang, all that's left messy shades of grey, forcing him to question everything he believes in and stands for in ways that feel immediate, vital and intimately of the current zeitgeist.

At the same time, the film is handicapped by its need to keep setting up elements of the MCU, putting more of the building blocks into place in order for next summer's Captain America: Avengers: Age of Ultron to come to pass. It is hamstrung in ways that could allow it to be a completely satisfying self-contained effort, the movie padded with extra moments and information that aren't entirely necessary as far as the mechanics of its own melodrama are concerned.

Then there is the action itself. As extraordinary as much of it is, and it is arguably the best of any of these MCU efforts as of yet, including The Avengers, it is apparent directors Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree) felt compelled to throw in as much as they possibly could in order to keep comic book audiences satisfied. It's like they and their screenwriters worried the core audience wouldn't be able to pay attention to a 3 Days of the Condor meets The Parallax View meets All the President's Men adventure without additional wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am pyrotechnics, and as such they've filled the running time up with as much of the stuff as possible.

Problem is, after a furiously frenetic chase through the street of Washington D.C., a near-death escape from an old WWII-era bunker, a second car chase and two or three additional sequences I'm failing to recollect clearly, by the time we get to the climactic assault on a trio of massive, all-powerful airships synched together to annihilate millions around the world, my interest in seeing it all come to an end was noticeably starting to wane. It all starts to feel like overkill at a certain point, and no matter how expertly staged all of it is, had even one sequence been left on the cutting room floor I seriously doubt anyone would have noticed.

Be that as it may, The Winter Soldier is a grand entertainment that treats both its characters and its audience with respect, assuming viewers will be able to follow the convoluted machinations of the villains no matter how complexly meandering things might become. Even when additional characters like Robert Redford's shadowy Alexander Pierce get thrown into the mix, even when the identity of the Winter Soldier and his ties to Rogers are revealed, the Russos and their screenwriters maintain focus on the narrative's core elements rarely allowing themselves to get distracted by surplus bells and whistles (setting up future aspects of the MCU notwithstanding).

The other plus remains the cast itself. Evans is still terrific as the title character, and watching him discover just how deep the rot inside S.H.I.E.L.D's rabbit hole descends has real meaning, real power behind it, this man who believed in right and wrong with nothing in-between learning nothing is as cut and dried as he imagined it to be. Redford is a wonderful addition, and while it isn't terribly difficult to figure out what side of the field he's playing on (he's basically channeling his inner Cliff Robertson) that doesn't make him any less perfect. Mackie is also excellent, his wounded warrior looking for a reason to believe in his country again a well-rounded hero who feels more connected to what is going on in the world today than any other character.

If it had been 20 minutes shorter, had the filmmakers not been so encumbered by the need to maintain fidelity to the MCU, I think it is safe to say Captain America: The Winter Soldier would be the best Marvel movie thus far. The film is a wonderful adventure tale of spies, counterspies, double-crosses and heroics galore. It's a fun flick cemented in the grounded, non-supernatural esthetics of the modern world, and as such is a relatable, character-driven action epic that stands alone from its more fantastical counterparts with magnetic authority.


Nothing Cheap about these bleakly satirical thrills
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writers

CHEAP THRILLS
Now playing

Cheap Thrills is the best movie you are likely going to be too scared to see. An eviscerating satirical assault on financial disparity and the smug, narcissistic tendencies of a seemingly uncaring elite coupled with the anything-goes neediness of a working class oftentimes willing to do anything for a buck, the movie is a fearless descent into mayhem, madness and greed that's as shocking as it is perceptive. It is as smartly constructed a black comedy as anything I've seen in ages, and without question is one of the best films likely to see a release in all of 2014.

How can I say that with such conviction? Mainly because, quite frankly, had Cheap Thrills come out last year it would have easily been one of my top ten of 2013. My Seattle International Film Festival experience watching director E.L. Katz's dark, uncompromising bit of socially prescient nastiness was as magnificently unforgettable as anything I had the pleasure to see at any point throughout the year. It punched me in the face and kicked me in the gut doing so with hysterical relish while also making me feel grateful for the experience. Make no mistake, while not for the faint of heart, this movie has more on its mind than reveling in its ample surplus of shock and awe, the story itself filled with keen insights and powerful observations all of which hit remarkably close to home.

Craig (Pat Healy) thinks his day couldn't be going any worse. He's lost his job. There's an eviction notice sitting on the door to his apartment. He hasn't told his wife about any of this. He's going to have a drink or two at a local dive, build up some courage and then break the news as best he can, his feelings of inadequacy as both a husband and a father of newly born little girl beyond measure.

Things get interesting when Craig runs into an old high school pal, committed malcontent Vince (Ethan Embry). They get even more so after the pair get a handful of drinks in them and make the acquaintance of wealthy partier Colin (David Koechner) and his seriously beautiful, if oddly quiet, wife Violet (Sara Paxton). They're celebrating his birthday, reveling in a bizarre form of debauchery that some might find distasteful but Craig and Vince are oddly drawn to.

They shouldn't have been. What happens next defies easy description even though providing a synopsis is simple. It basically revolves around a gradually escalating game of Truth or Dare, both Craig and Vince coaxed by the smooth-talking Colin into attempting a series of tasks for varying amounts of money. But as things progress the game gets more debased and dangerous, the pair's morals put to the test as everything spirals out of control.

As straightforward as all of this sounds in reality what Katz and writers David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga unleash is anything but. They put modern society on trial, income inequality at the center of the equation as Craig begins to realize just how far he'll go (or descend) to make sure his wife and child are secure. More than that, it presents the one-percenters not so much for being at fault for current economic troubles but as instigators allowing those looking to ascend to their level to gnaw off their own arms in the attempt. It's 'haves' versus 'have-nots' taken to extremes, no one involved blinking or stepping back even though the revulsion level ends up spiraling to shattering heights.

Koechner, an acquired talent in the best of instances, his performances running the gamut between inspired (the two Anchorman films), to oddly amusing (A Good Old Fashioned Orgy), to downright unbearable (Piranha 3DD), is very much in his element, toying with Healy and Embry like a wild hyena circling its prey. He's evil but at the same time does nothing but insinuate, never actually forcing anyone to do anything, just planting the seeds that will lead them to cultivate and grow their own doom. He's a wisecracking devil stealing pieces of a person's soul with every flash of a hundred dollar bill, Koechner a menace whose uncouth demeanor hides a poisonous ability to seduce.

Former '90s teen idol Embry is also something of a minor revelation. The gawky, somewhat effeminate star of Can't Hardly Wait and White Squall has given way to a burly, lumbering hulk of a man, the actor carrying his way through the film with a macho demeanor oozing in stereotypical hard-driving masculinity. At the same time, Embry manages to hint at depths the script itself can only talk about in the briefest of brushstrokes, revealing levels of internal damage and deep-rooted insecurities that are touchingly authentic.

Then there is Healy. Make no mistake, this is his movie, start to finish, first frame to last, and he takes the reins and runs with them as if tomorrow will never, ever materialize. His performance is demoralizing in its depth, in its maturity, The Innkeepers and Compliance star boldly doing all that is required of him, but remembering to make sure Craig remains relatable and genuine come what may. His performance is a masterwork of complex interlocking emotional nuances, all of it building to a final scene of blood-soaked fatherly love that is as abhorrent as it is tender.

I've refrained from talking about what goes on inside the majority of Cheap Thrills and that's for good reason. What happens is extreme, is brutal, and as the film progresses becomes increasingly difficult to watch. But the genius of what Katz achieves is that one cannot look away. No matter how hard I wanted to turn my head, even though I desperately longed to shut my eyes, the simple truth is that the director speaks from the heart at every turn, even the more disgusting elements having a fascinating, magnetic allure impossible to turn away from.

At the same time, if I was to describe what transpires, it's likely most viewers wouldn't want to read any more of this review, let alone ponder giving the film itself a chance. Things do get bad, unbelievably so, each subsequent dare a test of will and of stomach that puts the viewer on the spot every bit as much as the two characters themselves are. The knots get twisted tighter and tighter, the noose around the neck becoming absolutely suffocating by the climax.

Katz wrote a low budget gross-out horror film called Autopsy back in 2008, that had an idiosyncratic wit, but in all actuality wasn't all that much more than the sum of its rather overly familiar parts. As a director, however, the man pulls out all the stops, never flinching for a moment, even when things dare to venture into the unthinkable. He never forgets to keep the characters front and center, all that's happening in service of their evolution, most notably Craig's, allowing the final images to achieve a hauntingly horrific beauty they'd never have risen to otherwise. Cheap Thrills isn't an easy sit, and it certainly won't be for everyone, but for those brave enough to step up and accept the challenge the experience is a bleakly satirical barnburner unlikely to ever be forgotten.




Teen queen: Lorde reigns supreme at WaMu Theater
------------------------------
Dina Martina opening night
------------------------------
An interview with emerging soul diva V. Contreras
------------------------------
Kings of Leon from Nashville deliver 26 songs at Key Arena
------------------------------
Seattle DJ Almond Brown remembers DJ Frankie Knuckles
------------------------------
Kitty Kitty Bang Bang will headline at the Seattle BunnyCon 2014 Media & Press Event at Hard Rock Cafe
------------------------------
Run! See Gidion's Knot untangled at SPT!
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------
Northwest News
------------------------------
LETTERS
------------------------------
Fleetwood Mac, New Order announce local show dates
------------------------------
Ambitious Noah an imaginative biblical epic
------------------------------
Insightful Anita a rousing call to action
------------------------------
Authoritative Winter Soldier fights the good fight
------------------------------
Nothing Cheap about these bleakly satirical thrills
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

click to visit advertiser's website

click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
Seattle Gay Blog post your own information on
the Seattle Gay Blog
 

gay news feeds gay news readers gay rss gay
http://sgn.org/rss.xml | what is RSS? | Add to Google use Google to set up your RSS feed
SGN Calendar For Mobile Phones http://sgn.org/rssCalendarMobile.xml
SGN Calendar http://sgn.org/rssCalendar.xml

Seattle Gay News - SGN
1605 12 Ave., Ste. 31
Seattle, WA 98122

Phone 206-324-4297
Fax 206-322-7188

email: sgn2@sgn.org
website suggestions: web@sgn.org

copyright Seattle Gay News - DigitalTeamWorks 2013

USA Gay News American News American Gay News USA American Gay News United States American Lesbian News USA American Lesbian News United States USA News
Pacific Northwest News in Seattle News in Washington State News