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Movies

August 3, 2017

I went to see Atomic Blonde twice — in part because, halfway through the first viewing, I realized I wasn’t paying attention to the plot. Not just that: I didn’t really care about the plot. The movie is set in Berlin in November 1989 against the fall of the Berlin Wall. But it’s not telling that story. That story hovers in the background, in a shot of Kurt Loder’s was-he-ever-that-young face on MTV news, in the kids drinking outside doorways, dogs barking at checkpoints. That story of something bigger at stake is present, but not central.

July 27, 2017

A masterpiece can be a hard thing to overcome, especially when it occurs early in an artist’s career.

For my money, director Christopher Nolan’s second film, Memento (2000), is as nearly perfect as any movie released over the past, say, 40 years — a stunning existential thriller that begins exactly where it should end and then runs seamlessly backward from there, until it reaches, like a tail-eating snake, its own insidious genesis, in a moment that feels for all the world like the big bang of original sin itself.

July 20, 2017

Where to begin with The Little Hours, a new comedy written and directed by Jeff Baena and based on Boccaccio’s 1353 masterpiece The Decameron?

July 13, 2017

It’s oddly easy to forget how important Spider-Man is to the current superhero movie bonanza. 2002’s Spider-Man was the first movie with a $100-million opening weekend — a green light for the continuing superhero invasion. There’s a reason Spider-Man is now in his third incarnation: People really like their friendly neighborhood superhero.

July 6, 2017

You know the voice: a burbling purple baritone hung like a bass note plucked by the hand of God, a testosterone lullaby, a heavenly man-purr, canyon-deep in its middle passages and twisted at the bookends by a lispy twang that lops off syllables like a hot knife separating warm dough, altogether an emblem of life, liberty and pastoral beauty, like an echo resounding from the unconquered American West, at once primordial and ruggedly civilized.

June 29, 2017

Are there still interesting stories to be mined from the notion that we all do — or would do — shitty things to survive? Umpteen seasons of The Walking Dead harp on this note; dystopia as a trend is very much interested in what survival is, what it looks like, what it takes. “Survival is insufficient” reads the Star Trek-inspired tattoo in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

There must be more than just surviving.

June 22, 2017

If you found yourself at dinner with Donald Trump, what would you do? Grit your teeth and get through it, not wanting to upset or inconvenience your hosts? Drink until liquid courage prodded you to say something? Fantasize about taking the future of the world into your hands?

When faced with wealthy developer Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), Beatriz (Salma Hayek) does a little of each of the above, but mostly, she considers. A holistic healer, she’s stuck at the blandly giant home of one of her clients, Cathy (Connie Britton), when her old VW breaks down.

June 15, 2017

Too much has already been said about It Comes at Night, a completely insidious and utterly unsettling new horror film that continues to worm its way under my skin, days after viewing it.

So, instead of talking about It Comes at Night, and thereby disarming its power to shock and disturb you, I’d like to speak for a moment about horror films in general, and what they tell us about ourselves.

June 8, 2017

Why do superheroes do what they do? It’s a question often answered with a glib oversimplification: It’s the right thing. When you’ve developed a super-suit to save your own ass, it’s the proper thing to use it to stop bad guys. Whether a freak accident gifts you with super-speed, or a spider bites you — same deal. 

June 1, 2017

Alongside baseball, the sport of boxing has provided a seemingly inexhaustible supply of stories for movies to tell. Brutal, lonely and intimately attuned to the American experience of aggressive individualism, boxing exposes the loutish violence that is the secret endgame of all conflict. It just reverses the order.

May 25, 2017

Ponderous, pornographic and unforgivably dull, Alien: Covenant proves once and for all that Ridley Scott is the single biggest hack in contemporary Hollywood — a director of such ignominious bad faith that, faced with the morally bankrupt option of playing pimp or whore to his own reputation, he simply chooses both.

May 18, 2017

Whether aging is kind to an actor seems to be largely a matter of choice, and by extension, integrity. Often, great actors getting on in years seem to opt for a kind of working retirement, leaning back like a senescent actor emeritus on the coattails of previous grand achievements.

Robert De Niro comes to mind, a once-stunning actor who appears, bafflingly, to content himself now with reprising his early genius to the point of caricature and low comedy.

May 11, 2017

Some movies make me talk, others shut me up good. After watching Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, for example, I couldn’t talk for two hours. Total silence. Couldn’t find a word.

On the other hand, director Lone Scherfig’s new movie, Their Finest, made me giddy. Walking out of the Bijou, full of fellow feeling, I impulsively chatted up the older couple on the sidewalk in front of me. “They just don’t make movies like that anymore,” I said at one point. The woman turned to me with a smile. “I know,” she said. “But they just did.”

May 4, 2017

Within the first few minutes of The Circle, a tiresome cinematic exercise in false dichotomies, Mae (Emma Watson) tells a friend that she’ll send him a text. If you think back very carefully, you may remember a time before text was a verb, but that time is not now, let alone the super-networked near-future of The Circle.

April 27, 2017

A carousing alcoholic with a tendency toward blackout, Gloria (the excellent Anne Hathaway) saunters home at sunrise one morning to find that her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), has packed her bags. Game over: It’s time for this girl — and her lies, lame excuses and generally bad behavior — to go. Goodbye New York, farewell failed writing career and hello Midwest hometown, where Gloria, tail between her legs, shacks up in a vacant rental owned by her conspicuously absent parents.

April 20, 2017

There are several spoilable things in The Fate of the Furious, and most of them have to do with family — “family” being the eight-film series’ touchstone, its go-to word when Vin Diesel needs to intone something meaningfully.

But it is no spoiler to tell you that Diesel’s Dom Toretto wins the first race he’s in, because Dom always wins, eventually. He may barely scrape by, or fling himself into something ass-first, or piece together an absurd plan with the help of his family, but he’ll get there.

April 13, 2017

Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, released in 1996, felt instantly mythic. A grubby, inspired adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel that stars a vibrant, nearly vibrating Ewan McGregor, the film felt new and breathless and terrifying, a movie about fuckup junkies that didn’t shy away from euphoric highs or moments of extreme bleakness.

April 6, 2017

The premise is just so damn tasty: A teenaged vegan, Justine (Garance Marillier), enters the veterinary school where her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), is already an upperclassman. The college, a stark, bizarre combination of penitentiary and permanent rave, sports a series of strange hazing rituals, including newbies like Justine getting doused with blood, Carrie style, and being forced to choke down uncooked rabbit kidneys like communion wafers.

March 30, 2017

I live with two cats, and I haven’t looked at either of them in quite the same way since seeing Kedi, a lovely new documentary about the entrenched population of street cats roaming the ancient city of Istanbul.

March 23, 2017

There shouldn’t be anything more enjoyable than watching David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike making their way through a biopic deftly directed by Amma Asante (Belle). Oyelowo has played compelling leaders before, with his should-have-been-Oscar-nominated performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma; Pike’s last role was an unexpected breakout, after a decade of work, as the scheming Amy Dunne in Gone Girl.

March 16, 2017

I am so utterly sick to death of human beings and their selfish, greedy, murderous ways that — when the latest incarnation of everyone’s favorite big ape finally shows up in Kong: Skull Island, swatting Vietnam-era whirlybirds out of the sky and otherwise tearing the invading army to shreds — I was rooting tooth-and-nail for Kong to finish the job and put a merciful stop to the next 90 minutes of misanthropic torment.

March 9, 2017

If you’ve seen either of the previous Wolverine movies, you may harbor some entirely understandable skepticism about why the grumpy mutant needs a third solo outing. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine is mostly infamous for being the movie that sewed Deadpool’s mouth shut. 2013’s The Wolverine was better, but still a far cry from great. 

March 9, 2017

As is now somewhat of a tradition, this year’s annual HUMP! homemade porn festival — conceived and carried out by “Seattle’s only newspaper” The Stranger — descends on our fair city this weekend.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been. Up until this screener, I’d never seen what this festival had to offer and, admittedly, I had my own preconceived notions. 

March 1, 2017

Get Out’s opening scene appears, at first, disconnected from the main story — a moment that simply sets the stage. As a young black man lost on suburban streets jokes on his phone, a car pulls up alongside him. Just that is already creepy; it should remind you of countless images of horror — from the movies, and from real life.