Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray, 2015)

press soc

While they sold tons of records and the content of their songs grabbed a lot of headlines, there was never enough appreciation for the look of N.W.A. Their late-’80s ensemble of black sweatshirts and Los Angeles sportsgear doesn’t get as much traction as Beatle boots but it is just as iconic. Certainly the group worked because it was comprised of astonishingly talented individuals, but they also looked the part. F. Gary Gray’s new film, which tackles the meteoric rise and enduring impact of N.W.A., also looks the part. That goes a long way in selling this story. Not all the way, but pretty close.

Continue reading Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray, 2015)”

A Better Tomorrow II (John Woo, 1987)


The following is an adaptation of a review of A Better Tomorrow II I wrote for my website a couple of years ago.

A Better Tomorrow was a massive hit for the Cinema City studio, director John Woo and the film’s producer and co-writer, Tsui Hark. As such, a sequel was inevitable. But almost immediately problems began. Chow Yun-fat’s character had died at the end of the first film, but a sequel without the man who’d become the biggest star in Hong Kong was unthinkable. So, of course, they decided his character Mark had a twin brother that nobody bothered to mention in the first film. The film is most horribly marred though by a new character, a former Triad gone straight named Lung and played by Dean Shek (a comedian and one of the founders of Cinema City). After Lung is betrayed by one of his underlings, Shek goes crazy and ends up in an insane asylum, where he is found by Mark’s twin brother Ken who nurses him back to health in tedious and endless scenes where Shek refuses to eat. Shek’s performance in these scenes is abysmally broad, so much so that it out-balances his later scenes, when he’s returned to his apparently bad motherfucker real self. The film’s most bizarre food-related scene, though, is a notorious one in which Ken, a restauranteur in New York, is shaken down by some mafia hoods and harangues them in badly-dubbed English, with Chow giving his loudest DeNiro impression while the dubber channels Pacino (note that since I wrote this in 2013, I’ve read that this scene is entirely performed by Chow and not an anonymous voice actor, but I don’t know that I believe it). (The best part of the scene is at the end, where a cop shows up, sees Ken trying to force the mafia guys to eat some rice at gunpoint and tells the hoods, “You’d better eat it!”)

Continue reading A Better Tomorrow II (John Woo, 1987)”

Friday August 7 – Thursday August 13

Featured Film:

The Look of Silence at the Northwest Film Forum

Joshua Oppenheimer follows his acclaimed 2012 documentary The Act of Killing with this companion piece, another look at the massacres of alleged communists at the hand of the military dictatorship of Indonesia in the mid-1960s. One man, the younger brother of one of the victims, patiently confronts many of the men who murdered his brother, as we see their reactions: evasions, threats, boasts and more. We discussed the movie this week on The George Sanders Show, along with The Sound of Music, which also plays this week at the Central Cinema. Our Podcast
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Playing This Week:

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Friday (F. Gary Gray, 1995) Friday Only
Boyz n the Hood (John Singleton, 1991) Saturday Only
Training Day (Antoine Fuqua, 2004) Saturday Only
House Party (Reginald Hudlin, 1990) Sunday Only
CB4 (Tamra Davis, 1993) Sunday Only
Juice (Ernest Dickerson, 1992) Monday Only
Menace II Society (The Hughes Brothers, 1993) Tuesday Only
8 Mile (Curtis Hanson, 2002) Wednesday Only
Tales from the Hood (Rusty Cundieff, 1995) Thursday Only

Central Cinema:

Stand By Me (Rob Reiner, 1986) Fri-Mon
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) Fri-Tues
Speciesism: The Movie (Mark Devries, 2013) Tues Only
The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965) Thurs Only Our Podcast

Crest Cinema Center:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Egyptian:

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (Brett Morgan) Fri & Sat Midnight Only

Century Federal Way:

Assassination (Choi Donghoon) Fri-Thurs
Angrej (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs
Coming to America (John Landis, 1988) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Stanford Prison Experiment (Kyle Patrick Alvarez) Fri-Thurs
Irrational Man (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Felix Herngren, 2013) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Wanted 18 (Amer Shomali & Paul Cowan) Fri-Thurs
8th Annual Druid Underground Film Fest Mon Only
New Rijkmuseum (Oeke Hoogendijk) Tues-Thurs

Landmark Guild 45th:

Irrational Man (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Bangistan (Karan Anshuman) Fri-Thurs
Coming to America (John Landis, 1988) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Irrational Man (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer) Fri-Thurs Our Podcast
You’re Lookin’ at Country: Invitation to Infidelity Fri Only
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Remixed (Robert Wiene, 1919) Sat Only Live Soundtrack
Classy Credits: An Evening with Jennifer Roth Mon Only
Seattle Send-off for Calvin Reeder Weds Only Shorts and Q & A

AMC Pacific Place:

To the Fore (Dante Lam) Fri-Thurs
Jian Bing Man (Dong Chengpeng) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Bajrangi Bhaijaan (Kabir Khan) Fri-Tues Our Review 
Angrej (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs

Scarecrow Video Screening Lounge:

A Better Tomorrow II (John Woo, 1987) Fri Only Our Review
The Jerk (Carl Reiner, 1979) Sat Only
Party Girl (Nicholas Ray, 1958) Sun Only
Hooper (Hal Needham, 1978) Mon Only
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959) Tues Only
Suburbia (Penelope Spheeris, 1967) Weds Only
Seventeen (Joel DeMott & Jeff Kreines, 1983) Thurs Only

Seattle Art Museum:

Hail the Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges, 1944) Thurs Only 35mm Our Podcast

Landmark Seven Gables:

Samba (Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano) Fri-Thurs

Sundance Cinemas Seattle:

Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach) Fri-Thurs
The Stanford Prison Experiment (Kyle Patrick Alvarez) Fri-Thurs
2015 Sundance Award-Winning Shorts Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Tangerine (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (Brett Morgan) Fri- Thurs
Dark Places (Gilles Paquet-Brenner) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962Tues Only
Dark Places (Gilles Paquet-Brenner) Fri-Thurs

Ricki and the Flash (Jonathan Demme, 2015)


Meryl Streep’s joie de vivre is undeniable. She throws herself into the roles she chooses with thoroughness and vigor, and even in her more serious roles, she seems to perform with a kind of joy that’s always flowing just under the surface. One feels she truly loves her craft, and no matter the role, she’s in it, with all her heart. And she’s good, of course. The best, maybe. Everybody knows that. She can play it camp, she can play it serious, she can play it comic. She’s a master of voices and tones, on screen and off screen, big roles and small (my children and I love her superb narration of the Kevin Henkes’s picture book, Chrysanthemum). And she sings, too, with that same mastery and joy we see in her acting. Her early training, as she told Terry Gross on Fresh Air in 2012, included opera, and she’s proved her vocal quality and her skill in musical performance in films like Postcards from the Edge, A Prairie Home CompanionMamma Mia!, and Into the Woods. Never mind her acting, I’d go to a concert just to hear Meryl Streep sing.

And that’s a lot of what we get in Jonathan Demme’s latest film, Ricki and the Flash: a Meryl Streep concert film, featuring full length, live performance songs, where Streep not only sings but plays guitar, and she performs with professional musicians: Rick Springfield, Rick Rosas, Joe Vitale, and Bernie Worrell.  Extraordinarily, she seems like one of them. It’s unfortunate perhaps, then, that the film isn’t fully a concert film, that it’s not a kind of fictional version of the documentary concert films Demme made early in his career – Stop Making Sense (1984) – and has made within the past decade or so: Enzo Avitabile: Music Life (2012); Kenny Chesney: Unstaged (2012)and a trio of Neil Young films, Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006), Trunk Show (2009), Neil Young Journeys (2012). It’d be an odd concert film, to be sure – an actress playing and singing cover songs with professional musicians in front of a fictional audience comprised of a collection of extras – but that sort of film is possible; it’s very close, for example, to what Robert Altman did so delightfully with Streep, a part of an ensemble cast, in A Prairie Home Companion. Demme, surely, could do something in the same vein, particularly if he had the caliber of musical performers he has in Ricki. I’d like to see it. Continue reading Ricki and the Flash (Jonathan Demme, 2015)”

The Heroic Trio (Johnnie To, 1993)


Before becoming an renowned auteur, a favorite of critics and film festivals the world over, Johnnie To was known primarily in the West for the two films he made in 1993 in collaboration with director and action choreographer Ching Siu-tung. The Heroic Trio and Executioners star Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Anita Mui as superheroes in a pre- and then post-apocalyptic Hong Kong, a wuxia Charlie’s Angels. Though he’d had a run of local hits, including back-to-back highest-grossing films of the years 1988 and 1989 (the ensemble farce The Eighth Happiness and the melodrama All About Ah-Long, respectively), none of his films managed to find much interest outside of Hong Kong, and his reputation, locally as well as abroad, was one of a competent professional filmmaker, subservient to the authorial personalities of his stars (Chow Yun-fat, Stephen Chow and Andy Lau) and producers (the gang at the Cinema City studio, where he worked alongside more accomplished peers such as Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam). But the prospect of beautiful women in sexy costumes flying around, doing weird shit and beating the hell out of people was enough to get the Heroic Trio films a home video release in the US, where more than 20 years later they remain among the most available of all of To’s films, standard content for streaming services. It was the first Johnnie To film I ever saw, I rented the old English-dubbed VHS from Scarecrow Video a long time ago. It plays tomorrow night in a definitely-better (hopefully subtitled) version in Scarecrow’s Screening Lounge.

Continue reading The Heroic Trio (Johnnie To, 1993)”