Friday July 29 – Thursday August 5

Featured Film:

Black Girl at the Grand Illusion

With the darkest days of summer upon us and seemingly every art house theatre in Seattle playing some combination of Captain Fantastic, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Train to Busan or Café Society, the venerable Grand Illusion stands out with its presentation of Ousmane Sembène’s classic of African cinema, the 1966 film Black Girl. Playing in a new restoration to commemorate its 50th Anniversary, and paired with his 1963 debut film Borom SarretBlack Girl is about a young Senegalese woman who works as a domestic servant in France.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho) Fri-Thurs
Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
Café Society (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Weds Only

Central Cinema:

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Stephen Spielberg, 1989) Fri-Mon
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton, 1985) Fri-Tues
Black Dynamite (Scott Sanders, 2009) Tues Only

Century Federal Way:

Bambukat (Pankaj Batra) Fri-Thurs
Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho) Fri-Thurs
Imagine You and Me (Mike Tuviera) Fri-Thurs
Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
The Innocents (Anne Fontaine) Fri-Thurs
Lucha Mexico (Alex Hammond & Ian Markiewicz) Fri & Sat Only
Margarita with a Straw (Shonali Bose & Nilesh Maniyar) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Black Girl (Osemane Sembène, 1966) Fri-Thurs
Kamillions (Mikel B. Anderson, 1990) Fri Only VHS
Cinememory: Negotiating the Past Through Film Tues Only Video

Landmark Guild 45th:

Gleason (J. Clay Tweel) Fri-Thurs
Café Society (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
Café Society (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs
Dishoom (Rohit Dhawan) Fri-Thurs
Gleason (J. Clay Tweel) Fri-Thurs
Kabali (Pa. Ranjith) Fri-Thurs In Tamil with subtitles & Telugu without subtitles, check showtimes
Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Pelli Chupulu (Tharun Bhascker) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

LIGHTHOUSE: An Evening With Paul Clipson Fri Only Live Performance, 16mm
Dig! (Ondi Timoner, 2004) Fri-Sun Only 35mm
Chicagoland Shorts Vol. 2 Sat Only
Speculation Nation (Sabine Gruffat & Bill Brown, 2014) Sun Only Filmmakers in Attendance

AMC Pacific Place:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
League of Gods (Koan Hui & Vernie Yeung) Fri-Thurs
Café Society (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (HC Potter, 1948) Thurs Only

Landmark Seven Gables:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Last Cab to Darwin (Jeremy Sims) Fri-Sun
The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema (Ned Thanhouser) Sat Only

AMC Southcenter:

Café Society (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs

Sundance Cinemas:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Eva Hesse (Marcie Dale) Fri-Thurs
Eat that Question (Thorsten Schütte) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

The Innocents (Anne Fontaine) Fri-Thurs
Microbe and Gasoline (Michel Gondry) Fri-Thurs
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Jake Szymanski) Our Review
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For a Few Bullets (Pan Anzi, 2016)

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Opening yesterday here in Seattle after debuting a week ago in China, For a Few Bullets is a goofy adventure film, mishmash of references as haphazardly assembled as its not-quite Leone title. Set in 1940, it’s a treasure hunt chase, with a con man enlisted by a Chinese secret agent to prevent the Japanese military from stealing a MacGuffin, the imperial seal used by the first Qin Emperor. Influenced by decades of knock-offs of the Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible films, it mixes a series of elaborate heists with a budding romance between the toothy, supercilious Lin Gengxin and the tough, serious-minded agent, Zhang Jingchu. She’s the best thing in the film, tightly-coiled and super-competent in the first half, but, inevitably, sadly, melting into a flowing-tressed, red-dressed, damsel in distress in the second. She literally spends the climactic scene chained to a rock like Andromeda facing the Kraken, while Lin faces-off against the film’s master villain. He’s a monster straight out of a comic book, gas-masked and leather-jacketed, a WWII-era Vader with unexplainable supernatural powers and a collection of severed heads to rival the Faceless Men of Braavos.

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After a dizzying opening twenty minutes, with exposition and character background flashing on screen in comic book panels, text captions and quick, almost sensible actions scenes, the film settles down to a hectic, but comprehensible rhythm. Lin and Zhang meet up with the long lost King of Hustlers, played by Mongolian singing superstar Tengger. He’s a likable presence, an Eric Tsang type, smirking and smarter than he looks. The three travel from Northwest China across the country to Shanghai and Nanjing, trying to capture the MacGuffin as it is transported by train. This gives ample opportunity to show off some stunning locations, desert landscapes and Central Asian steppes that have only rarely been seen on-screen, the colors digitally-enhanced to fantastical levels, a slick, luminous beauty that’s as insubstantial as it is picturesque. The humor is broad, the action quick and polished, if not particularly athletic, and a healthy amount of anachronism, most obviously some elaborate Scooby-Doo-style mask work. This is film as confection, a cotton candy picture that looks neat, has some fun action-heist sequences, pretty pictures, prettier people and nothing of any real substance. Last year’s Mojin: The Lost Legend attempted to tap this same treasure-hunting vein, far less successfully as an adventure, done in as it was by murky special effects. But that film also reached back to the Cultural Revolution and forward to immigrant life in America in creating some depth for its central romance. For a Few Bullets has no such ambitions. It’s nice enough though, and everyone looks like they’re having a good time. We can tell because they’re smiling all through the movie, and in the end-credits blooper reel.

Friday July 22 – Thursday July 28

Featured Film:

King Hu and Noir City at the SIFF Uptown and Egyptian

Sneaking into the Uptown for a mere one show apiece on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are two of the greatest Chinese language films of all-time. King Hu‘s Dragon Gate Inn perfected the wuxia genre in 1968. It’s a propulsive, meticulous action film that set the standard for the next 50 years of martial arts film, inspiring remakes and homages from Ang Lee, Tsai Ming-liang and Tsui Hark (who has remade it at least twice). Hu followed it up three years later with A Touch of Zen, which not only improved on the action, but transformed the generic material into a abstract exploration of transcendence and faith. There is likely to be no film on Seattle Screens this year that will benefit more from being seen on the big screen.
In an embarrassment of riches, SIFF is also presenting Eddie Muller’s traveling Noir City festival all this week at the Egyptian. Structured as a series of old-style double features (prestige A-picture along with a shorter, cheaper B-movie), highlights include: I Wake Up Screaming, This Gun for Hire, The 7th Victim, Scarlet Street, My Name is Julia Ross, The Dark Corner, The Reckless Moment and Gun Crazy. All 18 films in the series are playing on 35mm.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Brad Silberling, 2004) Weds Only

Central Cinema:

The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Petersen, 1984) Fri-Tues
Wet Hot American Summer (David Wain, 2001) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

Noir City 2016: Film Noir From A to B Fri-Thurs Full Program 35mm

Century Federal Way:

Kabali (Pa. Ranjith) Fri-Thurs In Tamil with subtitles & Telugu without subtitles, check showtimes
Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho) Fri-Thurs
Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffer, 1968) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
Genius (Michael Grandage) Fri-Thurs
Our Kind of Traitor (Susanna White) Fri-Thurs
Dough (John Goldschmidt) Fri-Thurs
The Confirmation (Bob Nelson) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Land and Shade (César Augusto Acevedo) Fri-Thurs
The Colossus of Destiny: A Melvins Tale  Sat & Sun Only
Cinememory: Negotiating the Past Through Film Tues Only Video

Landmark Guild 45th:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
Café Society (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
Café Society (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs
Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Kabali (Pa. Ranjith) Fri-Thurs In Tamil with subtitles & Telugu without subtitles, check showtimes
Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffer, 1968) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

One Night Only (Matt Wu) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Cold War 2 (Longman Leung & Sunny Luk) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Legend (Ridley Scott, 1985) Sat Only Live Soundtrack
Selections from Pioneers of African-American Cinema Weds Only Members Only
The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) Sat Only Live Soundtrack

AMC Pacific Place:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
For a Few Bullets (Anzi Pan) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Café Society (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Arsenic & Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944) Thurs Only

Landmark Seven Gables:

Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams) Fri-Thurs
Tickled (David Farrier & Dylan Reeve) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady) Fri-Thurs
Tikkun (Avishai Sivan) Fri-Thurs

Sundance Cinemas:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Fri-Thurs
The Measure of a Man (Stéphane Brizé) Fri-Thurs
Eat that Question (Thorsten Schütte) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

A Touch of Zen (King Hu, 1971) Fri-Sun Our Podcast
Dragon Gate Inn (King Hu, 1968) Fri-Sun Our Review
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
Beta Test (Nicholas Gyeney) Fri-Sun
48 Hour Film Project Mon-Weds

Varsity Theatre:

Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffer, 1968) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Jake Szymanski) Our Review

One Night Only (Matt Wu, 2016)

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An Aaron Kwok movie is opening on Seattle Screens for the second time in three weeks, as the now venerable pop star/actor follows up his taciturn performance as the cooly rational police bureaucrat in Cold War 2 with a turn as a compulsive gambler with unresolved family issues in Matt Wu’s One Night Only. It’s the Taiwanese Wu’s directorial debut and also stars his wife, Yang Zishan, who starred in Three actress Zhao Wei’s directorial debut So Young a few years ago, an unrelated sequel to which called Never Gone opened last week at the Pacific Place. Like a lot of debut films, One Night Only is positively bursting with ideas and influences, its a work of exuberant cinephilia, pulling together elements of films as disparate as Nights of Cabiria, Rebel Without a Cause, 2046, One Night in Mongkok, the Fast and the Furious series and what I imagine Nicholas Sparks films are like into a movie that resolutely refuses to simply be one thing, but rather changes shape every reel or so in a way that never quite holds together, but is nonetheless fascinating in its audacity. It recalls last year’s under-the-radar gem of diasporic Chinese cinema, Go Away Mr. Tumor, a film that juggled the demands of the cute CGI rom-com and the cancer melodrama far more successfully than it had any right to. One Night Only doesn’t hang together quite as well, or at all even, but it’s got more energy than almost any movie you’re likely to see at the multiplex this summer.

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Friday July 15 – Thursday July 21

Featured Film:

David Lynch and Cary Grant at the Seattle Art Museum

I suppose Fire Walk with Me and The Philadelphia Story go together too well for it to be entirely a coincidence that they’re playing on consecutive nights this week at the Art Museum. One is a nightmarish vision of an insular, thoroughly misogynistic  community, packed with quirky, lunatic performances, featuring a healthy amount of substance abuse and a deeply self-deluded father’s seriously messed-up relationship with his daughter. The other is the big screen prequel to a celebrated television series. Hearthfires and holocausts indeed. We talked about Fire Walk with Me earlier this year on the first episode of The Frances Farmer Show.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer) Fri-Thurs
The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999) Weds Only

Central Cinema:

The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Fri-Tues
Conan the Barbarian (John Milius, 1982) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Fight Club (David Fincher 1999) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Therapy for a Vampire (David Ruhm) Fri-Thurs
Older than Ireland (Alex Fegan) Fri-Thurs
Genius (Michael Grandage) Fri-Thurs
Our Kind of Traitor (Susanna White) Fri-Thurs
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton, 1985) Sat Only
Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Tues Only
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975) Weds Only Quote-Along

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Lucha Mexico (Alex Hammond & Ian Markiewicz) Fri-Thurs
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Lucio Fulci, 1971) Fri & Sat Only
Eric Ostrowski: Avenue of the Dead Tues Only 16mm, Video, Live Sounds
Industrial Musicals Thurs Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
Our Kind of Traitor (Susanna White) Fri-Thurs
Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu (Hemanth Rao) Fri-Thurs
Fight Club (David Fincher 1999) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Cold War 2 (Longman Leung & Sunny Luk) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sangsoo) Fri-Sun Our Review 
Sixty Six (Lewis Klahr) Fri Only Filmmaker in Attendance
#Comments Sat Only Filmmaker in Attendance
B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin 1979-1989 (Jörg A. Hoppe, Klaus Maeck & Heiko Lange) Weds Only
White Star (Roland Klick, 1983) Weds & Thurs Only
Decoder (Muscha, 1984) Thurs Only
Actress (Robert Greene, 2014) Thurs Only Director in Attendance Our Review

AMC Loews Oak Tree:

Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross) Fri-Thurs
So Young 2: Never Gone (Zhou Tuo Ru) Fri-Thurs
When Larry Met Larry (Wen Zhang) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
Our Kind of Traitor (Susanna White) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992) Weds Only Our Podcast
The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) Thurs Only

Landmark Seven Gables:

Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

NUTS! (Penny Lane) Fri-Sun

Sundance Cinemas:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Fri-Thurs
Seoul Searching (Benson Lee) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Zero Days (Alex Gibney) Fri-Thurs
Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt (Ada Ushpiz) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams) Fri-Thurs
The Kind Words (Hamilim Hatovot Fri-Thurs
NUTS! (Penny Lane) Mon-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Wiener-Dog (Todd Solondz) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Jake Szymanski) Our Review 
Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) Our Review

Friday July 8 – Thursday July 14

Featured Film:

Singin’ in the Rain at the Lincoln Square and the Cinemark Federal Way

There’s other good stuff out there this week: Ponyo, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Love & Friendship, Jaws, A Cat in the Brain, The Wailing, Messiah of Evil and the premiere of Right Now, Wrong Then on Thursday. But Singin’ in the Rain is the only movie out this week that has a legitimate claim to being the Best Movie of All-Time. It’s playing as part of Cinemark’s Classics series, which means digital presentation, Sunday and Wednesday only. But it doesn’t matter. It’s the most watchable movie ever made, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it or what format it’s presented in. If you haven’t seen it (what!), you have no excuse. I’ve seen it dozens of times, including a mere two weeks ago, on the couch with a sick four-year old. And we’ll probably go to see it again this weekend.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009) Weds Only

The Big Picture:

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Weds
Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Weds Our Review

Central Cinema:

Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975) Fri-Tues
Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki, 2008) Fri-Tues Original Language Tues Only
Waterworld (Kevin Reynolds, 1995) Weds Only
Harry and the Hendersons (William Dear, 1987) Thurs Only

SIFF Egyptian:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Dark Horse (Louise Osmond) Fri-Thurs
Older than Ireland (Alex Fegan) Fri-Thurs
Chasing Niagara (Rush Sturges) Mon Only
Viva (Paddy Breathnach) Tues Only
First Girl I Loved (Kerem Sanga) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

A Cat in the Brain (Lucio Fulci, 1990) Fri & Sat Only
Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously (Patrick Meaney) Fri-Thurs

Landmark Guild 45th:

Les Cowboys (Thomas Bidegain) Fri-Thurs
Tickled (David Farrier & Dylan Reeve) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu (Hemanth Rao) Fri-Thurs
Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Cold War 2 (Longman Leung & Sunny Luk) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Foolish Plans (Jiang Tao) Fri-Thurs
Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Three Wise Cousins (Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

PALMS Fri & Sat Only
Above & Below (Nicolas Steiner) Weds Only Director in Attendance
Messiah of Evil (William Huyck, 1973) Weds & Thurs Only 35mm
Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sangsoo) Starts Thurs Our Review

AMC Loews Oak Tree:

Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Cell (Tod Williams) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Sultan (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

My Favorite Wife (Garson Kanin, 1940) Thurs Only

Landmark Seven Gables:

Wiener-Dog (Todd Solondz) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Fri-Tues, Thurs
Czech That Film Festival 2016 Fri-Sun Full Program 
Farewell My Queen (Benoît Jacquot) Weds Only

Sundance Cinemas:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Fri-Thurs
From Afar (Lorenzo Vigas) Fri-Thurs
Zero Days (Alex Gibney) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer) Fri-Thurs
Unlocking the Cage (Chris Hegedus &  DA Pennebaker) Fri-Thurs
The Wailing (Na Hong-Jin) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Jake Szymanski) Our Review 
Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) Our Review

Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sangsoo, 2015)

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The following is a slightly modified reprint of my review from last fall’s Vancouver International Film Festival.

The Hong Sangsoo film is a perennial highlight of every VIFF (I’ve seen Like You Know it All, Oki’s Movie, Hahaha, In Another Country, Our Sunhi and Hill of Freedomhere over the years) and Right Now, Wrong Then is no disappointment. It’s a very good film, while lacking the formal experimentation that distinguishes his best work (Oki’s Movie, The Day He Arrives) or the sheer giddy pleasure of his funniest movies (Hill of Freedom, In Another Country), it has a precision and focus that assures that, despite a certain conventionality, it will become one of his more popular features (note: This has turned out to be accurate, the film has garnered Hong some of the best reviews and one of the widest releases of his career so far). Split evenly in two halves, it follows a film director, in town for a festival showing and Q & A, as he wanders about a tourist site where he meets a young woman. They talk, drink soju, make awkward approaches at romance and ultimately split when the director is proven to be a dishonest, womanizing lout. Then the film resets, complete with a new title card (the first half is “Right Then, Wrong Now”, the second “Right Now, Wrong Then”) and we replay the same day but with significant differences. The director in this version is honest and open (perhaps to a fault, as when a drunken overheating compels him to strip naked in front of his companions). Hong significantly varies his camera setups in the second section, creating more balanced compositions where in the first half the setups tended to privilege the director’s perspective (including a Hong rarity: an actual POV shot). It’s a mature film, relaxed and confident with a simple truth to tell. But underlying it all is a palpable loneliness. It’s played as sadness, as tragedy in the first half, where the director’s faults lead to failure and angry isolation. In the second half, it’s a wistful melancholy, where people can find happiness in connecting with an other, with the full knowledge that any such connection is necessarily temporary. It’s a quiet and sweet film, a warm room on a cold night, and vice versa.

Cold War 2 (Longman Leung & Sunny Luk, 2016)

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Picking up right where their 2012 hit film, which featured an all-star cast and swept the Hong Kong Film Awards, left off, Longman Leung and Sunny Luk present another suspenseful tale of corruption and double-dealing in the highest echelons of the Hong Kong police department, its two institutional halves at (cold) war with each other. On the operations side is The Other Tony Leung, a tough man of action, of the “break the law to enforce the law” type valorized in Hong Kong cinema since at least the mid-1980s. On the administrative side is Aaron Kwok, emotionless, calculating and fiercely determined to uphold the letter of the law. The two wage a Crimson Tide-esque battle of wills over a tense hostage situation, in which an Emergency Unit van and its five police officers have been captured by unknown criminals. Kwok wins out and assumes command of the force, and the second half of the film follows his investigation of the terrorists, leading to the arrest of Leung’s own son, played by Rise of the Legend‘s Eddie Peng, as the ringleader. But, in a cliffhanger ending, Peng’s accomplices demand his release: they have now kidnapped Kwok’s wife.

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Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Jake Szymanski, 2016)

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The third of a promised six(!) Anna Kendrick movies to hit Seattle Screens in 2016 is an exemplar of the mayfly model of modern American comedy. Based on a true story formerly adapted into a book, it’s about a pair of dim-witted brothers who are tasked with finding acceptable dates to their younger sister’s wedding. An opening montage establishes their vision of the world: slow-motion revelry, drinking, beautiful people, they see themselves as the life of every party. Home videos presented early in the film by their parents cleverly undermine this fantasy conviction. In fact, the two are loud, obnoxious, and clumsy: their antics destroy every gathering and event they attend. Thus their quest: they must find nice, respectable girls to keep them in line at the destination wedding in Hawaii. To this end, naturally enough, they post an ad on Craigslist, become internet famous, and suffer through a series of meet-and-greets with dreadful dames, a Seven Chances for beer-obsessed millennials. This is apparently as far as the book goes, while the film introduces Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza as the boys’ dates. A kind of Romy and Michelle for the Facebook era, Tatiana and Alice, quickly established to be just as dumb and hedonistic as Mike and Dave, pretend to be nice girls in order to get the free vacation. It’s an attempt at short-circuiting the book’s misogyny with a “hey women are gross and terrible too”. The rest of the film consists of episodic gag sequences at the wedding, with unimaginative and indifferently filmed slapstick adding an element of body horror to the vulgar dadaist improv one-liners that have become the dominant idiom of our comedies in the post-Apatow era.

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Friday July 1 – Thursday July 7

Featured Film:

Mountains May Depart at the SIFF Film Center

We didn’t do a poll of our favorite films of 2016 so far, rather just a listing of individual ballots. But if we did, Jia Zhangke’s epic melodrama would have won easily. A story of a love triangle and a family told in three separate sections (1999, 2014, 2025). In the first, Zhao Tao plays the center of a love triangle with a rich man and a poor man. In the second, she’s come to regret her choice as she reconnects with her young son, now living with his father and step-mother in Shanghai. In the third, the boy, now a young man living in Australia, has forgotten both his homeland and his mother, and embarks on a precarious affair with his teacher, Sylvia Chang. We covered it extensively at last year’s Vancouver Film Festival, with reviews by me and Neil Bahadur and discussion of the film on the VIFF Wrap-Up episode of The George Sanders Show.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986) Fri-Sun, Tues
Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) Fri-Sun, Tues-Weds
Coffy (Jack Hill, 1973) Weds Only Our Podcast 
Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995) Thurs Only

SIFF Egyptian:

The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Sardaarji 2 (Rohit Jugraj Chauhan) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Dark Horse (Louise Osmond) Fri-Thurs
Dough (John Goldschmidt) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Belladonna of Sadness (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973) Sat, Tues & Weds Only Our Review 
Lady Snowblood (Toshiya Fujita, 1973) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs Our Review 
Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (Toshiya Fujita, 1974) Fri-Sun, Weds
SexWorld (Anthony Spinelli, 1977) Thurs Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Dheepan (Jacques Audiard) Fri-Thurs
Weiner (Josh Kriegman) Fri-Thurs
Tickled (David Farrier & Dylan Reeve) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
Rojulu Marayi (Murali Krishna Mudidani) Fri-Thurs
Gentleman (Mohan Krishna Indraganti) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Three Wise Cousins (Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead (Billy Woodberry) Fri & Sat Only
PALMS Starts Thurs

AMC Loews Oak Tree:

The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn) Fri-Thurs Our Review

AMC Pacific Place:

No One’s Life is Easy (Kim Jae-yung) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Seattle Art Museum:

Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938) Thurs Only

Landmark Seven Gables:

Wiener-Dog (Todd Solondz) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
An Evening with Steve De Jarnatt: Miracle Mile and Cherry 2000 Weds Only

Sundance Cinemas:

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Fri-Thurs
Buddymoon (Alex Simmons) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) Our Review