The Fate of the Furious (F. Gary Gray, 2017)

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Especially in a time where franchises are getting only more complex, more bloated, it is interesting to consider the evolution of such a hugely successful movie series as The Fast and the Furious. Originally a comparatively “small” franchise focused exclusively on street racing, it has ballooned into an insane, globe-trotting mesh of spycraft and ensemble drama. I have only seen the previous incarnation of this series, Furious 7, but it is clear that the franchise has become much more (for better and worse) than its humble origins: from box office alone, Furious 7 grossed twice the amount of its predecessor, for more reasons than the untimely demise of franchise star Paul Walker.

So what step in the series’ evolution does The Fate of the Furious take? Quite simply, it doubles down on the core, car-fueled action. While the previous installment featured no small amount of hand-to-hand combat and gunplay (even bringing Tony Jaa for a fairly small role), Fate is, for better or worse, focused on races and chases. As a result, the movie more than delivers on the requisite amount of vehicular destruction across several countries and types of terrain.

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Your Name. (Makoto Shinkai, 2016)

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Makoto Shinkai’s latest anime smashed records across Asia last fall, becoming the highest grossing Japanese film in the history of China and Thailand, the second highest grossing Japanese film in Japanese history (behind Spirited Away), the worldwide top-grossing anime ever and the eighth highest grossing traditionally-animated film of all-time. Finally opening across North America this week, it has a chance to add to that record, and I think we’re all pulling for it to raise that extra $20 million it needs to overtake Pocahontas. Like his highly-acclaimed short features 5 Centimeters per Second (2007) and The Garden of Words (2013), it’s a story of two young people attempting to forge a connection. Romantically, yes, but also metaphysically. Apparently caused by the appearance of a comet close to the Earth, country girl Mitsuha and city boy Taki begin switching bodies: sometimes they wake up inhabiting the other, sometimes they don’t. They find this bewildering, of course, but eventually they figure out its rhythms and it turns out to be quite fun. And funny: Taki’s teenaged-boy obsession with his own (sort-of) breasts is perhaps the film’s truest note. Things reach a crisis point when the comet reaches its closest point and the body-switching ceases, sending each character in desperate search of the real-life other, complicated by the fact that they keep forgetting the other person’s existence.

Your Name. isn’t quite as other-worldly gorgeous as those two earlier films (they’re the only two other features I’ve seen from Shinkai), its combination of hand-drawn, computer and rotoscoped animation is a little more conventional, just as its plot and approach to narrative is a little more familiar. 5 Centimeters per Second was a trilogy of vignettes about a couple who loved each other once but where split apart by geography, and their attempts and failures to reconnect over a lifetime. The Garden of Words was about the Platonic love between a depressed teacher and a fifteen year old student. Your Name. unites these two in splitting its heroes in both time and space; human connection being so difficult that truly achieving it involves breaking the known laws of physics. The tragedy of the film comes from the loss of memory: human brains are unreliable and fungible, and the omnipresent devices we think make us more interconnected are even more fragile. Tradition and ritual though unite us with a past we cannot comprehend. Mitsuha is part of a long family line of makers of braided cords, who specially prepare a kind of saké as an offering for an unnamed god. They’ve forgotten the reasons for the rituals, but they perform them nonetheless. Where every other device of history and communication (cell phone, history book, museum photograph) fails, the braided cord, explicitly a metaphor for the dense and incomprehensible construction of space-time, persists.

Friday April 7 – Thursday April 13

Featured Film:

Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name.

The latest film from the master of sentimental anime finally opens here in the US after smashing box office records last fall throughout Asia. Shinkai is a maker of supernaturally gorgeous romances like 2007’s 5 Centimeters per Second and 2013’s The Garden of Words, and the unusually punctuated Your Name. appears to follow in this vein. Based on his own novel, it’s about a pair of teenagers, country girl and city boy, who begin intermittently switching bodies. It’s playing in both English and the original Japanese at various theatres around town, be sure to check the listings to make sure you get the proper version.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Your Name. (Makoto Shinkai) Fri-Thurs Our Review
John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Prison (Kim Rae-won & Han Suk-kyu) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) Fri-Mon, Weds
Friday (F. Gary Gray, 1995) Fri-Mon
Blood Diner (Jackie Kong, 1987) Tues Only

SIFF Egyptian:

Raw (Julia Ducournau) Fri-Thurs
Danger Diva (Robert McGinley) Thurs Only World Premiere, Live Performance by Thunderpussy

Century Federal Way:

Clue (Jonathan Lynn, 1985) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Land of Mine (Martin Pieter Zandvliet) Fri-Thurs
The Last Word (Mark Pellington) Fri-Tues
Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985) Sat Only
Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante, 2015) Sun Only Our Review
Venice (Kiki Alvarez, 2014) Mon Only
Antarctica: Ice & Sky (Luc Jacquet) Tues Only
Real Boy (Shaleece Haas) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Void (Jeremy Gillespie & Steven Kostanski) Fri-Thurs
Kizumonogatari Part 3: Reiketsu (Tatsuya Oishi & Akiyuki Shinbo) Sat-Mon Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Your Name. (Makoto Shinkai) Fri-Thurs Our Review Subtitled or Dubbed in English, Check Listings
Kedi (Ceyda Torun) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Your Name. (Makoto Shinkai) Fri-Thurs Our Review Subtitled or Dubbed in English, Check Listings
Cheliyaa (Mani Ratnam) Fri-Thurs Telugu
Kaatru Veliyidai (Mani Ratnam) Fri-Thurs Tamil
Guru (Sudha K Prasad) Fri-Thurs
Clue (Jonathan Lynn, 1985) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Trainspotting 2 (Danny Boyle) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Cinemania (Angela Christlieb & Stephen Kijak, 2002) Fri Only 35mm
I Called Him Morgan (Kasper Collin) Starts Thurs
Surround Sound Laydown Sat Only Live music, film screening, and poetry reading!
Apple Pie (Sam Hamilton) Sun Only
A Roll for Peter Thurs Only

AMC Oak Tree:

1 Mile to You (Leif Tilden) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

La La Land (Damien Chazelle) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Devotion of Suspect X (Alec Su) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Song to Song (Terrence Malick) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Last Word (Mark Pellington) Fri-Thurs
Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Northern Lights: A Journey to Love (Dondon S. Santos) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953) Thurs Only 35mm

Landmark Seven Gables:

Frantz (François Ozon) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

As You Are (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) Fri-Sun Only
All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955) Tues Only

AMC Southcenter:

Your Name. (Makoto Shinkai) Fri-Thurs Our Review Subtitled Only

Sundance Cinemas:

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Wilson (Craig Johnson) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Your Name. (Makoto Shinkai) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Uptown:

Your Name. (Makoto Shinkai) Fri-Thurs Our Review Subtitled Only
Trainspotting 2 (Danny Boyle) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Aftermath (Elliott Lester) Fri-Thurs
The Assignment (Walter Hill) Fri-Thurs

Queen of the Desert (Werner Herzog, 2015)

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Werner Herzog’s biopic of British archeologist Gertrude Bell premiered more than two years ago at the Berlin Film Festival to poor reviews, and is only this week making its way onto American screens. Why this should be is not immediately clear, the ins and outs of which international art house films make it into domestic distribution is far too complex a matter for my mind to comprehend, but I believe it involves some combination of corporate nepotism, the star system and random chance. The stars in this case are what make the film worth watching, as Nicole Kidman can enliven even the deadest of features, and this might be her most heroic effort in that vein to date. There’s almost nothing of Werner Herzog in the film, though there might have been once: Bell superficially appears to be his kind of a hero, obsessed with a harsh landscape, driven outside the bounds of society to do something remarkable, but at nearly every level the film feels compromised. Herzog is the only credited writer, but this has all the hallmarks of a film written and edited by a committee.

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Song to Song (Terrence Malick, 2017)

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Making its way to Seattle last week for an unheralded run at the Pacific Place, then quickly dropped to a single show in town and shunted off to Tukwila’s Parkway Plaza was the latest film from the most singular artist working in mainstream American film today. As with every Terrence Malick film since his reemergence with 1998’s The Thin Red LineSong to Song has been met with baffled derision by much of what passes for the Hollywood intelligentsia, that dense Ouroboros of movie reviewers, Oscar bloggers and self-appointed box office gurus that pass as journalists in our debased world. The complaints are familiar, cheap and lazy, ultimately sourced in the fact that Malick doesn’t make movies like They expect movies to be made. Unable to conceive of possibilities beyond their narrow imaginations, his refusal to conform is viewed alternately as pretension or incompetence (see for example Christopher Plummer’s whining about Malick during The Tree of Life‘s Oscar campaign that Malick didn’t know how to edit films, a complaint (I believe, perhaps uncharitably) ultimately sourced in the fact that Malick cut out most of Plummer’s performance in The New World). Malick doesn’t make conventional movies, and it’s easier to snark about twirling and poetry (the nerve!) than it is to wrestle with what he does make.

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