Human Resources

Human Resources

The Belko Experiment is predictably bloody and brutal, but it wavers too much when it comes to satire
The Belko Industries building stands like a concrete monolith in the middle of the Colombian countryside, the rural area's only reminder that it's the 21st century. The company is, we're told, some kind of international headhunting firm, staffed primarily with foreign workers, all of whom have had tracking devices implanted at the bases of their skulls (because the kidnapping rate in Colombia is so high).

Stray Observations

The documentary Kedi is an ode to the street cats of Istanbul and a treat for feline fanatics
"In Istanbul, the cat is more than just a cat." So begins the leisurely documentary Kedi, an affectionate tribute to the tens of thousands of felines who freely roam the streets and sidewalks of Turkey's largest city, a four-legged omnipresence tempering the chaos of everyday life in a teeming metropolis of more than 14 million people.

Suppressive Person

In My Scientology Movie, Louis Theroux digs into the shadowy religious organization and finds a camera pointing back at him
So much of what we know about the Church of Scientology comes from the often horrifying secondhand accounts of those who have fled the organization and want to blow the lid off of it. That's what makes it such a fascinating subject for tell-alls: The church's leader, David Miscavige, has been portrayed by detractors as abusive and his followers as hostages, and although a number of testimonials have corroborated that, so many of the church's inner workings remain mere conjecture.

Beast Intentions

A new Beauty and the Beast can't decide whether to aim for originality or nostalgia
Over the past 25-plus years, it's likely that I've watched Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 times. There has been at least one common element to every one of those viewings: Without fail, the moment the first piano notes of the title song begin, my eyes fill with tears.

A Crisis of Faith

Religion is questioned and a marriage is tested in Emily, directed and produced by Whitworth grads
As Emily opens, a married couple is preparing dinner in the small kitchen of their apartment. They sit and eat mostly in silence, idle small talk disguising an obvious, unspoken tension between them.

King of the Blockbusters

Kong: Skull Island is a surprisingly solid reboot, as exciting as it is knowingly goofy
What's the big surprise of Kong: Skull Island? No, it's not a secret sequel to Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong, and no, it's not a sequel to 2014's Godzilla, though the two share a universe.

Meditations on a Mutant

Logan, the third stand-alone Wolverine film, is one of the best comic book movies ever made
The X-Men stories have always been perhaps the most grounded of the superhero universes, exploring what it means to be "super" in a world where "super" is feared and hated. The mutants of X-Men are just ordinary people trying to come to terms with their unusual talents.

The Book of James

The documentary I Am Not Your Negro uses the writings of James Baldwin to grapple with racism in America
In Stanley Kramer's 1958 drama The Defiant Ones, Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier play prisoners who escape from a chain gang, still shackled together. They despise one another, but they have to work together if they want to survive.

White Lies

Directed by comedian Jordan Peele, the thriller Get Out is scarily satirical
Get Out is a feature-length version of the not-quite-joking sentiment among African Americans that the suburbs, with their overwhelming whiteness and cultural homogeneity, are eerie twilight zones for black people. Far from being a one-joke movie, however, Jordan Peele's directorial debut is a clever, consistently funny racial satire and horror film mocking white liberal cluelessness and finding humor in (without dismissing) black people's fears.

Tall, Dark and Tiresome

The Fifty Shades sequel delivers even more boring eroticism than the original
There's something liberating about reviewing a film that is bulletproof. This franchise of novels that has struck a chord with the populace — and a thankfully waning punch line for late-night talk show hosts riffing on jokes about your mom reading bondage porn — is doing just fine, thank you very much.

Alienation Building

A Cure for Wellness brings operatic craziness sure to irritate audiences
There's a temptation, for those who write about movies for a living, to anticipate the commercial prospects of movies before they are released. This is usually a fool's errand; anyone who believes they know exactly what will be a hit and what will be a flop should be in a far more lucrative career than film criticism.

The Dork Knight

A child's sense of goofy play reigns in The LEGO Batman Movie
In 2014, The LEGO Movie was the kind of experience which gives a film critic that elusive sense of home: Here was something that at first glance was simply a continuation of the movie industry's creatively bankrupt mining of familiar brand names and nostalgia, but instead turned out to be one of the year's best films. As written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the improbably delightful animated feature found a brilliant game plan for turning this particular toy into a story: combining a child's anarchic sense of play with a savvy adult's perspective on how goofy yet inspired that play can look from a distance.

The Evil Inside

The "final chapter" in a dying franchise that just won't die
Alas, there is not much I can tell you about this ultimate entry in the video-game movie franchise Resident Evil. I apologize.

Not Lost in Translation

The universality of an acclaimed Iranian director's latest work transcends cultural barriers
In 2012, acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for his magnificent divorce drama A Separation. He was invited to join the Academy, and it is believed that he accepted (though, because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not make its ranks public, this isn't certain).

Till Death Do We Start

Filmmaker Adam Harum on his short film and moviemaking in Spokane
"Stories begin at their end," says the late critic and writer John Berger in a 1983 episode of the British television program Voices, citing the deaths of Romeo and Juliet as an example and drawing a completed circle in the air with a finger. "That is when the story is given form."

The Beginning

Rich Cowan looks back at The Basket, a film that helped prove Spokane could make movies
It's been almost 18 years since Rich Cowan's directorial debut, The Basket, hit the big screen, but he still thinks about the movie often. He still has the movie poster in his office.

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