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BALLS OF FURY


A Ping-Pong prodigy is needed for a "top-secret mission," so Randy (Dan Fogler) goes off to train with Master Wong (James Hong), before finally facing the menacing Mr. Feng (Christopher Walken). The Ping-Pong action and comedy are nonstop, and Fogler holds the film together. A stupid, very funny film. (ES) Rated PG-13





THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM


The second sequel in the Bourne series takes everything up a couple of notches. Matt Damon returns as the amnesia-suffering former CIA agent, regularly chased and shot at by his own people, for reasons that are eventually revealed. But there's also trouble between members of the CIA camp. An excellent addition to the Bourne film catalogue. (ES) Rated PG-13





THE BRAVE ONE


When she's beaten senseless, and a loved one is brutally murdered in a mugging, a New York radio show host (Jodie Foster) buys a gun and has thoughts of revenge running through her head. But this is smarter than your average vigilante film, because she plays an average person, not quite sure what to do. Things become interesting when a cop (Terrence Howard) meets her and starts to get suspicious. (ES) Rated R





DRAGON WARS


Seriously dudes, Korean dragons are coming to L.A. The narrator said so, and I believe him. He said it was based on a legend, so you know there's like some ancient sorcery afoot. If there's one thing L.A.'s always screwed by, it's ancient sorcery. It doesn't say "based on a true story" anywhere, but... Oh, I almost forgot the worst part: the dragons have missile launchers. (LB) Rated PG-13





EASTERN PROMISES


David Cronenberg follows up A History of Violence with another study of seedy, dangerous people crossing paths with innocent folks. Here it's members of London's Russian mob coming in contact with a midwife (Naomi Watts) who's trying to trace the history of a mysterious young woman who died in childbirth. Viggo Mortensen plays the malevolent driver for the crooks who may or may not get too close with the midwife. The violence is over the top and in your face, yet the film also features a streak of tenderness. (ES) Rated R





FEAST OF LOVE


This tale of love lost, found, stolen, bungled and borrowed features a familiar backdrop (it's filmed and set in Portland) and some touching, funny work from the ensemble cast (Greg Kinnear, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell, Selma Blair) but suffers the typical effects of novel-to-film conversion. In squashing Charles Baxter's 321-page novel to 102 minutes, the pace is too rushed, the characters too shallow and the dialogue too economical and tidy. Every line sounds like a line in a movie. (JS) Rated R





THE GAMEPLAN


Joseph Kingman should consider a vasectomy. Seriously. When you're the world's best football player and a perennial playboy bachelor something's bound to sneak up on you. That's exactly what happens when Kingman (the Rock) answers a doorbell one day to find he has a daughter. One part Any Given Sunday, one part Adventures in Babysitting and ten parts Big Daddy mix to form just about the most half-baked, bland film concept we can think off. From the masters of bland cinema, Disney. (LB) Rated PG





GOOD LUCK CHUCK


Lady's man (Dane Cook) is cursed -- after women sleep with him, they fall in love with the next man they meet. This has a couple of laughs and lots of groans. Cook is OK in the part, but Jessica Alba, as the woman he falls for, has no concept of comedic acting. (ES) Rated R





HAIRSPRAY


There have been plenty of big, splashy musicals in recent years, but why are they always so grim? This one, about teens in Baltimore in the early '60s, is incredibly happy, and heck, John Travolta plays a 350-pound woman! It's about mother-daughter relationships, husband-wife relationships, times of racial change, all celebrated in catchy song and dance. Yes, there is such thing as a feel-good movie. (ES) Rated PG





HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX


This streamlined version of the immense fifth book picks up with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) threatened with expulsion from Hogwarts for using his magic in public. The ever-sprawling story relies less on the friendships among him, Hermione and Ron and more on a transformation from fantasy to horror. (ES) Rated PG-13





HURRICANE ON THE BAYOU


Katrina can be discussed in human, social and political terms, but Hurricane on the Bayou examines the hurricane as an ecological issue. Beginning as a documentary about the Mississippi Delta, the filmmakers end up turning their IMAX cameras on Katrina. (MD) Not Rated; no deaths are depicted





IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH


The predictable story of a father (Tommy Lee Jones) in search of his AWOL son, In the Valley of Elah is an excuse for a critique of the Iraq war. Not so much the reasons for war but -- realizing now that the war was probably a bad idea -- the ultimately fruitless terror we've put our children through. A great performance by Jones can't save the heavy-handedness of Paul Haggis' script and direction. (LB) Rated R





THE KINGDOM


When an FBI team (Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman) is sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate a horrific terrorist bombing, they find that local politics and traditions get in the way of everything they're trying to do. Part character study, part extremely intense action film. (ES) Rated R





LA VIE EN ROSE


This inscrutably told biopic of Edith Piaf's brief, sad life is lifted considerably by Marion Cotillard's performance. Director Olivier Dahan's frequent time shifting, though, obscures the march of tragedy, trying to connect past causes with future effects but never pausing long enough on one event to capture the full weight of either the traumas or their disastrous results. (LB) Rated PG-13





MR. WOODCOCK


An interesting premise -- fat kid (Seann William Scott) gets tormented by his P.E. teacher (Billy Bob Thornton), matures into a self-help author, looks on horrified as Mom (Susan Sarandon) marries Mr. Woodcock -- gets ruined by a descent into junior-high sight gags, like guys falling off treadmills and getting trapped under a bed during sex. (MB) Rated PG-13





ONCE


A spare, beautiful quasi-musical about a street singer and the poor immigrant in whom he finds a muse and collaborator, Once is easily the best movie I've seen in 2007. More than that, it's probably the most beautiful and guileless film to emerge from a decade overly obsessed with cleverness. (LB) Rated R





RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION


Is this the worst film of all time? Not quite, but leaving behind its videogame roots only to hop in bed with every crappy zombie clich & eacute; (post-apocalypse, desert landscape, Mad Max existence with fortified outposts of humanity) certainly puts it in the running for worst videogame adaptation ever. What a dubious honor. At least you could laugh at Dead or Alive. (LB) Rated R





STARDUST


A magical, comedy-laced fantasy about some people searching for a star that has fallen and taken human form (Claire Danes). If one of the rotten sons of a dying king finds it, he'll be the heir. If an evil old witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) gets it, she'll stay young and make life miserable for all. (ES) Rated PG-13





SUPERBAD


Three high school seniors try to find booze for a big party while trying not to think about the fact that college will soon separate them. Equal parts raucous, funny, and sweet, this is far from your usual teen comedy. It's a goofy class act, with sharp dialogue. (ES) Rated R





SYDNEY WHITE


Amanda Bynes (Hairspray) is Snow White! Only she's in a sorority during her first year at college. But then a sorority witch forces her to move into a run-down house with a bunch of nerdy guys. I know -- let's call them the Seven Dorks! It's like a revenge comedy targeted against prissy blondes -- a kind of humor that's very satisfying for the non-prissy and totally dorky among us. (MB)





3:10 TO YUMA


This remake of the 50-year-old Glenn Ford Western about a murderous bad guy being taken to the titular train gives Russell Crowe something to crow about: He's terrific as cold-hearted bad guy Ben Wade. The still-underrated Christian Bale takes on the down-on-his-luck but heroic Dan Evans part. This is a classic Western done up in style by director James Mangold. (ES) Rated R

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