02-19-2017  8:48 am      •     
McMenamins

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Chi-Raq (R for nudity, profanity, sexuality, violence and drug use) Nick Cannon plays the title character in this Spike Lee "Joint" loosely based on Aristophanes' play Lysistrata. Present-day variation on the theme is set in Chicago where females from the 'hood decide to deny their men sexual favors until there is a cessation of the gang violence claiming so many young lives. Ensemble includes Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Dave Chappelle, Jennifer Hudson and John Cusack.

Krampus (PG-13 for violence, terror, profanity and drug use) Holiday comedy about a frustrated kid (Emjay Anthony) with no Christmas spirit who unwittingly unleashes a demonic, Scrooge-like force (Luke Hawker). Cast includes Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman and Adam Scott.

The Letters (PG for mature themes) Reverential retrospective dramatizing the life and times of Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson) as reflected by correspondence she exchanged over a half-century with her BFF/spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem (Max von Sydow). With Rutger Hauer, Priya Darshini and Kranti Redkar.

Life (R for profanity, nudity and sexuality) Brush with greatness biopic recounting journalist Dennis Stock's (Robert Pattinson) photo shoot of rising star James Dean (Dane deHaan) for a 1955 issue of Life magazine. Featuring Lauren Gallagher as Natalie Wood, John Blackwood as Raymond Massey and Kelly McCreary as Eartha Kitt.

Macbeth (Unrated) Michael Fassbender assumes the title role in the latest adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy about an ambitious general with designs on the throne of the King of Scotland (David Thewlis). Support cast includes Elizabeth Debicki, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris and Paddy Considine.

 

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Amour Fou (Unrated) Costume drama, set in Berlin in the Romantic Era, about a young poet (Christian Friedel) who enters a suicide pact with a terminally-ill socialite (Schnoeink) after failing to convince his kissing cousin (Sandra Hueller) to do so. Supporting cast includes Stephan Crossmann, Barbara Schnitzler and Marc Bischoff. (In German with subtitles)

Bikes vs. Cars (Unrated) Eco-documentary advocating the adoption of bicycles over autos as the primary form of urban transportation in order to reverse the global warming trend. (In English, Spanish and Portuguese with subtitles)

Christmas Eve (PG for peril, mature themes and mild epithets) Holiday comedy revolving around the plight of New Yorkers simultaneously stuck in a half-dozen elevators in the wake of a car accident. Ensemble cast includes Patrick Stewart, Jon Heder, James Roday, Gary Cole and Max Casella.

Hitchcock/Truffaut (PG-13 for suggestive material and violent images) Reverential documentary deconstructing the genius of legendary director Alfred Hitchcock through the eyes of protege Francois Truffaut and a number of other admiring colleagues. Featuring commentary by Peter Bogdanovich, David Fincher, Martin Scorcese, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater and Paul Schrader.

The Lady in the Van (PG-13 for a disturbing image) Fact-based docudrama recounting the unlikely friendship forged between a celebrated playwright (Alex Jennings) and a homeless woman (Maggie Smith) living in a car parked in his driveway. With Dominic Cooper, Jim Broadbent and James Corden.

MI-5 (R for profanity and violence) Espionage thriller about a spy (Kit Harrington) who comes out of retirement to track down an escaped terrorist (Elyes Gabel) on the CIA's Most Wanted list as well as the British secret agent (Peter Firth) who'd been escortng him to prison. Support cast includes Tuppence Middleton, Lara Pulver and Jennifer Ehle.

My Friend Victoria (Unrated) Baby-daddy drama, set in Paris, about a poor, black single-mom (Guslagie Malanga) who waits seven years before finally introducing her daughter (Maylina Diagne) to the middle-class white guy (Pierre Andrau) she shared a summer romance back in high school. (In French with subtitles)

A Royal Night Out (PG-13 for sexuality and brief drug use) Post World War II dramedy, set in England in 1945, finds Princess Margaret (Bel Powley) and Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) slipping out of Buckingham Palace, over the objections of the Queen (Emily Watson), to join the street celebrations on V.E. Day. With Rupert Everett, Mark Hadfield and Jack Laskey.

Uncle Nick (Unrated) Brian Posehn plays the titular character in this holiday comedy as the rude relative from hell who ruins the family's Christmas gathering. Cast includes Scott Adsit, Missi Pyle, Paget Brewster and Beau Ballinger.

The World of Kanako (Unrated) Crime thriller, based on the best-seller Hateshinaki Kawaki by Akio Fukamachi, about a retired detective (Koji Yakusho) who only learns about his daughter's (Nana Komatsu) secret life during the search conducted after she goes missing. Narrated by Hiroya Shimizu and featuring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Fumi Nikaido and Ai Hashimoto. (In Japanese with subtitles)

Youth (R for profanity, sexuality and graphic nudity) Surrealistic meditation on mortality by a couple of BFFs, one, a composer (Michael Caine), the other, a filmmaker (Harvey Keitel), reflecting on the meaning of life while vacationing in the Swiss Alps. With Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda. (In English, Spanish and Swiss-German with subtitles) 

Recently Published by The Skanner News

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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