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A&E >  Movies

Movie reivew: Minions happily take a back seat in the ‘70s-inspired ‘Rise of Gru’

UPDATED: Thu., June 30, 2022

If the appeal of the Minions - those banana-yellow, gibberish-spouting rascals first seen in 2010's "Despicable Me" - is wearing thin, give "Minions: The Rise of Gru" credit: After the over-the-top 2015 prequel "Minions," their second spinoff seems to recognize that less is more.Having appeared in four movies, numerous short films and a Universal Studios ride, among myriad other media, the subservient scamps return to playing second fiddle in "The Rise of Gru." By shifting the spotlight to the antihero Gru, who was the focus of the three "Despicable Me" films, this installment at least attempts to combat Minions oversaturation. Packing their shtick into a speedy 87 minutes, returning director Kyle Balda delivers a perfectly painless romp that should enthrall kids, entertain adults and keep Minion cosplayers employed for many a birthday party to come.After the endearingly innocent henchmen spent the first spinoff as nomads in search of a suitable supervillain to serve, we catch up with the Minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) in 1976, doing the bidding of an 11-year-old Gru. At this point, Gru (an amusingly nasal Steve Carell) is limited to small-time shenanigans: using magnets to cheat at the arcade, a cheese gun to cut in line at the ice cream shop and a fart bomb to clear out a packed showing of "Jaws." But when a villainous team called the Vicious 6 backstabs its leader, the aging Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin, teaming up with Carell for a stealth "Little Miss Sunshine" reunion), Gru lands an interview with the group to replace his idol.Written by Brian Lynch and Matthew Fogel, "The Rise of Gru" follows the 1960-set, British Invasion-fueled aesthetic of the first "Minions" movie with a 1970s pop-culture pastiche. While the "Despicable Me" films were always a riff on the campiest of Bond villains, this movie leans into that influence with a 007-inspired opening credits sequence, set to a cover of the Sonny Bono-penned "Bang Bang."That song also played over the credits of a more unlikely inspiration: Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies, a gonzo sendup of 1970s kung-fu. (The Minions, like Uma Thurman's "Kill Bill" heroine, even don Bruce Lee-inspired yellow jumpsuits.) In "The Rise of Gru," we find Michelle Yeoh continuing her "Shang-Chi"- and "Everything Everywhere All at Once"-fueled action renaissance as a martial arts master who teaches the three main Minions - Kevin, Stuart and Bob - a thing or two about fighting back.The more inspired newcomers are the Vicious 6, including Taraji P. Henson as Belle Bottom, a usurper who wields her chain belt as a weapon, and the hilarious Lucy Lawless as Nun-Chuck, a woman of the cloth with a thirst for violence. Jean-Claude Van Damme's Jean Clawed, Dolph Lundgren's Svengeance and Danny Trejo's Stronghold round out the punning group, whose lair is hidden beneath a record store cleverly called Criminal Records. Joining Carell and Coffin among the returning cast members are Russell Brand as the impulsive inventor Dr. Nefario and Julie Andrews as Gru's hands-off mother.It all makes for a slight but satisfying Gru origin story, as the budding baddie tries to impress the Vicious 6 and antagonizes Arkin's vengeful Wild Knuckles along the way. But it's also a "Minions" movie, which means lots of silly sight gags and pratfalls for the titular tykes, who adorably refer to Gru as their "mini-boss." Although the humor doesn't wear out its welcome, the whiz-bang action sequences do, especially when the unnecessarily bombastic, San Francisco-set finale arrives. Visually, the kinetic movie is occasionally inventive but disappointingly content to paint by numbers.If you're coming for the Jack Antonoff-produced compilation of '70s (or '70s-inspired) tunes, "The Rise of Gru" doesn't hold back. Featured on the track list: "Turn Up the Sunshine," a new song performed by Diana Ross featuring Tame Impala, along with such covers as St. Vincent's version of Lipps Inc.'s "Funkytown" and Phoebe Bridgers's take on the Carpenters' "Goodbye to Love." Whether it's Gru's gadgets, the Minions' antics or those catchy needle drops, "The Rise of Gru" does know how to play the hits.- - -Two and one-half stars. Rated PG. Contains some action, violence and rude humor. 87 minutes.Rating guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.
A&E >  Movies

‘Mr. Malcolm’s List’: Not quite Jane Austen, but close

UPDATED: Thu., June 30, 2022

If you’re going to set out to write a movie that critics will call Jane Austen-esque, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Not only does your script have to hold its own against one of the sharpest, funniest writers England has ever produced, but the raft of previous movies based on (or inspired by) Austen’s works – from “Clueless” to “Emma” – are almost universally strong. You’ve got to know the tropes. You’ve got to know the tricks. And you’ve got to know the pitfalls. “Mr. Malcolm’s List” makes a valiant effort to live up to that tradition, and largely succeeds. It’s not the real deal, but this Regency-period English romance is an admirable imitation.

A&E >  Entertainment

Moses Ingram’s Reva is a big step forward for Black ‘Star Wars’ characters

(EDITORS: Contains spoilers for "Obi-Wan Kenobi.")- - -It turns out being Black a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away can be just as stressful as it is here in the Milky Way.The return of Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, a momentous occasion of geektacular anticipation for fans, has been marred by the vitriol of online racist taunts.Moses Ingram, who stars as Reva the Third Sister in Disney Plus's "Obi-Wan Kenobi" series, revealed through social media back in May that she received hundreds of hateful and racist messages after her ascension to canon in one of pop culture's biggest sci-fi playgrounds.There were threats. She was called a diversity hire. It was ugly.The response from "Star Wars" was swift. Official social media accounts posted support of Ingram and denouncement of the messages, and called for patience to let the story of Reva unfold. Titular star Ewan McGregor posted a video of support for Ingram - and you know how ugly things are getting when the star of the show has to more or less say "Don't be racist" before it barely has a chance to begin.Fans of color, like me, can't help but feel upset over the repetitiveness of such attacks. Kelly Marie Tran couldn't escape them in the last theatrical trilogy.This is what Mace Windu had his arm sliced off for? We can do better, people.Black actors and other actors of color have always been a part of the "Star Wars" universe. Has it been perfect? No. But after some blunders, and after the racist attacks, Ingram's central role over the six-episode series, which drops its finale Wednesday, has been the best kind of progress a fan of color could ask for. Once a lightsaber is in your hands, things get serious."Star Wars" has been plenty Black for a minute now - from the soulful swag of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in the original trilogy to the intimidating presence of Samuel L. Jackson's Jedi Master Windu and his cooler-than-yours purple lightsaber in the prequels.Are people's ears deceiving them? Because the last time I checked, the creative nucleus of the "Star Wars" universe is Darth Vader. His humble beginnings. His legendary Jedi status. And his eventual fall to the Dark Side. But the man within the black machine is nothing without the Black voice that gives him his true power. It could be argued that the vocal talent of James Earl Jones is the most important force in the entire "Star Wars" universe - and just as integral in this new "Obi-Wan Kenobi" series as it was back in the 1970s and '80s. No one delivers paternity results like Jones can. Not even Maury Povich.Puerto Ricans have made their presence known in live-action and animated "Star Wars" worlds. Jimmy Smits is one of the most important dads in the galaxy as Princess Leia's adoptive father Bail Organa in the prequels and "Obi-Wan Kenobi." Freddie Prinze Jr. voiced Jedi Kanan Jarrus on the animated ""Star Wars" Rebels," and Rosario Dawson (who has tweeted that she is "half Puerto Rican/Afro Cuban & half Irish/Native Indian") is playing Ahsoka Tano in "The Mandalorian" and set to star in her own series soon.It could be argued that the future of "Star Wars" is very much Latino. Just look at the recent Vanity Fair cover that featured McGregor, Dawson, Pedro Pascal (Chilean) and pending "Andor" star Diego Luna (Mexican).And let's not forget Temuera Morrison. The Indigenous New Zealander played Jango Fett and every clone trooper in the prequels and recently starred as Boba Fett in his own series.But "Star Wars" made some missteps when it came to Black talent. John Boyega was a stormtrooper janitor and part of a cruel play-action fake in trailers that made it seem like he was the next big Jedi in the franchise. The grace, beauty and skill of Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o was tossed aside, and she got only a voice-over role of a CGI character. Jackson's cool Jedi vibes were short-lived - he was Darth Vader fodder by "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith."Now, in this Obi-Wan series, Reva has a beautifully woven origin story that appears to be trying to make up for those missteps. She was a child training to be a Jedi who witnessed Anakin Skywalker fall to the Dark Side and kill younglings like herself. So she hates Anakin, but she also hates Obi-Wan for not protecting everyone from the rage of his once star pupil. That's what makes her so compelling as she's gone rogue - it's impossible to see which side, if any, she is leaning toward.This is the type of depth most Black characters in the "Star Wars" universe haven't been afforded in the past. Reva as a child is the first face we see on camera in "Obi-Wan Kenobi" - a hint to her relevance in a show that many thought would be just the ultimate galactic rematch between master and student. We later see her grow into a hate-filled, vengeance-hunting tool of an evil empire, and we've got one episode left to see whether she will seek redemption and return to the light side of the Force. The franchise's errors of the past sting a little less when a character like Reva is allowed to live, breathe, make mistakes and atone.The future of "Star Wars", which now looks as bright as it has ever been, under the direction of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, is just as much about the creation of new characters as it is holding on to the past. That's how we ended up with new icons such as the Mandalorian and Grogu. And now Reva can be added to that list.A Black woman's revenge against Darth Vader just might be my favorite Star War ever. And I've been in this fandom for decades. It's crazy how something can make you feel when you can see yourself front and center and not cast off to the side.Reva could die the hero or the villain in the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" finale. Or she could live to see another day and show up on another series. If the latter happens, Lucasfilm will have to hope returning is something Ingram would even consider given what she's been through.No matter Ingram's "Star Wars" future, Reva's tale mattered. And the "Star Wars" universe is better because of it.
A&E >  Entertainment

Job shifts: Valley museum hosts Smithsonian traveling exhibit ‘The Way We Worked’

At the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum through Aug. 20, a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit called "The Way We Worked” covers the diverse evolution of employment in the U.S., from agriculture and factories to a range of jobs boosted by flight and space missions. It explores racial inequality and early child labor practices.The museum also has created companion displays on regional employers.
A&E >  Seven

10 under $10

UPDATED: Wed., June 29, 2022

1 Spokane Valley Farmers Market – 4 p.m. Friday, CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley. The Spokane Valley Farmers Market will be at CenterPlace near the Discovery Playground every Friday through Sept. 16. In addition to local farmers and producers, the event will feature artisans, food trucks, live entertainment, the Kids KERNEL Program and SNAP Market Match. WIC/Senior check are accepted. For information, visit spokanevalleyfarmersmarket.org. Admission: FREE
A&E >  Entertainment

Beyoncé’s ‘Break My Soul’ wants you to move your body

In the precious infancy of “Break My Soul,” the new single that Beyoncé released Monday night, consider checking your impulses. Try not to think of this song as a hype morsel, or a discourse starter, or an aesthetic foreshadowing. It’s true, Beyoncé has a blockbuster album, “Renaissance,” due out later this summer, but a song is not a movie trailer, and while this one already feels made for the ages, it’ll never be this new again.
A&E >  Movies

Movie review: ‘The Black Phone’ a brutally violent take on recent horror trend

UPDATED: Thu., June 23, 2022

There’s been a flood of throwback tween terror on movie screens and streaming services for the past few years: from “Stranger Things” to the newer “It” iterations, it’s been a banner era for floppy-haired pubescents in ringer tees. Scott Derrickson’s “The Black Phone” fits neatly into the subgenre, but this incredibly dark kiddie kidnap horror film just hits different with a hard-R rating, ...
A&E >  Movies

Movie review: Dazzling biopic a reminder of what made ‘Elvis’ King of Rock ‘n’ Roll

UPDATED: Thu., June 23, 2022

Why hasn’t there been a great Elvis biopic yet? Well, Austin Butler wasn’t around to star as the King of Rock 'n' Roll. At the center of Baz Luhrmann’s sprawling pop epic “Elvis,” a film as opulent and outsize as the King’s talent and taste, Butler delivers a fully transformed, fully committed and star-making turn as Elvis Presley. The rumors are true: Elvis lives, in Austin Butler. Swirling ...
A&E >  Seven

‘Going Home’ finds a home in Spokane

UPDATED: Thu., June 23, 2022

The Pure Flix series "Going Home," which was shot entirely in Spokane, stars Cynthia Geary as a hospice nurse. The show, which is poignant and uplifting, also features veteran character actor Tom Skerritt and former NFL star Vernon Davis.
A&E >  Seven

10 under $10

UPDATED: Wed., June 22, 2022

1 Library Book Sale – Friday and Saturday, Liberty Lake Municipal Library, 23123 E Mission Ave., Liberty Lake. Friends of the Liberty Lake Municipal Library will host its June Book Sale on Friday and Saturday at the Liberty Lake Municipal Library. This event is free and open to the public. Hours are noon-6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Saturday. Items will be available from for 10 cents-$2; organizers request that visitors pay with cash or check. For information, visit libertylakefriends.org. Admission: FREE
A&E >  Entertainment

Game On: Xbox & Bethesda Showcase gives hope for the year ahead

The Xbox & Bethesda Showcase came and went on Sunday, with Microsoft revealing a massive swath of trailers and teasers for video games planned for release “within the next 12 months.” Let’s be honest, a few of them will likely be pushed back, but it’s an impressive lineup nonetheless.

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