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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Step’: This inspiring, exuberant doc is the feel-good sleeper of the summer

The movies have given us lots of reasons to feel exhilarated this summer, from the pop-feminist stylings of Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman” to the goofy ensemble kick-in-the-pants that is “Girls Trip.” And now we have “Step,” a soaring, heart-bursting portrait of a group of intrepid Baltimore high school students guaranteed to bring audiences to their feet – whether out of vicarious triumph, overpowering pure emotion, or simply to pay tribute to the superheroines at the core of its infectiously inspiring story. When filmmaker Amanda Lipitz began following the story, in 2009, her intention was to record the first year of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, an all-female charter school Lipitz had helped found. When a sixth-grader named Blessin Giraldo started a step dancing team, Lipitz – a theater producer with such shows as “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Legally Blonde” to her credit – immediately saw the cinematic potential.

‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’: Bloody buddy flick is par for the coarse

For plot, there’s a bloody yet hard-to-swallow cut of subprime red meat: “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is gratuitously violent and preposterous. For acting, there’s not one but two cheese-stuffed baked potatoes on the plate, with Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds vying for the audience’s attention.

‘Queen of the Desert’: Gertrude Bell biopic trudges ploddingly through melodrama

The subject of “Queen of the Desert,” writer-director Werner Herzog’s first narrative feature since 2009, is Gertrude Bell, an Englishwoman who, in the years after World War I, used her expertise in Arab affairs and culture to help Winston Churchill negotiate the redrawn borders of the modern Middle East. Although the German filmmaker has been turning his hand almost exclusively to documentary lately, with such nonfiction meditations on deep subjects as “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” the real-life Gertrude (here played by Nicole Kidman) makes a worthy subject for fact-based drama. Scholar, mountain-climber, fearless explorer and feminist ahead of her time, she lived a life worth letting the world in on.

Film review: Deception drives Park’s wicked thriller ‘The Handmaiden’

“The Handmaiden” is as twisty, venomous and sexually frank a film as we’ve come to expect from South Korean director Park Chan-wook, a tale of deceit and infidelity that’s something of a con itself. That’s not to say the movie cheats the audience as its complex, crafty plot unfolds; it’s tricky and wickedly funny in ways we don’t anticipate, and the less you know about it, the better.

Movie review: In ‘Hell or High Water,’ empathy for cops, robbers

“Hell or High Water” is a gripping heist drama keenly attuned to the outsider politics of our times. Set in the desolate sprawl of West Texas, it opens, like many such movies do, with a bank robbery. Outside the building, spray-painted on the wall are the words: “3 tours in Iraq, but no bailout for people like us.” Later, after another holdup, Texas Rangers try to pry information from reluctant witnesses. “Bank been robbing me for 30 years,” a man tells them, explaining why he might be a bit vague on supplying helpful details.

Movie review: ‘War Dogs’ tells a crazy story of young arms dealers

“War Dogs” is too good of a true story not to get the Hollywood treatment, even if the end result doesn’t entirely do justice to the moral ambiguities and larger geopolitical implications of one of the craziest hustles in modern American history. Essentially, in 2007, a couple of 20-something stoners from Miami Beach landed a nearly $300 million contract from the Department of Defense to supply ammunition to the Afghan military. And, unbeknownst to the U.S. government at the time, many of the supplies they were selling were more than 40 years old, manufactured in China and basically unusable.

Movie review: ‘Gleason’ an unflinching portrait of life with ALS

The first thing Steve Gleason did after learning he was succumbing to Lou Gehrig’s disease was turn on his camera. The former NFL safety was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, around the same time that he and his wife, Michel, discovered they were having a baby, and he began producing a series of video diaries expressing his fears and doubts and dispensing nuggets of fatherly wisdom to a son he would likely never speak to in person.

Movie review: ‘Pets’ have a lot of secrets in this enjoyable kids film

A movie about what pets do during the day is a winning premise. Of course we want to know what those adorable creatures with whom we share our lives are up to, and so “The Secret Life of Pets” is here to explore those possibilities. Turns out their days are much more dramatic and crazier than ours, with all sorts of underworld pet societies and warring animal factions. There’s apparently a lot to keep secret in the lives of these pets.

Movie review: ‘Mike and Dave’ need a better movie

Although the premise is spelled out right there in the title, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” makes very little sense. That’s despite it being (shockingly) based on a book. Well, a “book,” written by brothers Mike and Dave Stangle as an obligatory cash-in on their viral Craigslist ad.

Movie review: ‘X-Men’ impressive, but lacks originality

By now it’s pretty obvious how the world’s screwed-up political scene is affecting Hollywood. The same kind of black-white, up-down, in-out, you’re-wrong-you-moron polarization that can be seen everywhere from the Spokane Valley to the European Union has now enveloped Hollywood. Nowhere, though, is that kind of polarization more on strident display than in the most recent trio of superhero blockbuster movies.

Return worth the wait

James Cameron’s 1984 science fiction classic “The Terminator” blended the perfect touches of comedy, action and characters to become one of the best offerings in the genre. It solidified Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the top action film stars on the planet and spawned sequels, a TV show, books and lines of toys. It would seem like an act of insanity to attempt a reboot of the franchise with so many accolades. Thank goodness director Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”) is a little bit crazy. His “Terminator Genisys” not only dares to reset the hugely popular film but manages to ramp it up multiple notches.

‘Overnight’ explores fidelity, doubt

Alex has an inferiority complex. His appendage is considerably smaller than average, and at a key, comically awkward moment in “The Overnight,” this recent L.A. arrival (he’s a Seattle transplant, with a wife and child) gets a look at what his new friend Kurt has to offer. In a couple of shots the actors who play these two – Adam Scott, sporting a goatee that tries too hard, and Jason Schwartzman, alternately gregarious and wormy – flourish prosthetic genitalia. Clearly, considerable time went into finding just the right fakes both for plausibility’s sake as well as for comedy’s. Writer-director Patrick Brice’s second feature, following his found-footage thriller “Creep,” works fairly well as a “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” for a new era in edgy-yet-genial commercial sensibilities.

How about I, Frankenstein?

A lot of people said that the Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies was the worst movie of all time. That don’t think, is a justifiable statement, especially when this “I, Frankenstein” exists.

Wright, Pegg deliver in apocalypse comedy

Sci-fi movies, we all know, create unlikely heroes, and this summer is no exception. Remember Brad Pitt as a U.N. inspector in “World War Z”? He just wanted to hang at home with his family, but he had to save the world from raging zombies. And Matt Damon in “Elysium”? He played a reformed car thief who just wanted to heal himself – and suddenly, he needed to rescue the planet.

Eye-opening ‘Blackfish’ questions orca captivity

“When you look into their eyes, you know somebody is home,” says a professor and former whale trainer in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s often-shocking documentary “Blackfish,” speaking of the intelligence and personality of captive killer whales. Later in the film, they’re called something else: ticking time bombs. Prompted by the 2010 death of SeaWorld orca trainer Dawn Brancheau, “Blackfish” looks at the history of killer whales in captivity but focuses primarily on one: Tilikum, a male orca captured in 1982 and subsequently involved in the deaths of three people at marine theme parks. “He’s killing because he’s frustrated and has no outlet,” says an expert in the film. The whale was separated from his family, held captive in tiny pools, left for long periods without stimulation or exercise, attacked by other theme-park whales establishing dominance, forced to perform “behaviors” for food – all of which left him, the film argues, psychotic.