Harrison Ford comes to KC, "Stoker" creeps out Liberty Hall, and Tap lives!
South Korean director Park Chan-wook is best known in America for his "Vengeance trilogy," the middle film being 2003's "Oldboy," a painful, dazzling, violent film that still generates controversy today. (Spike Lee is remaking the film with Josh Brolin for release later this year.)
"Stoker," opening Friday at Liberty Hall, marks his English-language debut and finds the director working again with extremely stylized imagery and fractured storytelling, but with more implied violence than before. In fact, violence seems to be lurking just outside the frame of every shot of this neo-Southern Gothic thriller.
On her 18th birthday, high-school loner India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) learns that her father has died in a car crash. She then learns of an Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) she never knew she had when he suddenly shows up at the house and begins to get very familiar with India's mother, the cold and remote Evie (Nicole Kidman).
With his widened eyes and fixed stare, Uncle Charlie (the namesake of Joseph Cotten's creepy killer in Hitchcock's underrated "Shadow of a Doubt") looks like an overgrown child who has never seen the world before, but he oozes confidence and menace. Wasikowska also radiates an otherworldly quality, from her introverted demeanor to her Puritan wardrobe. It's as if she were dropped into the present day from another time, which is even more jarring when she goes to school and everything is very contemporary. Kidman, for her part, is mysteriously distant and delivers some of the film's most memorable lines, verging on high camp.
From a plot standpoint, not much happens in the first half of "Stoker," but Park is in complete control, keeping the audience on edge at all times. He subverts standard framing rules when characters are speaking to one another, employs sweeping camera movement from weird angles, and stops key scenes just at their climax only to return to them later for a fuller picture.
The screenplay, by Wentworth Miller, is full of psychosexual overtones, but it doesn't have much in the way of deep emotional investment. "Stoker" wouldn't be the thrilling, atmospheric exercise that it is without Park flexing his cinematic muscle. This is very much a director's movie that, in the hands of a lesser personality, might have been a ho-hum suspense effort.
"Before Jackie was Number 42, he was Number 5 with the KC Monarchs."
This week it was announced that Harrison Ford will be coming to Kansas City next month to participate in a benefit for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. His upcoming movie "42" profiles Jackie Robinson, who first played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues before the Brooklyn Dodgers recruited him in 1947, breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier.
A special advance screening of "42," in which Ford plays Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, will take place at AMC Barrywoods 24 at 8 p.m. on April 11, preceded by a 6:30 red-carpet entrance and VIP reception with Ford and co-star Andre Holland. There are several levels of ticket packages and sponsorship levels for people that want to attend the reception and screening, which can be purchased online at 42kansascity.
Directly following the screening of "42", Joe Posnanski, former sportswriter for the Kansas City Star and Sports Illustrated and author of "The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America," will moderate a panel Q&A with Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and David Robinson, the son of Jackie Robinson.
Nothing less than the greatest movie ever made is showing at Liberty Hall on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Rob Reiner's directorial debut "This is Spinal Tap" will continue to be hilarious and completely relevant as long as brilliant improv comedians blur the lines of reality on TV and film and as long as there continue to be vapid, hollow musicians who rely on showmanship and gimmickry to sell their music.
What "This is Spinal Tap" does is more subversive than simply poking fun at heavy metal. It puts a human face on these loud and not-so-snotty fictional English rockers and makes you care about them. And despite the ridiculous parody-like situations that David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) get themselves into, any musician will tell you that many of those moments still absolutely ring true today.
Following "This is Spinal Tap," Liberty Hall will erupt into a full-out karaoke party and hopefully a guest appearance by Four Jacks and a Jill, a musical group that works out of Kansas City. They've been at a Ramada Inn there for about 18 months. If you're ever in Kansas City and want to hear some good music, you might want to drop by.