2012, Inside Hannah's Suitcase, and Tetra Hit Town: New Movies for Nov. 13
Friday the 13th and how appropriate is this? All sorts of things fall down, blow up or crack apart in the biggest of the new films. 2012 is a veritable orgy of calamities. For real pain, though, there's Antichrist. Not for you? There are more choices.
2012: I give high marks to the special effects people for the utterly convincing world-wide destruction they've visualized for us. Then I dock them a few for outstaying their welcome. Freeways collapse, supermarket floors crack, buildings tip over, tsunamis flood over Mount Everest, and much more. It's thrilling to watch and puts a solid charge into the scenes of John Cusack, Amanda Peet and kids trying to outrun, outdrive or outfly the mayhem. But this disaster movie is relentless. It goes on too long and eventually wears you out. More interesting is what it says. It's neither man nor God who will destroy the earth, but a random event. In this case solar flares cause the earth's core to superheat, the crust to erupt and the planet to tilt. That scenario is from a popular book, Fingerprints of the Gods, which draws on a theory from a maverick scientist with few followers. It's only the date that comes from the Mayan calendar. It was filmed in Vancouver and the Kamloops-Cache Creek area and features several local actors, including a good new child actor, Liam James as Cusack's son.
(At theatres all over). Rating: 3 ½ out of 5.
INSIDE HANA'S SUITCASE: This powerful film finds a new way to tell the tragedy of the Holocaust. Like The Diary of Anne Frank it focuses on one life taken. Like no other film I can think of, it does it in a hybrid format that ends up both moving and charming. It's a documentary, a re-enactment and a dramatization. That's fitting in a way because it originated as a CBC radio documentary, became a widely-read book and has also been a stage play. The story starts in Japan where a teacher requests an artifact from Auschwitz to energize her lessons about the Holocaust. She's sent a suitcase, once the property of a young girl named Hana Brady, and starts a class project to find out all about her. With old photographs, sepia-colored film (recreated) and occasional narration by the pupils about what they found out, we get a picture of a playful girl who is shut off from her playmates, loses her parents and then her life. But, surprise. The teacher learns that Hana's brother survived and is living in Toronto. George Brady rarely talked about those years but now opens up. A re-enactment of him visiting the students in Japan is high-drama. A gentle but emotional film.
(5th Aveneue Cinemas) 4 out of 5
TETRO: You can't keep a good filmmaker away from the camera forever. Francis Ford Coppola is back from his successful wine-making sideline with a second independent film that's better and more accessible than the first, but not of Godfather stature. It shares some themes though, particularly family, and the same high-level craft. It also swells at times to operatic heights. Vincent Gallo plays a failed-novelist living in Argentina. When a younger brother comes to visit he turns surly and uncommunicative but slowly a complex story of resentment over an overbearing father (Klaus Maria Brandauer) comes out. Color flashbacks show that back story; the main film is in crisp black and white. The problem is his reaction to the father he despises is so profound it's hard to believe and take seriously. That weakens the film even though the acting is first rate, including Gallo and his live-in girl friend (played by Spanish star Maribel Verdú).
(Tinseltown) 3 out of 5.
ANTICHRIST: Depression, madness and visions of evil from Lars von Trier. The Danish disturber upset Cannes with this excessive exercise but also saw his star, Charlotte Gainsbourg, win an acting award. She deserved it after all the trauma plus graphic sex, masturbation and mutilation she enacted here. She's a mother grieving the loss of her son, who fell out the window while she and her husband (Willem Defoe) were having sex. He's a professional therapist and thinks a spell in the woods will cure her. It turns into a prolonged Adam and Eve allegory. Actually, hubby's therapy is mostly to confront her with all the things that provoke her fear. She goes psychotic and the film goes progressively darker. Sometimes it's unintentionally funny, like this exchange. "Hit me so it hurts." "No." "Then you don't love me." Isn't there a famous joke that goes like that? The film doesn't have comic relief, though. It's a hard-to-take, button-pushing horror film for adults.
(Ridge Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5
PIRATE RADIO: This could have been fun and/or informative. It's not much of either. Loosely based on the real Radio Caroline, known here as Radio Rock, it shows a band of DJs playing rock and roll all day and all of the night into England from a ship in the North Sea. The film doesn't bother to tell us why it was necessary, a big question in my mind considering that The Beatles, The Who and many others were already being heard and selling lots of records. Instead it has a series of largely unrelated incidents on the ship, hijinks, first sex, personality conflicts, and more as played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifan and others. There's a certain exuberance there and lots of 60s music but little more than the Titanic-inspired climax that's particularly interesting. On shore, Kenneth Branagh has the thankless job of playing a humorless bureaucrat trying to shut them down. Rock and roll itself was at stake, suggests a rather fatuous postscript.
(Tinseltown and six other theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL: Don't think for a minute that just because it has a similar plot this film is anything like The Hangover, the very funny and huge summer hit. This one is not funny, not clever and has one of the most annoying central characters I've ever seen. He's self-possessed and a gleeful misogynist. Most of the time he smirks with self-satisfaction. Tucker Max is based on a real guy who blogs about his conquests and has written a New York Times best seller. As played by Matt Czuchry, he leads two friends on a stag party excursion to a legendary strip club. Not only does it get unsavory but there's a sequence that's beyond gross. Let's just say a hotel lobby required a fast clean up. (Granville Theatre) 1 out of 5
The AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL FILM FEST, on at the VanCity Theatre until the 15th, has a strong line up including Triage (a Canadian doctor struggles with chaos in Somalia and Rwanda) and Burma VJ (about citizen journalists and the reports they disseminated about Buddhist monksprotesting a repressive military regime).
Check out the whole schedule at www.amnestyfilmfest.ca . Last night's opening gala film will be back on Thurs. Nov 19 at the 5th Avenue Cinema and again for a regular run in the new year. That's the very funny The Yes Men Save the World about the hoax mongers with a social purpose. In this film they tell the BBC (and therefore the world) that Dow Chemical would finally make things right in Bohpal, India.
Also playing …
GENTLEMEN BRONCOS: I haven't seen this one because it screened at the same time as 2012. Maybe the studio did that to keep the critics away. After all, reviewers in other cities have not been kind to the latest from Jared Hess. He made a splash with Napoleon Dynamite and got a split decision with Nacho Libre. This is another quirky parody about a young writer whose ideas are stolen by an established author. Apparently it's not funny, even though Sam Rockwell plays his character Bronco in his imaginary visualizations and Jemaine Clement (of "Flight of the Conchords") has several good scenes as the novelist.