Easy A, The Town, Alpha and Omega, Cole, Devil, The Virginity Hit, plus Tati, the genius
EASY A: Here’s a fresh take on a recurring genre: the high school comedy. You’ll have to think back to Clueless or Juno to match it’s wit and affectionate humor and while it’s not as classic as those two, it does come close.
Emma Stone plays a teen who inadvertently allows a rumor to spread that she’s started having sex. It brings her sudden popularity, which she enjoys, then notoriety, which she mocks by dressing provocatively and pinning on a red A. (She’s reading The Scarlet Letter in English class but the other teens don’t seem to get the reference). It leads to more rumors, each one wilder than the last and even a demonstration by the school Christian club with signs calling her a slut.
Amanda Bynes plays the club president and, therefore, her moral rival. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are very funny as her laissez-faire parents. Ultimately, it’s her own call on how to react to the commotion. “John Hughes did not direct my life,” she laments. There are allusions to his and other teen films, smart worldly humor, clever dialogue and, amid some clunky sub-plots, a terrific performance by Stone. Remember her name. (Oakridge, Tinseltown, suburban theatres)
3 ½ out of 5
THE TOWN: Ben Affleck has become a good director with one main shortcoming. He can’t get a great acting performance out of himself. Surrounded by people like Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner (of The Hurt Locker) and Jon Hamm (of TV’s Mad Men), Ben is overshadowed; sincere but unremarkable.
He’s the brains in a gang of bank robbers in Boston, meticulous in carrying out the job (including impersonating cops) and proud of the result. “Six (armored) trucks and two banks,” he boasts. Renner is his pal and cohort but with far less patience. He takes Hall as a hostage in one robbery and then sends Affleck to chat her up to find out what she knows. Of course, Ben falls in love, which sets up a major row between the two men. Still, there’s yet another job to do, a tense robbery at iconic Fenway Park which sends the film off into an entirely different direction: a car-crashing police chase (led by Hamm as an FBI special agent) through some very narrow streets and a noisy machine gun shootout (started by Renner). Not at all new, silly at times, but still a good, tension-filled action-with-introspection film. (Park, Scoriabank and suburban theatres) (3 out of 5)
COLE: Carl Bessai must be BC’s busiest movie director. He’s got two films in this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival and now last year’s VIFF entry is showing in a regular run.
It’s well-made, competently-acted and shows off BC beautifully (he’s also the cinematographer).
Cole (played by Richard de Klerk) lives with his sister and her abusive boyfriend in Lytton, which is famous only during forest fire season and maybe with a railway issue now and then. Not surprisingly then, he wants out. His ticket is a creative writing class at UBC where he also meets and falls for a young woman from West Van (Kandyse McClure). Those small town vs city and low class vs high class themes are familiar, and rather obvious, but they work, at least until the boyfriend gets going and ignites an incident that goes right off the credibility scale. (Tinseltown) 2 ½ out of 5
ALPHA AND OMEGA: This is a fairly standard animated film with a few differences from the norm. For one, it was written in Los Angeles, created by computer in Mumbai, India, and set in Jasper, Alberta. Second, it’s a romantic comedy. Justin Long and Hayden Panettiere are the voices of two wolves who shouldn’t be together. He’s an omega, a fun-loving slacker, and she’s an alpha, destined to be a leader;. What’s more, she’s betrothed to another alpha, an attempt to unite two wolf packs and head off a war.
They're captured, taken to Idaho which is short of wolves, and forced to work together to find their way back. This is strictly for children. The romance may not appeal to them but there’s lots of action to dazzle them, including angry bears giving chase, wolves snowboarding with tree bark and a stampede by far more caribou than are known to exist in Jasper National Park. Some of those scenes are so frantic, they’re hard to watch in 3D, which by the way is only occasionally worth the extra cost. The slow parts work better and there’s a surprise detour into Alice in Wonderland absurd humor about half way through as the couple meet up with a golf-playing goose and his duck caddy. The film is dedicated to the memory of Dennis Hopper. He voiced the war-ready leader of one of the wolf packs. It’s his last role. (Oakridge, Tinseltown, Dolphin and many suburban theatres). 2 ½ out of 5
THE VIRGINITY HIT: The other teen comedy is only playing once a day, late. That fits because not only is it raunchy, outdoing Superbad in that department while copying it in many ways, but offering a mean-spirited view of modern adolescence. I’m sure there are kids as lewd and self-obsessed as these, but who wants to watch them?
It's another of those faux documentaries, this time about a kid who wants to lose his virginity. His quest is shown in video shot by his crude and obnoxious pals, who are ready to smoke a hit of weed if and when he suceeds. A promising hook-up with one girl is derailed for a while because she may have cheated at a fraternity party. That allows much alleged hilarity at a strip bar, then with a blow up doll and with a porn star (the one relatively fresh character in the film). In the climactic scene, a crowd watches the re-united couple on a video screen from an adjoining hotel room. Some see this as speaking to the You Tube generation. Maybe, except that it doesn’t have much to say. It was taped in an apparently all-white section of New Orleans. The creators brought the project to Will Farrell, who for some reason, backed it. He’s the co-producer. The actors aren’t famous. (Scotiabank) 1 out of 5
Also playing ...
JACQUES TATI: The French comedian most everyone agrees was a movie genius gets a fine salute at Pacific Cinematheque. His six features and a few shorts by and about him are all being shown in two batches, now until Sept. 26 and then late in October. Tati, who’s films date from 1949 to 1974, melded the physical comedy of the silent era with modern satire. The best example is Playtime (1967) a comic vision of the modern world as a machine, colorful but dehumanizing.
At the time it failed and drove him into bankruptcy. Today it is considered his masterpiece. His biggest success, Mon Oncle (1958) won him an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It‘s being shown, as well as a recently rediscovered English version My Uncle, his send-up of car culture Traffic (1971) and his little-known final film Parade (1974), which he made for TV.
Details at http://www. cinematheque.bc.ca/welcome-to-tativille-the-comic-genius-of-jacques-tati
DEVIL: M. Night Shyamalan, who’s recent movies have been drawing more sneers than praise, tries something new. He brings some half-finished stories ideas, his producing talents and his name and lets other people direct. There’s a whole series planned under the general title “The Night Chronicles.”
This first one, filmed in Toronto, takes place in an elevator. Five people are trapped there and discover that the devil is among them. Judging by the photo, some sort of bedlam erupts. Heavy promotion for this film, but not in Vancouver. There were no local previews. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres)
NOTE: The images are photos supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners