Transformers Dark of the Moon, Larry Crowne, The Mountie and a Czech retrospective
The big movies this week satisfy all ages. Boys can watch the Transformers fight it out; young girls can ogle the sights of Paris and Monte Carlo along with Selena Gomez and adults can watch Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts face the recession. There are also Canadian and Czech movies.
Here’s the list:
Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3 stars
Larry Crowne 3
The Mountie 2 ½
The White Dove 3 ½
Valley of the Bees 4
Monte Carlo --
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON: I’ll say this much: you really get your money’s worth with this third film in the series. That is, if you don’t pay the extra for the unnecessary 3-D and you’re clear on what you’re after. Big, noisy scenes of destruction. The kind you imagined playing on the floor as a little boy. The last 50 minutes here is one big battle between the two transformer factions, the Autobots, representing freedom, and the Decepticons, who favor tyranny. They really mess up downtown Chicago in an orgy of thrilling special effects. You have to admire the craft displayed on screen.
The film is both more of what we saw in the previous two films and an improvement over them. The storytelling is better. The yarn is clearer even as it has become more complex. It now deals with hidden alliances and several levels of deceit. As one character says, when there’s a war on and you don’t have a stake in either side, go with the one that’s winning. He’s not the only one with that philosophy, as Shia LaBeouf, back as the Autobots’ human friend, finds out. This time he catches wind of a plot to build a “space bridge” that will “reshape the universe”. He, by the way now has a new girlfriend. Megan Fox is gone (unexplained) and a model from England, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, is now doing even less acting, but a lot of posing.
At one point, the camera pans slowly up her body while offscreen Patrick Dempsey describes the sleek lines of his new car. Director Michael Bay is not one for subtlety. He’s also got a few gay references, several tough bosses (Dempsey, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand) and a transformer blasting the head off the Lincoln statue in Washington, all in all a pretty dim view of humanity. We already know that. What I do find uncomfortable is the way movies now tamper with history. We just got the X-men’s ludicrous twist on the Cuban Missile crisis and now we’re told the race to the moon was really to beat the Russians to a crashed Transformers space ship. Even Buzz Aldrin appears, yes the real one, the second man on the moon, who says “We were sworn to secrecy.” Ridiculous. (Oakridge, Rio on Broadway, Scotiabank, Dolphin and many suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
LARRY CROWNE: How much exact logic do you need in a feel-good movie? This one comes up short a few times and still ends up a pleasantly light fable for adults, that older crowd that’s said to be returning to the movie theatres in big numbers these days. It’s a nice guy of a movie, rather like Tom Hanks himself, who stars, directed and co-wrote it (with Nia Vardalos, still best known for My Big Fat Greek Wedding). There’s no mean spirit, no swearing, little conflict and Julia Roberts around helping to keep things bright with her wide toothy smile.
It’s about new beginnings. Hanks, expecting to be named employee of the month at the big box store he works at, is fired because without a college degree, he’s deemed un-promotable. Since there are no other jobs for him in the recession, he goes to college, landing in two courses that change his life. In Economics One, George Takei (yes, Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu and quietly hilarious) is a professor who mostly reads aloud from his own book. Hanks starts hanging out with a classmate, a free-spirited young woman who redoes his hair, attire and home décor and, with the supportive words “You are way cooler than you appear” brings him into a flock of scooter-riding students. It’s the mildest biker movie you’ll ever see and no, parts of it make no sense.
In the other class, Hanks learns public speaking from a brittle Julia Roberts. She’s in an unhappy marriage and has a great scene early on as a fed-up wife arguing with her do-nothing husband. You probably won’t be surprised that her make-over comes thanks to Hanks’ charm. There’s no talk of how appropriate this is as the film steadfastly stays light and fizzy. (The Ridge, International Village and many suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
THE MOUNTIE: Yes, there is a Canadian movie opening for Canada Day but it comes up short of its good intentions. And as often happens, it arrives with little fanfare and plays in only one theatre. Woe Canada.
It looks great, has a good story to tell but fails to tell it well. Andrew Walker plays a North West Mounted Police officer sent to a tiny settlement in the Yukon to prepare for a new fort. He meets a group of sad, silent people led by a Russian preacher and a tough elder. They’ve just hung a man who they didn’t want around but insist they are not barbarians. An intense, sinister mood starts building. A young girl fond of reciting Robert Service poems and an abused adult woman, played by Jessica Paré, are there for the discoveries and the violence that follow. There’s a lot of shooting, by the way, more like an American than a Canadian story. The lure of money, both in opium and in gold, figure strongly, as does a discretion in the Mountie’s own past. The scenery is gorgeous and the story should resonate in small towns anywhere the RCMP works. But it feels disjointed as it stops and starts and is interrupted by flashbacks. Later events aren’t properly led up to. Having just watched five Anthony Mann westerns including the one set in the Yukon, I can see what could have been done. This film was made two years under the name Red Coat Justice. Both Walker and Paré have done a lot of US TV since then, she on the hit show Mad Men. (Granville Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5
THE FANTASTIC WORLD OF FRANTISEK VLACIL: He was a Czech filmmaker who should be as famous as Forman, Passer, and Menzel because he was an equally important part of that country’s 1960s New Wave. Possibly because he was older than they were, he’s not well-known, even though his magnum opus, Marketa Lazarová, was voted the best Czech film ever made. It’s included in an ambitious retrospective the Pacific Cinematheque is running for the next two weeks with the help of the Czech embassy. Ten features, three short films and a biography are being shown. The two that I’ve seen show he was a master visual stylist fond of inventive scenes and loading up with metaphors.
THE WHITE DOVE, his first film, is an allegory in which a bird takes a wrong flight from Belgium and ends up injured in Prague. A boy there, also injured, saves it and then has to decide whether to keep or free it. The bird’s owner, a young girl, waits. There’s little dialogue but strong emotional content in the beautiful pictures. (3 ½ out of 5)
THE VALLEY OF THE BEES takes place in medieval times and pits oppressive ideology against free thought. (Since it came out just as the Prague Spring freedom movement got underway in 1968, it was seen as a liberation document and he was stopped for a time from making films). The story has two members of a strict religious order, very close friends, taking different paths. One leaves, fed up with hypocrisy, the other follows and tries to bring him back into the fold. The story gets dark, moody and bloody, and you can see a strong Kurosawa influence. 4 out of 5
You can read about all the films and find showtimes at http://www.cinematheque.bc.ca/the-fantastic-world-of-frantisek-vlacil
Also Playing …
MONTE CARLO: Young girls get a colorful fantasy and a vicarious European vacation. Three fresh high school grads from Texas head off on a dream trip to Paris. They’re played by Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy and of most interest, Selena Gomez, who was last seen in the underperforming Ramona movie and is now better known as Justin Bieber’s girlfriend. The trip turns bad when the three don’t find what they feel entitled to. The accommodations are substandard and Parisians don’t even speak American. Gomez is then mistaken for an English heiress and all three play along as they’re whisked to Monte Carlo where fabulous hotels, limos, designer clothes and jewels, the casino and some cute boys await. Selena’s acting is pushed to the limit as she has to speak Texan and two different British accents. (International Village, Station Square and suburban theatres)
NOTE: The images are photos supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.