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Reviews of Moonrise Kingdom, Snow White, Bernie, Piranha 3DD and more, including two gems

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Black, with untypical restraint, plays a mortician in the small west Texas town of Carthage where the people love him. He works hard for his clients, their grieving loved ones and the entire community with a bottomless amiable charm. One widow (played with much scowling by Shirley MacLaine) becomes a friend and, because she’s rich, a frequent travelling companion. But when she tries to control him, he shoots her dead and hides the body in a freezer. True. It’s taken from a magazine article and a subsequent murder trial where laid-back Matthew McConaughey plays the prosecutor. It’s a sunny southern Gothic that never condescends but manages to make you sympathize with a killer  because, well, he’s so nice and she was so mean. Real townspeople appear now and then (a little too often actually) to offer their memories and support. As one says, he’s not so bad. “He only shot her four times, not five.”  (5th Avenue) 3 out of 5 

IN THE FAMILY: This is a remarkable film in a number of ways. One, it stays calm and human when it could easily get shrill. Two it’s a very good first-film by writer/director  Patrick Wang, whose background is in theatre. And most notably, Wang himself plays the lead role, giving a fine performance as a man ambushed by the legal system.

 

 

He plays Joey who’s family life, which the film takes great pains to paint as warm and loving, is shattered. His same-sex partner dies in a traffic accident leaving behind his young son and a will naming his sister as executor, owner of the house and guardian of the boy. Joey has to move out; the boy is taken away, both without malice but apparently required by law. Small-town Tennessee is the locale and it’s not portrayed as anti-gay or anti Chinese. These problems are self-created. Joey tries to launch a custody case and gives a moving account of his life and his affection for the boy. The acting and the dialogue are so natural it feels like we’re eavesdropping on real life, not scripted scenes. At the same time, many of those scenes go on too long and the film runs almost three hours. They’re definitely worth seeing though for their humanism and warm atmosphere.  Also note: the director will be there tonight (Sat. June 2) to answer questions. (Denman Theatre)  4 out of 5 

 WHERE DO WE GO NOW?: This film was the audience favorite at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. It’s easy to see why. It’s infused with a lighthearted optimism and a lot of humor as it deals with an intractable problem, religious conflicts in a remote village somewhere in the middle East. Director Nadine Labaki is from Lebanon and the fact that the conflict is between Muslims and Christians suggests the story it set there. No location is mentioned though; Labaki prefers to keep the focus on the power of women to diffuse their men’s bellicose nature. Normally the two faiths get along. Then a new communal TV brings in pictures of sectarian riots from somewhere outside. Suspicions grow, bringing on vandalism and, after an accidental death, wild rumors and threats of violence. The women try to keep a lid on with songs (one about hashish, followed by appropriately-laced cookies), a fake miracle and a gaggle of Ukrainian strippers who happen to be touring nearby. It’s too fanciful to keep the momentum up all the way but works nicely as a warm and hopeful fable. (5th Avenue, International Village) 3 ½ out of 5  

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