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Reviews: Avengers: Age of Ultron and five DOXA documentaries

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 The film is by Robert Alstead, who until recently wrote about movies for Common Ground magazine, and took a chance that Weaver would be an interesting story when he rode his bike over to Victoria and started filming. He’s captured a dynamic campaigner and an up-beat guy. Also in the film are David Suzuki, SFU’s Mark Jaccard, who says he’d consider civil disobedience over the Gateway pipeline, and Lynne Quarmby the SFU biologist who was arrested protesting the Kinder-Morgan pipeline project. A story she wrote for The Vancouver Observer is shown in the film. The film’s focus gets broad  and some of the editing is erratic, but the information and the inspiration by example are solid. (Sun. 5:45 pm, VanCity Theatre. Both Weaver and Quarmby will talk in a forum after the screening).  4 out of 5

SUGAR COATED:  It was a year ago that we got a scary documentary called Fed Up which raised strong warnings about the food industry that feeds us. It highlighted sugar as the chief problem. Added to almost everything in excess, it causes heart and liver problems and diabetes. This new film by Michèle Hozer of Toronto continues the warning with even more force. It’s less about the science and more about the tactics the sugar industry used to confuse the issue. They worked like tobacco execs to deny, put up contrary news and fund friendly researchers.

Some high-powered voices do the talking, including a California dentist who found confidential  strategy documents from the Sugar Association, an American pediatrician who exposes the medical issues and a critic from the University of Ottawa who slams the food industry’s public relations efforts (notably at a congress here in Vancouver). He even got the squeaky-clean Heart and Stroke Foundation to change a policy.  A teenage girl tells a personal story and there’s terrific archival footage in this lively, eye-opening film. (May 4 and 5 at the VanCity Theatre as part of DOXA and starting a regular run May 15 at the Cinematheque)  3 ½ out of 5 

ORION: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING: Jimmy Ellis was a minor rockabilly singer who had a major handicap. His voice sounded almost exactly like Elvis Presley’s. Nobody was interested in giving him a career. But when Elvis died, Shelby Singleton, the new owner of Sun Records, did contrive him one.

 

With a mask hiding his face and calling himself Orion, he could make people feel like the King was back. There were even rumors that he had faked his death. Hard to believe but there was an audience for him not just in the American South but also in Europe. And on many records. British filmmaker Jeanie Finlay tells the story with a wealth of old film and with interviews with Ellis’ son and music people who were there. She also recounts some scandalous rumors about Ellis and Presley’s family. That adds to the oddity and the entertainment value of this film. Even his tragic end is at one with the bizarre story. (VanCity Theatre Sat. Night, with the filmmaker answering questions afterwards, and Sat. May 9 in the afternoon). 3 ½ out of 5           

PREGGOLAND: Women will enjoy this much more than men. They’ll find much of it funny and are much more likely to forgive the silly and ridiculous parts. They’ll focus on what Sonja Bennett is trying to say: that society puts pressure on women to have babies even when they’re not ready. She both wrote and stars in the film as a grocery clerk who’s adrift in life and shunned by her three close friends, all mothers, who say she doesn’t fit in anymore. Translation: she’s not a mother. Of course, she didn’t help with her behavior and inappropriate gift at a baby shower.

 

She tries to get back in with “my gang” by pretending she’s pregnant herself. The script sets that up logically and reveals a bunch of benefits. Seats on the bus. A job firing called off. The return of her friends. Only her sister is suspicious, and even envious. This Vancouver-made comedy also features two Hollywood actors: James Caan, as her father, who is overjoyed he’ll be a granddad and Danny Trejo, as the store janitor, who figures out her deception. He is usually typecast as a brutal killer like Machete but shows real comic flair here. So does Sonja Bennett who wins you over as the schemer. Her writing is sharp in developing the situation, the hypocrisy and the trap that the ruse becomes but clumsy in how far it takes it. She’ll be doing a Q&A after the evening show Saturday. (International Village) 2 out of 5   

 

More in New Movies

A new and creepy It, perky Reese in Home Again and a contrary view of those volatile Paris suburbs

Also a fun trip with an elephant named Pop-Aye and bizarre doings in the Canadian film Blood Honey

News and notes from the VIFF look-ahead press conference

Wonderstruck, from a YA novel, is the VIFF closing film this year.
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