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A Star Wars offshoot, Jackie as traumatized widow and what exactly is Collateral Beauty?

Also Alzheimers hits a beloved local band, a Swedish crank learns to live and a Chilean filmmaker tries a surreal bohemian life    

 

Tis the season for big movies and also best-film lists. The Van City Theatre has put together a series from this year that includes big titles Like Sully, costume dramas like Love and Friendship, an angry grim epic that won an Academy Award, Son of Saul, and a top ten candidate for many critics, Hell or High Water.

Tis the season for big movies and also best-film lists. The Van City Theatre has put together a series from this year that includes big titles Like Sully, costume dramas like Love and Friendship, an angry grim epic that won an Academy Award, Son of Saul, and a top ten candidate for many critics, Hell or High Water. Twenty films in all. Some, I think, haven’t played here before and one, Nettie Wild’s Koneline is getting yet another and very welcome screening.

They’ll be playing one by one starting Monday until New Year’s Day. You can get a multi-film discount. For details about that and the films check out  https://www.viff.org and  click on SEARCH BY SERIES.

The new ones this week are …

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:  3 ½ stars

Jackie:  3

Collateral Beauty: 2

Spirit Unforgettable:  4

A Man Called Ove:  3

Endless Poetry:  3 ½

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS MOVIE: I enjoyed it but can’t say I was wowed by it. Not like when I first saw the original almost 40 years ago, although in many ways it harks back to it. It looks and feels like the early films, drops the dull gloss of the three prequels that followed and gives us lots of echoes from both. We get x-wing and tie fighters in battle, AT-AT walkers, plus a few new devices. Characters from both trilogies show up briefly, including Darth Vader himself. And there’s a spectacular space battle climax that may be the best ever in the series. Where the film falls short is in the relatively weak engagement it sets up for us to the main characters. We should care much more about them when they go on what is essentially a commando mission.

 

The story spins off from one line in the opening crawl in the first film, now known as Episode IV. Rebel spies have stolen the plans for the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star. In this film we see how they did it. Felicity Jones, better known for delicate English dramas, kicks and fights as the de-facto leader. She’s recruited because her dad (Mads Mikkelsen) helped design the weapon and left her a hologram message to explain. Diego Luna, the Mexican star, plays an intelligence officer and a potential love interest.

 

Not much about them is developed though; the film is too busy charging ahead with the war adventure, not even bothering much with the philosophy Star Wars used to espouse. There’s not a Jedi in sight, although Donnie Yen, the Chinese director and actor, is a good stand-in. He plays a blind warrior said to be a guardian of the “Whills” (a nod to really-knowledgeable fans of the saga).  There’s a new droid, the marvelously sarcastic K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) and several new locations, one that’s  destroyed in a spectacular explosion. Curiously it’s not until the spaceships start flying that the film brightens up. Much of the early going is underlit, slow and a bit astray. Characters take forever to figure out what they’re going to do. When they get to it, the film soars. (Dunbar, 5th Avenue, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres. Pretty well everywhere)  3 ½ out of 5   

JACKIE: I’m not clear on why this movie was made. The era of JFK’s Camelot was so long ago and this film doesn’t add much to what we’ve already seen and read about Jacqueline Kennedy. It does give us a detailed re-creation of that time and that’s nostalgic but for how many? Its sensitive examination of widowhood may be its chief universal value. Oh and one more for sure: it’s a fine showcase for the remarkable acting talent of Natalie Portman. She moves without effort from calm, to prickly, to moody, to despairing, to demanding and beyond. And then back again. Sometimes she’s in a daze; then insistent about protecting her husband’s legacy. It’s an intense performance.

 

We first get a cool, deliberate version when a journalist interviews her and she verbally edits out things she doesn’t want printed. Flashbacks take us to everything she’s been through, the blood when JFK was shot, the eerie trauma that followed, disagreements over a public funeral procession, even the place of burial. A priest (John Hurt) uses a Biblical parable to talk about God’s purpose in all this. The memories, which start with her famous White House tour for TV, end with her being nudged out of the house that was no longer her home. The director Pablo Larrain from Chile, where he’s made films about politics and Pablo Neruda, the poet, is clearly enamored by the class she brought to the house (a useful reminder these days). He could have done more to illustrate it though. People would better understand what was lost.  (5th Avenue Theatre) 3 out of 5

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