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12 Years a Slave, a masterpiece, leads a long list of new movies now playing

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They’re still together but like many old people they express their love one minute and bicker the next. “I’m not his assistant,” she insists. Yes she is, he says, because “the average one has to support the genius.” The film is full of scenes capturing both their affection and the competition. While he creates paintings with boxing gloves and struggles to pay the rent with the earnings, she’s re-lit her artistic drive by telling her own story in cartoon drawings starring Cutie. The film shows parts of it in animation and in a wall installation when she gets a joint gallery show with him. It’s a unique view of a woman’s personal growth and a union that’s endured. (VanCity) 3 out of 5

GRIOT:  This one played at the film festival in 2012. It’s back with a special extra. The two musicians featured in the film and now big on the world music scene will follow the film with live concerts on two of its four days. The film starts Saturday, plays again Thursday and will have the live addition next Saturday and Sunday. (At a special price).

 It’s a documentary about a traditional figure in Senegal called the griot. He’s a musician, storyteller, village leader and herald of news, including war. Ablaye Cissoko, who plays the kora, a stringed instrument and sings soulfully, comes from a long line of griots. German-born Volker Goetze, now a New York resident, made the film to document his story, his ancient calling and a bit of Senegal’s economic problems. He also joins in now and then with his jazz trumpet. It’s a surprisingly successful mix and with or without trumpet the music in the film is wonderful.  (VanCity) 3 ½ out of 5

NEW AFRICAN CINEMA: There’s more from the formerly dark continent in this series at The Cinematheque organized by UBC’s African studies program. The goal, they say, is to display a shift that’s gone largely unnoticed. Young filmmakers are less into “didactic” films about their countries and more into personal philosophy, “interiority and poetics”.  So looking over the list (which you can find at www.thecinematheque.ca) you’ll  notice a film about Barack Obama’s half-sister in Kenya and another about the Rawandan genocide. Not unexpected. But you’ll also see Restless City.

It’s about Nigerian immigrants in New York, trying to survive among gangsters pimps and prostitutes. It was directed by Andrew Dosunmu, an immigrant from Nigeria himself. His background is fashion and music-videos and has just been tabbed to direct the long-planned biography of the late Fela Kuti, the Nigerian musician and political activist. The series runs until Thursday the 7th.

ALL THE WRONG REASONS:  It’s not for the right reason that this film has some fame. It’s Cory Monteith’s second last movie and though he’s good in it, he also more than a bit bland.

 

He plays a department store manager in Halifax with ambitions of moving up in the company, which would also require a move to Toronto. He’s got a wife (Quebec actor, Karine Vanasse) who works upstairs at a bank of monitors watching the store and suffers from the trauma of losing a sister. She can’t bear anybody touching her which keeps Cory out of her bed and drives him into the arms of a new clerk, played with trashy glee by Emily Hampshire. Cory’s wife, meanwhile, gets close to an ex-fireman (Kevin Zegers) working security in the store while he tries to get his old job back. He lost a hand in an accident. Get it? Two damaged people coming together, while two others are, well, just getting it on. The script by first-time director Gia Milani covers a lot of ground in these relationships with uneven results. She charts the strains well enough but resolves them with more than a little wish-fulfillment fantasy.  (International Village) 2 ½ out of 5

FREE BIRDS: This is an odd one. Just a month before American Thanksgiving it comes to remind kids that what they’ll be eating that day was a living creature that’s been slaughtered for food. They learn about it in a story of one turkey (Owen Wilson) who figures out the truth, “turkey paradise” is a lie, every bird in the flock will be eaten.  Jump ahead through some incredible events—a pardon by a Bill Clinton-like president, relaxing at Camp David, a scheme by a wildy crazy turkey (Woody Harrelson) to steal the camp time machine—and two turkey activists are back in 1621 just a day before Pilgrims and Indians hold the first ever Thanksgiving feast.

 

If they can get them to eat something else, turkeys will be saved for all time. A scowling Miles Standish (Colm Meaney) is the lead hunter, Amy Poehler is among the turkeys he’s stalking.  The film has lots of weak gags among some pretty good animation (especially the time travel sequences). A new company in Texas created it showing they have ambitions far above turkeys. But they threw in so much that they’ve missed anything charming or exciting. Stereotypes and trite story elements roam free. And it’s not even with a vegetarian message, judging by the alternative they come up with, which by the way is also a gross example of product placement.  (International Village and many suburban theatres)  2 out of 5

NOTE: All images are movie stills provided by the studios. They are the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

More in New Movies

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Also an ingenious take on the migrant crisis, and a second appreciation this year of Ingmar Bergman that adds to what we already know from the first

Melissa’s forgeries, Rami’s dead-on Freddie Mercury and a cult classic re-imagined

Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life
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