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This week's new movies

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FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING: The “troubles” may or may not be dormant in Northern Ireland these days, but not in the movies. This year, we’ve already had the Bobby Sands story in “Hunger” and now here’s the considerably less-political tale of Martin McGartland. It’s basically an action and suspense thriller. You don’t even have to take sides as you watch it because, as one character says, the war is between “two illegal armies.” From 1987 to 91, McGartland was working for both. He was a driver for the IRA and an informant for the British. The aimless kid drifting through life was soon in over his head and forced to think about the right and wrong he saw on both sides. Today, he’s on the run and in his book claims to have saved 50 lives. Jim Sturgess plays him perfectly, advancing from cocky to conflicted. And with a consistent Irish accent, yet. (You can also catch him this week in the Beatles song-cycle “Across the Universe.” See below). Ben Kingsley, as his Special Branch contact, is a bit too mannered. The Vancouver-U.K. co-production was filmed in Belfast, giving it an authentic look and some stirring action-in-the-streets scenes. The film’s climax, though, when events spin out of control, is rushed and not all that clearly explained. (5th Avenue Cinemas)

THE STONING OF SORAYA M.: Be careful. The title tells you exactly what’s going to happen, but does not prepare you for the excruciating and graphic detail of the outrage. It’s drawn out to over 20 minutes, stops a couple of times and then starts up again to show more. It’s in aid of making a point, I suppose, and really making us feel it, that stoning people to death still exists as a primitive form of justice in some parts of the world. In this case, it’s a village In Iran where a cheating husband, accuses his wife of adultery and joins with a weak mayor and a mullah with a questionable past to convict her. The trial scene is a strong indictment of Sharia law but then everything in this film, every character, every speech is created to make deliberate political points. That makes it a better protest document than drama. Still it has many powerful moments, largely because of fine acting by two women, Mozhan Marno as the young wife, and Shohreh Aghdashloo (an Oscar nominee a few years ago) as the aunt who tells the story to a French journalist. The film is based on a best-selling book which claims it’s all true and the director is an American of Iranian descent. (Subtitled) (Granville Theatre).

THE BEACHES OF AGNES: That’s Agnes Varda, the film-director, out there on the sand setting up mirrors, positioning a trapeze artist and talking about her life. She’s creating a wildly imaginative self-portrait, full of whimsy, surprising events and a great deal of film history. She was part of France’s New Wave, the only woman director alongside Goddard, Truffaut and others. She’s lived in Hollywood, China, Cuba and among fishermen in Corsica. She’s been an angry feminist, a Black Panther supporter and a friend to Jim Morrison of The Doors. She once attended the Venice Biennial dressed as a potato. To bring a sort of order to it all, she wrangles film clips, photos, news footage and her own memories, sometimes re-creating scenes from her films right on the beach. The result is delightful, for students of cinema history anyway. Starts Aug 5 at the VanCity Theatre, along with “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” the popular all-singing film made by her late husband, Jacques Demy. That film is part of ...

SUMMER OF SOUND: week two of the VanCity Theatre’s extensive festival of music films has a rarely seen classic tonight (July 31): “The Blue Angel.” It made Marlene Dietrich an international star, introduced her signature song “Falling In Love Again” and chiseled that iconic image of her as a vamp in stockings, suspenders and a top hat. Over the next few days you can also watch David Bowie as “Ziggy Stardust”, Julie Taymor’s elaborate “Across the Universe” which tells its story almost completely in Beatles songs, and “Once” the Irish charmer that won an academy award for its main song. And there’s more. Check out the whole list at www.vifc.org/films/special/summer.htm.

Also playing …

ALIENS IN THE ATTIC: Set in Maine, filmed in New Zealand, this film was not given much promotion or shown to the media. That’s not a good sign. It’s a summer adventure for kids.
A bunch of aliens (from outer space, I presume) have taken over the top floor of a family’s vacation home. The kids look for a weakness in their arsenal to save the day. (At theatres all over).


Pour Elle50 Dead Men WalkingThe Stoning of Soraya M
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