A Vancouver-based filmmaker this week gets a major launch onto the world stage – and beyond. Today’s lead review explains why. Plus, there’s a wide variety in the many other new films. (Read more)
NOTE: I’ve taken a week off to go travelling. So, today and next week, you’ll find a few reviews missing from here. The full deal will be back soon.
DISTRICT 9: Good science fiction is really about our life and society today. As is with this excellent film. While it’s one of the best action movies of the summer, it’s also loaded with subtext about race relations, bureaucracy and a privatized military. A spaceship shows up in South Africa full of starving and exhausted aliens. Humans call them “prawns” and isolate them in townships, where they become known as thieves while criminals prey on them. The film doesn’t belabor the obvious parallels to either apartheid or today’s refugee movements. It gets on with the story. A plan to move the slums far out of town goes bad after the human in charge becomes infected with alien DNA. Because of the clever intricacies of the tale he’s now much more valuable to his company, the ETs and some Nigerian gangsters. Plus a private SWAT team is after him. Director Neill Blomkamp, who with Terri Tatchell also wrote the script and the earlier short film it’s based on, manages to deftly juggle all these story elements, some exciting street battles, lots of percussion pounding away and a lengthy documentary-style opening to give the film a very realistic feel and look. It’s a spectacular debut for him. He was born in South Africa and filmed the movie there, but lives here in Vancouver. He’s been working with Peter Jackson, who produced the film. (At theatres all over).
THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE: You can’t be burdened by logic watching this movie. There’s too much that’s impossible here and fretting about that will only get in the way of appreciating a well-done movie about love, memory, personal power and yearning to connect. Eric Bana plays a man with a rare genetic disorder. It makes him shift around in time. Not too far. Always within his own lifespan, but he does meet his daughter in the future, his girlfriend in the past and even himself at one point. He cannot control when it happens or where. Rachel McAdams becomes his wife and has to adjust to his sudden disappearances. She does so pretty well, although when we first see her encounter him, he doesn’t know who she is, even though she’s known him for years. It’s that kind of movie, made from a popular novel by Audrey Niffenegger (who, by the way, according to an ad, will be here in October at the writer’s festival). Readers will note a few changes near the end. Others will likely find the frequent switches in time break up the story too much. The scriptwriter also wrote “Ghost”,” so you know the romance and the emotions are presented smoothly. This isn’t a tearjerker; it’s more like “Benjamin Button,” a curious fantasy. (At theatres all over).
ONE DAY YOU’LL UNDERSTAND: France has been slow facing up to its wartime collaboration with the Nazis. In this film, Israeli director Amos Gitai tries to stir up some reflection about complicity, guilt and identity but it’s Jeanne Moreau who does the job. The year is 1987 and the Klaus Barbie trial is on TV. That prompts a businessman (Hippolyte Girardot) to start asking about his own family history, specifically why his late father had signed a declaration that he was Aryan. Was he a collaborator? His mother (Moreau) won’t talk about it and a visit to a village where his Jewish grandparents had tried to hide only boosts his need to know. The story he’s piecing together is not well explained though and under some long halting family discussions the film slows down. But then Moreau has two supremely dramatic scenes, one on Yom Kippur with her grandchildren, the other at a memorial service. She shows how commanding an actress she is, even at age 80. That’s no big secret she reveals but a strong re-affirmation of the importance of family and heritage. (Playing at the Ridge Theatre as part of the French Film Festival).