2012, Inside Hannah's Suitcase, and Tetra Hit Town: New Movies for Nov. 13

John Cusack in 2012.

Friday the 13th and how appropriate is this? All sorts of things fall down, blow up or crack apart in the biggest of the new films. 2012 is a veritable orgy of calamities. For real pain, though, there's Antichrist. Not for you? There are more choices.

2012: I give high marks to the special effects people for the utterly convincing world-wide destruction they've visualized for us. Then I dock them a few for outstaying their welcome. Freeways collapse, supermarket floors crack, buildings tip over, tsunamis flood over Mount Everest, and much more. It's thrilling to watch and puts a solid charge into the scenes of John Cusack, Amanda Peet and kids trying to outrun, outdrive or outfly the mayhem. But this disaster movie is relentless. It goes on too long and eventually wears you out. More interesting is what it says. It's neither man nor God who will destroy the earth, but a random event. In this case solar flares cause the earth's core to superheat, the crust to erupt and the planet to tilt. That scenario is from a popular book, Fingerprints of the Gods, which draws on a theory from a maverick scientist with few followers. It's only the date that comes from the Mayan calendar. It was filmed in Vancouver and the Kamloops-Cache Creek area and features several local actors, including a good new child actor, Liam James as Cusack's son.
(At theatres all over). Rating: 3 ½ out of 5.

INSIDE HANA'S SUITCASE: This powerful film finds a new way to tell the tragedy of the Holocaust. Like The Diary of Anne Frank it focuses on one life taken. Like no other film I can think of, it does it in a hybrid format that ends up both moving and charming. It's a documentary, a re-enactment and a dramatization. That's fitting in a way because it originated as a CBC radio documentary, became a widely-read book and has also been a stage play. The story starts in Japan where a teacher requests an artifact from Auschwitz to energize her lessons about the Holocaust. She's sent a suitcase, once the property of a young girl named Hana Brady, and starts a class project to find out all about her. With old photographs, sepia-colored film (recreated) and occasional narration by the pupils about what they found out, we get a picture of a playful girl who is shut off from her playmates, loses her parents and then her life. But, surprise. The teacher learns that Hana's brother survived and is living in Toronto. George Brady rarely talked about those years but now opens up. A re-enactment of him visiting the students in Japan is high-drama. A gentle but emotional film.
(5th Aveneue Cinemas) 4 out of 5

TETRO: You can't keep a good filmmaker away from the camera forever. Francis Ford Coppola is back from his successful wine-making sideline with a second independent film that's better and more accessible than the first, but not of Godfather stature. It shares some themes though, particularly family, and the same high-level craft. It also swells at times to operatic heights. Vincent Gallo plays a failed-novelist living in Argentina. When a younger brother comes to visit he turns surly and uncommunicative but slowly a complex story of resentment over an overbearing father (Klaus Maria Brandauer) comes out. Color flashbacks show that back story; the main film is in crisp black and white. The problem is his reaction to the father he despises is so profound it's hard to believe and take seriously. That weakens the film even though the acting is first rate, including Gallo and his live-in girl friend (played by Spanish star Maribel Verdú).
(Tinseltown) 3 out of 5.

More in New Movies

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Also: Isabelle Huppert hosts a crowd as Frankie, notes on some highlights at Whistler, including a time travel enigma and a seemingly under-achieving children’s film

A scary Marriage Story, a classy Knives Out murder mystery and fighting DuPont in Dark Waters

Also black lives matter for Queen & Slim, the Winnipeg General Strike recalled in Stand! and an actor’s true story in Honey Boy

Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers; Elsa and friends in Frozen II and cops and robbers mayhem inside 21 Bridges

Also a nostalgia binge thanks to a Recorder and a few gems from the European Film Festival
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