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Shrek is back one last time; Michael Caine takes out the trash and Bollywood aims high with Kites

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KITES: Bollywood tries once again to go world-wide and with this unusually large release really gives you your money’s worth. That is if you’re in the mood for mega car chases, crashing police cars, explosions and outrageous stunts. Two lovers on the run dash around from Las Vegas to Mexico and back in various autos, trucks, motorcycles, trains and even a hot air balloon while cops and mobsters chase them. Now follow this carefully. The two are married to each other, but she’s also the fiancé of the man chasing them. That’s just one of the oddities in this story that twists and turns and blithely accommodates improbable coincidences. When they hi-jack a van, the driver surprisingly can speak English, Spanish and Hindi. Don’t complain; just go for the ride. The film is stylish,  fast-paced and told in an interesting way through a series of interlocking flashbacks. It looks like an American action film but has a slightly quaint feel I’ve seen before in Indian movies.

The star, Hrithik Roshan,  is huge right now, more for his looks than his acting. Of course, his father is also the producer. His co-star, Barbara Mori, is from Mexico and better with the intense, emotional scenes that inevitably come in these films. At 130 minutes, it’s shorter than usual, and a second version, trimmed down to 90 minutes by the American director Brett Ratner, is expected to follow soon. (Cineplex theatres in Richmond, Surrey and Mission). 3 out of 5

LESLIE, MY NAME IS EVIL: The Charles Manson story gets another, and quite unnecessary, repeat. This one centers on one of his crazy trio of acolytes and co-accused, Leslie Van Houten.

She (well-portrayed here by Kristin Hager) was a good girl who fought with her mother, rebelled against society and killed for Manson. Even though she says “The more I stabbed, the more fun it was,” the film by Reginald Harkema (from Vancouver, now of Toronto) tries to put some of the blame on society. It pointedly reminds us of the violence going on at the time in Viet Nam, perpetrated by the U.S. government and supported by the Christian right. No it can’t make the connection stick, but it is flashy and energetic as well as misguided. Don McKellar plays the prosecutor and Peter Keleghan is a caricature of a hawkish, religion-spouting father. A parallel story has a good Christian boy falling for Leslie while a juror at her trial. I couldn’t see the point.  (Tinseltown) 2 ½ out of 5.

MacGRUBER: You would be hard pressed to find a better candidate for worst movie of the season, maybe the year. This one is atrocious. The only reason I’m giving it even one star is because it moves along so briskly that it’s not boring. It is however supremely juvenile and not at all intelligent. I mean, come on, the Chinese financing a gang to explode a nuclear device in Washington, D.C.?

Will Forte’s clueless action hero from those Saturday Night Live sketches now has a back story – retired after wife killed, lured back to fight Val Kilmer’s arch villain – and an expanded personality – vain, immature, vindictive, and worst of all, fixated on sex talk and body functions. Example: when cohort Kristen Wiig excuses herself, he asks if its for # 1 or #2. Not just once either. There’s puerile humor like that throughout which pretty well defeats the attempt at satirizing the action films of the 80s. (Tinseltown and many suburban theatres) 1 out of 5

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: Nostalgia for the 1980s is all the rage right now. Here’s a trip back to the 60s and early 70s, especially pleasing for folks with a political bent.

It shows how Daniel Ellsberg came to release the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. They helped end the Viet Nam War, brought on a key press-freedom ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court and led Richard Nixon’s presidency  to self-destruct. Amazing clips from Walter Cronkite to Dick Cavett re-create the era, while some nasty bits from the Nixon tapes (expletives included) add background. Ellsberg recalls it all today with a bit of disappointment amidst the triumph. A must see for people who lived through the time or want to learn about it. Nominated for an Academy Award. (Pacific Cinematheque, Saturday and Wednesday). 4 ½ out of 5

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