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Red, Force of Nature The Suzuki Movie, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Waiting for Superman

Helen Mirren and John Malcovich have a grand old time shooting up the place in RED.

VIFF is all but over and lives on. Three big titles move into regular theatres and some other popular ones are shown again at the VanCity. And there’s time again for the mainstream films, Red, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and (I don’t know if you can call it mainstream) Jackass 3D.

RED: Yeah, that’s how you turn a graphic novel into a movie. Drop the artistic pretensions and just go for the fun. With gusto. If that means putting a gun into the hands of the woman who played The Queen, so be it. Actually, Helen Mirren is pretty handy with a machine gun when the action gets really going. She’s part of a team of old spies and killers that Bruce Willis rounds up to find out who’s messing with the quiet of his retired life and trying to kill him.

Also on the team is Brian Cox, a former KGB agent, Morgan Freeman, ex-CIA, John Malkovich, totally crazy after some agency LSD experiments and Mary Louise-Parker, because you can’t have just old geezers in a movie like this. They turn up a high-level conspiracy, by the way, but you probably expected that. The film is lighthearted, speedy and an enjoyable lark. (Oakridge, Scotiabank, Dolphin and many suburban theatres)  3 ½ out of 5

FORCE OF NATURE: THE DAVID SUZUKI MOVIE: Two developments stick out for me in this engrossing biography. First, naturally, the Japanese internments here in BC in the Second World War. They severely damaged Suzuki’s family and later, when he saw the equivalent evils of segregation in the U.S., turned him into a fervent anti-racist and an activist. The other is more recent. He was editing a tape for his TV show of the Haida artist Guujaaw. Asked what will happen if the logging he was fighting went ahead, Guujaaw said: “We’ll be like everybody else.” That sentence is the kernel that started Suzuki on his environmental work. It taught him that we all, like the Haida, have to see ourselves as part of the environment, not above it.

 

That was his message in a speech he delivered at UBC’s Chan Centre which forms the backbone of this film. It’s passionate and urgent and a jumping off point to examine his career. Director Sturla Gunnarsson intercuts Suzuki visiting the major locations that shaped him. They include where his family was interned, where they moved to later and he was the only Asian kid in town, his first science job in Tennessee, UBC where he ran a lab for decades, Hiroshima where he pondered the bomb, and of course Haida Gwai. You may have read or heard him on all this before, but not, I suspect, revealing as much of his personal emotions. It helps make this a very dramatic documentary. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5

IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY: Yeah, but not funny enough to be an outright comedy as fans of Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) might expect. And not deep enough to be a serious look at teenage depression and suicide, which seems to be it’s ambition. So, this film sits in a middle ground as a light, easy-going stay in a mental hospital. A teenager (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself in there and pretty soon wonders why. His emotional problems are pretty mild, he admits.

A pretty girl he hooks up with (Emma Roberts) is said to have bigger issues but doesn’t really show any. And Zach starts off with great promise as an ironic guide to life on the psych ward and doesn’t develop much beyond that. He’s fine playing a dramatic role. It’s just that the script doesn’t demand a lot from him. The directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, made two strong, highly-praised films (Half Nelson and Sugar ). This new one is a well-made, good-natured and even enjoyable lesser companion. (Tinseltown)  3 out of 5

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