True Grit with Jeff Bridges, Rabbit Hole with Nicole Kidman and some old and new treats for the holidays

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THE TWO ESCOBARS: The new year starts off strong at the VanCity Theatre with this powerful documentary. It's one of the best I've ever seen. It has more drama, hope, tragedy and tension than most fictional films. We've all heard of one of these Escobars, Pablo, the notorious drug lord in Columbia who, until he was hunted down and shot, was a sort of a Robin Hood to the poor and a financial supporter for the national soccer team.


The other one, Andres Escobar, was the star player on that team and took it to the World Cup in Los Angeles. A lot of archival clips document the team's rise, how the dream ended with an own-goal by Andres and the tragic price he paid for that mistake. A fast-moving and compelling documentary. (Jan 2, 3, 5 and 6)  4 out of 5

It's paired with another soccer film, ARGENTINA FUTBOL CLUB, all about the passions flaring between two traditional rivals at an annual game called “El Classico.” Producer Gavin Sullivan will introduce the film at the 4:20 screening, Jan 2. Also showing Jan 3 and 5.

More info at


Big-screen holiday treats at the VanCity Theatre .....

The holiday menu here has nine films that are, or are becoming classics. I mean how many times do you get to see WEST SIDE STORY on the big screen, in new prints well-projected?

The big Oscar winner has amazing street-based dance numbers (and duels) between the Sharks and the Jets, the Romeo and Juliet story transposed to New York gangs and one great song after another: “I Like to Be in America”; “I Feel Pretty”; “When You’re a Jet”; “Tonight”; “Gee Officer Krupke”; “Maria”; and more.

How about the wide-screen sand vistas of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA?


The slow but gorgeous Stanley Kubrick period piece BARRY LYNDON, the early and earthy Mark Wahlberg film BOOGIE NIGHTS, the feel-good Ernst Lubitsch comedy THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER or a super oddity called PAPRIKA. 

That's a wildly hallucinatory animated film from Japan about a machine that enables intrusions into other people's dreams. Christopher Nolan says it was a major influence on his big hit Inception.

Most of these films get two screenings between Friday Dec 24 and Sunday Jan 2. You can find times, prices and film notes at

Holiday fare at Pacific Cinematheque ….

THE RED BALLOON: This classic short film from France brings out emotional memories for many people. They might want to share it with their kids and grandchildren.


A young boy finds a balloon floating free and follows it around his neighborhood in Paris. It becomes a living thing, a guide and a friend. The two cross busy streets (key locations in a youngster’s life), wind up at school and suffer a tragedy at the boots of a bully. There’s magic in this film, almost no dialogue and a rich soundtrack. The film won an Oscar back in 1957.

You can see it in two varied double bills. One is in tandem with director Albert Lamorisse’s previous film,  WHITE MANE, also a story of friendship, this time between a boy and a wild horse.

Both films are short, and together total some 73 minutes).

The other double bill could be with FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON, the homage to the original that was filmed in the same area of Paris by the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien. It played here two years ago. Juliette Binoche plays a mom who’s son is photographed by his nanny following a similar red balloon on a series of adventures.  

And for adults, the Cinematheque has three of Marilyn Monroe’s best, and most colorful films.


GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES has her and Jane Russell as transatlantic goldiggers.

Howard Hawks directed the garish and giddy musical which features Monroe cooing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

On a similar note, there’s HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE in which Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall try to attract rich men in a high-rise penthouse apartment they share. The second film released in the glorious new widescreen Cinemascope.

And finally LET’S MAKE LOVE in which Monroe romanced her co-star Yves Montand, both on and off screen. It also features one of her best singing performances, a sultry “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” All three films get rapturous reviews from both male and female critics.


Opening Christmas Day …

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS: I’ve also been hearing mostly discouraging words about this one, especially the opportunity it affords Jack Black to indulge in his personal style of showing off when he’s among the little people. He plays a mail room clerk at a newspaper who wrangles a travel article assignment to the Bermuda Triangle. He’s shipwrecked, washed up on the land of the Lilliputians, repairs the romance of a spoiled princess (Emily Blunt) and eventually demonstrates that war, as the final song says, “what is it good for?”  I’ll be amazed if much of Jonathan Swift’s satire remains although a British reviewer noted a “naughtiness” that children will like, considerable toilet humor on Black’s part, and an easy-to-take family film. I’m told that the 3-D is ridiculously bad. (International Village and suburban theatres).   

NOTE: The photos were supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright woners.

More in New Movies

Two comedies about women at work and a stunning documentary about an Aboriginal artist lead this week

And they’re joined by a musical look back, a fashion industry success story that didn’t last and the hipster zombie film that opened Cannes this year

Two giant sequels and several worthy smaller films reviewed

Including new appreciations of Emily Dickinson and Pavarotti, the real story of auto builder John DeLorean, a British filmmaker inspired to draw on her own life and two oddball seniors falling in love

Doing it like Elton John, looking for justice in Canada, defying convention in Bollywood

Also Denys Arcand’s rant about the evils of money, a compassionate court dealing with sex trade workers and a series coming soon to showcase a celebrated woman filmmaker from France
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