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Unknown, Cedar Rapids, The Infidel, Sell Out!, I Am #4 and Canada’s 10 Best

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Omid Djalili gives a wonderful performance as one of those non-observant, assimilated types who rants about a radical imam as a “fundamentalist fatty fatwah.” Complication: his son is about to marry the imam’s stepdaughter. Bigger complication: he discovers his own history. He was actually born Jewish. He can’t tell anybody but is drawn to find out what it means. He turns to a Jewish neighbor played by Richard Schiff for some lessons and gets a cynic’s overview (e.g. a swipe at folks who “renounce all material possessions but still keep the receipts.”)  The jokes come steadily. They’re caustic but not mean-spirited and they do not mock religion, only the fervor of those who use it to keep people apart. The ending is a bit too convenient. (VanCity Theatre)  3 out of 5

It’s playing along with …

SELL OUT!: There are multiple targets in this satiric comedy from Malaysia – and multiple ways of firing at them. The director himself (Yeo Joon Han) appears in scene one, as a director of art films who won an obscure award but has little to say in a fawning TV interview. It’s a slap at the pretensions of the film crowd but only a warm up. Bureaucracy, corporate greed, broadcasting excesses and runaway personal ambition all get a work over.

 

The TV host is about to lose her show and stumbles on a new idea: a reality show that films the last minutes of dying people. The network loves it. In a parallel story a young inventor at the FONY corporation is fired because there’s no built-in obsolescence in his new soya machine. Two executives remind him of the company’s mission statement: “Make money”. The film is a bit like an extra long SCTV episode. The humor is usually of the obvious kind but still amusing. Occasionally is dips into black comedy. The performers vary. One odd thing, well maybe not so much now that Glee is a big hit on TV, the characters periodically break into song. Another odd thing. The film is subtitled all the way even though it is largely in English, and only partially in Cantonese. (VanCity Theatre) 2 1/2 out of 5

CANADA’S TOP TEN: You can catch up with the films a panel chose as our best for 2010 at Pacific Cinémathèque this week. Or at least eight of them. Barney’s Version and Incendies are playing elsewhere. You’ve got another chance to catch the very charming Modra, the creepy Splice, Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats and a lesser-known but much lauded film from Quebec, Curling. Bruce McDonald’s drama about women in rock has the last performance by Tracey Wright and you can’t go wrong with Lixin Fan's Last Train Home, the award-winning documentary about an annual migration in China.

The series also features the 10 best shorts, including films by Anne Marie Fleming and Guy Maddin. You can find times, dates and details at www.cinematheque.bc.ca/canadas-top-ten-2010.

Also playing …

I AM NUMBER FOUR: I haven’t seen this one because it screened the same time as Unknown. It’s been getting medium reviews overall but special praise for its realistic representation of teenagers. That’s even though this is a science fiction chase fantasy. Alex Pettyfer, the British actor being groomed for big things, plays an alien who escaped to earth along with eight others. The enemies from their home planet followed them down and have already killed three. Alex is target number four.

 

He hides by pretending he’s a typical high school student. Dianna Agron (of TV’s Glee) becomes a friend and Timothy Olyphant is a protector. Apparently the finale is an exciting battle between teens and a tattooed bunch of wildman aliens. The novel this is based on was co-written by James Frey, whose true-life drug-taking memoir a few years ago, A Million Little Pieces, was found to contain a substantial amount of fiction. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres. Also in IMAX at Riverport and in Langley)

BIG, MOMMAS, LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Martin Lawrence puts on the fat suit and the wig for a third turn as the foul-mouthed, cantankerous grandmother of small-town Georgia. Actually, he’s an FBI agent you see, working in disguise to catch a murderer at an all-girls school. He takes along his stepson and witness, played by Brandon T. Jackson. Lawrence says he plays Big Momma because he loves her humor. No mention of a paycheck. The studio cancelled the media screenings it had planned. I wonder why? (International Village and several suburban theatres)

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

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