After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Rango, The Adjustment Bureau, Beastly, Oliver Sherman and I Wish I Knew

Movie still from Rango

Whether in the old west, modern New York, or even a high school, there's a chase on in this week's films. Also much dancing, recalling history and living with the effects of war. In this edition, I cover:

Rango  4 stars
The Adjustment Bureau 3 1/2 
Oliver Sherman  3 
I Wish I knew  3 
Beastly  2 
Funkytown  --

RANGO: Look at this. Another very good animated film and one that adults will enjoy as much as the kids, maybe even more so. It’s loaded with little visual gags and nods to other movies, like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a Don Knotts comedy and in one sequence, Apocalypse Now and Star Wars at the same time. Children won’t get the ongoing riff on spaghetti westerns but they do respond to the trials of a character pretending to be more than he is, and then having to back up his claim. My six-year-old grandson loved the film, but I wouldn’t take anyone younger.

Johnny Depp is the voice of a chameleon who’s stranded in a Mohave Desert town with a water crisis. Since he boasts of exploits as a gunfighter and survives a tense saloon showdown that seems to support his posturing, the local mayor (Ned Beatty) appoints him sheriff. Before long, he has to deal with a hawk attack, a bank robbery, a posse pursuit and a high noon face off with a rattlesnake. He also stumbles onto the real cause of the water shortage. Like the ranch woman (Isla Fisher) pressured to sign over the deed to her land and the spooky girl (Abigail Breslin) warning that strangers don’t last long around here, the elements are familiar from countless westerns. This is a lively, super entertaining and very modern take on the classic genre, though. It’s both reverent of the genre and willing to trip out into surreal sequences in search of a laugh.

And take special note of the computer animation (the eyes, for instance), which is the first from Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas' company. The drawing is realistic and gritty. ILM has found its own style. You can get a better taste of the film’s look as well as its unhurried storytelling at where you’ll find a clip that runs a full six minutes uncut. (Scotiabank, Oakridge, and many suburban theatres) 4 out of 5

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU: “You don’t have free will. You have the appearance of free will.” That’s the provocative message Matt Damon gets in the latest film based on a Phillip K. Dick story. But unlike Blade Runner or Total Recall, this one drops the dour theme and lets loose a romantic comedy.

Damon plays a New York politician who between losing his bid for the U.S. Senate. Delivering his concession speech, he meets a charming, funny woman (Emily Blunt) in the men’s washroom (No, it’s alright. There’s a reason). There’s an immediate connection but a group of men in hats connive to keep them apart. A slip-up by one (Anthony Mackie, known for playing Tupac Shakur) shows Damon what they’re up to. They cause tiny “adjustments” to steer his life. A superior (John Slattery of TV’s Mad Men) and later, a stern fixer (Terrence Stamp) lay down the word, that “the chairman” has decreed the couple cannot be together.

Damon resists and a series of chases occur through New York streets, office buildings and doors that lead into unexpected sites like Yankee Stadium. It’s more light-hearted than tense; an entertaining adventure, although the main free will speech adds a touch of gravitas by summarizing all human history from the Roman Empire to the Cuban Missile Crisis to make its point that humans cannot be allowed to make their own decisions. It’s an intriguing, albeit thin, take on the theme of destiny. The “people who make sure things happen to plan” seem like government agents, just doing a job. Damon and Blunt develop a warm chemistry and the political scenes get texture when real personalities show up, including the mayor of New York, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and Wolf Blitzer leading a CNN panel. (Ridge Theatre, International Village and several suburban locations) 3 ½ out of 5     

More in New Movies

Disney wildlife times two, a blast at American politics and a traumatic teen drama

Also a couple of small but amiable comedies, one of them Canadian

More streaming ideas take you to Brazil, low-life China and two Jesse Eisenberg films

As well as a cleverly-plotted trip to Barcelona thanks to Netflix

Movie theatres are shut down, so what’s streaming?

Some modest recommendations and stay for the last one, an alarm about what has happened to the internet.
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.