newmovies_600px.jpg

Movies in Vancouver this weekend: new releases

Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal ride a train that's about to blow up in the new movie Source Code.

Science fiction, haunted houses and even the Easter Bunny get a make-over at the movies this week. There's also a cliché-free sports story, a gruelling survival epic and a subtle meditation on some really big matters of life and death.

Here's the menu:

Source Code  3 1/2 stars

Win Win   3 1/2

Hop   2

Insidious   3

Le Quattro Volta   4

La Nostra Vita  3  

Essential Killing  3 1/2

Exit 67  --

The Last Godfather --


SOURCE CODE: Like with most any time travel story, you have to buy in and not let logic get too much in the way. Do that and you’re in for an engaging, often suspenseful good time. This is the follow up to last year’s strong sci fi film Moon from director Duncan Jones. (He’ll probably get tired soon of us reminding you that he’s David Bowie’s son). This time he’s got a thriller set on a train, in a lab and in one man’s mind.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a man who wakes up on a commuter train heading to Chicago. He doesn’t know the woman sitting opposite him (Michelle Monaghan) but she claims to know him. By another name. The mirror shows him as another man too. Then the train explodes. He wakes up in a lab and we learn he’s part of a “time realignment” project that allows his consciousness to be sent into a man’s brain for all of eight minutes before he dies. (No, don’t question it. Just take the ride.) He’s sent back to that train over and over again to find the bomb and the bomber. The sequence repeats just like in Groundhog Day and becomes more involving each time. There are multiple complications too, as well as a breathless pace and an intelligent script. I saw only one sign that this was filmed in Montreal. Comedian Russell Peters is one of the passengers. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5

WIN WIN: Wrestling is the vehicle; family is the real subject of this appealing new film with Paul Giamatti. It’s a third film from Thomas McCarthy who previously charmed us with The Station Agent and The Visitor. One again his subject is the coming together of diverse personalities in an unlikely association; a family if you will. Giamatti plays a New Jersey lawyer beset by mundane problems in life (a dying tree, a clunking boiler, a plug-prone toilet) and big financial problems in his practice. A little scam to collect $1500 monthly for acting as guardian for an old man solves that but brings on bigger challenges when the man’s grandson shows up.

Remarkably, he’s a gifted wrestler and just what Giamatti needs for the sad-sack team he coaches on the side. Predictably, their rapport falls apart when the teen learns details of the scam and his mother also shows up, newly out of rehab, claiming she’s the rightful guardian, for a fee of course. Alex Shaffer plays the closed-up teen perfectly, although he was hired for his wrestling abilities first. Amy Ryan plays Giamatti’s wife with clear but unforced decency and Bobby Cannavale brings comic relief as a friend who wants to be an assistant coach. “Because I’m fun,” he says. The film is honest and free of clichés, but a little too-evenly charted. It could use some emotional peaks to go along with its incisive observations about people. (5th Avenue Cinemas and International Village)  3 ½ out of 5

HOP: Forget the hype that this is “from the creators of Despicable Me.” (Same animation studio, same writers). Hop isn’t nearly as clever and doesn’t have one-tenth the heart of that mega-hit from last year. Another corner of its heritage has this more revealing information: from the director of Alvin and the Chipmunks and the second Garfield movie, the even-worse-than-the-first one. These films pander to children with souped-up pop culture, facile plots and little to stimulate their imagination. The son of the Easter Bunny, for instance, (voiced by Russell Brand) wants to be a rock and roll drummer and runs away to Hollywood. There he’s run down by and then reluctantly befriended by another work-avoiding son (James Marsden).

More in New Movies

Michael Moore's hope in the Trump era; The Wife’s marriage seems happy and Life Itself can bring tears

There’s also a muddled children’s film about a house haunted by a clock and a teen film about girls who fight back

Locally-filmed The Predator, a mommy blogger’s Simple Favor and bad blood Under the Tree

Also Nicolas Cage really flips out over Mandy and The Cakemaker romances his lover’s widow

A vengeful mom, a demonic nun and Michael Caine’s memories of the swinging 60s

Also: a tulips and Mafia fantasy in Italy and the troubling lives of three skateboarders
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.