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New movies this week in Vancouver: ratings and reviews

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The story then shifts almost entirely to his son, and another boy, newly arrived at school and taking on a role as his protector. He’s embittered after his mother died and favors violent pay back for people he considers bad. First target the bullies who deflate bicycle tires at school. Next, the father who uttered threats. The boys build a pipe bomb to blow up his truck. At the same time in Africa, the doctor has to deal with the murderous warlord who’s now demanding medical treatment for himself. The cycles of violence and hate are well drawn and thoughtfully presented but just a little too conveniently set in motion together. (International Village) 4 out of 5      

GOOD FOOD, BAD FOOD: This is the film that played under the title Think Global, Act Rural at last year’s Vancouver Film Festival. The new name represents a little better the insistent urgency it projects. For me, it comes out in the second half when it demonstrates visually exactly what organic farming really means. It shows the difference between soil that’s alive and crawling with microorganisms and soil that’s caked solid and dead. Pesticides and herbicides have made it so. Expensive fertilizers are needed to keep it growing. The film also argues against plowing the soil, an idea I hadn’t heard before. The first half is thick with talking heads making provocative charges: modern agriculture is waging war on farms, tractors are descendants of military tanks, the Green Revolution initially improved agriculture but is now killing it. The information, from farming activists in France, Asia and South America, mostly in subtitled French,  has been assembled by director Coline Serreau, into a who content-heavy and radical documentary. Caution: there’s a brief, hard-to-watch scene with farm animals. (VanCity Theatre) 3  out of 5

It’s playing in tandem with …

FOUR LIONS: It takes a quite bit of effort to appreciate the funny side of suicide bombers. The director, Christopher Morris, claims he’s got an authentic take on them in this, his first movie. He’s famous in England for envelope-pushing TV comedy and spent years researching this subject. He’s been commended by one Muslim writer for understanding her community. I, on the other hand, see only hapless clowns depicted in this movie.

They argue incessantly over tactics, bumble through a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and, when back home, decide to attack the London marathon dressed like sports mascots. One accidentally blows himself up long before they get there and more such humorous explosions follow. The problem is the script depicts them as not very bright. Except for the leader. He’s smart and dedicated but can’t control his unruly, distracted and in one case dim-witted cohorts. If you can  do better than I making out the deep Sheffield accent these characters speak in, you may find more to laugh at. Apparently audiences in England found it hilarious, even with memories of the London transit bombings still lingering. (VanCity Theatre)  2½ out of 5   

FACES AND THE CINEMA: The Pacific Cinematheque’s series on faces and identity resumes after a month’s break with two titles definitely worth seeing, and a controversial third. First up is THE PASSENGER, from Michelangelo Antonioni, a mysterious study of identity. It’s 1975. Jack Nicholson is a world-weary TV reporter (old timers will recognize his UHER tape recorder) who takes on a dead man’s identity only to find he was an arms dealer. The man’s shady African clients and his own wife come looking for him, while Maria Schneider joins him among the architectural marvels of Barcelona.

A beautiful, atmospheric film, almost entirely in English and  with a legendary visual sequence at the end. 4 out of 5

BAMBOOZLED is next. Spike Lee’s provocative take on racism through a blackface minstrel show that becomes a hit on network TV. Damon Wayans plays the executive behind the project.

SECONDS is third and last. This is the gripping John Frankenheimer film in which a banker pays to get a new face, a revived body and a new life. He goes partying and stomping grapes in California, but for how long? It’s one of Rock Hudson’s most solid roles and has chilling ending influenced by both European art films and The Twilight Zone. For times and other info, go to www.cinematheque.bc.ca/faces-and-the-cinema

NOTE: The images in this story are stills supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners. 

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