I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT: Was not previewed for the media locally, but a friend who got to a promotional screening says it’s contrived and “a very typical Hollywood romantic movie but I enjoyed it even though it was all lovey dovey.” Judging by the reaction of the audience, she called it “a decent feel good movie for female viewers.” Critics in the states have not been so kind, accusing the film of, among other things, pandering to its audience.

Sarah Jessica Parker stars as a finance manager who juggles a busy life as a mother, a wife and the family breadwinner. Greg Kinnear is her out-of-work husband and Pierce Brosnan provides her some temptation at the office. I can’t imagine she’s the person to convey the everyday stresses working mothers everywhere know so well, but I defer to my friend who saw it. The story comes from a series of columns by Allison Pearson in England’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper. She was writing about her own life, thinly disguised, not in novel form, though. She was too busy for that. (International Village and suburban theatres)

GRIFF THE INVISIBLE: Small super hero parodies or homages haven’t been doing well lately. Look at Kick Ass or Super (the Ellen Paige-Rainn Wilson film that never even got to Vancouver).

Now this Australian comedy sneaks into town with little promotion but a saleable star in the lead. Ryan Kwanten, who’s seen in the TV hit True Blood, plays an office worker who dons a superhero costume at night to fight crime. He has run-ins with a bully and the police and develops a mutually-convenient romance with a young woman who is into quantum mechanics. The film is said to be kind of loopy but charming. (International Village)

STRAW DOGS: Forty years ago, Sam Peckinpah stirred up a fierce debate with a film some called “fascist nihilism.” Dustin Hoffman and Susan George played two young Americans menaced by hooligans at an English farmhouse. She was raped and he fought back, ultimately with the excruciating clamp of an animal trap. This new version, not previewed locally, repeats the basic story with a few significant changes. James Marsden and Kate Bosworth now play the couple. He’s a Hollywood screenwriter; she’s an actress and they’ve moved to rural Louisiana, where she grew up and now encounters an angry ex-boyfriend. The nature of violence is now treated differently. Peckinpah had it as inherent in all men; Rod Lurie, the new director, says he shows it as a learned behavior. He’s also toned down the rape, which was actually the biggest point of controversy in the original. The animal trap remains, though. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres).

VIFF UPDATE: The Vancouver International Film Festival’s schedule is almost complete (available on line now and in the catalogue starting Saturday Sept 17). Look closely, there are some 32 full-length films that have recently been added and don’t show in the preview guide.

Chief among them is THE ARTIST, which apparently was the most talked about film at Cannes. It also got raves in Toronto, even though it’s black and white and silent. It’s an homage to the movies' pre-sound era.

Here are a few more worth noting.

LIKE CRAZY won the Best Picture and Best Actress awards (Felicity Jones) at Sundance. It’s a story of long-distance love. Jones overstays a student visa to spend more time with her American boyfriend (Anton Yelchin) and then isn’t allowed back in. A highly emotional love story that won’t get back here in a regular booking until mid-November.

THE KID WITH A BIKE has already been announced as the closing gala film. It’s another bit of expertly filmed and acted realism from Belgium’s Dardenne brothers. An angry little boy sets off rough times for his family.

IN DARKNESS: Agnieszka Holland’s Canada/Germany/Poland co-production takes place down in the sewers of a Polish city, where a city worker is hiding a group of Jews from the Nazis. He’s doing it for the money but slowly his mind is opened to a higher purpose.

NASH THE DOCUMENTARY: The star basketball player (and exercise club impresario) who grew up in Victoria gets a full film biography. Highlights include his two wins as the league MVP and his denunciation of the Iraq war in 2003. The low-points are there too.

THE SANDMAN: A highly-enjoyable absurdist fable from Switzerland. A would-be orchestra conductor berates a waitress in the café he lives above for loudly practicing her singing when she has no talent whatever. Meanwhile, he starts leaking sand. The story spins big, strange and surrealistically funny.

SING YOUR SONG: It’s a biography of singer Harry Belafonte but ranging as it does from Calypso to social activism it’s also a mini course in North American history since the early 1950s.

There are also new titles from Quebec and East Asia (in the Dragons and Tigers series). 

You can read about them all at http://www.viff.org/festival/films-schedule/

The festival runs September 29 - October 14, 2011. Cash ticket sales start Sunday the 18th. Visa card sales have been on for a week already.

 

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