50/50, Restless, Breakaway and VIFF picks for Days 3 and 4

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DREAM HOUSE: It’s not uncommon for small horror movies with no name actors arriving without previews for the critics. But this one has A-list actors, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts and an acclaimed director, Jim Sheridan. Why was it hidden? Maybe the story is too clichéd? Craig and Daniel move out of New York to a placid New England village, into a house, they soon learn, that was the scene of a multiple murder. (International Village and suburban theatres)


COURAGEOUS: Three years ago, Fireproof, a so-called “faith-based” movie was a big hit. It played pretty well off the radar until it pulled in major box-office numbers with a story about a firefighter trying to save his marriage. Here’s another one for that audience, from the same director and writer, Alex Kendrick, who this time also stars. Four cops search for the proper balance between work and fatherhood, struggling with their faith to deal with a tragedy. (International Village)


WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER: The funny Anna Faris, who grew up in Seattle, joins the raunchy women’s comedy movement. She plays a woman who decides to re-visit 20 former lovers to see if one of them is actually Mr. Right. “Hilarious” or a standard romantic comedy with few laughs, depending on who you believe. I haven’t seen it. (Oakridge, Scotiabank and suburban theatres).


And here are my latest VIFF recommendations.  

Day 3: Saturday ….

WAKING THE GREEN TIGER: This is a must see if you’re into and concerned about environmental issues. It has an important story to tell and it also helps that the cinematography, the editing and the writing are all excellent.

Vancouver documentary maker Gary Marcuse shows a protest forming in China over a dam building project, and by extension sees an environmental movement building. Some 13 dams were planned for the Nu River and promoted to the local farmers and villagers as progress. Activists showed them what happened on another river, where villages had to move and people are now scavengers. On a third river, a dam was stopped with the help of a new environmental law, a first and a turning point in China. The film explains its importance by showing in detail what came before: Chairman Mao’s dictum to tame nature. There’s great archival footage of masses of people sent out to cut trees, fill in lakes or kill birds, all campaigns that had disastrous consequences. I wonder how much is really changing and had  a bit of trouble at point keeping the three rivers straight, but those are minor gripes about a very good film. It plays on two afternoons (Saturday and the last Tuesday) and gets a World Premiere, late on Friday the 7th.  



The painting is iconic. I saw it in just about every classroom of the Ontario elementary schools I attended. It captures the stark beauty of our landscape. Now an expert in this documentary compares it to a war painting. This film has much more that’s new for us about Thomson. I didn't know his career actually started in Seattle. He went back to Ontario because of a failed love affair which may have been explained only in a paperback novel. The woman became an author and somebody took the trouble to find that book and read from it. That depth of research is evident throughout. We follow the development of  Thomson’s art, note the exact point when his celebrated use of color matured and appreciate his eye for the beauty of Canada in many of his paintings, some rarely seen in public. His mysterious death is discussed of course and now there’s a bigger mystery. Where, really, is he buried? A beautiful film by Michèle Hozer and

Peter Raymont. (Also showing Sunday)


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