J. Edgar, Immortals, Margin Call, Adam Sandler’s latest and two timely studies of war

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Apparently he demanded the film look like paintings by Caravaggio, the 16th Italian artist famed for his dramatic use of light. The technicians in Montreal, where this was filmed, came through perfectly. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres)  3 out of 5  

MARGIN CALL: This film delivers through fiction the exact message the Occupy movement wants to get out but hasn’t been able to articulate particularly well. It’s set in the financial services industry, that division of capitalism that doesn’t produce anything tangible but manipulates money for profit. As one character says: “I made a quarter of a million dollars last year pushing numbers around on a computer screen.”

The latest numbers on that screen are frightening to Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Demi Moore and others playing employees of an unnamed Wall Street firm. Shades of Lehman Brothers circa 2008, the company could collapse because of an exotic and erratic new derivative it’s selling. The man who discovered the problem (Stanley Tucci) has been laid off (in a chilling sequence of corporate cruelty) and a new hire has to finish his work and explain it to the bosses. It’s enough to bring out the CEO (Jeremy Irons) to a middle-of-the-night staff meeting and to debate ethics with Spacey. His solution is unethical but as he says “It’s just money. It’s made up. Pieces of paper with pictures on them to stop us from killing each other when we need food.”  Director and writer J.C. Chandor has crafted a realistic and gripping peek into the mindset of a notorious industry, in which his own father worked. Curious though.There’s no call for a government bailout. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5 


JACK AND JILL: If the trailer for Adam Sandler’s new comedy make you think this could be one of the worst films of the year, you’re not far wrong. The jokes are crude, stereotypes and farts abound and his pals show up in self-indulgent low-rent scenes. And, of course, he plays both lead roles as Jack and his whiney, needy twin sister.

But then, after a long and unusually lethargic start, Al Pacino arrives and the film wakes up and turns so weird that it actually becomes fun to watch. Jack, you see, wants Pacino for a TV commercial and schemes to meet him at a basketball game to make his pitch. Pacino gets interested in sister Jill and pursues her, even by helicopter in the most elaborate sequence. There are several wild and funny bits that poke fun at his intense image. Watch for Johnny Depp, Shaquille O’Neal, John McEnroe, Regis Philbin and a number of other celebrity cameos. And kudos to the special effects teams, including one here in Vancouver, for Sandler’s seamless interactions with his other self. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres)  2 out of 5

HELL AND BACK AGAIN: We’ve had the Oscar-nominated Restrepo, the better Danish film Armadillo, and now here’s a third documentary taking us right into the centre of modern war. With one major difference. There’s just as much on the aftermath. The war is in Afghanistan, where in the summer of 2009 a company of U.S. marines is dropped behind enemy lines to rout out the Taliban. The scenes are startling, crisp and real, caught by Danfung Dennis who usually shoots still photographs. He conveys the tension, the action and an almost surreal atmosphere.

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