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Film reviews: We Need To Talk about Kevin, listen to Chico and Rita, get out of the Safe House and take a journey to a Mysterious Island

A mother’s self doubt turns into a harrowing nightmare in We Need to Talk About Kevin

One of the best and most gripping films in years is here. Parents can learn from Kevin. Anybody (except the kids) can enjoy Chico & Rita but the latest CIA and island hopping adventures are for particular audiences.

And there’s more. Here’s the list:

We Need to Talk About Kevin: 4 stars

Chico & Rita: 3 ½

Safe House:  3

Journey 2 The Mysterious Island: 2 ½

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace:

Original 2 ½  / new 3D version: --

The Vow:  --

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN: How could Tilda Swinton not merit an Oscar nomination for this role? Is her performance too understated for the academy? To me it communicates powerfully. She’s a mother alternately confused and distraught about her son, who is remote as a toddler, uncooperative as a child and spiteful and disruptive as a teenager.

No one sees what she sees. Her doctor can’t find anything wrong and her husband (John C. Reilly), who doesn’t get the chilling stares and foul verbal attacks, accepts the boy’s lies and defends him. He teaches him archery and buys him a top-line bow and arrow set. We know that leads to a horrific killing spree at school because we’re given tiny flashes forward right from the start. By bouncing back and forth in time, the film shows what preceded the violence (which is not shown graphically) and what came after for the mother. That includes a lot of soul searching over her own role. Did she fail as a mother? Are some children just born bad? The film doesn’t offer any answers, but director Lynne Ramsay’s beautifully-directed and photographed scenes brings us evidence on both sides. You’ll have a lot to think about long afterwards. This is a superb and quietly intense film but one caution. If you have a difficult child or know someone who does, be careful. You might find it disturbing. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5

CHICO & RITA: A nice coup for the VanCity Theatre. This stylish animated film, making its Vancouver premiere as part of a mini-festival of new works from Spain, has been nominated for an Oscar. You’ve got four chances to catch it and you’ll be glad if you do. There’s a love story like a typical romantic comedy, show biz ambitions pursued, animation that is basic but expressive and music. Lots of it. Cuban, New York, big bands, jazz, salsa. Greats like Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie and Woody Herman are drawn performing in full swing.

Chico, the best piano player in Havana, falls for Rita, a soulful singer. The first time they meet they land in bed for some hot sex. (Note: this film is not for children). She doesn’t like him though, and dumps him. Naturally, they meet and split again repeatedly over the years. As a devious manager builds their careers, she makes it to Hollywood but he’s deported and languishes in Cuba. We get the story through his memories decades later when he’s an old man. The tale is sexy, bittersweet, and funny. Pleasantly engrossing and vibrant with rhythm. (VanCity Theatre, Fri, Sat, Tues and Thurs) 3 ½  out of 5

Visit www.viff.org for details on it and the other eight films including a screwball comedy, a story of illicit love, a swashbuckling biopic about a 16th century dramatist, another about a 1960s con-man and bigamist, an award-winning documentary about one man’s Alzheimer’s affliction and a terrifying depiction of a home invasion. 

SAFE HOUSE: Before the movie, there’s a trailer for the next Bourne film and it soon becomes clear that that’s what Safe House is trying to be. It gets pretty close too with a tale of a CIA agent gone rogue and a tangled story of deception and corruption. Also: two extended car chases and a couple of bloody gun battles.

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