21 Jump Street, In the Land of Blood and Honey, Jeff, Who Lives at Home: reviews

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Karl (Tygh Runyan), the man who hates himself and has written a messy, sprawling book saying so, instigates a friendship with Paul (Brad Dryborough) who he considers his double, or doppelganger. He’s lonely but also judgemental and easy to take offense. Paul tolerates and also argues with him, eventually getting to read his mammoth manuscript. Thirteen months later, two other guys claiming to be doppelgangers appear on Urban Rush and tell Fiona Forbes and Mike Eckford about the book they’ve just published, with the same title and content but quite a few changes. Paul and Karl set off to find them because as Karl says “They stole my life.” There are multiple themes here, including a blast at “ life-affirming, uplifting” literature, an oddball sensibility and a wryly ironic resolution. A light-on-its-feet, entertaining film. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5  


And one night only …

A BETTER LIFE: Like the Mexican gardener in it’s story line, this movie got a raw deal when it played here back in October. One week, in one theatre was just not enough. It’s an exceptional film about the immigrant experience, set in Los Angeles and detailing the struggles of one man to start his own business, keep the immigration people away and his son out of the clutches of the gangs. It’s charged with emotion, avoids sentimentality and takes unexpected, not the easy, routes. Demián Bichir got an absolutely deserved Academy Award nomination for his stalwart turn as the father. The film is back for one night, Wed. March 21, at 7 p.m., as a fundraiser to help with medical services for Mexican farm workers here in B.C. (VanCity Theatre)  4 ½ out of 5  

IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY: I would have thought celebrity and controversy would have given this one a bigger push. Angelina Jolie, star of screen and gossip columns but also a long-time United Nations goodwill ambassador and recently honored by Parents magazine, wrote and directed it. (Her first effort). She tells a wrenching story set amidst the horrible war between Serbs and Bosnians. When protests by victims of the war drove her out of Bosnia, she finished the film in Hungary. The victims later turned positive when they saw the final product. Now it’s here, late and in only one theatre.

It’s not a bad film at all, just a tad too eager to push its message. This is a human rights op ed piece with some obvious dialogue and coincidences marring an otherwise affecting drama. A young couple, she’s a Muslim, he’s a Serb, are hot for each other on a dance floor until a bomb blast signals a war has started. Muslims are cleared out of their apartments. Women are taken to camps where they are raped. Our couple end up in one too, he as the commander in charge, she as an employee who he protects by calling her his “official painter”. And would you be surprised to learn that his father is the regional general with a fierce hatred for Muslims?  Jolie coveys the lunacy of that war and resorts to excess to make her points. But good for her that she made them. The stars are Yugoslavian-born and speak only in the Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian dialects.  (Denman Theatre) 3 out of 5


JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI: Can you imagine almost an hour and a half watching an 85-year-old man making and talking about sushi? How interesting can that be? Unless, you’re a foodie. Well, this documentary by American filmmaker David Gelb is enthralling because it is far more than Food Network fare. We get philosophy, a touch of environmental concern (overfishing) and a great deal of family dynamics.

Jiro Ono has been making sushi for so long (over 70 years now) that he dreams about it. That’s where his innovations come from and they’ve earned him a high rating from the Michelin people and a devoted clientele at his tiny Tokyo restaurant. Much of the film shows how sushi is made and served and gives us his thoughts such as “simplicity leads to purity” and constantly improve your craft as you do the same thing over and over. He’s not only a perfectionist but also, we learn, a reformed bully, who’s been on his own since he was seven years old. He’s demanded success from his two sons, both sushi chefs, one his patient heir in waiting, the other running a restaurant of his own. Not just food, but life itself, is the theme of this quiet and dignified film. (International Village)  3 ½ out of 5

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

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